Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Buy Local Matters More Than Ever

These are more efficient ways of reaching me -- and there is no security question with the e-transfer. A couple of friends have used a different email to send me money and it's been delightful seeing what they chose as a question -- the joys of friendship! 

The fun thing about this, and the hard work of self-publishing, is being everyone! I'm the writer, the editor, the photographer, the proofreader (although I also delegated this to Mother, who did a fantastic job), the typesetter, the formatter (is layouter a word?), the head of marketing and promotions, the head of sales, AND the entire shipping department -- although I get to delegate trips to the post office, too. 

Whew! This certainly has given me a new appreciation for book publishing. But I find that I love it. 

What's interesting is this: Creatives and artists - like writers and musicians - are having to find new ways of producing their work and reaching their audience. My friend and neighbour, singer/songwriter Christina Martin, just announced a virtual Christmas concert, with tickets $10. It's her first ticketed event. Everything else she's offered since the pandemic lockdown began, and live music venues shut down, has been supported through grants. 

Like me putting out my own book on my own, Christina is looking at other ways of generating revenue when our sectors have hit the pause button. 

It's scary, but also exciting -- in a scary way. I find producing this book, and getting to send it out into the world to my faithful readers and followers keeps the scary in check. Doing something gives me a sense of control that doing nothing doesn't have. 

I think, too, about the artisans who make mugs and paintings and all sorts of other handmade creations. They've lost their markets and festivals this year; like me, like Christina, we can still sell online but it's connecting with people there in a virtual world where we are bombarded with information and visuals and "sponsored" posts. 

It's really tough, but doing something helps. And you buying something from a creative and an artist -- a book, a ticket, a mug, a scarf, a necklace, a painting -- helps even more. 

Saturday, October 24, 2020

A Jewell of a Cookbook


Here she is, folks! 

My new book. 

I have three books on submission, a collection of essays that's been rejected a couple of times, plus the rejection of Field Notes 2 and the Field Notes cookbook a few years ago. 
What's a girl to do but take matters into her own hands and put out her own book? 
This is one way to take control of my creative life, my work and my goals, and reconnect with my loyal readers again. 

If you enjoyed Field Notes, you'll enjoy the 15 stories (essays) in this book. Same style, same humour, same cast of characters. 

Along with the stories about food are 40 of my favourite recipes. Including the famous oat cakes! I also added black and white photos, and I think they are delightful. 
If I'm honest, I think this book is delightful! I'm very pleased with how it turned out. 

This book represents three months of intense work -- and it is worth every hour and every dollar. Let me tell you, I have a new appreciation for what goes into creating a book and getting it out to the public; I think I quashed my mother's dream of starting a publishing company. 
I was writer, photographer, editor, transcriber, proofreader -- with an assist from Mother -- typesetter, formatter... and now the entire marketing and promotions department! 
I really enjoyed making A Jewell of a Cookbook and I hope you enjoy reading it. 
You get a quality product for $20

For those of you who live near me, I'll happily deliver - it will be great to see you again. 
Otherwise, the cost includes postage. (However, if going to England, postage is $20 because the book weighs over 200g.) 

I'm taking payment by cash, cheque or e-transfer. 
I'm not keen to put certain information on the blog, as I'm sure you understand, so please email me using the "CONTACT ME" link in the top right hand corner (note: that email is not the one to use for the e-transfer) and we'll work out the details. 
As soon as I receive payment, I'll put A Jewell of a Cookbook in the mail. 

Thank you in advance for your support. It's truly appreciated. xo  

Friday, October 23, 2020

A Hint About What I've Been Doing

My Super Secret Summer Sanity Saver project arrived ten days before expected. Wow! That was a much-needed boost and now it means I can announce what it is AND have it in my hands. I'm excited to hold it; the improvements I made based on the proof copy have improved it so much and it was worth all the effort. 

Leonard was very quick to inspect the two boxes but he was most delighted with all the packing paper and had a long nap after we were finished ooohing and aaaahing over the finished product. 

This feels so good...Can't wait to share it with you on Saturday! 

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Visiting the Maples

These are the two maple trees back in the woods on the old road that runs from our house deep into the woods. The road used to go all the way through to the other road, used to be called Porter Road (I wish it still was, because that would be our address), and used to have houses along here.

People lived way back here? 
A friend of mine lives in a house that was moved from back here! 

It's hard for me to believe when I walk back there, what is now - sadly - "just" a logging road, that there were at least two houses here. 
But thankfully, because of one of those houses, these two gorgeous maple trees are still here. No one has cut them down because they are right on the edge of an old house foundation. They are saved by the relic of a long-ago time. Imagine: these trees might have been in the front yard of the house, overlooking the road regular people -- rather than single-minded loggers -- actually used for their daily living. 
Just a couple of years ago, the man who owns this particular land came to thin the spruce plantation that he planted around the old homestead. I was sure these trees would be cut down; after all, that's what we do, right? Cut down everything. I wrapped my arms around these trees and sobbed as I apologized to them, thanked them, told them I would miss them. 
But they were saved! Imagine my delight when I walked back again, just before cutting was to start, and saw the area around the trees taped off. 
So I continue to enjoy them, and thank them. 
When the dog and I walk back into the woods, in any season, we reach the beaver brook and I say, "Let's go say hello to the maples." 

It was in front of these trees, after a rain storm, that I found a horse shoe lying in the dirt of the old road. They are lucky trees. And I am lucky they were saved. 

What stories could they tell me? 

**Can I give you a hint about the stories I'm going to tell? 

I've been very busy juggling three jobs, plus my online course, and was able to announce on my Facebook author page that I was postponing the announcement of my new project. Then the project was delivered ten days ahead of schedule! So on Saturday, in this space, I'll announce what I've done with some of my stories. 

Monday, October 12, 2020

Giving Thanks For You


My friend Ethel sent me this quote this morning; she said it made her think of me and no wonder! I love it. It's from acclaimed Italian actress Eleonora Duse (1858-1924): 
If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy,
if a blade of grass springing up in the field has power to move you,
if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand,
rejoice, for your soul is alive.

Thank you, Ethel. That is perfect. And on this perfect autumn day, it's yet another reminder of why I love where I live.

And on this Thanksgiving Day,
allow me to thank you,
everyone who comes to this blog and reads these posts. 
Those of you who have been here since this blog launched in 2011,
who discovered me after Field Notes, the book, was published in 2016,
and who found me through the column in At Home On the North Shore magazine.

Thank you for reading the ideas and the stories I share. 

In the summer of 2019, I decided to give up writing. I’d finish the books I was working on,
but I wouldn’t write anymore unless any of them sold. I worked away on them, then the pandemic shut everything down and I kept writing – what else was I going to do? 

(I did submit them. There are three books on submission right now, but I have no idea when, or even if I'll ever hear back about any one of them, let alone three.)

Thank you for being part of my writing life. 
The focus of my living and my writing is shifting. I’m sure how but I can feel it shifting. It may result in a sharpening of focus of my writing, but it could also mean a letting go of the writing; getting a full-time job is becoming more of a draw as I grow weary of the constant hustle and financial instability of three freelance jobs. 
For now, I’m carrying on with the words. As I said, what else am I going to do?

Well, later this week, I'm going to reveal what else: my "Super Secret Summer Sanity Saver Project" that has kept discouragement and despair at bay because it gave me a reason to sit down at my desk and open up a file full of stories… 

Friday, October 09, 2020

Things I Will Miss When I Die

A locally-made apple & wine cider from Truro, Nova Scotia

Here's a little follow up to yesterday's post about a bucket list and what we want to do before we die. 

In my early writing days, every so often, I did an exercise called “What I’ll Miss When I Die” and it was just a list of things, done free flow, hand written. Two things I loved about writing the list: 1) It showed me what mattered to me at the time, and 2) One thing led to another without me thinking too hard. 
- strawberries
- homemade strawberry jam on toast 
- toast
- honey
- bees

None of those are “to do” things; just things I’d miss when I die, as they came to me. Sometimes the list would be thirty items long.
In a way, it was a kind of gratitude list before “radical gratitude” was a thing. (Ah, me, always ahead of the curve without ever knowing it!)
This kind of list appeals to me more than trying to come up with, and fulfill, a bucket list, but than again, I’m introverted, lazy and not brave so – 

Every so often, over the last couple of years, I've thought about starting the practice again, just sitting down and making the list. What does it say that I haven't done it? That I never get around to it, never make the time to sit with my notebook and write a list that is essentially my favourite things about my life now? 

What I will miss when I die - October 9, 2020: 
- sunshine
- red leaves
- squirrels
- finches
- Paula Red apples
- apple pie
- raisin pie
- birthdays
- chocolate cake
- carrot cake 
- ice cream
- ketchup potato chips
- fried potatoes
- pink wine
- chickens
- feathers
- eggs
- books
- pencils
....and I could go on but that's less than five minutes of realizing how much I love food but also how great my life is and that I'm not ready to leave it (although if I had to, I would be accepting of that, too). 

Also, there is something about writing the list by hand, seeing one's own handwriting in ink, that makes the list feel more personal, revealing, and meaningful. 

Thursday, October 08, 2020

What Do You Want To Do Before You Die

Dwayne flew my best friend, Sarah, down for my
surprise 40th birthday party in the spring of 2010

This fall, I decided to get a Certificate in Thanatology, which is the study of dying, death and bereavement. Assignment 4 in the first course, Introduction to Thanatology, asks me about my Bucket List. 

The term "bucket list" was coined by screenwriter Justin Zackham for his 2007 movie, "The Bucket List". Technically, a bucket list is made when you are told you have x-number of months left to live. But as we do in our culture, we now use the phrase to refer to anything we want to do, even if it's easily accomplished next weekend. 

I don’t have a bucket list. If I did, I would have checked off the one and only item already: Be an author before I die. (Whew!) Of course, I’d like to publish more books but that’s out of my hands, especially now with publishing hitting the pause button because of the pandemic. 

Besides, anything I’d put on a “Things I’d Like to Do Before I Die” require a long commitment of time, money, and/or travel (the last of which is totally kiboshed by the pandemic):

- I’d like to have a pet pig and a couple of pet goats

- I’d like to have a donkey sanctuary

- I’d like Dwayne to see the Pacific Ocean (he went to Peggy’s Cove for the first time in 2019!)

- I’d like to take my mother to Ireland for her 80th birthday (next June – egads!)

- I’d like to live in Italy or Greece

A few years ago, I took horseback riding lessons, which could count as a Bucket List item if I’d been thinking in terms of “end of life”. I was thinking more of fulfilling a lifelong dream from childhood (like getting a pet pig) and overcoming a rather vague fear of large animals – it also became a “Summer of the Horse” column. 

I’d love to have a pair of horses so Dwayne and I could ride around the field but that’s another thing that requires  money. 

I asked my best friend, Sarah, if she has a Bucket List and she doesn’t either. “But we are going on a road trip,” she said but even then, we have no specific place we HAVE to go. I think at this point in our lives – we both turned fifty earlier this year – we’re influenced by one idea: We’re too old for this shit any longer. We're just going to do what we want, say what we want, and go where we want. 
For the assignment, however, I'm counting that as a Bucket List item: Road Trip with Sara.
In the weeks leading up to my milestone birthday in May, I asked myself what do I want to do in the next ten years. What one thing do I really want to accomplish before I turn 60?
And all that came up was: Publish another book (or more books). Being a writer is what I love and it suits the life I have -- and love -- here in rural Nova Scotia. 
Again, this pandemic has affected that work, and those hopes – I can’t do anything about publishing hitting the pause button but I also can’t do anything about the ideas in my head and the urge to share them. 

This assignment reminded me of what I realized back in April, in the lead-up to my 50th birthday: I am satisfied with my life. 

I’ve done a bit of travelling but never had the travel bug; I’ve lived in other places in Canada, rather than staying in the same place my entire life; I’ve been married twice, and lived in the city and the country and in-between so I know where I belong and with whom – and why; I have wonderful friends, some of whom have been in my life for thirty years; my mother lives with me and she’s a healthy, wisecracking, good-natured 79-year-old – I’m grateful and blessed we get along; I have a river on my doorstep and 72 acres behind the house, I get to see the sun rise and set; I have chickens and cats and a dog; and I live in a large house where I have my own writing space that is filled with books.
There is nothing I want or need to do. I am lucky. So when I’m dying, and looking back on my life, I won’t be wishing I’d lived in Italy or swam with dolphins or went on an Alaskan cruise. Sure, those would be great memories, but they aren't necessary to my life well-lived. When I die, I will go in the assurance that I was happy and loved and did work that mattered to others. And I was an author. 

If I’m lucky, my best friend will be there with me, and I’ll die laughing as we remember our epic road trip to wherever. 

Friday, October 02, 2020

A Blessing At the Beginning of October

Now that we are in October -- that bridge month of vibrant colour and cool, starlit nights that carries us from the heat and lushness of summer into the dark, stripped-down days of November -- here is a blessing I wrote as we continue to learn new ways of living with the pandemic, and political, upheaval and uncertainty. 

Do not give up.
This is life, 
and it is blessed
even when it is hard.

Do not give up. 
You are loved,
and you are blessed,
even when you are scared. 

Do not give up.
You are healed,
and it is a blessing,
even when you don't feel it,
because healing is love and peace
and a moment of joy
even when there are tears and pain.

Do not give up.
You are beloved,
you are known,
and you are not alone. 

~ Sara Jewell