Pizza is not meant to be eaten alone. And a good book should not be read and
shelved. That’s why I love book clubs. There is always something to learn,
and share; and it doesn't matter if you liked the book or not, it’s
friends and it's fun. Last night, the Bluestockings Book Club honored me
with a scrap book of my publishing journey, with a congratulatory note from
each member. A work of art, and thanks Kathy M. for making this happen. I
will always treasure this gift.
Like an aging rock star, every August I make a solo tour through New York State,
visiting family and friends from NYC’s Morningside Heights, to the villages of La Grangeville,
Afton, Pittsford, Chittenango, Hillsdale, Hudson, Rhinebeck, Washingtonville, with a
two-night stop in Rochester. There are hours of reminiscing, boisterous giddy
meals, bedrooms overlooking corn fields and horse paddocks, and quiet moments
in the car breathing the sweet air of upstate, all punctuated by calls back home to Ed.
Along the way, I catch up with some three dozen women and men who have, in
various personal and professional ways, shaped my life. It is an exhilarating twelve days;
a feast of friendship, and I am thankful that I am welcome, and have the health and the means to make it happen.
This year, unlike the prior two years of sharing my progress, I had a finished novel
in my suitcase. Some of my hosts had already read it, others were immersed, while
a few admitted they never did fiction, but might try mine. Most memorable was the
afternoon I sat with Steve Huff, my first writing coach, the book sitting on the table
between us, tears of gratitude dripping into my glass of Cabernet. At my brother’s
house, I signed copies for Christmas gifts; and a dear friend ordered one for each
of her grown children, all of whom I knew growing up. Many asked for a sequel.
I answered that the Gerritts were on their own, as I needed a life, and writing
a novel hardly allowed for one.
Last winter I started following blogs—finding writers who might someday read my
book; mention it; review it. Reaching out; social media, the torturous side-B
of publishing. I sought out women whose words spoke with passion for their
work; the animals they fed; the crops they planted. The connection was digital,
but intimate. One blogger I enjoyed, Northview Diary, lived in central NY,
and with a bit of trepidation that I was being too bold, I landed in Marianne’s
back yard and announced myself as a devoted follower, gushed praise and
admiration, hoped she wouldn’t shoo me off, which she did not. We talked
for some time. I learned she grew up among books and antiques, but
there is no doubt she treasures the farm, and all that goes with it.
(Her blog is northviewdiary.blogspot.com and if want to know what she thought
of the book, her review is posted on my website and FB.)
After our visit my spirits were flying high, so I thought, what’s another two
hundred miles and headed north to Lake Champlain to see if I might connect
with Kristin Kimball, author of The Dirty Life, my all-time favorite memoir.
The GPS found the farm without a false turn. I recognized the barn from
the cover of Kristin’s book, and parked alongside an assortment of well-worn
cars and bikes I guessed belonged to the workers who support this 500 acre draft
horse-powered farm that produces a full diet for 200+ people. Against the shed,
a giant chalk board announced what was ripe, what was maturing, along with a
reminder to wish Mark a happy birthday, and a note that the cows were late in
their lactation. I wanted to believe the script was Kristin’s, and asked if she
was around. A young woman directed me to the house, mentioned Kristin was
leaving soon. I scribbled a quick note in case she wasn’t to be found, walked up
the lane, past the chicks and a large plot of something green, too excited to
stop and survey the bounty. With the encouragement of a young man standing near
the house, I walked in, and in one long run-on sentence, introduced myself,
proclaimed my love for her book, and handed her mine. I doubt I was coherent,
and neither was my note, but Kristin smiled, looked at the cover of From
Any Window, and said she’d read it on her trip. (If I ever hear from her,
I’ll share the news.)
Who knows what next year’s vacation might bring?
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Yesterday, I made a lemon pie for a get together with friends. It had been a long time since I’d plunged my hands in a mound of dough, and it felt like talking to an old friend. I grew up baking with my mother at my side, and last night, I dreamed of her. The unconscious knows the threads that bind.
My mother has been gone from my life since September, 2010, but she is never far from my thoughts. In the dream, we are spectators at a “worldwide” exposition. Acres of exhibits and thrill rides await us, as if Disney World and Epcot had been joined. Somehow, we kept getting separated, sending me in a frantic search only to find her riding the roller coaster, or navigating a raft down a raging river. I had no idea how she managed to do this, given she was confined to her wheel chair, and when I asked, she patted my hand, and smiled, her expression full of courage and unbridled happiness.
Dreams are mysterious to me. Often, I am left shaking my head: now where did that come from? But this dream spoke with conviction. My mother was my # 1 cheerleader. She always knew what to say when I was full of doubt, or afraid. Now, I can only look at her picture, or find her in my dreams. I must remember to bake more often.
Careercast.com published this week a rating of 200 occupations, based on
“mounds of data.” Five factors were considered: Environment, Income, Outlook,
Stress, and Physical Demands .
Drum roll please: Farmer: 179. Dairy farmer: 199. (Lumberjack snagged the bottom.)
Interesting how incongruent this is to the FB and blogs of farms I follow. I guess it all comes
down to who you are and what brings you happiness. Farming is hard work and long hours,
and I appreciate those who take the time to share their stories. Here’s a week of farm news
from the east to the west, all posted in good humor:
Hope, age 8, pets the new piglets at her family’s Sugar Mountain Farm in Vermont.
At Henry’s Farm Stand, the 44-40 John Deere is ready for planting corn in New York.
NY's Northview Diary reports the grass is stalled, freezing, or drying up, but the birds have
From the Tractor Seat, the "purple" cotton seed is in the ground and they are hoping for a
good Alabama rain.
Minnesota’s Zweber Farms YouTubed their cows romping in spring pasture (see video).
The Griggs of North Dakota are preparing barley seed during the cold snap and hoping for warmer nights.
Morning Bray fertilized and irrigated pasture in New Mexico.
And the Dairy Goddess in California has been busy promoting their farm’s new
non-homogenized Chocolate Milk at the Fresno Food Expo.
As for farming in Arizona, we ate our first tomato of the season last
night. Life is best when you create, and give thanks.
When we moved to this house, the ten-foot palm tree at the end of the driveway appeared to be holding up a thick limb of the nearby pine tree. Of course, that wasn't true, the two had merely run into each other. The arborist advised us to remove the pine, as the roots were half out of the ground, and so it went. The pine tree is now mulch; the palm taller than Jack's beanstalk.
The moral: It's all up from here. And that about sums up my past month, as I have programmed and launched my website and Facebook fan page, decided/undecided on a cover, recited my pitch to total strangers, and started learning the language of social media, which is marketing of a sort, but not the Wharton marketing of my earlier life. Here's a story I heard at a workshop: Agent calls publisher, wants to pitch book. Publisher asks, how many followers does the author have? Agent replies, don't you want to hear the pitch? No, says the publisher, but call me when the number hits forty thousand.
Well, Facebook tells me my followers increased 457% this week; that's from a few to 40 plus -- so like the palm tree I have a long way to go, but with a little help from my friends (old and new), I'm growing every day.
Another week of thinking about marketing. Its a long list, it keeps getting longer.
Many thanks to friends, and their friends, who have agreed to be part of the advance reading group. I hope it will be fun for all.
Next week, the graphic artist will be returning a concept design using “curious cow” who won over "determined cow" tails up. Maybe a sneak preview.
This week’s blog is on farms, not writing. Found this on my google alert. Quite interesting.
New initiative coming from Milk Not Jails
, and organization devoted to building an economic alternative to the NY prison industry through criminal justice reformers and NY dairy farmers. In May, Milk Not Jails is launching a new line of dairy products in New York City--selling milk, yogurt and butter from local, family-owned farms that have signed on to their political agenda of fewer NY prisons and more farms.
So the novel is written, the cover design and copy edit are underway. In other words, the fun is over. I'd love to start my next novel, (yes I have a plot), but instead I need to build my platform, a concept that might be described as amassing an army of cyberspace stalkers who follow my every word for all the cool things (fact or fiction) that I post. That will be a challenge. I'm not social media savvy. I'm not outrageous, or that funny. I don't yet have a YOUTUBE. I'm old by all standards of "what's hot." But, I'm game. Anyway, it all comes down to word-of-mouth, and I have a few mouthy friends who might help. Worst case, I'm ahead of the curve on my next novel.
So I will blog on writing, good books, back roads, why farms matter, cross-country running, and the joys of sweat.