November is National Novel Writing Month (abbreviated NaNoWriMo and then whittled down further to NaNo), and I’m going to be writing like a fiend.
You should plan to be my mental support group as I try to hit my word count every day. Don’t worry, it won’t require too much – just blankets, snacks, beverages, and encouragement not to go back and delete everything I’ve written so far. If you want to come over and do my dishes and feed my family that would be helpful.
I’m planning to be bold and share the Work In Progress (WIP) as I slog through November. I hope to make it pretty regular, but if you see a decrease in the number of posts from me, you’ll know why. You can picture me at my kitchen table, hair pulled up into a messy (read: not cute) ponytail/bun, dirty coffee cup within easy reach, a slightly frenzied look in my eye.
Because I’m not all that creative and not trying to write sci-fi or something that requires me to create whole new worlds , I use bits and pieces from life around me. Usually that means something real is the seed that becomes a new plant in the story. It could be a scene captured in my mind long ago, a conversation that was meaningful, a situation that never got resolved, even the smell of a lake during autumn, but these things rarely stay in their purest form while I’m writing. The grain of truth is there underneath but (at least this is how it’s worked so far) it gets trained on the trellis and becomes a new version of itself.
I’m telling you all this so that if you have deja vu while you read parts of the WIP you won’t feel threatened. I’m not here to air anybody’s secrets or write some kind of tell-all. I wouldn’t have much to tell, and I mean that in all the best ways. My experiences have been pleasantly devoid of scandal so you’ll know I’m making stuff up if things get juicy.
My new story for this year’s NaNoWriMo
The idea I want to focus on for NaNo focuses on camp. Did you ever go to camp as a kid, work there as a college student? I did both, and camp was a central player in my life for many years. Even now, I remain loosely tied to camp and value the camp experience for most everybody.
There are many people who outline and plot their WIP far in advance, and others who just wing it. I’ve only done NaNo one time (last year) and that time I had a rough plan for a story, most of which I kept in my head. Because you’re trying to write 50,000 words in one month and based on my experience last year, I think it is helpful to have a rough sketch of major plot points, kind of as a road map of where you want the story to go. Of course, you must be prepared to ditch the plan and go with what is happening (sometimes those characters are wily critters!).
That’s about all I can tell you right now, since I’m still percolating on many details. Some of them I won’t figure out until I’m already knee-deep in the story.
Wish me luck, and I hope to check in (in a more limited form) throughout November!
I’d welcome any vivid memories from those times at camp, positive or negative. I’m looking for inspiration, so even little details can be helpful. Do you have any stories you’d care to share?
Coming home from camp is hard.
There you are. For a few glorious days you wear what you want, make personal choices without intervention from a bossy adult, and are provided constant stimulation specifically designed for you.
It’s a little taste of kid heaven.
And then you return to the reality of parents who make you change your underpants, brush your teeth, use bug spray, and expect appreciation for food they prepare for you that you don’t even like.
It’s an unreasonable expectation.
Poor kids. They’ve got it rough.
From a kid’s perspective though, it is hard to go from camp’s activity and freedom back to the confines of his former life. It’s a little bit like trying to get your arms through a shirt that’s a size too small. With some contortions, you can do it, but it’s gonna feel squeezy.
As a parent, it is important for me to remember what it felt like to return to reality. When I came home after a camp experience, I felt confined, as if I had regressed and had my liberties taken away prematurely. Everything bugged me, my siblings and parents most of all. There were memories and inside jokes that no one else understood. And most of all, home was B*O*R*I*N*G. Where was the zip line and canoe trips up Hidden River? How could I be expected to keep up a positive attitude under such conditions?
Part of what makes camp so amazing is being a part of experiences that are both unique and shared. If you did that zip line all by yourself, it isn’t quite the same as doing it with a friend, the freaking out and communal terrification ahead of time (I made up that word – feel free to use it amongst yourselves) and the jumping jubilation on wobbly legs afterwards. Sharing the experience is part of what makes it so meaningful. And if the people you shared with are no longer accessible, there is a definite feeling of homesickness for them, homesickness for someplace other than home.
Our schedule happened to work out with the kids doing a three hour sport activity every morning this week, immediately following their time at camp. It’s too early to say if this is a good or bad thing. (Let’s just say that Bobo decided he wouldn’t go today, so maybe that’s an indicator? He assures me that he’ll participate tomorrow. We’ll see…) It is either a stroke of accidental brilliance, or extreme stupidity.
No matter what, I need to keep in mind that they will need some extra space and patience from me this week as they readjust. And maybe I can venture to give them a degree of greater independence since they’ve crossed the bridge of being away from home and family for a few nights. I’m not giving any guarantees, but I can try.
Do you have any suggestions on how to help kids who might be missing camp? How do you handle the return to routine when you’ve been somewhere special?
Something was wrong.
It was quiet.
No fans producing background noise.
No sound of someone flipping over in the bed down the hall, no sound of a hard-backed turtle toy bumping into the wall as someone shifted the sheet.
It was unnerving.
As I tried to make myself sleep, I kept thinking about my two oldest children, Rex and Bobo (special names for them), away at camp for the first time.
Were they going to fall out of their bunk beds?
Were they going whizz in said bunk bed?
Were they going to wake up disoriented in the middle of the night, wonder where they were? Would they cry out for me?
Would their counselor know how to comfort them?
Yeah, and let’s talk about this “counselor” guy anyway.
Who is this child who happens to be taller than me? He looks like a eight year old, with his adorable sprinkle of freckles and quick smile. I bet he hopes he’s setting my fears to rest with that confident conversation and quick demonstration of kind authority, but he can’t do that while looking like a boy dressed in his father’s business suit. How can I entrust my children to this baby? His brain isn’t even fully developed yet!
This is all coming from a person who attended or worked at camps from the age of 9-25.
When I look back at who I was while I worked at camp, I am forced to concede that my boys are probably going to be fine while they’re away over the next few days. The people I worked with at camp were some of the most dedicated, creative, passionate people I’ve ever known. They bent over backwards and literally drove through fire to make camp a spectacular event for each child there.
[I mean it when I say fire. For some reason we thought it would be a great idea and dramatic entrance to a skit to have someone zoom a motorcycle through a line of fire, skid to a stop, and have the passenger, sans helmet, jump off the back. Let’s just say there were a lot of guardian angels flying around that summer.]
That’s the other thing I am quick to forget…
It isn’t only humans at work at camp. God is at work too.
So while I reorganize and try to distract myself from worrying they’ll come home covered in mosquito-bite welts, God reveals more of Himself, draws them closer, independent of the guidance my husband and I provide at home. And this is one of my greatest prayers and desires: that my children would invest in and cultivate their own dynamic relationships with God, independent of my own faith.
Camp is a great way to take that first step of releasing them to do this.
Even if it keeps me awake every night all week.
I’d love to hear some favorite memories of your experience with camp. Do you have any coping suggestions for the mom of some first-timers? How did you and your kids handle it?