Today is the first full day of Hanukkah, so the holidays are in full swing. For me, the season has always been about music: Carols when I was little. Sacred music when I sang in my high school and college choirs. (I still think Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” is the most joyful 4 minutes of music ever written.)
My favorite carol is “Little Drummer Boy,” so I was entranced when this cover by Pentatonix went viral last year:
They’ve got a new Christmas album this year, and I just love this song:
Pentatonix has a very contemporary sound, but if you’d like to hear something completely different, here’s a playlist of medieval Christmas music from Anonymous 4. This selection spans a thousand years, from the fifth century to the fifteenth. It’s a wonderful reminder of the power that holidays hold, and how they inspire us through the ages.
To me, it doesn’t feel like Christmas without the music of the season playing. What about you? What puts you in the holiday spirit?
On January 3rd, the Dutchman, the girl child, and I will board a plane and fly to Amsterdam for six months. Six months! Our daughter, a high-school sophomore, is doing her second semester at an international school there, and we are going to follow.
It’s quite possibly the worst time of the year to go to the Netherlands. The weather will be atrocious—cold and gloomy and wet—and our main mode of transportation will be a bike. Winter storms are frequent and frequently violent, and I’ve watched more than one person be blown—literally—off theirs. And because of Holland’s location just south of the North pole, the first few months of the year it’s hardly ever light. You go to work and it’s dark. You come home and it’s dark. Your vitamin-D window is only a handful of hours at best, and even then the sun is usually hidden behind a thick layer of low-hanging clouds.
Are we crazy? Probably. But it’s partly because of all those reasons that I’m so excited to go. The Dutch have a word for this season—donkere dagen, or dark days—and they “celebrate” it by holing up in their homes with roaring fires and flickering candles, good food and better friends. I don’t know about you, but after the craziness of the holiday season, that sounds like heaven to me.
And inevitably, always, after winter comes spring.
Last month I shared that I was participating in National Novel Writing Month for the first time, and promised I’d tell my experience this go round.
[For any unfamiliar, the annual writer’s “contest” — which runs through the thirty days of November — is a push to write 50,000 words toward a new novel. Though also, many will set their own goals and continue with a project already in progress.]
I was anxious and unsure and thrilled and soaring with hope, because I knew I was a slow, meticulous writer, and I knew that I had been struggling to do any fiction writing of significance for months (alright, years), and I also knew I needed force in the right direction.
Choosing to participate in NaNo was a good decision, and I didn’t let myself down. I wrote just over 35,000 words of my new novel’s rough draft.
I never knew I could write so fast, and I certainly never considered that I could write so messy. But I did!
When I realized I wouldn’t make the 50k goal, I decided I was okay with that. More than satisfied. Because by then, given how my story line had evolved and where my characters sat, I knew I needed to step back and assess what I’d accumulated. So then I gave myself permission to do so. If I’d forced words just to count 15,000 more, it would only have dragged me down, confused my process, and placed me where I couldn’t have been sure I’d write myself out of.
I took a break for Thanksgiving, and have since gotten back to it. Starting with page one, I’ve begun fleshing things out. Building scenes and characters, adding narration. It’s a big task, but the work I did through the effort of NaNo gave me an excellent skeleton to work with. And I’m so pleased about that.
My goal is get through rewrites and additions and revisions (however many rounds it takes to satisfy me), compose a full-length novel, and query the book to agents before the end of 2015. We’ll see how it goes.
Will I do NaNo again? I’m not at all opposed to it. And I may need another push for a new project come this time next year. :)