Sunday, September 27, 2009

Interested in Writing a Novel? Try NaNoWriMo!!!

NaNoWriMo Typewriter poster designed by artist Jason Munn. Image courtesy of Poster available here!

I know that a lot of people dream of writing a novel, being able to call yourself a novelist, getting your creative juices flowing, and finally finding the time to put those awesome story ideas/characters you have down on paper and running with it! Well, if any of this sounds good to you, I'd like to invite you to join me in taking part in November's National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo for short. It's pronounced Nano Wry Moe)! And guess what? It's all FREE!!!!!

This coming November will be my third time taking part in the National Novel Writing Month and I just can't wait for it to start!

Here's a screenshot of the NaNoWriMo website! I love the running man with pencil logo!

Now you probably have a few questions about NaNoWriMo. Things like, "how long is a novel?" "How does this work?" "Can I write non-fiction?" And plenty of other questions. So here I will post the Who, What, Why, and When info from the horse's mouth itself (the NaNoWriMo website):

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that's a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

As you spend November writing, you can draw comfort from the fact that, all around the world, other National Novel Writing Month participants are going through the same joys and sorrows of producing the Great Frantic Novel. Wrimos meet throughout the month to offer encouragement, commiseration, and—when the thing is done—the kind of raucous celebrations that tend to frighten animals and small children.

In 2008, we had over 120,000 participants. More than 20,000 of them crossed the 50k finish line by the midnight deadline, entering into the annals of NaNoWriMo superstardom forever. They started the month as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers. They walked away novelists.

So, to recap:

What: Writing one 50,000-word novel from scratch in a month's time.

Who: You! We can't do this unless we have some other people trying it as well. Let's write laughably awful yet lengthy prose together.

Why: The reasons are endless! To actively participate in one of our era's most enchanting art forms! To write without having to obsess over quality. To be able to make obscure references to passages from our novels at parties. To be able to mock real novelists who dawdle on and on, taking far longer than 30 days to produce their work.

When: You can sign up anytime to add your name to the roster and browse the forums. Writing begins November 1. To be added to the official list of winners, you must reach the 50,000-word mark by November 30 at midnight. Once your novel has been verified by our web-based team of robotic word counters, the partying begins.

Still confused? Just visit the How NaNoWriMo Works page!


So there's the basic info! I've loved every time that I've participated in NaNo, and I'll bet that if you give it a shot, you will too! One benefit is that once you've signed up, you can also sign up for a "home region" (wherever you live! And this is international, so don't fear if you're in Australia, the UK, New Zealand, Germany, China, and all!). If you're in the US, I recommend searching by the state name first. If you're international, then search by country name.

Here's a shot of the 11 regions with the highest word counts! Seattle is always tough to beat, but there are a lot of European countries are up there too!

There are NaNoWriMo participants everywhere! If there are enough NaNo-ers, there are even further breakdowns! For example, I did NaNo when I was living in Boston, Massachusetts. In Massachusetts alone there are NINE different NaNo regions: Mass-North Shore, Mass-Boston Area, Mass-Cape Cod, etc. I was in the Boston region with over 2000 members and every week (and sometimes more often) we'd have a write-in at a local cafe, library, college, etc. to spur each other on to reach the 50,000 word mark! Now not all 2000 members met up in person. It was more like 20-40 at write-ins, but lots of participation online on the regional forum. I'm now in the Maine region (there are about 780 Maine NaNo-ers) and we've already got plans for write-ins all over the state (including weekly ones about 15-minutes away from my apartment! Huzzah)!

And they also have various chat rooms, and NaNo Groups in the general forums for people to chat with, get encouraged by, advice, and whatnot. Groups for Newbies, Age Groups (20s, 30, 402, 50s and beyond!), Military groups, and "Virtual Worlds" groups (do you do SecondLife? They have weekly virtual write-ins, if you don't have many people participating near you. Or World of Warcraft? Same there!). So don't let the fear of not having any encouragement keep you from participating! You're never far away from NaNo help!

So I hope you'll consider becoming a part of National Novel Writing Month and experience the fun and chaos that comes from trying to write a 50,000-word novel in just 30 days! In the past, if you win (reach the 50,000-word mark before the stroke of midnight on November 30th), you recieve a coupon allowing you to publish a draft copy of your novel for free! I took advantage of this my first year because I loved how the story came out!

Here's Rosy with my 2007 book: The Melville Conspiracy.

Sure, nobody except for my family and friends have read it (I bought a few extra copies), but it's just such a great feeling to have your work in print!

If I've convinced you, sign up here and feel free to add me as a Writing Buddy (my username on NaNo is Chester.Copperpot). And if you need some more info about it, feel free to peruse their website (I think I've posted enough links to it already, but here it is again) and discover the joy that is National Novel Writing Month!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Kitten Mittens

So I've been a bit sporadic about updating the blog recently. That's because we got a new kitten!!! Meet Cupcake, a former stray we adopted from the Friends of Feral Felines in Portland. She's about four months old, has double paws (polydactyly), is a very light orange and sooooo cute! For those who are unfamiliar with polydactyly, this means that she has several extra toes (hers are all on her front paws, but you can have them on back paws as well), making it look almost like she has a thumb!

We named her Cupcake (or CC for short) after one of my favorite local designers when I lived in Boston: Johnny Cupcake. This is because her double paws look a bit like oven mitts, which are used in several of Johnny Cupcake's designs.

This has also led to another nickname for her: Kitten Mitten!

The other cats, Rosy and Chester, aren't best friends with her yet, but they do play around, sniff her, and generally tolerate her presence. We've eased the transition by giving them lots of treats, petting, and a new and improved (and a lot bigger) scratching post. This one has four levels for cats to enjoy! Pillars at the bottom, a hidey-hole on the 2nd (or 1st floor, if you're European), a little dougnut-shaped (with a pillar in the middle) landing (kitten fits on this level perfectly),

and lastly the top. The top is a favorite amongst all of the cats, but Chester fits inside it perfectly. He didn't really use our old one as much because he was too big and had to sleep with his legs hanging out all over. Now he can curl up and rule over his kingdom with a view of everything!

Our benevolent ruler, Chester Copperpot.

So our fam has increased in size to five (including my husband and me) and we couldn't be happier, even if it's kept me from being as productive with my crafting. Now that everyone's gotten used to each other, I'm sure I'll be able to find the time! :)

Our happy feline household: Chester Copperpot on top, Rosalita on the old post in back, and Cupcake crawling out of the hidey-hole.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Stuff Portland Mainers Like! - Coexist Bumper Stickers

I'm a relatively new transplant to Portland, Maine. I've lived for several years each in Southern NH, Boston (Massachusetts), and briefly (less than a year or two) in Central New York (the state, not the city), Milwaukee (Wisconsin), Minot (North Dakota) and the panhandle area of Florida. Sheesh. That's a lotta places in the US. No west coast though. Hmmm.

But in any case, I moved to Portland (again Maine, not Oregon) a few months ago, and since then I've noticed a few things that seem unique to the area. Little quirks and habits of Portland Mainers (and perhaps Mainers in general, though I haven't traveled around the state enough to know) that I find funny, bizarre, or just darn wonderful!

So here's "Stuff Portland Mainers Like" #1! Coexist bumper stickers.

That's right. Those Coexist bumper stickers where the letters are all made up of different symbols: Islam, Peace, Male/Female, Judaism, Pagan and Bah'ai, Taoism, and Christianity.

They come from, a company in California, just in case you were wondering. Now I know that some people find these stickers smug and obnoxious ("Yeah, it's easy enough to have a bumper sticker that says 'coexist,' but that's not gonna help anyone in the REAL WORLD!") but now I kinda think that they're a nice way to show that you respect other people's beliefs. A way of saying, "you can be you, and I can be me, and that's cool."

I also prefer the Muppets' version of the "Coexist" thinking, which is "Why can't we be friends?"

I noticed this variation on an electrician's truck recently. Apparently this version was special ordered by the Portland, Maine Habitat for Humanity (I guess they noticed Portlanders love of Coexist stickers too) for their Interfaith House project, bringing people of different faiths together to build a green (green as in environmentally efficient, not the color) building. How cool is that? It's a really nice introduction to the kind people of Portland, Maine!

Monday, September 21, 2009

My Halloween Tree Treasury!

So I managed to snag a treasury this evening and I've made it inspired by Ray Bradbury's story "The Halloween Tree." Bradbury's a favorite of mine and he's a perfect read if you want to get into a spooky, autumn, Halloween-y (halloweinie?) mood! I recommend "The October Country" or "Something Wicked This Way Comes" (also a creepy movie starring Jason Robards) or "From The Dust Returned" or... well, "The Halloween Tree!"

Please check out my treasury here! And check out the awesome Etsians who made such spooky stuff!

The treasury is set to expire this Wednesday at 11:54pm, so don't wait to give it a look!

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Furry Fam

A brief look at the furry members of my fam (short for family, in case you didn't know). Currently, apartment living has only allowed us (husband and myself) to adopt feline members into our family (although sometime in the future we will find a nice place that allows dogs! Somedayyyyyy!), but that's not a problem, since I'm probably a little more of a cat person than a dog person. Don't get me wrong! I absolutely adore dogs and very much want to get one (eventually two). However, my early childhood (heck, from the moment I was born and all the time since) was spent around mostly cats. I remember thinking as a kid when my parents finally went and adopted a dog, how many cats we could've gotten for the dog's purchase price (I think I figured we could've gotten 7 cats for what we spent to get the dog, but I was probably way off).
Me: "But mommmmm! If we don't get a dog, we can get seven more cats!"
Mom: "Not happening."
But we all know how cute puppies can be, and that led me to be an equal-opportunity pet-lover! For now though, it's the husband, me and our two kitties.
Named after characters from one of our favorite movies (The Goonies), we have Chester Copperpot (the large orange tabby) and Rosalita (the small grey tabby). We adopted Chester first and a few years later added Rosy to the mix.

Chester's a lot more sedate than Rosy. He's one of those cats that never seems to open his eyes all the way (always almond-shaped or squinty). It's always as if he's giving me a look that says (in a tired old man voice), "Oy, what are you crazy food-givers up to now?"
That's the look. Granted, I was taking a picture of him from under our glass table, which is a bit odd. In the awesome book "The cat who went to Paris" by Peter Gethers (required reading for all cat-lovers!), as his cat is getting all sorts of attention, author Peter describes the look as his cat thinking, "well, this is just the price I have to pay for being me."

Chester is also the master of the stiff-arm when you pick him up. *BAM! Right to your sternum. "Don't pick me up. If you must adore me, adore me on my own terms!" If you don't get the hint, he likes to dig his one snaggletooth into your arm, like this:
They never scratch or bite, but Chester gives mean snaggletooth pressure.

Rosy is the more lively, younger one who often has eyes the size of dinnerplates. If she's not sleepy, she always looks like she's thinking, "what the heck is going on here?!?" She also has her own tumbling maneuver that we've named "The Rosy Roll." Here you can see Chester being unimpressed by Rosy's floorwork.
Chester: *Sigh. What are you doing now?

And a close-up of the Rosy Roll:
She also is the first farting cat I've ever had. The vet is helping us work on that, but currently Rosy is the master of the "silent but deadly" variety.

But luckily they tolerate each other (loving each other may be a little much to ask right now, but they do play with each other and don't get in fights) and coexist peacefully. Even though they have to share the bed (you'll notice that this is also MY bed. My husband and I apparently get the top 2/3rds of it)!

The Most Awesome Profile on Etsy

Can't say that I've had anything from my store purchased by this awesome person, but I discovered that I had an item "hearted" by someone with an awesome Etsy name: RainbowCrayon. Being a lover of rainbows and people who like my stuff, I clicked on them and then beheld the most awesome Etsy profile ever. If you think you can handle the greatness that is RainbowCrayon's profile, click here. And check out her favorite items list while you're at it! This kid has fabulous taste!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Art put on hold for Dan Brown's new book

If you hate my fellow New Hampshirite Dan Brown and/or have no plan to read his most recent book, this post is kind-of a throwaway. Feel free to skip it! :)

So on my lunch break yesterday, I popped by my local indie bookstore (Longfellow Books, in case you were wondering) to pick up the new Dan Brown novel, "The Lost Symbol." I then proceeded to do absolutely no art in between sessions of reading the aforementioned book and I finished it this evening. Now I'm no real believer in conspiracy theories, but I do love fiction works that involve them (I think in real life, there'd have to be waaaaay more efficiency and intelligence to pull off what most conspiracy theorists claim)! So I really enjoyed the book! Not as much as I liked "The DaVinci Code" or "Angels & Demons," which seemed to flow a bit better (and as a former European Lit. & Languages student married to an Art History major, we both really liked the scenes in France and Italy and all of the artworks mentioned), but still a fun read! Don't worry! No spoilers included here!

I think I also enjoy the fact that you can attempt to solve the riddles on your own whilst reading the book (and the fact that the book jacket alone has several codes for you to attempt to decipher)! Who doesn't want to be an armchair dectective? Pretending that you're an expert codebreaker who needs to solve this puzzle because someone's life is hanging in the balance (but without the REAL pressure, since this person is just a fictional character)? I love it when you can figure it out before our good ol' buddy Robert Langdon! And if you're into solving puzzles that have nothing to do with the story and everything to do with internet games, try out their Lost Symbol game! Minutes upon minutes of procrastination and googling await you!

Now while I read the book, I place little post-it notes next to things mentioned that I want to look up/research. I had a decent amount of these post-its, believe you me. Below I have included links that I found that may be useful to you during or after you've read the book. I make no claims that these sites have completely reliable information (I've got a decent amount of wikis in there), but they have enough relevant stuff to give you a good idea about things. Some of the links are directly related to the search for the Lost Symbol and others were just places or ideas mentioned (no real relevance other than to give an idea of setting) and some were red herrings (you think you're getting somewhere, but oh ho! Sneaky Dan Brown pulled a fast one on you)! Hope this helps you enjoy the book a little bit more (I always enjoy things more when I know what the heck people are talking/writing about, don't you?). Happy reading!

Oh and just one last word: Fiction. The book is fiction. Keep that in mind and you'll be just fine. :)

Helpful links:
The House of the Temple, the headquarters building of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry
Smithsonian Museum Support Center
The Intention Experiment
The US Capitol Vistor Center
The Apotheosis of George Washington info
The Apotheosis of GW large image
George Washington as Zeus Sculpture
The Architect of the Capitol
United States Botanical Garden
The Hand of The Mysteries
The Institute of Noetic Sciences
Institute of Noetic Sciences wiki
The Ancient Mysteries and Secret Societies
Melancolia I image
The Washington National Cathedral
Order of the Eastern Star
The Franklin Square
The Smithsonian Castle
Liquid Breathing
The Washington Monument

And of course, the book's website here and Dan Brown's site here.

There. That's my shtick about the new book. You won't hear another word about it from me (unless something crazy happens, like Kanye West telling Dan Brown that "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" was WAY more important)!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Stuff I'm really proud of

These are some of my works that I've been really proud of. Some are for sale, some aren't, some were actually sold (huzzah)! Since I'm not a trained artist (unless you count those drawing classes I took in 3rd grade, which consisted mostly of the teacher having us copy images from old Nature magazines. I imagine it's much like what Andy Warhol's trained crew of artists had to do), I get a little overly critical of my work, seeing little flaws and getting down about them. But I still love what I do, and sometimes, just sometimes, I think that the stuff I make comes out practically perfect in every way (to quote Mary Poppins)! These are some of those items. Enjoy!

This painting is one of the first large acrylics that I've done and I still can't get over how awesome it came out. "Saturday In The Park" is actually the name of this painting, done before I even had joined Etsy and he's now the banner for my Saturday In The Park store. And yes, it's a line from the Chicago song.
I wanted to do something funny, colorful and relatively easy (note to all artists : Manatees are very easy to do. Grey blob, add cute muzzle, big eyes and fat flippers, double chin and boom! Realistic manatee) and I was inspired by Bren Bataclan's work (click here to see his awesome paintings). Bren Bataclan did a "Smile Boston" project while I was living there (leaving free paintings around Boston, telling people to take the painting as long as they can make people smile throughout the day. What a cool idea!) and while I never found one of his works, I was definitely influenced by his style. And I love love how it came out!

This is one of the first pendants I made. I call him Swirly Gold Sheep. Fairly simple, but I love the look of it. His swirly golden fleece (much more easily attained than the mythical one) and big ol' green stone eyes! So cute! I'm a big fan of knitting, though I haven't sold any of my knitted wares yet. I tend to foist those on family members. This sheep reminds me of the two times I went to see sheep being sheared when I was in grade school. I passed out at the sight of blood both times. But I also got to be the first one to pet the lambs afterwards!

This is Hercule, the Dapper Cockroach. My husband and I had to deal with a mini cockroach infestation when we moved into one of our apartments and it inspired me to create a larger version of this painting. I figured if I could think of the cockroaches as silly mustachioed gents with bow-ties and monocles, I'd be a lot less scared of them. Amazingly enough, it worked! I'm still not a huge roach fan, so thankfully the exterminator got rid of them all. All except for Hercule.

This guy is a bit more "Mature" so if you're afraid of things that loosely resemble male genitalia, you should scroll past this next work.

This is Jareth, the Knob-lin King (a phallus pendant parody of Jareth the goblin king from the movie "Labyrinth")! Geeky phallus pendants/magnets are actually how I started out selling on Etsy. I made a bunch for a friend's bachelorette party and she, knowing how much I was a fan of buying stuff on Etsy, suggested that I could sell them! So I have. Jareth is one of the pendants I've sold so far, along with "Dildo Baggins" a Lord of the Rings parody. I think I have WAY too much fun making these guys. :)

This green Cthulhu pendant is one of the creepier items I've sold. If you don't know about Cthulhu, a tentacled, winged evil ocean god created by the writer H.P. Lovecraft, I highly recommend reading his horror stories! This little guy came out just perfect! Perfectly evil!

This is a sketchbook I've topped with a design I call "Mr. Blue Sky" (yes, from the ELO song). Made from mushing a whole bunch of blues together, stamping with script, glazing over it with a silver paint and then adding a rainbow, clouds, beautifully shiny dichroic glass stones (if you've never heard of dichroic glass, check it out! It's become one of my favorite forms of glasswork on Etsy! So shiny and sparkly!), and a silver key charm. I wasn't entirely sure how this would look until it was done, but the writing across the sky and the bright eye-catching rainbow and key just sealed it as one of my faves. Makes me feel like I had a little extra magic in my hands while I was making it. If only I could buy more magic on Etsy...

And lastly, this little lovesick robot. He's not for sale. I made him for my fabulous husband. I was inspired by all of the awesome robot creators on the Etsy website. There are just so many and they're all so talented. I don't think I'll ever get into making lots of robots, but this little guy just warmed my heart as I was making him (probably because of my feelings for the recipient of this robot). Who can resist technological romance?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I sure make some weird stuff

I sure make some bizarre things.

Some of the bizarre things aren't from my own imagination, like the Cthulhu pendants. Those are all inspired by the weird mind of author H.P. Lovecraft.
Nobody does weird like Lovecraft! My take on his Cthulhu mythos.

Others are inspired by real-life experiences (like how dealing with a cockroach infestation in one of my apartments led me to create my Dapper Cockroach painting).
Just straightening his bow tie for the soiree this evening!

My geeky phallus pendants were originally made for a dear friend's bachelorette party (of course since then I've added more to the mix) and I've now taken those to the nth degree.
Robin Wood, The Poker, Spider-Wang, The Boner who Lived, and Dildo Baggins.

But some of these I'm not really sure how the ideas for them popped into my head. But I'm sure the world is a little weirder for it!

A one-eyed, hairy, blue monster wearing mittens?

Okay, I can tell that a certain cartoon sponge inspired "Spongeboob Squarepants," but I'm not really sure where the rest of the inspiration came from!

Another one-eyed monster? Or is this just half of his face? Either way, he's in need of some serious dental work.

A "Fruit Fly." Get it? I can hear you groaning.