Nah, Nah, NaNo, Not This Year

I hate to bail out on anything I’ve committed to.  But you know what?  I’m just too tired to deal with the stress of worrying whether my word count is going to come out right on November 30th.

It’s kind of too bad, because I have a novel that I’ve been working on, and I put it in the deep freeze to age a little.  Then when I got it out again, I realized it wasn’t the novel I wanted at all.  I mean, the premise and the characters and the story arc are all meaningful, but the approach is all wrong.  So it needs to be re-written from scratch.

I’ve actually made a stab at it, thinking I’d do it for this year’s NaNoWriMo.  But I’m not up to it.  My liver hurts, courtesy of a Cytomegalovirus infection I contracted several years ago.  I’m getting a cold, thanks to self-imposed stress.  I’m whiney and all I want to do is crawl under the covers and sleep it off.

You know what?  That’s exactly what I’m going to do.  I’m going to be kind to myself for a change.  It’s a habit I’d like to cultivate.

See you next year, NaNo.  Maybe.

Dina Leah is Alive and Well

Some of you may know that I am writing a book.  It’s a memoir that chronicles a seven-month period in my life, when I ran away from home and never went back.  It’s pretty gruesome in some places, and kind of wacky in others.  The title, so far, is A Runaway Life.  And since it’s already about 315 pages, I kind of doubt the title will change; but you never know.

I have another blog, Dina Leah: Story of a Teenage Runaway, which at first I had intended to be the canvas upon which I would paint this story, in serial form; but the book got out of hand and took on a life of its own and galloped away with me, so my poor Dina Leah blog has languished.  Oh right, I didn’t tell you that Dina Leah is the pseudonym I chose.

I’ve been trying to write this book for at least 30 years.  The problem has been that there is so much trauma oozing between its covers that every time I started to write I would break out in a cold PTSD sweat, and I’d put it away.  My hard drive is bulging with drafts and attempts at chapters.

Last NaNoWriMo I got the bright idea that I would give it a whirl using Third Person instead of First Person, or maybe alternate: just play with it, and see what came out.  So far, since November 1st 2012, about 95,000 words have come out.  Yikes!  I had no idea.  And as it now stands, I’m only five months into the seven month journey.  Gonna be a whole lotta editing goin’ on!   This isn’t War and Peace.  Well, it’s MY war and peace, but that’s a different story, so to speak.

If you don’t mind, please stop by Dina Leah and tell me what you think.  I’m really looking for honest feedback, the more specific the better.  Thanks!

Reblogged from In the Booth with Ruth: Dina Leah

Dina Leah, a survivor of child abuse and rape, ran away from home at age 16 only to find herself homeless on the streets. The only way to get shelter, food, and other necessities was to have sex with strange men. This led to more rapes, and a vicious cycle of drug abuse, survivor sex, and homelessness. She is currently writing a novelized memoir, using a pseudonym out of fear of her abusors. Ruth Jacobs, tireless advocate for change and abolition of prostitution, interviews Dina here about Dina’s life as a writer. In a second interview on Ruth’s website, Dina talks about her life as a runaway and how it has affected her, both as an activist for street kids and in her own personal life.

Daily Prompt: Sweet Sixteen

When this prompt from the generally genially congenial folks at WordPress showed up in my inbox, I got so flustered I didn’t know whether to shit or go blind.  Here I am, writing a whole freakin’ novel (just a tad autobiographical) about this very topic, and they want it in a single post?  OK, my friends.  Here it is, in a nutshell.  Trigger warnings slapped all over the box, just so you know.

Excerpted from my Novel-In-Progress:  A Runaway Life

I met him in the burger joint where I worked.  It was my first job.  I was a 16 year old virgin.  He admired my legs; I was flattered.  He had a motorcycle and bad skin.

That day he picked me up in his battered Ford. He drove on country roads that got progressively narrower till we reached a wooded park.  I thought we were going to take a walk.  But there was his motorcycle, parked near the edge of the woods.   I climbed on behind him and he kicked the motor to life.

I never would have believed someone could drive a motorcycle so fast on a dirt forest path.  I had to keep my eyes closed so I wouldn’t get sick from the trees whizzing by.

Suddenly the bike braked and I opened my eyes.  He had stopped near a big tree.  He got off and grinned at me with his bad teeth.

“Wait here,” he said.  “I have a surprise for you.”

He reached into a hollow in the tree and pulled out a small plastic bag.  “Panama Red,” he announced, as he rolled a thin joint and lit up.

We passed the joint back and forth until it was all used up.  He put the bag back in the tree and we got back on the bike and roared off.

Soon, after a few more terrifying twists and turns of the trail, we came to another big tree and stopped again.  “Acapulco Gold.”  And we smoked that joint up too.

Yet another stop, and I was completely wasted.  Somehow, he navigated back to the car; I was in no condition to ask where we were going.  He drove to his parents’ house. He lived in the basement, he had told me, when we had talked at the burger joint.

He must have carried me in. The basement floor was very hard.  The musty shag rug did nothing to soften the cold concrete underneath.  I still remember that.

He panted and grunted on top of me.  As my brain swam into consciousness his voice hissed in my ear, “Don’t make any noise and you won’t get hurt.”

Back on the Chain Gang

Ah, the blissful bubble of  NaNoWriMo is over.  Well, officially it’s over at midnight on November 30th, so I’ve got a day and then some to revel in typing my fingers off.  But let’s face it, I’ve got my 50,000 words and my Winner Certificate, so I guess I’m a Lame Duck WriMo.  And now, although I’m still banging away at it, I’ve come to a really difficult spot in my “novel.”  I’m hoping that putting it to bed for the night will help: let it incubate for a while, or perhaps compost, ferment, whatever gets it going again.


I decided to tackle some of the effects of entropy that have turned my living space into even more of a trash heap than it was before.  So I tackled something that just has to be done.  In case you don’t remember, I moved into my dad’s pottery studio.  He’s too sick to use it anymore, and I need a place to live.  It’s been quite an adventure, full of all kinds of challenges and roadblocks.  I’ll have to write a post devoted to the project and where it stands to date, complete with pictures of my electric toilet.  That’s right folks: I have an electric toilet, because this building is perched on the edge of a cliff and there’s no place for a septic tank.


Anyway.  Tonight I spent an hour putting my dad’s pottery tools away: you know, all those wonderful little tools he used to use to make his mind-blowing ceramic art.  A lot of them are found objects: a toothbrush handle, a cheese cutter, a rubber spatula.  I separated them according to function and size, and put them all in plastic bags and then into one of those Rubbermaid boxes I can’t live without.  I cried a lot.  I wanted to scream, but it would scare my little dog.  Times like this, I wish she had a temporary “off” switch so that I could just go ahead and scream without having to worry about somebody else’s feelings.


Tomorrow I have a busy day.  I won’t get to the next thing on my list, which is wiping the mold off of all my books and putting them in the bookcases, after wiping the mold off the bookcases first.  Yes, you read right:  mold.  The bane of the asthmatic: and I am an asthmatic.


You see, it is so humid here, on the cliff above the river, that while I was away for ten weeks resting in the bosom of Jerusalem, the humidity was at work making mold over all of my belongings.  Everything.  Furniture, clothes, even (and I am deeply offended at this) my banjo strap, that I made out of leather in 1974.  Arrrrgh!  One step forward, two steps back.


But on the other hand, I’m sitting here wheezing, listening to Queen on Pandora, my little doggie asleep tucked under my right elbow.  I spent the day with my old dad, who was lucid enough today to have a deep discussion about ceramic glaze chemistry.  We both love chemistry.  It’s just that most of the time, his brain refuses to cooperate, so we can’t discuss much and he goes to sleep.  But today was one of those increasingly rare days when relative clarity allowed us to have a rare and precious conversation about some pretty technical stuff.


I’d better go take a nebulizer treatment and take my handful of pills so I can get up in the morning and drive to Asheville to see the disability lawyer and my psychologist, now that I’m a certified Nutter.

NaNoWriMo Victory!

Gentle readers, I have done my WriMo duty for a second straight year.  I must shamelessly say that I am very proud of myself.  Even better, when I hit the 50.000 word winner mark, I couldn’t stop, but have kept write on (sic) all evening and am now standing at 51,327 delicious words.


It’s a bitter-sweet victory for me to be writing this book.  I’ve been trying to write it for 40 years, but have run into emotional snags like near-psychotic breaks triggered by the flashbacks that I inevitably get when I write the history of the lost and abused little girl I was.  Even now, I have written many words through streaming tears.


But this time is different, for some reason.  The words are flowing (as are my tears) and at the end of every writing session I feel liberated, lightened of the load I have carried these 40 years and more.


So hip-hip-hooray for me, and I am going to drink a toast now, to Dina Leah and her new life, freed from the bonds of the past.  Now it’s time to incorporate the discipline of NaNoWriMo into my every day writing life, and apply seat to chair for at least two hours a day, as I have for the past month.  And soon, soon (maybe tomorrow) I will restart Dina Leah’s blog, where her story will be available in serial form.  See you there!

“Half in love with easeful death….”

Darkling I listen; and, for many a time

I have been half in love with easeful Death,

Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme,

To take into the air my quiet breath;  (Ode to a Nightingale, John Keats)

I’m doing this NaNoWriMo write-a-novel-in-thirty-days thing.  It’s quite an exercise, for a non-fiction writer like me to just throw my hat into a fictitious ring and say, “whatever comes out, comes out.”

Last night after Shabbos I went back into my manuscript frenzy and got over the 5000 word hump.  Then I noticed something odd:  every one of the characters in my novel is modeled after someone in my life who has died violently.  One of my protagonists is even an amalgam of two different men who committed suicide by shooting themselves.

The two children in the plot, I knew from their very beginnings.

The Pretzel Lady cadaver plays herself.  I hope she is now resting in a lot more peace than I gave her, poor thing.  She was my cadaver in medical school.

I wonder if other novelists resort to such macabre strategies, mining their lives for dead people to resurrect?  But surely most people don’t know so many dead people as I do.  Or do they?

I’m not talking about the “normal” kind of death that impacts everyone’s life sooner or later.  It is natural for grandparents, and then parents, to age and die.  It is also natural for people to have long terminal illnesses, and then die.

What I’m talking about is specifically suicide, homicide, and accidental death.  The kind of thing an emergency room doctor sees over and over again.  In fact, when you see these things on a daily basis, they begin to populate your thoughts and your dreams.  So why shouldn’t they populate a novel, should you chance to write one?

It is the most natural thing on earth, for me anyway.  If I need a life to put down on paper, I reach out into my catalog of lives that have been shucked off like overcoats no longer needed.  But I’m sensing that I need to put a stop to this thread, because my mind in its current state could easily begin to perseverate on ideas far more unhealthy than these that I’ve already trotted out.