Life as I know It

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San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Risk is Essential

"Risk is essential. It's scary. Every time I sit down and start the first page of a novel I am risking failure...We are encouraged only to do that which we can be successful in. But things are accomplished only by our risk of failure."

Face it. When you put your words on paper or offer them to the world on  your blog, you're taking a risk. Will people like your thoughts? Scoff at you? Close the book or click through without giving you a chance to touch them? That's the risk you must take when you are compelled (and it is a compulsion) to communicate.

Writing is my life, but it is scary. I never know how people will react, but I write from my heart, re-write, trim, add, trim again, and finally, I turn to my fellow writers for their sometimes painful assessment of my work.

I miss my Kiddie Writers group the most when I am in Maine. I wrote about them in my blog posting in January 2010. They are my dear friends, confidantes, and know the best and the worst about what I try to do. 

When my dear friend Stephanie Roth-Sisson (she is a fabulous illustrator) suggested that we video conference the next meeting of Kiddie Writers with Skype, I was ecstatic. So Jeff set up an account (it is FREE), Stephanie included me on her Skype account, and we tested out the method.

On Thursday afternoon, the computer "rang" and I answered to the hellos of the dear writers who paraded past the screen and greeted me.

For the next three hours, we listened to new stories and re-writes, talked about our goals, and celebrated the work of Juddi Morris who is leaving us and moving to Texas. Give-and-take in equal measure.

When the Skype call began, it was day, albeit a stormy, gray one.  When I finally hung up, it was night and I was elated.  Here was the solution to the problem of missing my essential group of writing friends who help critique my work until it is ready to go out to the world and face the big RISK.

Here's a peek into our group. I hope you enjoy the video.

"One of the greatest necessities in America (or anywhere) is to discover creative solitude."
Carl Sandburg

A GREAT give-away for a lucky reader:

I keep this inspirational book by my bed. I read it last thing at night and drop off to sleep with hope and a feeling of camaraderie.

Every week I receive e-mails from writers who want to be published, who are facing a creative "block," or who do not know what to do with their passion for writing. I found some of the answers to those questions recently when I discovered the book The Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing: Inspiration and Advice from Celebrated Women Authors Who Paved the Way (Sellers Publishing) by author Nava Atlas. 

I copied the title of the book and ordered it from our local Maine Coast Bookshop when we arrived. From the moment I opened the first page, I was enchanted. Here, in personal account after personal account, I found the inspirational and practical words of Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Willa Cather, Edna Ferber, Madelein L'Engle, Lucy Maude Montgomery, Anais Nin, George Sand, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Edith Wharton, and Virginia Woolf. This book is not only about the creative process, but also matters of business.  I loved every insight, every hurdle the authors faced. I felt this humanized writers in a way I have never experienced. You will love it too, and I am excited to hear what you think of it.

I think this is a MUST read for those of you who want to write. I am happy, thanks to the generosity of Sellers Publishing of South Portland, Maine, to be able to offer one copy in a give-away. For those of you who don't win, you can order it directly from Sellers, your local bookstore, or Amazon. To enter the random drawing, leave a comment on this post before Tuesday, October 4. 

Sending love across the miles,


P.S. Perhaps I will get to meet some of you in person this week (September 30) when I give a talk in Orlando, Florida, at The Landscape Show, the southeast's premier landscape and horticulture conference and trade event, sponsored by the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association.

P.P.S. Grimy Hands Girls' Club members. Stay tuned. I will have a give-away especially for you when I return from Florida. The give-away is a new Timber Press book, Planting a Dry Shade Garden by Graham Rice. It is wonderful. I adore his fresh and knowledgeable writing style. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Give in to joy-Don't hesitate!

The first pumpkins of autumn. 

The last bouquet of the season.

Lengthening shadows of September.

For years now I have lived this quote– 

"To be a professional writer one must be prepared to give up almost everything except living...The first lesson to be learned by a writer is to be able to say, 'Thanks so much. I'd love to, but I can't. I'm working.'"
Edna Ferber
A Kind of Magic, 1963

For a few days, I have taken play time and enjoyed every fleeting second. I know that my time here will be ending in about a month. I am trying to memorize every rock on the roadside, every scent, the sounds of the sea and laughter, the last calls of the terns, the flash of the departing hummingbirds, and the tastes of meals shared with friends.

I am so happy to announce that I am able to offer a chance to win a $50.00 gift card from Amazon for one of you who leave a comment on my blog. I was visited by the Fairy Hobmother, from appliancesonline,  who acknowledged my comment on a posting and who let me know that I was the lucky winner. So leave a comment on this short posting and perhaps YOU will be the next lucky winner.

All joys to you...and remember not to hesitate.


P.S. Please visit my newest Lowe's blog posting and leave your valued comment. I so appreciate hearing from you!

Monday, September 5, 2011

"It's Just So Maine"

"I delight in the everyday Way, myself
among mist and vine, rock and cave,
wildlands feeling so boundlessly free,
white clouds companions in idleness."

Han Shan
The Poet of Cold Mountain 
8th century

We awoke to tranquility after terrifying surf and high winds. Hard to imagine that things could change so quickly, but look at this perfect Maine day. Or, as Jeff and I have been saying a lot lately, "It's just SO Maine."

Less than 24 hours after the storm.

And less than 24 hours after the storm the boats were put back in the Western Gap.

And the little sailboat with the red sails returns.

And antique dealers set up tents for the wares at the historic old Round Top Farm. They breathed a sigh of relief when the storms passed.

Billy Quinn of Alna, Maine ALWAYS has great country antiques. 

And we all breathed a sigh of relief that a wedding, which we worried would be spoiled by storms, took place in the little stone chapel by the sea on a perfect Maine day.

The chapel is steps from the ocean...

The high tide broke against the rocks just a couple hundred feet from the doorway...

...and directly across from the chapel the Ram Island lighthouse foghorn serenaded us. Heck, I am saving my money for a new camera...I can't get good far away shots with this one.

Attendants carried shells filled with Maine offerings.

And the bride (who just might be a mermaid) wore jewels of the sea.

We drove to the old Sprucewold lodge for the reception. A host of birdhouses greeted us on the front porch. Now you will have to forgive me for the quality of the next few photos. I borrowed Jeff's camera and had it on the wrong setting. But I want you to get the feeling of the reception, which was just so quintessentially Maine.

Inside a zillion little lights, flickering candles, great food, and...

...two fireplaces warmed us.

Traditional lodge twig furniture.

The guestbook was a treasure chest.

A Nantucket basket held tiny bags filled with shell-shaped chocolates.

On the tables were candles, shells, and small Nantucket baskets.

We loved every joyous moment with our family friends. Only one other wedding has ever rivaled it for the authentic Maine flavor...and here it is. The wedding of a lobsterman to his bride on a local lobster boat. My friend Jody Holihan had her camera handy and I asked her to photograph the wedding party as it passed through "The Gut" a small body of water between the mainland and our island. The swinging bridge opened and sounded its bells, and the wedding party toasted and waved to us on shore. We cheered. It was just so Maine.

My "office."

So this afternoon of perfect weather I moved my "office" out to our little porch. Here I sit writing, answering e-mails, and composing my newest posting, which is visible on the screen. Could life be any better than this? It is just so Maine.

Sending love across the miles (and a big thank you to Lori times Five for the wonderful antique card),