Women Who Do Too Much

My friend, Diane Marquette, emailed me after I told her I’d forgotten to do something important. This is what she said…

” ‘Women Who Still Do Too Much,’ like ourselves, cannot keep all the plates spinning all the time. Sometimes stuff’s gonna wobble and break. That’s why there’s glue in the junk drawer.

I appreciated the “still” in what she said. I am trying hard to pare down my commitments so I have more time to write. There are a few more things to do for the Eastern Shore Writers Association and the Bay to Ocean Conference, but then more of my time will be my own. Of course, now that spring is here, the garden is calling…but I am writing every day and the plot for the third book in the Caribbean series is pulling together. I’m thinking about starting to post some excepts from the first book in the series.

Saturday we drove to Philadelphia to take our granddaughter to dinner. She was in town for an Occupational Therapy conference. She lives on the west coast and doesn’t get east very often, so we really enjoyed catching up. I love that we have the same chin! She’s a lovely young woman and we couldn’t be prouder grandparents.

Sunday afternoon I attended a meeting for volunteers at the St. Michaels Farmer’s Market. It’s an important institution in our community for those of us who care about where  are food comes from and how it’s grown or raised. I am excited to see how there can be more linkage between the St. Michaels Community Garden (one of my volunteer activities) and the Farmers Market. Many of us who grow most of our own produce supplement at the Farmers Market. I am stumped by summer squash. My zucchinis and yellow squash never survive squash borers.

Veggie signs went up on Talbot Street this weekend. This is a fun fundraiser for the Farmers Market.Other organizations do similar fund raisers. Before Valentine’s Day we have Hearts on Talbot, we have Jack Russel dog signs before the Jack Russel races at Perry Cabin, and silver stars before Christmas in St. Michaels.

 

There’s always something going on in this wonderful small town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

So Much to Do, So Little Time…

The annual Bay to Ocean Writers Conference is 20 years old in 2017. I attended my first conference the year after we moved to St. Michaels, MD – in 2007. The next year I was on the planning committee doing publicity and have been ever since in various roles. I’ve even been a co-chair with Laura Ambler and Diane Marquette a couple of years.

bto-square-logo

Currently I (with a committee) find the thirty plus conference speakers we need, update the website, oversee production of the conference program, answer emails sent to the conference mailbox, update the evaluation form and pull together the information, and put down tape on the college floor the morning of the conference to make sure people know how to get to the cafeteria and the second building we use. It’s a  lot and as much as I love this event that brings an affordable writers conference to the Eastern Shore, this will be my last year doing all these tasks. I need to have time to write.

Today I was involved in filming a short documentary about the conference. We talked about how the conference got started and how it has evolved as the publishing world changed dramatically. When the conference began none of us were concerned about marketing on social media and there was no on demand printing. Once the film is available I’ll put it on the website and you can take a look.

I am also going off the Eastern Shore Writers Association board in January. I have been acting as the membership chair but we are transitioning to Wild Apricot, a membership software that will do most of the tasks I was doing. More time freed up.

_____

This weekend is Christmas in St. Michaels – a 30 year old event that raises money for good causes in the Bay Hundred area.

2014-header-santa

The Bay Hundred is the area from St. Michaels down to Tilghman Island that could muster one hundred militia men during the Revolutionary War.

This is a very giving community. People work year round to make this festive event happen. There are so many moving parts beginning with a big party on Friday night. I went with a couple of lady friends one year (there was no way I was going to convince my husband to put on a tux) but after that decided I could donate to the cause and not go to the party. And it wasn’t like I had a closet full of gala outfits. This year they are not calling the event a Gala, but it costs the same. Apparently lots of good food, open bar and music. It will be fun for those who attend and I will be home in my PJs in front of the fire we’re now having every night. It’s very cozy.

img_2144

I baked cookies to be sold at Santa’s Wonderland for Saturday and on Sunday I am a docent at one of the houses on the house tour. It’s down the street (on the water) from my house. My house has a water view if you stand at the end of the driveway and squint.

_______

I am hoping to get out to mulch/mow the leaves still on the yard, but winter temps have finally arrived so I may just move the mower from the garage to the shed and call it an end to fall. Then I can organize the garage and think about painting those elephant ear leaf castings I made in October.

IMG_1951.JPG

_________

Our dining out group gathered at our house this week. We’d made a reservation (way in advance) for dinner at Scossa, but they called to say they had double booked the room we were supposed to be in. I knew that meant they had gotten a booking for a larger party than our group of ten. But it all worked out. Some of our group have had health problems this fall and weren’t sure if they’d be able to go to a restaurant. I said come to the Burt’s and if you can only stay twenty minutes it will be okay. If you need to come in your PJs that would be fine, too. Everyone showed up wearing clothes and everyone brought something so it was easy. I did a ham. Another wife made one of those decadent potato casseroles, another a fabulous spinach salad with cranberries and gorgonzola and another green beans with lemon butter. For dessert one couple brought a beautiful trifle that was amazing. It was so light we were all lulled into believing it had no calories.

img_2143

______

I’m looking out the window of my office at the leaves on the grass. I might just have to dress for Antarctica and start up the mulching mower.

ESWA and BTO

In between pulling up tomato plants and planting some fall kale, arugula and Hakurai turnips, I’ve been at the computer a lot.

Last weekend my husband and I organized an Eastern Shore Writers Association meeting at the Queen Anne’s County Library in Stevensville, MD. We had two ESWA members who presented their book selling techniques. It was really interesting and inspiring. Sharon Brubaker talked about some of her guerilla marketing techniques for selling her books. All terrific information. Kenton Kilgore, talked about tricks for us introverts to use when dealing with the public. I resonated to his statement that you know if you’re an introvert because being with a lot of people drains your batteries.

That’s certainly true for me. I’ve learned over the years to present a positive, outgoing personality, but the real me wants to hide in the closet. If I know what I’m talking about, am prepared with a presentation, I’m fine. When I was on Oprah years ago, as an expert on therapy with stepfamilies, I spent the night in the Chicago hotel room reading somebody else’s book about stepfamilies. Just wanted to make sure Oprah didn’t ask me a question I couldn’t answer. Now that was just neurotic. Note: she didn’t. I wasn’t nervous. I was prepared!

We’ve organized another ESWA meeting on October 8 at the Easton library. This one will feature editors of ESWA’s literary magazine, The Delmarva Review, who will answer questions from people interested in submitting.

del-rev-cover-16-large

The other big project I’ve been working on is The Bay to Ocean Conference website. It’s 99% there. Registration for this conference begins October 1 and we always sell out. I sent out the page with the sessions to all the presenters so they could take a look and a couple found mistakes which I corrected. Getting presenters for all thirty sessions is always interesting and challenging and that process begins the day after the conference. We have some faculty who are so good, we invite them every year. And we aim for at least a third new presenters. This is BTO’s 20th year which is really exciting. Take a look.

For the last five years or more I’ve been managing the membership database for Eastern Shore Writers Association. It’s cumbersome because it’s more than just an Excel spreadsheet. New members have to have their emails typed into two different lists on MailChimp in addition to the Excel spreadsheet. New members also get a welcome email, a welcome letter mailed along with a copy of the most current Delmarva Review. That requires a trip to the post office. A renewal letter goes out in mid-July but the renewals dribble in. If people pay on PayPal the receipt goes to the treasurer who has to remember to forward the information to me. If something comes in the mail mail, it has to be sent to me or scanned and emailed. In addition to the data base, I publish a quarterly digital membership directory to the members. Phew! This was getting to be a half time job.

Yesterday the treasurer went to the mail box and asked the postmaster to look into the fact that we hadn’t gotten any mail for weeks. Turns out the ESWA mail had been put in another mailbox. Now I’m waiting for those new members and renewals and hope I can get the member directory ready in time for emailing it out on Oct 1.

In this system, there are lots of places for things to go wrong, for data to be misplaced. So at the last ESWA board meeting I recommended that the organization subscribe to Wild Apricot which is membership software for organizations. The board agreed, but now my job is to handle the transition. It’s a steep learning curve, but my goal is to get this completed by the end of the year. At that point new memberships and renewals would be automated and the chance for errors significantly lessened. The membership directory would be compiled by the software. Emails can be sent out to different groups, etc. The software does many things. The trick will be learning to use them. I go off the ESWA board at the end of December, so I’m hoping the next person who handles membership will have an easier time. We are, after all, volunteers.

Once these projects are completed, my goal is to get back to writing the third book in my Caribbean series. But before that a table of green tomatoes in the garage is waiting for me to make green tomato chow chow. That will be a blog of its own.

 

 

What Happened before Wildlife in the Garage

Friday night I came home around ten from an Eastern Shore Writers Association meeting in Berlin, Maryland. I went with Laura Ambler, Betty Ann Sands and Jo Ebling. The drive is an hour and a half  from Easton (almost to Ocean City, MD) and on the way Laura was talking about the Healing Tree in Berlin that Mindie Burgoyne had told her about. Laura wanted to hug the tree. We were a little early so we parked and walked to the tree – a weirdly twisted sycamore.

healing tree and Laura

Supposedly you feel healing energy when you put your hands near the tree. Didn’t work for me or Betty Ann. Looks like it worked for Laura like a shot of vodka. Jo said she felt something.

The meeting was at The Globe in Berlin. This small town looks very interesting. Sort of like St. Michaels, MD. Lots of shops and places to eat and drink. Perhaps worth a trip back during the week. It’s probably crawling with tourists during the summer season because of its proximity to Ocean City, MD so maybe this fall.

Our speaker at the meeting was Denise Clemons who writes a food column for the Cape Gazette in the Lewes, DE area. Denise, who is a master gardener, went into the Gazette office ten years ago to pitch a garden column. She was told they had a garden columnist but their food column person was really ill and that’s what they needed. Any writer worth her salt would have said yes and that’s just what Denise did. So for ten years she’s been writing a food column which is not the same thing as a restaurant review column. She told us no one will invite her and her husband to dinner. Hey, Denise, come on over. I’m not afraid. I was taught to cook by my Iowa mother who was raised on a farm. My cooking is overlaid with a garnish of Food Network tips. My specialty is figuring out how to make something wonderful out of leftovers in the fridge. It’s kind of liked Chopped!

At this point my husband would be saying, “please come to the point. What does this have to do with wild life life in the garage?”

When I opened the garage door – not to pull in my car – the garage is full of gardening stuff, I noticed a small frog hop into the garage and go behind a bookshelf full of odds and ends. It was after ten o’clock, way past my bedtime. I wasn’t about to try and find that friggin’ frog.

That day I had finally planted by window boxes and they were under the tree waiting for Saturday’s predicted rain. I had planted most of the rest of my raised-from-seeds seedlings but there were still a few plants that I had to drag into the garage. Including that rosebush!

The next morning I noticed that one of the cells where I had planted hyacinth beans looked like it had a seed sprouting. A sprout with  two eyes? Something wasn’t right. Turns out the little frog had found a bed for the night but before I could put my palm over his temporary quarters, he jumped out and disappeared again. It was raining and the prediction was for it to continue all day. I’ll be prepared for him in the morning and try to return him (or her) to the native habitat.

In the meantime I was working on the draft of the third book in my Romantic Suspense series. Late in the afternoon when I had left the office I was sitting in the living room reading. My husband was watching the news (turned up because his hearing aids are about to quit). Suddenly I had an idea about the plot of the book I was writing. I have learned from bitter experience that I need to get up immediately and write it down because if I don’t it will probably NOT come back to me. How this new plot twist insinuated its way between a thriller novel and political talking heads astounds me, but it did. I’ll work on that, and the frog, tomorrow.

Sunday morning update: checked for frog but didn’t see any evidence it had checked into the frog motel overnight. If it’s not raining hard today I may leave the garage door open and perhaps he will leave. I don’t want to find him dried up behind the paint cans.

Monday morning update: still no frog and still raining. That rosebush may not get planted until July.

 

A Busy Week

It was a busy week. Cleaning out garden sheds, a Green Thumb Garden meeting, a writing conference,  a new project, and some gardening.

The family of my friend who died a week ago called to ask if I could use any of the items in her garden shed. They suggested I take anything that women in the Green Thumb Garden Club could use, so last last Wednesday and Thursday another friend and I sorted and hauled things to the Woman’s Club. They were at the club house  for the Friday meeting where people took things they could use and made a donation to the St. Michaels Woman’s Club Scholarship Fund (we give a 6K scholarship to a St. Michaels High School graduate every year).

In the afternoon I attended a meeting for something we are calling Growing Bay Hundred. It will be a collaboration of the Farmer’s Market, the Community Garden and the Stm Michaels Community Center. Lots of good ideas about how to get people to come out. For those of you who don’t know, the Bay Hundred historically refers to the area from where Harris Creek almost intersects with The Eastern Bay (in the area of Claiborn), all the way down to the tip of Tilghman Island. By the mid 1670’s Talbot County was divided into “hundreds” for administrative purposes. The term “hundred” survived from medieval England when shires were divided into segments that could each produce 100 fighting men. The Bay Hundred area is now one of the few Hundreds left in Maryland as a description of a voting district. Now you know.

Saturday was the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference, sponsored by Eastern Shore Writers Association. This was the 19th annual conference! Thirty hour-long sessions on a variety of writing and publishing topics were offered. It’s a lot of work throughout the year, and Laura and I have been involved for ten years. This year Laura wasn’t on the committee because of her work load. Most of the rest of us soldier on but it’s time to bring in some new (younger) people with fresh ideas.

This is Anny Williams who greets attendees each year. They start the day spying Anny’s yellow sweater from the parking lot and know where to go. Her big smile sets the tone for the day.

BTO 2016 Anny Williams

Below is one of the two students I sponsor each year. A budding writer, I’ve been sponsoring her since she was fourteen. This year she’s a high school senior. She’ll be attending college in the area next fall so I can continue to sponsor her. I’ve got a young man who will be a sophomore in high school next year who I’m hoping to also sponsor. It’s a little young for the conference whose attendees tend to skew middle aged, but mature, interested students can really grow from this experience.

BTO 2016 Birdie

BTO also sponsored three Chesapeake College students in conjunction with a grant from the Talbot Arts Council. They are required to write a short essay about their experience at the conference so the organizers will be interested to see what they thought.

This year we backed the conference date into March gambling that the weather would be less of an issue. When you have 18 years of missing weather bullets that would cancel the conference, you begin to get a little paranoid. The weather was great, everything went smoothly and the comments we heard were wonderful. The evaluation sheets are being tabulated and we’ll know more in a few days about which sessions and faculty had the most value to attendees.

This year I actually attended two inspiring sessions on social media with Eastern Shore Writers Association President, Mindie Burgoyne. Usually, after getting to Chesapeake College at six in the morning, I don’t have the energy. This year we started a little later, had three morning sessions, two afternoon and the conference ended at four instead of five. It made a big difference for me and I don’t think we had as many people who left before the last session of the afternoon.

On Sunday I tried to sleep in but it was the move to Daylight Savings Time which always throws me for a loop. It was supposed to rain all day, but the weather was good for working outside and I spent most of the day clipping and cleaning garden beds. This time of year is always a race to get beds cleaned up before perennials start to pop. I let fallen leaves remain in the beds as plant insulation for the winter, but it makes more work in the spring. The rain didn’t come until Sunday night so I got a lot done. Of course I was very grateful for Monday morning yoga class so I could get the body moving again.

I have lots on my desk and some conference boxes in the garage to be sorted, but I’m back to working on the next thing. That just seems to be the way I roll.

.

YOYO Dinners

It’s been a couple of weeks of day and evening meetings. I’ve only been home for dinner once. It’s just that time of year. My husband has had way too many YOYO dinners (You’re On Your Own.) By last Friday I was ready to slouch on the couch in my yoga pants and have a glass of wine in front of the fire.

IMG_0807

These are the Christmas treats I made for Santa’s Wonderland at Christmas in St. Michaels next weekend. This is the first time I’ve volunteered to help with the kids. I know they will be adorable. Then I thought about those runny noses. I don’t have a lot of interaction with little children any more so we don’t get the twenty-four hour flu that used to rampage through our family or the upper respiratory viruses that turned us all into mouth breathers. Oh, well, too late now. I’d probably scare the little darlings if I wore a face mask.

These no-bake “cookies” were  easy. Put a pretzel round on a baking sheet. I used a sheet pan with sides because the rounds are slippery. I didn’t want the batch to end up on the floor. Put a Hershey’s kiss (unwrapped) on each pretzel and put in a 350 degree oven for 2 minutes. Take them out and push an m&m into each soft kiss.

There was no room in my fridge so I cooled mine in the garage and then bagged them in the cello bags and tied them up with red ribbons. Very festive. I might do a gluten free version of this with a gluten free pretzel although, truth be told, neither one of us needs the calories. Unwrapping the kisses and sorting out the red and green m&ms took the most time. This would be a fun project if you have young children or grandchildren.

One of the nights out was my Working Writers Forum. Another night out was an Eastern Shore Writers Association Board meeting. Tonight it’s a meeting of the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference group so another YOYO dinner for the husband. Thank goodness he doesn’t mind leftovers.

Last Thursday was our dining out group – five couples who dine together once a month.. We had dinner at Scossa in Easton. We love that restaurant. One of our group had brought flashing Rudolph noses for the guys and Santa ear headbands for the gals. I never want to grow up. Wednesday night we are having a gathering of writers at our house. I might just wear that flashing Rudolph nose.

IMG_0802

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Glad I Went

Last Night

Last night it was cool and my husband had built a cozy fire. But I’d raised my hand to substitute for someone on the Eastern Shore Writers Association Education Fund board at the Talbot Arts Council presentation of grants. Why had I done that? I’m old enough to know I need to sit on my hands when they want to rise of their own volition.

I’d been told the event started at five, but when I got there that meant wine and cheese with things actually starting at 5:30. For introverts like me standing around a milling group of strangers is on par with a root canal, but I saw some people I knew.

mala-and-Marylann-at-TAC

Marianne Stallsmith (in green) was there with her husband, Stan. They were there because their art gallery in St. Michaels, Local Port of Art, had gotten a grant. It’s next to their store, The Candleberry Shoppe. I also ran into a woman I went to graduate school with. Jo Merrill was there to get a grant for the St. Michaels Art League. She didn’t have anyone else to talk to either, so we sat together.

Promptly at 6:30 the program began. The auditorium at the Academy Art Museum in Easton was full. The program listed all the grant recipients – all fifty-six of them. I was in for a long night and thought longingly of the cozy fire and the glass of red wine I’d passed on.

The first to be honored were three teenage girls who’d gotten grants to attend arts or music programs last summer. To my surprise, there was Hannah Zerai. I’ve sponsored Hannah at the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference the last two years and will again next March. I met Hannah when she auditioned for the play Laura Ambler and I wrote, The Santa Diaries. When we heard her sing we knew she needed to be featured with a solo. She has an amazing voice and last summer a grant enabled her to study musical theatre at the Broadway Artists Alliance in New York City. The next young woman was Summer Snead, a junior at Easton High School. Summer was also in the cast of The Santa Diaries, and I’ve watched her musical career bloom on FaceBook. Last summer Summer went to New York and studied at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. She said that’s where she’ll attend college. Suddenly I was really glad I’d come to this event.

Talbot Arts Council did an amazing job of awarding the checks. Groups of people were called to the front, envelopes handed to us as we approached, a photographer from the Star Democrat, our local paper, took group pictures and we went back to our seats where I put my envelope in my purse. The whole thing was over in 45 minutes and I was back at home by 8pm, really glad I’d been asked to sub. I knew about the Talbot Arts Council, but I had no idea of all the things they’ve helped happen in Talbot County. Much of their support goes to schools so kids are exposed to art and music at a time when many of those programs aren’t as robust as they were in the past.

This morning I pulled out the envelope out of my purse and opened it. The letter inside was addressed to The Chesapeake Film Festival. I pulled the envelope out of the trash and it also said Chesapeake Film Festival.  I called the Talbot Arts Council office this morning to get it straightened out. I expect the Film Festival people got the letter and check for the Eastern Shore Writers Association. It will get mailed to the proper ESWA person.

Today

Today I’m working on the Eastern Shore Writing Association Member Directory. In the past it’s been a printed document. This year it’s going to be in a digital format to save printing costs. It will also allow us to reissue it quarterly with new member updates. I was working in the new Microsoft Word that’s part of Office 350. A bit of a learning curve, but I’m figuring it out. My friend, and fellow ESWA board member, Jo Ebling came on Tuesday night to show me how to do it. That was enormously helpful.

I’ve been tasked by the ESWA board with buying a copy of Microsoft Office 350 for ESWA. They have a great deal for nonprofits. But getting it isn’t so easy. It’s sold through “partners” who have to call you. Twice now I’ve asked to be called and nothing has happened. When you call the number on the Office 350 sales page you can get a helpful person. Then…nothing happens. So that’s on the docket for this afternoon. The next board meeting is the first week in December and I’d like to report that I’d accomplished my assignment. I bought a copy for my personal use so I’d be familiar working with it, but need the “official” copy for ESWA.

How is my writing a novel in a month going? Don’t ask. Eastern Shore Writers Association is taking all of my time right now.

Tonight I’m having dinner with Laura and another friend. It’s our monthly book club meeting. We go to dinner, have a glass of wine, and share the new books we’ve read. This is going to be fun.