I flunked out of virtual camp

camp nanowrimo

I know myself well enough to understand that I’m more productive when I have a deadline, so I decided to give myself a goal to light a fire under my creative process. It began almost on a whim when I read about Camp Nanowrimo, a summer offshoot of the phenomenon known as National Novel Writing Month, which takes place every November.

The idea behind the virtual camp is to work on a project for the month of July and keep track of your word count. Throughout July the good folks at Camp Nanowrimo send you daily tips, lots of encouragement, and even set you up with virtual tent mates. I was assigned to a cabin of twelve writers, who are there to provide moral support for each other during the camp experience and also serve as proof that you are not alone even though writing is usually a solitary activity.

My plan was to finish my full-length play, A Wilder Woman. I had already written about 7000 words before camp started, so I figured another 30,000 would finish it off. I was doing great on my goal of 1000 words a day for the first six days. But on July 6, I realized that my play probably didn’t need to be 37,000 words. It was probably going to be a shorter play. I kept writing anyway, but I fizzled out because I knew that at that point I was padding it just to reach my word count goal, which is not terribly productive.  Then I couldn’t figure out how best to end it, which stalled me out completely. Sigh. So much for making that self-imposed deadline.

Last weekend at the ATLAS (Advanced Training Leading Artists to Success)Playwrights Showcase, I ran into Anthony Clarvoe, a playwright whose class I’d taken, who asked how my writing was going (because, of course, that’s what writers ask each other). I admitted that I hadn’t gotten much further on my play despite my foray into virtual camp. He sympathized and said that strict word counts often fail as inspiration. I asked about his progress, and he mentioned that he definitely had to be careful that his teaching responsibilities didn’t keep him from writing.

And it occurred to me that this is going to be a lifelong challenge. Anthony has been writing far longer than I have and still has to be conscious of balancing it with other parts of his life. It may get easier, but writing a play is never something I’ll be able to do on auto-pilot. And it shouldn’t be. (That’s probably how so many awful TV shows get written.)

I love to write. But it takes dedication. And I get distracted.

Well, I may not yet have found the most efficient way to write a play. But I do know that writing something–whether it’s a play, a song, or a blog post–is better than writing nothing at all. man writing

And if I want an audience to see my play, I have to keep at it. It seems obvious, I know. But maybe a slight shift in perspective is all I need to get back on the right track.

So I may be a lousy camper, but I’m still a writer, dammit.





This entertaining account of a first-time award-winning YA author brought a big smile to my face. I don’t even know her, but after reading this, I feel like I do. Of course, I’m the teensiest bit jealous, but it’s so great to hear success stories.

I Would Buy That Book!


Parents PressWalking back from my Zumba Gold class–which makes me officially old–I passed a newsstand piled high with that free monthly from years of yore: Parents’ Press. I don’t mean to imply that Parents’ Press is no longer being published; I just don’t read it anymore, so it blends into that invisible backdrop of Things For Other People. In it, inquiring minds can read about the safest playground equipment, the optimal number of guests to invite to a seven-year-old’s birthday party, and how to get your kid to eat broccoli. I’d forgotten that such issues were ever relevant to me.

I’m still a parent. But Parents’ Press doesn’t provide much guidance beyond school-aged kids. There’s the occasional article about college admissions or high school sports, but its primary readership is parents of younger children–that period of parenthood when you have more influence and presumably more control.

When my daughter was a baby, bookstores were teeming with titles promising to help me do everything from writing a birthing plan to getting my child into college. I believe in the power of information, so I bought a book to help me navigate those early desperate, sleep-deprived months: Your One-Year-Old by Dr. Louise Ames Bates. Then, wouldn’t you know it, the same author had written Your Two-Year Old, which I snatched up the following year, eager to mine her knowledge of toddlers. Your Three-Year Old was an automatic purchase, especially because I had erroneously thought that the legend of the “terrible twos” implied that three-year-olds were easy peasy by comparison. Which, in fact, was not the case. I think whoever came up with the concept of the terrible twos just liked the way it sounded. But because I failed to get the memo on the threatening threes, I was blindsided. Your 2-year-old

Anyhoo…the point is that someone had very thoughtfully written user manuals for parents. Just owning such volumes provided a certain amount of security. Only later did I realize their inherent danger: because I’d read an expert on child-rearing, I was deluded into thinking I was in control. (“This has to work because it was in the book!”) Indeed I looked forward to each new year of my daughter’s life so that I could read the next in the series, certain that at one point the book would tell me that I’d arrived at the sweet spot and it was smooth sailing from then on.

Spoiler alert: that moment never came.

I diligently read the whole series, which also covers children who are four, five, six, seven, eight, and nine, but ends with Your Ten-to-Fourteen-Year Old. I can only imagine that by the time Ms. Ames had published her advice for how to deal with tweens, she grew too disinterested to devote a separate volume to each year. And then, afraid to tackle those tricky teen years, she probably mixed herself a martini and left parents to face their destinies alone and without her guidance.

All of this leads me to wonder where the parenting articles and books are for me, the mother of a 22-year-old? Who is writing on important subjects such as which questions are appropriate to ask the young adult in your life? What can I read that will help me offer just the right amount of support that will neither enable her nor cripple her? Where are the instructions that tell me how often I should call? And why hasn’t someone published what should be a must-read for all parents of young adults: Navigating Social Media for Parents of Twenty-Somethings? (Is it OK to accept a friend request from your daughter’s ex-girlfriend whom you’ve never met?) And wouldn’t it be so helpful to have a pocket glossary so you could keep track of words that joined the lexicon long after you graduated from college? (By the way, “non-binary” is no longer just a math term.)

tongues out
In simpler times

Parenting is not for the faint of heart. It is a lifelong endeavor that is constantly assessed for quality control and it must adapt to the ebb and flow of the one being parented. And that’s how it should be. I’m reminded of my favorite title ever of a parenting book: Anthony Wolf’s Get Out of My Life, But First Could You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall?  We walk a delicate tightrope in order to provide the right amount of space and support. Parenting looks different at twenty-two than it did during the threatening threes. For one thing, my only child is thousands of miles away. But it’s not only the geographic distance that looms; new ideas and beliefs create their own kind of distance. Which is part of growing up, right?  After all, if we do our job well, then our confident, resourceful children eventually don’t need us. Talk about a disconnect between job performance and job security…

So my challenge is to parents who have already survived those tricky twenties: write a guide book! I’d buy Your Twenty-Two-Year Old in a heartbeat. And I’m telling you, the person who writes Navigating Social Media for Parents of Twenty-Somethings will make a million.