Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

© 2006-2017 All rights reserved

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), and several Kindle ebooks.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

My View


We had some strong storms Thursday afternoon and evening, but Friday morning was crisp and clear.

This pictures shows the view from my study window: my front lawn, the road, a cut-over cornfield, woods, and—way in the distance—the Blue Ridge Mountains.

If you click the picture to enlarge it and then look closely and slightly to the left of center, you can see the Peaks of Otter peeking above the trees.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Fall colors

Few of the trees have changed color in my part of Virginia yet, but my chrysanthemums are at their peak.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Email Ranting

Call me a curmudgeon, but I hate inspirational emails. Last Monday afternoon, when I clicked “Get Mail,” I noticed that 5 emails were incoming. I could see the header for the first one. It said, “Fwd. FW. Fw. If This Doesn’t Make You Smile, Nothing Will.”

I didn’t smile when I saw that the email had been forwarded three times already. I knew it was going to take a while for my dial-up connection to download. I hoped the other four messages didn’t require immediate replies.

Over 4 minutes in, my dial-up connection hung up. I wasn’t smiling. I reconnected and clicked “Get Mail” again. After 3 minutes and 16 seconds I was most definitely NOT smiling. I tried to surf the net while I waited for the download, but the connection was slow. That big email was screwing up everything.

At 4:48 minutes in, I was actively scowling. At 6:50, I was muttering curses. At 8:37 I was wondering when this email hell would end. At 10:09 (a waste of over 14 minutes!), all 2.7 megabites of it (with 28 attachments!)—came in.

The attachments, pictures of cutesy puppies and kittens, didn’t make me smile. I’d seen many of these pictures on various websites before. I didn’t need two sets (!) of them again. I have a bunch of my own cute animals that often make me smile. One of them—Eddie-Puss—was lounging on my desktop as the email came in. I don’t need outside smiling help from animals I don’t even know. Plus, I don’t like getting attachments that have been forwarded all over the place.

A few years ago a virus titled “If This Doesn’t Make You Smile, Nothing Will” was going around. Though that particular virus targeted Windows, I nevertheless ran a virus scan to make sure my Mac hadn’t been hacked by a later version. Only took 3 minutes.

The next day, my dial-up was kept busy for 7 minutes downloading an email from a poet announcing his latest achievement—some kind of award I’d never heard of. Now, if I actually knew this guy, I might be interested. I think he got my email addy from the Virginia Writers Club website, but I’m not sure.

Anyhow, his attached 1.2 MB jpeg was a newspaper article about him. Why did he not post it on his website for all to admire? Why share it with folks over 250 miles from him who don’t know him? Why send it to me when I’d emailed him a few months earlier asking him to remove me from his mailing list.

OK, enough ranting. But if you really want to make me happy, don’t try to make me smile.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Power Thing

Today, for the first time in weeks, I experienced the wonderful, sensual experience I’d been missing for too long.

I’m talking about a passionate, sweat-drenched, totally involved physical sensation that leaves you shaking and gasping for breath when it’s over.

The kind where you swear you feel the earth move.

Yep! I’m talking weed-eating on a hot day!

My old Home-Lite string trimmer died a slow death about a month ago. I didn’t know how I could replace it. Meanwhile, I mourned its demise while the weeds grew and the crab-grass spread.

This morning, I went to Lowes and bought a brand new Troy-Bilt. On special. This one’s even more powerful than the old one.

This afternoon I went on a weed-whacking frenzy. Not many of those suckers are left standing, and I’m exhausted.

There are two kinds of women in the world—those who weed-whack and those who wish they could.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

My Horoscope was Right

Last Friday morning, before I left to go to Lake Writers, I read my horoscope:
Today you could be hit with some exciting news, dear Virgo. It could involve new people and new equipment coming onto the scene. It could involve an entirely new project or course of action that you would never have dreamed of. This is likely to shape up to be a lucky break for you, as the new situation probably suits your skills and talents nearly perfectly. Make the most of this opportunity. It could make a big difference for you.
Yeah, right, I thought.

When I came home about 2:oo p.m., I found an email offering me the position of Writer in Residence at Roanoke County Schools. The job sounded intellectually stimulating; the money was pretty good. I’d work for a total of 35 days at 5 different high schools.

But I’d gotten used to the idea of never having to classroom teach again. Plus we’re talking a 40-mile commute here. I decided to spend the weekend thinking about this "entirely new project."

Yesterday I accepted the job. I’ll be back in the classroom again, where I'll "make the most of this opportunity."

My last "retirement" didn't last as long as I thought it would.

Monday, September 25, 2006

New Day Dawns

I looked out yesterday in time to see a spectacular sunrise. To the lower left—way in the distance—is Smith Mountain.

A new day is dawning for me, too. I thought I was done with teaching. After all, I retired from Roanoke City Schools in 1997, and I "retired" again from my Ferrum College adjunct job last May.

However, another educational door has opened, and I just might walk through. More details later.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Road Trip

Last Thursday afternoon, my Lake Writer buddy Marion Higgins and I went to Chatham Books for Linda Childress’s booksigning. Neither of us had met Linda before, but the title of her first book, Tobacco Farmer’s Daughter, intrigued us. We are both on the planning committee for the Franklin County Book Festival and thought her book might be something that Franklin County residents would enjoy. Consequently, we volunteered to check out the book and its author.

Chatham is a picturesque little town, kind of like you’d think Mayberry would look like. The bookstore, on Main Street right across from the courthouse, is located in what used to be a Planters Bank. While we waited for Linda, manager Bill Hewitt opened a door to show us the former bank’s elaborate old safe. The safe was put in position in the late 1800s, and walls were built around it so the safe can’t be removed without tearing down walls.

The bookstore is tiny, but has an array of interesting books—many by regional authors. It’s a great place to browse. Since my last visit in early summer, Buddy—the official bookstore dog—fell from a truck, broke his pelvis, and had to have surgery. Buddy currently limps badly but is recuperating; he was, of course, in his usual spot.

We had a delighful time. Read more about our trip on Marion’s blog.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

My PSC Made Me Plagiarize

In my email this morning was a message from Hewlett-Packard with the header, “4 Ways to Help with Homework using an HP All-in-One.”

Why would they send this message to a childless sexageneration? Because I gave them my email when I registered my Hp PSC 1510, that’s why. They probably spammed everybody who’d registered online. That many of us aren’t helping kids with homework is immaterial.

I wouldn’t mind the spam so much, if HP didn’t suggest using the PSC to plagiarize. They didn’t actually use the word “plagiarize,” but the message was clear:

English - beyond book reports. Create stunning, full color book reports, scan entire passages or use specialty papers to create striking report covers with your HP All-in-One Printer.

As a retired middle school English teacher, former adjunct college instructor of freshman grammar and comp, occasional judge of writing contests, and co-chair of an annual student essay contest that had over 175 entries last year, I’d like to explain why HP’s suggestion (“Scanning features allow kids to scan in eye-catching images, photos, and book jackets.”) is a bad idea.

  1. It’s plagiarism. Those scanned “images, photos, and book jackets” are copyrighted material. Students who appropriate them for their own use are stealing.
  2. It’s unnecessary. Teachers aren’t impressed with extra pages of non-student generated work. We’re interested in content—specifically what the student actually thought. All those pages of “eye-catching images” are just more weight for an already overburdened teacher to lug home to grade. Teachers don’t care about “full color.” We want to see a nicely formatted document in Times New Roman 12. Hewlett-Packard, however, cares about full-color so it can $ell more color cartridge$ and $pecialty paper$.
  3. It stifles creativity. Gotta do a report and don’t have much to say? Pad it out with some images grabbed from the web. Why stop at images? Search one of the free essay websites for the whole book report! If you’re gonna plagiarize, go all the way. Why scan an entire passage when you can scan the whole thing? Sheesh! Every semester, I‘d have a freshman or two actually try to pass off a plagiarized essay. Finding the original material was a simple matter of Googling key phrases.
The PSC is great for basic printing, making copies of original work, scanning family photos, and even printing photos right from the camera. It doesn’t deserve to be an accomplice in literary crime.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Late Summer Colors

Ragweed and ironweed show the colors of impending autumn.

Monday, September 18, 2006

While the Sun Shines

Make hay while the sun shines, the old saying goes.

Luckily we had sunny days for haying all three of our farms. Polecat Creek Farm and Smith Farm are done. The Brown Place is almost done. The hay in the above picture is on the side field of Smith Farm. This hay will feed my horses this winter.

What's black and white and yellow and green?

A border collie resting in the ragweed at the bottom of the back hayfield.


What's black and white and—ah, you know it's going to be a border collie doing something. After a morning of running in the hayfields, Maggie cools off in Standiford Creek.

Today was warm, but those yellow leaves beside the creek are hints that autumn drops.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Farewell Union Hall

The old Holland Dudley farm in "downtown" Union Hall will soon be just a memory. The big pines and the massive oaks are gone. The fine brick farmhouse—soon to be demolished—is gutted and all the trees around it are down. The rest of the woodlands are already decimated.

Below is what was left of the barn as of mid-morning yesterday. There's not much left today. I understand that all the debris from what was once the woods will be placed around the remains of the barn for a huge bonfire.

By this time next year, the slope you see in this picture will be filled in with 20 feet of soil and a shopping center will be here.


There's not much else I can say. . . .

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Making Hay—2nd cutting

Thanks to the recent rains, the grass grew enough to justify a fall cutting. We have hay down on Smith Farm, the Brown Place and Polecat Creek Farm.

I took this picture this morning when we sent to see if the hay on Polecat Creek Farm was dry enough for John to rake. (It wasn't.) I like the way the falling leaf hangs suspended over the hayfield. Only the leaf wasn't falling. So what was it doing? (Answer below.)

The leaf was suspended from a spider web.

Sometimes things are not what they seem.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Hooked on Bookfests, Part III: Hanover

On October 14, I’ll be in another bookfest, the Hanover Book Festival in Mechanicsville, VA. Check out the Hanover Writers Club website for more details. Here’s the schedule of events:

  • 8:30–9:00 Author Sign-in
  • 9:00–10:00 Writers Workshops
  • 10:00 OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
  • 10:15–10:35 Becky Mushko appearing as Ida B. Peevish
  • 11:00–11:45 Free Concert by Hearts Afire
  • 11:45–12:15 Austin Camacho: “Why We Love To Read Mysteries”
  • 12:15–1:00 Hearts Afire in Concert
  • 1:00–1:30 Linda Goodman, Storyteller
  • 1:30–2:00 John Conlee: “Writing Historical Fantasy”
  • 2:00–2:15 Contest Prize Winner Announcements
  • 2:15–2:45 Jim Morrison: “Researching the Impact of War on a Community”
  • 4:00 Auction Winners Announced
Plus, a couple dozen Virginia writers (many of them members of the Virginia Writers Club) will be present to sell and sign their books. JoAnn Liggan is the shaker and mover (and rock band member!) behind this fest.

This will be my third bookfest in three months—and fellow Lake Writer/Virginia Writers club board member Jim Morrison, who was in the previous two bookfests with me, will be in this one, too.

Looks like it’s going to be a fun day!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Cage of Our Limitations

I’m a great believer in knowing limits. You ought not, for instance, try to swim a 100 yards if you can only swim 10 yards. If you’re tone deaf, you’ll never be a successful opera singer. If you want to be happy, ought to accept your limitations and work within that framework.

For many years, I taught middle school and saw up close plenty of individuals who were dissatisfied with their limitations: They didn’t “look good enough” (according to whatever the prevailing look was), they weren’t good enough to play on whatever team, they weren’t smart enough to make good grades, etc. So why try? Whining was so much easier.

On the other hand, I knew lots of kids who didn’t know—or chose not to accept—their limitations. They over-estimated their abilities and boasted how they’d be rock stars or professional football players. So what if they hadn’t had music lessons or didn’t make the team? Some knew they could drive fast, cheat on their schoolwork, take drugs, and not pay any penalties. They were invincible. They could do anything. After all, they’d been told that their future held limitless possibilities for them.

Whoever told them that, lied. While some of the thousands of kids I taught played in garage bands, I don’t know of any who made it as a hit recording star. I didn’t teach any who played in the NFL, although some did well in college sports. But some of the drug dealers/users I taught are dead or in prison; some who drove recklessly died in car crashes, some murdered some of the others. They didn’t know—or didn’t want to know—their limits.

The myth of Icaraus is a good lesson in knowing limits. Daedalus, after building wings of feathers and wax, warns his son Icarus not to fly too near the sun. But Icarus, heady with the joy of flight, strives for higher and higher limits. His failure to know his limits destroyed him.

Our limitations serve as a framework for what we can do. Yeah, sometimes we can stretch our limits a bit, but they’re always there. For instance, I’m tone deaf to sharps and flats, so no matter how hard I try, I’ll never be a great singer. Why waste my time and inflict my lack of ability on others? Instead, I’ll pursue interests that I can do—or can learn to do. Like blog.

Not long ago, I Googled the phrase “peevish pen,” to see if anyone else was using the term I chose for my blog title. I was surprised to find “peevish pen” used in a poem written more than a hundred years ago. And the poem dealt with limitations.

CANARY IN HIS CAGE
by Mrs. Dinah Maria Mulock Criak
(1826-1887)


SING away, ay, sing away,
Merry little bird,
Always gayest of the gay,
Though a woodland roundelay
You ne'er sung nor heard;
Though your life from youth to age
Passes in a narrow cage.

Near the window wild birds fly,
Trees are waving round:
Fair things everywhere you spy
Through the glass pane's mystery,
Your small life's small bound:
Nothing hinders your desire
But a little gilded wire.

Like a human soul you seem
Shut in golden bars:
Placed amidst earth's sunshine-stream,
Singing to the morning beam,
Dreaming 'neath the stars:
Seeing all life's pleasures clear,--
But they never can come near.

Never! Sing, bird-poet mine,
As most poets do;--
Guessing by an instinct fine
At some happiness divine
Which they never knew.
Lonely in a prison bright
Hymning for the world's delight.

Yet, my birdie, you're content
In your tiny cage:
Not a carol thence is sent
But for happiness is meant--
Wisdom pure as sage:
Teaching, the true poet's part
Is to sing with merry heart.

So, lie down thou peevish pen,
Eyes, shake off all tears;
And my wee bird, sing again:
I'll translate your song to men
In these future years.
"Howsoe'er thy lot's assigned,
Bear it with a cheerful mind."
So: know your limits and work within them.

And don’t forget to sing with a merry heart—even if you’re tone-deaf.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Farewell to the Farm

Farewell to the Farm
By Robert Louis Stevenson
The coach is at the door at last;
The eager children, mounting fast
And kissing hands, in chorus sing:
Good-bye, good-bye, to everything!

To house and garden, field and lawn,
The meadow-gates we swang upon,
To pump and stable, tree and swing,
Good-bye, good-bye, to everything!
Before I was two years old, I could recite these first two stanzas. One of the first books Mama read aloud to me was A Child’s Garden of Verses.

Every few months when I was a kid, we visited my paternal grandparents, Sally and Joe Smith ("Granny Sally" and "Granny Joe"—see above picture), at their farm in Union Hall—a two-hour drive from Roanoke in the 1940s. Parts of Route 220 didn’t exist then, so we came over Grassy Hill, through downtown Rocky Mount, and then left at the furniture factory to take Route 40 east for nearly 20 miles. Once at the farm, I couldn’t wait to see their old mare Kate and to go to the creek.

Franklin County was a poor county in those days. Everyone farmed—tobacco was the cash crop—and most folks were either involved in the moonshine business or else knew somebody that was. Young men either planted a crop, ran moonshine, or left to seek their fortunes. My daddy did the latter—he worked in the mines in West Virginia for a short time—and ended up running a gas station in Roanoke.

My grandparents had neither electricity nor indoor plumbing in their cabin. They’d had a phone years earlier when their daughters were courting—and the blue insulator was still attached near the doorway when I was a kid, but the phone was way before my time. To get water, they’d walk 300 feet down the hill and cross a wooden bridge over Standiford Creek to get to the spring. A fence around the spring kept the cow out. A spring box kept things cold. A huge oak sheltered the spring.

They grew almost everything they needed, except for sugar and coffee. For a while Joe Smith had a steam engine that he used to saw wood or thresh wheat. A lot of barns in the Union Hall area were built from wood he sawed.

A smokehouse, wheat house, chicken house, and other out-buildings were near the cabin. The barn was further away—you passed it as you drove up the narrow red clay road that connected to the main road—also red clay—called the old racetrack. The racetrack, which eventually crossed Houseman’s Ford before coming to Bethel Church, was where long ago young men raced their horses and buggies. In dry weather it was hard-packed and easy to travel; in wet weather it was thick red soup.

Now the road is paved and dead-ends in Smith Mountain Lake. Now the land in Union Hall costs a fortune, and the farms are disappearing to development. The Smith farm still exists, though, and still no electric lines cross it. My father bought his parents’ farm at auction in 1960 after his father died in October 1959. I inherited the farm in 1969 when my father died.

The village of Union Hall—less than two miles from my farm—is changing fast. What’s left of the old depot will soon be razed. (The F&P Railroad tracks ceased to exist in the 1930s.) The Holland Dudley house behind where the tracks used to be—one of the largest and finest brick houses in its day—is already gutted. The barn—probably built with wood sawed by my grandfather—is being dismantled. Up on Route 40, the building that used to be a general store/gas station—and was an antique store in its last incarnation—will soon go. The loggers are supposed to begin denuding the woods tomorrow.


In another year, there’ll be no trace that this farm ever existed. A shopping center, Southlake Towne Center, will occupy the space where the farm once was.
And fare you well for evermore,
O ladder at the hayloft door,
O hayloft where the cobwebs cling,
Good-bye, good-bye, to everything!

Crack goes the whip, and off we go;
The trees and houses smaller grow;
Last, round the woody turn we swing;
Good-bye, good-bye, to everything!
Farewell to the farm. For evermore.

Rated X?

Yesterday afternoon, in the bushes near my husband's shop. I spied this couple, uh, coupling. I figured their al fresco affair was worth a picture, but would they still be there when I returned with my camera?

They were. I snapped a few pictures and left them to their own affairs—er, affair.

Sometimes a picture is indeed worth a thousand words, because there's not much more to say about this one:

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Once Upon a Space (or Not)

Not long ago, I entered a personal essay in a writing contest. I knew the essay wasn’t very good—too thematically weak, too schmaltzy, and too cliché-ridden—but the contest had no entry fee, so I had nothing to lose. Since I’d entered the contest just before the deadline, I didn’t proofread as carefully as I should and let a couple of typos slip in. The judge caught all of those. She wrote some good comments in case I ever want to rewrite this essay.

However, the judge caught some other errors that weren’t even errors. For example, she wanted me to leave extra spaces after periods. ARRRRRGGGGGHHH!

“Two spaces=typing. One space=word processing.” I’d drummed this message (Ooh, that’s a cliché—sorry!) into the iPod earphone-enhanced heads of my English 101 students for more semesters than I care to count (Ooh, that’s trite—sorry!).

From page 206 (top) of the Little Brown Handbook (9th ed.):
Leave one space after all punctuation, with these exceptions:
Dash
Hyphen
Apostrophe with a word
Two or more adjacent marks
Opening quotation mark, parenthesis, or bracket
The exceptions are the marks that have NO spaces after them. In the world of computer- composing, two spaces is an error. How can anyone proficient enough to judge a writing contest not know that? Thousands of websites, including the Chicago Manual of Style, provide this information.

Another punctuation rule from the Little, Brown Handbook (p. 506) is this: “Use a dash to indicate sudden changes in tone or thought and to set off some sentence elements.” If a sentence already has commas (i.e., a series), the dash can be used to “set off and emphasize nonessential elements.” The correct dash is, of course, the em dash (an unbroken line the length of the letter m). This judge thought my em dashes were hyphens—“Change hyphens to commas,” she wrote in the margin—and changed all of my em dashes to commas. (I just used em dashes correctly in the previous sentence. See? Commas wouldn’t work.) Dashes are not hyphens, even though—in those long ago days of typing—two hyphens used to equal a dash. How did we used to type an en dash that’s used between time periods (i.e., 11:03–11:09 p.m.) and is longer than a hyphen (-) but shorter than an em dash (—)?

Besides punctuation, the judge also made a stylistic change that didn’t help. According to the Little, Brown Handbook (p. 795), a writer should “use the present tense of verbs to describe both the action in a literary work . . . and the writing of an author. . . .”

Every time you read a book the action happens now. Even if the author wrote hundreds of years ago, the action continues to happen now. Movies are literary works. Every time you see a movie, the action happens now.

In my essay, I’d fudged the present tense rule a bit by using the past progressive tense to describe what happened in movies I’d seen as a kid: “In the movies, Roy Rogers was always galloping Trigger. . . .” Progressive tenses allow the action to continue. The judge changed my description of action in a movie to “Roy Rogers always galloped Trigger.” Not quite the same shade of meaning: past tense means it’s over, done, finished, etc. In a movie, it’s never over.

Speaking of “over, done, finished,” I guess I’ve almost finished my punctuation/tense rant. But it’s ONE SPACE after a period! ONE SPACE! Everybody got that?

As bad as my essay was, it still got second place.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Freeing My Brain Cells

As of September 6, 2006, I’ve won 2,419 games of Freecell on my eMac since April 4, 2005. I tell myself that playing keeps my brain active and, as long as I keep winning, I probably don’t have Alzheimers. Every day (except Sunday when I spend more time reading the paper), I also complete the newspaper’s crossword puzzle and do Jumble, The Scrambled Word Game.

I’ve read several articles that say we can stave off senility by exercising our brains. Working puzzles and playing computer games are supposed to be good brain exercise. In fact, some games are even marketed to us, ahem, older folks.

I find that playing Freecell, one of many variations of computer solitaire, is also a good writing exercise as well as a good brain exercise. The object is to get all the cards in four stacks. First, of course, you have to get the aces, then the twos, etc.

Playing Freecell is like plotting a story. First, locate the aces and send them where they’re supposed to go as efficiently as possible—start the action early. Then take care of the supporting details. Finally, wrap up the loose ends. If what you’re doing isn’t working, start over.

Keep at it long enough and you win.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Summer’s lease

The source of “summer’s lease hath all too short a date” is from Shakespeare’s sonnet xviii. Shakespeare was writing about a person, by the way, not about the season.
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
Where has the summer gone? All the flowers that were so vibrant, so beautiful, two weeks ago are now ghosts of their former selves. The coneflowers have faded and gone to seed; the gladiolas are a lost cause; Japanese beetles ravished the Rose of Sharon. The nandina’s leaves show a touch of red. Some of the poplars are more gold than green. Here and there a solitary passion flower still blooms.



Thursday and Friday’s heavy rain and Friday’s rough winds brought down a lot of leaves that were still green. For weeks before the rains came, “the eye of heaven” shone “too hot.” When Maggie and I walked to the paper box before dawn Saturday morning, I wore a jacket. Autumn, still a few weeks away, is already dropping hints: summer is not eternal.

Shakespeare’s poem has lasted 400 years. How long will a blog last?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Bye Bye Bookfest II: Valley Bookfest

Even dogs (both real and stuffed) enjoyed the Valley Bookfest.

The August 26 Valley Bookfest at the Roanoke Public Library was old home week for a few of us from the Franklin County Book Festival. Jim Morrison, who’d led the FC panel about writing memoirs, presented “Bedford Goes to War: The Heroic Story of a Small Virginia Community in WWII.” Fred First and Colleen Redman joined me on the Local Authors panel, which also included my Lake Writer buddy Sally Roseveare, who’d attended the FC fest.

Before the fest began, I chatted with chick lit author Ellen Byerum (Raiders of the Lost Corset) who was doing a “Crimes of Fashion Workshop” that was the same time as Nancy Beasley’s presentation. I really wanted to hear both, but I picked Nancy.

I first met Nancy at the 2004 James River Writers Conference and met her again when she spoke at Ferrum College soon after Izzy’s Fire was published. Because I’d enjoyed her book so much, I wanted to hear her again. Her presentation, “Finding Humanity in the Holocaust,” was enhanced by a slideshow featuring actual pictures of the people she’d written about.

I was torn between the next two presenters, but Jim insisted I was already familiar with his book (Bedford Goes to War) and that I should see someone else. HelenKay Dimon, a divorce lawyer/romance novelist was wonderfully entertaining and informative as she told how she’d gotten her first novel published. Even the service dog attending her presentation seemed interested. While I’m not a romance enthusiast, her work sounds like something I’d enjoy.

Lunch, which the library had generously provided, was wonderful—especially the chocolate fountain! At lunch and afterwards, I chatted with the three Valley Writers who came to support the bookfest.

After lunch, I attended two other presentations—the slides of wildflowers in Leonard Atkin’s “The Beautiful Blue Ridge” were indeed beautiful. Then we “Local Authors” talked about our self-published books. I counted 13 in the audience, more than some presentations had. I didn’t use any of the questions that I’d pre-answered in an earlier blog. Fred went first and packed a lot of info and reading into his 12 minutes. The next guy—who’d arrived during lunch, moved Sally’s and my books aside so he could have half the table to set up his laptop and to fan out his books instead of stacking them as the rest of us had done—went way over his allotted time. Consequently, I shortened what I was going to say and didn’t read any excerpts. Colleen (The Jim and Dan Stories) was next, then Sally (Secrets of Spawning Run). Both kept to the allotted time and read entertaining excerpts.

It’s a shame that local bookfests are so lightly attended. Why don’t more folks involved with the written word—members of writers’ clubs, book clubs, etc.—turn out to support bookfests?