It’s that time again…

NaNoWriMo2014In the past, I’ve used NaNoWriMo‘s External Deadline Superpower to push my current work-in-progress past that next milestone.

But I’m not feeling it this year. I mean, I’ve been plugging away at one draft or another of Asylum for years now. Can I just be done already?

Yeah, I might be having some burnout.

I was whining to a very dear friend about that last week, and she suggested that (gasp!), I use NaNoWriMo to work on something completely new. That seems… crazy.

And yet… The Seven-Year-Old has been begging me to write a book with her for months now, but I keep putting her off on the grounds that I need to finish my own work-in-progress first. She knows all about NaNoWriMo, though, and is completely convinced that a month will be plenty of time to finish the chapter book she has in mind. (“It’ll have lots of pictures, Mommyo.”)

So I’m taking a month off from my usual laboring and am writing up the adventures of an elderly, somewhat cranky rabbit instead. A self-taught dragonologist, Ebenezer Rabbit believes fervently in the existence of dragons, and will happily share his extensive knowledge with any of his fellow meadow-dwelling creatures unwary enough to ask. There’s one problem: Ebenezer has never met a dragon himself, so must rely on others for his own information.

The first story in our planned series, The Rutabaga Rumpus, takes place on the day Ebenezer finally meets a dragon in the wild, and learns how woefully misinformed he’s been. Other stories — The Great Carrot Chase, The Brussel Sprout Bruhaha, and Soup to Nuts — are sadly little more than enticing titles at this point, although I have full confidence in The Seven-Year-Old’s ability to come up with whimsical plotlines.

In our NaNoWriMo partnership, The Seven-Year-Old is supplying the whimsy (“and the art, Mommyo”), I’m providing the words to put her fantastical plots to paper. Since I’ll be doing the bulk of the drafting, we’ve signed up for the grown-up NaNoWriMo, which commits us to 50,000 words (the kids’ version of NaNoWriMo, the NaNoWriMo Young Writers’ Program lets you set your own goals for word counts).

To keep The Seven-Year-Old motivated, I’ve printed out a black and white version of the NaNoWriMo logo, and plan to use it as a visual reminder of our word count. Every 5,000 words, the Seven-Year-Old can color in another section of the logo.

Given The Seven-Year-Old’s extensive plan for illustrations, I don’t know if we’ll actually make the 50,000 word count, but I do know we’ll have lots of fun. And remembering how fun writing can be is something I desperately need right now.

Happy November!


About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book, Did Dinosaurs Have Belly Buttons?, is currently planned for release in 2018. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Ten-Year-Old at, chatting about books and the writing life at, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
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