Friday, November 11, 2011

A Century Ago, A World Ago

Ninety-three years ago today, the Great War ended.  It was a brutal war in ways we never imagined.  We found and used techniques and technology that changed the fundamental application and understanding of "war."

Barbed wire, mustard gas, foxholes, trench warfare, machine guns, shell shock, the Lost Generation, no man's land — thanks to what we now call World War I, all of these are part of our lexicon.  Every nation was appalled, sickened and saddened by that which we had wrought: mass casualties, mass destruction, world war.

Think about that phrase for a moment: world war.  It didn't exist before the 20th century.

In the wake of the Great War, the World War, the War to End All Wars, nations tried to come together to prevent another.  They established international organizations to address issues and concerns globally, to embrace pacifism, to bring about peace in our time.  With the Treaty of Versailles, they thought they would keep it from happening again.

We all know how that worked out.

World War I officially ended with a cease fire scheduled for 11 a.m. November 11, 1918.  We began by recognizing Armistice Day, then evolving it into Veterans Day, for all who serve.

Nearly a century later, we rely still on those who have and will give all.  "Thanks" isn't enough, but I hope it will do until we can give them what they really deserve: no reason to take up arms.

The fields in Flanders, Belgium, where the earth was churned by battle and burial of the casualties of war, were covered in poppies.  John McCrae wrote this memorable poem after presiding over a friend's funeral.

In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.

Monday, November 7, 2011

In November, Go NaNoWriMo!

It may be folly, but I have taken on a new task: writing a novel.

I'm under no illusion that my will be good, or even readable.  I hope to learn something from it, and maybe even come up with a character or short story or two that can be salvaged.  But I am keeping even those hopes modest.

This is all part of a national movement to get people writing, National Novel Writing Month (affectionately knows as NaNoWriMo).  The stated goal:finishing a 50,000 word-novel by November 30.  Some people worry about finishing their novel, some worry about a word count.  Frankly, I just worry that I'll have something worth my time by the end of the month.

Thankfully, I'm not alone in my quest.  I have suckered a few other people in, and they also have modest hopes.  One is a novelist who wants to start a new story.  Another is a self-proclaimed "non-writer" who has stories in her head.  Still another wants to give it a try because it sounds like fun.  The last in this motley crew is working on something in her head but hasn't gotten anything on paper yet.

And whose brilliant idea was this?  Well, I was the one to rally the troops.  To be fair, I wouldn't have considered it had another writer not suggested it, but in the end, it's all my fault.  I took up the baton and started running.  Amazing how often the folks who are ready to grab the baton are those I would never have expected — but who make for fantastic partners.  So far, I even met another new (to me) writer whose sense of humor makes me laugh, especially since I would never have said it as well as he (whatever "it" is: horror, King Arthur, psychotics).

I nearly forgot to offer a summary of the story!  Here it is: it's about someone who must listen.  The main character is dying.  Sheis told if she listens to people who need to "unburden" themselves, she will benefit.  She has a choice: listen or not. You'd think it would be easy, but how easy is it to really listen when you are yourself in need of an ear?

My goal: 2,000 words a day through the month of November (taking an occasional day off for, say, Thanksgiving or a friend's anniversary or wedding) (not the same friend).  So far, I'm on track: I've written one good chapter, one mediocre chapter, one awful one and one that I'm afraid to re-read because I liked it as I wrote it. Total so far: 11,972 words — not bad for a poet who tries to keep her work at a single page.

I'll let you know how it's going.  And if you want, give it a try.  Sure, you're a week behind, but has that ever stopped you? Er, don't answer that.  Just... give it a shot, and let me know how you're faring.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

All Hallow's Read: The Votes are In!

I declare All Hallow's Read a success.

Every single person who received a poem loved the idea and planned to read it tonight.  (I recommended reading it with the light on, then realized they'd have to kind of do that anyway.)

It was our first Halloween in our new house, and we had a few dozen trick-or-treaters.  They didn't start out as early as I thought, but I forgot that we are at the back of the neighborhood.  It takes folks longer to get to us.

I was crazy-generous with the candy, but that's what happens when there are nine bags of candy to give away.  (Can anyone say, "Eating ourselves into proper winter padding?")

And everyone, even those who may be too young to read by themselves, got a poem.  (Hey, Mom and Dad can read, and decide if it is something to be read to them now or later.)

So, we'll do it again next year.  Thanks again for the suggestion, Neil Gaiman!