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2013 Camp NaNoWriMo Participant BadgeOne of the things I like most about extended writing projects is getting to know the characters. While I haven’t made huge strides in meeting my Camp NaNoWriMo goal, I’ve learned a lot about my characters.

The bigger bonus is that my new cabin seems to be a little more talkative than my old cabin, though it’s still not where I’d hope it would be. I couldn’t have hoped for much, what with writers being introverts in their natural state. But I figured it might be like a writer’s conference, where everyone is a little more social than usual because they understand that the people around them are interested in the same general topic. I was wrong.

So, rather than trying to spark conversation in my cabin, I’m considering shifting the conversation to Google+. Back in November when NaNoWriMo was beginning, I created a circle of people who were participating in the month-long writing challenge. That community of people made me feel connected to the project, and they helped me write more than I would have without them.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Here’s an excerpt from my most recent story:

Embarrassment is the worst emotion anyone could ever feel. It’s shame and humility paired with a rush of blood to your face that you can’t hide when you’re as pale as me. Unless you don’t have to be around anyone.

As a single, slightly germophobic, twenty-five year-old man, I had no reason to come down with mono. And the nurse had no reason to say “Who have you been kissing recently?” when she called to tell me the results of my blood test. I was embarrassed, but it meant that I got the next month off of work.

I’d like to say that I spent that month reading all of the books I’ve been buying with the best of intentions. Instead, I spent most of my time watching episodes of Bewitched and James Bond movies. Except for one day.

There was a terrible storm that had come in with wind speeds over fifty miles an hour. I was in the middle of my morning routine—dragging my blanket and a box of cereal over to the couch to watch the TODAY Show—when I heard a bang followed by a few pops and then another bang. I looked around. Al Roker was no longer in front of me. My fancy coffee machine was no longer brewing my single-serving cappuccino. It was quiet in my apartment, and I felt very alone.

I ate my cereal in silence while waiting for the electricity to return, but it didn’t. Maybe today is the day I should start reading, I told myself. Are you sure? There’s nothing else you could be doing right now? The dishes maybe? And when was the last time you vacuumed?

I entered the spare room in my apartment, heading for the dusty bookshelf next to my desk. I had every intention of pulling Chuck Palahniuk’s Survivor off the shelf, but I noticed a shoebox on the bottom shelf. And while I knew exactly what was in the shoebox, I wasn’t completely sure of the exact contents. So I sat down on the ground criss-cross-applesauce and dragged the shoebox in front of me.

Inside were a collection of things from my childhood—the ticket stub from my first (and last) Cubs game, a mosquito on a microscope slide, a small pouch of wheat pennies, my father’s old yarmulke, a picture of me and some friends at our eighth grade dance (I was the sweaty one making a face in the back), a piece of petrified wood, the pocketknife my grandfather used in World War II, some old computer parts, and a book I had to read in high school—The Tau of Pooh.

I was about to flip through the book to see if I had anything good highlighted, when I heard my cell phone ring in the other room. I got up, rushed to my phone as it sat on the kitchen table, but it stopped ringing before I could get to it. When I looked to see who had called, I saw Penny’s name on the screen. Why would Penny call me during the day?

My brain started to wonder if Penny had been kidnapped and so she was trying to call me to help her. But I couldn’t help. I’m still weak from the mono. Maybe she was caught in a struggle and dialed me in an attempt to dial anyone. And I had missed the call, which meant that she was likely unconscious now and would be dragged off into a sex trafficking ring, and it was all because I didn’t answer the phone.

I considered calling back, but what if the attackers answer and can triangulate where I am? Or worse—what if Penny had accidentally called me while at work? What if I call back when she’s talking to a student and embarrass her? What if she looks and sees that I’m calling and makes a crack to her student about how I got mono without having kissed anyone?