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Sunday, November 26, 2006


I am a 2006 National Novel Writing Month Winner!

2006 National Novel Writing Month WinnerOh, my goodness. I just finished writing my third novel. What was I thinking? I was thinking that I had a story to tell, and that I could squeeze it into my life in odd hours.

I really should have known better.

But I did squeeze it into my life in odd hours. I worked on my novella for 10 writing days this month. TEN. That's all. And I managed to knock out 51,524 words (which is slightly higher than the 51,409 that my word processor finds), and tell the story I wanted to tell. That's strange. Bizarre. Fun!

Kind of like my Halloween costume this year, I've learned there's a certain element of creative insanity that is fun, but that makes you not want to look at people directly. :-)

This year's story had some tough parts, since I was trying to write it chronologically, and there were a few sticking points when I had difficulty working out the connections. But taking a day or two off to brainstorm (or brainmist, or brainfog) worked wonders. I suspect my natural writing pattern for fiction is not a daily ritual, even though other pursuits (such as photography) can be. (Though there are a variety of things I can do in photography, like printing, or shooting, or doing other sorts of processing. Writing is just writing, which may be why I needed breaks.) Taking time to daydream about how it should be, rather than stare at the screen, seemed to be the right approach.

I participated in NaNoWriMo again because it's such a great institution: the volunteers are great, the message boards are great, the peer pressure is really fabulous, and the programs that the project helps sponsor are really, really cool. I did it again because I think creativity is like a muscle, and the more you use it, the stronger it gets. But that looks like a really bad analogy I wouldn't have used in my novel, ever. So let's just forget that I wrote that.

I'll be resuming food writing soon.

As we say in NaNo land, Woooooot!

My 2006 National Novel Writing Month Winner author profile

posted by Arlene (Beth)8:47 PM

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Nearly there! I broke the 40k line tonight. I'm at 41,241 words, so I have less than 9,000 words to go to "win" NaNoWriMo. I'm not sure my story will actually be completed by then, but we'll see. There's a major part of the story's climax that I haven't resolved. It may resolve itself while I'm writing it. That's what I'm hoping for, at least.Official NaNoWriMo 2006 Participant
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:00 PM

Something very cool I forgot to post: guerilla park installations celebrated in San Francisco and elsewhere. Last year it was one site, this year it was many: PARK(ing) Day 2006 Images (

I was delighted to encounter the PARK(ing) installation in front of the California College of Arts, and it was quite lovely.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:10 PM

Something that works well conceptually with my NaNoWriMo story. There's an article about attempting to escape from the consumer treadmill and live a more simple, sustainable life that has some conceptual overlap with this year's novel. Another Way (11/14/06, is about an experimental community of suburbanites who are attempting to live more simply, and are taking baby steps toward that goal.

Articles about people who choose anything other than a mainstream materialistic existence often are peppered with ridicule at the very idea, but this particular article (by an author I enjoy) is more thoughtful.
There are so many things we don't know about our lives and that, frankly, we don't want to know. We don't know much about the basic things that sustain us. We are clueless 'end users' in elaborate industrial supply lines. Energy comes from distant power plants and oil refineries and pipelines and electrical grids, but we don't think about them when we flick on a light or turn the key in the ignition. We live in a world we didn't make, by rules and customs and laws we didn't invent, using tools and technologies we don't understand.
While the folks in the article have a way to go to reach their goals, it's nice that they're heading in that direction.

As my NaNoWriMo novel is about an economic collapse which disrupts the invisibility of where things come from, and makes every matter of use - from energy to water - a local issue, it was nice to read this at this particular point and time. Really, everything is a local issue: that fact is merely obscured by subsidies and major technological interventions that keep us from thinking clearly about our world.


[Then again, in November, EVERYTHING is about your novel! :-)]
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Friday, November 24, 2006

Blogger has been upgraded, but it's kept me out. I kept trying to log on to post reports on pie parties, or on foods I'd eaten, or on the progress of my NaNoWriMo novel, all to no avail.

But now there are only six full days left for me to complete my novel, so I don't have time to write about all of those things.

I can report that I am up to 30,142 words. Considering I've only written eight days this month, it's rather impressive. I would rather do the planned approach, where you write 1,667 words every day, but my story comes to me in leaps and bounds, and it takes a while for enough of it to build up to to a point where I need to let it all out.

I have been taking notes on my non-writing days, though, laying out little details and major plot developments for future sessions. Those help a lot: just writing down the notes keeps me from forgetting little things I want to do with the story, and so each little note helps it grow, somehow. And it keeps me thinking that I don't need to be near my computer to make progress in SOME form on my novel.Official NaNoWriMo 2006 Participant
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:24 PM

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Like Sand from Orchid's Lips: the video. TCB Cafe Publishing has posted a video of the images from their art book, which includes all three of my orchid images published in the book, all of which are shown very briefly in their uncropped form. The video runs in the left side bar at their new webpage, Photo Contest 2006 for Photography Book Publication by TCB CAFE Publishing (
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:03 AM

Saturday, November 11, 2006

cover to Alternative Photography: Art and Artists, Edition : Art and Artists, Edition 1, Malin Fabbri's latest book, is now available for sale: it was just released yesterday. The copies I ordered are on their way to me right now. Two of my prints are profiled in the book.

It's really an amazing work: two samples of work from 115 artists working with what we call the "alternative processes," the primarily hand-coated emulsion processes that were invented long ago, whose heyday as mass-produced, factory-made materials has long since passed, but which have characteristics that today's new products and digital media cannot match. For anyone who has wondered why any artist would want complete control of their photographic prints, right down to the characteristics of the emulsion, and what can be done with that level of control for artistic purposes, this is an encyclopedic art book that answers that question in 115 different ways.

Here's Malin's description:
Alternative Photography: Art and Artists, Edition I highlights the work of over 100 of today's most active photographers working with alternative processes. Discover how the different processes create a unique look in a print, and get an insight into how the processes function. Here you will find both information and inspiration. Artists introduce themselves, their work and why they chose the qualities of that particular process.
I wish Malin's latest production the best success! It's a high quality coffee table book, available in both soft and hardcover, and can be purchased from its page at the Lulu website (
posted by Arlene (Beth)4:46 PM


Naranjilla (Lulo) Pie

This exotic fruit from South America seems like a cross between a tomato and an apricot, and makes a tangy, sweet pie.

-top and bottom pie crusts (2 cups of flour, 1/2 cup of shortening, ice water as needed; cut together, kneaded just long enough to make a uniform texture before rolling)
-three 28 ounce (800g) jars of naranjillas in heavy syrup, drained, with the fruit scooped out of the hairy skin and lightly mashed, and the skin and any tough parts of the blossom end of the fruit discarded
-1/2 cup of sugar
-1 teaspoon of cinnamon
-2 heaping teaspoons of cardamom
-3 tablespoons of egg replacer.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mix all of the dry ingredients together, and then mix them into the fruit (which will be very wet). Pour the mixture into the pie pan, cover with the top crust, and bake for about 45 minutes.

Allow to cool and firm up before eating.

For more on how I wound up creating this recipe, see my entry below.
posted by Arlene (Beth)4:45 PM

P.S. Steven just came home, and he LOVES the pie. He thinks it will place well. :-)
posted by Arlene (Beth)4:40 PM

Solanum quitoense. On weekend mornings at this time of year, I often like to sleep in, lounge around in my pajamas, eat a perfectly sweet pomegranate (mmmmm, pomegranate), and after I'm done washing all of the red juice from my hands, and picking up any gemlike arils that escaped to the floor (or my pockets, or the folds of my bathrobe), read a news or photography magazine while drinking genmaicha.


This morning, however, my relaxation plan were interrupted by a plan that Steven hatched. You see, one of his horticulture classmates is throwing a party, which includes a pie contest component. Attendees must bring pies, which will be judged on several qualities, including most exotic, best crust, best presentation, etc. Coincidentally, in one of Steven's horticulture classes, he decided to give a speech on the Solanum quitoense, also known as the naranjilla (or lulo), after seeing a fine specimen in a private yard. He'd heard good things about the fruit, which is tomato-like in texture and structure, yet more in flavor like a peach.

I had never seen or tasted a naranjilla, but this didn't stop Steven from devising the following plan:
-Arlene is good at making pies.
-His classmate is having a pie contest.
-He wants to give a presentation on the naranjilla.
-Therefore: he will ask Arlene to make a pie for the party, and if that is successful, will ask her to make tartlets for my presentation.

There were a few problems with this plan, among them: we had no naranjillas, and didn't know if we'd like them if we found them. Luckily, after a day on foot in SF's Mission District, visiting one Latin American food shop after another, he acquired three jars of the fruit in heavy syrup. (La Nuestra brand "Lulo - Naranjilla en almibar (Lulo in heavy syrup)".) Sure enough, they look like tomatoes, but taste something like a canned peach, and have a heavier skin than a peach does (which is also hairy). I proposed some ideas for baking it into a pie, and Steven agreed to participate.

Or at least, he agreed until last night, when he was too busy working on another plant-related project. And this morning, I got the same story, and then he rushed off to work - after pointing out that the party is this evening, that the pie will need time to set, and that he wishes ME luck.

So my brief lounging period on the couch was clouded by the knowledge that I was being pressured into making a pie with a fruit I'd only been introduced to two days ago, which I've never had in a pie, to enter into a competition in several categories where I couldn't guess how my experiment will perform, so Steven can take credit. :-)

Of particular concern is the "sliceability" category of the contest: that is, the ability of the pie slices to maintain their structural integrity. Most of my pies only take that characteristic on after they've cooled overnight, since I use very juicy fruit. I suspected egg replacer (a tapioca-potato flour sort of mixture, which makes a good thickener or binder) could help, so I put four tablespoons of it into 1/3 of a cup of water, microwaved it for two minutes... And had trouble getting the hard jelly that resulted out of the cup. But that means it can work in theory, right? :-)

Anyway, that is how I spent my early afternoon. There is now a naranjilla pie cooling on the stove, filled with drained naranjillas (from jars), cardamom, sugar, cinnamon, and a few tablespoons of egg replacer, with an unbleached flour top and bottom crust. The top crust has a poked-in portrait of the cross-section of the naranjilla fruit on it. I made a small, test tartlet also, and it's pretty good.

Though now I can fear that Steven really will want me to make tartlets for the class.

There's just no winning for me in this scenario, is there?
posted by Arlene (Beth)4:30 PM

Fine, thanks. And you? I have a couple of acquaintances who are eager to tell me about their lives and accomplishments, but who have no interest in my life whatsoever. It's just amazing when someone doesn't think you'll notice that they'll never express interest in you, how long you can keep from bringing your life up in conversation. My end of these conversations involves the expression of sympathy, questions about their well-being and activities, and generalized encouragement, but I meticulously avoid volunteering any current personal news. And these individuals never ask, so my personal news never comes up.

It is oddly satisfying to communicate with them, knowing that their purpose is to talk about themselves, and that I can play along with false innocence about it. It's like I'm keeping a fun secret, it has that strange sort of quality to it.

One of them once remarked that he believed I have a lot of empty free time (which I recounted to some friends, who were reduced to hysterical laughter). It may be as simple as that: they are certain that their lives are full of important things, and mine (theoretically) is not.

People are funny. (Happily, knowing how this works, I can save my time and energy for people are have more of a clue.)
posted by Arlene (Beth)3:46 PM

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A little bit of progress. I'm up to 8,709 words. I'm being very reasonable, and only writing for an hour or so at a time after dinner. But I'm making some progress, which is nice. Official NaNoWriMo 2006 Participant
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:17 PM

Quite an election, don't you think?

The change will be nice on the national level, but I think it's being overinterpreted, the way past elections were.

The current system only has two modes of expression, in whatever the two main political parties are expressing, no matter how similar they are. So whenever one makes gains at the other's expense, the shift is played up and fussed over, as if everyone in the nation came to some new revelation and changed all of their priorities.

It's not like people didn't like their children for the last 6 years, and suddenly wised up. (And now matter how big a shift this seems, the ruling party still got lots of votes, which means something, though not necessarily anything coherent.) The people who switched from mode of expression B to mode A just got sick of the way things were going, and felt they only had one other option. (Just like 6 years ago.)

So I'm pleased, but... it doesn't mean as much as I would like.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:10 PM

Sunday, November 05, 2006


Pasta shells stuffed with spinach, artichoke hearts, and feta

This is as tasty as it sounds.

-large pasta shells, cooked according to package directions until "al dente" (firm), rinsed in cold water, and drained
-1 small bunch of spinach, washed very thoroughly, destemmed, wilted (blanched) for two minutes in the boiling water from the pasta, and finely chopped
-1 16 ounce can of artichoke hearts (not marinated, just canned), finely chopped
-1.5 cups of fresh feta
-1 cup of soft tofu
-5 cloves of garlic, sliced
-2 teaspoons of basil
-1 teaspoon of oregano
-1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
-1/4 cup of olive oil
-28 ounces of a mild tomato sauce
-additional water.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Puree the tofu, garlic, basil, oregano, crushed pepper, and olive oil in a food processor. In a bowl, thoroughly mix this tofu mixture with the spinach and artichoke hearts.

In a deep pan, dilute slightly less than the tomato sauce with about half a cup of water. (The pasta will absorb this water as it cooks.) Stuff the center of each of the pasta shells by hand with about two tablespoons of filling, or as much as fits nicely. Arrange the stuffed shells in the pan atop the layer of sauce. When all the shells are stuffed and the pan is full, dilute the rest of the sauce with about a half cup of water and make sure that each and every shell is coated with it.

Cover the pan with foil or parchment, and bake for 45 minutes to an hour and fifteen minutes. With longer cooking times, the garlic is mellower.

This dish tastes especially great reheated after a day or so, as the pasta absorbs the sauce flavors over time.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:51 PM

NaNo. I started writing this evening, very late. Ideally, if I were serious about making fabulous progress, I would have dropped my photo editing projects and just written, but I needed to get those out in the mail. And so I've only worked on my novel for about two hours.

I'm at 2006 words. Only 47,994 to go! Woot! Official NaNoWriMo 2006 Participant
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:50 PM

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Things it would never occur to me to send through the mail, part one. 5 Nonpostal Export Regulations - Dried Whole Eggs (

How do you dry an egg all the way through? Wouldn't that give it an even nastier texture than eggs already have??
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Thursday, November 02, 2006

This morning, while I was eating breakfast, the opening lines to my next novel came to me, along with a major plot thread. Official NaNoWriMo 2006 Participant


This should make starting on Sunday a little easier. Maybe. Perhaps.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Official NaNoWriMo 2006 ParticipantAgainst my better judgment, such that it is, I have decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) once again.

NaNoWriMo is insanely, exhaustingly, finger-flattening fun. For the past two years, I have devoted each month of November to cranking out a 50,000 word novel or novella ENTIRELY within the month. I succeeded both times: in 2004 with a novel about the bureaucracy that runs the afterlife; and in 2005 with a dark future novel about benevolent aliens visiting the earth to save humanity, only to find themselves unwelcome by all those who benefit from all that is wrong and their allies.

This year, I honestly should not participate. I'm not being strange: I just have so many irons in the fire, that it seems completely unreasonable to add another, and a really time-consuming one at that. I also tend to want to do things right, if I do them at all. Writing a novel could interfere with some major art projects I'm working on, and if I don't complete them in a timely fashion, I'll miss out on some very big opportunities.

Yet, NaNo is so fun, I can't resist. Well, I have been resisting rather consistently for several days, but that may change over the weekend, when my next major project is completed, and I can consider beginning to type. This year's story is about a post-US-collapse future in which the states have reformed into different arrangements as independent countries, and religious fanatics take over some states with amazing theocracies that insist that technology is just a form of witchcraft, which they forbid their followers to use. (And then they persecute the Amish, for having thought of it earlier.)

I may use NaNo as a "reward" to myself, for doing other projects I want to do.

I have given myself advance permission not to "win" NaNo this year. Photography is currently so very important to me, that I cannot let my progress stop, even for as fun an exercise as this. But I'm in. You can find me at the NaNo website as "lene2000."
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

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