Occasionally, someone shows up at my work desk or drops by my email in-box to ask if I would read his or her manuscript and offer feedback, presumably just for kicks.
They want to know if their work is any good, if commas are in the right places, how much it will cost to get their story between covers, and several other things besides. Because I know exactly where they’re coming from, I’m genuinely touched that they ask me to help with their treasured projects.
But there are problems.
If I agree to give someone’s work a read, it can get awkward fast. What if I don’t think the story is ready? Everyone wants an honest opinion until it’s not what they hoped to hear.
What if their work is full of mistakes?
What if the writing is pretty good? Then it would be hard to keep from marking up the copy, correcting issues we all have despite our best efforts: typos, transposition of words, overused phrases. Then I’d be hooked, feeling the need to explain my markings, discuss unclear sentences and yes, become a part of their publishing journey.
So what I do is politely say no.
I spend too many hours on the computer now – at the newspaper, at home spinning blogs and maintaining my writing platform, keeping up with friends via emails and Facebook. But I don’t spend as many hours as I could, or even long to – coming up with programs to supplement as well as encourage my own new territory, contacting possible program hosts, and on and on.
That’s not to mention that some nights I would like to turn on the tube and mindlessly sew my outdoor cushions, or pursue other things. Even clean the woodwork, just do regular-life stuff, you know?
Bottom line: If I’m caught up in other writers' projects, just for kicks, where’s the time for my own?
But that's not the end of the story ...
At the encouragement of a marketing professional who works with the public and with a library, last summer I put together a presentation about self-publishing. I gave it a pilot run at the Brookville library some months ago and things went well. Also, the librarian gave it her endorsement.
I’m not an expert, and I don't play one on TV. I don’t have all the answers. Those are the exact points. You don’t have to be an expert or have all the answers to get your beloved book into print. We live at a wondrous time when we can actually put our words and thoughts and heart and art out there and see where it ends up.
My program unpacks where and how to get started, aspects of this journey to consider that would-be authors perhaps haven’t thought about (such as the fact that with a book in print, bam! You own a business). I also absolutely recommend that if you publish a book, you plan to allow at least a year after publication to dote on and devote to your book in your spare time. After all, if you are going to go to all the effort and cost to get it out there, don’t you want to give it your best shot? And making back your expenses (and more) would be nice, would it not?
All that is to invite you to So You Want to Publish a Book, a free workshop at the Fishers Library from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday. March 29, 5 Municipal Drive, Fishers, Indiana. The library asks that you register to attend at: hepl.lib.in.us or call 317-579-0307.
You see, I actually enjoy helping people with this journey. I just can't do it for everyone on a personal basis, or devote long periods of time to other people's book projects just for fun. So we're making an evening of it.
The first hour is a crash course in the process of self-publishing. Divisions include finding a company and how it works, becoming a business owner, thoughts on marketing, and rewards. Then we’ll allow an hour for questions and brainstorming. At the end, you’ll go home with a handout containing some of the resources we’ve discussed.
If you are anywhere near Fishers, and self-publishing interests you, maybe I’ll see you then. If you are in another part of Indiana and would be interested in the program, consider mentioning it to your librarian, writers' group, or other organization. I’d be happy to speak with your program chairs about coming in. For more information, email me at email@example.com.
I anticipate we'll have a great evening together.
Women of this New Castle, Indiana philanthropic organization decided to do something new and different this year to benefit their favorite charities.
The resulting Book and Author Luncheon, hosted by Tri Kappa, is 11 am. Saturday. March 11 at First Baptist Family Life Center, 709 S. Memorial Drive, New Castle. Doors open at 10:30 a.m. Deadline for tickets is Friday, March 3. For tickets, email Amanda Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Cara Taylor at FC Tucker/Crossroads Realty, phone 521-9464. Tickets are $20 each.
Along with a chicken-salad luncheon, the program consists of 10-minute talks from each of six local writers from a variety of genres and points of view. From western to a Smithsonian science project, to a memoir of a local immigrant to essays and women's fiction, a variety of perspectives are represented.
The authors' books will be available for purchase and signing following the program. I'm honored to be part of the event. A portion of this snowy, return-to-winter day will be spent working on my 10-minute presentation. My last book's editor, Steve Dicken, dropped by the office last week and seemed skeptical that I could limit myself to 10 minutes. That's a challenge, and yes, Steve, I'll stop on a dime.
Here's what The Courier-Times printed about each speaker:
• Annette Goggin teaches AP English at New Castle High School. Her new book is Home: Three Houses. Married to Mark, a farmer, school-bus driver, and her editor, they have two grown children: Christina (husband Jason) Howard and Gus (wife Stephanie) Goggin. The author plans to keep doing what she loves: teaching, writing and enjoying the people around her. Her book includes stories of love, laughter and life spent as a preacher’s kid, teacher and farmer’s wife.
• Terry Gray is a wife, mother, grandmother and part-time office administrator at Sulphur Springs Christian Church. Her book is Unsinkable, inspired by a relative she adored whose dream was to become a U.S. citizen. She is working on a second book. Married to Kim Gray, they live in a cabin on a small farm near Sulphur Springs. They are parents to four adult children and their spouses, and grandparents to eight. They raise honeybees and Terry enjoys travel and photography.
• Mark Herbkersman has always loved the old west, reinforced from living in Idaho. He is author of a western series, Henry Family Chronicles. His work has included counseling, seminar speaker, adjunct college faculty, pastor and hospice chaplain. Married with two daughters, his passion is encouraging young people to follow their dreams. Published books are: Prodigal’s Blood, Revenge on the Mountain, The Branding of Otis Henry and Gideon’s Redemption. He is working on a fifth book.
• Sean Slagle teaches English at New Castle High School and is author of three novels: A Dirge for the Malice, Young Dreams and The Vale of Eden; four plays: Poems of the Passion, A Primetime Christmas, Sleepy Hollow High School, The Most Blessed Inn of Bethlehem, numerous skits, short stories and non-fiction articles. Married to Brooke, they have four children. Slagle is working on a Christmas romance, Santa for a Season and a Christmas devotional, What Child is This?
• Teresa Southerland owns Every Good Thing, also known as Marilyn’s Flowers & Gifts. She has has completed several environmental education projects. Most notable is Dig It! The Secrets of Soil. She has always loved science and is married to Jim. Their children are: Adam (Sara) Hollars, Danielle Stigall, Cara (Robby) Taylor, Lindsey (Beau) Tipton, Brock (Chelsea) Southerland. They have five grandchildren. She plans to complete a devotional for young people inspired by her daughter Cara’s life.
• Donna Cronk is Neighbors editor at The Courier-Times where she also edits her magazine for women. Her books are Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast and That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland. Married to Brian, they are parents of two grown sons: Sam (wife Allison) and Ben. Cronk plans to keep writing and giving inspirational programs whenever asked. She has developed a new program geared for library audiences called So You Want to Self-Publish a Book.
The New Castle Alpha Tau chapter has been around since 1911. Their charities include a $1,000 annual philanthropic community grant; scholarships for students at New Castle, Blue River Valley, Tri and Shenandoah; sponsoring the New Castle High School Art Show, Senior Nite Club, Special Olympics, United Fund Day of Caring, Pregnancy Care Center, YMCA youth memberships and blankets for Riley Hospital. Event chair is Rebecca Hawrot.
It’s no secret that one of my favorite places is on our back porch. Several years ago, I had an idea to create an old-fashioned porch complete with space enough to comfortably seat 10, to outfit with a table and chairs, a couple of thrift-shop wicker rockers painted black and – the must-have – an all-weather wicker sofa for lounging, dreaming, writing and yes, (Shush!) napping.
The porch would cover the “patio,” located out the back door of many suburban homes, including ours, and takes the form of a cement slab. Our slab was boring and completely non-welcoming. We spent zero time there.
After Brian thought over my proposal, complete with his version of a Congressional inquiry, (“Do you think you or we would really use it?”) the porch was confirmed by our committee of two and sent on to our fabulous handyman, Monty Foust and his House to Home business.
Monty created our back porch during one autumn, seeing to all the technical details such as roof pitch and labor while I dreamed of springtime hanging baskets and … finding the right all-weather sofa.
The project exceeded my expectations and officially debuted at Ben’s graduation party. Since then, it has been the backdrop to many gatherings. I’ve noticed in the two times since its installation when we’ve hosted family reunions, even though we also rent a tent for the yard, people prefer to gather on the porch, even in numbers exceeding 10.
But my favorite time on that porch, I have to admit, is when I’m there alone, the birds in peaceful harmony, the distant sound of kids playing in the neighborhood, and time to read, think or pound on the laptop.
If you have a copy of my first novel, Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast, you’ll see that the porch on the cover of the fictional B & B features the black wicker and the striped fabric cushions. There they are crisp and new. But unlike in a painting, the cushions have faded and have mildew stains. It’s time for new slipcovers.
Saturday Brian and I went to the fabric store in search of outdoor material for me to stitch into the slipcovers. We hit the jackpot because there were several bolts (Brian called them skeins) of beautiful, bright-colored fabric that would work well for the project and the big bonus: it was all 60-percent off.
While figuring out how much I needed at the checkout, a quilter in line watching offered her two cents: “Take it all, the whole bolt. You’ll never regret getting too much fabric. You’ll always regret getting too little.”
She’s right already. I have plenty to cover the six essential cushions, and enough left, it appears, to cover the seats of the two wicker chairs. It will all resemble a matching set.
A friend with whom I email regularly wrote yesterday wondering why she hasn’t heard much from me lately. I’m sewing! And, I’m dreaming of hanging baskets, birdsong and summer on our porch.
Orville, left, and Wilbur Wright, courtesy of Google Images.
Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author David McCullough ended his biography, The Wright Brothers, stating that when Neil Armstrong went to the moon in the summer of 1969, he took along a swatch of fabric from the 1903 Wright Flyer.
I teared up.
The magnitude of it all touches me. So does the entire story of the life, times, influences and sheer genius of Wilbur and Orville.
I finished the book earlier today. I didn’t want to leave the Wrights behind, having spent hours listening to the book, read by the author during time spent behind the wheel this February. More than once I sat in my car after arriving home, just to hear more.
I have a connection to the Wrights, based purely on place in a couple of different ways. Their mother, Susan, grew up on a farm on the same spot on the map as I did, in Union County. By all accounts, the sons of Bishop Milton and Susan Wright inherited their mechanical aptitude from their mother.
If the Wright Brothers of Dayton, Ohio, are considered from nowhere, then Susan is from still deeper nowhere. Or at least that’s how some would see it. For me, it's a point of pride: special people come from anywhere and everywhere. Place need not be a limitation.
Milton and Susan got their marriage license in my home county and married in neighboring Fayette County. I didn’t know this until a dozen years ago when I read it while visiting the site that is my other link to the Wrights.
Older brother of the two, Wilbur was born in Henry County in 1867, far out into the countryside and because of this historical fact, the name Wilbur Wright comes up frequently at the newspaper where I work, in New Castle, Indiana.
There’s the Wilbur Wright Birthplace and Museum, financed and operated with donations procured by a band of faithful neighborhood volunteers (and some of the nicest people I know). I’m out at the site a few times a year when I do articles about what’s new each April when they open for the season, about their June festival, and again in the fall when the complex is adorned with beautifully and clever decorations for the annual Christmas Tree Walk. An exact replica of the Wright Flyer is the centerpiece of one area of the museum.
New Castle has an elementary school named for Wilbur, and various other references are plentiful.
But even if I had no personal interest, as a proud American and fan of history and awe-inspiring stories of many kinds, I’d still want to read or as it happens, listen to this book.
We learn of the boys’ early influences, a French helicopter toy that inspired their interest in flight, and of how if there was ever a case of two heads being better than one, this is it.
The two were passionate about figuring out flight and the book goes into detail about how they did what they did, methodically, painstakingly, with concentration, determination, and will. Their distractions were few as they had no wives or thought of getting wives, lived at the family homestead in town, and the two worked together to solve problems and test theories. Their day job was their bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio, where the family had settled. The shop produced the funds to pay for their life’s true work.
McCullough unfolds their stories using letters and other documents to detail how they accomplished what they did, achieving flight in 1903 with the Wright Flyer, the first successful powered aircraft in human history.
The boys from Dayton, Ohio changed the world.
The author speaks of the Wrights' fame and how it didn’t change them, but having to deal with jealous rivals did as they had to defend and initiate lawsuits when they clearly would rather be working on the science of flight.
I didn’t realize that Wilbur died so young, having achieved so much in so brief a time. He was just 45 in 1912 with typhoid fever. Orville lived on, ironically, having survived a crash that killed his passenger earlier. He lived to see planes in World War I, the sound barrier break, and even jet engines, passing in 1948.
Only 21 years later, Americans would walk on the moon. And that is why that scrap of fabric from the Flyer resonated with me so much.
I am undone by these humble men’s achievements, by their genius and their abilities to figure out so much while not being the least bit intimidated by the so-called great minds of their day. The brothers blew them away.
I’m touched by the Wright Brothers because of the contributions they made to the world, and not just the world but to me personally, such as swift, safe flights to and from far-away places. I think of them when I fly, with my nose plastered against the window if at all possible, all the better to look out over the beautiful, neatly organized, continuous quilt of land beneath the aircraft.
It’s a beautiful sight.
Flying still feels like a miracle.
It's been called a girls' night out, a health-and-services fair, a place to sample local products and visit with friends and neighbors.
For the ninth year, it's back. Affairs of the Heart, sponsored by Henry Community Health, gets under way at 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23 at First Baptist Family Life Center, 709 S. Memorial Drive, New Castle.
It's free! The vendor fair is 5-6:30 p.m. when you can expect products for sample and sale from many genres, and sign up for door prizes, stuff your provided goody bags and have a good time. I'll be there with my books and free copies of the latest issue of her magazine for women. Stop by and say hi. My friends Sandy Moore and Annette Goggin will be there with their books too.
Then at 6:30 p.m. chairwoman Ricci Atchison has some speakers lined up to educate those attending. Cindy Gerritsen, RN, BSN, CDE, will talk about diabetes. Atkinson says that Gerritsen is passionate about helping people learn about diabetes and heart disease.
Also taking the main stage is Susan Julian, a nurse practitioner who will share about maintaining health and preventing illness.
A highlight of the evening is when Henry County's Sweet Heart is revealed. Applications are due to Ricci on this Friday. It's simple to apply. List your health risk or risks of any kind, and include up to 200 words about why you would like to win, as well as up to 100 words describing your daily exercise routine. Just email the info to Ricci at email@example.com.
The winner receives a tool box filled with a one-year health membership, a massage and other goodies to get her on the road to improved health.
The evening ends with -- get this -- more than 100 door prizes valued at least $25 each. The only catch? You must be present to win. And by the way, who are you? Anyone from any community is welcome so even if you don't live in Henry County, consider driving over and spending the evening.
Hope to see you there.
The other day I left the house bound for the grocery store. Less than two miles from home, I felt a wave of minor panic. Oh no! I forgot my cellphone!
What if I had a flat? What if someone at work needed me? What if I saw something funny and needed to text Brian? I thought of tapping the brakes and turning around. Then I thought of how life has changed, I'm being silly, and how I had spent most of my years without a phone in my purse and I've made it this far.
When I consider my personal history with cellphones, one image comes to mind. It’s not ancient history, either, but may seem that way, given how far our phones have come.
The image is a scene at the Babe Ruth baseball diamond in Pendleton. That narrows down the time to about 16-17 years ago because that’s when Sam played Babe Ruth and that is the only reason we were seated on the bleachers in that setting.
In the scene, a Babe Ruth dad walks by, cellphone plastered to his ear, a man so engrossed in a call that he isn’t watching the action on the diamond. Pitiful, we judged.
Brian and I commented to each other with disdain. “Who is that busy that he has to take calls at the ball diamond? Leave it at the office! C’mom!”
We were genuinely offended by the dad’s self-importance.
Fast forward just a few years and we are the ones with the phones against our ears, as is everyone else around us.
We were slow to get cellphones at our house. The first was a school-issue one for Brian, that went mostly unused. I think Ben, an eighth-grader, was the first to get a cellphone aside from Brian’s school cell.
Ben’s was a birthday gift and it may be his favorite present, ever, because he said he didn’t dream we’d actually get him one.
I never got the hang of texting when you had to hit number keys repeatedly to get letters. I am a lightning-fast typist, and I’ve been told I’m pretty quick with the pen and pad too, but texting? I was pitiful and I’m still not the best although my auto-corrects can be amusing.
The early cellphone photos were poor and as recently as a couple of years ago, our editor had a policy against using them for newspaper photos. My, but they have come along and the DPI and general quality are quite good now.
During my D.C. coverage last month, I relied on my cell camera and used my independent camera for back up.
Brian uses his phone’s GPS daily in his part-time job and he’s as adept as anyone in looking up airline flights or checking to see if Milburn Stone (Doc Adams on Gunsmoke) could possibly still be alive.
When I visited Israel in 2014, Brian and I spoke a few times and the connection was instant and as clear as if we were sitting next to each other on top of Masada. Growing up, the long-distance call to Connersville, about 10 miles away, sounded as though we were speaking half way around the world. The irony.
I try not to be annoying with my cellphone but the other day I forgot to turn it off and it rang during a meeting. I got a dirty look and I deserved it.
It’s a new world, for sure, and cellphones keep us connected in ways we wouldn’t have imagined just a couple handful of years ago.
Basically, I feel naked without one.
And no, Milburn Stone could not possibly still be alive.
I love time alone with my studies or spreading out tax papers or reading current magazines in my local library. During the past three years, I've spent a lot of time in libraries all over the state. Each one has a unique character and atmosphere. This chair with the sunlight streaming on it is my favorite local library spot. What's yours?
It may not look all that special, but look again.
See how the sun shines an early-afternoon spotlight on the chair nearest the window? See the abundant natural light? You should have a seat. There, in my local library, you sinnnn-kkk into that chair and never want to get up again.
Yes, one of my life's little luxuries is finding a place in my schedule to visit the local library and hole up for a couple of hours in that chair, right there. It's my favorite place in our lovely little Pendleton Community Library.
I like to pile my purse and tote or briefcase into that extra chair, stretch out my legs on the little table and ... chill.
This morning I'll get my grocery shopping done and this afternoon, I'm heading to the library. The snow is supposed to fall. I don't know if I'll feel the warmth of the sun today but the snow will make it cozy in its own special way. There I'll dive into my new weekly Bible Study Fellowship lesson and spend a couple of hours in John.
Are you familiar with bestselling author John Green? The Indianapolis native (author of The Fault in Our Stars and several others) likes to quietly visit the Knightstown Library. It's a small Carnegie on the town's main drag. A few years back I did an article about his affection for this library.
The staff didn't even know who he was and certainly wasn't aware that he was a big-time writer. They didn't know, in fact, until he won a literary award and decided to gift it to that very library.
You just never know the impact a library can have on a person.
Are you a regular at your favorite library? Do you have a favorite seat?
While lovely vacation spots are blessings, and time spent in a friend's home over coffee at the kitchen table a delight, there are sweet spots all around us. One of mine is found in my local library.
Seriously? You thought this was a political column?
Nope. I’m talking home and hearth and organization.
Last night I couldn’t get to sleep until after midnight due to excitement. Some big thing planned for the weekend? A book signing or a trip out of town? Maybe a dinner out? No, no, and no.
I was excited because for the first weekend in I don’t know how long, nothing is on the agenda, I’m not sick, Brian is (almost) not sick, and my soul needs some white noise.
One of my all-time favorite tunes comes to mind, the John Denver classic, Hey It’s Good to be Back Home Again. It captures how I feel this weekend.
Something you probably don’t know about me is that organization appeals to me. I can’t leave work until everything is, if not done, put away and my desk in order. I like my home to function the same way but sometimes I fall short due to extenuating circumstances.
My friend, Debbie, has commented about how she is an orderly person and likes to have her ducks in a row. Well, me too. But sometimes other things press in and the order is put on hold. The ducks run wild!
A shrink could have a field day with me, and my penchant for organization. I find it relaxing
So this morning after Weight Watchers, I stopped for a few things at the store and wandered down the organization aisle. An assortment of baskets for drawer organization (at least that’s how I interpreted them) appealed and on whim, I bought several. I came home and redid the kitchen-utensil junk drawer that’s been annoying me for a while.
Bam! Instant satisfaction. Sometimes when the world feels as though it is spinning out of order, controlling a little piece of my own world is just what the doctor ordered.
The weekend includes getting our tax papers in order, a trip to the library, some home-keeping chores, church, reading, completing Monday’s BSF lesson, looking at a couple of book commitments coming up that have been on the back burner, and maybe tackling a few more drawers.
Brian is working out as I finish this post. I promised to make him homemade potato soup for supper. It’s on the stove.
Hey, it’s good …both the potato soup, and being back home again with a weekend to relax, recharge, and organize.