Tag Archives: Living

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One of the authors on a writing web site I follow noted that she doesn’t believe in writer’s block. She says, we block because we don’t know what we want to say next.

Come the end of November, it will be two years since we killed Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine, a monthly publication we produced for a decade.  When we ended the magazine, we were at the peak of our readership, reaching nearly 40,000 readers monthly with 18,000 print copies circulated around central West Virginia. We never could print enough copies.

Of course, I had a monthly column in the magazine, a continuing conversation I had with readers for ten years.

And when the magazine ended, I lost that audience and lost that conversation. For two years following, I did not know what to say. Who would I be talking to?

Perhaps I was reluctant to admit we failed the magazine. We could not rustle up enough advertising revenue to keep it alive. Perhaps I didn’t want to admit that I felt trapped by the business–its monthly deadlines, the routine of it, the box I had put around myself as a writer and career woman. I knew, for the last two years of the publication, that the magazine I had once dreamed of creating was something I didn’t want any more. The simple country Iife I had toted and promoted for ten years was feeling restrictive, limiting, and too much of a struggle.

I had hoped to create a publication that readers would love, and we did. That was the fun part. Keeping it financially viable with advertising income in an economically depressed region was a huge pain in the ass. That was no fun at all.

I did not realize until we discontinued the magazine, how much of a burden it was on us. Nor did I realize, until the deed was done, how much I would miss our readers. How much, as a writer, I needed that audience. I needed that conversation. (One-sided as it was.)

I was recently interviewed by an artist working on a project that she waited 30 years to start. We talked about how Two-Lane Livin’ started (an idea in a bubble bath) and how it ended (with phone calls to this day from readers who miss it).  We talked about my graduate school writing experiences, and then she asked me, “What do you want to do with your writing now?”

And the question that’s been percolating in the back of my mind for two years finally answered: I’d like to have an audience again. Not facebook followers, not sporadic literary journals, not a book (although that’s coming). I don’t want to deal with writing as a business right now, I don’t want to scour submission guidelines, subject my work to an editor, consider marketing tactics, web site SEO, cover photos, paper stock, sales tax.

I just want to write and be read. I want to start that conversation again, between me and the world out there, whoever cares to participate. For a writer, what other goal is there but to write – and to be read?

I have been blogging off and on, for 16 years. The archives on this site alone go back to 2006. Sixteen years. Good lord. That goes back to before I was a newspaper reporter, before I was a columnist, before I was a magazine publisher, graduate student, college professor, librarian. Who knows what is in those archives? I don’t. Who knows what new will be added? What’s this blog about? I don’t know that yet either. The photos I’ve put in the page give a review of some of the main points of my recent life — porch sitting, caregiving, library life, creative play, pictures of Daisy, our beagle. This is my space for expression — I cannot predict what is to come.

Blogs, they say, should have a niche. They should use photos, SEO, keywords, hashtags, make regular entries, include external links — there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it.  I may or may not adhere to those guidelines.  I’m an Amazon Affiliate and have a Google Adsense account, so I might put those in play at some point, but the point here is to put the words out there, and hope folks read it.

Blogs should allow commenting…  Yeah, that’s not going to happen. I’m not going to moderate comments or take crappy criticism from strangers. (I’ll post links to these entries on my facebook page and profile. You can comment there if you’d like.)

Since it already has nearly 400 subscribers, I’m also reviving my email newsletter. It was originally intended to be monthly, but I think seasonal/sporadic is a more realistic description.  Highlights folks might have missed. Favorite entries, work published elsewhere. You can sign up in the form in the right-hand column–I’m preparing the fall issue to send out some time next week. You can also sign up here.

So, here we go again–writing via the blogosphere. I hope you’ll join the conversation (one-sided as it may be).

Dear Pen Pal – I’m “On Break”

Dear Pen Pal,

I turned in my final portfolio for this semester yesterday – I’m sure you remember what that was like.  I sent if off around noon, and spent the rest of the day wondering What do I do with myself now?

Of course, the answers are obvious – everything I didn’t do while I was doing my homework.

So, yesterday afternoon I cleaned off the porches, and cleaned up the herb and flower beds. I’d like to mow one more time, but it’s not really necessary.

If you recall, I was freezing whole tomatoes from the garden as the season passed to process later – and later has come. They are thawing on the counter and I have jars in the sink water, the squeezo set up on the counter.

I also straightened the pantry, taking inventory of jars there. Looks like I’ll be making spaghetti sauce and/or chili sauce. There’s plenty of soup, salsa, sloppy joe sauce, juice, V8, pizza sauce.

I have an abundance of strawberry and watermelon preserves, rosemary and chocolate mint jellies. I keep thinking one winter I’ll teach myself to make tarts. If I don’t find some use for them, I’ll have them until the lids start rusting.

I’ve also gotten in my mind to sew me a new book bag for my next residency in January. The one you saw was measured to carry my lap top, which I did not carry so much after all. I’ve also realized there is a need for a pocket just to hold scarf, gloves, hat, etc when the temperatures drop to 4 below. Hopefully it will not be quite so cold again this year.

Canning, cleaning, sewing. All things that allow your mind to wander. I would be happy to not pick up a book at all for the next few weeks. I’ve heard again and again that writers should write every day. I try to be creative every day, but it may not always be through writing.

Of course, writing and publishing work still continues. We’re working on the December issue, our 100th issue and the Christmas issue. Magazine layout is like a big puzzle, and there are more pieces in the Christmas issue puzzle than normal. Also, more pieces and parts come in at the last minute, so there’s more pressure.

Planning work continues for the writing and creativity workshops we’re planning to launch next year. I hope to have a minimum of two next year, expanding to perhaps four different themes a year, depending on the response. I think I told you I have a poet friend working with me now – I value her input.

The garden may be finished, but our shiitake logs are producing well right now. They are so yummy when sauteed in sunflower oil and butter. We had intentions of selling the mushrooms, but like so many of the things we’ve learned to grow and produce, they’re so good we’re reluctant to part with any.

My teaching continues, as does yours I am sure. I cannot imagine carrying the load you currently are and I would not dare complain about mine knowing you are carrying three times as much. Won’t be long before Thanksgiving break, then finals.

I have not received a letter from you recently, but do hope to hear from you soon. I enjoy finding them in the mailbox, love the fact we’re keeping a lost tradition, letter writing, alive. Don’t worry, these online messages will never replace my snail-mail letters.

I was just thinking of you today, knowing you would understand this done with the semester burst of energy.

But now I’m off to deal with those thawed tomatoes, and to thread the needle on the sewing machine. And the sun has come out. I may mow the yard after all.

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Garden, Schmarden

I just haven’t gotten the gardening bug yet. I had my seed order ready, and then a friend of mine brought me all of his seed catalogs. Even with all the extra options, I just haven’t been able to get my hopes up.

I thought browsing the new catalogs might do it. But no. I did redo my seed order, for better prices more than selection. I didn’t expand the list any — if anything, I trimmed it back. I just don’t have the garden dreams I had before.

Instead, I’ve been sewing. Frank spent a day cleaning out the hot beds while I sat at the sewing machine or the computer. Perhaps he thought it would inspire me.

It didn’t.

Oh, I still want to taste those home-grown tomatoes. Still want those days in the garden under the sun. I just don’t feel the excitement about it I did before. I feel disconnected from something that is (or once was) an integral part of our lives.

It’s a sobering lesson to lose all the work and investment in a garden and come up with nothing, like we did last year.

I find myself investing time and learning in other projects. Chickens, sewing, etc. Last year, by this time, in spite of an actual winter, I already had seeds started indoors. This year, I haven’t even placed my seed order yet, nor have I reviewed what seeds I have in our little seed bank. I’m just not there yet.

Perhaps when spring starts to show itself. Someone in the county reported hearing peepers the other night, and though I know they always freeze their little buns off at least once each year once I hear them, I hope that perhaps spring intends to arrive early this year — maybe that will get me going.

In the meantime, I’ve been sewing garden aprons. I thought perhaps a new garden apron would inspire me to get in the garden mindset. It didn’t. Instead, I ended up inspired to sew more aprons. I made 20 aprons in a weekend. At least I’ll have something to sell besides eggs at the spring farmer’s market…

 

The Peepers Always Freeze Twice

One of the biggest cues that winter is ending is the emergence of the Spring Peepers. When you have a lake in your back yard, sometimes they can be so loud they make it hard to fall asleep at night. Most folks, when they hear that first “peep,” they think that spring has sprung.

But I know — the peepers always freeze twice.

It’s been about a month since we heard the first peep around here, and two weeks ago, there was a spread of snow. Then, we had warm days with rain, hail, thunder — all a small taste of spring. I planted seeds, inside and out. The hens began laying again. Crocus bloomed, forsythia bloomed, daffodils bloomed.

But last night the peepers were silent, and this morning — there’s snow.

As much as I would like to think we’d be delivering the April issue along sunny roadways with the windows down, I realize that’s not the weather predicted for the upcoming week. And though the Vernal Equinox has passed, I know the loading docks at the printer in Parkersburg tomorrow will feel as windy and cold as pick up in January.

<sigh>

The new T-shirts I ordered for Frank and I to wear on delivery sport our logos and a new promotion arrived yesterday. Looks like they’ll be pulled on over thermal shirts and hidden beneath coats all week. Bummer.

The arrival of spring is a month filled with disappointments — because once we start seeing the signs, we have higher expectations of sunshine, warm breezes and open-toed shoes. But I have learned not to get my hopes too high, and to leave the electric blanket on the bed.

I may switch from snow boots to rubber boots for yard work, but I know to keep the wool socks handy.

I clip daffodil blossoms and forsythia branches, and bring them inside to put in water.

Because the peepers always freeze twice.