A Writer’s Notebook: NaNoWriMo 2012, dead and gone

Those of you who actually follow may have been wondering where I’ve been. What’s more, you’re probably wondering what happened to NaNoWriMo and the Writer’s Notebook. As for the latter, the short answer is that I didn’t finish, for the first time since I started.

The longer answer I hinted at in my last Photo blog post: my wife and I bought a house. As weird luck would have it, we got the keys the day before Thanksgiving, then we spent the holidays and the week after moving. Meanwhile, life goes on, so this week I was wrestling with final exams and major research papers and finishing my fall term at my community college, attending senior thesis presentations and panels at the massive art-fair/academic-conference-like “Focus Week” at my art college, putting together a special issue of Jersey Devil Press and prepping JDP’s regular issue, and putting together a special issue of my sangha’s email newsletter. All in the same week I’ve been cleaning our old apartment and still unpacking and setting up our new home.

So, as you may have noticed, the blog took a backseat, to say nothing of NaNoWriMo.

I’m not that broken up about NaNoWriMo, though. I was trying out an idea but I knew from the start that the required length of 50,000 words would be a bit of a stretch for the scope of the book I was working on, and when I packed it in on the writing so I could focus on moving and teaching and editing, I’d actually written about as much as I think the book needs. It’s going to be a small book. So I’m happy.

Anyway, here is some text from the last I managed to write before I got busy.

from Library Stories: Don, the jailbird, and Jess, the Librarian

I know that she’s into me because she smiled at me when I came in. It’s like she knew I’d be walking through those doors in that moment. All those teeth, just for me.

It could have been a fluke of timing but it wasn’t. I know that she wants me to make a play for her because when she helped me log into one of the computers, she leaned over my shoulder but didn’t touch my hand as she reached for the mouse. She could have touched my hand — it would have been perfectly innocent, a complete accident — but she avoided my fingers with her fingers. She wanted me to touch her, not the other way around. She wanted it to be on purpose.

I know that she’s playing shy, wants me to try harder, because when I stopped by the reference desk and told her she has beautiful eyes, she smiled at me but didn’t reply. Not a thank you, not a you really think so, not an I can’t believe you even noticed or an I wish I didn’t have to wear glasses. No words at all until I’d stood there for more than half a minute, and then she said, “Is there something I can help you with?” And I knew that she wanted me to make my move then, to say, “Actually, there is — could you perform CPR on me? Because you’re so beautiful that my heart just stopped.” But I didn’t say it then, the way she wanted me to, because two can play at this game, and I won’t let her think I’m coming on too strong.

I know she wants me to take her home because she parked in the same parking lot as me. She left the library at night through the same door I was waiting for her at, and she said good-night as she passed me, and then she led me to her car. Because she knows I can’t take her home until I know where she lives, and she waited for me to get into my car and pull in behind her. She’s leading me on.

I know all the signs, I hear everything she’s not saying, I know exactly what she wants me to do.

from Zoo Stories: Martha, who loves to visit the elephants

I washed in the red dye just like the box told me, but it came out burnt orange and now the elephants are angry.

I never should have given in to such vanity. I love the elephants so.

But last week I got up on my stepstool and changed the bulbs in my bathroom, removed the two that were burned out and the three that were fine but outdated, and I replaced them all with those new florescent bulbs, the ones that look like regular bulbs but with bigger globes to accommodate the coiled glass inside them. They burn brighter but use less energy, the box says.

They shine like sunlight, something about the gas inside that imitates a natural spectrum.

And when I stepped down from the stool and looked in the mirror I saw how absurd I looked. My beautiful red hair faded with age and all those strands of silver and iron ruining the luster of the curls. I’d had no idea how old I’d gotten.

The box said results would vary, but I assumed they couldn’t sell the dye if it didn’t produce at least roughly reliable results. And all I wanted was to restore my hair. I’m not so foolish as to think I could look younger, but I always loved my hair — people said it was my best feature, but I realize now they hadn’t said that in a long time.

Elephants do remember, though. It sounds like an old wives tale but it’s true, they have remarkable memories. If you introduce change, though, sudden and without reason, they become upset. It contradicts their memories, and they rely on their memories.

from Park Stories: William, with all the balloons

When the accident happens he closes and hides his box and gives his balloons away for free. He is going to lose a fortune, as far as fortunes in balloon sales go, but someone had to keep the kids from the carnage. This is why he’d gotten into balloons in the first place: the protect the kids. People thought it was to entertain, but it wasn’t. Balloons saved lives. Give a kid a balloon, and you distract a kid from a video game, or a cigarette, or rooting in daddy’s closet looking for the handgun. Give a kid a balloon, and you give a kid something to look after, to protect, to care for. Something as fragile as they were.

Final word count (for now): 26,110 words.

For more about my NaNoWriMo project, check out my NaNoWriMo page here or my profile on the NaNoWriMo website.

Published by Samuel Snoek-Brown

I write fiction and teach college writing and literature. I'm the author of the story collection There Is No Other Way to Worship Them, the novel Hagridden, and the flash fiction chapbooks Box Cutters and Where There Is Ruin.

One thought on “A Writer’s Notebook: NaNoWriMo 2012, dead and gone

  1. I hope you will both be very happy in your new home.

    Don’t beat yourself up about not having finished the project. NaNoWriMo is a big ask and a big task. Not everything we start gets finished. In my own case I have had to take a large step back from my third novel – it just wasn’t working, it needs a new approach – in fact I am going to take a step back from just about everything until after Hogmanay, then I shall reappraise all my current projects.

    I like the extracts very much. The first one uses the consciousness of the first-person protagonist but focalizes on the other party to the story. It’s a good device which can draw the reader in to making the same assumptions that the protagonist is making – but what is actually going on in the other’s mind?

    The zoo stories extract – again first person – is very intense in realistic detail. The last piece is a good example of free indirect discourse. My word you are versatile. 🙂

    Best wishes,


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