NaNoWriMo 2014 excerpt #3: Dot starts her last year at school

I keep on walking the route. I see more homes. Some falling apart. Some look like they will make it through the coming winter. I see people who are alone and people who are in families. Even if I don’t know the exact story of somebody, I can make a pretty good guess.

I can tell if it’s a farm family, or a fishing family, or a family that’s given up and does the drug. I don’t know everybody by name, but I recognize every place on the route. I couldn’t tell you the names of the lanes that lead off it, but I know them all.

I have them memorized from the years of walking by. I notice if someone’s dog is missing or if they cut down a tree. I notice if they buy a new pony or have a baby. Suddenly there are toys in the front.

Once I get to the village, the road gets even and smooth. So many people use it between the houses.

Our school is a simple building. You might not even recognize it from all the other buildings in the village. Last spring, I couldn’t wait to leave it.

Seeing it this morning, knowing it’s my last year, I feel hot in my eyes. So stupid! Who cries on the first day of school for their last year? Even though it hasn’t always been fun, it feels better to be with people than on my own.

I blink. Stop it, Dot, stop it. Get a grip. Head up. Do you want them to see you like this?

I keep on walking.

Of course, I’m the first person. Our teacher says a word of welcome to me.

“Sit where you like, Dot. Did you have a good summer?”

“It was fine, thanks.”

I pick a spot by the window. The grey clouds hang over. They’re light from the long sunrise.

NaNoWriMo-2014-excerpt-3-Dot-starts-her-last-year-at-schoolIn my notebook, I write the date. I doodle in the margins. Ponies, seabirds, swirls.

People trickle in and greet each other. I get their “hellos” and “hey Dots.”

I try to answer back.

Finally, Abby comes in.

“Sorry I didn’t walk with you today, Dot! My ridiculous sisters! I will walk with you tomorrow, OK? They are just driving me crazy!”

She launches into a story that involves her sisters and sweaters and whose was what and who calls it borrowing and who calls it stealing.

I love being friends with Abby. She makes it so easy.

She loves to talk and I love to listen. I hardly have to say a thing and we can have a conversation for an hour. As long as I ask a question here and there, she will keep going.

And maybe, I wouldn’t even have to do that!

NaNoWriMo 2014 excerpt #2: Dot on the route

"Swaledale Sheep, Lake District, England - June 2009" by User:Diliff - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
“Swaledale Sheep, Lake District, England – June 2009” by User:Diliff – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

I decide to take the wagon route.

It’s longer but smoother. This is the route everyone takes with their animals. Anyone not a daredevil, or former mountain runner, or past the age of 40 takes the wagon route. It’s called the route.

My mind made up, I don’t have to bother hurrying. I check out all the places I pass as I walk.

First, the old man’s place. He isn’t out. They say he used to be a big man on the mainland, but the drug got him. Now he waits out the rest of his life just to smoke and dream. He hardly talks. His place is falling down around him. I think it’s depressing.

Further down, I see Violet’s house. She is a sweet woman with twin boys. Her husband’s a fisherman like my dad. I hear sounds from her house. I always like to see what the boys have built in her yard. They construct ships and houses from whatever they can find around the island.

I walk for a while with wild lands to see. The heather looks dusky purple in the dawn. It’s like I am the only one on the island. The wind whirls my hair. It feels fresh and I’m almost in a good mood. Maybe this last year of school will be OK.

Now I see my favorite place. It’s the old woman’s. She keeps sheep. They dot the pasture. Her place always looks lively. She moves them from different paddocks. I don’t know why.

Today they’re in the paddock closer to the road. I lean on the stone fence. Their wool looks thick and cozy. I hear them breathe and chew. I like how they move as a group if anything startles them. It looks nice to be part of a sheep herd. They graze together and go everywhere together too.

I look up toward the barn. Cats sit outside the barn door. I don’t see the old woman anywhere. Just as well. Some people say she’s a witch. She doesn’t mix much with people in the village. I’ve seen her take the ferry to the mainland with a sheep sometimes, or a pile of knitted goods taller than her when she sits next to it.

I don’t know why she wouldn’t just give it to the storekeeper for him to sell. Nobody understands her.

NaNoWriMo 2014 excerpt #1: Meet Dot

This month, I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo as it’s affectionately known. This year, more than 400,000 people around the world have joined the challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. In Columbia, Missouri, we have more than 200 people taking part. On day 5, we’ve already written about 700,000 words as a community. Amazing! I appreciate how NaNoWriMo makes a solitary endeavor into a social one. Send me your luck and encouragement for my adventure of writing fiction for the first time!

For my blog during November, I’ll be posting unedited excerpts from my writing. My story is a Young Adult novel that centers on Dot, a 17-year-old girl in her last year at school on the foggy island where she lives. Just when she thinks her life as an awkward outcast has ended with the start of a new relationship, she has to decide how much she will give to be in a couple. Her boyfriend, Drake, gets involved with an unusual drug. Will she get involved too? 

Excerpt #1: Meet Dot

fogTurning the light on is the hardest part of the morning when my dad’s gone. The house is quiet. It’s up to me to wake up.

Days when he’s home, the light from the kitchen floods in my room. The smell of coffee wafts over my bed. He rattles around, clinking mugs and getting his toast ready. I love it when he’s home. Our house is a much friendlier place.

But it’s the first day of school and he’s not here. I sigh and turn on the light. It’s my job to be the responsible one.

I keep my shawl on the top of my bed so I can wrap up in it first thing. It’s warm. It doesn’t matter than it’s August. We don’t have a warm season on the island. We have a frosty, foggy, windy winter and a foggy, windy, cool summer. They say there are two seasons here where the mainland has four.

Once in the kitchen, I put on the kettle. I only have coffee when my dad’s home. I just make tea if it’s me.

I have all my school supplies set out from the night before. I keep them in a felted wool bag I made myself. We’re known for our wool and knitted items.

I gather my things and leave early so I can make it in time. I know there are people in my class who haven’t even woken up by the time I have to leave my house. They can wake up and run down the mountain to class, making it in time.

For me, I have to plan. “My planner and plodder girl,” says my dad.

I go out the gate and start to walk the rocky way to school.

I still haven’t decided which way to take.

The way most people my age would take is steep. It’s a direct path down to the village on the waterfront. Rocky, rough and only a person’s width, I only walk it if I’m with someone who insists. I’ve fallen too many times on it to make it my first choice.

But I’ve been thinking that I could learn to walk it. If it were early enough like now, maybe I could find all the places I have enough traction. I could go slowly, not holding anyone back behind me. I would save at least 10 minutes.

I stand at the place where the shortcut starts.

The cut or the route?

As always, I see the steepness and catch my breath. If I fall, I will have to start school with bruises and blood. Once again, I’ll hear their names. Dumb Dot. Clumsy Dot. Or even worse, Poor Dot with her bad leg. She must have tried to take the shortcut again.

I imagine the girls shaking their heads in pity over me. I decide to take the wagon route.

30 days to a better book

Photo by Michael Maggs, Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Michael Maggs, Wikimedia Commons

I’ve been reading books on drugs.

And looking online about how to keep sheep.

I carry a small notebook in my purse. Last night, I took it out at the restaurant and wrote, “She is so large that she can’t cross her arms. She has to settle for crossing her hands and tucking them beneath her wrists because of her width.”

Drugs? Sheep? Scribbling notes about strangers in fast food places? What could be going on?

I only have a few weeks to research drugs, sheep and characters before I start writing my first fiction novel in November for National Novel Writing Month!

Known affectionately as NaNoWriMo, or NaNo, this month requires writing about 1,700 words daily for a final word count of 50,000. It’s a community event open to everyone. Interested? Check out the NaNo site and join me! (There’s even a NaNo prep page).

Why do NaNo?

nano logoWhy would thousands of writers push themselves to produce so much in so little time? It’s fun to try! Even if someone doesn’t make the word count, any words written are more than existed before.

As my longtime readers know, I have two drafts of my memoir done, thanks to NaNo. Neither of them satisfies me.

My husband, Logan, suggested I practice pure fiction as a way to learn the craft of a novel-length story. After more practice, the next draft of the memoir might be easier to wrangle.

As I come from a poetry background where I think in a handful of words, a fictional story sounded like a good challenge for me.


Like the first time at a foxhunt, my trusty horse of imagination ripples in anticipation. The dogs are baying. The horns will blow. Come November first, we gallop.

During November, you’ll have a front-row seat for my first time writing fiction and be able to see my excerpts here. There might be sheep…or dragons.

Ready for the adventure with me?


Lord, today you offer us new things to try.
Stories waiting to be written,
dances waiting to be danced,
fabric waiting to be quilted.

Cause our minds to see what could be
and our hearts to dare to do it.

Tell me your thoughts!

What fresh challenge awaits you?