Is Winter Finally Over in Maine?

Spring!

Dear Reader:

I see bare lawn.

Normally this would not be a big announcement, but really. It is the second week of April, and still large snow patches crouch beside the rock wall, cling to the back yard, depress me with their grainy, crystalline whiteness.

I want green. Green grass. Green leaves. Green buds.

I want yellow. Yellow daffodils. Yellow dandelions. Yellow-centered daisies.

I want purple. Purple crocus. Purple lilacs. Oh, the heady purple scent of the lilacs in May.

The garden boxes are mostly free of snow, and the dog has been digging in one of them. Beech leaves left over from fall are scattered all around, gathered in front of my steps. The sky is blue today. I can almost, almost imagine that spring is here.

WordPress notified me that I had reached my five year anniversary with this blog. What? How did that happen?

It is spring. It is time to plan my goals for the year. The keyhole-shaped, apple guild garden area will finally be ready for planting this spring. I think I tossed a few tulip bulbs in there last fall (you’d think with this blog I would keep track of these things, but I get loosey-goosey come October) and planted some perennials last summer anyway. So I will be figuring out what kind of apple trees to plant. I want the kind of crab-apple that can be used for making jelly and maybe a companion tree with regular-size apples that can cross-pollinate. I’m open to suggestions.

Around the apple tree will go garlic chives (I did that last year with my miniature crab-apple tree. That was pretty cool), comfrey, yarrow, fennel, bee balm, maybe some artichokes, dill. I know I’ve been talking about this for years, but it has taken that long to build the soil there by the compost bins. This year, it will happen!

Thinning out a bunch of pines created more space for gardens. I have a hugelculture bed that needs planting this year (again, left it to rot down a bit over the winter) and I think I will try potatoes there. Not sure what else.

I will, again, grow many herbs for the bees and other beneficial insects and for cooking. Cucumbers, yes. Cherry tomatoes. Many lettuces and greens.

I also want to create some major perennial beds in keyhole gardens facing south, mixtures of flowers and food.

And then there is the back yard with all the cleanup from the tree-cutting. I have huge brush piles growing at the edge of the property. Some of this could be used for more hugelculture beds.

Pretty soon all this activity will start. I’ll get out my camera and post photos for those who are following along. I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be writing this blog. It has been an instructive five years, but somehow I feel that time is drawing to a close. I’ve learned much, incorporated so much into my lifestyle that it no longer feels new or interesting, just normal. I have a few more projects I want to try. I’d like to get a clothesline now that I have more space with sunlight. I’d like to start making my own laundry detergent…

…and man! I still haven’t got that sewing machine out!

Until next time, happy spring!

Twisted

Twisted

Dear Reader:

I’ve been all caught up in Wattpad mania, as my regular readers all know. At first I wasn’t sure about it–would it just be another of those social media sites where people all like and follow each other to be polite but nobody actually reads anyone else’s work–but surprise, surprise! It is even more exciting than I could have imagined.

Not only have I found readers who genuinely seem interested in the story I’m writing, but I’ve also found some wonderful writers to follow and some interesting and inventive books and stories and poems to read (some I think are of publishable quality)! Wattpad allows a user to create multiple “reading lists” to help organize your experience. I’ve added so many to my master list, I wonder when I’ll ever get to read all of them! I’m planning on reading through much of that list once I complete my novel-in-progress, DISGUISED. But while I’m writing that, I have to keep focused and maintain momentum. I’ve reached over 1,000 reads, over 100 likes, and am just shy of 200 comments. In, what, three weeks?

It is addictive. But the best part, by far, is being able to interact with readers. I love to hear what they are thinking about the characters. So much fun! I wonder if this is going to change the way we publish and read. The New York Times explores this issue in a recent article.

I find writing a serialized novel (novella?) to be challenging but extremely motivating. I feel as if my readers are depending on me to get something out there for them to read. They want to know what happens! It is pushing me to create two installments a week, about a thousand words in each installment.

In fifteen weeks, then, I’ll have created at least 30K words. If I could push myself to write an installment a day, I’d be done in less than a month. But why hurry?

Here is the link to the next installment, for those of you who are following along. TWISTED.

I know there are probably some of my Localista readers who are wondering when I’m getting back to the outdoorsy stuff—well, mother nature has to cooperate first! I still have a sheet of ice on my driveway. The temps were down to 6 degrees F yesterday. Today, more snow expected.

I did go to a recent author event at the Portland Books A Million. A small, Maine publishing company was highlighting its authors and recent books. I will be writing about that very soon, I promise.

Enjoy your week, my dear readers. If you are lucky enough to have sunshine and warm weather, drop me a line so I can be jealous!

Of Game Nights and Word Games

photo 2

Hello Dear Reader:

Things are heating up over on Wattpad…my story DISGUISED hit #34 on the mystery/thriller list (that is out of hundreds!)yesterday, and I’m trying to keep the momentum going. Sometimes it feels like a word game challenge, trying to come up with a new installment every few days.

If you are following along with this story, here is the link. http://www.wattpad.com/42517500-disguised-breach-of-ethics. And here is the graphic I designed on Polyvore.com to go with it.

Breach of Ethics

Speaking of games…

photo 1

On the local front, I spent last Friday evening playing board games at our local toy store, At Once All Agog. It is totally locally-owned, run by a wonderful local person who also employs another local individual. The store is located in one of our more historically-storied buildings, and At Once All Agog is a pure delight. Makes me want to be a kid again!

What whimsical and wonderful shops do you have in your town or neighborhood? When is the last time you visited, talked with the local owner, shopped for something unique and fun?

Skimming the Till

Skimming the Till

Dear Reader:

So, I’ve been writing a serialized mystery story on Wattpad.com. I wasn’t sure how the free reading/writing site would work for me, but I’m actually finding some good stories to read and some readers for my experimental story that mixes fashion, romance, and detective fiction into one (hopefully) amusing romp.

Writing fiction gets my creative juices flowing these days, but spring is coming. Soon it will be time to get out into the garden boxes and start focusing on growing things.

Happy St. Paddy’s Day weekend. Slainte!

Country Prom Queen

shelleyburbank:

Latest flash fiction. Could also be called Best Laid Plans.

Originally posted on 52 Flash:

country prom queen

By Shelley Burbank

Her mother named her Amy, after the character in Louisa May Alcott’s book, the youngest sister who longed for elegant surroundings, art, clothing. A stylish, sophisticated Little Woman.

Our Amy grew up in a tiny, rural community forty minutes west of Portland, a place where the men congregated at the Village Variety for a cup of coffee and a chat before heading out to haul logs, drill wells, pump septic tanks, or blast some rock up to the gravel pit on Hildebrant Mountain. At home, the women sipped sweet tea out of mugs printed with names of local businesses, Three Lakes Credit Union, Conway’s Feed & Supply, The Country Grocer, and chased toddlers around all day in their home-based daycares.

The toddlers’ mothers got dressed up in skirts and blouses from JC Penney and drove the back roads over to Portland to work, putting in sixty-hour weeks…

View original 359 more words

My Dreams

mullein (2)My dreams are dandelion seed-fluffs
floating
on random
breezes. Instead,

I want to be
a mullein plant.
Sturdy,
confident,
reaching
in
one
clear
direction.

Social Media as Magic Mirror

mirrormirrorI’ve been thinking so much about the whole social media universe lately. My thoughts are not all sweetness and light. In fact, I’m feeling pretty dark about social media these days. I think it is due for a shakeup!

Here is an example. Have you visited Wattpad.com? I just heard about it a couple weeks ago and decided to check it out. Wattpad is a platform that allows you to post your book or short story or other pieces of writing (read: fan fiction) from your profile. You can follow other writers. You can collect a library. You can create a reading list. It’s pretty cool. It’s also pretty young. In fact, Wattpad.com seems to be a huge collective of many, many young (ages 14-22 I’m guessing) writers, kids who are used to a dynamic of “following” and “following back” that is akin to a smile–something polite and nice to do to make the other person and yourself feel good, but not an actual indication that he or she is actually going to read your work.

Because, how many writers(bloggers/Tweeters/Instagramers/Pinners, etc.) can one person actually read/follow/interact with? Certainly not 700…or even 350 or 200!

I think it is the same with all social media, including Facebook and Instagram and the like. People may “like” you or “follow” you, but it MAY be only a feel-good,reciprocal thing with no real intention of visiting again, or a politeness thing, or maybe even a way of trying to entice you to visit their account in hopes they get one more tick on the counter. Or, less cynically, maybe they stumbled onto your account and liked what they saw enough to give you a “like” or a “follow,” but your posts then become so lost in the avalanche of notifications piling onto the erstwhile follower’s in-box or notification tab that he/she never stumbles back onto your page again.

In this way, your follower number on your social media account(s) becomes nothing more than a meaningless numeral, or at best a tally of notches on your belt. Certainly it is not an indicator of real readership.

I’m told (by young people) that this doesn’t bother them at all. This meaningless number is fine in a world of people who are interested only in self-expression. For them, social media is a magic mirror. The larger the number, the bigger the mirror, but it is still reflecting back only one image. The Self.

I post, therefore I am?

But what about actual communication/community? What about the real spread of ideas?

I’m wondering if the only way this will be sustainable will be people coming together (the way planets formed after the big bang) to create their own worlds within worlds, so to speak. Social circles. We’ve seen the big bang, the social media explosion. It has happened.

Perhaps now people will combine naturally into their smaller social media circles–communicating with each other, reading each other’s posts, commenting, adding to collective knowledge so that an individual piece becomes more of a springboard or topic sentence for the larger “work.” A collective piece of art. If this is how things end up, a blogger with 10,000 followers could not be considered more successful than one with 1000. In fact the one with 100 might be considered MORE successful, especially if those 100 actually read and comment on the work and vice versa. In fact, 100 might be too many.

How many blog posts do YOU read in one day? How many do you comment on? And do you read the comments of other followers?

I predict there will be a weeding out frenzy soon as we come to realize we are all just hanging our posts/work on a wall and gazing into the mirror 99% of the time. Or maybe I’m just getting too cynical.

And to that end, I’m going to do some housekeeping. It is time to officially pare down my “following” and “friends” and “likes” lists. If I’m not really and truly interested in investing my time in a social media site, I’m going to delete it. Please do the same here. I won’t take it personally. In fact, I’ll applaud you.

And to my real, constant readers out there…thank you. I appreciate your taking the time to read and respond in the little time you have in your day for such activities.