Day 2 – 7,612 words

This idea is now officially a work in progress!Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 4.48.57 PM

(I’m not so sure how much sense these few thousand words make just yet, but they’re there, all in one document, in some kind of an order. They’re a beginning.)

As I promised myself, I’m not doing any editing work until I’ve finished writing the entire draft. There will be no second guessing character names. There will be no wondering if certain paragraphs are really necessary. There will no looking back, whatsoever.

42,388 WORDS TO GO
Looking forward — all the way to the end of the goal — is, well, kind of daunting. I know that the momentum of the first two days isn’t likely to continue throughout the month, but it is still a really good start. I like this idea and the way it is forming; I like the characters that are emerging. I feel good about this project.

And tomorrow is another day.

How is your writing going? Any tips or suggestions for this determined writer?


Don’t forget to write! Going to summer camp at CampNaNoWriMo

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Look on the bright side; there’s nowhere to go from here but closer to the goal!

I’ve tried this challenge of writing a novel in one month a few times before. Each of those times, I have been unsuccessful. But hey, nothing says “hopeless optimist” like dusting yourself off and trying again, right? All jokes aside, I know that successfully completing this challenge is possible and it is really going to be about applying the growth mindset.

I’ve got this.

I feel good about this time.

This time is already off to a different and promising start. I’ve tried NaNoWriMo before during November, not during the summer. So this is actually my first time as a CampNaNoWriMo camper.

Like any good camper, I am getting ready. I’ve completed my registration…and I’m looking forward to meeting my cabin-mates soon! Having a support group of other writers will be something new this time around. I have already thought about the project that I want to work on. It’s one that I’ve been thinking about for a while, but haven’t started writing yet; it’s perfect for this challenge. I’ve even gone ahead and set up the donation page to help raise funds for the organization.

And like a true camper, I will be writing letters home about my stay. I’ll share these letters about my novel progress here on the blog. It will help keep me accountable for finishing.

Okay. I know what you might be thinking. You don’t have to scroll far through old posts on this blog to see previous attempts at finishing this challenge and keeping myself accountable, but I won’t let those experiences deter me. It’s okay. Not succeeding at the challenge before just means that I’ve already learned a few strategies to help me win it this time. (There’s that growth mindset again.) Those previous attempts have simply helped me to understand the challenge better and better understand what I need to do to complete it.

This time around:

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1600 words a day is going to be a piece of cake. ;)

1) I will write first thing in the morning – When I’ve tried this challenge before, I waited until later in the day, after work, after all my other responsibilities were finished to sit down and write. Not this time. This time the writing comes first.

2) I won’t be picky about my writing tools – Sometimes the best ideas come to us when we aren’t planning to write. When these ideas come, I’m not going to wait until I am seated at the computer to work on them. I will write them down in my notebook, on a back of an envelope, a napkin, or my own hand if I have to. I’m not going to let any ideas escape this time.

3) I will leave the editing for later – It’s hard for me not to go back and revise my work as I go. I know this really slowed me down a lot in the past. This time, I am not going to let myself even look back at what I’ve written until the whole thing is finished. (See point #4 for more explanation.)

4) I will use my outline – To write a full novel in one month’s time, it takes a lot of discipline. I’ve tried it before without an outline and it was just not a good idea. The outline will keep me on track and make sure that there is always something to write about. Most importantly, I will have the outline to refer back to instead of  needing to look through sections of previous writing — and won’t be tempted to revise until it is time.

Wish me luck!

And don’t forget to write!


Book Review: Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

This may not be one of my better drawings, but for sentimental reasons it is one of my favorites.

I have a thing for stars. This came to my attention a few years ago, as I was pinning images to my Pinterest boards, and I noticed that I had been inadvertently collecting images of stars, quotes about stars, and just about anything and everything star-related (and so I started a new board dedicated to stars). I also became aware of how I doodle stars on my papers and use stars as bullet points in my notes or when I encounter favorite passages in the books that I read. I like the geometric shapes that we call stars as well as the celestial ones. I like the words we use to describe stars like bright, shiny, and shimmery. I like how stars symbolize our destiny and how we refer to them when we tell our stories. I like that stars are universal. I like saying stars in Spanish, las estrellas. Stars just make me happy.

When I received a copy of Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed, I, of course, immediately felt a connection to the book because of its title and moved it up the reading cue.  (Let’s face it, when there are many unread books on our shelves something has to make us want to pick one of them out from the crowd.) Enticed by the questions on the book’s back cover — Has Naila’s fate been written in the stars? Or can she change her destiny? — I was curious to find out the role that stars would play in Saeed’s book.

“…when you fight destiny, destiny fights back. Some things, they’re just written in the stars.” ~Aisha Saeed, Written in the Stars

In this story, the life of a young woman named Naila is completely turned inside out. Like many American teenagers, Naila and her parents don’t always agree about what is best for her. As she comes of age, makes friends, plans her studies and future career path, and falls in love, her interests and her family’s traditional Pakistani beliefs clash terribly.

The conflicts in the story unfold through Naila’s naive eyes. She is spirited and gentle; we feel joy and confusion along with her. Then later we feel incensed and terrified as she tries to understand the actions of the other characters and all of the decisions being made for and around her. We experience traditional Pakistani culture as Naila’s family teaches the many facets of the traditions to her and she is torn between embracing the traditions and the family she loves or following her own heart. Ultimately,  Naila’s family’s traditional ways overpower her free will, and she finds herself trapped in a country and a marriage she does not choose — or know how to leave.

I was filled with such strong and conflicting emotions from early on in the book, that I had to read it all in one sitting. As I read, I both wanted Naila to be happy, and I wanted the other characters to be happy as well. I wanted Naila to stay, and I wanted her to flee. I wanted Naila to understand her parents, and I wanted them to understand her. I wanted Naila to love and to be loved. Through her own understanding of the way things are and the way she would like them to be, Saeed tells a story that successfully weaves together all of these dichotomies.

Saeed creates authentic and relatable characters for whom we want to cheer on, while she simultaneously keeps true to the notion that some things are predestined. By the end of the emotional journey through the book, I was ready for whatever the stars had in store for Naila.


Sixty Books

Back in October, I picked up a copy of Stephen King’s On Writing that had been sitting on my bookshelf for years. I was about to be a passenger while my then-fiancé drove three hours from New Jersey to Connecticut, and I figured the trip would allot me some solid reading time. I had wanted to read King’s book for a while, but the real reason that I selected it on that particular morning was because the edition was a lightweight paperback — and honestly, I loved the way the grainy texture of the cover felt in my hands. There was no deep or major intellectual decision going on here.

Ah, how some of the most seemingly insignificant decisions we make can have the greatest impact!

Needless to say, the book is really amazing. King’s ability to write memoir and keep readers enthralled is excellent. He weaves his biographical experiences and insights in with advice and pointers for writerB00HxI8CUAA8t_1s. I’m only sorry that it took me so long to take the book off of my shelf and start reading it. If anyone else is delinquent in reading this book, I encourage you to make haste and read it as soon as you can.

One of the most interesting writing tips that King gives is his advice to read — a lot. Okay, he isn’t the first writer to give that advice. We’ve all heard that same advice a million times. Other writers — and every great writing teacher I’ve ever had — all say that we must read a lot in order to write well. The thing that struck me when I read the advice this time, was that King gives a number. He says that he reads about sixty books a year.

Okay, Stephen King, maybe YOU have time to read sixty books a year. What about the rest of us?

(Personally, at the time I read this advice, I was busy working full-time, planning a wedding, and getting caught up in all the other day-to-day things that keep us busy. I didn’t see how I could possibly afford the time to read that many books in one year.)

Seeking validation for my skepticism I checked my Goodreads account, where I have been pretty consistent at logging the books I read for the last few years, and I discovered that I had actually read about forty books the previous year and a similar number the years before. Still not yet convinced that reading an additional twenty books a year was even a plausibility for me, I noted Stephen King’s advice and gently tucked it aside in a corner of my mind for safe keeping.

At the same time I started On Writing, I had also been reading a book called  Think Like a Freak by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, the authors of Freakonomics. (I tend to do this, start and read multiple B0tWnWFIgAAxRXAbooks at once. There’s something kind of lonely to me about only having one book “in progress” at a time, but that is fodder for another post!) I had started reading right before I read On Writing, and I finished it just after.

This was one of the most fun books I’ve read in a long time. I would say that I am generally an out-of-the-box thinker, and so I really appreciated the authors’ take on various topics and advice for looking at things and thinking differently. This book is an excellent read for anyone who is interested in finding ways to develop a stronger growth mindset or who feels like they just want a new perspective.

And wouldn’t you know, these authors also go ahead and recommend the same advice about reading often, citing long lists of successful leaders and business owners who do so. And, just like King, they quantify the number of books per year. In just two days’ time, the notion of reading about sixty books per year — and the incredible value in doing so — was presented to me.

I know I couldn’t just consider it a coincidence — that in both of these books written by successful people about successful people that there is a magic number of books we need to read each year — and then move on. I kept thinking about this number. I mean I’d been pretty close with about forty books a year, so maybe adding twenty more books wouldn’t be so tough. I struggled with figuring out how I could fit all of these books into my own schedule.

Then, two more things happened over the next few months to convince me that I had to find a way.

First, I came across this quote by Lisa See from Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: “Read a thousand books, and your words will flow like a river.” I did a little math, and 1000 books divided by 60 books a year works out to almost 17 years. It hit really me then. (Like a big punch in the gut or a hard slap in the face, it hit me.) If I had been reading at the full pace of sixty books a year all along, perhaps writing would be a lot easier for me by now. Perhaps I would be formulating my ideas a little more clearly. It struck me that I had some serious catching up to do on my reading.

UAAAAldEVYdGRhdGU6Y3JlYXRlADIwMTQtMTAtMjFUMDM6MTQ6NTAtMDc6MDBPKjBrAAAAJXRFWHRkYXRlOm1vZGlmeQAyMDE0LTEwLTE2VDIzOjIxOjQ2LTA3OjAwoct3agAAAABJRU5ErkJggg==I did a little more (quick) math, and 60 books a year divided by 52 weeks a year is just over 1 book a week. Broken down like that, I was just about convinced that I could do it, that I could read a book a week.

Then, the second thing happened which made it absolutely impossible for me not to commit to sixty books. I logged in to my Goodreads account in January and sure enough, there was the 2015 Reading Challenge, taunting me to set a reading goal for the year. Other Goodreads members had already set their goals. I saw that some had goals of thirty books, and some much higher goals of one hundred and fifty! I know myself pretty well as a reader, and I know that I like to read slowly and take notes and write in the margins of my books when I can. I figured, therefore, that anything over sixty year might be too much for me, so I decided to go ahead, listening to good advice, and set a reading goal of sixty books for the year. I was officially committed to my new goal.

As with any resolution set in the cold month of January, there is a chance that the motivation will taper off. There is a strong risk that our beginning-of-the-year good intentions will become waylaid by the hustle and bustle of our modern lives. We have short attention spans these days. We get easily distracted. We are fickle.

For all of those reasons, I have kept my goal of sixty books pretty private — until now.  Today, I am happy to say that I have finished reading twenty-nine of the sixty books (which Goodreads informs me is one book ahead of schedule). I am also in the middle of reading three other books right now and just ordered two more for book club discussions. I’m feeling pretty confident that my goal of sixty books is not only plausible, but is probable, and possible as well. (Especially with all of the wedding plans behind us now and summer vacation ahead, I think I might even surpass the goal this year!)

Future posts will be dedicated not only to accomplishing this goal of reading sixty books, but also what reading sixty books is helping me to accomplish.

Thank you, Stephen King, Steven Levitt, and Stephen Dubner. I am very, very thankful that I read your books.

It is with experience-based confidence in my own ability to keep up the pace of sixty books that I offer the same challenge to all of you. Will you commit to reading sixty books? Do you already read sixty books a year? More? I’d love to know.

Leave your comments below or use #SixtyBooks on Twitter to keep the conversation going.


Love, Love, Love, Love, Crazy Love

Melissa Morris Inoa:

One of my dearest friends, Patricia Motley, wrote a beautiful post about my recent wedding on her blog, Never Balanced. It is an absolute honor and a privilege to reblog this post today.

Originally posted on Never Balanced:

I asked, “How did you know he/she was the one?”

She said,

” From our very first date it just felt like I already knew him. And every time after that it felt more and more comfortable.”

He said,

“I just knew.  Whether it is just walking in the park, or on the beach, she just fills me up.”

Yesterday was such a great day.  I witnessed the nuptials of my oldest and dearest friend, Melissa and her new husband Jonathan. I was honored to be invited to join Melissa in the bridal suite the morning of the wedding as she prepared along with her sister (the matron of honor) and her mom.  I have been an extended part of this family for over 20 years and graciously accepted the invitation.

The ceremony and the reception was held at The Palace in Somerset Park.We started off the day in the bridal…

View original 745 more words

We will figure it out together. #WWFIOT

For the last nine years or so, I’ve been contributing to one blog or another.  (Nine years!? That’s almost a decade! Where has the time gone?) The very first blog I kept was started by a colleague (Thanks, Tom!) for me to use with my students, others I’ve started myself for public consumption, and there are others that I’ve written posts for and contributed to from afar.  (This blog was my second one. After starting the first blog with my students, I tried my hand at blogging about things other than what my students and I were doing in class. It was fun. This blog, in particular, challenged me to write in a variety of ways and on a variety of topics, and “put myself out there” as a writer — an aspect of my writing that I am still trying to improve upon today. I always considered this blog my “writer’s notebook” that I was willing to share with anyone who might be interested in reading it.)

A found poem written by one of my students: light bulbs / could / think the same way as everything / could

Without getting into all of the psychology behind the concept of blogging — which would be material for an entire publication in and of itself (for example, I know that I absolutely wrote some blog posts that I never would have written if I didn’t have the urgency of a deadline or of a waiting audience prompting me forward) — blogs have become part of our world and will certainly remain so for a long while to come. Blogs are our opportunity as writers (otherwise known simply as thinkers) to put out ideas into the world, with only ourselves as editors. The posts often contain our purest thoughts, our most raw and vulnerable work. Other people may read our ideas. Other people may not even ever see the blog or know it exists. Regardless, at the end of the day, an idea posted to a blog is out there in the universe. It’s floating around, showing up in keyword searches, getting promoted on social media, just doing its thing.

For me, the content of my blog posts have changed as my life has changed.  I’ve questioned how much personal information I should share and when (perhaps holding back more than is always necessary).  I’ve dabbled with a variety of writing styles. I’ve been serious.  I’ve been fun (or, I’ve had fun, at least). It’s been a hodgepodge of producing content whenever the muses demanded it.

Now, I find myself searching for ways to connect it all.  The good, the bad, the ugly, the what was thinking when I wrote and posted that?  All of it. It all originated from the same place, so what do I do with it now? Do I revisit the ideas? Do I revise and edit them to make them better? Do I find as many of them and delete them so I can start anew? I don’t know.

What I do know, is that I have been reflecting a lot lately, thinking more and more about each of the posts I’ve written in the past, thinking about my thinking. I’ve remembered many of them nearly word for word, and still there are others that I when I read them now I don’t even recall having written them. This body of work I’ve created over the last ten years is now screaming out to me for some glue. I’ve been thinking about the process of each individual idea and how they came to be.

All of this reflection has steered me toward a newfound appreciation for the field of psychology and a new graduate program. I’m excited to start new graduate work, studying innovation and creativity, studying why and where ideas originate, and what we can do with all of this innovative thinking.

In particular, 2BFx5AytuVsAAAAldEVYdGRhdGU6Y3JlYXRlADIwMTQtMTAtMjFUMDM6MTQ6NTAtMDc6MDBPKjBrAAAAJXRFWHRkYXRlOm1vZGlmeQAyMDE0LTEwLTE2VDIzOjIxOjQ2LTA3OjAwoct3agAAAABJRU5ErkJggg==I’ve been thinking a lot about the collective contributions to ideas, the butterfly effect of all the seemingly small happenings of seemingly regular moments.

I write about education. I write about New Jersey. Most recently, I’ve been writing about innovation. I don’t think the answer I’m looking for is as simple as writing about how innovation is impacting education in New Jersey (though that would be a very tidy bundle and something I could certainly do), but I do think there is a connection that needs to be made. Over the years, I’ve also written about my love for books, written book reviews, and shared some life lessons. Writing, in one way or the other, has been a huge part of who I am and a major part of my process, and I know that it will continue to be as my work evolves.

At this point in time, I am not entirely sure where this work is going to go, but more than ever, I know it is going somewhere pretty great. One thing for sure is that it’s bringing me back to this blog, to my public “writer’s notebook” where I can chronicle my new adventures in thought. I’ve felt the pull back here a few times before, but this time feels different. This time feels like it did way back in 2008 when I first started the blog. This time, it feels like home.

If you’re interested in sticking around with me while I embark on this “thought journey,” and share my work, I would be delighted.  Leave a comment, share your ideas. We will figure it out together.  #WWFIOT


November 3rd – NaNoWriMo

I’m not saying it’s any good, I’m not saying it’s worth reading, I’m not saying that any of it would make a final edit, but I wrote 1,851 words today.  That gives this WIP a running total of 5,967 words.


I will admit that I absolutely LOVE being able to tell friends and family that “I have to go write now.” Whether any of them ever read these words that are adding up to a novel or not, they are supporting the process, and for that I am ever so grateful.

The working title…

27 more days of writing and 44,033 words to go.