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julia morgan ballroom | Author Olivia Boler

Author Olivia Boler

writing is fun
November 19th, 2012

Night of Coughing Dangerously

Every fall, I get my flu shot. Every November, I get a wicked cold with flu-like symptoms—achy, mild fever, coughing, sneezing, sore throat. It’s absolutely lovely. I recall Thanksgiving the year I was pregnant (and still not telling the public) with my son and had this damn sore throat and runny nose. At least it gave me an excuse to pass on drinking alcoholic beverages.

This year, the dreaded ailment hit me at the end of last week and stuck around through the weekend, even though I tried to head it off by popping Vitamin C, the chewable kind my kids now think is candy. My dear husband had to step up to the plate and take on all kid duties by his lonesome, while I crawled back into bed and tried to gather my strength for the NaNoWriMo Night of Writing Dangerously on Sunday. After my friends and family had generously donated to the cause, I was going. Plus, I’d raised enough funds to bring a guest, and I’d invited my writing group pal Jesse, who was counting on me being there. Double plus—I wanted to get my swag bag, dang nabbit!

Swag Bag. So cute, right?

swag bag

So I took NyQuil. The family went out to birthday parties and playgrounds and gymnastics classes. I heard, through the fog of my phlegm-encased brain, the skirmishes between my daughter and her dad over homework. Every now and then, I rallied, ate some toast, and typed out the two freelance articles that were due. A deadline waits for no cold.

Sunday afternoon, fortified with Tylenol, I drove to downtown San Francisco, to the Julia Morgan Ballroom. NOWD-ers were dressed to the nines—the theme was “noir.” My attempt to participate rather than hate was a gray knit cap with a crocheted flower. Jesse brought his jaunty leather satchel and dipped into the open bar for martinis.

Jesse and me getting ready to write
Jesse and me getting ready to write

I followed, ordering diet Cokes, my drink of choice when I’m down. The candy bar was like manna from heaven—Red Vines, caramels, coffee toffees, marshmallows—I tried to find things that would help my cough, but who am I kidding? It was all about the sugar. Dinner was a delicious smorg of kebabs, rice, potatoes, and salad, followed by cupcakes.

I tried my hand at the first Writing Sprint competition and wrote about 465 words in 15 minutes. Not bad, I thought. The winner of that round wrote 1,518 give or take. I decided Writing Sprints were not my thing.

Jesse and I’d found a table of nice folk from the Bay Area, and one from Denver (?) We had a window with a city view, but really, the glow of our laptops was the scene that demanded out attention. Some people wrote by hand. One had an old-timey manual typewriter. Not electric—manual. Classic black. Very Dorothy Parker. You could hear it clickity-clacking away over the sounds of music (sample: The Beatles: “Paperback Writer.” Ha!).

The Candy Bar

The Candy Bar

Every time someone hit the 50,000-word mark, he or she rang a bell. The ballroom would erupt in cheers.

I went home that night, calling it in an hour before the end of the festivities—the sugar, caffeine, and acetaminophen wearing off—with a little over 3,000 new words pegged to my novel’s word count.

This morning, I’m still a little light-headed. But I got the kids to school, and my husband got a little quiet time to himself, finally. That’s November for you—colds, 50,000 words, and, pretty soon, pumpkin pie.


The laptops glow in the Julia Morgan Ballroom






The laptops glow in the Julia Morgan Ballroom

Postscript: After writing the above this morning, I got a call from my son’s preschool. Guess who has a fever?

November strikes again!


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