Monday, October 29, 2018

Change in the Air

After 2 1/3 blissful years as a free agent, I'm returning to the 9-5 work-a-day world next week.

One of my grad school mentors used to say that to sustain your writing career, you needed another source of income "to pay for the kibble." She was the owner of large dogs. While the only kibble we buy around here is for ducks, it adds up when the chipmunks and woodchucks and sparrows help themselves. Also, teenagers eat a lot as well, and unfortunately, you can't stuff them full of kibble. They're expensive in other ways, too—orthodontia, soccer cleats, car insurance (!!!), pants, pants, pants. We have three of them now (teenagers that is), and we also have a house we built and moved into 16 years ago, which means that our appliances and fixtures are starting to fail, in what I'm afraid is just the beginning of a cascade. Oh, yeah, and a kid going to college next year.

I had some really lovely teaching and freelance gigs over the last year, but not enough to pay for much kibble. I just didn't have it in me—the hustle. I loved the work, but I do not love asking people to give me work, or trying to extract photos out of people or scheduling interviews with people who have different priorities, or asking people to pay me. Not enough to turn it into a full-time gig (and with so much writing and hiking and drawing and reading to be done, who had time for a full-time gig?). I'll hang onto my regular clients, and I'll keep teaching—I already have two workshops scheduled for next year—and I'll keep editing at Literary Mama. I won't completely step out of the game.

I doubt you'll notice much difference here, since I'm already posting at a rate of about once per month. Then again, I posted a LOT when I worked full time (something about having only two days off per week and wanting to make those two days count), so you may be in for more of me (which is what everybody wants, right?). I'm reminding myself that I was VERY productive when I worked full time—I made zines, I blogged, I wrote a ton of essays and short stories, I completed my MFA, I studied to be a Master Naturalist, I did all kinds of knitty/crafty/cookery things. My goal is to both be productive and stay centered (i.e. sane). Wish me luck.

Oh, and did I mention, I get the summer and fall off, so that's pretty fantastic.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Fall Nature Journaling Weekend

I had the great good fortune to be invited to teach nature journaling up in the wilds of Maine a couple of weeks ago.

There was a smallish turnout—I guess I should go into teaching how to file your taxes or some other universally desired skill, but what fun would that be?

And, to be honest, small groups are my favorite, where each person can work at his/her own pace, and we all get to know each other so well, even in the course of a few hours.

The weekend started Friday evening and went through Sunday morning—not quite three days, but enough time to luxuriate in attention, observation, detail.

We practiced the basics of observing and drawing.

We went on slow hikes, noting each thing of significance as we went along.

We closed our eyes to use our other senses, and wrote about what we noticed, felt, remembered, and wondered.

It was a pretty terrific way to spend a fall weekend in Maine.

Friday, October 12, 2018

September 2018 Reads

A roundup of books I read over the last month. You can see past lists here:

August 2018 Reads

July 2018 Reads

September's book pile is quite a bit smaller than August's tower. I'd like to say that I was taking a break from reading to something even more healthy and productive—writing, say, or saving the world—but really the cause was TV. I had to catch up on "The Handmaid's Tale" and then I had to watch "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" as an antidote. The twins and I haven't even gotten through another whole volume of Amelia Peabody, thanks to the start of school and homework and lots of other things going on. 

I had to do my photo shoot at the library with my phone, because I'd already returned Rachel.
My one NF book for the month was a doozy: Journey into Summer by Edwin Way Teale, about his 19,000 mile cross-country road trip, tracking the phenomena of summer in 1960. Full disclosure, I started this one back when summer began, but I kept moving other books ahead of it in the queue. But when September came, I determined to finish reading it before summer ended (I think I may have gone over by a day or two). This book is really great. Teale and his wife start in Maine and make their way through the upper midwest, down into Kansas and around Colorado, over a period of three months. Along the way, they come upon some fascinating things, like a mayfly hatch in Lake Erie that turns roads slick with insects. I found myself wanting to recreate Teale's journey to see what's left of the things he saw along the way 60 years later (my cynical guess is that nearly everything is gone or diminished, except for bald eagles, which bird's absence Teale repeatedly notes). 

Two books on the list this month: First off My Cousin Rachel, by Daphne Du Maurier. After I finished Rebecca, a friend said I needed to read this one next. Once again Du Maurier messes with the reader's head and you're left at the end not knowing for sure who the real villian is. That's all I'm going to say, though. The other novel I read was Night Fall by Joan Aiken, which is the first novel of suspense I read, way back when I was a teenager. For some reason, I still have my copy and just for fun decided to read it again. It was still a fun read, though not what you might call "literature of enduring value," and it reassured me that plots don't have to be super complex to be engaging (and all the funny 1960s lingo is pretty entertaining, too).
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