Friday, November 1, 2013

Friend Friday

Please welcome my dear, dear friend Suz Blackaby to the blog today. I first met Suz (I think!) at the wonderful Haystack writing conference at Cannon Beach, Oregon (the conference I still called Haystack long after it moved to the Reed College campus). The last book of hers featured on this blog was Nest, Nook and Cranny, illustrated by another friend of mine, Jamie Hogan. What a great world I live in --populated by such talented friends!

Suz Blackaby

National Novel Writing Month? OhNo.

There are a bunch of things I feel reasonably certain I’m not ever going to attempt: Everest, Julia Child’s coq au vin, skydiving, wrangling (pretty much anything to do with livestock is out), Zumba. I know my limits. And if dismal history is any indication (trust me, it is), NaNoWriMo can safely be included up near the top of the list.

No. Way.

I do, however, wholeheartedly embrace the spirit of NaNoWriMo, which is a completely different story. I’ve splurged on the brand new notebook that cost a tiny bit too much; I’ve fetched the Uggs and the old sweater out of the back of the closet; I’ve tidied up my work space, filing, sifting, shelving, recycling, and dusting as necessary; I’ve stocked up on the obvious supplies—tea, Cheezits, jumbo boxes of Mike and Ike Hot Tamales, index cards in two sizes, post-its in good colors, and a wide selection of perfect pens. The pencils are sharp. The Brandenburg concertos are cued. The space heater is plugged in.

If anyone is prepared to join my Muse in entertaining the merry twins, Motivation and Resolve, I am.
Suz and Lottie, hard at work

And let’s not for one single second underestimate the giddy power of the rank and file. Zingy energy proliferates as fellow writers pace through their own preliminary rituals, making mental maps of opening scenes; comparing software options; trading wisdom gleaned from Stephen King, Anne Lamott, John Gardner, Natalie Goldberg, Katherine Paterson, Donald Maass, and Harold Underdown; and scheduling morale-boosting meet-ups. Awesome.

Am I immune to such a rich abundance of good juju swirling around my team? Hardly.

Add to the irresistibility of the countdown the inherent and obvious mood enhancement of the season. Except maybe for peaches and Vitamin D, I’m not a fan of August and am never sorry to see it go. Give me chilly mornings, tule fog, edgy breezes, patchy sunshine, and lots of deciduous plants, perfect conditions for quietly hunkering down to the task. For me, fall and all its trappings herald the very essence of industry. You call it a pumpkin latte, I call it creative juices, with whip.

So yes. I totally get it. But forget it. It isn’t that NaNoWriMo is too much work. It is too much like work.

On the clock I write for the educational marketplace, which means that my professional life and my creative life overlap in untidy ways. I like to keep them separate in my brain and in my world, insofar as that is possible, which often means saving up ideas and inspiration until I can put them to good use. Tens of thousands of words a month is not necessarily unusual, workwise, cranking away; when I get the chance to sidestep the grind, I choose a more leisurely gait.

So while my friends and colleagues tackle NaNoWriMo, I’ll stick to a slower, shorter, steadier version to suit my time and my temperament:
CoPo2: Compose and Polish a Couple-three Poems per week
PicSix: Those six picture books you’ve been fiddling with? Finish one.
ChaChaCha!: Three Chapters!
Toast: Try Outlining A Story
24/7: Twenty-four prompts every seven days
Keep At It: (Book ain’t gonna write itself, just sayin)

November. It’s going to be a great month for writing.

Susan Blackaby is the author of over 150 books for beginning readers. On her own time, she is an award-winning poet, and her latest picture book, Brownie Groundhog and the Wintry Surprise (Sterling Children’s Books), was released October 1.


  1. Great post, Suz! And much more attainable for me as well. Being an author-illustrator, my time is divided between writing and trying to meet an art deadline. Frequently, writing doesn't happen. I'm going to follow your guidelines and do SuzKnosWriMo!

  2. I'm with you, NaNoWriMo for me this year...although I did conquer the summit of literary torture a few years back.

    I LOVE the cover of your new Brownie Groundhog book! Must get that to go along with Brownie Groundhog and the February Fox! All the best ~

  3. Suz, I am so impressed that you actually know the twins, M&R. I've been leaving messages on their phones, but they aren't responding. Maybe I have the wrong number. I'm with you on November, except for the Mike and Ike. At least you will be ready when the Muse calls! Share your prompts?

  4. A great post by one of my favorites! Thanks, Kirby.

  5. But wait...Zumba is so much fun ;D I love all of Suz's books. Thanks for having her here.

  6. So smart of my good friend Kirby to host my BFF here. Suz, as always, is spot on. Wise, wacky, creative, clever, and forever irreverent. NaNoNoMo!

  7. So smart of my good friend Kirby to host my BFF here. Suz, as always, is spot on. Wise, wacky, creative, clever, and forever irreverent. NaNoNoMo!

  8. Suz, for sheer word-smithery you have no equal! Great ideas here. And good for you for figuring out what works best for your own writing practice. I did a character sketch a day for a whole month once and ended up with the starts for 3 different novels. Even better I could accomplish this in about an hour leaving me energized rather than drained at the end of the process.

  9. I loved Nest, Nook, and Cranny. It was a new discovery for me last year. We did the snake poem (can't remember the title right now and the file is at school) for Poetry Friday. I like the way you've embraced the spirit of NaNoWriMo, your post made me smile.

  10. Suz strikes again. FUN and Informative. Thanks for the smiles and inspiration!

  11. Suz strikes again! FUN and Informative . . . thanks for the smiles and inspiration!