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What I Learned From Nanowrimo 2017

Victory manhattans with the husband at Burgerstand.

Scroll down for an (unedited) excerpt from Sparkle & Shine, this year’s Nanowrimo!

Going into nanowrimo this year, I had three goals.

  1. To win
  2. To write everyday in November
  3. To have a complete first draft by the end of the month.

Not to pat my own back or anything, but I totally rocked each of these goals. *pops champagne cork* I might have only written something like 300 words on Thanksgiving, but I still wrote every damn day.

On the whole, I averaged about 2000 words a day, which is double what I’ve been doing–and is not exactly sustainable long term. I’m glad I know I can do it, but writing was done to the exclusion of almost everything else. Finishing a manuscript, even if it’s just a first draft, in 30 days takes a single-minded focus that often left me scrambling to make sure everyone had clean clothes, and my husband taking on more than his fair share of the household chores.

I am not new to this whole writing thing–this was my 5th novel. (Nevermind that 2 and 4 are incomplete first drafts. 2, my second nanowrimo win will likely stay as is in all it’s incomplete 50,000 word glory. 4, last year’s unfinished nanowrimo will be getting the full treatment after the holidays. I have been dying to finish it for a year. It’s a romance that centers around a haunted house, because it’s fiction and I can.) This was also my 3rd nanowrimo win, and while meeting each of my challenges wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be, it wasn’t easy either.

Writing everyday isn’t comfortable.

Composing a new story from scratch takes effort.

But when it came to deciding whether to write everyday or stare at my phone or knit or make that holiday soap I keep putting off making, the choice was easy. Of course I was going to write. Writing is way more fun than all that other stuff, even on the days that it’s painful–and that was a huge revelation to me.

So, onto What I Learned, Already:

  1. Writing fiction is more fun than anything else.
  2.  Perfume Genius is amazing. (Thanks, C!) No Shape was the soundtrack to most of Sparkle & Shine, which I feel is more than appropriate.
  3. I probably can’t write with this much intensity all the time, which draws out my overly ambitious revision and writing schedule just a tad, but maybe that’s OK.
  4. While I’m still querying agents, I’m more open to the idea of self-publishing. I like the idea of doing a bit of both, which I can admit, I used to be enough of snob to never ever want to think about self-publishing.
  5. I have zero desire to do freelance work. I dabble in it every now again to earn a few extra dollars, but honestly, I’d rather put the effort into my own work and figure out how that’s going to pay me rather than getting distracted by writing and editing things for others.
  6. 30 days is about all I can give in full-steam-ahead mode before I’m due for a refueling break. November has been a rewarding month, but also an exhausting one. I am rewarding myself with a manhattan, a whole stack of new romance novels, a nap, and maybe a cookie.


Now, onto the excerpt. This is what a shitty first draft looks like.


Sparkle & Shine

Chapter One

Alex Stafford was at the end of her rope. She’d just spent twelve hours in the studio at the University of Kansas perfecting her bezel settings, and her nerves were fried. She needed pizza and tequila, and idealistically, a good lay. But since Ben, her ersatz boyfriend had been MIA for the last two weeks as he also finished his own final projects, Alex would have to settle for pizza and tequila and the vibrator in her nightstand.

She flipped through the mail while she waited for the pizza to arrive. Alex hadn’t checked it all week long, so there was a stack a mile high. She found a coupon for the pizza she’d ordered halfway through, and wondered if she could convince the delivery guy to accept it when she happened upon the only important piece of mail in the whole lot.

Juliet’s wedding invitation.

Alex was the maid of honor, so of course she was invited. She’d helped plan half the fucking wedding. She’d been the one who picked out the invitations because Juliet claimed she couldn’t look at one more scrap of lacy burlap, but here it was, physical proof that her former best friend was actually getting married.

“Former’ was completely accurate of course. Alex and Juliet were still good friends–they just weren’t friends like they had been before Alex had screwed up royally and slept with Juliet’s ex boyfriend, repeatedly, for two and half months.

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It’s 5am on a Saturday, and I Have Been Awake for Ages

Good morning all. How are you this lovely, cold Saturday morning. I am sitting in bed, in the dark, because I have very successfully woken myself. The last time the baby woke up to eat, about an hour and a half ago, he woke me up out of the middle of a sleep cycle. To avoid falling asleep while I was feeding him, I started thinking about work–well, apparently nothing gets my blood boiling in the pre-dawn hours than thinking about things I can’t do anything about until Monday.(He, of course, ate and went back to sleep immediately.) Next time, I am going to try to think about something more fun, like flowers or yarn.

It’s November 15th, and for the first time ever, I am keeping up with Nanowrimo. Usually by now I have completely given up on the whole endeavor. My first weekend in November is notoriously busy, and so I always start out the month a few days behind on my word count, and then I never catch up, and by the beginning of the second week I am too daunted by the sheer volume of words I am missing, and instead of writing for writing’s sake for the rest of the month, I just give up on the whole enterprise completely and for the rest of the year the only thing I write are blog posts and grocery lists.

Considering I have a degree in creative writing, this is pretty embarrassing.

This year, I decided I was really going to finish. I didn’t have a story idea until the last minute, and I have done absolutely zero planning. I’ve always been a fly by the seat of my pants sort of writer anyway, so this whole making stuff up as I go along and having no plan is fun. Not sure how much substance my story has, but that’s not the point right now. The point is to write everyday, and that’s what I’m doing.

Only took 2 1/2 years after graduating to get my writing mojo back.

Now that I am writing everyday though, my other work is slowing down a little bit. After finally finishing Brock and Felix’s Flax sweaters last week, I had a small bout of startitis and cast on Wheaton which I think is too gorgeous for words. I am knitting the worsted weight scarf version, because while I think this pattern is stunning, I am also aware that I have a very short attention span for knitting anything that turns out to be a rectangle. But I think a blanket, or even a stole in this pattern would be the epitome of luxury.

I am also working on a pair of mittens for Brock. I am using Skinny Fit Mitts as a template because I like the cable pattern on them a lot, but the pattern was written for someone with tiny hands, so not only am I changing it up by making them flip-tops, I am also having to lengthen and widen the thumb gusset, lengthen the hand and figure my own decreases for top.

And since it is supposed to snow today, I really need to make Felix a pair of mittens. I am just going to use my chunk wool and knit him a pair of thumbless mittens. That should be quick, and I hope to do it this afternoon after I finish my word count.

What are you working on?

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Pogona After One Week

Because it’s been a busy holiday week (hope your’s wasn’t too busy!), I am not as far along on my pogona as I would like.

pogona in progress

This cormo is blowing my mind. It’s gorgeous, and with the alpaca, it is just downright decadent.

pogona in progress 2

I am doing the white in Fibonacci stripes, separated by two-row stripes of gray. I think the color contrast just adds to the texture of the piece.

It might bee 100 degrees out now, but I can’t wait to try this shawl on. Knitting this out of my handspun has convinced me that it’s worth spending more time spinning so I can knit with handspun more often.

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Odds and Ends Crochet Rug: A Journey

I can crochet. I don’t do it often, or do it well, and I don’t call myself a crocheter, because I have never successfully finished crocheting anything. Every so often though, I feel like I need to change things up. so I start a crochet project, usually with plans of making a blanket, and either abandon the attempt, or rip it out and knit something with the yarn instead. The reason I have never finished a crochet project is because I only ever feel like doing it when I don’t feel like doing anything else. This isn’t a reflection on crochet as a craft, mind you, just my particular feelings towards it.

a crochet yarn scrap rug
I started this rug last fall when we found out when we were moving into this house, and we had all these great wood floors to protect. I was hitting the tail end of my first trimester, and still feeling pretty pukey. I didn’t want to do anything really, but the idea of crocheting rugs for my new house seemed like an idea I could get behind. I had a lot of single and partial skeins of worsted weight yarn that I had just been carrying around for years, and I couldn’t think of a better way to use it up. I don’t tend to knit with worsted weight yarn very often–and when I do, it’s usually a sweater–not great for all those single skeins I dyed when I was learning how to dye.

After spending last week doing a lot of soap-making and blog related research, I have been a little bit too burnt out to knit–crazy, I know. But I started thinking about this rug again. I abandoned it half-done about the time we moved in when I ran out of undyed yarn. My vision for this rug was to pair the single skeins with undyed yarn all the way through, but I’m not very good at crochet, and have no idea how to calculate how long 2 1/2 skeins of undyed yarn will last. I thought I would get a bit more diameter out of it. And the whole point of an odds and ends project is that you don’t buy yarn for it.

Yesterday, we stopped by the grocery store on the way home from work and on our way out, our car wouldn’t start. Just like that, something that is probably the starter wouldn’t work. After many phone calls, a tow truck and jostling a giant carseat around, and getting our other car that we never drive jumped, because we never drive it and the battery was dead. We didn’t get dinner until 9:30. It was not a fun evening.

odds and ends crochet rugs

In the middle of all that, I kept thinking that I would rather be working on something simple. Double crochet over and over again in the round is just about as easy as stockinette in the round. Probably because I was so exhausted, crocheting sounded more satisfying than knitting. In the haze of my I-hate-cars-why-do-I-live-in-a-place-with-rotten-public-transportation-and-I-can’t-ride-my-bike-everywhere-because-I-have-an-infant haze, I suddenly realized that my hang up on having white throughout the rug was silly. It’s an odds and ends rug. It’s not going to look silly if I change it up halfway through, it’s going to look like an odds and end rug, because that’s what it is. Get over yourself and and finish it if that’s what you want to do.

Now I’m determined to finish this rug, so we can use it in our house. I will finish at least one crochet project. Who knows, maybe one day I will add crochet to my resume.

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In the Works

I’m going to be honest, (I say this, though, I always am when I am writing to you, dear readers), it has not been a very productive week on the fiber arts front. I have been doing a lot of reading and research on various topics lately. In particular, I’ve suddenly become very interested in soap-making.
You see, in my day job, and I may have mentioned this before, I specialize in selling Kansas-made products. I have two very good soap-makers whose work I sell in my shop. I had a customer complain to me directly that the soaps we carried contained lye. Now, I’ve heard this before, but it had never been broached to me directly.

Naturally, I was a little taken aback, because I was under the impression that lye was necessary in soap-making, I told her that all soap had lye in it–I thought I remembered that much from when we made soap in chemistry class in high school. Later, just to make sure I wasn’t inadvertently lying, I looked it up and found this blog post from Humblebee & Me and was relieved to see that I was correct. At the same time, I discovered a really cool new blog, which I plant on exploring more thoroughly. Naturally, I looked up a local soap maker, at a soap maker out of Kansas City, to see if there were any classes in my area. She has an affiliate link to and suddenly I was so far down the rabbit hole of soap-making that I am already a soap-maker in my head, even though I have never ever tried it, outside that one day in Chemistry Class in 2001.

Anyway, I have been doing a lot of research about soap-making and ruminating on my blog and the roll it plays in my business (by the way, did you notice that I put up a survey a couple days ago, please won’t you fill it in?) and so my knitting has not really been so impressive this week.

I knit exactly 3 1/2 inches on my Thrysos, but it feels like I should be so much further along.
thrysos blouse onto body
I am using smaller needles than I remembered, and things are going slower than I counted on. But I love, love, love this yarn at this gauge. It’s pretty gorgeous; look at that stockinette! Every now and then I remind myself that I am knitting a sweater for me out of silk and merino and it keeps me motivated to finish it.

In light of me hosting a KAL in a couple weeks, I did a little bit of swatching to try out needles size on my handspun. I decided on size sevens. Here’s a look at the alpaca swatch I made.
pogona swatch
I am loving the handspun. I can’t wait until July 1st. If you want to join us for the KAL, just stop by the PFA Ravelry group and you’re in.

In the meantime, I ordered a cold press soap kit from, where I have spent way too much time the last few days. It’s a lot of fun to learn about something new.

What’s driving you lately?

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Thrysos Blouse

Shortly before Felix was born, in a fit of sheer optimism, I cast on a warm-weather blouse for myself. The idea was to knit the lacy yoke before the baby was born, so I could knit away on the solid stockinette body when I didn’t have a mind for anything else. I tried my best for a week to finish the yoke, but as the sweater grew, and so did my discomfort, I realized I wasn’t going to make it. The night before I went into labor, I broke down and cast on two pairs of socks, which has pretty much been what I have been knitting on since the baby came.

A few days ago, I picked up my Thrysos again. I was only two pattern repeats away from finishing the yoke and casting off the sleeves. That glorious stockinette body was in sight!

I set out to finish the yoke this past weekend…I don’t know what I was thinking, setting a goal like that when I know how big I am, which means the sweater must be at least equally as big–and out of sock yarn, that’s a lot of stitches–with an infant in the house, and a garden to tend, and a house to clean, and a seven year-old to love…so yes. I didn’t make it. While writing this, I only have four more rows before I cast off the sleeves, that’s 481 stitches four more times,(this is why round yoked summer tops are the best, the sleeves are done with the yoke!) and here’s what I’m dealing with.

Thrysos yoke
It’s kind of a bunchy mess. (Don’t mind the pictures, they were taken on a rainy day, with black yarn, in the early evening, and you can see all the cat hair from where my yellow cat slept on it. The fates were conspiring against me–and retaking them was apparently not something I was willing to put extra energy into, see previous paragraph for why.) Granted, I am using my 24 inch needles and knitting a 40+ inch sweater, it is only natural that there is some bunchiness. I am finding the lace pattern super bunchy as well.

thrysos lace patter
It took a lot of effort to get that blurry shot, mostly because of the darkness, but also because the lace pattern is one of those that needs to be aggressively blocked to work. You can kind of see what it’s supposed to look like if you cross your eyes and tilt your head at a funny angle. (Warning, don’t try this one at home, I pulled about 20 stitches off the needles getting this shot.)

I keep hoping that if I can just get through the sleeves, this thing will fly off the needles. It might be optimistic, but this whole project was conceived thus. I have to finish it by July 1st though, because I need these needles for my pogona.

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Three Pairs of Vanilla Socks

The night before Felix was born, I cast on two pairs of socks, just to have some simple knitting lying around my favorite haunts in the house: one on my nightstand and one in my knitting basket by the sofa.

easter egg rainbow sock
This is the start of my Easter Egg Rainbow socks, which have been living on my nightstand. I haven’t got very far on these despite having spent more time in my bed in the last 10 days than perhaps ever before. I seem to get caught in a time warp while I’m in bed, where nursing and staring at my baby, and perhaps a little dozing takes five hours, but it’s only felt like two. I hope to spend a bit more time on these, because I’m really having fun watching the color distribute. These are going to be very happy, springy socks.

rowan fine art sock
One of my purchases from my new local yarn store Yak n Yarn.
It’s Rowan fine art sock yarn, and it is merino, mohair, silk and polyamide. You know me and mohair, I can’t resist it–and if it’s mixed with silk? Even better! These socks are for Brock. I still owe him two sweaters, but since I don’t have the mental fortitude to knit sweaters right now, I’m knitting him two pairs of socks instead. I’m not sure if he will see this as any consolation, but it’s what I have to offer. I’m loving this color progression. It reminds me of that mud pie stuff that’s made with chocolate pudding with a crushed oreo crust–but in a classy, made of silk and mohair type of way.

I’ve been knitting on these in the evening during Felix’s after dinner nap. I should mention that this after Felix’s dinner, not mine. I usually have just enough time to eat my dinner and get settled in enough to knit three or four rounds before Felix is ready for dessert.

brocks rainbow socks
The third pair would be super impressive if I also cast them on the day before Felix was born, but alas, this pair of rainbow socks, the second pair of socks Brock is getting instead of a sweater, was cast on sometime in March, I think, and then lived at my Father-in-law’s house for three weeks. They are so close to being done–just a couple more inches and a toe! But again, I usually only get three or four rounds in before baby calls. (Yarn is Bright Neon Rainbow by Munchkin Knitworks.)

Felix and I are still working out where knitting falls in our relationship, but I am finding time, little by little, to resume some parts of my life that aren’t all about baby. Now dishes and laundry, I haven’t quite figured out how those fit in yet.

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A Month of Knitting

After leaving you for a month with a frustrated and tired post, I am back with some knitting! (I feel like the previous post is indicative of the end of pregnancy–and I haven’t had the energy to update much since then.) In fact, I haven’t had much energy for anything by working and knitting, so I have a lot of knitting to share with you!

Now that I am officially overdue and on maternity leave, I have a little time to catch you up. First, I finished my citron about a month ago.
citron before blocking
A quick snap before it’s bath.

citron blocking
An even quicker snap as I was pinning it out. It already looks so much better.I don’t have any action shots yet. I’ll have to work on that, but I have been wearing the heck out of it. It’s so elegant and soft–and this is definitely one of my colors!

I also finished some more baby stuff.
two newborn vertebraes
Evidence as to why you always need to do a gauge swatch. Two newborn vertebrates knit about a year apart on the exact same needles with the same yarn. Obviously the orange one is bigger. I made some cute little pant to go with the blue sweater, but somehow haven’t photographed them yet.

Last week, in a fit of frustration that the baby wasn’t here yet, I finished the blanket I cast on when I first found out I was pregnant.

And I was working on a pair of rainbow socks for Brock, but I left them out at my father-in-law’s house a couple of weeks ago, so that project is still looking a lot like this:

I also cast on a post-partum sweater for myself, one of the cute tops from the Spring Knit Picks collection. It has a cute lace yoke, but the body is solid stockinette in the round. My hope is to get through the yoke in the next couple of days and be on to the stockinette body by the time the baby comes (in a couple of days.) I am about halfway through the yoke, but since it’s lace, it’s really hard to make out. Photos when it looks like something other than a wad of yarn.

What have you been up to this April?

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Baby Corner Preview

You guys, I am 35 weeks pregnant as of yesterday. That means the baby can come safely anytime in the next two to seven weeks. Two weeks is a pretty small number (though seven seems unbearably long), but it’s a possibility none-the-less. The dwindling amount of time until this baby arrives has been really kicked the nesting into high gear–well, as high as you can get and still work a 40 hour week and be nursing gigantic balloon feet. Mostly I’ve done a lot of laundry.

crib with bedding
The bed is together and the bedding washed.

baby corner
This is the baby corner view from the bed. (The laundry basket is full of enough clean onesies for three babies. We have generous friends and family…The dresser is in the process of getting a makeover.)

badger baskets
The super functional changing table. I love the drawers and hamper. This particular model was added to our registry because it’s brand is “Badger”. Brock is an Old English word for badger. (It also matches the crib, but you know, details.)

cloth diapers
All of the drawers are stuffed. The top drawer has disposable diapers, which I am planning to use until the cord stump falls off. (Yup, babies are always super adorable.) The bottom drawer has burp cloths and blankets, but my favorite is the second drawer. It is chalk full of cloth diapers. I know I haven’t actually used them yet, but just having them makes me feel proud. It’s a new adventure and I was able to navigate all of the information and personal preferences and strong internet opinions to figure out what kind of cloth diapering system would work best for us. We’re going with prefolds and covers, as displayed above.

Lamb toys for the baby, hanging out in the crib, keeping it warm.

And now for some knitting!

I am flying through Citron. It’s the latest KAL I’m hosting via the Potwin Fiber Artisans ravelry group. We just cast on yesterday, so there’s plenty of time to join in!

Like I said, I seem to be flying through this shawl. According to the pattern, I am about 3/4 of the way done, which is nuts for two reasons. One, I just started knitting. Two, this shawl so far is just about the right size for my cat, and no amount of blocking would change that. One is easy enough to explain. I spend a fair amount of time on the sofa with my feet up, because otherwise they swell like balloons and it’s really uncomfortable. That’s a lot of built in knitting time. Two is a bit of a head scratcher. I knew I wasn’t going to get gauge using a US size 6 needle. I’ve needed to go up two needles sizes on anything knit flat for a couple of years now, but I like the fabric I got with a size 6 needles out of this yarn. I should be getting 6 stitches per inch if I followed the pattern. Right now, I am getting 8, but the shawl seems to be about half the size it should be at this point. I have also barely made a dent in my yarn…So I suppose it was a good thing I planned on knitting this thing until the yarn ran out, because I’m going to have knit beyond the written pattern quite a bit to even get this thing wearable. The only question is, which will come first, a finished shawl or a baby?

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Sock Day Saturday

Saturday Sock
My job completely wore me out each day this week. When I get home from work is usually when I do the creative stuff whether for pleasure or profit. This week, Monday through Thursday I did absolutely nothing but eat dinner and stare at my tablet screen. I wanted to knit, but all of my projects on the needles involve cabling. I love cables, but this week they were just too much work. I haven’t been fit for anything other than stockinette in the round–if that.

Last night, I finally cast on for a pair of socks, my favorite kind of stockinette in the round.

Saturday Sock Yarn
I used this yarn, which is very similar to the stuff I just posted in my shop, so if you were wondering how it knits up, you’re welcome.

I dyed this last year for a sweater project for myself, which I have since cannibalized to knit this pair of socks and then to turn into another baby sweater/hat/bootie set.

Saturday Sock Through Heal Turn
I guess I was really jonesing for a simple knit, because as soon as I cast this on, the stitches starting flying, and so did the ideas for all the other projects I wanted to knit. In one evening I knit what you see above: cuff, five inch leg, heal and heal turn. Today I’m going to try to finish this one and see how far I can get on the second sock tomorrow.