a trip to nellysford & “expanding horizons”

Saturday, November 2:  I drive to Nellysford, Virginia this morning to visit my old friend Susan, who lives near Wintergreen Ski Resort.  It’s still lovely in the mountains, with red leaves now brightening the landscape. 

This is the first time I’ve met Susan in her new home.  In the years since I’ve seen her, she’s retired from her job as a stockbroker, sold her Richmond house, and moved out to the country.  When I arrive, she takes me to Blue Mountain Brewery for lunch and then we head into Charlottesville, where we wander around the Downtown Mall.

Charlottesville's Downtown Mall
Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall
Susan at an outdoor vendor's table
Susan at an outdoor vendor’s table

We take a two-mile walk through the farmland around her house and, later, we meet a good friend of hers, Mary Ann, at a Nellysford bar.  Here a small cast of local characters huddles around the bar, listening to a trombone-playing astrophysicist and another electric piano-playing musician.  We enjoy Pinot Grigio from our convivial bar seats, and while Susan and Mary Ann eat tacos, I enjoy every bite of a smoked hot dog with chili, cheese & mustard.  I descend into my bad eating habits, as I do from time to time.  Never mind; it’s a great evening all around.

me, Susan and Mary Ann
me, Susan and Mary Ann
Susan and Mary Ann
Susan and Mary Ann

Sunday, November 3:  This morning, while Susan goes to church in Nellysford, I revise chapter 31 of my novel: “Expanding Horizons,” for a total word count as of today of 7,082 words for 3 chapters.  I know I need to cut more, as my goal is to have each chapter no more than 7 pages long; this one is 10 pages.  This is where an impartial editor would be helpful; this editor would probably have me cut out some questionable sections that don’t really move the story along.  I cut from 11 to 10 pages and my total page count for the novel at this point in the story is 237 pages for 31 out of 50 chapters.

Oh, it’s so hard to discard words you wrote so painstakingly.  I’m sure they’ll have to go in the end. 🙂

When Susan returns from church, we go out for brunch at Stony Creek; we both eat chicken sausages and French toast with bananas Foster.  Not very healthy eating this weekend!

Nellysford, Va
Nellysford, Va

I completed Module 1 of the Travel Essay writing course by Thursday night, since I knew I was going out-of-town this weekend.  This morning, I listen to our instructor evaluate our assignments.  We were supposed to find “niche” publications to pitch a story to; but sadly I didn’t have time to peruse niche publications at the bookstore to find ones that publish travel articles.  I used the Washington Post Travel Section for the assignment, which was not really what the instructor was looking for.  Hopefully, since I’m not going out-of-town next weekend, or probably for the rest of November, I’ll have more time to focus on the exact assignment (a travel angle for a story about Tasmania) by the due date.

Nellysford, Va
Nellysford, Va

Back to work tomorrow, after spending three hours driving back from Nellysford, and two hours marking essays for my Advanced Writing Workshop. 😦  Work, work, work, and only some of it is fun.

I’m afraid there won’t be much excitement happening in my blogging world for the next month. It’s all I can do to keep up with my challenges for the month!


novel progress: chapter 30 done

Saturday, November 2:  This morning I got up early and revised Chapter 30 of my novel; the chapter is titled “Glisser un Regard a Quelqu’un.”  Add 2,142 words, for a total of 4,056 words.

I still haven’t settled on a title for the entire novel; I’ve gone back and forth with all kinds of ideas.  Today I changed it once again to: As Sure as Far-Flung Suns.  I’m still not settled on it.  I may test out different titles as I post this month.

Here’s a short synopsis as posted on my NaNoWriMo account:

As Sure as Far-Flung Suns explores the way that yearning and grief rearrange people’s lives. The story is told from the viewpoints of four middle-aged characters in Washington, D.C. during the 2002 sniper attacks and the buildup to war with Iraq; these characters in their tangled relationships struggle to find happiness and meaning in a world full of uncertainty and turmoil.

Ian loses both of his parents in a tragic accident and comes to inhabit their world, and his abandoned adolescent life, in his grief. Taking up residence in his parents’ home, his old passion for astronomy is reignited. He explores his reawakened attraction to his old girlfriend, Lucie, who is now married to Ahmed, an Egyptian Muslim haunted by demons.

Lucie works at a suicide hotline. She is lonely and fearful, and tries, despite obstacles she places in her own path, to find courage and love. Ahmed, who reads a medical encyclopedia to improve his English, is convinced an insidious disease will kill him because of a horrific act he committed in his past. He tries to accommodate Lucie in her friendship with Ian, only to have the relationship become something more than he ever bargained for.

Audrey is torn between a calling to serve God and her earthly desires. Her son Peter is a troubled divorce survivor who struggles to come to grips with his own identity. She loves labyrinths, church history and architecture, but she also loves men. She struggles to come to grips with her growing feelings for Ian, her ambivalence about motherhood, and her yearnings to connect with God.


Now that I met my challenge for today, I’m off to visit a dear old friend near Wintergreen, Virginia.  I haven’t seen Susan in two years; we used to work together as stockbrokers in Richmond, VA in 1986 and 1987.  She and I became friends as I was going through a divorce from my first husband, Bill.

This will be the third weekend in four weeks that I’ve driven south to the mountains of Virginia. 🙂

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i must be crazy, or just shoot me now! bring on the november challenges… :-)

Friday, November 1:  I’ve decided I need to make a change in my life.  I MUST get out of teaching ESL and find something else.  If I continue on one more day without the prospect of following my dreams, then I will very likely go off the deep end.   Thus I’ve decided to push myself this month by taking steps toward professional and personal fulfillment.

Beginning last Monday, October 28, I started taking a 5-week online Travel Writing course through the Australian Writers’ Center.  This wouldn’t be any big deal if the course didn’t happen to coincide with the last 6 weeks of my semester.  It’s ridiculous how many hours I work at a job I hate, and for which I get paid so little.  As every minute of my “free time” is already filled with planning my classes, marking papers, and keeping up with administrative stuff, carving out time for this course will be difficult and will probably make my life very stressful.

I must thank Carol of The Eternal Traveller for recommending this course to me.  So far, in just one week, I’ve learned a lot.  And it actually gives me an excuse to NOT bring work home with me.  As of today, I’m going to start putting my teaching job on the sidelines.  I don’t care because I don’t get paid enough to care.  My priority as of today is me, and my career and my personal goals.

As if adding this additional commitment for the month of November isn’t enough, I’ve also taken on the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge for the month of November.  The challenge is to write 50,000 words of a novel in one month.   I can’t exactly write 50,000 new words because of my teaching schedule, but I can EDIT the last 21 chapters of my novel (probably about 50,000 words).

My novel of 480 pages has been sitting on my computer for 10 years.  My New Year’s resolution this year was to revise my novel and get it out to publishers by the end of this year (or self-publish it).  I managed to revise 28 chapters out of 50 before I left Oman, but since I returned home, I haven’t had time, or I haven’t made time, to look at it at all.  That is, until tonight, the first day of November, and the first day of the NaNoWriMo challenge.  This evening I revised Chapter 29, titled “Pulled Betwixt and Between,” for a total of 1,914 words.  The challenge involves writing 1,667 words a day in November, and though these are not new words in my novel, revision of this chapter puts me 1,914 words closer to finishing it.  This is my challenge. I must finish my novel this month!

I want to have a clean slate by the end of the year, so I can focus on starting a new book and trying to write travel articles.

Just call me crazy… OR just shoot me now.  Bring on November!

To check out these two challenges, see:

National Novel Writing Month
Australian Writers’ Centre

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