My NaNoWriMo History, and Plans for 2016

November is almost here, and that means that writers around the world are getting ready for National Novel Writing Month. The tradition is so well-established by now that I’ll just leave a link to the official homepage here so you can read about it yourself if you haven’t heard of it, to avoid needlessly preaching to the choir. (Or is that preaching to the converted? I can never decide which version of that expression I like better.)

My own history with NaNoWriMo (as it’s colloquially known) is a rocky one, even though I’ve participated in, and “won,” most years since 2008 (exceptions are 2010 and 2012). My very first NaNo draft is lost forever, even though I distinctly remember emailing it to myself. One of my “winners” still isn’t a complete first draft. Last year’s project was just revising 2014’s draft. I’m not sure how I’m going to handle this year, as I’m juggling studying, editing work, tutoring, and helping run Stockholm NaNoWriMo’s events. A couple of options have crossed my mind:

1. Continue revising 2014’s NaNo into something I can shop around to publishers, literary agents, and/or developmental editors.

2. Rework/rewrite another old NaNo, just for fun.

3. Binge-write blog posts.

4. Jump head-first into Naomi Goldberg’s notebook practice.

5. Tackle an entirely new idea.

I’m not sure what I’ll be doing yet. I do know that you’ll find me at Stockholm NaNoWriMo‘s events if you want to come by and say hello. I also know that if you decide to join NaNoWriMo and want another pair of eyes for your project, I’m here. (With some caveats.) I do know that I’ll be sharing my thoughts and feelings here, periodically, along with some advice.

Join me, won’t you? Let me know what you’re writing in the comments or on Twitter!

Bob Dylan Wins the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature

First of all, I’m always amazed that Bob Dylan isn’t dead yet. I think this is because I’ve always been under the impression that he was well in his 20s or even 30s by the time he appeared on the music scene. The truth is that he was closer to 18, so I suppose it’s actually not surprising at all that he hasn’t shuffled off this mortal coil.

I’ve already talked about my favorite lyricists back in April, to celebrate National Poetry Month. You might notice that Bob Dylan isn’t on the list. To be perfectly honest, he’s never been one of my favorite musicians or lyricists. Funnily enough, the night before Dylan’s win was announced, he was a topic of conversation among myself and a few of my friends, specifically related to protest and political music. I brought up Edwin Starr’s “War” and Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” (but then promptly forgot the lyrics, oops!). One friend countered with:

“Okay, but like, Dylan. Ugh, I hate Dylan. I like The Band so much better.”

“Well, I’ll give you that. Dylan writes great songs for other people to cover, but I can’t stand his voice.”

When the Swedish Academy announced Dylan’s win the very next day, I was almost tempted to email an article about it to said friend. (I didn’t.) I still felt a little like a kingmaker, though. My trash obviously makes people Nobel Prize winners. If you have a favorite author who you believe has been snubbed for a Nobel Prize, get in touch with me and I’ll do my best to tip the scales in their favor for 2017. 😉

All jokes aside, though: even though I don’t particularly care for Bob Dylan, I’m not particularly upset over his win—not on the grounds of him not being a “proper” writer, anyway. There is something to be said about the moral obligation of literary prizes to award deserving but unknown writers, and Dylan’s celebrity, as well as his artistic chops, have been well-established by this point. This is the same awkwardness that underlies Neil Gaiman’s 2016 Hugo for best “Best Graphic Story”: Neil Gaiman has garnered enough acclaim by now to comfortably coast on it for the rest of his life. (That’s another post, though. Some extenuating circumstances make Gaiman’s win a bit different.)

Perhaps the sad truth simply is that more people deserve a Nobel Prize than can possibly win one.

Greek and Latin Roots: “M” Base Words

I’m back from vacation, and now that I’m relaxed and refreshed it’s time to continue my series on classically derived base words. (Again, these are not prefixes or suffixes. Those are coming later.) Today is brought to you by the letter “M.” For a refresher course in past installments, you can refer to past entries.

Base Meaning Example
m(eridiem) noon, midday ante meridiem (A.M.)
magn big magnify
mal(e) bad, wrong malevolent
man, main stay, remain permanent, remain
man(u) hand manual
mast round bump, protrusion mastoid
matr(i), matern mother matrimony, maternal
me(a) wander, go meander
medi middle medium
meter, metr(o), metri(i) measure centimeter, metronome, metric
mill one thousand millimeter
miss, mit send missile, permit
mnem, mnes memory mnemonic, amnesia
mole mass molecule
mon(o) alone, only, one monologue
mord, mors bite mordant, morsel
morph shape, form amorphous
mor(t) dead moribund, mortal
mov, mot, mobil move move, promote, mobile
mur wall mural

Things I Talk About With JV: Odyssey and Adventure

11I moved to Sweden to be with JV, my long-term, long-distance partner. (The agonization I have over that particular word choice [“partner”] is worth another blog post, but not today.) He’s fluent in English and Swedish, and something like conversant in Dutch and Japanese. We mostly use English together, and we talk a lot about words.


The other day the topic of 2001: A Space Odyssey came up. I forget why, or whether we were speaking English or Swedish, but he mentioned the Swedish title: 2001 – Ett rymdäventyr.

“‘Ett rymdäventyr’? That’s kind of a crummy translation. It’s not a space adventure. That’s like some Buck Rogers stuff. You couldn’t just use ‘odyssey’ in Swedish?” I thought it over for a second and hazarded a guess. “Odysseyen?”

“I don’t know. The original Odyssey is an adventure, after all.”

“Yeah, but it’s also serious? Dramatic? Epic? An adventure isn’t necessarily those things. When we call something an odyssey in English, it’s usually something epic, or at least long.”

“I guess so. Huh.”

I looked it up just now, and if Swedish Wikipedia is anything to go by, it seems that the movie is indeed called 2001 – Ett rymdäventyr, but Clarke’s novel is 2001 – En rymdodyssé.


Do you think there’s a difference between “adventure” and “odyssey”? How is 2001: A Space Odyssey translated in your native language? Is it like Swedish, where there’s more than one translation?

Book Review: Light

Author: Rob Cham

Genre: Fantasy (graphic novel)

My GoodReads rating: 4 stars

Average GoodReads rating: 4.15

Language scaling: All levels / Not applicable

Plot summary: An adventurer looks for treasure in a fantasy world.

Recommended audience: Appropriate for all ages, Rob Cham’s art has something for everyone.

In-depth thoughts: I’ve talked before about the great potential graphic novels have to build confidence and bridge gaps in ELLs. By connecting words with pictures, students can more readily understand a story and increase their vocabulary. Books without words are another situation entirely. Purely visual stories like Rob Cham’s Light have a place in every library, particularly for teachers who work with young ELLs.

Image courtesy Rob Cham and Anino Comics/Adarna House.
Image courtesy Rob Cham and Anino Comics/Adarna House.

Many times, an activity calls for using or describing an image (this is why keeping a variety of magazines on hand can be a life saver); here’s an entire book with fantastic, child-friendly imagery you can pull out again and again. Each page is its own scene that invites imagination and wonder.

Of course, Light isn’t just a collection of pictures; it’s also a story. And in the tradition of classics like The Snowman, it’s very effective at telling its story without any words. But at the same time, the reader is free to create any story they wish. What happened in between each page? What are characters thinking? How are they feeling? All of that is up for interpretation and personalization, far more than in a conventional novel or graphic novel.

You can preview the first few pages of Light on Cham’s homepage. I quite like all of his work, though not all of it might be appropriate for children (a bit of nudity and salty language appear elsewhere). Light also has a sequel, Lost, which you can read for free online.

Finally, it might be worth pointing out that Cham is a Filipino artist. Do with that what you will: share Light with your Filipino diaspora or southeast Asian students (particularly those interested in video games or visual arts), include it in your #ownvoices or #diversebooks reading lists, or have a short geography/social studies lesson before or after reading.

I was provided with a free digital copy for review from NetGalley, but this in no way affected my opinion of the book. I will definitely be purchasing the hardcover version (which was just released a few days ago on October 4th) to use in my English lessons (and to enjoy myself!).

Announcement: Traveling

This week and next I’ll be in the US for my little brother’s wedding! Some blog posts and Tweets are scheduled in my absence, but (obviously) I won’t be getting any work done. I’ll see you on the flip side!

If I’m going to post an old photo of my brother, it’s only fair that I post an old photo of myself and my bowl cut as well.