Life as I know It

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

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Sweet Charity of My Garden

Spring is peeping through my living room window. Nectarine, Ceanothus, and Fremontodendron in full bloom. Rockers are one of my passions. 

The common name for this bee-friendly native is Flannel Bush for the silvery-gray flannel fuzz on the backs of the leaves.

Hello Friends,

I LOVE hearing from you and learning about your writing dreams and projects. Good for you. You know it is a lonely road, but you're doing it now. The only way to make your dream come true is to stick out your neck and go for it...and you're doing it!

Tomorrow I read the final chapters of my "tween" Maine island adventure. Then it is time to revise, revise, revise, and did I mention, revise again? This is far, far from being published. It will probably take another two years, but in the meantime I am also working on two other smaller nature-oriented projects.

Please check out the April 2014 issue of This Old House (on linked page, click the magnifying glass and search "Sharon Lovejoy") to see the "Retro Redo" four page article  about our little kitchen makeover. Photographer Mark Lohman and producer Sunday Hendrickson did a great job.

Front cover, but no, that isn't my house.

My kitchen isn't usually this bare. They "edited out" some of my favorite things. 
(Click here for an unedited look at the kitchen.)

We have been traveling, and I have given a few talks to some great groups including the Midwestern Herb and Garden Show in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. (Evidently I mentioned traveling in the last posting, but forgot to mention where and why). We really enjoyed the passionate gardeners we met. We were treated like royalty and spoiled by our hosts and hostesses. I would love to return there sometime.

My talk for the San Luis Obispo Chapter of the California Native Plant Society was "Wild at Heart" because though I grow herbs, heirlooms, fruit trees, and veggies, I always have a good supply of natives to keep the local birds, bees, and beneficials happy. Sweet charity for my visiting critters. They were a great group of enthusiastic native plant lovers who work so hard to keep California's natives thriving.

We really enjoyed working at/visiting the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas, California. On Friday night I gave a short talk to some major garden supporters, the mayor, some council members, and docents. On Saturday another talk and book signing, and Sunday a talk on container gardening and another book signing.

We met so many great people and enjoyed Julian Duval, the CEO-Director, and his lovely wife Leslie. Also got to visit a bit with creative topiarist Pat Hammer and other invaluable members of the staff.

Little pot child in the Seeds of Wonder Garden.

Ah, Pat, you're a genius. Pat used to do the topiaries at Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. She is so great.

Oh, and did I mention Sam, Julian's 600 pound Galapagos tortoise? How could anyone overlook him? He loved my yellow shirt and green and white jacket; they looked like his favorite foods–bananas and leaves. So, he kept swinging his big head toward me and opening his huge, beaked mouth, but he seemed happy when I stroked his neck. Phew.

Please visit and enjoy the San Diego Botanic Garden when you're down in Southern California. You will be amazed and absolutely in love with the children's garden. It is accessible to all; even children in wheelchairs can enter the amazing and magical tree house. I felt the presence of Jane Taylor (Michigan 4H Children's Garden guru) throughout the grounds. The gardens are wonderful. You'll come home with a gleaning of great ideas and projects. I sure did.

I haven't had much time to peruse many blogs, but one thing I've noticed is that blogs are getting less and less attention. So many of us lapse and don't post for weeks, sometimes months at a time. My friend wrote and said, "Please don't stop posting. I love our visits." Well, I won't stop, but it isn't happening as often as I hoped. Patience please! In the meantime, I do try to post something small (inspirational quotes or my musings) and one of my photos on my Facebook page. So every day I receive dozens of e-mails and comments on the postings. I try to answer them all.

I am so proud of my friends Dee Nash (Red Dirt Ramblings blog) and Rebecca Sweet (Gossip in the Garden blog), both have new books out this spring. They are both EXCEPTIONAL garden books filled with two lifetimes of garden passion, love, and knowledge.

Dee's book, The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty Gardening 101 for Anyone (and I do mean anyone) Who Wants to Grow Stuffis heavy with photos and has some great, simple illustrations for projects and designs. Dee has this incredible sense of humor that shines through on every page without undermining the absolute hands-in-the-soil knowledge on every page. Some of her chapters ("Keeping Small and in Charge" or "Stay the Course, but Try Something New") had me hysterical. This is a great book! This is from St. Lynn's Press of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Rebecca Sweet, my sweet, sweet friend who I've known for nearly two decades (she went into labor in my Heart's Ease gardens and her daughter is about 19 now), has written yet another book (Garden UP! Smart Vertical Gardening for Small and Large Spaces was her last one). This one is Refresh Your Garden Design With Color, Texture and Form. LOTS of colorful photos, which inspire and instruct, and lots of Rebecca's design ideas (she is often featured in magazines). She handles color, texture, and form along with "Seeing with Fresh Eyes." Harmony is what she is all about! This book was published by Horticulture Magazine.

OK, now I want to announce the winner of Trowel and Error,

which we'll ship immediately with an extra gift, and one of the first copies of Running Out of Night, which we can't ship until it arrives in November. Thank you for participating!

The winner is: Barbara Stillman. Congratulations, dear Barbara. Please send us your snail mail address, and we'll ship some goodies out to you this week.

Finished planting lettuces, endive, red mustard, dill, and fennel today. None of my poppies have germinated. NOT ONE. They are my favorite flower, and they won't do me the courtesy of growing here. Judith Larner Lowry of Larner Seeds and author of Gardening with a Wild Heart said you have to sow the seeds and stomp on them. Maybe that is what I did wrong. Not enough stomping.

Right now a gentle rain (thank goodness!) is plink, plonk, plink, planking into my watering cans and buckets standing together under the roof line. Soon they'll be filled with the blessing of rain water. Hurrah!

Signing off for now and sending love to you.


p.s. Watch for my next posting with a drawing for a fire pit giveaway.
p.p.s. Anonymous commenters, please begin your comment with "Sharon" if you wish to remain anonymous. I get a lot of spam from "Anonymous" and I don't want to advertise unsolicited products and services disguised in comments. Anonymous without "Sharon"= delete.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Oldest Profession?

Delacorte Press/Penguin Random House
My first novel (middle grade, ages 9 to 13) is due out November 11, 2014
I still can't believe it!

Sneak preview of the back cover. This will be out in hardcover.

Do I look dazed? Well, I am. I can't believe that my new book is a work of fiction.

Dear Friends,

Ok, I know what you're thinking after reading the title of this posting, but you're wrong. I believe that the oldest profession is storytelling and that storytelling is how our culture, our very lives, have been saved, embroidered, and carried on to future generations. Storytelling, a simple word that goes back to your earliest memories, and usually those are GOOD memories. Storytelling is what grabs a reader or an audience (notice how Steve Jobs always did storytelling when talking to his enthralled audiences) and holds them captive.

Here is an article by Paul Zak that explains the how and why stories are important to us in so many ways and "shape our brains." Stories that are compelling and exciting, poignant and/or joyful engage more of our brains and are better remembered than facts. Please let me know what you think of this.

"Where are you, Sharon?"

This was a question from a worried friend. I've been out of touch for way too long, but please forgive me. I am trying to finish my newest book, which is about some children who live on an island in Maine (hmmm, wonder where that idea came from?). I've been cocooned with my computer and just working, working, working in between welcoming house guests, celebrating my grandson's 7th birthday, getting over bronchitis and an eye infection, speaking in Illinois, and doing lots of cooking.

Of course, I always try to make time for my Cambria Writers' Workshop and Kiddie Writers, which are both invaluable to me. They are my critics, and without their constant input, my book would literally be at a standstill.

Fueling your precious brain:

Every day before work, I try to read something that will refuel my brain. For me the first course is always poetry. It is amazing how just one or two lines can color the way you head into your day. I read classics (right now I'm reading a 1923 translation of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus To Himself) and relevant articles in magazines and newspapers, not to mention the best in arts from NPR. Our brains are precious vessels that always need filling.

Since I posted the photo of my new book on Facebook, I've received hundreds of e-mails filled with relevant questions about publishing. Although I would love to answer every one of those questions personally, I just don't have enough hours in the day. 

Let me share some hints to fuel YOUR brain:

Listen to everything going on around you. 

Watch everything, and that means social interactions, nature, etc.. All that watching is somewhat like dropping coins into a bank. You never know when something magical or writing-worthy will occur, and you can bank the words and cash them in later.

A little aside: Jeff has often asked me if he should move to the table next to us in a restaurant so that I will hear what he is saying. It's true, I am an eavesdropper, but wow, what great lines I've heard while doing that.

Read, read, read. I laughed recently when a man asked me about publishing, and I advised that he read as much as possible. He said, "I don't have time to read, I am a WRITER." Good, be a writer, but you darned well better also be a reader to improve vocabulary, plotting skills, character development, and more.

Write every day. Even ten minutes a day will add up. Ten quiet minutes of jotting down your thoughts, a proposed chapter, beginning of a book, or poems.  My friend Eve Neuhaus wrote something that really piqued my interest. She said that she took a class that advised her to write herself a letter every day. A letter. A good, old fashioned means of communication. I love this idea and am using lovely notecards to write to myself.

Recently a want-to-be-writer told me that he can't write every day because he is waiting for his creative muse. Well, that is like sitting in a train terminal and hoping to go on a journey, but instead of catching the train, you're all tied up in watching arrivals. The trains keep leaving, but you're never on them. You're waiting for the creative muse to tell you what to do. YOU are the one in charge, not your "muse." CATCH THE TRAIN!

Join a writing group! Find a critique circle that will help you build your writing skills. It is important that they help you grow as a writer, but if they are quick to jump in and criticize without helping to build your skills, well, they're not doing you any favors. Our brains literally shut down and whirl around negative criticisms. That happened to me when I wrote Roots Shoots Buckets & Boots. Whenever I got side-swiped with criticism from a woman who was helping my beloved editor,  I would lose hours of work. Finally, Jeff said, "You're not talking to that woman again. She is poisoning your writing." So, I didn't speak with her again and worked and worked until Roots was finished.

How nasty criticisms can hurt your creative process:

I loved learning this weekend about the how and why our brains process good and bad experiences. Here is a snippet from an interview with Rick Hanson, Ph.D., who is a neuropsychologist and author of Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence (Harmony Books), wrote about ways to get past our built-in urge to think the worst. The trouble is, he said, "We've got a brain that's really good at learning from bad experiences. And it's relatively bad at learning from good experiences. That's why I say that the brain is like Velcro for the bad, but Teflon for the good."

Writing isn't easy:

It isn't. It is difficult, painful, sometimes joyful, sometimes exciting, sometimes heartbreaking, but we are humans and part of the beauty of humans is their creativity. Make yourself work, revise, revise again, and don't be afraid to read to others. You must share your work and get feedback. 

Once I confessed to my friend Janet Brownell, who is an accomplished and successful screen writer, that I was afraid to read my work to people. Janet laughed and said, "You can write and write and be a writer, but you need others to read your work before you're an author." 

So now, my friends, I am going back to work so that I have two finished chapters to read to my writing group this Wednesday. This is a short posting, but it is for YOU so you can follow the path to your dreams. That path is rocky and filled with potholes, but it is your path and if you have tenacity and courage, you can make your dreams come true.

I am happy to offer a reader drawing (in a few weeks) for a signed, hardbound copy of Running Out of Night (not due until November) and a copy of Trowel and Error. Please leave a comment on this posting for eligibility in the drawing. Also, if you don't have a blog or address, you'll need to look for the winner so we can contact you for a mailing address.

All joys,


P.S. I was overjoyed this week to get this notice about Trowel & Error's 11th printing. Dreams do come true.