1970's, 1975, coming of age, guide dogs, NaNowriMo, writing, young adult
Sunday, 1 November 2015
Yes, I decided to do NaNoWriMo this year. I tried this two years ago, and though I did write a lot, I was so burned out and trying this only made it worse. But I’m in a fairly good place this year and excited to get started today.
For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is national novel writing month. The idea is to write 50,000 words in thirty days. It feels overwhelming when you think of it that way, fifty thousand, yeah fifty thousand words in one month. But I went to the trusty windows calculator and determined that breaks down to approximately 1667 words a day. I can do that! In fact, knowing how I usually write for hours without stopping, on weekends I can do much more and get ahead, for those days when it’s hard to write 100 words, let alone over ten times that much in one day.
My story this year will be loosely based on the journal I kept during the first time I went to GDB to get my first guide dog in August 1975. I’ve hesitated about this for many years, even though I think I have a great story to tell. I don’t want to write for a limited market. Books about guide dogs are pretty common and generally appeal to only a limited few. But my first time through training ended up being about so much more than getting a guide dog. I was seventeen, just out of high school. I was shy, so terribly shy that I was nearly helpless around strangers and afraid of the sound of my own voice. Other than camp or an overnight at a friend’s, I’d never been away from home for such a long period of time, twenty-eight days. I would be in a class with fifteen other people, of all ages, walks of life, experience. My roommate was eight years older than me, and to me, she was wise in ways that awed me. She smoked pot, was sexually experienced and was unlike anyone I had ever known. I took my first steps in learning how to break out of my debilitating shyness. I gained confidence in myself in ways I had not expected. I developed a huge crush and found myself experiencing the first fumblings into sexuality. In short, I began to come of age, to move from that little girl into the woman I so desperately wanted to be. Of course, it was only the beginning of that journey, but that first time through guide dog training was when it began.
And this, I think, is the hook for the story, the thing that can make the story reach out to far more people than the limited disability or service dog market. Hasn’t every adult had those moments, those first times, those exciting and terrifying times, when we step into the first phase of adulthood? Wasn’t it glorious to meet people outside our bubble, to begin to discover sex, to feel that confusion about it? Didn’t we all have to come of age?
I think, and I hope, this story can touch hearts of people who’ve been through it, who are going through it and help people see that in all the way that matter, we are so very much alike. People with disabilities are not really that different at all. I know that at age seventeen, when I walked into that dorm for the first time, ready to get the dog I’d been dreaming of and waiting for ten long years, I never imagined I’d experience all the other things that came my way. It was an adventure, a romp, a thrill every minute. Well, for the most part.
I’ll be researching music of the era, movies, TV, slang and fashion. I remember the music well. I had a piece of luggage full of cassettes, many of which had been recorded by me putting my tape recorder up to the radio. I had a Perkins brailer and a binder of paper to keep my journal. I was not much into TV so can’t remember what we watched, but I well remember rushing to the theater to see Jaws several times that summer. I don’t remember what clothes I wore, but I was always nuts about clothes, so I’m sure I was wearing whatever teenage girls were wearing. The research will be fun, though I usually don’t enjoy research too much. It will be like stepping into a time machine. I wonder what I’ll find when I get there.
If anyone reading this is doing NaNo this year, feel free to buddy me on their site. My name there is sherriola. It’s going to be a fabulous month! Check back here for progress reports. It’s going to be a blast, or should I say, in keeping with the era, it’s gonna be Far Out!
Woo hoo, and according to the word count, I’ve already written 818 words, just writing this. I’m halfway to my goal for today! Can you dig it?
I think that’s a great idea! I’d love to read more about your experiences getting your first dog!