Jess Nickelsen: Discombobulated
October 29, 2020 - Halloween and NaNoWriMo


It’s nearly the end of October, which around here means both Halloween and NaNoWriMo. Halloween in New Zealand isn’t exactly the same as in the States, though we’ve been lucky enough to find ourselves living in a neighbourhood where people really do get behind it. I’ve always loved the holiday: dressing up in spooky costumes, wandering around and seeing everyone else dressed up, the candy (lollies) of course, but now I’m an adult it’s also lots of fun just wandering around talking to other people in the neighbourhood. A friend and her daughter will be coming over (for the third or fourth year in a row) and we cruise the streets all together, which makes it even better.

New Zealanders (very generally speaking here, of course) do have a bit of a isn’t it all a bit too commercial?” chip on their shoulders though, when it seems like something might be a little too fun or require some shopping. Most of the time I actually really like this attitude: the tendency is to not rush out and throw money at things, but instead sort of make-do with what’s lying around. People trot out the commercial” complaint for a lot of things (especially Christmas), and yes, I 100% get it. But it’s also fun to sort of ignore all that once in a while and just embrace the fact that there are halloween decorations in all the shops, and you know, enjoy it?

It’s possible I want to have my cake and eat it too (boo to commercialism, but let’s go all out for Halloween), but I guess I’m a bit tired of having to defend Halloween to people who are also usually complaining about it right now. On top of all that, I reckon it’s something to be fucking celebrated, being able to actually have a regular Halloween in New Zealand when so much of the world is about to go back into Covid-19 lockdown. (I also know a handful of people who object to it for religious reasons, but I can’t take them seriously.)

Anyway. NaNoWriMo is also starting soon, and I think I’ll be doing it again this year. My first one was in 2003, but alas that novel was lost when my sister’s laptop (which I was borrowing), died. It was mostly written sitting at the kitchen table in my flat in Dublin, though part of it also did make the jump to the Netherlands where a guy I was seeing lived. I believe it was about a travelling band called Hilda Higgenbottom and the Replicants,” and I am truly sorry that the story never properly saw the light of day. I think a retirement village also featured prominently.

A few people in my writing group are going to be doing it too, I think some for the first time. I’m trying to get really rah-rah about it, because it’s truly a great way to give your inner critic a kick to the kerb and get out of your own way. The real trick though isn’t in finishing (all you really have to do is turn up every day), but in doing something with what you finish with. I have not done this with most of my NaNoWriMo novels, but at the same time I don’t regret having written them. It’s almost like attending some sort of meditation retreat where you hit reset on your brain. Interestingly, I think the one I might be most inclined to revisit for a re-write is the first one I wrote, about two parallel worlds and a woman jumping back and forth between them.

Before all that kicks off though, I want to get a spot of editing under my belt on two stories that I’ve had hanging around in first-draft states. The first, a long short story / novelette / novella (depending on where you look for word cound threshold info), working title Catmage,” I have finally finished editing and have sent out to the writing group for feedback. The second one is a short story (a more conventional 2,600 words, compared to 19,000) is called The Lure,” and is a mostly non-fantastical story about a girl who goes fishing with her mother, albeit with a small supernatural twist at the end. I really like this story but I have no idea where I might send it to try to get published. Maybe somewhere here in NZ, as I think it does have a really kiwi feel,” but again the stuff that gets published here tends to be of a more literary vein. I will ponder it further.

On that note, I will bid you adieu. Happy Halloween, where ever you are!