I’ve added a new category so I can brag about workshop participants who have published. Hmm. Is it pitiful that I get more excited when a student or mentee publishes than when I score another byline?
Anyway, I found a delightful package in today’s mail. Louise Hess sent me a copy of Apple Blossom Time: An Autobiography in Prose and Poetry (IN: Dog Ear Publishing, 2011). Of course, it’s personally inscribed to me from Louise and included a matching bookmark. Congratulations, Louise, and thank you! Louise participated in workshops I offer through Renaissance Academy.
What makes this volume stand out is how the author shares universal life moments through the “seasons” of life and uses the apple tree as a metaphor. Each story provides insight into the author’s life through the people she writes about and the events she shares. And then there are the poems, scattered through the volume like apple petals on a late spring breeze.
This reminded me of another (former) student who became a dear friend. I helped Linda Aubel prepare her memoir manuscript, Summertime, for self-publishing several years ago. It also used a unique approach to organize the vignettes—Broadway song titles. Linda took Guided Writing classes I taught through the Center for Lifelong Learning at Hodges University.
Another student, who is also a close friend, has good news to share but doesn’t yet have a publication date and doesn’t want me to jinx it. So for now I’ll just say, congratulations, Susan! Get me the details so I can brag!
“Work hard, play harder.” This was my motto about two decades ago when I was energetic and thrived on hope. As an aspiring writer, I worked full-time and wrote fervently part-time. My boyfriend at the time was also high-energy and worked a lot. We were both “paying our dues” so when he was working and I was off the clock at my day job I wrote. When we both had time off (which didn’t align all that frequently) we packed in as much fun as possible.
Vacations were never the “lie on the beach” type but of the “I need a vacation after my vacation” variety. Because we worked so hard, we felt we deserved to have fun, too. A lot of fun. Crammed into brief vacations.
A little over a decade ago I was regularly selling my writing so I switched to a part-time job. Now I had more time on my hands than my boyfriend, so I added “produce more” to my motto.
I used vacation time (ironically, in my part-time job I accrued more than he did) a day at a time to create long weekends. These became “writing weekends” during which I focused on a specific writing project. Basically, I “played writer.” Whatever I envisioned my life would be like when I became a full-time writer was my focus for that long weekend. Sleep. Eat. Read. Write. Read. Write. Sleep. Whatever I dreamed as “a writer.” I planned these weekends months in advance and looked forward to them as if they were a dream vacation to Bermuda.
They paid off! I began raking in the magazine credits and turned my attention to book-writing—and a half-time job. More time to write, but still working hard and in need of hard playing to balance things.
Now that I’ve limped to the summit of Middle Age, that motto doesn’t work out so well. First, after spending several years writing full-time I started teaching workshops. Writing is too solitary a career for someone with so many words to share. Second, those workshops led to bigger gigs and I now teach half-time at a local college. Now my breaks are structured between semesters and whatever schedule I have each semester. Lately my motto seems to have become “Work too hard, catch nasty virus, miss vacation time.”
I spent my time off reading, coughing, and sleeping. Ah well, at least I traveled a great deal and had plenty of adventure—in the past, the future, and an alternate realm. And I’m not even sore! No suitcases to unpack and run through the laundry, either. Not bad.
The semester began today and my voice almost lasted through the lecture. In about a week I’ll have settled in and will find my routine and a will revise my motto. Maybe “work hard, write plenty, smell the flowers, enjoy each day.”
I took a long walk on the beach this morning with a friend. I know she often walks the beach combing the shore for ideas. I assumed we’d talk about our projects but we had so much catching up to do.
Of course, since I publish mostly fiction, the beach was a great place to find ideas. I wasn’t aware of the amenities this beach had to offer – a concession stand and a café, chair and umbrella rentals, a clean and stocked restroom. There’s a regional article angle since it’s an out-of-the way option for locals.
To reach the beach we walked a trail and then a boardwalk through the mangroves. I’ve seen plenty of anhinga drying themselves before but never so close – the wet feathers looked like fur! That’s an angle for younger readers – and part of curriculum here.
Once we were on the beach, walking ad talking, I had to stoop three times for shells. I have plenty of shells – mostly one have a bivalve shell – so I rarely stop for more. But these were univalve shells, two conch and one cone, they were fully intact. That’s rare. I have pieces of these sorts of shells but few that are unbroken and unblemished. All three were perfect and intriguing.
Now I can’t help wondering about these items and thinking more and more about an old story idea that includes magic. I wonder if my character ever sees the shore. Do they have these types of shells in her world? Might these items hold magical potions or powers? How will they weave their way into that story? So, from a walk on he beach, I came away with two article sparks and items that will inspire a longer piece.
Though we didn’t talk shop, I was making progress with my writing just the same.
One week before summer semester begins. Freedom fettered to a long To-Do list. The priority items are done (submit grades for Spring Term, turn in syllabi for Summer Term, pay bills, finish a webinar outline and proposal, e-mail my latest column) but the other items on the list are not very exciting.
Yesterday I spent a good part of the day Sharpening the Saw. (Before you assume I’m devising a murderous plot or preparing to complete some DIY home renovations, STS is the Franklin-Covey term for down time. I call it “refilling the well.” The two fastest ways for me to regroup and replenish are to read and spend time outside. Since I often read at the pool or on the lanai – and I have a peaceful view of wildlife at a pond surrounded by white pine, cypress, palmetto, and palm trees in both locations — the well refills (or the saw stays sharp) rapidly. But after a day devoted to STS/RTW, I feel guilty spending the rest of the day listening to the breeze swish the trees around while I read at the pool.
One item still on the list is to reorganize my office. It’s sort of trashed because I’ve been dumping bags, Scantrons, and unclaimed student papers in a corner by the file cabinet. Instead of sorting through and filing these papers, I decided to sort through old computer files. What can I delete or move to a CD?
Before long I discovered all sorts of old writing projects, the beginning of new stories and character sketches. I spent a good part of the day at my desk reading old files. I’ve moved most to a CD but also selected three that sound interesting. I’m already building a world for one – several short stories centering around the same two characters could evolve into a novella, possibly a novel. Another I originally intended as a picture book seems better suited to an early chapter book.
So, I was productive, but not in a way I had planned for during this short break between semesters. Tomorrow I wanted to tackle the file cabinet and weed old files for storage. I wonder what gems I’ll find there. I can’t wait to discover another “new” project.