Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

Selling Out



It’s November again, which means it is National Novel Writing Month. For some reason, I let my son talk me into participating this year, even though it means writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

It is an ultra-marathon for writers.

This also means, my blog might be sporadic, since all of my mental powers will be utilized in the writing of the next Great American Novel. Or, would it be considered a Great American Novel since I live in Germany? I’m not sure. Regardless, my Chick-Lit Sellout Novel is under way.

My fluffy white dog, who, bless his heart, doesn’t know a thing about the end of daylight savings time, started whining from his kennel at 4:00 am, rather than 5:00, and thus, my ‘writing time’ was carved out of the day for me by a twelve-pound Havanese.

I’m not going to show many people my sellout book. I call it that because I do not expect it to be quality literature. It is a light read, and as such, it might have a chance of being published someday. If Hemingway were alive, he would write a sellout book too–just to get his foot in the door.

So, the challenge is on, and hopefully someday my novel will be on shelves in bookstores, though you won’t know it’s mine because I’ll have to use a nom-de-plume.


Little Things Are Big Things


Though I’m not afraid to die, I am afraid to write it down, because it sounds like the beginning of a Louie Giglio or Francis Chan sermon. You know how it begins: “The day before the freak accident with the sugar beet truck, avid runner Keri Wellman said she wasn’t afraid to die.”

I don’t WANT to die, but if it does happen (as it eventually will when I’m 119 and have finished a marathon with my great-great-grandchildren) I’m not afraid, because I am absolutely certain of where I’m going; and no offense, but it’s a lot better than anything I can find down here.

You may say, “What about your kids? Your husband? Your fluffy white dog? Don’t they need you?” Well, dear reader, my husband and kids need only God. As for my dog…he’ll fall in love with the first person who feeds him bacon.

I am not trying to diminish the tragedy of death. I’ve had people who are dear to me die, and it is not easy for those of us left behind to cope. There are empty spaces in our lives, where our closest friends used to be–it’s not a simple thing to handle. And yet, death should be something we contemplate from time to time. Not in a morbid, melancholy sort of way, but in a way that motivates us to really LIVE while we have the chance, to appreciate every single thing we’ve been given and to strive to live a life pleasing to God.

When I first embarked on this adventure called ‘parenting,’ I learned a key concept: To children, the little things ARE the big things. So, when your kid wants you to take a picture of the Khazneh he made from a hundred small planks of wood, it is important not to roll your eyes, or to murmur “Uh-huh” while you write your blog.


To him, this is a big thing, and so it should be to me as well. Don’t get me wrong, the kids do NOT run this household, there ARE times they have to wait before I can give them my full attention, but as a parent, I try to place value on the things they value, and I try to steer them towards things that have eternal value. It is not about the block building, it is about the mutual respect that is built by simply taking a picture of it.

The little things have enormous worth. 

Something has changed in my life lately though. Things that used to be ‘big’ seem kind of small, and small things seem kind of big.

Little things that should seem big:

My Health

I’ve had these weird medical anomalies happening, the swelling in my joints, a strange lump on my neck, and so I went in to the clinic to have them do things I can’t do myself, namely, draw blood and take pictures of the inside of my body.

The really strange thing for me (a person who acquires rare diseases by merely reading WebMd symptom checker) is that I’m not worried. Not one little bit.

I’m more concerned about helping Libby with her long division than I am any worst case health scenarios.


My husband (the most amazing man ever), is taking us on a trip this winter–to the Middle East. 

I realize that rockets are being tossed around like basketballs over there right now, but strangely, I’m not apprehensive. We will travel smart and use good judgement (and enjoy the warm weather and sunshine), but I’m not fretting over the worst case scenarios. After all, a LOT of people, including women and children, go about their daily lives in these places.

As I see it, my children are in greater danger being in the car on the B roads of Germany than they are on camels in the Wadi Musa. I’m excited for them and for us as a family to be in a culture entirely different than the supposedly ‘safe’ one in which we currently find ourselves.

*Note: We are not ignorant, nor would we make unwise choices. You might say, “Isn’t visiting the Middle East an unwise choice?” No more than driving to piano lessons or to my kids’ sports class. Trust me, we’ve seen people die, right in front of us, on that main road to town–we know the risks. Staying at home does not make you immune to danger!

Big things that should seem little:

Crossfitin German!

I’ve decided to incorporate CrossFit into my marathon training. Not only will it require me to bravely enter a CrossFit box alone, but it also will require me to use my pre-school level German. Intimidating, yes! This is a big thing for me, as I am not one to boldly go where no wobbly-tricepted woman has gone before.

My goal is to run 2 marathons in 2013, possibly 3 (if everything works out).


I found kale last week, and I can hardly explain how excited I was. Sure, I can’t seem to locate any kale now, but last week I had kale juice, made kale stew, and threw kale into everything I could. The kids loved it! It was a BIG thing!


Because I’ve been getting up to write at 5am every day, I’ve been drinking an entire pot before anyone is awake. I decided to cut back by drinking hot tea instead. Shocker, I know, but this is a BIG deal to me.


This morning, I finished a 50,000 word novel, thereby completing the NaNoWriMo challenge. The novel isn’t completely finished yet, but I have an excellent rough draft. While this is a ‘little’ thing, it is huge to me. I think this will be my first fiction published.

On that note, my co-author, Jenn Miller, and I are putting the final touches on a print version of our book, “Bottles to Backpacks: The Gypsy Mama’s Guide to REAL Travel with Kids,” and though it is a self published deal, it came out very professionally and well done. It should be available on Lulu by the end of next week.

These are big things in my life–things that seem small to most people but mean a lot to me, like a favorite coffee mug that fits perfectly in my hands. (Am I the only one who buys a coffee mug based purely on its shape?)

I digress. Or do I?

What are the big things in your life that may seem little to others? Or are there little things in your life that most people think are big things? I’m curious to know. 

Above Average Insanity: Novel Writing and Long Distance Running


Marathon: A cross-country footrace of 26 miles, 385 yards or 42.195 kilometers that includes sweat, fatigue and a participant who doesn’t care if people call her crazy in a variety of languages.

NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month. A writing contest of 50,000 words, not all cohesive, completed in 30 days, that includes sweat, fatigue and a participant who doesn’t care if her words make sense in any language.

NaNoWriMo is, in essence, a marathon of writing, which is probably why it appeals to me.

As in most of my marathons, upon completion of last year’s  NaNoWriMo, I swore I would never do it again, as I opposed, in principle, the idea of writing a voluminous amount of words just for the sake of writing a lot of words. What about quality? What about grammar? What about editing? What about that half-finished novel on my desk?

Thus, when my eldest son signed himself up (he’s already nearing the 50,000 word mark, which means, clearly, he has too much free time) he challenged me to FINALLY work on this wonderful story I’ve been cutting apart and re-stitching together for the past 4 years.

I’m embarrassed when I read the old manuscript now, which I so hopefully sent out to agents. This month, I started afresh with the same main character and similar story, only it is MUCH more readable.

*Note: I apologize to any of you upon whom I foisted my first manuscript, which is a really rough, rough, rough draft bordering on random ideas for a good Middle Grade Fiction Story.

Just as there are different types of runners (sprint, distance, hurdle) so there are different types of writers. There are fast ones and slow ones. Some who wait until “inspiration” hits them, and they write madly until the story has, like a virus, run its course. Others lock themselves in a cabin somewhere until the story comes to life. Still others dutifully carve out time wherever they can find it (even if it means pre-dawn) to work on their stories.

It struck me that I had to approach NaNo with the same diligence I approach marathon training. Fortunately spring training doesn’t begin until December, so this month, I can spend my early morning hours writing, instead of running in the dark.

This month, except for Saturdays (the only day I allow sleeping in), I set the alarm for 5:00 am. When the alarm goes off, I hit the snooze button and think to myself, “My landlady is right. I am crazy.”

Then I smell the coffee coming from the kitchen thanks to the automatic timer I strategically set the night before, and I roll over thinking, “If I fail, I will never hear the end of it from my son,” and also “This is the ONLY time I have to write today.”

I get up, pull on something comfy, yet writerly, usually involving a swooping scarf and my trifocals; and my Mac and I, trailed by my fluffy white dog who wants to be fed, move to the living room for some time together.

The dog goes hungry while I write.

So far, it has been going amazingly well for me–though the dog is losing weight, but he started off pudgy, so it’s okay.

The story is pouring itself out in front of me, and I feel like this time, I have a winner. THIS is going to be my year. I know it will be difficult, and I will want to give up, but if this is my writing marathon, I know I have what it takes to see it through.

My kids, taking the NaNo challenge

Hopefully, this is not another year of bravado or wishful thinking. I may regret even thinking well of my own NaNo project, come December. But my Chief Creative Consultant and Editor (William), encourages me by questioning every detail of my writing, sometimes asking things I’d never even thought about, and occasionally grinning and laughing at my work.

I take this as a good sign.

He is by far the toughest editor I’ve ever had, and I’m certain if I ever DO make my manuscript publishable, his name will have to be somewhere on the dedication page. All of the kids will be there, because they inspire me daily, but William’s questions lead me to give the characters more depth, because he gets irritated by books (many of them, oddly, best-sellers) with flat characters.

Thus, I find myself at 5:30 am, trying to give emotional depth to creatures like dogs, rats and Pixieknobs.

We will see how the story ends in December.

So far, so good!

First Impressions


They say that to have your manuscript read by an actual human being, the first five pages need to hook the reader quicker than a pumpkin spice latte on a crisp autumn day.

While an adult may slog through an entire chapter to get to something good, kids tend to put a book back on the shelf if they’re not hooked in the first three pages. This is probably the reason that many books these days begin with the climax. Instead of a gradual buildup of story, plot, and character, the writer entices the reader with a cliffhanger, and then spends the rest of the story filling in the details.

I’ve started to see many adult novels doing this as well. It’s annoying because it used to be that I could pick up a book, begin reading, and then, to the dismay of my local library, toss it in the ‘donate’ pile if it was too dull. Unfortunately, with these newfangled climactic openings, I find myself reading duds, just to find out what happens at the beginning, or the end, rather.

I used to think it was a cheesy way to write, but now, I admit, I’m kind of hooked on the style, which is probably why my novel for NaNoWriMo this month begins with the climax.

So, I thought I would share the gimmicky, yet strangely compelling prologue of the book I’m writing about a boy who can make clouds come to life.


Nimbus: Firmament

Charlie Dalton stood at the top of Mount Defiant. Stone gray clouds were stacking themselves in the sky, filling it in slab by slab. The cottony clouds were pushed out like sheep, who upon fleeing the wolf, scatter into the wilderness. 

 At his feet were the crumbling remains of a civilization that had died out long ago—so long ago, in fact, that nobody knew anything about them. There were only a few ruined pieces of what must have once been a castle. Charlie briefly wondered if those ancient people had been faced with a choice such as his. And if their final choice had brought them victory, or if it destroyed them. Could it be that they had made the wrong choice?

Cries echoed from the forest up to the barren hilltop where he stood.

They must’ve found where Liberty was hiding! he thought, his heart beating more quickly. I told her to leave when she had the chance, but she wouldn’t listen.

Or maybe, his conscience whispered, it was you who wouldn’t listen to her.

But it didn’t matter now. 

Charlie sprang forward and climbed up to the only solid remaining structure. The platform at the top of the little tower was breaking apart, like everything else, and Charlie quickly bent down and lifted the mat from the center.

“Home Sweet Home:” the mat seemed to chide him. It was ridiculous, yes, but he couldn’t think of it now. He brushed away the dust and traced his hand over the strange shape etched into the ground. A crashing came from the forest and there was a loud cry. He could hear  rapid footsteps coming up the path.

Charlie stood rigidly, tipped his head towards the sky and lifted his hands. The clouds quivered all at once, as if a great unseen wave had suddenly struck it. Then the flat stacks of clouds began to tremble, slowly at first, then more rapidly, like water simmering over a fire.

The sky was dark now. Yet through it, he could see one shape, darker than all the rest. It wasn’t the flat, cold gray of the other clouds, but it was dark, nearly purple, like a bruise on the living sky.  Charlie gasped.  A sense of dread and despair and power swept over him all at once.

The dark shape twisted itself into a long funnel, thinner than a tornado and laying horizontally just over the horizon. Suddenly, the millions of small dark clouds making up the figure seemed to pour over each other, like a pot boiling over. The shape coiled like a snake, and rose its head, as if to strike. It paused for a brief moment, though it seemed a lifetime to Charlie, and fixed its gaze on the boy.

Charlie felt sick.

Suddenly, the snakelike cloud whipped its tail, and as it rushed towards him, it seemed to grow bigger and bigger.

Charlie thought of Liberty, and her words to him—the words he didn’t want to listen to then, but seemed so significant now: “Be careful what you invite into your life, Charlie, because some things should be left alone.”

The snake was so close now he could feel the moisture from its breath. It paused before him, its mouth open in a hideous snarl.

Yes, Liberty had been right. Calling this thing into the world would be the end of them all. 



My plate is full of great things: Super-sized portions of field trips, a side of piano lessons, and heaps of delicious art classes, during which, Mama goes for coffee (and sometimes ice cream) with her friends.

Still, it’s a lot more than I’m used to. And to top it off, my skinny jeans are getting uncomfortable to wear (must be all that ice cream during art lessons) making it apparent I need to increase my weekly mileage. Oh yes, and I’m teaching writing seminars for the homeschool kids. And I’m going to write a novel this month. Plus there’s that little thing called homeschooling, where I’m SUPPOSED to be the teacher.

I love my life and the opportunities the kids and I have, but I wonder how I’ll get everything done.

The real problem is that for the past couple of months, most of our activities are an hour away. There’s no real solution or way around it, so I find myself spending 8 to 10 hours driving a week, and if you look closely at my kitchen floor and bathroom toilets, you’ll see the cost of the commute.

But here’s the thing: I can stay home and have a perfectly clean house, or I can provide valuable learning opportunities (and fun socialization) for my kids. There’s really no choice to be made–our lives are richer because of the activities and because of the people we get to be with while we’re doing cool things.

All of this means that in the next month, I have to be extremely dedicated to using my time wisely.

So, if you don’t see many funny quips on my Facebook page, don’t be alarmed. If I don’t answer emails right away, don’t call the Red Cross–I’m still here!

And though I will be driving way too much, I’ll also be running (before sunrise), writing (any chance I can get), living, laughing, drinking too much coffee, and loving my family.

All it takes is dedication.

But my house probably won’t pass a white glove test any time soon.