Tag Archives: Jane Yolen

Chiseling Away at Writing Time

DSCN1814For the past month, I’ve had edits waiting on my next book, Fall or Fly, about foster care and adoption in Coalfields Appalachia. And I’ve been thinking about the very astute notes from the editor and her associate reader and how they can be incorporated. In fact, I’ve been looking forward to sinking my fingers into it.

But I’m also passionately involved in Appalachian Feline Friends, a new effort coalescing individual rescuers into a formalized organization that will be more effective. And a lot of time has, of course, been spent by all of us on that. So to get a clear run at some of the edits without being surrounded by cat-work, Jack and I planned a long weekend at The Cabin.

Thursday evening there would be an event on, and Friday we would head out. Then Jack would continue on his way Sunday to the airport and head to Scotland, while I went back and did my college job and got help running the bookstore.

And God said “HA!”

Jack went down sick Thursday, a woman walked in crying with a kitten she’d found on the Greenbelt mid-event, we received five pre-arranged “adorably sweet” kittens who were not at all socialized and promptly climbed a bookshelf while emptying its contents on the floor, the author giving the talk got lost and was an hour late, etc. Fine. Maybe I could still go Friday? Nope. Friday morning Jack was not fine, so I gave up on the cabin idea until Saturday and handled stuff. Not exactly like a pro, but like a spastic woman feeling slightly sorry for herself, surrounded by kittens spewing venomous hisses and other effluvium.

And this morning Jack got up and said, “I feel well again, go to the cabin and I’ll take care of the stuff that got left and meet you there Sunday and since we’re closed Mondays, why don’t you take Monday off from the college and recover your lost writing day?”

Writing husbands are even better than cat husbands. They get it.

My friend Jane Yolen has written many advice pieces over the years urging writers to protect our writing time. She says it gets pecked to death by the many ducks of life if we’re not careful. Or in our case, nibbled away by rescue kittens. And also to value the things that distract us, because that’s where we get our writing fodder from. Sick husband care is a no-brainer game-changer, but being married to a guy who helps me protect the time is nice.

And when I get back Monday night, I’ll restock the bookshelves the feral babies have knocked down, and over the next two weeks our five fine and socialized babies will re-teach the new kids that life is not as scary or deadly as early experiences would have them believe, and they will become sweet and adoptable. It all works out.

See you Tuesday.

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, blue funks, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, Scotland, shopsitting, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch, writing

Bucket List vs. Sieve List

If bucket lists exist, then there must also be “sieve lists”–things you never planned to do that suddenly stick in the mesh as life’s waters rush by. Here are a few of mine that stick out:

We’ve been to the Revolutionary War cemetery in Dandridge, TN

It was an accident. One crisp fall weekend Jack and I did an event requiring a hotel too near Dollywood, and when we got up in the morning, access to the freeway was so clogged, we took off down a side road and navigated by map. When we got to Dandridge, we stopped just because we’d never been to Dandridge, found the cemetery, and spent a pleasant hour on the self-guided tour, picking out Scots and Scots-Irish settlers. Jack and I often comment about the difference between “old” in the US and UK: we’ve visited 1200s ruins there, and functioning 1400s hunting lodges. But here was an “old” cemetery with real people who had done significant things, whose names had been lost by wind, time, and weather to everything but the printed tourism brochure. Jack and I have had a lot of moments like this, when Plan A gets tossed at the last second and we come up with a Plan B on the fly. Sure, we wind up with the occasional disaster, but more often we get magic moments like that day.

Sieve list lesson: don’t be afraid to strike out down the side road

I spent several hours in a school shooting lock-down

It turned out the gunman was a hoax called in by a deranged student. But those of us who spent that January night listening for footsteps beneath howling winds comingled with sirens didn’t know that. I’m not recommending expectation of death as a mental exercise, but a surprising amount of clarity lingers when fear dissolves into a second chance.

Sieve list lesson: second chances are unexpected gifts of grace; take your best shot when you get one

I taught students that thinking was grounded in, yet different from, knowing facts

Teaching Cultural Geography et al was first for fun, then for money, and then for love. Finally I stopped because the politics of adjuncting overwhelmed the joy. But I had no idea how much I would love teaching until I saw students–mid-lecture or classroom exercise–connect with whatever concept we were covering. Sure, every teacher is excited by students who really wanted to learn, but sometimes who got hit upside the head with a new perspective was as startling to you, the teacher, as to them. Kids shuffling toward mediocrity would suddenly blink, and you could see that, willing or not, the moment of truth had captured them. I’m sure some of them pushed these epiphanies back down under the latest recreational diversion, but a wave of understanding still swamped their world, creating empathy, forcing awareness. Dear God in Heaven, I loved those moments. I miss them.

Sieve list lesson: good, right, best, and ethical are tricky negotiations; do the best you can

I got a book published

Writing was always on my bucket list; publishing, not. To paraphrase my friend Jane Yolen, publishing isn’t something writers get to be in charge of; we write, and the chips fall. The process of turning writing into publishing proved to be fun hard work that really did change my life–mostly because Little Bookstore was about such an integral part of my life. Publishing enriches you with money sometimes, but more with people. As an introvert, I was at first nervous when readers traveled to the bookstore wanting to chat, but my extrovert husband showed me what a gift a different perspective brings. It still amazes me how differently the people who loved Little Bookstore think from each other in terms of politics, religion, what life should be like, etc. And sure, it’s a quick ego stroke when people like your book, but then it flies past ego and comes around full circle to a kind of grateful bewilderment, even true friendship sometimes. A lot of interesting, cool, fun people hang out in the word world.

Sieve list lesson: what you think is the core (or payoff) may not be; be surprised by joy

What’s on your sieve list?

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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch, writing