Exciting News About My Book

Yes, iIMG_1239t’s fall … my favorite time of year. The leaves are changing from green to bright yellow, gold, red, and orange, too. Yesterday on my walk, there was a a cool breeze out of the northwest. Leaves were dropping like a steady rain. It was magical.

So it seems appropriate to tell you that during this spectacular time of year, another spectacular event is now officially beginning to happen. My book, Me, Myself, and Mom, is officially on the road to being published and will be on bookshelves next September.

I’m publishing with She Writes Press and I couldn’t be happier.

From my first contact with this fairly young press, I’ve been impressed by the quality of the books they send out into the world, their award winning authors, and the help they provide for those like me who are technical dinosaurs.

One of their developmental editors, Annie Tucker, was a dream to work with. She respected what I was doing and never tried to make my manuscript into something it wasn’t. You don’t have to sign a publishing contract with SWP in order to hire one of their prize editors. The experience of working with a professional like Annie, gave me the confidence I needed to know that my book had a great chance where ever I decided to go with it.

In the beginning, I was thinking of self-publishing. But I’d already self-published one book in 1980, before it became the wave of the future. That book, about a way to use fleece directly from a sheep’s back to make rugs and other gorgeous items, was a huge success. But the end process of being a bookseller and taking care of all sales and shipping, was hard work. I had little time for anything else. When other back-to-the-landers, like myself, started getting older and the market began to cool, I let it go out of print.

I asked myself why I would want to take all that on again.

I figured this new book, a memoir, was something entirely different. I’m in my seventies now, I enjoy tending to all of my interests instead of just one. I want to travel. I want to spend time with my family. I want to work in the garden and cook. I want to make art and write much more than I already have.

I knew it could take the rest of my life to find a traditional agent and publisher that I wanted to work with. So the idea of working with a hybrid press like SWP, sounded just right for me. And my experience with Annie, convinced me that going with them was what I needed to do.

Two years ago, when I was still considering self-publishing, I made contact with a publicist at the Virginia Festival of the Book. She was on a panel with two other publicists giving a run down on what publicists do for writers. Between the three of them, I found, Caitlin Summie Hamilton, to be the most down to earth. She seemed like the real deal … open, honest, and approachable. After the panel discussion, I talked with her and later chatted with her on the phone about what she could do for me and what the costs looked like. I really liked her and promised myself that if I decided I wanted to work with a publicist, she would be the one.

Imagine my delight when I found Caitlin on SWP’s list of recommended publicists. I talked with her again last week, and she’s writing up a proposal for me.

I’ve also sent in material for my book cover and look forward to a chat next month with Brooke Warner and all of the other authors whose books will be published in the fall of 2016. I love the community of writers that SWP has created and look forward to getting to know them all.

To say that I’m excited would be an understatement. There were days when I never believed I’d get this far. There were times when I wanted to shred the manuscript and give up the idea of ever publishing this book.

Reliving what I was writing about was painful. But the idea of giving up and throwing it away wasn’t an option and I focused on the idea that this book just might help someone else going through a critical time in their life. I’d learned too much to just let it go and not share my story.

So I hung on. And look where I am today!

Have there been moments in your life when you wanted to trash an important project you were working on? What kept you moving toward the finish line?

To Sell Or Not To Sell

My Last Bike

My Last Bike

Wanting to up our exercise choices, Bill and I bought us a pair of bikes eight or so years age. We were both members of gyms and worked out on a regular basis. I also did some flat water kayaking on the peaceful river we lived on at the time. Never really a fan of gyms and exercising indoors, I was interested in being outside where there were no membership fees or waiting in line to use a particular machine.

We took our bikes with us when we went to the Outer Banks on vacation every fall, where there are bike lanes along a straight expanse of road. Traffic at that time of year is always light and I felt quite safe when riding there. Along with beach walks everyday, I was getting plenty of exercise, and I loved being out in the chilly air with the wind in my hair and the sound of waves crashing ashore in the distance.

The biggest problem with riding my bike here at home was that there were no great places to ride. Living out in the country, the roads were narrow and curvy, and we knew someone who’d been badly injured when she was struck by a car, as she was biking along one of them.

Sometimes I loaded my bike in my car and took it to a county park, where I rode. But after a while that seemed like a pain in the butt. We lived on a lovely cul de sac that was long enough to get some speed up and also had a few little hills. I happily rode back and forth, burning calories for a while until I got bored with that.

As many things do, the bikes started gathering dust when we weren’t at the beach. When we moved here into town, where we thought we’d ride them more, they took up too much space in our much smaller garage. Though there are some bike lanes here in the city, I’ve seen too many near misses to get up the courage to launch myself into the community on my bike. So, our nice shiny bikes gathered even more dust.Once ion a while we’d  haul them out, wipe off the cobwebs, and pump up the tires. They were ready for a spin around the block, which never seemed to happen.

Last year we decided that it would be best to sell them. We were too busy, or was it lazy, to make the effort to get them ready for rides we’d never take. This past week, Bill finally hauled them out, cleaned them up, and listed them on Craig’s List. I took one last wobbly ride down the driveway and back, just to be sure I wanted to part with my loyal stead. I decided my long morning walks were much safer.

But when the first call came in just after Bill had listed them, I felt very sad. It seemed like the end of an era and my youth. I felt older than my soon to be 72 years, and like I was giving up too easily on my need to stay young and fit.

My bike sold immediately. Bill’s is still in the garage, but I expect it to go soon. Feeling the same way I do, he and I mourned our losses together at Sunday brunch, over a scrumptious frittata, crab cakes, salad, and a Bloody Mary.

I have a friend, a few years younger than I am, who recently bought a new car. She was excited telling me about it. But the conversation ended when she added, “This is my last car.” I was taken aback. Her comment probably has something to do with the way I’m feeling about my bike, that isn’t mine anymore. I’m not that old, but the fact is I have to, “That was my last bike.” I do not intend to get another.

A few days later, I’m now thinking that it’s best that I did sell it. I wouldn’t want it to go unused and be something I’d trip over when trying to find something in the garage. I’m not giving up on my need to stay fit and young. I’m being realistic. I will not say that the car I have now, or that the next one I buy will be my last. But I am allowing myself to feel comfortable with the cross trainer in my studio that keeps me dry when it rains or snows, and the magical walks I go on when the weather is gorgeous.

DSCF0620Like right now. The sun is shining, the sky is cloudless, turning leaves are drifting down in a light breeze, and a flock of starlings are gathering in the trees for their long flight south. I’m putting on a sweater, and am heading out down the street. Selling my bike was not the end of an era. It was an end of a season and the beginning of another. There are many more still left to be lived … a little bit differently perhaps, but always as wonderful as ever.

 

Changing With The Seasons

IMG_0490Here we are again, in that beautiful time of year when leaves start to change their colors, nights call for soft blankets, and chilly mornings make me run to the attic to unpack a few cozy sweaters.

I LOVE this time of year. Though spring is always magnificent here in Virginia, with it’s colorful blossoms and the promise of new life, summer, usually leaves me exhausted with its busy pace that eventually drains my energy. The best parts of summer for me are those sun warmed tomatoes picked directly from the garden, and sweet, juicy peaches that make my hot weather breakfasts of yogurt, fruit and nuts, especially delicious. Now the peaches are getting scarce and when I can find them they’re mealy in texture. So I’m turning over with the season, moving to warmer breakfast foods like left over soup, bowls of hot cereal, or eggs and bacon.

DSCF0621My writing muse is fighting with my garden genie, which is calling me to spend more time outside amongst my plants. I’ve dozens of baby hellebores that need to be dug up and moved, lots of weeding, and the roses that have gone wild over the warmer months need pruning. In the summer, working in the garden is an early morning affair, but now cooler temperatures lure me out all day long. Thank goodness both are creative activities.

The arrival of autumn encourages me to slow down and get ready for the cold months, when I spend most of my time indoors writing, and reading. When I’m cold, I like nothing better than a long soak in my big tub filled with bubbles and the scent of lavender. Hot steaming cups of tea that include warming herbs and spices, like cardamom, ginger, and cinnamon, sipped in front of a crackling fire also will do the trick. I’m going to bed earlier now, and get up later, with the sun. I’m yearning to cook stews, braises, and soups with root vegetables like parsnips, beets, sweet potatoes, and carrots that warm my soul.

On my morning walks, I notice squirrels stashing acorns away for the winter. Birds are fewer and quieter than they have been. Lilliput, my cat, is playing her seasonal game of in and out, unable to decide if it is more pleasant inside or out in the yard. The dogs walk at a much brisker pace cutting our walk time from about twenty minutes to fifteen. Once the real cold arrives they’ll walk even faster, wanting to come back in the house to warm their small bodies, in five minutes. Lilliput will go out to do her business and perhaps stalk a blue jay, but will be back in a flash if no bird are about.

Change can be hard. As a child I moved with my family from house to house, like a gypsy, as fast as my father could build them and sell them. I had little sense of what home really was. I’m ready to stay put now, especially at this time of year, when my feather comforter and warm wooly socks invite me to curl up on the sofa with a good book.

Do you enjoy the change of seasons? What is your favorite season and why?

EXERCISING MIND AND BODY

IMG_1643It’s June. Half the year is shot. I was glad to see winter melt into spring, but the worst of Virginia weather is before us with its heat and humidity. Summer is not my favorite time of year here.  Spring and the fall are my favorite seasons at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  On the best of days the temperature is just right, somewhere in the mid-seventies. There’s usually a nice breeze and lots of sunshine. Often afternoon showers water my garden for me.

I rise early, walk the dogs, then I leave the dogs behind and go on what I call a “Hood Hike.”  I pick up my speed and get my heart pumping, rather than lollygagging around every shrub and blade of grass, so that Max and Sam can read the doggie newspaper.

There are lots of hills in the neighborhood. They work just about every muscle in my lower body.  A former neighbor named the worst one, “Killer Hill.” I don’t even like driving up it.  It feels like I’m shooting for the moon.  But it’s rather short and sweet and I try to do it a couple of times a week to really get my heart going. I’ve seen several people run up, but I’d rather die.

This past winter on one of our worst snow days, the kids in the area built moguls on that snowy incline, sliding down on sleds and trays over, and through their hand-made obstacle course. Parents stood at either end guarding the route so that nobody would get hit by a car.  Most of us never use that hill under those conditions anyway. It’s too steep and would be impossible to navigate unless you have four-wheel drive.

With warmer temperatures just days away, I’m beginning to plan my summer exercise strategy.  On hot days I’ll get up even earlier to walk.  But if I can’t get myself out of bed, I’ll use my old cross-trainer in my air-conditioned studio.  I could also walk at dusk, but sometimes it’s even too hot then.

For a few years now I’ve often spent hot days cooling off in my neighbors pool. But they’re filling it in now.  I don’t blame them a bit.  It’s a lot of work to keep a pool clean. They also have two young grandchildren who visit frequently.  Those kids would need to wear life preservers all the time to keep the adults from stressing out. However, there is a very nice city pool nearby that I’ll probably start going to during lap time, when there are no kids making waves.

Exercising my mind, I’ll spend several hours each day sitting at my computer as I rewrite my memoir.  I have already gotten started and am having lots of fun with it. I enjoy this part of the process even more than writing the first draft.  Now I have all the puzzle pieces before me. All I have to do is put them back together again in a new way.  It’s like working on one of those huge, complicated jig-saw puzzles you open up when you visit the seashore during the late fall or early winter and the wind is howling. It’s too cold to walk on the beach and you don’t feel like reading.

It is easier said than done, of course. There is always lots of frustration included in the fun.  But when the puzzle is finally put together in just the right way, it spells out masterpiece.

What do you do to  exercise your body and brain during the heat of summer?

 

Already Naked

“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.  You are already naked.  There is no reason not to follow your heart.”  Steve Jobs

DSC00761Just over a week ago we had fifteen inches of snow on the ground.  This past weekend we had two gorgeous days, both near seventy degrees. The warmth and sunshine was heart warming after what has seemed like a long, cold, and dreary winter.  Although it sounds like there may be more snow in our future for next weekend, I know spring is on it’s way.

My cat, Lily, was the first to inform me. She has spent most of winter cozied up inside on the couch, only going out to use her favorite flowerbed as her kitty pan.  Just before the big snow, she started her warm weather routine of going out, coming in, going out, coming in, and going out again. She’s constantly at the door or at the window outside our dining room asking for our attention in manning the doors.  And even the snow didn’t stop her.  She tells me that spring’s arrival is guaranteed. Soon. She is much more optimistic than that groundhog, Phil.

I’ve also noticed the build up of the chorus of bird song when I go out for my morning walks with the dogs.  Almost silent just a few weeks ago, the sunrise is taking on music and  it will crescendo into it’s full blown glory as the days grow longer and warmer.  Yesterday I noticed a lawn up the street abloom with tiny lavender croci. Daffodils are poking their sleepy heads above ground, gaining strength and energy as they inch toward the glow of the sun.

And I’ve taken on a new glow myself.  After my last post about loss and grieving, an internet friend, Debra Marrs, sent me the quote above. I’ve spent the last week contemplating its meaning and feeling myself beginning to recharge and get ready for an audacious spring.  I’m certainly helped by the lengthening of daylight hours. I’m now ready to great the sunrise and be outside at around 6:40 AM and am reveling in the added time in the evening to watch the sun sink beyond earth’s edge.  My energy levels are moving upward and now that the work on our house is about done, (They promise today will be the last day) my interest in finishingmy book is growing.  No one ever told me that these last chapters just might be the hardest to write, but the words are flowing again and I just might find my way out of my thicket of thoughts in a timely way. I’m seriously considering going to a creative non-fiction writing conference in May, the first in many years, as a way to get myself primed for what’s next in getting my memoir onto bookstore shelves.

During the dark time of winter, especially when it’s cold, I find it easy for me to sit back and fall into my old patterns of not feeling good enough … that I’ll never get the book done or published … and if I do get that far, no one will care to read it.  But hey, that quote above sent me a reminder.  I’m already naked.   What do I have to lose?

So tell me, is spring on its way in your neck of the woods?  And what do you have to lose if you ignore your biggest dream?DSCF0989