#1000wordsofsummer Recap

I’m years into my recovery as a reformed perfectionist; nevertheless, if I plan something, I want to follow through and finish, no matter what. Training for a race. Completing some writing challenge. I’m still learning to readjust my expectations and give myself grace.

When I committed to the #1000wordsofsummer challenge, I permitted myself some room in case life intervened. I didn’t want to write solely to fulfill a challenge; rather, I wanted to write because it was something meaningful and worthwhile.

During those days (6/15-6/29), I wrote 16 flash fiction pieces, a draft of keynote talk for a conference, a partial draft of a memoir essay, and assorted other brief nonfiction pieces. But here’s the thing: I didn’t “complete” the challenge.

The days fell mostly during my vacation, and by Day 11, I was sapped from driving 6 hours. As I lay in the darkened hotel room in Duluth, Minnesota, waiting for my children to fall asleep, I was nodding off. It was 8:15, but I hadn’t written yet.

My body needed sleep, and instead of “powering through” and typing 1,000 forgettable words, I listened to my body and prepared for bed. It was so freeing to go to sleep, to let my body recharge.

I didn’t finish the remainder of the challenge. Days 11-15 coincided with the one week a year we spend visiting my parents. I didn’t want to complete the challenge to the detriment of my time with my family, to the detriment of my energy level and personal wellness. I reminded myself of these two truths that I am attempting to live out:

People are more important than words.

Relationships are more important than pages.

If I hadn’t gone to sleep early on Day 11, I wouldn’t have been able to run along the shore of Lake Superior the next morning (Day 12) with my 8-year-old son. We had already planned to run that morning; however, for whatever reason, we both woke up around 5:15. I asked him if he wanted to go for our run although it was early. He agreed, enthusiastically.

I don’t remember many of the 10,000-plus words I wrote last month, yet looking back at all the writing I did, I know I was successful. And I do remember the wind off of Lake Superior, the sun rising over the white-capped water, my son running beside me.

Visiting Red Cloud 2.0

Two weeks ago at this time I was taking in my first experience of the annual Willa Cather Spring Conference. For months my excitement grew for the event, which included a 700-mile solo road trip each way.

I gave my presentation over her novel My Antonia the first day of the conference, and for the rest of the conference, I listened to other presentations on Willa Cather and on this great novel. I visited the various shops in Red Cloud, and wandered excessively in the gift shop and exhibits in the Willa Cather Foundation building.

I took a walk on the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie. The morning was sunny, breezy, and everything I expected for a journey across the open landscape.

On the Saturday of the conference, along with many other attendees, I visited Grace Episcopal Church for a worship service, a church in which Willa Cather had been a member. It was a cool morning inside the small church whose wooden pews creaked and whose lovely stained-glass windows glowed in the sunshine. It was wonderful to sing hymns along with pump organ, to hear so many voices packed into the church, to take communion.

The three days left me excited for future iterations of the conference, and you can be confident that I’ll share more picture from my future visits.

(If you want to see pictures from my first visit to Red Cloud, you can check out this post.)

Plainswriter outside the home of Willa Cather

outside Willa Cather’s childhood home

Living room of Willa Cather childhood home

living room

Upstairs of Willa Cather childhood home


1892 Calendar from office of Charles Cather (Willa's father)

1892 office calendar from Charles Cather’s insurance office

Willa Cather Memorial Prairie sign

Willa Cather Memorial Prairie #1

Willa Cather Memorial Prairie #2

Willa Cather Memorial Prairie #3

Sign for Grace Episcopal Church

Inside Grace Episcopal Church

way early for the worship service at Grace Episcopal

From exhibit in the Willa Cather Center: Red Cloud, NE

#truth from an exhibit in the Willa Cather Foundation


A few weeks ago during my daily scroll through Twitter, I stumbled upon an idea that writer Jami Attenberg proposed: write 1,000 words each day from June 15-29.

Writing challenges intrigue me, and I’ve twice “completed” first drafts of novels during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). For those unfamiliar with what happens each November, writers around the world attempt to finish a draft in thirty days, with a minimum required word count of 50,000.

For me, both of those NaNoWriMo experiences were wonderful, if not hectic. A clear finish line, and if you do the math, a reachable daily word count minimum: 1,666.66667. 1,000 is more doable for me, especially in the summer when I’m off from teaching.

The only catch this time? After Day 6 of #1000wordsofsummer, I’ll be on vacation for the duration of the writing challenge. Traveling. Visiting family and friends.

There is another catch, too. I’m not certain while I’ll write. This lack of knowing isn’t cause for panic. Yet. I’ve been writing long enough to trust the process, to know that if I start writing, words will happen, and I’ll fill that daily word count. And just as with my NaNoWriMo adventures, no one else needs (or is allowed) to see the draft(s) from my adventure with #1000wordsofsummer.

Maybe I’ll restart my last NaNoWriMo novel that’s been waiting for a second draft since 2011. Maybe I’ll revise the first draft of my book-length memoir from last summer. Maybe I’ll write a couple new short stories and/or essays. Whatever I decide to work on though, I’ll plan above all to enjoy the adventure, the fun pressure, of an intensive period of writing.