Wednesday, November 22, 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017: Finding Victory in an Inevitable Defeat

The terror of the blank "page"
November 13, 2017

How to lose National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)?  Start late, do little prep work in October, change your plan in the first week, and, finally, be sidelined by uncomfortable health issues that make it impossible to focus on much, let alone write, for days on end. 

I don't mean to sound like I am giving up, but, oh...  I am giving up.  But only on reaching 50,000 words by the end of the month.  I will continue (uh, start?) working on my novel this month and it will be interesting to see where my final word count for the month lands, though I truly doubt it will be anywhere close to a "win."

Of course, giving up when it is the 22nd and I have less than 500 words written is something of a misnomer.  There really isn't a path to victory left at this point.

I first sat down to write this post on the 14th, but I have not had the headspace to even finish writing these words since then.  At that point, a win was still technically possible.  I would have needed to average 2,700 words per day for the rest of the month, but that was not far off from my 2012 average.  However, it would also have required doing little but writing for the rest of the month, which would not have been possible even if I was healthy, especially if I was healthy, so I was already prepared to claim my defeat for 2017 at that point in time.

NaNoWriMo 2017

NaNoWriMo 2012

I knew that completing 50,000 words this year would be a challenge heading in, so my initial goals were very much the same as 2013, which was to get back into the habit of making creative writing a regular and integral part of my creative process and routine.  That year, the goal was to work towards finishing the 2012 novel, but this year I started off with the plan to bang out a simpler novel by the seat of my pants.

A couple things happened this year creatively on the way to NaNoWriMo "failure," though.  First, the health issues took me out of the game entirely after the first weekend.  This was the primary roadblock this year.  But very close behind those issues were the lack of prep, the lack of "October work," heading into the book.

I very quickly found that a vague idea for a starting point for the novel was not quite enough to inspire the large daily word counts I enjoyed in 2012.  Sure, this was meant to be a seat of the pants project from the get go, but I very quickly found that I needed more than a vague starting point to really get the story rolling.  I needed to identify a few characters, I needed a solid hook for the opening chapter, and I needed a better sense of where the plot was heading beyond "a stranger comes to town and takes the protagonist on a journey."

Being a sequel to the 2012 novel, I did know "the stranger" well and the world was fully built before diving in, and I looked forward to learning about the new protagonist as I rode the story out by the seat of my pants, but it just wasn't enough to really get the ball rolling, to get to the point where the story was alive enough in my mind to write itself through physical discomfort and pain, to inspire me to find extra time to write instead of needing to talk myself into sitting down to write anything at all...

The idea was strong, but it was still only just an idea, it was not a living story in my mind yet.

Through this, I've gained a ton of appreciation for the thorough prep work I did in 2012, before starting in on the first draft.  I had long character sketches for all of the major and minor characters so they were "alive" to me long before they were ever introduced on the page, and I had detailed, scene by scene outlines for the first half of the novel and a more open, chapter by chapter outline for the latter half, which was getting filled in to the scene level long before I reached those later points in the story.

Because of all of that work, the story was so real in my head that the actual writing often felt more like I was just typing up the fully formed scenes in my head rather than wrestling through the match word by word...  Of course, there was still room for spontaneity and new ideas, but they all served the outline, for the most part, rather than being creative farts blowing me down dead end rabbit trails.

In some ways, it was like reading a book after seeing the film.  I knew what was going to happen, for the most part, but it was fascinating to see how the vision became realized on the page, to learn all the little nuances and details passed over in the movie...

For all of the benefits that come from this very structured approach to writing, I still miss the days where I would sit down with a vague idea, pull out a notebook, and follow the words one by one through a story.  Of course, that works better for simpler, shorter stories.  I still think that the new novel would be a good candidate for this sort of writing, but I still need to have a little more put together than I have so far.

Finally, diving in a few weeks ago, because of the lack of prep work, I turned to the earlier novel to "brush up" as I was starting in on the new book.  The good news is that I fell in love all over again with the older story.  This was also the bad news, and quickly I decided to work on both at once, to go rebel in 2017, with a goal of writing 50,000 words and finishing at least one of the books.  I needed to re-read the old book before working on it, but I figured I could make a solid start on the new book while this was happening.

Unfortunately, almost immediately I became so physically miserable that I was unable to muster the concentration for any of it.  For close reading the old book, for hauling the new book out of the dust and rubble of creation...

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So, with all of this failure with NaNoWriMo 2017, how can I find any victory here?  Well, easily.  I am thinking about writing in a very real way again, and regardless of my November setbacks, these novels are not going back on the shelf to collect another year or two's worth of dust.  I am fired up to finish the 2012 novel and to write the 2017 one, more so than I have been in years.  I did complete enough prep work on the new one to get started (though I want to rewrite the few paltry words I did complete), and I am solidly reacquainting myself with the world the novels are set in.

I've been going through something of a creative slump for the last year or more due to some complicated life issues, and writing is where I've decided restart.  The projects that have occupied so much of my time for the last several years, and the other photo / video work...  These endeavours are not going away completely, but for right now, writing is the best fit for me logistically and creatively due to some huge life transitions going on right now.  The reset button has been hit on my life, and as I start rebuilding, I find myself wanting to start with the neglected loose ends, which definitely means finishing up the oldest loose end first.

I am very excited about the future, and I expect great things to come out of the next few years, knocking down these books, completing the non-fiction project on the Historic Columbia River Highway, and continuing work on the National Parks and Monuments project, which is still in a phase of early development, really.

NaNoWriMo 2017 has been the start of this process.  While I may end up accomplishing little during the month itself, I did start something, and I plan on sticking with it through to the end.  By this time next year, the 2012 book will be done, and the 2017 book, I hope, will have, at a minimum, a solid first draft.

Starting over, this is where I choose to dive in and to devote the bulk of my creative time and energy.  I am very excited by this, and cannot see the inspiration provided by NaNoWriMo as anything but a victory as it lifted me back on my creative feet, ready and willing to move ahead once again.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Glen Canyon NRA: Getting Rid of the Damned Dam?

Lake Powell empty at Hite Overlook
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Utah. May 14, 2016.
National Parks & Monuments In Distress: Glen Canyon

National Parks and Monuments in Distress

Nevada legislature takes serious look at tearing down Lake Powell’s Glen Canyon Dam (June 3. 2017)

"In no uncertain terms, the Glen Canyon Dam is one of the most environmentally destructive projects in our nation's history," said Eric Belken, executive director of the Institute. 

Belken cited harms to native species, destruction of a unique natural and cultural landscape, and the disruption of the natural cycle of erosion and replenishment of soil downstream in the Grand Canyon.

For more information on Glen Canyon National Recreation Area:

National Parks and Monuments in Distress

Saturday, September 23, 2017

What's up with the Honey Badgers?

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Properties of Dust: The Red Car

Mt. Hood, Oregon - Spring 2004 -

Apologies to Bill²
So much depends upon
the red car
dusted with mountain ash damp with morning dew
the door too slippery for one son
while the younger laughs and climbs up into his car seat.

Mt. Hood, Oregon - Spring 2004 -

The Properties of Dust
The Properties of Dust was a small book I put together in 2005 for a desktop publishing class at Portland State University. Many of these pieces were written specifically for the book project, and the rest date back to as early as 1990.  The pieces were accompanied by a photo or two in the original book, but, in most cases, I am using different, more recent, photos with this series of posts.




The Red Car
Something Lost
After the War

Love Poems

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California - July 2004 -

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Visit my Patreon page ( for more information.

A. F. Litt on


Friday, September 08, 2017

The Properties of Dust: First Snow

Scenic Traffic Corridor
Historic Columbia River Highway. Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Oregon. January 3, 2014
Copyright © 2014 A. F. Litt, All Rights Reserved


The frost is thick upon the once dark ground as I look out the misty window. My reflection stares back at me from those panes and it looks different than the face held tight in my mind. Perhaps it is just that the glass is clouded and that the frost is too heavy on the earth outside. There is an uncertainty in my heart that leads me from the window to the lavatory’s mirror. The mirror shows me the same face as the window. It is mine but it is not mine, so I go back to my seat. I return to the window.


“So, how do you think it went?”
“With your Mom. How do you think it, you know?”
“Just fine? That doesn’t sound so good.”
“I’m reading. Can we talk later?”
“Later? Like, after you’re done reading? Or later when we get home? Or do you mean some time that never happens?”
“Just not here now... When we’re alone.”
“No one’s listening. If they are, who cares? It’s not like... Whatever, just keep reading.”
“I will.”
“I don’t see how you can do that without getting sick. I couldn’t do that without getting sick. I couldn’t, not with all the rocking, the clacking, all the shaking.”
“That’s you, not me.”
“I know. Of course.”
“Later. I promise.”
“What’s so interesting in there anyway?”
“Portfolio Diversification in the Post-Boom Economy.”
“It pays our bills. Helps secure our future.”
“You could just let me know what she said to you last night.”
“I know she said something.”
“You didn’t tell her, did you?”
“It wasn’t that she didn’t say anything. I know how she is like that. I’ve learned where you get that from. But I knew it didn’t happen. You didn’t tell her. I didn’t expect you to, really.”
“It just... It wasn’t the right time.”
“She’ll find out. She’ll see me again at Christmas. She’ll be able to tell by then.”
“Then we’ll tell her. Then, if not by then.”
“Or she’ll just look at me and know. Shit. It must have been classic.”
“What’s that?”
“What she said.”
“She... It wasn’t like that. No. She just needs more time to get to know you, that’s all.”
“Am I still... Fuck it. Nevermind.”
“I told you that she apologized for saying that.”
“It doesn’t matter anyway.”
“Of course it does.”
“I’d just like to get it over with... Whatever. Sorry. It’s been a long week.”
“It has.”
“Look out there. The snow. It’s really coming down now.”
“I know. It’s so early. It’s too early for that.”
“It isn’t, though. Not really.”
“It just seems that way to me.”
“I saw that picture of you. In the pilgrim outfit, playing in the snow? What were you, about six or seven then?”
“Seven. But that was a long time ago, before Dad moved us out here. I can’t remember snow this early here. Lots of storms, though. Wind and rain. Eating cold leftovers around the fire, after the power blew down. But no snow.”
“That sounds nice.”
“I guess so. Maybe later we should light a fire. Sit around with some candles?”
“I’d like that. We can talk then, when no one is around to listen.”
“Not about Mom, though. There’s nothing to say about her, anyway.”
“She didn’t say anything, did she? I was just being... Wasn’t I?”
“No. Not as such... She has a ways to go. She’ll be fine, though. We’ll be fine. We should just forget her.
“That’s what I try to do.”
“We’re almost home.
“That sounds perfect. I just want to lay here and hold you until we get there.”


As she snuggled in against me, I stared out the window, watching the large blank flakes blowing past us. I tapped the magazine against my leg but I knew I was done reading for the trip, trying to think of nothing until we were home and I was holding her tight before the fire, forgetting everything in the world except for the silent void, momentary and brief, spent watching a random flake sticking to the glass and melting.

Seattle, 1996

The Properties of Dust was a small book I put together in 2005 for a desktop publishing class at Portland State University. Many of these pieces were written specifically for the book project, and the rest date back to as early as 1990. The pieces were accompanied by a photo or two in the original book, but, in most cases, I am using different, more recent, photos with this series of posts.



First Snow
Antarctic Whispers
Bedtime Prayer

The Red Car
Something Lost
After the War

Love Poems

If you appreciate posts like this, please consider becoming a monthly subscriber through Patreon!
Visit my Patreon page ( for more information.

A. F. Litt on


Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Canyonlands National Park: The 1936 Version of Escalante National Monument

National Parks and Monuments in Distress

The original proposal for the monument would have included most of what is now Canyonlands National Park and Bears Ears National Monument...  This kills the idea that there has been no debate on the creation of Bears Ears.  There has been debate on the protection of these lands for many, many decades.

Many of the issues around Bears Ears were also being debated during the creation of Canyonlands. See the links below for a look at these debates.

The timeline of the creation of Canyonlands National Park from the National Park Service's (NPS) From Controversy to Compromise to Cooperation: The Administrative History of Canyonlands National Park:

1935: First National Park Service survey of “Escalante” region, including Glen Canyon, Cataract Canyon, Canyonlands basin,Waterpocket Fold and San Juan River Canyon.

1936: First Escalante National Monument concept introduced that covered more than 6,000 square miles and included the entire Greater Canyonlands region; plan harshly criticized in Utah.

1936: The Wilderness Society designated 8.8 million acre “Colorado River Canyons” region extending from Glen Canyon to Book Cliffs as largest roadless tract in continental United States.

1938: Second Escalante National Monument concept introduced that covered 2,450 square miles region along narrow swath surrounding Colorado River; revised plan severely criticized.

1940: Second Escalante concept repackaged as a “recreation area” by the NPS and Interior Secretary
Harold Ickes; bills died in Congressional committees before reaching floor for vote.

1942–43: Escalante surveys continued with more emphasis placed on the Canyonlands basin as a region distinct from the rest of the Greater Canyonlands region.

1944: Proposal for “Grandview National Park” circulated internally at National Park Service regional and national offices; plan never released to general public.

1952: National Geographic Magazine article on southeast Utah published which focused on the Canyonlands basin had the first color photos of the region to appear in a national magazine.

1956: National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management agreed to first of several memorandums of understanding regarding management of the Canyonlands region.

1957: Needles and Grandview Recreation Area concepts discussed at National Park Service as either
stand-alone park units or extensions of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

1959: First National Park Service survey of Canyonlands region focused on the Needles area.

1960: Senator Wallace Bennett (R-Utah) introduced first “park” bill for Canyonlands region which designated a Needles National Recreation Area.

1960: NPS Planner Leo Diederich conceived basin-wide park concept in Canyonlands region.

1961: Udall led political and media junket to the Canyonlands basin in July, then announced plan for a “Canyon Lands National Park” as part of a “Golden Circle” of tourist destinations.

1961: Udall withdrew one million acres of the Canyonlands region from entry.

1962: First Canyonlands park bill introduced by Utah Democratic Senator Frank Moss that encompassed approximately 330,000 acres.

1964: Canyonlands National Park bill encompassing 257,400 acres passed after three-year political tussle; signed into law on September 12 by President Lyndon Johnson.

1964: Bates Wilson named superintendent of Canyonlands National Park in October while remaining
superintendent of Arches N. M. and Natural Bridges N. M.; the three park units administratively
encompassed what was called thereafter the “Canyonlands Complex.”

1965: Canyonlands staff set up residences/offices in January at Squaw Flat and Willow Flat.

1965: Master Plan for Canyonlands completed in September that included large visitor centers, hotels, marinas, paved roads and an “amphithorium” at Grandview Point.

1968: Bates Wilson and others at the National Park Service expressed reservations about the Canyonlands Master Plan and began to recommend scaling back park development plans.

1971: Canyonlands National Park enlarged by 87,000 acres that included the Maze and Land of Standing Rocks, Davis and Lavender Canyons, creating a park totaling 337,540 acres.


Utah Historical Quarterly: The Canyonlands National Park Controversy (1991)

National Park Service - From Controversy to Compromise to Cooperation : The Administrative History of Canyonlands National Park (2008)

Bears Ears National Monument

Canyonlands National Park

National Parks and Monuments in Distress

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


Drying Leaves - Gresham, Oregon. August 28, 2017 -

There is an interesting editor at today, and all of my posts are being rejected due to length or due to "content that makes direct or indirect assertions or implications about personal attributes and/or beliefs such as race, ethnic origin, religion, beliefs, sexual orientation, or gender identity."

With some of the shorter poems, adding the additional content - index of the old book, a paragraph about the old book - seemed to make the shorter poems acceptable.  Yes, the poem wasn't 100 words, but the post was, but today?  No.

This poem, however, was rejected due to the sort of objectionable content mentioned above. Really? 

Maybe the poetry editor on staff today just doesn't like my writing?  Fair enough.  

Anyway, life is too busy to be bashing away at these over and over, so unless there is a clear and easy fix, once content is rejected there, I'm just going to post it on Rubble.  Already today, it's taken me four times as long as usual to get through my "quick" daily post due to these issues...


The stone I am sitting on

is becoming difficult and


But there is shade here,

For now... For a moment...

Sanctuary from the hot sun,

the day too hot,

the months too dry;

A bleak summer of desolation,

not done yet...

Uncomfortable, unpleasant tasks

wait for me, back at a home

that is no home,

no more...

Soon, the hard work begins,

preparing for the cold times ahead,

the lonely times,

the hungry times,

The times when the fears

of empty fields grip

my cowardly heart,

Times when the dark

fills my eyes with

imagined visions of death.

The death...

Of hopes

Of dreams

Of others...


Who I so imperfectly


Sacrificed for...


For not enough.

My throne, alone,

in the shade,

out of the glare of a summer sun

too hot, too blunt, too severe,

For any of us-

Uncomfortable refuge from an

uncomfortable season, an

uncomfortable day, hour, minute, an

Uncomfortable moment...

A second in time

Where hope lives for only one

random moment,

Where death pardons life for one

fleeting second,

Where life does not suffer futility,

For one moment.

A tiny moment.

One small refuge

away, so far,

From the brutality

of a lonely season,

away from the

lonely season ahead...

Living life not as a hunter,

not as a gatherer,

But only as prey...

In this moment, I raise

a quiet prayer to

a quiet God...

I ask-

Can eternity exist

In a moment such

as this?

August 28, 2017

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A. F. Litt on


The Properties of Dust: Demolition

Clearing the tracks after the implosion of the Kingdome. Seattle, Washington. - March 26, 2000 -

From The Properties of Dust

Too short for, this one gets to live on Rubble...

He stands at the edge-

Tangled rubble,

entwined chaos,

a whole block

plucked out;

Opening a womb

in the ground.

He tosses a half-smoked

cigarette into the

pit, curses,

and shuffles back

to work.

Great Kiva and Sleeping Ute - Lowry Pueblo. Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. Colorado. May 8, 2016. -

The Properties of Dust was a small book I put together in 2005 for a desktop publishing class at Portland State University. Many of these pieces were written specifically for the book project, and the rest date back to as early as 1990. The pieces were accompanied by a photo or two in the original book, but, in most cases, I am using different, more recent, photos with this series of posts.



Watching a Woman From Across the Room
First Snow
Antarctic Whispers
Bedtime Prayer

The Red Car
Something Lost
After the War

Love Poems

I-90, Seattle, Washington.  1987 -

If you appreciate posts like this, please consider becoming a monthly subscriber through Patreon!
Visit my Patreon page ( for more information.

A. F. Litt on