The Query Queen

Friday, January 29, 2010
I don’t work today, so I’ve put in a full day working on queries, conducting interviews and writing articles. Since yesterday at this point in time, I have made one submission; drafted, printed, addressed and stamped two queries; conducted one interview; and completed one article. I’m somewhat ahead of schedule with the novel (although I keep forgetting that February is a short month!) and was somewhat behind on my freelancing schedule, so I’m glad to have spent today getting everything where I wanted it to be before the month is done.

I love brainstorming article ideas. I love flipping through my copy of Writer’s Market and thinking of all the wonderful articles I could write for the publications I happen upon. I do not love writing query letters.

For one thing, I don’t feel that my article ideas are fully formed until the end of writing the first draft. When that’s the case, it hard to feel as though I’m presenting my (brilliant) idea to the editor in a way that oozes perfection and suitably rather than transparent half-assed-ness? (Half-assed-ness?!) On top of writing sterling query copy, research also must be done to insure the publication hasn’t just published an article on a similar topic and to verify that the proposed angle will be a good fit for the publication’s audience. Most writers do not usually use adjectives like “fun” to describe the query process. “Painstaking” and “tedious” are more like. That, and “necessary.”

Although, depending on who you talk to, maybe not.

In this day and age of online content, freelance writers remain on constant guard against content mills or farms. That is, media companies who appear to offer writers reliable, quality opportunities (write about any topic!) but usually fall short in their promises of fair compensation.

A certain content mill who seeks to put forth a reputable image (I’m not going to name names, but they have a full page ad on the back of the latest issue of Writer’s Digest) gets a little testy when called out. The president of the company has responded to several of the bloggers who have complained about the dissonance between the company’s promises and actual rewards. In these responses, one of his arguments actually is that when he was a young struggling freelance writer, fresh out of college, he would have considered himself lucky to have had a reliable source of income instead of spending countless hours writing query letters to various markets with no guarantees of monetary reward.

Who am I kidding? I’d sure be glad to save the time it takes to form a well-crafted query to a respected market that pays $400 an article and instead settle for $10 for the article this company pays too!

Forgive the sarcasm, but for Chrissakes!

I will groan and procrastinate about the query process. But in the end, I will sit down and research markets and make copies of my clips and scrupulously edit and proofread my query letters. As Wayne Gretzky once said, “100% of the shots you don’t take, don’t go in.”

So it goes with query letters. You might end up going wide of the net, but there’s every chance it’ll go right through the goalie’s legs.
Read more ...

Tooting Horns

Thursday, January 28, 2010
Now that’s the snow here, the temperatures have dropped and sun has come out to set the new snowy world sparkling. It’s all so pretty. Even prettier because I know it can only last another two months at the most. Right? Regardless, the April traveling begins on the 3rd of the month which means I’ll be pretty much out of the picture for all of that last minute winter nastiness. And yes, I do realize that it has been known to snow in May.

I have an article posted here. It’s on page 18 and entitled “For the Love of Music.”

While we’re at it, this picture, which I entered into the Share the Experience photo contest ages ago (last June), has made it into the top 125 finalists. The contest runs until January 31st and could use your vote. You’ll have to enter your email address (they really don’t send any promos as a result) and the easiest way to find the picture is to look in the U.S. Forest Service category. It should be on the third page. The picture was taken at the Superior National Forest in the area that burned during the Ham Lake Wildfire in May 2007. I’m not sure how my little photo of baby pinecones got clumped with so many other beautiful pictures, but it’s pretty fun.

Right now Andy’s in the midst of studying for his Firefighter class exam. The test’s tonight and he’ll be a real, honest to goodness fireman after it.

It’s been so long since we’ve had time off together, we’re not quite sure what we’re meant to do. I’ve been pulling together some stuff for some queries and am trying to make contact with an interviewee for a current article assignment.

In answer to your question Shelly, I don’t sell my knitting; it’s just a hobby. I’ve considered creating some pieces to sell as a bit of supplemental income, but the price of yarn alone, never mind labor, costs about how much people would want to pay for a finished piece so I think it will remain a labor of love for the time being. Maybe someday though. I have dreams of someday being paid only to do things I truly like to do.

So far this past weekend’s snow hasn’t correlated with a pick up in business. Hopefully the sled dog marathon that starts in Duluth this weekend and passes through on Monday and Tuesday will be the kickoff for some winter tourism. We certainly need it. The more days go by with little business, the edgier everyone gets.
Read more ...

Ada and the Big Snow

Monday, January 25, 2010

Then early one morning it started to drizzle.
The drizzle turned into rain.
The rain turned into snow.
By noon it was four inches deep.
The highway department sent out the truck plows.

-- Virginia Lee Burton
(Katy and the Big Snow)

On Saturday evening, it started to snow. Two inches fell over night and then after a smattering of rainy ice pellets, it started to snow in earnest yesterday morning and there’s still a light snow in the air now. All told, we’re at hour 46 of continuous precipitation and we have approximately ten new inches of heavy, wet snow to show for it.

I’m glad I haven’t had to go anywhere. I’m due at work this evening, but doubt they’ll need a second person on tonight. I suspect most people are still busy shoveling themselves out. At this point in the winter, I’m somewhat apathetic to the accumulation of snow, but I do hope this latest dumping will correlate with a pick up in winter tourism. You could almost feel a collective sigh of relief when everyone opened up their shades to snow yesterday morning. They’ve just been getting rain in town and I’m not apathetic to that. I can say with conviction I’m really glad we didn’t get that!

I must have read too much Julie and Julia because I’ve started to have kitchen disasters. Yesterday as I reach for the turmeric for the Coconut Basmati Rice, I somehow nudged the rice cooker off the counter and it flipped in midair, landing upside down on the floor after its contents of raw rice, water and coconut milk had splattered across the wall, fridge, coffee grinder, and floor. It cleaned up easily enough and I had all the necessary ingredients to start over again, but now we don’t have a rug in the kitchen.

Maybe the rice was trying to tell me not to make it in a rice cooker because the batch I actually cooked last night glued itself to the bottom and sides of the pot. I remember making the same recipe in the rice cooker and it turning out fine, but that was in the early, early days of my life at the Shack and the endorphins and adrenaline of new love make everything so effortless. Now I exist in a truer reality where rice scorches and sticks arbitrarily.

I finished Julie and Julia last night. I’m glad to have gotten the “real” story behind the movie even if it was nothing like that I expected. Given the lackluster reviews of Powell’s latest effort, I won’t be going out of my way to get my hands on a copy.

The snow has spawned productivity around here. I’m not much closer to getting those four queries sent out – I really, really need to get to the library – but this morning I did start out on a silly little article for the heck of it. I hate writing on spec anymore, but this specific publication’s guidelines specify that they prefer receiving completed articles so a tip tapping at the keyboard I will go with marginal hope of financial reward for my labors. I do have a new article assignment though (yet another topic I would never have thought about had I not been assigned to write it – who knew there were so many of those?) and I got another chapter of the novel edited today which means my self-imposed deadline of having the novel completely rewritten by the end of March is looking more and more realistic every day.

Good Lord, what am I going to do when this mother is edited and I’ve written a synopsis and a cover letter to go with it? Submit it places? It’s just so scary!
Read more ...

Crocodile Tears, Crocodile Falls

Sunday, January 24, 2010
For whatever reason, I never get any exercise when I work day shifts. I mean to, but when I go into work at 10:30 and come home shortly after 3, starving, it just doesn’t seem to happen.

“I don’t know how I’m supposed to get anything done,” I moaned, albeit tongue in cheek, to my parents when I had dinner with them on Thursday. “I mean, I work 20 hours a week.”

Yesterday, after I complained about my lack of exercise, Andy suggested I hike down the lake to check out Crocodile Falls, a small, but pretty waterfall tucked behind a campsite halfway down on the lake’s south shore.

“My snowshoe bindings always fall off,” I said, not sure why, really, I was accepting such a defeatist attitude toward things.

In the end, I went for the trek. It took awhile, nearly two and a half hours round trip, but miraculously, the general ickiness that plagued me at the beginning of the hike completely disappeared by the time I reached the falls. The falls are pretty well snow covered, but there are several pools of open water where the snow has melted away to form an icy frame around bubbling, swirly water.  I plunked down on a snow covered rock and listened to the foreign sound of burbling, running water. The entire area is infused with a pungent and deep smell reminiscent of geraniums that must come from being a place that does not completely freeze in the winter and is never completely dry. Teeny, tiny icicles hang from the cliff face, the creek’s boulders are capped with mushrooms of snow, and there’s an otter slide down the upper falls. I’m also happy to report that my snowshoe bindings didn’t fall off once.

I had a minor meltdown yesterday, thinking about job opportunities in this rural area. Rather, lack there of. If only I was the only one affected by this reality. When there is a good job opportunity half a gazillion people apply for it and no matter how perfect the job seems for you, there’s always some other applicant unimaginably more qualified than yourself. While the goal is to freelance full time, I don’t see that being self-sustaining for a while and until then, it would be lovely to have a dependable source of income that doesn’t make me feel like clawing my brains out. Oh bollocks.

We watched HBO’s film “Into the Storm” about Winston Churchill last night and that cheered me up immensely. I’m not a huge WWII buff – when it come to my Anglophile ways, I know the Tudors much better than the Churchills – but to be honest, I’m fond of anything British Isles and I loved the scenes in the War Rooms. I toured those while I was living in London two winters ago and they, and the adjoining Churchill Museum, are well worth the price of admission. Janet McTeer played Clemmie Churchill funny really since, we’d just watched the 1992 Wuthering Heights earlier in the week in which she plays the maid Ellen. She was by far the strangest actor in the film (while I love Juliette Binoche in Chocolat a French accent is not what you expect in the middle of Yorkshire) and I was happy to see her in “Into the Storm.”

I set up some freelance submission tracking spreadsheets yesterday. Not that I really need them. I made a new year’s resolution to submit a query a week, but I bet you can guess how many I’ve submitted in actuality so far this year. Since we’re now entering the fourth week of the year, I’ve got four queries to crank out before week’s end. I think I’ll get a start on that today.
Read more ...

Quickbooks. Also, Julie Powell and I would not be friends

Friday, January 22, 2010
Andy’s computer gave up the ghost last week. He went to turn it on and instead of getting his desktop, he got a black screen with an error message. The computer was older and not without a few issues so the passing didn’t come as a shock. Now he has a brand-new laptop with a 17” screen and I have a new external hard drive because the thought of computers just crapping out has always filled me with a bone-tingling shiver of fear. (I backup really important documents on a flash drive, but now I have room for all of my pictures and music as well.)

In addition to the new computer and hard drive, Andy also purchased the 2010 edition of Quickbooks. That may be jumping the gun a bit, we’re a ways away from needing to do our own accounting for a small business. But are we? Am I?

When I really think about it, I have a hard time justifying not having a small freelance writing business. As long as I’m not initially dependent on the business for income, why not start it up? Start up and operating costs are extremely low for a writing business, especially since I already have a reliable computer and now, accounting software. The more I think about it, the more I realize that I could do this, even in a small town, as long as I keep my services broad: from articles to marketing material to editing and proofreading. I’m three years out from college and finally figuring out how I want to form my life around my degree.

But you have to realize that it took me six months to decide to start a blog. Also, I don’t really know how to start a small business.

Now for something completely different: a month or so ago Andy and I got Julie and Julia on Netflix. I’d been anticipating watching it ever since I read about it in my mom’s Fine Cooking last summer. I loved it. It was cute and sincere and sweet. Over Christmas, my mother picked up a copy of Julie Powell’s memoir Julie and Julia which is based off of the blog she kept the year she cooked through Julia Child’s entire Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Turns out I like Amy Adams playing Julie Powell a lot more than I like Julie Powell as herself.

I don’t mean to harp on a real living person, but since she started the blog and she published the book, she kind of put herself out there for it. As a writer myself, perhaps it will be my privilege one day to have someone harp on me. The issue is that where the movie was charming and delicate, the book is crude and bawdy. While I longed for a more thorough discussion of the Julie/Julia project, what I’ve gotten is pages and pages of discussion about her unsatisfactory sex life and her shitty temp job with a liberal sprinkling of the f-word throughout. Nor does Powell seem to take a great amount of joy out of her cooking project. Granted, I just finished the aspic chapter and aspic in the 21st century is just destined to be gross, I think. Still, I don’t trust someone who has a penchant for vodka tonics (ick!) or thinks HBO has a series called Sex in the City.

Basically, as a recent college graduate and a sometimes suppressed writer who finds herself temping in large cities and who holds a fondness for all kitchen activities except for dishes, I thought I would identify with Julie Powell, but I really don’t, not one iota. Surely part of the book’s flaws must stem from the tricky business of turning the rambling tomes of her blog into a published volume. Should “Of Woods and Words” ever face such a fate, remind me of this post. (Haha.) That’s not to say I’m not impressed by Powell’ accomplishments or that I’m not going to finish the book. While Powell and I aren’t destined to be best friends, her journey is an interesting one, not without amusing bits and more than anything, it gives the rest of us hope.
Read more ...

Your Baby's Facebook!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010
A few months ago, my friend Donna posted on Facebook that she was sick of everyone’s Facebook page suddenly becoming their baby’s Facebook page. The comment caused quite the to-do; people unfriended her because of it. I found I agreed with her. It seems like babies have taken over Facebook profiles this past year and whether or not that’s because the country’s in the midst of a mini baby boom or because my friends and I are just at the age where it become perfectly acceptable to get married and have children, I can’t tell. Whatever it is, it isn’t sitting well.

People have every right to post their children’s pictures on Facebook just as they have every right to reproduce. I like baby pictures as well as the next person, but could we agree to cease tagging babies in Facebook pictures with their mothers’ names? While I realize I’m prone to somewhat curmudgeonly ways, let me say once and for all, your baby is your baby. An extension of yourself yes, but an individual in its own right who is less likely to set things right in your life and more likely to make the exact same mistakes you made.

Maybe it’s just, as Emma Thompson’s character says in Love Actually, that all of these babies throw our lives “into rather harsh perspective.” Donna and another friend are in medical school. Another friend works fourteen hour days as an auditor. I’m out in here in the woods, well removed from the conventional suburban lifestyle. My friends and I are just barely clamoring onto the marriage bandwagon, let alone the “lets reproduce” bandwagon. We blow it off marriage and parenthood as passé, but could it be, lurking at the bottom of our cynical talk of bandwagons, an unspoken fear that the ship has sailed?

Yes, at nearly 25 years of age, the ticking of my biological clock is faint. Like the humming of a refrigerator, the noise is consistent but I only hear it when I listen for it. Once in a while though, the biological clock goes off like an alarm: that’s when I remember that as a ten-year-old girl, I was positive I’d be married at 25 and a mother by 27. (Then, I also thought I was going to have four kids, including a set of boy/girl twins, and my flower of choice for my wedding ceremony was lilacs. Everyone knows lilacs are crap cut flowers.) Remember what Linda, the grief counselor in Little Miss Sunshine says when the father explains they need to get to a beauty contest in California in a matter of hours? “Ain’t gonna happen.” Ditto on the babies at age 27.

What is it about babies that makes us all so edgy? People without babies often assume those with children have settled for some sort of contrived happiness. Parents often view the childless as selfish. There’s got to be a better middle ground.

I have no middle ground, just worries. That I’ll push forward with my career and forget to have children. Or that the maternal instinct simply won’t kick in until I’m 45 and it’s too late. And if I do have children, will I raise them in the woods? As someone who was homeschooled through the majority of her academic career what will it mean if I send my children to public school? What will it mean for me personally if I homeschool them? At the root of it all lies the frustration that none of us have quite figured out what’s most important in our lives.

For now every baby on Facebook reminds us all of how unsettled things are in our hearts.
Read more ...

Not Words, Woods

Sunday, January 17, 2010
The blog’s been a bit full with talk of words and ramblings about the writing industry lately. Maybe that’s because the new year’s just upon us and I’m overflowing with all sorts of writing resolutions: novel rewrite done by March 31st! A query a week! A contest a month! Develop a website to tout my freelancing writing?!

I don’t mean for ambition and resolutions to undermine the quiet nature of the wilderness.

The temperatures have soared in the past week and last couple days have seen highs in the low 30s. It feels wonderful not to pull on my boots and jacket and mittens and hat when I run out to fill up the bird feeders. These days I’ve been running around outside in a sweatshirt and slippers. The snow banks have the swollen look that only comes in moments of unseasonable warmth or when they’re getting ready to melt for good. It even smells a bit like spring. And that’s not a good thing.

While the lodge Andy works at continues to do handsome business, every other local business is struggling to make ends meet, much less turn a profit. The lack of snow here and the abundance of snow everywhere else in the state provides tourists with little incentive to spend their free time in these particular woods, although things have picked up with this holiday weekend.

I talked to snowmobiler at work yesterday.

“Yeah, we didn’t come up because we heard the trails were really shitty,” he said. “But we decided to give them a try this weekend.”

“Oh,” I said. “How are the trails?”

“Pretty shitty,” he said.

There you have it.

The area ski trails remain in decent condition from what I can glean and all in all, really is quite lovely up here. The days are longer, icicles hang and drip from the eaves and the warmer temperatures bring birds flocking to the bird feeder. On the other hand, I understand why business is slow and that means we need to live rather frugally, especially with two trips on the horizon in April. Luckily I just finished writing an article on heart health and am now convinced that we are all going to die of heart disease unless we reduce our diets to nothing but apples and oatmeal, so eating more economically shouldn’t prove difficult. Everything seems to rest in the hands of the snow gods right now.

Despite lackluster tourism, Andy and I remain busy, busy. Andy’s finishing up a training class called Firefighter 1 and there’s some hope that when the course concludes at the end of the month it will be a little easier to keep the dishes washed, the larder stocked, and the banking done. In reality, he goes straight from Firefighter 1 to a wildland fire course while my somewhat catawampus work schedule is sure to continue.

Lesson number one gleaned from a winter in the woods? It’s only relaxing and low-key if you let it be.
Read more ...

Tell Me A Little About Progress

Friday, January 15, 2010
We all know the adage “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” yet as a society we tend to view the past as something we survived somehow while lacking the sophistication of modern day. It seems like a slippery slope though, especially since we can’t predict without bias what’s going to appear completely stupid and shortsighted when we look back on today 10 or 20 years from now.

Take for instance, the age of the internet. There’s no arguing that the infrastructures of our businesses and to large extent, our lives, have shifted to an online, virtual reality. Certain industries have stumbled and dragged their feet when it comes to the online shift in things and finally the writing industry (always a bunch of dreamy, archaic minded folks) went head over heels about advancing into the new era. Various writing resources have been whooping up the new need for writers to create an online promotional presence for themselves to create a marketable platform to pitch to potential publishers when they go to sell their novel.

The issue? Literary agent Nathan Bransford posted this in his blog earlier this week: I think with so many marketing options available to authors in the era of the Internet there's sort of been a new expectation/conventional wisdom creeping up that the key to being a Good Hardworking Promoting Author is to blow out your blog, your Facebook page, your website, your Twitter feed, your Myspace page (still people there!), your Goodreads network, your Flickr account, and better yet, all of the above and by the way you need to set up your own author tour and try to get some media appearances going we'd love it if you placed some articles and stories and where's your book trailer oh also don't quit your day job and don't forget about your manuscript deadline and make sure the next book is incredible and amazing and could you spend some time with your family please?

We do things in the name of progress, but do we called things “progress” simply because it seems crude just to call it “change?” And when does adapting to change become a distraction? As Bransford points, there simply not enough time in the day for writers to do everything they’re meant to get done in a day and still have time to live. Oh yeah, and write.

So are we making progress? I believe in the tangible nature of progress, of progress being the process of getting to where you want to be. The internet era itself may be “change,” but I do think it can cause progress by forcing writers to become more proactive in their own professional lives. In addition, the internet lays out the competition where everyone can see it, somewhat dispelling the notion of overnight success and reinforcing a commitment to hard work.

Call it what you will, basically it comes down to the fact that there will always be a new way to spin your wheels. That certainly what it feel like around here at the Shack as Andy and I dash off in separate directions all day then fall into bed at night to try to recall what we did all day. The days have been so chunked up into play, work, article writing, chores, and other writing projects that sometimes it’s hard to recap it. Maybe we’re making progress, maybe we’re not. In the end, we’ll judge that seeing if we’re where we want to be and how silly this all seems 10 years from now.
Read more ...

Trudging Along

Monday, January 11, 2010
Andy had alluded that it might be nice for me to come out for a visit while he and Andrew were out camping and since the temperatures were in the teens and I didn’t have anything terribly pressing to work on, yesterday I decided to make the trudge out to Rose Lake. The trek that would have taken about three hours one way using the land trail, took just over an hour across the flat, frozen lakes. While I was mildly worried that Andrew and Andy might have decided to camp on a different lake, I had seen their car in the parking lot and I followed what I was fairly certain were their footprints and sled marks. I found them camping right where they said they’d be after giving them a brief scare thinking I might be a game warden come to talk to them about their ice fishing tip-ups.

It hasn’t exactly been Andy and Andrew’s most hardcore camping trip. On Saturday, their ice auger broke and because it’s such a short trek in and out, they came back to the Shack to fetch the other auger. When I arrived at the campsite yesterday, the guys were in the process of packing up camp. After two days of ice fishing and only one bite, they’d decided to come home and go out on an ice fishing day trip on a different lake today.

As we finished packing camp, a light snow started to fall, frosting the world with fresh fluff. After the guys picked up their tip-ups, we faced the only challenge of the trek back The Stairway Portage, as its called, was constructed in the 1930s by a CCC crew and features approximately 80 steps down to Rose Lake, or if you’re coming back from Rose Lake, 80 steps up. With both Andy and Andrew were harnessed to a sled full of camping gear, there was some concern that the sled would pull them back down the steps on a bit of a joy ride. To prevent that from happening, I followed behind Andy and helped shove the sled upwards. Andrew however decided to head up sans assistance and all three people and both sleds, as well as the cooler of minnows made it to the top of the stairs uneventfully. With the steps behind us, the terrain leveled and we spent the next hour quietly trudging on through the snow, headed to home and a lasagna and blueberry pie dinner. The guys were pretty excited to sleep on level surfaces free of tree stumps.

As I followed behind Andy’s sled, I got to thinking: how many people get to spend their idle Sundays hiking across three lakes out to the Canadian border to spend some time with friends? We do lead a charmed life.

Today Andy and Andrew set off to ice fish and while I hemmed and hawed about tagging along, in the end I decided to stay home to get some work done. So far, I have called two contacts who are out of the office today and have left messages with two others. I have not actually made contact with anyone who can help me write the article. And this is exactly why I stayed home to attempt initial contact. In my intern days, I used to make the hasty assumption that articles could be written in an hour or so. Yeah, they can be, if you actually talk to everyone on your first try. I’ve learned that rarely happens, particularly if you’re trying to reach people in the medical community as I currently am.

I do have all of the information I need to write one of the two articles due this Friday, so I will get to work on that this afternoon. This past week has been a busy week of socializing: lovely, but means I need to spend the day putting forth some energy for all writing projects. If I’m not destined to make any money waitressing, I’ve really got to line up some more freelance work. Trudge, trudge.

We’re all dying slow deaths at the restaurant. (I guess if you want to be morbidly truthful, we die slow deaths every second, regardless of where we are.) We desperately need an influx of tourism and to achieve an influx of tourism, we need some snow. I’m by no means a member of snow’s fan club, but I can’t afford for business to be so slow. It’s funny really, the things you come to support when your livelihood’s dependant on it.
Read more ...

Measures of Success

Friday, January 8, 2010
The mother of a boy I once dated had a thing for knick-knacks. From top to bottom, her house was stocked with decorative plates, miniature shoes, figurines, clocks and glassware. Her sons picked on her ruthlessly for it, but she loved them. At one point while I was still in the picture, she made a conscious decision to begin collecting opalescent glassware. She bought books on the subject, carefully plotting out her next acquisitions. Not coming from family that’s big on home decoration, I found her obsession odd. It wasn’t until I was dusting a bit of opalescent glassware at the restaurant this week that I thought of her and realized she probably had a large amount of pride invested in her carefully researched collection.

We all measure success in different ways. I suspect for the glass collecting lady that he viewed a large portion of her personal success as being able to fill her home with things she deemed beautiful. In the restaurant business we measure success by the tip amount left on the table. We can measure it using financial, materialistic, or happiness indicators.

I generally measure my success using the happiness method and I’m generally happiest when I’m writing. That said, I have two articles to write in the next week. Yesterday I did my interview and took my pictures for one – I’m all set for that one. The other article has me calling up random people and asking them to tell me about their heart problems. That’s mildly awful, although mostly just awkward, yet I’d rather be doing that than picking up $10 bills off of tables I’m wiping down. When it comes right down to it, that’s probably not any less nutty than collecting glassware.

It’s been a busy few days and I may end up taking a nap when I’ve posted this. I haven’t put in a ton of hours at work this week, but the car had to be in the shop (it’s all fixed up and quiet as a mouse now) overnight on Wednesday which always complicates things a bit and then there have been interviews, dinner dates, trivia, and errands among other things to keep both Andy and I running around.

Andrew came up from the Cities yesterday and he and Andy embarked on a three night camping trip late this morning. They’ll have lovely weather; it’s finally starting to warm up outside. Warm temperatures or not, I’m still not sure I’m cut out for winter camping.
Read more ...

Where's the Romance?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010
A few years ago, the Black-Eyed Peas asked: “Where’s the love?” Today I ask, “Where’s the romance?”

It is a fact universally accepted by man that the older you get, the more the rosy tint on your glasses fades. We start out as English majors with minors in theatre and French and end up double majors in English and Communication for practicality sakes. The American Dream becomes an accepted bit of mythology. And there are always more dirty dishes.

Things are pretty darn good with Andy and I. The Shack is a cozy happy place. We share the grocery bill and we’re both thinking in “long haul” terms. So when I was at home yesterday, I asked my family what the point was of getting married. “Well,” said my father, “you get a tax break.”

Yesterday as I drove to town on a grocery run, I listened to MPR’s Kerry Miller speaking with a financial expert. As they discussed the merits of homeownership and the various savings options for retirement, my head started to swim. I may be only 24 (going on 25), but if I plan to follow through with this whole self-employment that means all those yucky decisions about health care and retirement come straight down to . . . me.

I live in the woods living a life that the majority of the Twin Cities metropolis population seems to think they would very much like to lead. The issue is that when many people used to the city life come up here to live out the dream, they often find themselves uncomfortably removed from convenience and quality culture offerings like theatre and ethnic food. Newcomers can be quick to point out the shortcomings in the way the area’s run. Sure it’s dumb to only have one day a year when you can dispose of your electronics and yeah, the county roads probably could use a tad more salt in the winter. That doesn’t mean that the locals won’t resent the suggestion and be loath to change. After all, if we change, who’s to say that we won’t lose what makes us unique? What if the unromantic reality is actually the key to the region’s romance?

I had an early morning of it today and got up before six to get to work on the writing. I have got to get through chapter twelve before it kills me. I’ve figured out what needs to happen in the next chapter to keep up the tension and interest during the currently muddling middle, but I’m struggling to get too terribly excited about the necessary framework of chapter twelve. No more excuses. It has to get done before work today.

The birds are flocking at the feeders today: goldfinches, redpolls, pine grosbeaks, chickadees and the lone hairy woodpecker.

I’m in the midst of baking a big batch of bread. I’m attempting to get all aspects of my schedule under my control and I’m hoping that they’ll be enough bread that I won’t have to do this again for a while.
Read more ...

Breath Clouds and Block Heaters

Sunday, January 3, 2010
Yesterday the temperature didn’t get much above -15. The day before it didn’t get much above -8. Temperatures this far below zero seem a little early in the season (I usually think of the deep cold setting in during the last week of January and continuing into February) and I’m sure business owners around here would much rather have snow than cold. Luckily for me, the new block heater works like a charm and it’s been no trouble getting the car started and myself to work the last few days.

This past week I’ve been feeling more like a waitress than a writer. That’s okay. I like the take home pay of it and it can be a good time especially if you deal with each individual table as a challenge. I just don’t want it to be a distraction or hindrance from eventually making my money with my pen.

The day job seems the ultimate mixed bag among the writing community. Some think it’s unorthodox, even a little lazy, to hang onto the crutch of a day job. Others feel it’s foolish to not have the steady income of a day job until a freelance business has been firmly established. I see the reasoning behind both schools of thought and since one relies on the idea that gravity doesn’t exist and the other perhaps overstresses the existence of gravity, I hope to walk the line and make an educated leap one of these days.

That said, I’m still muddling about a bit trying to determine what exactly I want to accomplish in this brand new year laid out before me. Last month I brainstormed some writing goals for 2010. Some are big, like finishing the rewrite of the current novel and outlining the next one. Others have more to do with quantity: so many queries, so many contests, et al. Of course the real issue is getting a schedule set up so I actually accomplish all the goals. Life’s feeling a little out of control at the current moment and I should probably try to spend the afternoon getting my hands wrapped around the reigns again.

We’re actually expecting a bit of company up at the Shack. Tonight the brother and girlfriend will be up for dinner and outdoor activities. Since I haven’t gone grocery shopping in weeks (on tomorrow’s to-do list), the Shack is basically devoid of edibles so they’ll be providing the dinner; we’ll be providing the outdoor activities. Later in the week a good friend from Andy’s and my canoe outfitting days will be up for a winter camping trip with Andy.

The company’s good motivation for cleaning up the Shack. I spent the majority of this morning scrubbing, sweeping, and doing dishes and laundry. The word count goals are suffering because of it but at least things are clean . . . for the time being.

I took down the extraneous Christmas decorations this morning, but the ornaments and tinsel around the windows still remain. I’ll take them down sometime this week; I need to retrieve their boxes from my parents’ house. The goal is to get everything down by Twelfth Night (Epiphany) but since that’s on Wednesday I’m not any too sure I’ll succeed.

Yesterday afternoon it was still light out at ten to five. I excitedly declared that to Andy loudly and I’m not sure he shared in my excitement quite as completely as me. When I drove home from work at four, the sun was setting in rosy hues on the horizon and there was a sense of more light in the world. It gives me hope, knowing that this winter is already displaying its fleeting ways.

The thoughts of sunshine and summer, along with the Thai cookbook I got from Andy for Christmas has me also thinking of an herb garden. It’d be lovely to have our own big pot of fresh basil this summer. Especially since the ground chicken with fresh basil turned out so well the other night.

The pine grosbeaks are flitting about, all puffed out against the cold. Time to check the laundry and actually figure out how I’m going to get things accomplished this year.
Read more ...
Related Posts with Thumbnails