Friday, 25 November 2011

NaNoWriMo Week 4 - Champagne time!

The Writing Bit
So, we're nearly there! I've found it helpful over the last three weeks to read No Plot, No Problem,  by Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo. The book is full of useful tips and is designed to help you through this 30 days of madness.

At the beginning of the chapter that covers week 4, he says, 'I'd like  you to put this book down, put on your shoes, grab your keys and go to the grocery store. Seriously. Go now.' He then concedes that it's ok to go later if you must, but the point is to buy a bottle of champagne ready to crack open when you cross the finish line (well, he says buy two, actually - he reckons your nearest and dearest deserve a bottle for putting up with your absence from family life, but I say, have a glass or two of mine and be grateful!)

Having done NaNoWriMo last year, I can tell you that you will be amazed at just how pleased with yourself you'll feel, even if what you've written isn't exactly great literature. I was childishly thrilled when, having uploaded my 50,000 words and been verified a 'winner', I got to watch a short video of the NaNoWriMo organisers outside their office clapping and cheering their congratulations. I know I'm sad, but Reader, I watched it twice.

Last year, I'd made sure I'd ordered a bottle of champers to be delivered with my grocery order, due to arrive between 3pm and 5pm on the 30th November. But then disaster struck; it snowed. Heavily. I got a text saying the delivery would be delayed by an hour or two. Ok, fine. Then another text warned that delivery was estimated for around 9pm. Ok, well, I was ready to celebrate earlier, but I'd survive. Then at 8.40, Customer Services phoned to say the van couldn't even get out of the depot - there would be no delivery that night.  'But I've got champagne coming,' I said. 'I need to celebrate!'  'I'm very sorry,' the nice man said, 'but congratulations, anyway.'

Fortunately, my husband, who had cheered me on all the way through and did deserve some champagne of his own, to be fair, heroically donned coat, hat, scarf and gloves and set out to walk to Waitrose, which is a ten minute walk away in fine weather and closes at 9pm. People, it was a tense time. The snow was deep, the walking was tough; would he make it in time? And if not, would they take pity if he pounded on the door , perhaps thinking him in need of medicine for a sick child? Or even milk or bread? And if they then opened the doors, would he have the nerve to blithely pick up a bottle of pink fizz and declare it essential?

Happily, at 9.15, as snow-covered and red-nosed as Santa himself, my hero returned, and together, we celebrated my 50,000 words.

This year, I have to tell you, there is already a bottle in the cellar.

So, my fellow NaNoWrimers, get thee to the shops and be prepared! The last mile is, as they say, the hardest mile, so we need a considerable carrot, and I find a  good bottle of bubbly fits the bill rather splendidly.

Come December, we can have a look at those 50,000 words and see what we can do with them, but for now, keep calm and carry on!

The Reading Bit
Partial Eclipse by Lesley Glaister was published in the mid-90s, and I read it then for the first time.  Something made to go back to it this week and I wasn't disappointed. It's  only just over 200 pages long, but Glaister manages to get two complete stories into this short novel, as well as an interesting subplot. The first person narrator, Jenny, is in solitary confinement at the start of the novel, and with no mental stimulation whatsoever, she is forced to turn to her own memory and imagination and she takes us through two alternating stories. One  tells  of the events leading up to her crime, and the other is centred around Jenny's ancestor Peggy, who was deported for stealing a peacock. This  vivid and gripping story is a product of Jenny's starved imagination, and the parallels  with Jenny's own story of forbidden love are gradually revealed.

I love many things  about Glaister's writing, but in particular, the sensuality of it, the wealth of detail and the vivid and interesting characters.  Jenny's naturist grandparents, for example, and her grandmother's new friend Ursula, who turns out to be not quite what she seems.

As Jenny's story unfolds, we see how she is drawn into a doomed love affair with a philandering older man, and we are able to see the things that Jenny cannot see. We know before long that this can't end well, and indeed it doesn't, but it's not until very near the end that we learn the truth about Jenny's terrible crime and it's consequences.

If you like a dark tale and you haven't discovered Lesley Glaister yet, you're in for a treat!  

The Food Bit
This is the last week that I'll be posting a list of what we've eaten during the week. Next week,  once NaNo madness is over, it'll be back to a recipe or detailed look at one meal each week.

Saturday: Butternut squash and walnut risotto with rocket
Sunday: Pepper and mushroom fajitas with guacamole and spicy tomato salsa
Monday: Shop-bought nut cutlets for him and Quorn escalopes with cheese and leeks for me, both served with new potatoes and a salad made with carrot, orange, tomato, chilli and garlic.
Tuesday: Kidney bean dhal, sag aloo, basmati rice.
Wednesday: Peppers stuffed with risotto rice, vegan pesto, cherry tomatoes and pine nuts
Thursday: Vegan sausages with red wine onion gravy  and mash - we've had this a lot lately, but it really is the thing for a cold and blustery autumn night.
Friday: Oh dear - haven't planned tonight's yet. Probably a spicy tomato pasta bake with  mixed leaves.

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