Starred Review for SIX FEET OVER IT from The Center For Children's Books Bulletin!

books!!Less than a week to publication, and what a beautiful, thoughtful review from The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books! I am so grateful. If you're not familiar with the CCB, here's a brief introduction to this amazing organization: The Center for Children’s Books (CCB) at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS) is a crossroads for critical inquiry, professional training, and educational outreach related to youth-focused resources, literature and librarianship. The Center’s mission is to facilitate the creation and dissemination of exemplary and progressive research and scholarship related to all aspects of children’s and young adult literature; media and resources for young (age 0-18) audiences; and youth services librarianship.

In partnership with The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books—an authoritative analytic review journal—the Center aims to inspire and inform adults who connect young people with resources in person, in print, and online. The Center sponsors activities and hosts interdisciplinary research projects involving both theory and practice. In its dual role as research collection and educational community, the Center has national impact on the future of reading and readers.

And now, the review!


Six Feet Over It Jennifer Longo *STARRED REVIEW* When Leigh’s father moves the family away from their beloved ocean home to run a cemetery in the hot California inland, high school freshman Leigh runs the business while her father generally flakes out and her mother retreats to her art studio. Leigh accepts it because she’ll do anything to keep her older sister, Kai, happy, now that Kai is newly in remission from leukemia; Leigh also has begun to believe that death is her own natural element, and that she is responsible for the unexpected death of her best friend, Emily, her anchor during Kai’s illness. Only Dario, the cemetery’s new wonder worker, is able to get past Leigh’s defenses. Leigh improves her Spanish as they dig graves together, relies on him to teach her to drive, and chokes down her crush on him when it turns out that the twenty-something Dario has a fiancée in Mexico hoping to join him in California. A vibrant voice keeps Leigh’s narration from becoming morose, but it also reveals the desperate loneliness and fear of the girl beneath the sass, the girl who believes “everyone good always leaves. Or dies.” Her work at the cemetery is suffused with her frustration toward her parents, but it’s also a perceptive and at times deeply moving view of people in loss, with insider insights like the difference between Pre-Need (those who purchased their plots in advance and are now merely using the service) and At Need (those arriving at the cemetery in fresh grief). Leigh’s an eloquent spokesperson for the pitfalls of being the kid whom worried about in a family in crisis; her raw deal will elicit indignant sympathy, and readers will rejoice at her triumphant reentry into the world. A delightfully robust author’s note describes Longo’s own cemetery experience. DS

Thank you so much, CBC Bulletin. It is an honor for SIX FEET OVER IT to be recognized by such champions of education and literary, and here's to us all; students, educators - readers - finding insight, comfort and the the straight-up joy of a good story. Happy reading!

The Most Beautiful Word In The World

You know that Kevin Henkes book Owen? Owen is a kid starting school and he wants to take his blanket with him, which is not cool or allowed, so his parents run around exhausting themselves trying to beg and bribe and trick the kid into leaving the blanket home until finally the nosey next door neighbor looks over the back yard fence to ask: "Haven't you heard of saying No?"

Owen’s parents hadn’t.

My daughter’s fifth grade class has been reading R. J. Palacio’s Wonder, which has sparked a bunch of Right vs. Kind chats at bed time. (Do you lie to be kind? Do you keep your kid from experiencing pain to be kind?) And we’ve come to the conclusion that the thing is, Right is Kind. Helping a kid learn how to behave by Saying No is Right. It is Kind. It is Right. Doing the Right and Kind thing may not make a person popular. But it is the truth. The only thing to do.

Whether it’s about bringing a blanket to school, or being a disrespectful, unkind self-absorbed bully, people need boundaries and guidance, sometimes we all need to be told No. The word No, when used in a consistent and fair way, is a Kind word. It is Right.

My generation (Ye Olde Gen X) is parenting, for the most part, in one really specifically crappy way: Gen X parents have not heard of Saying No. This is not me being old and cranky about Kids These Days and You Brats Get Off My Lawn, it isn’t the kids. Kids are born the same way they’ve always been – it’s the parents. So many Gen X parents refuse to Say No. It’s embarrassing and depressing.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this as my kid and I read Wonder together, and as she is being thrashed by the girls at her new ballet school for the crime of…you guessed it. Saying No. The ballet mean girl kingpin was shoving my kid backstage at a rehearsal. My kid said, “Please stop pushing me.”

No one has ever told this shoving kid No. Cue the vengeance.

There are a bunch of moms back stage watching this group of 11 year old girls gang up on one shy new kid, and their response is: "Oh, it's the age....middle school girls can be just awful!" Then their eyes and attention go right back to their iPhones. Facebook is super important, after all.

You know what? That is bullshit. It is unKind, it is not Right, it is lazy. Seriously? That is your excuse, you’re going to shrug and claim crappy behavior is inevitable and dictated by a person’s age? That is the stupid crap people say who have no interest in making kindness and empathetic humanity a high priority on the list of traits to focus on when modeling behavior for children. Not one of the parents even entertained the thought, while watching their daughters be purposefully cruel to another human being, of simply saying, “No. That is not acceptable behavior. No.”

Long story long, all this parental refusal to Say No, all this confusion about Right and Kind is just making me more glad I accidentally wrote a Young Adult book. If so many parents clearly haven’t heard of saying No, at least there are books to deliver the message. Owen and Wonder and Blubber and Jake and Lilly and Chrysanthemum provide a more accurate and simple depiction of unkind behavior: No, it is Not Right, it is Not Kind.


News From Lake Washington! Also: NaNoWriMo!

It's been months of unpacking boxes and re-writing the WIP I've been working on for two years and had to start over after realizing I'd taken it into too many nutty directions. So I've re-grouped, drafted a new outline and am so thrilled for NaNoWriMo. Moving is so lame, it is hard and a giant time suck so NaNo is the perfect way to force myself to let the boxes stay half packed or un-packed or whatever and tell everyone in my house they can do their own dishes for the next month because I AM DRAFTING A NEW NOVEL SO LEAVE ME ALONE. I love it. My Twitter account got screwed up two months ago after it got hacked and I tried to re-set my password. There was some new code verification thing that went nowhere and long story long, I can't get into my stupid account so I've got to start a new one. I bring this up only because I feel like I need to be meeting more writers and both online and in person, as my first book is publishing in less than a year and I love asking for advice and commiserating with other writers and Twitter was a good way of meeting said writers. Getting a new account and trying to follow and get followers back is one more dumb distraction from writing and Twitter pisses me off but rather then spending another two months sending pointless emails to the help center that never get answered, I'll just start a new account. With a name like @jen87463829 because all iterations of Jen are taken. So follow me! I renewed my SCBWI membership and changed my region, which was nuts. I miss San Francisco so much, but Seattle is definitely growing on me.

There are NaNoWriMo meet-ups, and conferences, and school is in session so I've got writing time again. Autumn in Washington is beautiful. Here's hoping it inspires a wildly amazing new draft of my poor forsaken book.

Happy Autumn!

HGTV and Book Selling. Twinsies!

Three months ago the San Francisco company my husband worked for was dissolved, and now we live in Seattle. In that insanely brief amount of time we had to sell our house in California and buy a new one in Seattle, which we did, but we’ve all narrowly escaped nervous breakdowns in the process. During that time I was also deep in revisions on my book to get it ready for copy editing, which I finished the day the movers came. They were boxing stuff up around me as I sat on the floor with my laptop. Ridiculous. But holy moly did it make me see how very much selling real estate and selling a book have in common. We are all emotionally attached to our books and homes. A book is a house for your heart! Hooray for books and having a place to live! But we’re trying to sell these things. It is scary. Observe:

1. Finding an agent to sell your book/house means finding someone who sees the same potential and beauty in it that you, the author/homeowner, does. The agent must obviously be one you trust, because potential is the key word. An agent will agree to represent the author/homeowner often on the basis of the great potential they see in the book/house. They will help whip that book/house into shape so editors/homebuyers will also see the beauty. This means revisions great and small (Get rid of that character! Clean up the cussing! What’s up with all the descriptions of current weather conditions?) and like our house, improvements great and small. (Move that rug! Take all your family photos down! Repair the dry rot and for God’s sake, renovate that kitchen!) These revisions/renovations may take months. They may feel all janky and get you all whiny and ‘I thought you liked it the way it was!’ But unless the agent is telling you to turn your romance into a sci-fi mystery and your cottage into a three-story McMansion, it is time to get over the precious emotional grip the book/house has on your heart. I mean, never be afraid to speak up when alarm bells ring (This book is NOT set in 1940’s Antigua, what the hell?!?) but remember you signed with said agent because you trust them. A good agent is not interested in destroying yours or your book’s artistic integrity or bankrupting your down-payment savings. A good agent wants to sell your book, your house, and let’s remember YOU do too, that’s why you hired the agent in the first place. Be a good writer. Listen. Stick to what essentially, truly matters and then trust and be brave with revisions/renovations. When they’re done, if you’ve listened to your heart and gut and your agent, you will have an even better book/house than you could have imagined. And now your agent will put that book/house on the market.

2. Buyers may come around. Editors may take a look. Some will turn down the book/house for subjective reasons reflecting personal taste. (That paint is ridiculous. I don’t read books set in graveyards.) Whatev. Other editors/homebuyers will pass for objective reasons. Structural reasons. (Um, there is a ginormous crack in your foundation. Your book has No Plot.) Maybe you don’t mind the crack in the foundation, maybe you and your agent enjoy a plot-les book. But if weeks and months go by and these same issues keep coming up as reasons there are no buyers for your book/house, if you are in fact interested in selling said book/house, it may be time to listen to these objective objections. Maybe editors/homebuyers do see the great potential in your book/house, but for these very serious foundation and plot misgivings are unwilling to pull the trigger. Now you must decide, where do you bend? Will you try making a plot for your characters to live in? Will you get bids on repairing the crack in the foundation, adorable as you may think it is? I’m not saying surrender every artistic/homeownership scruple you may lay claim to, I’m saying listen. Try some stuff out.

I was lucky enough to have agents for both my book and my house whose desire to sell said book and house were tempered with firm love of what the book/house were at their cores: A 750 square foot beach cottage. A book about a kid in a graveyard.

Yes, said my real estate agent, we will fix the crack in the foundation, however we will NOT add a second bathroom and hire a stager for three thousand dollars who will bring in crap from Home Goods when the stuff already in here is lovely and people need to get over it and look past their personal taste in paint color, my God! The end result? We sold the house for nearly asking in two weeks without spending $20,000 we don’t even have (Hello, that’s why we’re selling the G.D. thing!) on pointless renovations. Thank GOD.

My book agent listened to the editors who wanted my book on the condition that a laundry list of revisions were tended to first – she stuck to my guns and gave it to me straight up – No, we will not change this graveyard book into a romance set in a dystopian landscape wherein the undead walk the graveyard every other page. However – I needed to attempt a plot. * The end result? We kept the heart and soul of the book intact and it turned out even heart-ier and soul-ier with a plot. Who knew? Well. The editor who bought it knew. My agent knew. Thank GOD.

The take-away? Any time commerce and art or commerce and homes combine, things get dicey fast. Finding a smart agent you trust, who loves the book/house for itself and it’s potential, may be the only thing standing between you and never selling your house and never selling your book. Which again, if keeping the crack in the foundation and not having a plot means everything in the world to you, by all means, do not surrender. If a plot-less narrative was your entire point in the first place, do not give in. Selling be damned, you will not sleep if you give up the thing that means anything to you, there are plenty of things my agent and I refused to move an inch on, things I’d rather the book live in a drawer than contain, and we were right. The right editor came along and mine and the book’s soul remain intact.

If, on the other hand, you maybe just sort of got lost in the story and …forgot…to write a plot* and are willing to take a look-see at how your characters may grow if they’re allowed to live in a series of events with rising action and conflict and a climactic event so awesome and funny even you are surprised and tickled pink by it, and if you never thought about the foundation crack much at all so what the hell let’s get some bids to fix it ? Then be brave. Sign wisely then trust your agents - don’t just say you do. Do it. Trust. Listen. Be honest, express your concerns. A good agent will listen, give you the straight dope and not make you feel stupid, even if the revisions make you cry really loud in Peet’s coffee and you make a scene with lots of paper napkins and nose-blowing and due to the resulting humiliation you can never write there again but it doesn’t matter anyway because you’ve moved to Seattle so whatever, Peet’s.*

The copy edits on my book come back next week. I will be furiously tending to them for two weeks or so. We are in escrow on this house in Seattle and the next two weeks are all about getting bids on replacing carpet, painting walls, doing something about the asbestos-filled popcorn ceilings. And every second I do this stuff I am driven nearly to distraction by gratitude. For being employed, having a home to live in, for being able to make repairs so it is safe and comfortable. I am still amazed my agent signed me, let alone how she made the book so much better and sold it to an editor who made even better. Fortune full, I tell you. Oh. And how we got the house? We were out-bid in the competitive, ridonkulous Seattle housing market. But the sellers so kindheartedly went with our lower bid, because they liked the letter I wrote them. Because they love this house, and in the letter I promised we would love it as much as they do. They stuck to their guns. They didn’t give in what mattered most to them just to sell. They wanted a caring family to pass their home on to, but they needed to sell. They got both.

See you after copy edits!

*Okay, it’s not like my book had no plot at all. It just…okay. It didn’t have one. But it does now and it is awesome. **Only one time did this happen and the revisions were really, really hard but I did them so shut up.

Please Welcome Jen Nadol!

Welcome back for our second installment of “You are devoted to your  fabulous kids and still you manage to write really beautiful novels? Holy Cats! Tell us how you do it!” Today we welcome a shining star in the Paranormal Literature World, Jen Nadol! Jen, please do tell us about yourself as a writer/parent. Nadol


I’ve written six novels. Three have sold (The Mark and The Vision, both available now from Bloomsbury and How It Ends, coming from Simon Pulse in late 2014/early 2015), two are in drawers (one forever, the other for the time being) and one is with my agent (I think its finished - she’ll tell me if I’m right). And I have three kids, all boys, who are almost-nine, seven and five – they’re in third grade, first grade and preschool respectively.

Ah, the drawer novels…if yours are anywhere near as intriguing and sharply written as The Mark and The Vision, here’s hoping they both see the light of day! So, did you write/publish before you had kids? If so, how did your writing schedule change once children were on the scene?

I wrote in a journal-y, when-I-feel-like-it kind of way before kids, but I never had a schedule because I never had any real plans for my writing. When I left work to stay home with my first son, I had this idea there’d be hours of free writing time while baby napped or played happily and so I should become a novelist like I’d always meant to. And then he was born and I realized those hours were filled with feeding and changing and soothing and feeding again and I’d have to squeeze writing into whatever spare minutes I could find. But by then, I’d already decided I was going to write a book so, damnit, that’s what I was going to do. I got really disciplined, really fast.

Do you get help from spouses/family members/babysitters?

When my first son was around four months old, I found a sitter who’d come twice a week for two and a half hours each time and that became my dedicated writing time. When sons two and three arrived and I had actual book contracts, I ramped up to as much as fifteen hours a week. Now that all but one of them are in school, I’m back down to five hours a week.

Do you have another paying gig in addition to writing and parenting?

Nope, this is it and I have immense admiration for those who juggle parenting, working and writing. They are superhuman.

Absolute truth. Now, what is the nuttiest thing you’ve done to occupy your kids so you could get some writing/revising done?

Extra game time. Which isn’t that nutty, except in the context that I’m kind of nutty about videogames to start with (my kids would say “crazy/totally unfair/mean”). House rule is that they’re each allowed fifteen minutes of game time on my iPhone per day.  In a jam, I’ve let them have more. Needless to say, they LOVE when I’m under deadline...


Ha! Can you describe your current daily schedule, on an average day, involving juggling writing with your kids’ schedules?

Most days I get a solid two hours of work in while my youngest is in preschool. I sit down at the computer as soon as I’m back from drop-off and work up until pick up. Usually right up until pick-up (the teachers are going to be SO GLAD when I’m gone). Then, I squeeze in extra time at lessons/games/appointments (I almost always have my netbook or a printout of my current WIP with me) and the nights my husband’s away on work travel.

Do your kids’ teachers know you are a writer, and do you get involved with schooling via your writing/books somehow? (Presenting workshops, teaching a writing class, stuff like that?)

Yes, they do and no, I don’t...the teachers at my sons’ school are much better at teaching writing than I’d ever be!

What do your boys think about you being a writer? Are they annoyed all you do is type, are they at all impressed, is it just old hat to them?

I think their feelings are a combination of all those things. My oldest will sometimes ask questions about what I’m working on or offer suggestions. And I know he’s looked up my books and read the reviews on Amazon. So that’s kind of cool, even though it means he’s read the sucky reviews too.

Ever take the boys to signings, on tours? Do they get excited seeing your books in stores?

I’ve never taken them to an event, but when my first book came out, we went hunting for it together, which was neat...probably more for me than them.

Do your kids inspire specifics in your books?

Maybe they will, but so far none of my books have had kids this young in them so, no.


Do the boys know when you are revising, under deadline or other high-pressure situations - how do you not take the stress out on them (or a spouse) or does everyone just have to ride the storm?

My deadlines haven’t been a huge issue, but I’ve definitely felt good or bad book-related news affecting my mood and when I realize it, I try to explain so they get why I’m grumpy or happy. I think hearing about the bad news and reading downer reviews has actually helped my oldest understand that even grown-ups have less-than-stellar days and its not the end of the world (or, at least I tell myself this so I have a silver-lining...)

Best piece of advice you can give other parents who write, or are starting a writing career?

Be disciplined. Set aside writing time and write. Don’t waste your quiet/kid-free time on Facebook or twitter or blogs or the laundry/cleaning/errands. Write. And do all that other stuff later.

Perfectly put. Sounds easier than it is most days, and I agree completely. That discipline must be exercised. Jen Nadol, thank you so much for being here! I feel free to speak for myself and all your fans when I say we cannot wait to read How It Ends - and all your future work. You’ve got some lucky little boys. Happy parenting, and happy writing!

About The Mark:

Cassandra Renfield has always seen the mark—a glow around certain people reminiscent of candlelight. But the one time she mentioned it, it was dismissed as a trick of the light. Until the day she watches a man awash in the mark die. After searching her memories, Cassie realizes she can see a person’s imminent death. Not how or where, only when: today.

Armed with a vague understanding of the light, Cassie begins to explore her “gift,” seeking those marked for death and probing the line between decision and destiny. Though she’s careful to hide her secret—even from her new philosophy-obsessed boyfriend—with each impending death comes the temptation to test fate. But so many questions remain. How does the mark work? Why is she the only one who sees it? And finally, the most important of all: If you know today is someone’s last, should you tell them?

About The Vision:

Cassie Renfield knows the mark tells her when someone is going to die and that she can intervene and attempt to change fate.  But she still doesn't understand the consequences, especially whether saving one life dooms another.  With no family left to offer guidance, Cassie goes in search of others like her.  But when she meets Demetria, a troubled girl who seems to have the power of the Fates, Cassie finds the truth isn't at all what she expected.  And then there's her heady new romance with bad boy Zander.  Dating him has much graver repercussions than Cassie could ever have imagined, forcing her to make choices that cut to the essence of who she is and what she believes.

Jen Nadol grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania, the hometown of John Updike, Taylor Swift, and the now-defunct Monopoly railroad. She has a BA in literature from American University and has lived in Washington DC, Boston, and New York City. She currently resides in a 150-year-old farmhouse in Westchester County, New York, with her husband and three young sons and is at work on her next two related novels. She has no paranormal abilities - and she's pretty happy about that. Visit her on the web at www.jennadolbooks.com. 

Critique Groups - who needs them? Apparently, Me.

It took me two years to write (and another two to spec edit) the book my agent sold last year, and I’m coming up on a similar timeline with my second one. Which is driving me insane. It shouldn’t take this long! But I do this thing where I write maybe twenty or fifty pages, then I can’t continue until I go over and over and over those pages, hating them and revising and changing until I feel like they’re right before I can move on. Weeks, months go by. Ridiculous. I’ve been wondering if I should even bother finishing this one. So I tried to find a critique group on Craigslist which did NOT work out (So. Much. EROTICA! Not in my wheelhouse. Also? Come on, people...no one reading erotica is super concerned about the syntax or narrative clarity.) Eventually I figured out I could find critique groups via SCWBI, which I did, and I attended two of them, and Hoo Mama! People had amazing things to say, suggestions as simple as “Maybe you should think about moving this here, or that there, and maybe not use the same adjective four times in one paragraph...just sayin.” Saved me months. Months! And I am in LOVE with my current book once again, I wake up impatient to write every day knowing people other than me are going to be reading the pages and probably steering me away from dumb cliffs I may have otherwise dropped off. It IS a good book, worth finishing so I can run it up the pole and see who salutes. So far, critique groups win! I only hope I’ve contributed anything useful to them in return. Aside from banana oatmeal muffins.

Bridges Of What The F Is Going On County: A 2012 Wrap Up

This week has been nothing but disbelief and unfathomable heartache. How the families of Newtown will hold each other together and stay alive is a mystery, but one steeped in the only thing that matters, what their children have become  - pure love. I don't know what else to say and like most people wasn't planning on saying anything, but I started typing and apparently here it is. I've been answering my ten year old's millions of questions about what happens when we die, when a child dies, will I go with her if she dies. Which, to that last one I've told her - honestly? Yes. She is my only and I think I would. I would be right behind her. The only thing I can think each day since Friday is please, please let those families find a way to live for each other and the siblings of the babies - the young and the grown-up, they are all someone's babies - not with them anymore. There is so much love there, you can tell from the words and images coming from that beautiful town and its brave families, and I believe they will. They'll make it. My book, centered around the paralyzing grief wrought by the death of a child, begins with the words of Thorton Wilder:  

"There is a land of the living and a land of the dead, and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning."

Nothing beyond that makes any sense lately, so that's the last I'll say about it.

This year has been, on the writing adventure tip, amazing - and continues to be nuts. To write the book one has kept in one's head for years is joyful, to find a agent to edit and represent it, then for that agent to sell it? That is a dream. But publishing, I continue to learn, is loopy! Months have passed since the sale and I'm working every day to finish a second book, and in that time my agent has moved to a fabulous new Agency and my book given to a new editor. Which is scary, as the original editor chose the book on purpose, because she wanted it - I worried the new editor was being given my book and the poor woman would have had no choice. Which, you know - yikes. But lo and behold, what an amazing, smart, totally enthusiastic editor she is! She loves the story, has a ton of ideas to make is amazing...I am so grateful to have the opportunity to work with this person, and how lucky my book is to be in such good hands.


I hope 2012 has been vivid for you as well, heartbreak tempered with the balm of love, and humanity - bright and dark - explored and learned from. Which yes, is cornball but what the hell else can we cling to in moments like these? We're lucky to be here, every minute, every person we love and who loves us is a gift. I wish you all a warm, sparkly New Year and let's send ourselves off to write stories for us all. There is nothing better in the world than a good book, the best of which are comfort and love themselves. We know that much is true.

Why I Love NaNoWriMo

“This is the true joy in life. . .being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.” George Bernard Shaw said it and it is true.

I majored in Acting at San Francisco State University and one semester I played Barbara in Major Barbara, written by Shaw, which I rehearsed in the mornings. At the same time I was rehearsing in the evenings and on weekends for the role of Martirio in Garcia Lorca's The House Of Bernarda Alba, another beautiful play by another amazing writer. The plays opened two weeks apart, and I was taking eighteen units and working part time. My boyfriend (now my husband) was also at SFSU majoring in directing, also acting in Major Barbara, carrying the same class load and working part time. I did the same thing in grad school right after; powered through 24 units per semester, played a bunch of lead roles simultaneously, finished my acting MA and switched to Playwriting, completed my Writing MFA in two years and during all this we were exhausted all the time and we never had more fun. Because how lucky to be able to have our health, get student loans and be able to attend college at all, majoring in what we loved and hoped to use to make the world somehow better, have jobs that let us limp along in our tiny apartment and eat ramen noodles now and then, be cast in amazing roles in amazing plays, sleep every once in a while - the best.

What I love most about my husband is this very thing in him; this refusal to complain, to just shut up and do what needs to be done and have fun doing it and if it doesn't work out clam your yapper and pick yourself up and move the hell on, because it is true: The world owes no one anything. Life owes no one anything. We are so lucky to be here at all, the odds of any of us being born - when you consider the math involved in the billions of zygotes that could have formed and yet we won that lottery - anything less than eternal gratitude and grabbing life by the hoo ha and being brave and doing everything you can to help people who need a hand every single day seems blasphemous. My husband's favorite thing to say is, "Oh, brother! Shut the hell up and get it done!" He knows what's up. Shaw knew what's up.

What does this have to do with NaNoWriMo? Everything! They schedule it in November for crying out loud! The start of the busiest time of the year for lots of people, all kinds of winter festivities are coming up which involve cooking and cleaning and shopping and school plays and soccer tournaments and also some people really, really need extra help just to live as the weather gets colder and oh my God it never ends and then somewhere in there you're supposed to indulge in the extravagance of finding time to write nearly 2000 words per day?

Yes! Yes, you are!

I cram a lot of stuff into each day, and it's really easy as the months go by to lose sight of the gratitude I have every single second for being alive, having a home and food and being able to care for my child and be able to help people who need it and also for criminey's sake I SOLD A BOOK the luckiest thing of all - NaNoWrimo reminds me how lucky I am, makes me get down to business, get to work. No matter what else is happening, that word count must get done, and NOT at the expense of my kid's mental or physical well being so I better figure it the hell out. It is a reminder of upping my work ethic, the daily putting words on a page, the not being a feverish little clod complaining, "I was going to write, but then..." No! There is no room, no time, no excuse for that crap. Life is precious and short, no complaining, no excuses, just write! Be brave, be brilliant or awful but get it done - and be grateful for the opportunity. Some of the words will end up deleted, some may be worth saving, some of them could become a book, and maybe that book will be part of people's lives, part of how they see the world, maybe it will be a reason someone feels less lonely or inspired to be brave about something in their own life - books matter. Gratitude matters. NaNoWriMo is a beautiful thing I treasure, it is how my first book was born, and where the first draft of my next one will be completed.

Thanks, NaNo. Thank you, G.B. Shaw. Onward!