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.

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.

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.

 

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.

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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.

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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