Pumpkin Prince

With Halloween coming up, with the ever-looming prospect of kids with too much candy on their hands, I thought I’d share a brilliant idea that a co-worker told me about. When she was growing up, she and her brother were allowed to eat as much candy as they wanted Halloween night, but then, all the left-overs went to into giant pumpkin shaped bowls to be left for the Pumpkin Prince.

In the morning, the candy would be gone – taken by the Pumpkin Prince – and, magically, in its place would be some amazing, and much-desired present. The kids thought this was fantastic – new basketball shoes, toys, whatever – and felt like gloating when the other kids had only their paltry daily ration of Halloween candy in their lunches. And the advantages to the parents? After the one-night candy-fest, the kids were happily back to eating healthy food. And then, of course, there is the Pumpkin Prince, who makes out like a bandit with all the kids’ candy, which can then be generously re-distributed at events or throughout the year.

Happy Halloween!

NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month

There. I did it. I pushed the little sign up button on the NaNoWriMo page and now I’m basically committed to writing a 50,000 word novel next month. Hoo boy.

Part of me is really excited about the challenge, and another part is wondering what the hell the first part is thinking. First of all, it’s not like I don’t have plenty of other projects on the table, or more productive things that I could be doing with my time. Second, 50K is a really big number. Big enough that I can’t really picture it in my head. Third, I’m taking a week off in November to attend a conference, and I’ll be too busy absorbing conference stuff during that week to write much, so I’m already missing a quarter of the time that people have to write. I went to the NaNo forum, and unlike (it seems) many of the people posting there, I don’t feel compelled to write all the time (unless you count journaling, and I don’t). I don’t have a story bursting inside me that needs to be told. In fact, I don’t relate to ANY of the items on the “Are you a serious writer” thread. “Would rather write a scene with two main characters having sex than have it” – are you NUTS?

Wait, what is this about?

National Novel Writing Month is a challenge to devote the time to write 50K words that all point in the same direction. 50K words amounts to a short novel, but apparently, it’s a good goal to shoot for. According to the website, last year, in 2008, they had an all-time high completion rate of 18%, of a total of 119,301 participants from around the world, so it’s difficult, but not impossible. There’s a website where you can enter your word-count, and if you make it to 50K, you win. There aren’t any big prizes on the table, so even though it would be impossibly easy to cheat, there isn’t really any point to it. It’s all about personal satisfaction. And bragging rights, if you’re into that.

That said, I was surprised to find out that the National Best-Seller, Water for Elephants, started out as a NaNoWriMo novel, and the media kit has a decent list of published authors who participate. With nearly 120K participants last year, and growing, at least I have a lot of company in this craziness.

So, why am I doing this?


Tom and I picked up the No Plot? No Problem! book a few years ago, and there were two things about the event that caught in my head, and have been rubbing around in there since then. The first is: that it’s all about word count, not quality. No one ever has to see what I’ve written (don’t even bother asking to see it – the answer is no), so it’s a great opportunity to try to shake my somewhat overactive personal editor and just type. That sounded like an interesting exercise. You could even take it as personal development, if you wanted to.

The second thing is that these writers talk about having characters come to life and direct the story. That seemed like an interesting experience too. One that might be fun to have.

That’s it. I’m not sure that these two things make up for the vast array of reasons to do something else with my time in November, but I pushed the little button. I might as well enjoy the ride.

Fall Foliage in VT

Flowers by a barn at Trapps Family Lodge
Flowers by a barn at Trapps Family Lodge
After 14 years together, Tom and I finally went to visit Tom’s parents in VT for a week during fall foliage season. Foliage season in VT is a little like the Holiday season in other towns – the hotels fill up and are charging peak rates, there’re a million people running around with cameras, snapping shots of pumpkins and other squashes, sheaves of wheat, and of course the colorful leaves.

When I asked Tom what he remembered of foliage season in VT, he said that he mostly remembered October as being rainy and grey. Sure enough, it rained every single day that we were there. Fortunately, the clouds broke enough on a couple of days that I was able to get out and see what the wash of color looked like in the sun. It was amazing.

The Sierra gets color too. I’d say that we are near peak now – several weeks after the VT foliage passed its prime. The gullies fill with gold, and here and there a bright yellow big leaf maple, or a rosy dogwood, flashes in the sunshine. Le Conte gully, in particular, is full of these small bushes that turn a brilliant shade of yellow in the fall. Stavast has a painting called Golden Armada, and I’m convinced that these are Golden Armada bushes, whatever those are. One of my rescuers recently told me that when they airlifted me out of Le Conte Gully three years ago, the rotor from the helicopter picked up a tornado of golden leaves, rising up into the air around me. Would have been cool to see.

More foliage at Trapps
More foliage at Trapps
But VT really fills with color – so much so that sometimes it seemed like my eyes were attracted to the small contrasting bit of green among all the reds, oranges, and yellows. There are more deciduous trees and fewer conifers than here, and more mountainous terrain than my home state of MN, all of which combines to create a scene really worth traveling for. We took a hike down near Waterbury Reservoir, taking in the scenery and being impressed with the people who once made a living in that steep and rocky soil. The Ricker family cemetery was particularly impressive, with three generations of Rickers, marked with headstones like the one for Phoebe Ricker who lived to be over a hundred. They must have been a hearty crew, although the nearby headstones for an infant and two other young children speaks to how tough living there really was.

Stowe Church
Stowe Church
Of course, the other reason to travel to VT, in any season, is the chance to visit with Tom’s family. Tom’s parents were wonderful and welcoming hosts. Denis rescued us in the middle of the night when our delayed flight meant that we arrived after the car rental desk had closed for the evening. We had a dinner with him, his family, and Steve C. one evening while we were there. Tracy, Ron and Julia drove up just to have some lunch with us. Julia’s list of 101 things to do before she graduates from high school, inspired me to try to come up with a bucket list too. I’m still working on it. Dinner with Steve and Mary is always a pleasure, and we’re hoping to see more of them on this coast now that Andrew is out here.

As always, vacation is just a bit too short. The day our departure flight was scheduled was to be the first sunny day that week, and we missed out on getting to sail in a race with Denis aboard his J-24. It’s not that I don’t love Yosemite, and being in the Sierra, but vacation is always good.