Why it’s okay to be in a reading slump in November (or, my history with NaNoWriMo)

This month, I’m participating in NaNoWriMo, which is a month-long writing challenge to write a 50,000-word novel (or part of a novel) in the month of November (The name stands for National Novel Writing Month). So while the library books stack up (and oh, how I want to read them), I’m trying to do more writing than reading this month as I draft my new YA novel. It’s a currently-untitled YA rom-com, and I’m really excited about it.

As October wrapped up, I realized I was feeling like I was in a bit of a reading slump because I had started two books that were on the bigger side but that I was slow getting into. Well, I’m still wading through those, and while I like them both, I still feel like I’m slumping a bit (we’re eight days into November and I haven’t finished a book yet!).

But I’m okay with it because if I want to meet that crazy word count, it’s better for me to get sucked into my own project right now than a book that I can’t put down, right?. (On the other hand, I keep starting new books, probably because I can’t help looking for the next book that I can’t put down. I can’t help myself.)

  NaNoWriMo pairs well with drinks of all kinds!

NaNoWriMo pairs well with drinks of all kinds!

In 2007, despite a cross-country trip home for over a week, and a 6-month old baby, I “won” NaNoWriMo, writing my first quasi-complete novel. I had always wanted to write before that, but that was the first year I actually finished a work of fiction (that project had lots of plot holes, and not much substance but hey, I did get to the end!). I feel nostalgic thinking back to the house we lived in (in another state) that year where I wrote that story.

Eight months later, I started blogging and dove headfirst into a different writing world. Nine years, and two more kids later, with blogging having slid a bit towards the back burner, I decided to try my hand at NaNoWriMo again with a middle grade book idea. I didn’t win, but I did finish it later. I gave it to Gigi for her birthday and queried it a bit, which was a good learning experience. For the next two years, NaNo kickstarted me into finishing another manuscripts (the YA one I’m currently querying), and now here I am again!

One of the best things about NaNo is connecting with other writer friends who are putting their heads down to try to cram in as many words as possible. In 2007, I met a writer friend who is one of the few people I’ve kept in touch with from our time living in Colorado, and this year, I have been connecting with fellow Bookstagrammers who are also doing NaNoWriMo. This project is such a unique writing experience that it’s fun to celebrate the high days and lament the low ones with other writers.

NaNoWriMo’s an endeavor that I recommend for every aspiring novelist to try at least once. For me, it’s been a special project, because it’s really what got me back to my dream of writing fiction, it gave me the gumption to go for it, even if I felt like I had not clue what I was doing.

Buy Scrivener 3 for macOS (Regular Licence)

It’s been a long time since I used an affiliate link here, but that’s something I’d like to bring back to the blog in small doses and I wanted to share that as far as writing goes, I’m completely in love with the Scrivener platform. This is the program I use for all my writing projects (pictured above next my holiday red cup). If you click my link and purchase it, I simply receive a small commission.

A favorite TV romance, all the love for A.Ham, and the rest of January 2018

Yay, it's my birthday month! (I always say that I feel like God knew I would love the treat of having my birthday in the middle of winter to help me get through since I'm such a summer-lover. Of course, we're not having very wintery weather this year anyway here, so I'm pretty content with winter right now....)

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Anyway! January 2018 has come and gone, and I thought it would be fun to do a little recap (feels like something from the "old" days of blogging). So here's the latest from my neck o' the woods (and kitchen tour coming soon!). 

Reading

I had a good start to the year, despite my goal of reading less this year (to make room for more creating & producing). Check out what I've been reading over on GoodReads

Writing

I am still loving my current project, which is a YA novel. I'm almost 30k words in and I feel like I'm getting into the exciting part so I find my characters ruminating in my mind a lot and beckoning me to come back to Scrivener and spend time unraveling their story more and more. I really only get time to work on writing during about half the week so I'm trying hard to dedicate myself to prioritizing it on those days when I can. 

Eating

Sourdough, sourdough, sourdough (can't stop, won't stop)! I'm thinking of curating my favorite resources and info and writing up a post about my sourdough journey. Stay tuned! Also, I recently re-fell in love with this soup

On a related note, does anyone else have anxiety about their favorite recipes living online? Every time I open a favorite pin and jump to someone's blog, I say to myself, I should really write this recipe down. So maybe that's a new 2018 goal. Because a couple of recipes I love have disappeared from the interwebs and I've had to ad-lib. Sad! 

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Wearing

Hopefully this isn't TMI but I just ordered my first Third Love bras and they are so nice! (Especially since it turns out I needed a 1/2 cup size, which explains why I normally have such a hard time finding a good fit.) Have you tried them? (If you want to try them out, too, you can use my referral code for $15 off (https://share.thirdlove.com/x/qvyUfr). That's what I did, too. Thanks, Melissa!)

Also, I got a new Dodgers shirt so I am ready for our Spring Training trip to Arizona.

Educating

You may have seen on IG that Gigi came back to the homeschool/charter school to join the other kids again. It's been a great two weeks of having everyone on the same schedule and having more time to pour into her heart again. We are approaching my favorite part of the Story of the World timeline (volume 2), and reading lots of good books these days. 

Watching & Listening

We are making our way through The Office (again) and I am again reminded how Jim and Pam's love story is one of my favorites ever. All the subtle looks and tension. Would that I could write romance like that. Also, that show is just so darn funny. (And it helps me cope with my inability to withstand such social awkardness like Michael creates.) Also Somebody Feed Phil on Netflix (!)-- We love him; glad he's back for more traveling and eating.

I saw Hamilton this month (THANK YOU MOM) and let's just say when my sister--in-law told me it would be life-changing, I sort of thought she was exaggerating, but nope! Nope, she was right. It was so amazing. I told my mom I might not want to ever see another musical. I'm sure that will pass (and I hope to see The Greatest Showman next week) in time, but I just can't get over Lin-Manuel's genius and how I feel all the emotions of it and the #immigrantsgetthejobdone way down deep in my heart. 

Also, Timeless comes back in March and my friend Rena gave me the season 1 DVD (early, accidentally, because I saw it in her room, LOL), and I will be rewatching that this month to prepare. 

I got way behind on podcasts over the holidays but I'm slowing catching up on my faves SortaAwesome and The Simple Show, and What Should I Read Next is, of course, always in my ear buds. When I need a gospel-kick-in-the-pants, my go-to is Risen Motherhood. Planning to listen to Launch with John August very soon, too.

As for music, I've been listening to lots of 90s music while I write, along with soundtracks, way too much Kidzbop for my liking (strongly considering a Spotify family account in the near future), and Havana, which I have all the heart ears (is that a thing?) for.

Bonus tidbit: it's been several years of long hair but I'm going to trim things up soon. Don't try to talk me out of it or show me pictures of Joanna Gaines because it's time. :) 

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Happy February! 

Why Forest Home has our heart, and what I love most about family camp as a mama

Last year, when the opportunity to go to "family camp" we didn't really know what we were getting ourselves into. Neither David nor I had ever done any vacations that structured/organized with our families growing up, and I personally had never even been away "to camp" but rather had just heard accounts from my brother and friends of the epic experience it would be.

(Side note: Thankfully-- since I wrote a book about summer camp-- I finally got to have some of my own camp experiences from which I could draw. Those familiar with Forest Home will recognize some little details worked into my story and the camp I made up in my book if it's published one day.)

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You guys, despite all I had heard, I was not prepared for how amazing an experience it would be to go to camp as a family. Last year, we fell in love with Forest Home. This year, as we prepared to go back for year two, anticipation was high, and all five of us were counting down until it was time to go. 

And it did not disappoint. 

Of course, with all of the activities on the docket, the fun-meter at family camp is basically off the chart. The kids could talk your ear off about the Giant Swing, the ropes course, mini-golf, the craft cabin, the pancake breakfast hike, and Lake Day (our family's favorite day of camp). 

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But here on the blog, I thought I'd share the aspects of camp that pull on my mama heartstrings the most, and what makes family camp a true vacation for parents (spoiler: free babysitting. Nope, not a joke).

And, bonus: it's such a short drive off the beaten track (aka Redlands/I-10) which is great because I love the mountains but I don't like scary mountain roads. People come to Forest Home from all over (we met a family from England this year!), but if you live in Southern California it is is especially convenient, while still feeling worlds away.

Family time, friend time, alone time. Fun time and down time. Family camp offers such a good balance. The extroverts get plenty of friend and family time (we spent every evening playing cards in the clubhouse), and the introverts can hide away in the cabin or in nature anytime the schedule feels like too much.

Everyone gets poured into and gospel-refreshed. Our kids get time in their classes that is like a VBS, but even better (I loved the new trail adventures where they studied the word while out adventuring). And the grownups get the word taught twice a day (we were so encouraged!) with lots of time to worship God through music, too. 

Yummy meals and tasty snacks (ie milkshakes!), and coffee to boot. The kitchen staff is amazing and the Clubhouse is known for its delicious shakes and addicting fries. The coffee shop is fun to have as a treat option, although I love that they set up free coffee stations early each morning for the early-risers. 

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Enjoying creation, and getting away from daily life. Plus, fresh-picked blackberries for dayzzz. The mountain setting is so beautiful and rejuvenating to the tired soul. All along the creek are berry bushes, and we were there at just the right time to get to see (and enjoy) the berries at their ripeness, too. This year we also did a little hike at Big Falls down the road from camp which was super fun.

And of course, the CCA program (aka babysitting every night, and I mean that includes not dealing with bedtime). Each family is assigned a CCA (childcare assistant) who loves on the kids each evening during the teaching/worship/free time, and what a blessing it is to have all that time together as a couple! Hands down, this program is one of the best parts of Forest Home family camp, and I look forward to sending my girls up to be CCAs some day, too. 

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Finally, I have to give a shout-out to my handsome husband and our friend who won the Blob contest with an epic, story-telling, creative prop-using Blob stunt. #DaveyPoppinsForEva

If you're curious about Family Camp or have any questions, I'd be happy to answer. We just love it so much!

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Reading and writing recap: 2017 thus far

We're just over halfway through with the year so I thought I'd do a little recap of how my reading and writing has been going this year. 

Reading

So far, I've read 41 books (or 43 according to GoodReads, not sure what my paper list is missing). I started to keep track of some with the hashtag #nicolelovesbooks on Instagram but since I read so many on Kindle (thru Overdrive/the library), I don't end up getting pics of many of the books I read. But I have done better at recording my books read on paper as well as on GoodReads, and I love having a pretty list to look at and reminisce about all the lovely books I've read. It's been a good reading year so far, with lots more to go. 

My currently reading/TBR includes: Present Over Perfect, Big Magic, The Girl from Everywhere (about a time traveling YA pirate girl), A Snicker of Magic, For Darkness Shows the Stars (a YA dystopian Persuasion re-dux), Ginny Moon, Echo, Some Kind of Happiness, At Home in the World, Much Ado About Anne, Chasing Slow, and Border Odyssey (stories from the US/Mexico border). My upcoming book club selection is an Agatha Christie, which will be my first of hers. And of course, the TBR list grows daily it seems. (So many books, so little time!)

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Around the fam-- David read and enjoyed Ready Player One (he liked it more than me but I am looking forward to the movie) and just started The Hunger Games (!!). The fact that he's reading more has me all swoony. ;) Gigi is reading lots (recently The Babysitters Club (originals and new graphic versions), The Mother-Daughter Book Club, Little Women (my childhood abridged copy) and lots more, and Brody has been devouring Magic Tree House books in order, along with lots of graphic novels, and most recently some of the easier Matt Christopher (who's actually a lady!) baseball books, like this one

Writing

In addition to my quarterly posts at The Art of Simple and what's become almost that infrequent here on my blog, I've been writing a lot (well, a lot for me). I finished my middle grade novel manuscript and have been editing and revising that and now I'm ready to submit it to Pitch Wars, a really cool contest and community. I've written a query letter and a synopsis and I have a couple more weeks to polish those up before entering in early August. 

My next project is flourishing in my mind but I haven't quite found/made the time to do much in the way of concrete outlining/plotting yet. It's a YA and I am really excited about bringing these characters' stories to life. 

  {sometimes when you have a creepy dream and wake up early, you have to redeem the time and get to work!}

{sometimes when you have a creepy dream and wake up early, you have to redeem the time and get to work!}

Podcasts

If you're a reader, I'm sure you already know and love the What Should I Read Next? podcast, but another fun one I found recently is Overdue. Each episode the two hosts discuss one book, so I've downloaded a bunch about books I've read and they're quite entertaining. As for writing, I have been really loving the diyMFA podcast. Although, now that it's summer I'm pretty behind on my podcast listening-- something to look forward to when I'm driving to school and practices more in the fall. 

One last note...

I think I'll try to send a newsletter in the early fall with more thoughts on this, but after much prayer and consideration we decided to send Gigi to public school for 5th grade. She is thrilled. I'll still be homeschooling (part-time) Brody and Hallee for 1st and 2nd grade, which should be fun.

Hope you're enjoying your summer!

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