Sunday, November 25, 2007

the thing is...

... i am not going to have 50,000 words by the end of the week. in fact, if i manage to have 40,000 (and that's counting the lyrics of the three Brel songs that somehow made it into the manuscript, each accompanied by a lovely rhythmic translation into English), it will be a small miracle. i have been feeling really bad about this...

... but the other thing is, so what? so this first draft will have 40,000 words. that's not bad. that's a whole 40,000 words more than no words. i have a plot (sort of). i have characters (sort of). i have (a few) really good pieces. i have (lots of) shite. and it has been a learning experience (by gawd, it has). that's good enough...

... and the final thing is, that this here november, i breast-fed (a lot), knitted (some), wrote in my journal (lots), meditated (almost daily), did yoga (almost daily). socialized (more than i normally do in a whole year). AND wrote a 40,000-words first draft of a second novel. that's not bad, not bad at all...


- Mama, waarom slaapt hij niet?
- nou, dat is between God and Antoine.
- Mama, wat is dat: Gawd?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


"kazhdyj pishet chto on slyshet
kazhdyj slyshet kak on dyshet
kak on dyshet tak i pishet
B. Okudzhava

"everyone writes what they hear
everyone hears the sound of their own breathing
how you breathe is how you write..."

(with apologies for the bad translation: i can't get it to be as elegant as the original Russian. this is from a song that i have known and loved and sung for close to thirty years; incredibly enough, i seem to never have picked up on the actual meaning of the words.)

Monday, November 19, 2007

slow writing

i had been meeting my daily word-count. religiously. every evening, having put Isabelle to bed, i handed Antoine over to Marc, sat down at the computer, put on my head-phones (Beethoven "Moonlight" sonata, third movement, presto agitato), and bashed away. sometimes i was done in fifteen minutes. sometimes in twenty-two. this cost me no effort, other than the effort of sitting down. and strangely enough, this sitting down business really was hard. and seemed to become harder every day. maybe because although it cost no effort, the writing brought no satisfaction either. it was such a thoroughly flat experience. easy but completely non-...

i kept waiting for it to change. i thought, if i just keep showing up, great stuff is bound to happen, something will shift somewhere. but it didn't. and then i hit the end of week 2. and it still hadn't.

Sam said: 'if you keep approaching it in the same way, you're bound to get the same result!'

Sam said: 'why don't you stop trying to outrun the beast, turn around to face her and say 'back off, bitch!''

i wailed: 'but what should i do????' and before Sam could answer, i knew what she was going to say.

"ssssssssllllllloooooooooooooooowwwwwwww down... write slowly, excruciatingly slowly...'

it's that breathing business again, isn't it...

'but what about my word count??????????', i asked.

and Sam answered: 'would you rather have three rich words or 1667 empty ones?'

Sam is a wise-ass. thank god for Sam. yesterday's word count: 482. today's word count: 987. for the first time in two and a half weeks, i look forward to sitting down.

Friday, November 16, 2007

food for thought

i was reading and thinking, two activities in which i clearly indulge too much. the result of this particular bout of cogitation is to wonder whether anyone is interested in starting a blog (yes, yet another one, clearly i am not busy enough...) about food, on which we could post our favourite recipes, in particular the ones that match the following constraints (these are obviously only my favourite constraints, anyone joining in can add and/or substract from the list, and we could make labels and categorize the recipes, ooh so much fun!):

- made from fresh produce
- seasonal
- vegetarian (or fish, need more recipes for fish) (although i wouldn't mind getting to know some new meaty dishes...)

to which you might add:

- can be made with one hand (in case my pinkie finger is otherwise occupied)
- multi-coloured (for feasting of the eye purposes)
- involving tofu (i have never made tofu and am terrified of it, and maybe hearing your battle stories will get me over my angst)

that way, next Tuesday (menu-for-the-week night over here) i can leave Jamie, Rose and Ruth to sleep on their shelf, and turn to the real life experts instead. So, who's in?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

half-way through

this is my last novel. i am not a novelist. i am a poet.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

death and the maiden

chapter 1
- mama, Céleste is dood.
(surprised, i look up from my supine position on the couch. it's baby-feeding time.)
- dood?
- ja, kijk... (she holds up the limp little elephant body for my inspection). ze was gewoon de vloer aan het natspuiten, met haar slurf, want ze wilde schoonmaken, en opeens boing, viel ze dood...
- oh, wat erg.
- ja, kijk... haar slurfje doet niets meer (she lifts the limp little elephant proboscis to demonstrate)... ik ga Céleste naar de dokter brengen (she walks away from the couch, carrying the elephant in her outstretched hands. stops, turns around). mama, jij bent de dokter. (she walks back towards the couch)dag dokter, mijn olifant is dood. kijkt u maar (she carefully lays the limp elephant on the edge of the couch). kijk maar naar haar slurf (she lifts the proboscis). helemaal niets (she lets it drop).
- nou, ik kan niet zoveel doen voor dode olifanten. alléén zieke olifanten.
- ook hele zieke olifanten?
- ja, dat wel, maar niet als ze dood zijn.
(a moment of silence. she is thinking.)
- dokter, kijk! zag je dat?
- nee, wat dan?
- haar handje bewoog! (she lifts up the paw) kijk, nu beweegt ze ook haar slurf (she lifts the proboscis). ze is niet meer dood!

chapter 2

- mama, Sinterklaas is heel oud, toch?
- ja.
- wanneer gaat hij dood?
chapter 3
- eerst zijn de mensen groot, en daarna worden ze kleiner en kleiner en kleiner, steeeds kleiner, totdat ze heel oud zijn, en dan gaan ze slapen, en dan gaan ze dood. net als Sophie de spin. dat was een zielig verhaal, hé mama?
(and now in English for the non-Dutchies:
- mama, Céleste is dead.
- dead?
- yes, look.... she was spraying the floor with her trunk, she wanted to clean the floor, and suddenly boing, she dropped dead...
- oh, how sad!
- yes, look, her trunk doesn't work anymore. i am going to bring Céleste to the doctor. Mama, you are the doctor. hello doctor, my elephant is dead. look. look at her trunk. nothing.
- well, there isn't much i can do for dead elephants... only sick ones.
- also very sick elephants?
- yes, but not dead ones.
- doctor, look! did you see that?
- no, what?
- she moved her hand! look, now she is moving her trunk! she is not dead anymore!

- mama, Sinterklaas is very old, isn't he?
- yes.
- when is he going to die?

- first people are big, and then they get smaller and smaller and smaller, until they are very old, and then they go to sleep, and then they die. just like Sophie the spider. that was a sad story, wasn't it mama?)

Saturday, November 10, 2007


following the advice of a good friend, i left Marc to fend for himself and got away for the afternoon. all by myself. freedom is exhilarating, and terrifying. so after a short stop at the new wool shop (which i managed to leave almost empty-handed...), i took myself and my knitting to the only place in town that serves proper yogi tea and warm chocolate cake, swimming in real double cream. it was crowded, warm, the windows all steamed up, it smelt of fresh scones. so many people, normally it would have freaked me out, i can never be in a room without feeling the urge to see and make contact with everyone in it, so the more crowded a space, the more lost i become. but this time i had my knitting. so i knitted. and listened. and felt like a little old lady (Miss Marple-style). and enjoyed myself tremendously. and forgot the time... and got into trouble for being late.

(Day 10: still meeting the word-count. definitely flowing by now, although no idea where to. have added funny looking button in the sidebar, so you can follow my progress)


my son woke up this morning, looking a little wind-blown. they have been forecasting a heavy North Sea storm. if you want to know the colour of the sea, look into his eyes; if you want to know the strength of the wind, look at his hair. my magical boy.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

fall knit #2

this is a joint venture: her design, my hand labour. i told her she needed a new wooly hat and she could choose everything: the wool, the colours, the extras. she now wants a scarf to match. with little pockets to keep 'stuff' in.

(day 3 word-count: 5714. 713 words ahead of schedule. i seem to remember this hoarding becomes important when hitting the week 2 sahara desert of words. the book i thought i was writing is almost done now, by tomorrow i will probably have written up everything i thought of beforehand. this is both terrifying and exciting: from that point onwards, i have no idea what the book is that will be writing itself. it's a bit like those old-fashioned roller-coasters, where you first climb really slowly, with a rickety-tickety sound under the wheels, excitement and fear mounting, and then as you reach the top, you can feel the cart levelling, and you know it's too late to get off: you're in for the sheer drop...)

Friday, November 02, 2007


this week on the organic farmer's market, a long-forgotten childhood taste. my grand-mother used to get them for us from Baku. turns out, she would have had more luck in Auckland, NZ. still, felt very clever explaining to the girl at the market (who knows much too much about fruit and always makes me feel like such an idiot) (yes, i come from a family where fruit knowledge can make you or break you) what they were called (feijoa) and what you can do with them (open your mouth and eat). the best thing, though, is the scent. through the paper-bag, across half the living-room, i can smell them. like bubble-gum, says Marc. like paradise, say i.

(day 2 word-count: 3904. i wouldn't say we have flow (although thank you for lovely supportive comment, Jost), but we're moving. i managed to suss the editor by adding an extra challenge. i promised her i wouldn't spend more than 45 min. a day on the novel; that way even if i end up producing nothing but shite (unlikely, but don't tell her that), i wouldn't have wasted too much time on it. speedy shite, you might call it (the real reason for the added speed factor being that she can't read that fast, but don't you go telling on me!))

Thursday, November 01, 2007

day 1

word-count: 1740

(every single word is bloody awful (or maybe not by itself, but taken in conjunction with the word before and the word after, and the word a bit further down the page...), i have no idea why i am doing this to myself or to you (the poor people who will be asked one day to glance at this rubbish), there is no way i am going to be able to produce so many words a day for a month, no matter how bad the words are, taken alone or together, i have children to take care of, food to cook, yoga to do, and what's the point anyway, there is no story, no characters, no dialogue, no poetry even this time, actually, by comparison with this stuff, that first novel was pretty much a nobel prize in literature, and maybe that's the only purpose of a second novel, to make you realize the first one is worth resurrecting, arggghhhhh!)

(i seem to remember there was something one could do to one's internal editor during nanowrimo, send her to the bahama's to get a suntan, or lock her up, duly tied and gagged (especially gagged) in some dark humid dungeon... whatever it was, it hasn't happened, they must have forgotten to pick her up, or maybe she managed to escape, she is a crafty little thing, anyway, please to come back and take her away before i wring her neck (problematic, because we share one). please please pretty please)