Life as I know It

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

Monday, November 17, 2014

When a Dream Becomes Reality it can be SCARY!

My "friends" Zenobia and Lark run for a hide-out.

Dear Friends,

Ok, so now I've confessed to you all that turning a dream into a reality is SCARY, really scary. That's exactly what happened to me on November the 11th, 2014. A book I began writing many years ago and that I never dreamed would be published, well, it was, and I am trying to grapple with disbelief and joy, two warring elements in my brain.

First you think to yourself, "I can write a book. If he can do it, then I can do it." Then you may sit at your desk and stare at a keyboard or pen for hours. It happens to us all.

For me the dream began in 1969 when I found an old suitcase filled with family letters that dated back to the late 1700s. I soaked in the cadence of their words, the thoughtfulness, the history, the Quaker dialect, the landscape. I rolled in the old letters the way a kitten tumbles around in a bed of

I began copying the letters in 1969...

...and continued in 1974.

Some of the letters were faded, and this particular one had blood spots on the top. I copied the letters every time I visited my Cousin Margaret Macdonald, who is the one who first took me to Quaker meetings at Goose Creek, Lincoln, Virginia. What a life-changing experience.

I made notes, copious notes; I copied every word in the letters; I visited the Virginia and Pennsylvania countryside and fell deeply in love with it and the people. I began to write, but I never really believed that anything other than a heartfelt story would emerge for my family to enjoy.

Enter my husband. "You can do it. Just keep shooting for the stars, and you'll do it." So I began to work on my book (which I still didn't believe would ever be a book), and I began to carry pages to my Cambria Writers' Workshop and Kiddie Writers, two critique groups that proved to be invaluable to my process.

Every day I wrote a few pages. Every Wednesday in Cambria I received critiques, drove home, and worked for five to six hours to remedy anything that needed to be remedied. Over and over, hour after hour. My friend, screenwriter Janet Brownell, once advised me to always walk away from my writing when I knew that I had more story inside me to tell. So every night I would get to a point that felt like the story was ready to flow, and I would close the lid to my computer, lock the studio door, and head back into my home and life.

Sometimes, because I spent so many hours working on the book, I actually dreamed out parts of the plot. Those dreams were an amazing gift. I'd get up in the morning and sprint into the studio to make note of them.

So now the book is out there in the world. It is like walking your son to his first day of kindergarten. How can I let this precious part of me face the world alone? It is as though you slice open your chest and fillet your heart into thin, thin pieces. Some critics will gobble up the pieces and spit them out as though they are spoiled, others may treasure their pieces and share them with their loved ones. I can't choose what happens, but I know that some will care for their book, others will toss it aside. I did my best and that is all I can do.


You were all invited to the party, but I was so out of it (yes, I am still in the wheelchair) that I relied on word-of-mouth and Dr. Dan Krieger's wonderful Tribune newspaper story to alert my friends about the event held at The Steynberg Gallery in San Luis Obispo, California.

My sister Laurie, my dear friend Ginny, and Jeff start working the day of the party.

I am supervising!

Is this outdoor table fabulous? YES! My friends Susie Bassetti (Bassetti Vineyards), Cindy Steidel, Penny, Carol, Ginny, and my sis and brother-in-law, and Jeff worked hard to ready the area. Pomegranates, sunflowers, pine cones, Grenache grape vines cut by Ellis Bassette, my dear ones pitched in.

Jeff rolls me through the garden as we leave for The Steynberg Gallery. "Nobody will come," I tell Jeff. He says, "We will have a heck of a lot of cake to eat then." That does NOT reassure me.

"See," I said, "nobody is coming. Get out the cake knife."

When he wheeled me through the door, I wanted to kiss everyone there.

My friend Dee Dee Osborne drove down from Carmel. Dee Dee and I knew each other many years ago in Santa Barbara. Talk about an amazing reconnection. We "found" each other because she wrote me after watching an episode of Central Texas Gardener, on which I appeared. Imagine, Central Texas Gardener has such outreach. (Linda Lehmusvirta, Tom Spencer and staff, amazing).

I looked out into the audience and saw so many who are my beloved, long-time friends.

Throughout the event my friends, musicians, composers, singer extraordinare, Mary Anne and Ames Anderson of Simple Pleasures, performed music of the 1850s. They were superb!

Back at my home Cindy, Susie, Ginny, Carol, and Penny (who was outside finishing bouquets) slaved in my little kitchen.

I celebrated, signed books, saw old friends I hadn't seen in years.

Oh, and we all ate cake, glorious chocolate fudge and carrot cake. Whatever was left over was sent (with the cover intact) on to Hawthorne School.

My stepson Jim efficiently handles book sales. This one is to my dear friend Elizabeth Spurr who has many, many children's books to her credit. She is a fabulous writer. All net proceeds from the sale are to benefit the historic Dallidet Adobe and Garden in San Luis Obispo, California.

I especially loved talking to children who are also interested in becoming writers. We need more programs for young writers. 

Jeff watches over me and everything going on. Since I couldn't walk around and visit, he did it for me. What a partner he is. Thank you, Jeffrey! 

Great friends begin to arrive at my home. Jeanie Greensfelder (left, who recently had her poem read on Writer's Almanac), Connie Higdon Gannon, who is the new director of Greenspace in Cambria, Annie, a wonderful photographer and ceramist, and Thomas, who writes beautifully. 

The farm table is slowly being filled with foods for fabulous friends.

Dear friends Matt Spurr, Ginny Holihan, Susan Branch, Diana, Lee, and Penny (who finally sat down for a moment of rest).

More friends (fainter of heart and not so wild about the cooling weather outdoors) moved inside.

The candles lit, the food available, and some brave souls ventured outdoors to eat and talk.

Writer/photographer Lorin Cary shoots some photos. Check out his Facebook page.

My adopted daughter Skydrea serenaded me with her newly written song and her amazing, thrush-like voice. Thank you dear, Skye.

The day was a looooong one, but one of the most wonderful of my life. Thank you to all my dear friends and readers who helped me celebrate the birth of my book. You make my life richer and fuller.  A million thanks to my brother-in-law Jeff Prather and my sis Laurie. Jeff took most of these photos.

Love across the miles and thank you for joining me. I think I posted too many photos, but I wanted to share the experiences. I know that I am not posting blogs very often. Sometimes it seems like days are not even 24 hours long now.  


P.S. The winner of the book An Ocean Garden by Josie Iselin was chosen by the random number generator. Congratulations to Cathi Lamoreux. Cathi, I don't have your address. Please send it along to me and we'll ship the book to you.