Revisions: Writing, BTO & Gardening

Writing

I’m almost finished with my several passes through the first Caribbean book – A Dream Across Time. It will be republished with a new title. The series will be called An Island Tale  and the titles will be An Island Tale – Dream,  An Island Tale – Circle and An Island Tale – Magic. They will be published under my name rather than a pen name – which seemed like a good idea at the time but in retrospect wasn’t. It seems like a lot of decisions in life are like that, but I’m getting a chance for a do-over with this. Not always the case with some life decisions.

I especially wanted to take a look at the dialogue which sometimes seemed to go on longer than it should. There aren’t any real plot changes so I haven’t had to get out my revision towel…yet. In the next couple of weeks the manuscript will go to a copy editor and then move on to CreateSpace for print and Kindle versions. Laura has proposed a cover series which I really like.

I told my Working Writer’s Forum that I would submit something for the April meeting. That will force me to spend some time on the third book – Magic. Those characters are rocketing around in my cranium and need to get on the page.

Bay to Ocean Writers Conference

Last Saturday was the 20th annual Bay to Ocean Writers Conference. We had good weather which is pretty miraculous in that we’ve never had to cancel because of weather. Anny, in the yellow sweater, is the “face” of BTO. She stands out in the cold and greets people as they come toward the building. It’s a welcome for which introverted writers are grateful.

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After ten years, I’m stepping off the organizing committee. Next year I will attend BTO and actually go to sessions. I’m looking forward to that. The day went smoothly, a tribute to the organization of this conference where 200 writers of all stages in their writing life come to learn about the craft of writing, different genres, marketing and publishing issues. We had a few hiccups with registration which wasn’t as organized as I would have liked, but I wasn’t in charge of that. Once we got people through the line, things moved right along.

We had three presenters who had requested AV assistance and they all had sessions at the same time. What are the odds? Chesapeake College had arranged for three tech people to be on hand. So something that might have been a big hiccup, wasn’t.

It was a long day and I was tired when I got home. I’d already told the husband I wasn’t cooking so we ordered pizza which is something we hardly ever do. Two in the morning I was up hunting for antacids. But that pizza sure tasted good going down.

Gardening

The weather here is very cold and windy, but we escaped the snow the rest of the east coast had on Tuesday. We got lots of rain and frigid temps. The daffodils are down for the count.

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I won’t know about other things (like my camellia) until things warm up. I had raked the leaves (which provide winter insulation) out of my garden beds when we had those mild spring-like days. I knew that was risky, but because things were just starting to poke out of the ground I could actually rake the leaves. If that chore gets put off, I have to “rake” on my knees with my hands.

When I sit at my keyboard I look out over a couple of big silver maples. I asked my husband to make me another birdhouse to hang on one of the trees. We hung four birdhouses earlier this year. He had made then several years ago and I finally got around to painting them. The holes are for small birds. I like the bright spots of color both in winter and summer. The one in the lower left corner was a craft birdhouse that finally fell apart. I kept it for the colors which I tried to replicate.

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We gardeners are always hopeful, and the lilac that I see from the window at my desk is in bud. Time will tell if the buds survived the cold of the last few days. If they did, the lilac will be full of fragrant blooms in another two months.

AWP Is a Writing Conference

The American Association of Writers and Writing Programs – people have been telling me about this conference for years – that if it ever came close to my geographic area, I had to go. This year it was in DC. I could stay with my brother in Georgetown, so I registered. The conference welcomed between 12K and 14K people in the Washington Convention Center and the Marriott Marquis Hotel. Just a few more than our 200 plus at Bay to Ocean Writers Conference at Chesapeake College.

I arrived at my brothers on Wednesday, and went to AWP on Thursday. I was delivering a poster for the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference and some conference rack cards. My Uber ride took only 15 minutes so I was early.

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I dropped off my items at the ESWA booth and scoped out the bathrooms and the location of the first session. The convention center and the hotel had lots of big bathrooms. They didn’t skimp on stalls in the ladies’ rooms. For a conference with a lot of ladies, this was a big plus!

All the sessions I attended were panels – four to six participants. These folks had impeccable credentials, MFA (Master of Fine Arts) degrees and multiple publications. MFA’s seem to acquire a special language with that degree. I had to think hard about fictive culture, breaking the fourth wall, distant third and character maps. Most of the authors who spoke about fiction, write literary fiction. A couple of sessions I attended had authors who wrote Middle-grade and Young Adult fiction, but there was not a Paranormal Romance (or any kind of romance genre for that matter) session to be found.

I did think I was going to get close with the session titled “Writing Female Desire.” But my notes only indicate the title of that session, not that I got anything helpful from it. Now, a week later, I can’t remember anything about it. Maybe I bailed and went to lunch.

For the most part the presenters were accessible and self-deprecating and regardless of the topic listed in the program, they talked a lot about their writing process.

Here are some of my favorite take-aways about process:

  1. Write for good friends first and, then, the rest of the world.
  2. Write “your” book, not what is currently in vogue.
  3. “I have a turtle tattooed on my back” was what one writer said about the pace of her process.
  4. If the door is stuck [in the plot of your book], don’t bang your head on it, go around and jimmy a window.
  5. What is the “river” that is pulling your book forward? In other words what is the book really about.
  6. Failure is part of the process!
  7. Be prepared for multiple rewrites of drafts. Not three or four but sometimes as many as forty. (That made me want to take a nap!)
  8. Several presenters had taken 10 years to complete a book, although they may have had other things published along the way.
  9. On the panel about women publishing after age fifty, one of the presenters said the pub date of her first novel was a week before she was eligible for Medicare. The room erupted in applause. This session was packed, standing room only and part of the discussion was how women find time to writer with career, kids, family, aging parents, etc. #womenwritingafter50

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On Friday night I attended a Joshua Bell concert at the Kennedy Center with my brother and sister-in-law. It was fabulous. He’s the rock star violinist.

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All in all, I’m glad I went to AWP. But truthfully, I get more that is helpful to me in terms of writing craft from the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference at Chesapeake College.

Bay to Ocean Registration Officially Open

Registration for the 20th annual Bay to Ocean Writers Conference officially opened today. At 6 a.m. I sent out a MailChimp email to our list of over 1000 who may be interested.

Here’s the link for the BTO sessions. I spent months pulling faculty together with the help of my committee, Ann Wilson and Loriann Oberlin. Then I began asking, nudging, bullying presenters for the information we needed and put it on the website.It had to be ready to go by today.

This year a new speaker on the topic of memoir is Glen Finland.

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Her book, Next Stop: An Autistic Son Grows Up, about helping her young adult autistic son cope with being out in the world has won multiple awards. Memoir is just one of the craft topics available at the conference. If you are a writer or have been thinking about writing, this conference has something for writers of every level. There’s always something new to learn.

Registration is through EventBrite (handled by ESWA Treasurer Charlene Marcum) and yesterday I registered my husband just to make sure that worked. It did! Phew! That’s always a relief.

This conference wouldn’t happen without the hard work of people who’ve done specific jobs for a number of years. At this point it’s a pretty well oiled machine, but it’s very exciting to be involved in the 20th year of this conference.

 

A Writers’ Conference and Wood Chips

2017 will be the twentieth year of the annual Bay to Ocean Writers Conference. I’ve been involved for ten years and Laura Ambler about that long. I’ve been Speaker Liaison for a number of years and have been training someone to take over the job.

The Speaker Liaison committee met this week to begin looking at the presenters we’d like to invite. We have some people who’ve supported the conference for many years, are terrific presenters and get asked back almost every year. We also try new people and new topics. Keeping up with the changes in the publishing industry is a challenge as every writer knows.

Some people complain there are too many good sessions to choose from. We think that’s a good thing. Others have said why do you have some of the same topics over and over again. They are probably talking about craft topics such as point of view or dialog or creating conflict. We don’t have the same person do the same topic year after year, and we don’t have the same topics every year. But I think writers can always learn something new – or get that part of the presentation your brain didn’t register the last time.

Actually, part of my philosophy of life is that there isn’t any situation or person from which I can’t learn something. Sometimes it’s something about myself and sometimes it’s how to do something. It probably drives any workmen we have in the house nuts because I hang around and ask questions. I’d like to try my hand at plumbing, but probably not in this lifetime. And I don’t attempt anything electrical.

The last few days of cooler weather prompted me to call Bartlett Tree Service and see if I could get a load of wood chips. They’re free, but you never know what you’ll get. It depends on what they’ve been cutting. When my husband helped me put the tarps down he asked if the pile was going to be the size of the house. “Don’t be ridiculous,” I said as I headed off to help weed at the Reading Garden at the St. Michaels Library.

When I returned the mulch had been delivered. The pile was the size of a small house.IMG_1550

We borrowed a second wheelbarrow; my husband filled them and I moved them to the back of the property and dumped. We were an awesome team. Shoveling the chips strains my shoulders and I don’t mind the schlepping. More steps to my pitiful FitBit account. The husband doesn’t like the schlepping because he’s tall and has to lean over the wheelbarrow handles. The pile was quickly reduced to the size of two VWs.

What did I learn from this pile of mulch? That I should pace myself and remember that I’m not thirty any more. The husband told me he’d learned that already  – about thirty years ago.

Update: The pile is now gone. It’s in barrow-size smaller piles around the property waiting to be spread out. That can happen bit by bit, and the only remnants of that huge pile are a few chips that escaped the tarps. All told I figure we’ve moved at least thirty cubic yards of mulch this spring – fourteen cubic yards purchased and one free load the size of a small house.

 

 

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.

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Tomatoes and Tunes

The Roma tomatoes at my raised bed in the St. Michaels Community Garden are going to town. That bed gets more sun than my raised beds at home, so I planted eight seedlings. I’m beginning to think that was a couple too many.  IMG_0264

This is the fourth time I’ve had a sinkful of tomatoes that needed to get cooked down into sauce and put through the hot water bath canner. I now have twenty-five pints of thick tomato sauce seasoned with Fish peppers, basil, thyme, and oregano (all from my garden) and there’s only two of us. I think tomatoes are going to start going to the food pantry. Plan B would be to keep canning tomato sauce and not plant any tomatoes next year.

Saturday night we took advantage of a free concert in Easton – Amy Black and Sarah Borges singing the music of Muscle Shoals. It was hot, but the Eastern Shore humidity was down and the sun was behind the buildings on the west side of Harrison Street.

IMG_0278It was a rockin’ concert that had people up and dancing in the street, including some wee ones who already had amazing moves. If I’d been closer I would have caught a video on my phone. Laura was slammed with logistics for the new DOD contract or she would have been there with her husband.

We are lucky to live in an area where the arts are so encouraged and appreciated. The concert was sponsored by The Avalon Foundation and the Tidewater Hotel. Harrison Street was full from Dover to Goldsborough.

This next week work begins the task of pulling together information for the speakers at for the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference website. And Eastern Shore Writers Association  member renewals are coming in. I put together the information that goes into the member directory and update the database. August and September are going to be busy. The tomatoes should be finished soon. Thank goodness!