October’s Gonna Be Fun

IMG_4247The first time I won NaNoWriMo, my now-teenage son was only eight months old, and we were in the midst of a month-long stint in Cincinnati for a project my husband was working on. In a way, it was the perfect set-up for a month of intense writing. We spent that November in a residence hotel. I only had one small room to keep picked up, the galley kitchen wasn’t going to be supporting any gourmet meals, my son still took two naps a day, and I didn’t know anyone in the city to act as a distraction. There was nothing to do but sit in my tiny, dark hotel room, and write.

The last time I won NaNoWriMo, my son was eight years old. I’d just opened my Etsy shop, and I didn’t have enough of a presence yet to have the sort of frenetic, crazy, wonderful holiday season I’ve come to expect in more recent years. We lived in Washington then, and I spent countless hours in the Starbucks next to the Tukwila Barnes and Noble, writing away with the fabulous northern Seattle wrimo crew. It was a completely different experience from that first, quiet NaNo, but just as wonderful in its own way.

Those nine years of writing dangerously, and the subsequent years, when Palimpsestic began to explode for the holiday season, taught me a lot about how to survive and thrive through a hectic November. Over the next month, I’ll be sharing the strategies I’ve learned over the course of my nine NaNoWriMo wins, and my four holiday seasons spent running an online shop. I may not be able to keep November from being stressful, but maybe I can help nudge it slightly more towards amazing. Because whether you’re spending your November writing a novel, working retail, or just planning for holiday celebrations, it really can be the most amazing month of the year.

Here’s what you can look forward to on {Manuscript} in October:

  • How Not To Cook in November
  • Why I Don’t NaNo No Mo (and Why Maybe You Should)
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New in the Shop: The Book Tree

Book TreeIf books grew on trees, I’d happily spend my life’s savings to buy a little house by an orchard. Since they don’t, I content myself making these little trees by hand, covering them with book pages, and pretending they’re the real thing. I have a weird life.

Each book tree stands between 12″ and 18″ high and 8-10″ wide at the top. They’re made of floral wire, covered with book paper. You can choose a tree made from Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, Van Nostrand’s Scientific Encyclopedia, or The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.

Some people like to hang decorations on these. They can also hold lightweight jewelry. You can get one here.

New in the Shop: Hamlet Wreath

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Class up your Halloween decor with a wreath made from Shakespeare’s Hamlet… at least, as classy as you can get with a prominently-placed black glitter skull. Alas, poor Yorick!

This is a handmade 18″ wreath on a 12″ wire base. You probably want to keep it someplace dry, but it’s all ready to hang with a wire loop and a felt back. You can get it here.

In Which August Is The Best Month

AugustAugust is my month.

First of all, it’s my birthday month. Second, it’s the month when summer begins winding down. Those beautiful fall clothes start appearing (oh, how I love fall clothing), and store aisles fill with glorious piles of composition notebooks and yellow pencils. I adore August.

This August is even better, because I’m on a sabbatical, of sorts. I put my shop, Palimpsestic, into vacation mode for the month, which means more time for writing, writing, writing. By the end of the month, the novel I’m working on should be revised and edited into a pretty package, just in time for the RMFW conference in September.

That’s the plan, at least. It’s been a slow start. I spent the first four days of the month on a mini-vacation with my family—a fun, rejuvenating, inspiring vacation, but still a four-day span in which I didn’t so much as glance at my manuscript file. The day after vacation was spent recovering and restocking the larders, so my month of writing didn’t really get started until six days in.

It doesn’t matter. This August thing is happening. This month is mine. And it will be glorious.

Talking About Books With Strangers On The Street

The Joy (And Importance) Of Book TalkAnother weekend, another show. I hauled my Palimpsestic wares to Old Town Fort Collins again yesterday for a Freedom Market.

Today’s a recovery day. It seems like it always takes a day to return to myself after time spent out in the world interacting with people, especially after something like the Freedom Market, which literally involved spending the day in a tent set up on a downtown street. I’m not shy,—I’m more than willing to chat with my customers, and I enjoy doing so—but I am an introvert, so I’m always grateful to return to my quiet house, my books, and my laptop.

One of my favorite things to do when I am out interacting with customers, though, is to ask about the books they love. Talking about books with any of my customers is fun, but the younger ones are my absolute favorites. This weekend, I met a seven-year-old who liked to read Junie B. Jones books and “some things by Judy Blume.” I talked to a gaggle of tween girls who adored Divergent, but also have been reading Tom Sawyer and thinking about Treasure Island. I chatted with college students whose favorites included both Sherlock Holmes and Ray Bradbury.

It makes me ridiculously happy to know that the love of books is alive and well out there.

Talking with my customers about their current favorites and their fond memories of stories from their childhood made me think. One of the reasons I make the things I do is to remind people of the role books have played in their lives. I hope that people who bring home an Agatha Christie wreath or a Little Women garland will look at it and remember the joy those books brought them the first time they read them. Then, maybe, they’ll pick up something new, something they haven’t read before. Maybe they’ll fall in love all over again. And if someone visits and sees that wreath hanging on their wall? If they start a discussion about it? It’s a chain reaction.

That’s what talking about books is all about. I’m realizing I don’t do it often enough. What’s the best discussion you’ve had about a book recently?

Writer vs. Maker

IMG_3028I went to the Old Town Book Fair in Fort Collins this past weekend, not as a reader or as a writer, but as an artist/maker.

Of course, I am a maker. I wholeheartedly embrace that identity at art and craft shows, and amongst my friends and acquaintances in the Etsy crowd. I love being a maker and I certainly earn more income from selling the things I make than I do from writing. I don’t expect either of those things to change anytime soon.

Still, it felt strange to represent myself as anything other than a writer at an event conceived to celebrate books. I’ve been a writer for decades longer than I’ve been a maker. My degree is in writing, not art. Writing is as central to my identity as my first name. Despite not getting paid for it, writing was never my hobby.

Blogger Jason Cantrell wrote about this very idea last week. This is how summarized his feelings on Twitter:

My hobbies include etymology, carpentry, and video games. Writing isn’t a hobby.

I agree. Writing is a job that requires months or years of spec work before getting paid. It’s a job I’ve put thousands of hours into, both in formal education and in practice. It’s work that I could very well do my whole life without seeing any financial success. If that happened, I still wouldn’t consider it a hobby.

And yet, with no book to promote, there I was, at the book fair as a maker. As strange as it felt, it wasn’t bad. In my little maker booth, I got to meet several of the women behind Northern Colorado Writers. I had a chance to meet and talk with writer, Jamie Raintree, before her workshop on social media. I was able to chat with book lovers about the stories they loved and the books that shaped them. I watched shoppers roll my Unblockers dice and saw new stories blossoming inside them.

As much as I feel compelled to choose between being a writer and being a maker sometimes, the location of my booth doesn’t really matter. I’m living with a foot in each world, and that’s okay.  As Whitman said, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)” I can be more than one thing at a time. Right now, my choice is to be both.

New in the Shop: Jules Verne Unblockers

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Sometimes, I wonder what it would have been like to live inside Jules Verne’s head. I’m thinking… fantastic.

Since living in the father of steampunk’s brain isn’t possible, I’ve been gathering old copies of his iconic novels. If we can’t make camp in his imagination, at least we can play with its contents.

Each one of these dice is a 3/4-inch cube with a word or phrase from Journey to the Center of the Earth decoupaged on each side.  I hand-sand the edges and corners of each cube for a worn-in look and stain the wood with coffee for an extra dose of inspiration. They come with an idea sheet of twenty different ways to use Unblockers for writing and storytelling, and you can get them here.

New In the Shop: Jane Eyre Unblockers

New In the Shop: Jane Eyre Unblockers

If there’a book out there with more atmosphere than Jane Eyre, I don’t know of it. The chill of the moors literally seeps out of every page.

Okay, not literally.

The chill of the moors figuratively seeps out of every page!

Get them here.