Write on Wednesday – Is Networking Worth the Effort? – February 27, 2019

Networking takes time.  Are the benefits worth the time and expense ?

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Yesterday I had lunch with Bonnie Feldstein. I met Bonnie a decade ago when we were both involved as volunteers with the Eastern Shore Writers Association and The Bay to Ocean Writers Conference. Over the years I got to know Bonnie as smart, opinionated and pee-your-pants funny. She’s an accomplished writer (she writes as Anna Gill) who has a lot of information about people who can help writers and, more importantly, is willing to share.

Since Bonnie lives in upstate New York, we only manage to get together once a year or so. And each time we meet we are in different places in our writing careers. When she finished her last novel, The Island Womanshe told me it was the last one. Yesterday she confided that there was another story that just wouldn’t let her be, so she is deep in the weeds of another book.

I’m in the editing part of my latest novel–I still have to figure out the title–and she had some ideas about future marketing and people who might help with that. I had planned to use CreateSpace for formatting but that option is no longer available. Another hurdle to jump and Bonnie had some suggestions.

Networking lunches are invaluable, if  only to connect with another writer who understands how grueling the process can be. In my experience they are well worth the time and expense. Even if I hadn’t learned something yesterday that may help my writing, I had the pleasure of spending time with a friend. Time away from my writing desk is important, too.

Networking doesn’t have to be lunch. It can be coffee early in the morning or a glass of wine at happy hour. It can happen at meetings and conferences. A shared card can lead to more.

Much of my networking happened because of my volunteer efforts in the writing community. If I hadn’t been involved with the Eastern Shore Writers Association and the Bay to Ocean Writing Conference, I would never have met Bonnie or many others now in my writing circle. People who are now friends and aquaintances I can email with a question or concern. Even if they didn’t know the answer they might be able to point me in a direction. Or tell me to hang in there, the plot point I’m searching for will show up.

For us introverted writers networking is worth the effort.

 

 

 

Six on Saturday – A Retrospective – February 23, 2019

Much of my garden is still under water. We have lived in this house for twelve years now and there is standing water where I have never seen it before. I don’t like to think about summer mosquitoes if this continues. I suggested to my husband that we might build more decking over the worst of it…a suggestion that was not greeted with enthusiasm.

So I am began looking through past photos around this date. That resulted in some surprises.

  1. 2018. Last year I had blooming crocuses on February 20. This year no buds yet.

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2. No garden photos this time in 2017 but I did find these spectacular sunset clouds. I actually remember where I was when I took this. I had arrived at Easton Airport for my Working Writers Forum meeting. It would have been about 5:30 in the evening.

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3. In 2016 around this date Bartlett Tree came to trim all the maples in our yard. The River Birch with the exfoliating bark in the foreground was removed last year. The grass is green and no standing water.

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4. In 2015 we had significant snow around this time in February.

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5. In 2014 the agapanthas I had brought inside were blooming. I have since put them in the ground outside in an effort to reduce the number of pots I carry in for the winter. They survived in the ground last year but no blooms last summer.

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6. In 2013 I had early doffodils blooming. I don’t see buds yet this year.

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That’s my Six on Saturday, a meme started by The Propogator, a UK gardener. This retrospective shows me that crocus and daffodil are late this year. I wonder why. This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

 

Write on Wednesday – Why Watching Nova Makes Me Feel Like a Cockroach – February 20, 2019

Nova programs evoke strong responses in me. This week the husband and I have been watching a program about rockets.  I’d probably rather watch a cooking show, but when it comes to rockets the power of the human brain is awe inspiring. I can comprehend how someone, at some point in history, invented the wheel. But the engineering and sheer hubris in inventing something that goes into space is mind boggling. And I love seeing women in those rooms of engineering geeks.

A year ago I posted after watching a Nova episode titled Black Hole Apocalypse.

Here’s the log line from the PBS website: “Black holes are the most enigmatic and exotic objects in the universe. They’re also the most powerful, with gravity so strong it can trap light. And they’re destructive, swallowing entire planets, even giant stars. Anything that falls into them vanishes…gone forever.”

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I love Nova programs, but sometimes I feel like a dog listening to a human. Blah, blah, blah, Ginger. Blah, Fetch, blah. Especially the programs that are based on higher math. Math was never my strong suit. At Goucher College I was allowed to take an astronomy class instead of college algebra to fulfill the math requirement. Enough said! Note: I’ve never quite forgiven Goucher for taking away 27 semester hours of art credits when I transferred there from University of Maryland.

But this Nova program really made me aware of how many galaxies and stars and planets there are in the universe. Billions, trillions, way too many to count if we could see far enough. Our planet is an insignificant speck of dust among millions/billions of others. And it occurred to me that we are pretty much the cockroaches of the universe.  Somewhere out there another Mala Burt is writing the same book I’m working on. We think we’re special, but almost certainly are not. Note that I have enough ego to hold out some hope.

Alexander Pope said it best in his poem An Essay on Man.

“Hope springs eternal in the human breast; Man never is, but always to be blessed: The soul, uneasy and confined from home, Rests and expatiates in a life to come.”

Pope probably wouldn’t have written that poem if he’d been able to watch Black Hole Apocalypse. Despite Nova, I have enough hope to be thinking about  starting seeds for my always optimistic and hopeful garden. But that’s another post.

Six on Saturday – A Walk Around Three Gardens – February 16, 2019

No particular theme this week. Just a walk around three gardens. The St. Michaels Community Garden where I have several beds, the Wilson Reading Garden at the St. Michaels Library which I helped establish and maintain, and my own still soggy garden at home.

Yesterday it was sixty degrees. It wasn’t raining for a change. I harvested some Red Russian kale for dinner from my community garden bed and did a little weeding. IMG_8298

2. Across the alley from the community garden is the reading garden we created outside the St. Michaels library. We did a major clean-up in the fall and the garden is ready for spring. The original path was made of oyster shells. They are hard to get now and we will have to make a decision on what material to use as there are beginning to be some bare patches. Volunteers planted hundreds of daffodil bulbs in this garden last fall. It will be spectacular in a few months.

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When I got home I wasn’t ready to go in yet so I started raking leaves. I found all sorts of things.

3. The white hellebores are beginning to open and nearby I found a pink hiding under the leaves.

4. I pulled leaves out of the old wheelbarrow where I plant mint and found pineapple mint rosettes waiting to be discovered.

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5. Nearby day lilies are sprouting and the green thready leaves of crocus could be seen, but no flowers yet.

6. Buds on my Roseum Elegans rhododendron are waiting for May. I didn’t realize how beautiful the buds are until I looked at the photo.

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That’s my Six on Saturday, a meme started by The Propogator, a UK gardener. It’s mid February and as spring approaches there will be new things to share every week. This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

Write on Wednesday – Recent Center Stage Baltimore Productions – February 13, 2019

I’ve seen two terrific plays at Center Stage Baltimore recently.

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A Wonder in My Soul

In late December I saw A Wonder in My Soul. I came out of the theater thinking this was one of the best plays I had ever seen at Center Stage. Written by Marcus Gardley and directed by Daniel Bryant, the play is about two black women who open a beauty shop in their neighborhood. Many years later the neighborhood has changed, and Pen Lucy and Swann Park are behind in their rent; the building where their salon is will be sold.

The playbook talks about the importance of beauty parlors in black communities. I remember when I was in school getting my Master of Social Work degree, we often talked about the fact that beauticians provide therapy for many of their clients.

This production was in the Pearlstone Theater at Center Stage. This is a proscenium theater although it doesn’t have a curtain. I’m always looking at staging. In this play the salon had two styling chairs, a loveseat in the reception area of the stage, a door which led to outside and a slightly lower apron area on which some “flashback” scenes were performed. The door was clearly the entrance to the salon and when people left the stage, they opened the door and walked through. It defined an action more clearly than just going off stage.

All the actors were wonderful, but Kalilah Black and Harriett D. Foy were exceptional.

Our tickets always seem to be the last performance in the runs. I need to try to change that. I would have gone to see this show twice – or more.

Fun Home

Then last Sunday I saw Fun Home, a musical memoir based on the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel. The book and lyrics were by Lisa Kron and the music was by Jeanine Tesori.

Billed as a play about a dysfunctional family, I wondered if I even wanted to see it. I get enough dysfunction these days watching the news.

It was another stellar show. A closeted gay father raising three children with his increasingly angry wife. One of the daughters is gay but only understands that when she goes to college. Oh, and the father teaches literature at a local college, but runs a funeral home on the side. Hence the title of the play, Fun Home.

In this show the gay daughter is depicted as a ten-year-old, a college student and a woman in her forties. It was the actress who played the ten-year-old who caught my eye. Molly Lyons is her name and she’s nine. Someday I’m going to see her on Broadway.

Fun Home was performed in the Head Theater which is a thrust theatre—a stage surrounded by audience on three sides. The fourth side serves as the background. Hydraulic lifts in the floor raised and lowered part of the sets. If only the community theaters that produce the play I wrote with Laura Ambler (The Santa Diaries) had those kinds of options. Another staging tool that could be translated to community theaters was a slightly raised platform with furniture that was rolled onto the stage when the scene took place in the living room. Faster than having stage hands carry furniture on and off stage. A similar platform on the other side of the stage was a kitchen area that rolled on and off. Of course this only works if you have off stage areas that will accomodate the platforms. Many community theaters don’t.

Watching live theater is enjoyable (I go with some girlfriends) and educational. I always come away with some ideas about improving the plays Laura Ambler and I write.

Six on Saturday – Spring Is Coming -February 9

It’s just the first week of February but we are having a warm spell and the birds are excited. This cardinal was on my front walk this morning. Nearby a robin was digging for breakfast and a bluejay was calling out. The birds seem to know something is afoot.

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2. I noticed some new growth on the Knockout roses. I think it’s too early to prune, but I’m putting March 1 on my calendar as the date to start this annual chore. The new foliage is spectacular.

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3. I checked the helebores. Not open yet, but lots of buds on this particular plant. Others may be hiding under the leaves, but it’s still very squelchy in the beds and I don’t like to walk in them more than I must as it compacts the soil.

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4. When my mother was 75 my brothers and I gave her this teak bench for her birthday. When she moved into a retirement community and couldn’t take it with her, I was gifted with it. Now it is a reminder of a place she sat to rest when she worked in her acre of azaleas in a beech woods. She is always with me in my garden. The lichens on the bench need to be scrubbed when it warms up, but for now they make a lovely patchwork. The squirrels have gnawed on the front leg. Little buggers have no respect for heirlooms!

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5.  Daffodils are Goliaths in my garden — resilient and strong. In the upper right corner of the photograph, they are pushing up a large chunk of mulch. Nothing says “Spring is Coming” more than the the daffodils.IMG_8270

6. And just because I can’t believe I didn’t kill an orchid here is another picture of my  phalaenopsis orchid which is continuing to open. To my local friends…if you have an orchid you are going to put in the trash, give me a call. I’d like to try and resurrect it.

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And I couldn’t resist adding this photo of the beautiful markings on the throat. They look like an insect from a distance and a Georgia O’Keefe painting close up.

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That’s my Six on Saturday, a meme started by The Propogator, a UK gardener. It’s the beginning of February and as spring approaches there will be new things to share. This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

Write on Wednesday – Read Your Work Out Loud – February 6, 2019

I’m getting ready to send my novel manuscript out to an editor. I had been over the print copy, penned in revisions, deletions, changed the order of some scenes and then spent two weeks making all those changes on the computer file.

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But I knew there was something I still needed to do. I needed to read my manuscript out loud. All four hundred plus pages of it. I’d never done this before with a long manuscript, but I kept reading that this step was an important editing tool.

It took me a week, and lots of glasses of lemon water, but I was glad I’d done the work.

  1. I found multiple errors that I’d missed when I marked up the manuscript pages.
  2. I found I could better assess the pacing of scenes.
  3. I found places where characters said something they couldn’t have known because it hadn’t happened yet.
  4. I found spelling errors that Word had overlooked.
  5. I found inconsistencies in dialogue for characters.
  6. I found character “tells.”
  7. I found that I still liked my story.

My advice: Read your work outloud. It’s an editing tool worth the time and effort.