NaNoWriMo Updated

Well, I didn’t reach the 50,000 words, but I did way better than last year. At 18,000 words, I have a great start to something new. November was a little rocky as far as work and other things, so I’m not displeased with 18,000. Of course it’s all very rough and I’d like to review, edit, add, etc., but I hope to post some samples soon.

And as the new year approaches, it’ll soon be time for me to review my goals from last year’s post, reflect on 2013, and figure out what I want to do next year. Thanks for keeping up with me. 🙂



I’m at it again. Two years ago I attempted National Novel Writing Month and failed miserably. I got to about 4,000 words before I was distracted by something that I don’t really remember.

This year I’m trying to be more productive and dedicated to things, so I’m determined to make it work. So far, one week in, I’m at 8,000 words. Not too bad. I’m writing stories based off of my experiences here in Istanbul, so there’s lots of constant inspiration around me. What a silly person I would be if I didn’t take advantage of it. I’ll post more updates as the month continues. Maybe once it ends and I’ve done a bit of editing, I’ll even post some excerpts.

One of the many reasons I love David Sedaris

Before I moved to Turkey I broke down and bought a Nook. My aversion to E-Readers didn’t outweigh my desire to constantly have books with me and since bringing my library of several hundreds books to Turkey was nixed by my limitation of suitcase space, a Nook seemed the second best option. (I ended up actually only bringing 15 physical books, which is impressive for me.) Of course I picked the simplest, cheapest one I could find and even that one (the Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight, in case you were wondering) is fancier than I really need it to be. If only they would sell them with that used book smell…

I’m still on my kick of reading 30 books this year, though I’ve only just reached the halfway point nine months in. I’m in love with David Sedaris and one of the books I downloaded to my fancy new digital, black magic library was Me Talk Pretty One Day. Somehow I’d managed to overlook this classic when going through my Sedaris binge a few years ago. But I’m glad of it, because it fits perfectly with my current situation.

The book is essentially a collection of short stories based on various events in Sedaris’ life. Quite a few of the stories are based on his life in Paris and that’s where our situations connect. He moved to Paris with his partner, but knew only two words of French when he first moved there: “bottleneck” and “ashtray.” When I moved to Turkey, I knew maybe eight Turkish words, granted a bit more helpful than “bottleneck” and “ashtray.” But the point is that as he lived there longer, he began to write words on note cards and expand his vocabulary. He went from two to 200 to 600 to 1000. I cannot tell you how many words I know in English or German, but I can literally count up the words and phrases I know in Turkish and as Sedaris says, “It was an odd sensation to hold my entire vocabulary in my hands.” Imagine that your day to day life is based off of less than 30 words!

Continue reading

A letter to my 16 year old self

I recently stumbled across another blogger who’d written a letter to her sixteen year old self. The concept was so appealing that I immediately decided I was going to do the same. It’s interesting to think back to my former self and consider my ideas, my dreams, my worries and how they have changed, remained stagnant, or strengthened. So here is my version of a letter to myself.

Dear 16 year old Tessa,

You’re awkward and nerdy and that will never change, but you are also smart and beautiful. And the combination makes you much cooler and more interesting than you might ever give yourself credit for. Don’t be intimidated by other people and what they may think of you. Often, those people are worrying the same thing. You will soon find out that there are other people like you–friends who will love you as you are and be a part of your life for a long time.  Friends who will be there whenever you need them, no matter the hour or distance between you.  Friends who know you better than yourself.  Friends who will challenge you and show you the world. Friends who you will feel lucky just to know and who will feel the same about you.

Also, grades in high school do not at all reflect your capabilities. Academia will always be a part of your life, but you will learn that teachers, including yourself, are not always right. And you will have the passion to try and change the system–along with so many other things. Don’t listen to others. Your life is your own and it is important to know that, even now. And while your parents love you and really do want the best for you, be strong and stand up for your decisions and opinions.

Listen to yourself and trust your instinct. Your gut is never wrong. You will go so far. Soon you will find that adventurous part of yourself that has really been there all along, but needed a push or two.  You are capable of taking risks and you are more than capable of succeeding.  Confidence is key, but it’s okay to not always know the answers and it’s okay to ask for help…

Because there will be hard times. There will be sorrows. There will be times when you question everything and whether you can handle  what life gives you. But you can and you do. These are the times that you learn the most and these are the times that make you appreciate the less hectic. ( I won’t say calm, because there isn’t ever really a calm moment in your life.) Stress is capable of driving you, but don’t let it overrun you.

And don’t forget what you want at this very moment. True, some of your opinions will change and your view of life will become so broad. But never forget the person you want to be. Only adjust it to what becomes available to you, because you have no idea the awesome things you are going to see and experience.  These experiences will change you, form you, and help you to become someone you should be proud of.

Yes, I said it. Be proud. Be confident. You are smart. You are beautiful. You are capable. You are strong. You are a leader.

And as for boys… Well, believe it or not, there will be many. But you will only have the time and patience to really pay attention to few of them. And of those few, you will have great experiences and you will have heartache. And somewhere in between you will learn to let your guard down and trust others. Don’t forget to take risks in all aspects of your life, because when you don’t take risks, the rewards aren’t as great.

As for the things I have learned so far and you have still to figure out, I will leave you with what I have really found most important: Stand up for what you believe in.  Don’t try to plan life, because it cannot be tamed.  Even when things don’t seem to work out, it’s usually for the better. Almost everything is subjective, so do not back down. Laugh often. Travel as much as possible. Don’t be afraid to be yourself, because people think you’re amazing. Appreciate what people have to offer. Have fun. Continue learning. And NEVER stop asking questions.

Love always,

24 year old Tessa

PS- Don’t try to tame your curls–they will only fight back. Use them to match a vibrant personality.

Damn you, folk music and your rhythmic banjos

Sometimes the South, it just gets in your veins. It sneaks in like a virus that slowly infects your blood, your thoughts, your memories.  It calls to you in a scratchy voice and with a guitar and a banjo, it sings you a song of a home you never knew you missed. You begin to crave the smell—the distinct scent of pine and tobacco and wet air, somewhere between sand and mountains. It sings to you a song of family and familiarity, of comfort and pain, of hard work and friendship. When you were there, you wondered how you could stay and when you leave, even if you fight it, it draws you back, whispering promises with a twang that makes you smile. The sound of it pumps through your body and you tap your foot despite yourself. You share in the sorrow and the hope that comes with it, never separate.

NaNoWriMo Part 1 (1058 words)

Word Count: 1058

So after a ridiculous week at work and a complete lack of ideas on what to write about, I’ve finally been able to get a start on NaNoWriMo. I suppose four days late is better than never. So far my biggest struggle has been to turn off my inner editor. I didn’t think I would have such an issue with not editing as I go, but I have been proven wrong. I’m posting what I have so far mainly as motivation for myself to continue (ie something to hold me accountable).  It’s a very very very rough draft and I am trying my hardest not to reread and revise, but to just continue toward the word count. I’ll work for a bit longer on it tonight and hopefully I can manage my life a little better to work on it some more this week as well, because I’m pretty sure that my students have been writing more than me lately. I’ll be posting as I continue. I make no promises regarding the structure, content, organization, or overall quality:



Mr. Pittman, my high school ceramics teacher, once told me a monkey could make something nicer than what I’d made.

“Homegirl,” he’d said, “what exactly do you think you’re making there?

“A bowl?”

He shook his head, lifted his large glasses and rubbed his eyes. “A bowl,” he muttered. “Homegirl, a monkey could make something better than that.” And with that, he’d walked away to his next victim. I liked Pittman. I’d recently moved from the South to Maryland (I chose to ignore the Mason-Dixon Line argument based on the culture shock I’d gone through) and Pittman was from Rocky Mount, North Carolina. The first day of class, I’d mentioned that I actually knew of Rocky Mount, North Carolina and I’d been Homegirl ever since. I wasn’t aiming for the favorite, but I didn’t mind being associated with home either.

Mr. Pittman was probably in his early sixties when I’d taken his class. He’s long since retired, but I know he would have kept working if his health allowed. He’d often give us a hard time, but no student ever doubted that Pittman cared. Like I said, he was probably in his early sixties and always wore a blue smock, dress slacks, and dress shoes. He had a deep voice and deep smile lines. Pittman’s dark hands were always cracked and dry—the result of constantly working with clay and not believing in lotion. His large glasses were remnants of the seventies, as was his short, gray afro.  I’m assuming he wasn’t very tall, because I remember constantly looking him in the eyes when we spoke and I’m only five foot six. He’d often tell us stories of when he was enlisted in the Army in the sixties and coming home to race riots and sit ins. When he found out I was Jewish, he told me about Black Jews and their contributions. It was never dull in Pittman’s class.  I took his class three years in a row and there was one day each year when he would give his life speech. Continue reading

Friday Night

I’ve been going through and editing some old stuff. My poetry is not fantastic (my prose is much better), but I thought I’d post this anyway.

Friday Night

I sit in the row and wait,

wait for it to end

with 3 stars in the sky.

I listen to him speak,

an old book in my hand

with pages turning to the right,

my skin stained

with Hebrew tattoos.

We rise and sing and sit and pray.

My mind and soul are overwhelmed with

Spiritual restlessness

Longing for a tactile



and competing with

Tradition and respect,

which I can see top the head of my father and brothers.

And it makes me wonder:

What if I can’t see

Those 3 stars in the sky?