By grace, this was an excellent writing day — 2,849 new words — good ones! Writing muscles do improve over time, with training and use. Back when I tried NaNoWriMo in 2005, it was all I could do to turn out 1,600 words, working hard at it all day. Now a good writing day is 2,000 words, and a great writing day is 3,000.
Anyway, here’s a shameless product endorsement: I recently bought an AlphaSmart Neo. It’s a light-weight, durable little machine that runs on three AA batteries for many hundreds of hours. It has a full-sized keyboard and a screen on which up to six lines of text are visible. I
bought this one new to replace an AlphaSmart Dana that I bought used, on its last legs, and still got a good year of use out of. The Dana finally gave up the ghost, which was actually for the best — it’s a more advanced model of the AlphaSmart which is built to do more things than I need done, and consequently consumes more battery life.
But the Neo essentially eats power much as a pocket calculator does — and how often do you have to change your calculator battery? The Neo allows me to write in places away from my desk: outdoors (in warmer seasons), in transit situations (trains, planes, and airports), in coffee shops (I confess I haven’t tried that yet), and at other people’s houses. I don’t know about you, but I generally do my best work when I’m in a situation of controlled chaos — the hubbub of some public place, or at a kitchen table at non-meal times, with family life revolving in the background. I think it has to do with low pressure. When I’m not in my Sacred Writing Space, I’m not under pressure to create the most brilliant literature in human history. At a kitchen table, I can just tell a story, because tables aren’t for writing anyway, are they?
At the end of the writing day, I connect the Neo to my computer with a USB cable and dump the day’s writing into a Word file. (There is also a wireless way to make the transfer, if you’re interested in that method.)
I love the fact that the Neo allows me to write anywhere I can write with a pencil and paper. And we’re talking inexpensive: including a $20 carrying case and shipping to Japan, my brand-new Neo came in at under $300. Product details can be found at www.alphasmart.com.
Changing the subject with a monkey wrench — grroooinnkk! — what you’re seeing here are some pictures taken at Union Station, Chicago, which I passed through last summer. Fans of The Untouchables will recognize this as the location used in the famous “baby carriage scene,” in which Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) and his men intercept Al Capone’s bookkeeper on the station stairs as Capone’s men are attempting to whisk him out of town.
And grrroooiinnkk once more — it’s high time we played another alphabet game. Any takers? The theme this time is your favorite places in stories — places that you wanted to live in when you read about them or saw them on the big screen.
I’ll start us off again with A: Amity Island, the fictional setting of Jaws. Back in 1975-6, I dreamed of living in Amity, famed for its white sand beaches, and being haunted by a 20-foot great white shark. Fourth-graders don’t ask for much to make them truly happy.