National Novel Writing Month was not easy for me this year, but somehow I scraped past 50,000 words on November 29th, the day before it was all “over.” Of course, it’s not really over for me, and it won’t be this time for a while. This new novel I’m working on, Red Planet, feels different from the others that I’ve worked on before. It is not remotely done yet, though I did hit 50,000 words in time. Currently I’m at 55,000 words and I plan to get to 80,000 words as a first draft goal by January 5th. I’m working on a contract with an editor so that I can get some real feedback on the first draft, and taking nine days off in late January to do nothing but focus on my story. Then the plan is to release a second draft to beta readers some time in March.
I’m excited for the “writing vacation” since I’ve never done anything like it before. At the same time, I am intimidated by the amount of work that lies ahead. I know that taking a draft seriously and reworking it, molding it into something that’s actually decent, is a tough task. It is real work after the 40-hr work week to keep creative stamina going. That’s why I will appreciate just having days to immerse myself in the world and work on the story, actively, with my editor.
I still plan on continuing my contributing work to Women Write About Comics while I work on this novel, as I can’t stop writing. This was supposed to be my year of “no writing” and “time off from writing”. Yet, I feel drawn to it, even when it’s hard to put my thoughts into words. I love to digest excellent (and excruciating) stories and think about how they are put together, why the creators chose to draw this, or write that. How can I do the same?
This last year, I managed to read more than 40 books, comic books and graphic novels all told. I wrote 25 articles for WWAC, Sidequest, and Ms. En Scene combined from July – December. And I will finish the first draft of a new novel. In retrospect, as other creators know, things that seemed hard to create at the time can feel rewarding later. That’s how I want to remember 2017. It was the year that I had a hard time writing, and pushed through that to accomplish more than I truly ever thought possible in one year, let alone six months. I’m so glad for the inspiration that the WWAC community has given me, on a number of levels. That and my dear husband Nick, who spent many nights sacrificing our time together so I could write, read, play and watch all kinds of things.
Here’s to a great 2018, friends. Check out my portfolio page for some article links, if you’re curious, or find me on Facebook. Thanks for reading.
Maine is an ideal place to live if you enjoy going outdoors, especially in a mild summer climate that rarely rises above 95 degrees. The northernmost state in New England boasts chilly sea breezes and sunny mountaintops covered in bright, thriving foliage and fauna. Where I live in Portland is particularly nice, because it allows access to mountains like Douglas Mountain or beaches like Seawall Beach within an hour of driving. Yet I am still close to the city, and can go downtown to the library for a book, or to Arcadia for a drink and a game of Galaga.
One of my favorite things to do is to find a place I’ve never been, and visit it. It’s easy in Maine because there are dozens of beaches close by. Even for those that are further away, I’m willing to drive up to 2.5 hours to go somewhere if it’s worth it. And when I can, I like to bring Batou the dog with me.
This last weekend I chose a beach called Seawall Beach, one that I had heard about on the radio. I don’t often heed advertisements, but when it’s for a beach in Maine that’s secluded and has a tiny parking lot, it’s hard not to pay attention. So I messaged my friend Alicia, who had planned on going on a hike with me this weekend, to find out if she wanted to go too. She said yes.
We went early on Saturday morning, armed with iced coffee, beach towels, and bathing suits donned under protective hiking wear. The warnings about the parking lot filling up early were no joke; by the time we arrived at 9:30 AM, more than 75% of the parking lot was already full. Alicia and I packed our backpacks up, sipped the last of the iced coffee, and started the two-mile trek through the woods.
The walk through the Bates-Morse Mountain Preserve was peaceful and beautiful. The weather was perfect; it was cool, in the upper 70s. The lush green trees along the dusty gravel road hung down, and gave us shade from the bright morning sun. It’s a 500 ft+ elevation climb, as the dirt and gravel road winds through low marshes and rumbles over a wooden bridge, to climb a short hill that leads over another rise. Neither climb was hard. It was easy enough for families we saw along the way, with their beach chairs and gear, the children tailing behind with their beach towels.
After some time we made it through the walk in the woods. We went up and down rolling hills, took a left turn here and a right turn there, until we came to the end of the woodsy path. The two of us emerged from the trees as the foliage faded away into brush, and the brush faded away into sand. Our conversation had been good, and the walk had handed both of us some challenges, including mosquitoes.
When we stepped out onto the sand and took our shoes off, we looked left and right. Nothing to see but broad beaches in either direction. There were barely any people. Tiny, near uninhabitable islands anchored in the mainland a half a mile from the edge of the beach, where it met deeper sea. We stood in awe at the wide expanse of sand that reached out to touch the Atlantic’s glittering blue waves. It was beautiful, breathtaking, infinite. We decided to walk north, towards the tiny islands and shallow tide pools beyond the sandbars.
Seawall Beach is peaceful, perfect with its glittering silver sand that leads you to the ocean. Everywhere you look, minuscule silver glints make it hard to look directly at the sand. The feeling of an extravagant, haunting magic we know nothing about hangs in the air. Gulls drifted on invisible breezes. We set down our backpacks beside a great rock that clearly belongs to the sea when the tides come in. It was early yet, and the tide was out just far enough for us to get to the sandbar, the border between deeper, icy seas and the warm shallow pools we wade in.
There was an abundance of shells at Seawall Beach, most of them in whole pieces, which felt unusual compared to other Maine beaches. There were shiny purple mussel shells, and wide brown and blue clam shells yet to be bleached by the sun. We saw the edges of the shells buried in the sand under the water. They were everywhere in the pools we wandered through; we even found a whole one. We gathered some shells to look at, but not to take home. There are rules about beaches in Maine; you do not take anything from the sea.
Alicia and I wandered around in these pools, laying on the sandbar and talking about our lives. We talked about how the world treats the people we love, and what love was. We considered our family relationships, and how we relate to other people and their understanding of the world. A helicopter flew over the tiny islands. We spotted a lighthouse on one of them, short and stubby, stubborn in its eternal watch for ships. Several small boats went by, and the morning wore on. The sun grew warmer. The sea began to creep into the mainland, covering our sandbar.
“Let’s go back before it becomes waist-deep,” we said to one another, and ventured through the tepid blue pools that stretched east to the sandy mainland. We were still talking, and it was only just 12 PM. We knew it would take us about an hour to get back to the parking lot, and about another hour to get back to Portland. Both of us had naps planned that afternoon, and I had to walk the dog. There’s no dogs at Seawall so we had to leave Batou at home for this hike. We headed away from Seawall Beach.
The way back through the woods was warmer than the way there had been. The afternoon had become more buggy also. The mosquitoes were in force despite our enthusiastic bug repellent use, and the horseflies soon joined in. We booked it back to the car, down the now less shaded gravel road. Through the marshes we marched, and up over the last hill before it gave way to the parking lot. Seawall, we decided, was a beach we must return to. Its sparkling silver sand and incredible expanse of wide, tepid tide pools would call to us again. We would bring willing friends and family who could make the hike here, any time they wanted to go.
If you’re looking for a peaceful, out of the way, gorgeous beach to spend the day, try Seawall Beach. Get there early, bring plenty of bug repellent and sunscreen. Bring food, and don’t expect to find a bathroom anywhere. But enjoy the beach for what it is: untouched, some purity remaining within this less traversed conservation area.
See the map below for directions (1 hour from Portland) :
I grew up as a homeschool kid in New Jersey, under the wings of two very conservative Evangelical Christians. For 18 years, I had a singular primary social context for how the world worked, and how I interacted with others. The idea of a “friend” or “best friend” was not often discussed, because we were all “brothers” and “sisters” based on our relationship with God and Jesus. We were all part of a flock that supposedly believed in a few basic tenets about relational love for others. These “rules” about how to treat a sister or brother-in-Christ were often broken, in my own household growing up, and at church.
This left me confused about relationships in general. I found it hard to relate to people in college, as I strove to mimic my parents’ behaviors out of habit, and ignorance. I began to deceive my friends as my parents deceived people; I downplayed my emotions until they either became a drama volcano or a breakup. Sometimes it was both. Everyone around me in college had to deal with this, and as a result many of them don’t speak to me. I would be sad to hear what they had to say about my behavior almost 10 years ago now, but I would accept it. I was not a good friend. I did not know how to be a friend.
This decade-old quest to understand how to interact with others and how to relate to them, plagues me. It dogs the steps of every friendship I have. So lately there’s this big question on my mind.
What is a True Friendship?
First, I have many mythical or literary comparisons to answer this question. There are countless examples of True Friendship* in fiction. The story of Gilgamesh and Enkidu is a great example of true friends. Enkidu dies for his best friend and adventure companion, so that Gilgamesh can seek eternal life. Another favorite example of True Friendship are the March sisters in Little Women. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy are some of the sweetest and most honest young women I’ve ever had the pleasure to read about. They sacrifice themselves for one another daily out of real, gritty love, in a time of darkness and death.
Of course, I could go on for quite some time about great literary and mythological True Friendships. Eustace and Jill, from The Silver Chair. Sam and Frodo, or Legolas and Gimli, or Gandalf and everyone, from TheLord of the Rings. Hermione, Ron, Neville, Luna, Sirius, Remus, Tonks, the Weasley family, and countless others from the Harry Potter series. These are people who fight and die for each other. They are honest with one another, and when they are not honest they regret it. There are no hidden agendas, no unspoken feelings. These people, fictional though they may be, have given me something to aspire to. They have shown me what True Friendship really is.
Some of my friends have shown me what a True Friendship is. A few people have lasted decades with me, despite all of the struggle, change, grief, and joy we have both gone through. I have best friends, newly made in the last seven years, somehow glad to put up with me and I with them. A True Friendship gives me a place to stand that makes me feel true to myself. These folks make me a better person, and I hope I improve their lives, too. The freedom to be ourselves tugs at our souls, and emerges within that open bond between two people.
This also highlights the consideration of relational connections that are not True Friendships. These humans are still friendly, and I will still support them. Perhaps we are even acquaintances. I enjoy their company, and enjoy hearing their stories or following their interesting lives. When I have the emotional capacity, I try to be sincere, and kind. I try to be honest. Sometimes, they need that kind of love from me, the same way I need it from others. Other times, my friendly advances are met with a closed door. That is OK. Everyone cannot be True Friends with everyone else. That is something special.
I wonder, what is an individual’s responsibility in a friendship? I think I have more responsibility towards a True Friendship than a basic, relational connection with someone. What do you think about friendship, and friends? What has your experience been with your fellow humans?
True Friendship – A term used to describe an intimate mutual, relational respect and candor between two creatures.