Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Day 2010

Merry Christmas.

I had all sorts of plans to review Christmas books in the week preceding today and do my first giveaway of a Christmas story written by a friend of mine and expostulate on my ongoing Christmas crisis.  Clearly, none of this happened, though I still do recommend that you pick up a copy of The Firflake by Anthony Cardno.

This is my first Christmas away from my parents.  I'm married now and we must split the holidays between Marckettas and Maurers, New Jersey and Wisconsin.  I've only been out of New Jersey once on Christmas before, though I was still with my family.

It's not bad.  I find myself comparing traditions - they're not so different, though the food is - and trying to come to terms with my Christmas crisis.  A Christmas Carol helped with this.  I bought the book years ago but only got around to reading it this year.  Parts of me found Scrooge not so different from most of us around Christmastime - he's greedy, self-serving, concerned with things more than anything spiritual.  The difference is that he doesn't expect somebody else to give him what he wants.  In some ways, it's respectable.

The Cratchits, of course, showed me what Christmas should be: family, togetherness, gratitude, generosity.  Not Pillow Pets and gift labels and long lists of "I wants."  It's a shovelful of chestnuts bringing joy, rather than some cheap toy that will be forgotten by the next Christmas.

Of course, none of this gives me the answer I'm looking for.  Yes, I want the Cratchit family Christmas but minus the poverty and plus the gifts but without the greed.  Crafts, yes, but how do I send my child off to school saying "Santa brought me a hand-painted ornament and box of cookies"?  The stuff aspect is inescapable if you don't want your child to feel unloved compared to his spoiled classmates.  Hence the crisis.

I'm feeling odd for Christmas day, in case you couldn't tell.  I started reading Rebecca, because that's what I brought with me on the trip, and it's fitting my state of mind perfectly thus far.  Beautiful language, a little wandering, no apparent point yet.  I'm just tumbling up and down the hills and valleys of the words and appreciating them for what they are.  If only I could do the same for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Please, Santa, please!

It's the Christmas edition of Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!  This week asks the top ten books we hope that Santa brings.  I know, I know - just ten?!

1. The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood: Santa already brought me this!  Actually, it was my Secret Santa, aka Bev from My Reader's Block.  I can't wait to read it!
2. 600 Hours of Edward by Craig Lancaster
3. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
4. Room by Emma Donoghue
5. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, because I studied English at Rutgers, making this required reading
6. If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino, because it sounds weird and I like that
7. anything by Orhan Pamuk, who I've been meaning to read forever but always forget about in the bookstore
8. Party Vegan by Robin Robertson, because obviously I'm going to put a cookbook on this list and this one looks amazingly excellent!
9. A book of poetry by Sylvia Plath; I'm not picky
10. Women, Food, and God by Geneen Roth, because this book has been haunting me and I feel like maybe that means something

Friday, December 17, 2010

Emma ~ Jane Austen

Emma was my fourth Jane Austen novel and to be perfectly honest, I didn’t love it.  For those of you who aren’t familiar, Emma is a typical Austin heroine, unique only in the fact that she has financial security without needing to marry.  She is also not interested in marriage – not for herself anyway.  She does, however, spend most of the novel attempting to marry off her poor, little friend Harriet whose background is unknown but surely must be of the highest quality (it’s not, but fortunately nobody above her station is willing to marry her so don’t you worry about any shameful social climbing).  Like many Austen heroines, Emma blunders through this, making repeated mistakes and failing to understand the feelings and opinions of others, nor really care what that others even have feelings and opinions until it’s too late.

*Spoiler Alert!* So it’s pretty much your basic Austen novel, so much so that I figured out Emma’s ultimate husband (and thus the end of the book) four pages into the first chapter, upon learning that “Mr. Knightley, in fact, was one of the few people who could see faults in Emma Woodhouse” (662).  For anybody who has ever read anything by Jane Austen, you know that the hero is generally the only person who doesn’t find the heroine to be perfect (except for her inevitable female enemies).  While this is an excellent recommendation for loving a person, it does make any Austen novel you read after Pride and Prejudice (which was obviously your first) somewhat dull.

In general, Emma was a bit of a disappointment.  It took me two weeks to read, despite several multi-hour reading sessions, because some days I just couldn’t bring myself to pick the dull thing up.  The only thoughts of any substance in the novel are just that – thoughts, going on in Emma’s head.  Conversations are full of the weather and the same gossip repeated seventy trillion times over, and long, long passages from stock characters that do nothing but show how like themselves they are.  After Emma’s father’s fifteenth long paragraph citing the benefits to be derived from gruel or the dangers derived from going outside or getting married, we understand that he is a reclusive hypochondriac with no ability to say anything more than what he always says.  The same goes for Miss Bates and sadly, they monopolize more of the book than anybody else.

Like any Austen novel, it does make me incredibly happy to not have been alive back then.  Doesn’t life just sound so dull?  All these people just sit around all day, dressing elaborately and “visiting” to discuss weather and what the neighbors think of the weather and what the weather will probably be tomorrow.  I think being a servant must have been much more fun because at least then you could have gossiped about the color of the mistress’s underpants.

The only real enjoyment I got from Emma was a) figuring out that it was the basis for Clueless and b) finding all of the specific points that Clueless borrowed from it.  Soon, I shall rewatch Clueless and be happy that something so shamefully excellent was at least born of Emma.

Perhaps I’m a little cruel, but seriously?  There is more than one plot line possible and somebody should have told Austen that!  I loved Pride and Prejudice, but both Sense and Sensibility and Emma are just the same story except less enjoyable and with different numbers of daughters.  At least Northanger Abbey was different and even had a son.  Did you know that there were such things?!

Oh, and what is up with Jane being all “I’m sorry, let’s be friends!” at the end?  That is a contrived happy ending if I ever saw one.  Austen was all, “Oh wait, I can’t end the novel without Emma having everybody she likes like her so let’s just have Jane be like ‘Oh it’s all my fault, I’ve always liked you’ and it’ll make sense.  I promise!”  And, can I just say that Mr. Knightley would not be the one to protect Mr. Woodhouse from the convenient housebreakers that showed up just in time to convince Mr. W. that it would be in everybody’s best interest for Emma to marry?  It would be the servants protecting him; that is, if they weren’t too busy giggling over his granny panties.  Because you know that Emma’s father wears granny panties.

I’m going to go read Pride and Prejudice now and attempt to return Jane Austen to her pedestal of glory.  Or maybe I’ll just watch Clueless.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Still Alice ~ Lisa Genoava

I finished Still Alice, Lisa Genova’s first novel, nearly a month ago but am only getting around to reviewing it now.  I could blame this on a lot of things like NaNoWriMo, forgetfulness, or laziness, but in this case, it really had to do with having to sort out my feelings about it.  Still Alice is the story of a middle-aged woman dealing with early-onset Alzheimer’s and its effects on her life and the lives of those she loves.  As soon as I heard of this book, I knew that I would have to read it, and soon.  When I was ten or eleven years old, my grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and it wasn’t long before he was moved into a nursing home and gone forever.  I didn’t understand much of it at the time.  Therefore, it’s no surprise that Still Alice should have had such a hold on me as it helped me understand why and how I lost my grandfather.

To be honest, Genova’s writing isn’t spectacular.  It’s very clear, straightforward prose, lacking in music or beauty in itself.  And you know what?  It doesn’t really matter.  Still Alice may not be remembered for its way with language, but I will always remember it for its effect on me, and sometimes that’s what’s really important.

The plot revolves around the progression of the disease.  Alice, a Harvard professor of cognitive linguistics is just going about her life when odd things start to happen – she loses things that are where they belong, gets completely disoriented and lost minutes from her house, forgets to go to the airport for a long-scheduled flight.  After her diagnosis, life goes on as before, just with more struggles and difficulties.  She still fails to understand her youngest daughter, still attempts to go on with her career, still goes on daily jogs for as long as she can.  This is a novel about life with Alzheimer’s, plain and simple.

I have memories of my grandfather that still pain me.  One Thanksgiving, his final Thanksgiving, he came to our house.  It was the last place he would ever be outside of his nursing home.  My uncle was clearing his place setting and when he moved to clear my grandfather’s dirty paper napkin, my grandfather started shouting for us to call the police, he was being robbed.  On one visit to the nursing home, he stared at me, love in his eyes, and couldn’t find my name.  He knew that he loved me, but he had no idea who I was.  On several occasions, he told us about how he had just had visits from his siblings and parents, who were long gone.  His deterioration was rapid and painful, and not soon to be forgotten.

Still Alice brought this all back to me.  There are simple matters of forgetting – Alice loses a word, forgets a name, loses her glasses.  And then there is a scene in which Alice goes to a class she teaches in a big lecture hall and sits down in the audience.  She sits there twenty minutes, increasingly annoyed, before turning to her students saying, “I don’t know about you guys, but I have better things to do,” and walking out, annoyed at the professor for having wasted her time.  These moments are the most painful: years of her life gone like they never happened and, worse yet, she never realizes the mistake.  I remember visiting my grandmother’s first cousin, also afflicted by Alzheimer’s, in her nursing home.  A man on the floor began shouting at my mother and me for shouting and running through the halls of his hotel.  The reality of his situation had vanished for him, at least for the moment, much as increasingly happens to Alice.

Alice forgets the deaths of her mother and sister, forgets words, forgets where the bathroom is in her own home, forgets who her children are, forgets that the gaping black hole in her front hall is actually a rug she had bought years before.  The disease makes no exceptions, attacking every sort of memory that we take for granted every day.

But it is not all terrible.  In the midst of pain and loss, Alice still has the resources to love.  She still can hold and kiss her grandchildren, can still come to terms with her daughter’s choices, can still establish what she wants versus what she doesn’t want.  While the disease tears through her brain, literally shrinking her brain mass, she still remains who she ever was, and discovers more about who Alice really is.

The novel left me with a question that is significant as the descendant of somebody with Alzheimer’s.  Assuming the information provided to be accurate (and I think it is, considering Genova’s background and the book’s factual nature), it is possible to be tested for a genetic mutation that would determine if Alzheimer’s is in your future.  Two of Alice’s children are tested; her eldest, Anna, who is trying to become pregnant, tests positive and as a result has embryos that are without that mutation implanted in her uterus to guarantee that her children will not inherit the degenerative disease.  Alice is relieved to know that at least these grandchildren will not be cursed with her own affliction and left to wish that she had had the same option – except that if she had done the same, she would not have Anna.  Her middle child tests negative and her youngest child decides not to have the test.  This is a very real question for me – do I have the test?  If I’m positive, do I make the same choices that Anna made?

Right now, my answers are no and no.  I don’t want to live a life of fear and expectation.  I’d rather live right now and let come will come.  I don’t want to be forced to choose one child over another.  A cure may come before it’s even an issue and if not, I believe in living the life you’re given.  I’m not sure if I believe in a god or not but even so, I don’t think it’s in my hands to make those choices.  As little as I would choose a green-eyed child over a brown-eyed, I would not choose a child based on this possibility.  I want to make the best of the life given to me and let come what may.

For anybody who has known and loved somebody with Alzheimer’s, I recommend you read this novel.  It’s sad but powerful, and worth the tears.  It will bring back painful memories but it will bring back the good as well.  Ultimately, pain and happiness are inseparable.  My strongest memory of my grandfather is still sitting on his lap and playing the hand-stacking game, and I wouldn’t give that up for anything, even if it comes at the cost of the memory of loss.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Literary Blog Hop and/or Emma

Literary Blog Hop
Another week, another Literary Blog Hop, hosted by The Blue Bookcase.  This week's question is:
What is one of your literary pet peeves?  Is there something that writers do that really sets your teeth on edge?  Be specific, and give examples if you can.
It took a bit of musing for me to come up with an answer to this because while I am often irritated by things writers do, it's not necessarily a consistent peeve.  To draw from some other bloggers' complaints, I may be irritated by the use of he said/she said, but I may also prefer it if done well.  Like everybody has mentioned, I am driven crazy by editorial errors because come on editors, isn't that you job?  (I feel justified in saying that because I have been rejected from so many editorial positions in which I obviously would have put an end to all editorial errors ever.)

The answer came to me last night while I was reading struggling through Emma by Jane Austen.  I know, I know - Jane Austen's so amazing, I've said so myself, what could I find wrong with it, blahblahblah.  Well to be honest, I find it a little dull though productive in that it gave me not one, but two answers to this week's Literary Blog Hop.  Yay?

1) Characters who are merely caricatures.  Are Mr. Woodhouse or Miss Bates capable of being useful at all?  These characters have no depth whatsoever and all they ever say is a continuation of all they have ever said; that is, nothing.  They remind me of Jack Gellar, Monica and Ross's father on Friends, except he at least occasionally shows some emotion that runs beneath the surface of his ridiculousness.  Also, he only show up occasionally and thus is good for an occasional laugh, but Mr. Woodhouse and Miss Bates are there constantly, wasting incredible amounts of space by contributing nothing to the story.  And even when they're in another room, the other characters are talking about them.  Stock characters can be okay occasionally, but when you (cough, Austen) take it too far, it really raises my hackles.
And makes my eyes glow, apparently.
2) Authors who write the same story over and over again.  I've read four Austen novels, in the following order: Pride and Prejudice, which I loved; Northanger Abbey, which I loved; Sense and Sensibility, which I liked; and now Emma, which (to be polite) I am less than enamored with.  Taking Northanger Abbey out of the mix, because it doesn't quite apply, the plots of the other three novels seem to just be copies of one another with names and details changed.  Reading Emma, I can find the equivalent characters in P+P: Mr. Knightley is Mr. Darcy (just poorer), Mr. Elton is Mr. Collins (just hotter), Mr. Churchill is Mr. Wickham (just nothing, they're exactly the same person).  Et cetera.  It was a fun read the first time around, but by now I'm just bored of the same old thing.  Yes, plots are often reused, but this precisely?  At least stick them in another setting or something to make me feel like I'm actually reading something new and not rereading P+P for the umpteenth time.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What To Read...

Most of my books currently live at my parents' house due to the fact that the husband and I live in a tiny little apartment and, well, I have a lot of books.  Thus, every visit to my parent's house usually includes the transport of books in both directions: those that I have read and reviewed return to their home on the bookshelves of my childhood and those that I have any sort of inclination to read in the near future come home with me.  My trip to their house a few days ago was no different.  I was dropping off some books I read recently and intended to bring back A Christmas Carol, which I bought years ago and still have yet to get around to reading.  Alas, to my distress, Dickens's Christmas classic was nowhere to be found.

I searched the shelves above the desk.  I searched the folding bookshelf bought to supplement those shelves when I was in middle school.  I searched the deep drawer of the end table that my mother stuffed a pile of my books into for some unfathomable reason.  Nothing.  So I moved on to my mother's even more massive collection which comprises multiple generations worth of books: two small sets of shelves and two shelves thats stretch to the ceiling.  Nothing.  Throughout all of this I did, however, find several books by Virginia Woolf, Barbara Kingsolver, Jack London, John Steinbeck, George Eliot, and more that I've been meaning to read for years and never seem to get around to.  By the time I found A Christmas Carol in the under-bed storage container, I had filled a bag with about a dozen other books that I now plan to read in the not-too-distant future, meaning that I moved them from my long-term to-be-read pile at my parents' house to my shorter-term to-be-read pile at my apartment.  The husband was not pleased.

All of this is, in a addition to a demonstration of how ridiculous my book addiction is, a lead-up to a post about what I will be reading in the coming year!  So far, I have joined two book challenges that I'm very excited about: The Victorian Literature Challenge and the Back to the Classics Challenge.  For the former, I have committed to read ten to fourteen Victorian-era novels over 2011, the specifics of which have yet to be determined.  For the latter, I've come up with an incomplete, possible reading list based on the given categories, to be completed by the end of June:

1. A Banned Book: Animal Farm by George Orwell
2. A Book with a Wartime Setting: ????
3. A Pulitzer Prize Winner: The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
4. A Children's Classic: Peter Pan by JM Barrie
5. 19th Century Classic: Silas Marner by George Eliot
6. 20th Century Classic: The Waves by Virginia Woolf
7. A Potential 21st Century Classic: ????
8. A Book From High School: The Odyssey

Except for The Odyssey, which I never actually read in high school, these are all books that I've owned for years and never gotten around to reading.  My problem is that I can't decide on a wartime novel or a potential 21st century classic!  Help!  I welcome any suggestions.  The problem with the 21st century classic is, I have no way of knowing if it's worthy of that title without having already read it and I want it to be a new-to-me book!  So that category I'm definitely in need of advice for.  Any recommendations for the Victorian Reading Challenge would also be welcome!

I've also made a Challenges! page at the top of the blog where I'm going to track my progress in these and any other challenges I attempt.  Of course, I've also retroactively added my NaNoWriMo triumph because, well, why wouldn't I?

So what's everybody else planning to read in 2011 or will you just be winging it?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Bell Jar ~ Sylvia Plath

I thought the most beautiful thing in the world must be shadow, the million moving shapes and cul-de-sacs of shadow.  There was a shadow in bureau drawers and closets and suitcases, and shadow under houses and trees and stones, and shadow at the back of people’s eyes and smiles, and shadow, miles and miles and miles of it, on the night side of the earth.  –The Bell Jar, 165
Now that NaNoWriMo is finally over and I’ve had a chance to recover, I can start catching up on some book reviews!  Specifically, a series of three book reviews which I only call a series because they all feature women considering suicide.  Cheery, I know, and just in time for the holidays!  First up is The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath because I finished it most recently and it has the most obvious example of a suicidal protagonist.

This is technically a reread for me, though, for some bizarre reason, I don’t remember half of it.  I remember the first half of the novel, up to the point where Esther Greenwood tucks herself into a hole under the house with an empty pill bottle and lights flashing in her mind, but that is where my memory stops.  I’ve always remembered it as ending there and thus found it curious and suggestive that the narrative is written in the first person but you know what?  There’s nearly another 100 pages after that.  I remember liking the book so I have no idea why I would have just stopped reading.  Has anybody else ever had this happen?  It’s bizarre.

Anyway.  As many of you probably know, The Bell Jar is a heavily autobiographical work based on Sylvia Plath’s own depression, nervous breakdown, disappearance, and suicide attempt while at college.  Much of the novel revolves around Esther’s conflicting desires to be a poet/academic/world-traveler and a wife/mother, which to her are irreconcilable.
Plath wrote it while was raising two small children and, perhaps unsurprisingly, in The Bell Jar there is a reference to the narrator’s baby, implying a recovery of sorts and much more, considering Plath’s ultimate suicide, which she performed with only a door between her and her own children.
My heroine would be myself, only in disguise. (134)
 The novel is just so real.  Esther’s voice is familiar and believable and the way she describes her depression is just so apt for anybody who’s ever just felt overwhelmingly sad without knowing why.  The bell jar covers her, separating her from the world and souring the very air she breathes until she chokes on life itself.

The novel is given its power by the fact that outside of her depression and suicide attempt, Esther is still a real, identifiable person.  Ultimately, who she is is what makes the novel – the novel is the character, not any specific event or situation.  Considering having sex with a random guy just to even the score with her boyfriend, not knowing what drink to order at a bar, her desire to escape and embrace the life she has been taught to live – these features are all very mundane and thus, they are what make Esther Greenwood.  Committing suicide does not make a character complete – it’s what they do and think before that act that shows who they really are and makes them whole.  By being so identifiable, Esther comes to life.

This is definitely a must-read and not just because it’s one of those books that you’re “supposed” to read; it’s a must-read because of how familiar it already is and how much power it will have over you.  It’s certainly not an upper, but definitely worth the sadness.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Literary Blog Hop and e.e. cummings

Literary Blog Hop
For this week's installment of the Literary Blog Hop, which is hosted by the ladies over at The Blue Bookcase, the question is:
What is your favorite poem and why?
Though I'm more of a prose person, for me this question was a no-brainer.  e.e. cummings has been my favorite poet for approximately ever and even writing my high school junior thesis on him did nothing to lower him in my estimation (it may have helped that I got an A++… I'm not kidding).  One of his poems that I wrote about was "somewhere I have never travelled" and it has remained my favorite poem ever since.  For those of you who are not familiar, here it is:

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near
your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose
or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;
nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing
(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses) 
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

One of the things that I always love about cummings's poetry is that it's always kind of like a puzzle.  Poetry in general can tend to feel like that, but with cummings unraveling the puzzle is actually fun, rather than torturous.  He does a lot of fun things with sound and imagery, all while making something that is beautiful and true.  I think it's really a gift to be able to combine these aspects and still produce something meaningful.

So why do I like this particular poem?  Why does anybody like any poem, really?  I like the cadence of it - there is a music in the phrasing that comes from the specific combination of words rather than any tricks of alliteration.  The use of the rose is unique; roses are probably the most cliche thing to write about, but cummings seems to treat them differently, perhaps because the voice of the poem is the flower, rather than the "you."  Generally we hear "your beauty is like a rose" or some such silliness, but here the voice says "I am a rose and you have power over me like the weather over a flower."  The image of a rose opening and closing in response to an outer influence is just so powerful and so apt.  How often do we say "lover, you have roses in your cheeks"?  Not often.  But how often are our moods completely influenced by those we love?  Constantly.  Those we love can be storms or fair days or a sad trickling rain to us, a concept that cummings seems to me to be portraying in this image.  We are the roses.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

NaNoWriMo Wrap-Up

Looking back on last night's frantically excited post, I see that I may have used the phrase "freaking awesome" one too many times, creating reasonable doubt as to the quality of my last month's work.  You know what I have to say to that?  OH WELL.

So it's over, I won, and now it's time to reflect on what actually happened and what I learned and other such things.  First off, my narrative intentions: I'm generally a short story writer but partially out of my own desires and partly in the spirit of NaNoWriMo, I decided to try my hand at an extended narrative.  This went okay for a while.  I wrote 20,000 thousand words of a story about a girl who commits suicide, which increasingly bored the pants off of me.  At this point, I decided to start Project #2, a story set in a Superdome-like setting during some undefined disaster about a nanny and her twin charges.  Reading more about Superdome, I decided I hadn't even remotely grasped what that situation would be like and to do so would completely change my story.  Plus, I was bored.  So after 10,000 words of that mess, I returned to Project #1and wrote a short story about the suicide girl's boyfriend which I liked much better, actually finished, and decided to make an independent narrative.  20,000-word prewrite for a 5000-word story?  Whatever works.  Then I decided that I should just work on my in-progress collection of connected short stories and wrote the first drafts of two and the beginning of a third (which I began at around 9.00 last night due to desperation).

My goals in terms of how I planned to reach 50,000 words: I intended to write 2000 words a day, instead of the 1667 that NaNoWriMo recommends, so that I could either end five days early or take five days off.  As you can see, this went fantastically the first week, floundered the second week (due to a death in my husband's family and a sudden departure for Wisconsin), crashed in the third week (thanks to my totally-worth-it Harry Potter party), struggled in the fourth week (due to frustration and loss of interest) and somehow revived itself in the final two days, during which I wrote a combined total of over 7000 words.

So what have I learned?  Discipline, definitely.  I never used to be able to write more than 1000 words in a day (or several days really) and during last month, I once hit 4200 words in a day.  It turns out that a mental lightbulb and a soy chai latte really can work wonders.  I also learned that without that mental lightbulb, your effed and maybe should just take a break (which I could not due because I had a deadline and thus drove myself crazy).  Maybe most importantly, I learned how to push a story forward.  All of the extant stories in my collections are around 2000 words, which is quite short.  The new stories are pushing 7000.  They probably won't stay quite so long (one of them is, admittedly, stuffed with wordcount-extending fluff) but they will still be significantly longer than their predecessors and probably have more significance.  I now intend to go back and see if I can push those earlier stories and see what comes out.  One will remain short, I know that.  The others I think have the potential for a bit more.

All in all, I think that NaNoWriMo was really a valuable exercise in my growth as a writer.  It forced me to take risks, some of which flopped, and to push myself.  I don't know if I will do it again, but I'm glad that I did it this once.

What were everybody else's experiences?  I'd love to hear about them!

Can I have my t-shirt now?  I want to look happy and cocky just like these people: