Peevish Pen

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

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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.

Friday, November 28, 2008

My Play Produced in New York!

Broadway it wasn't. It wasn’t even in New York City. But it was in New York! My play was produced in Falconer, New York. At the high school.

In mid-November, Falconer Central School staged a production of my one-act play, “A Midsummer Night’s Recollection,” an Appalachian version of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream—specifically, the “Pyramus and Thisbe” scene from Act V, scene i. The scene where the “rude mechanicals” perform a play for the wedding feast.


I’d written my play about fifteen years ago for Grace Toney Edwards’ Appalachian Literature class that I took through Radford University for teacher recertification. For our grade, we had to do a project. I decided to translate a work of Shakespeare into a down-home Appalachian version. I got an A.

I messed with my script for a few years afterwards and even entered it into a contest where it won a third place but no money. The anonymous judge commented that I should have given the characters “hillbilly” names. (I don’t think so!)

When I taught at Ferrum College, I let Tina Hanlon post “A Midsummer Night’s Recollection” on her AppLit site. Through the years, a few schools have requested permission to stage it. I’ve always granted permission.

Falcon Productions were going to send me a video, but they had “technical problems with the recorder.” The director wrote me, however, that the play “was a real hit!”

Through the centuries, other weird versions of the “Pyramus and Thisbe” have been done—such as this one performed by sock puppets.

But, if you want a real hit—take a look at this classic Beatles version from the 1960s, with Paul McCartney playing Pyramus.




Is that Beatles' version cool, or what? Too bad they didn't have my script.
~

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Black Friday & Stuff

Today is "Black Friday," the official $hopping day that begin$ the $eason of Need and Greed. Wednesday's paper was loaded with circulars advertising the sales.


I didn't read any of them. After I took this photo, they went straight to my recycling bag. I also wasn't among the throngs that lined up outside some Roanoke stores yesterday. I didn't go shopping today.

Why not? Because I don't need any more stuff. I already have plenty of stuff. I actually have more stuff than I'll ever use.

I find it hard to believe—although I saw it on TV last night—that folks actually camped outside some stores so they might get a chance to buy certain sales items. Many will buy the stuff with money they don't even have.

My husband and I used to exchange stuff for Christmas. Eventually, when we ran out of ideas for more stuff, we exchanged cash and gift certificates, which pretty much canceled each other out. Then we bought joint presents—stuff for the house. For the last few years, we've stopped buying stuff.

Last year, I fulfilled my need to give stuff by donating to Planned Pethood and the Franklin County Historical Society.

I'm thankful that I don't need—or want—more stuff. I'm satisfied with what I have—a good home, good friends, my animals, a husband who makes the morning coffee and often does the morning feeding, good land, enough income to live on—albeit not extravagantly, vehicles that still run even though they've got some age on them, plenty of books (my favorite stuff!), an Internet connection and a working computer (the 2002 eMac is still going strong), etc.

This morning, instead of shopping for stuff, we put fresh water in all the critters' tubs and buckets. Then we moved a few more loads of hay.

We're still working off yesterday's Thanksgiving Dinner at Claudia's. Despite a walk in the woods between dinner and dessert, we're still stuffed.
~

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Yesteryear Tales: A Review

Last summer, I complained about being spammed by a promotion for a book I’d never heard of. Not long after, the author sent me an ARC of his book. Recently, I finally got around to reading the book and found it quite enjoyable.

LinkThe Yesteryear Tales (ISBN 978-1606530009, High Hill Press, July 2008, 212 pages, $14.95), by David Lee Kirkland, is a collection of Appalachian short stories, many of which use repeating characters and rural/small town locations. A few stories are a bit gritty; others are charming. Many characters are likable and are not without their human flaws. For the most part, the writing is pretty good and demonstrates a definite voice and a strong sense of place.

One of the book’s grittier±and darker—stories, "Jack and Jester," is here. It could serve as a textbook example of how to write an effective short story: showing instead of telling, authentic dialogue, active verbs, no extraneous words, interesting characters, a well-crafted plot. Read it and see what you think.

I found a few minor problems with the book:
  1. Title. “Yesteryear” and “tales” both suggest a children’s book. It certainly isn’t.
  2. Diction: At least twice, the author describes a horse moving with a “fox-trotting pace.” I have a Tennessee walker who fox-trots. She doesn’t pace. A pace is a two-beat lateral gait. A fox-trot is a four-beat gait that tends a bit toward the diagonal. (The trot is a two-beat diagonal gait.) A horse couldn’t simultaneously fox-trot and pace. Most people wouldn’t notice this error. But I did. I think the author meant “fox-trotting gait.”
See? I told you they were minor.

The Yesteryear Tales is a good, set-a-spell down-home read. For more information, check out this interview with the author.
~

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Waltzing Cowboys: Book Review

Official release date of Waltzing Cowboys is January 1, 2009.


“What is past is prologue,” Shakespeare wrote.

That quotation applies to Sarah Collins Honenberger ‘s new book, Waltzing Cowboys (Cedar Creek Press, 2008, ISBN 978-0-9790206-6-8, 247 pp., $15.95).

The story is an odyssey—actually a double odyssey—filled with complications. Aging cowboy Rhue Hogan, who deserted his wife and unborn son forty years earlier to “find himself” out West, journeys back to New York to find them, while his son Ford journeys to New England to scatter the ashes of his deceased mother.

Rhue, whose sidekick Vince was recently buried and whose female sidekick Marion is now in a nursing home, breaks his ankle while trying to ride a green-broke mare. After he wakes up in the hospital and doesn’t remember what happened, he decides to go on a quest to find his ex-wife and the son he’s never seen. Cleaning out his bank account, he boards a train and heads east.

Meanwhile, Ford Hogan, cleaning out his mother’s things, finds old photos of the father he never met. However, he must attend to her ashes, so he makes plans to take them to New England where his mother had roots. He’s accompanied on his journey by Evie, a twenty-something he meets when she locks herself out of her apartment.

Complications ensue for both protagonists; their pasts are prologue for who they are now, who they will become. They encounter a variety of characters who help them along the way— among them a midget psychic, a youthful fisherman, a young and jaded female detective, and others.

Arriving in New York, Rhue is befriended by two street kids, Rip and Wizard, who offer him assistance in getting food, finding a place to stay, etc. They use the library’s computer to look up information about his wife and son. Part of the information, of course, is the recent obituary of Rhue’s ex-wife, Adriana. They also find Ford’s address. Of course, he isn’t home, but his landlord gives Rhue a key.

While exploring New England, Ford and Evie—so different in age and life experiences—fall in love. When the landlord contacts Ford about his father, Ford at first doesn’t want to meet him. Evie convinces him otherwise.

Waltzing Cowboys is literary fiction—textually rich, multi-layered, and laden with metaphor and philosophy. It explores themes that affect all of us: love, commitment, the baggage we carry, and the choices we make—or don’t make—in our journey through life.

Waltzing Cowboys gives its readers—especially those who are halfway or more through life’s journey— plenty to think about.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Hauling Hay

We've been hauling hay for two days now. We aren't done by a long shot.

Yesterday was the first "warm" day in a while, so we figured we'd better haul some bales from Smith Farm. The ones below were baled in October. You can see one hayfield in the foreground and another in the distance.


We can only haul two at a time, so here's how we do it.

1. Park the truck and trailer below the line of round bales.


2. Attach the ramps and hope they're line up right.


3. Roll in the first bale. We give the 500–600 pound bale a push downhill, and then both of us work it up the ramps.


4. Roll in the second bale and drop in the tailgate to hold it.


5. Drive home and roll the bales off. They're a lot easier to unload than they are to load.


6. Repeat as needed. I hope Cupcake and Melody appreciate all this effort.

This morning dawned beautiful, so we thought we'd get some more while the sun shone.


After four trips, a cold rain began. We called it a day. We'll get the rest in better weather. Might be a few days—there's a chance of snow tonight.

We not only make hay when the sun shines, but we haul it when the sun shines, too.
~

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Anvil Answer

Last week, I asked at the bottom of a post, why is the anvil on my kitchen counter?

I didn't have a lot of entries, but I hereby declare the winner—well, the person who came closest—is Roanoke RnR who said, "You're using the anvil to weigh down something to make it flat, but what I don't know..."

The anvil was actually being used to weigh down and flatten out the kitchen counter, because the coffeepot overflow seeped into the seam at the angle where two parts of the formica countertop come together and thus caused one side to raise a bit higher than the other.

I will not go into details about why the coffeepot overflowed, but be it known to one and all that I was not the one responsible. I am not the one in this household who even makes the coffee.

Had I been the one responsible—which I am not!—I would not have lugged the anvil up from the basement and used it as a countertop flattener. I can't even lift the doggone thing, which is another problem because it's still right there on the counter. The top did flatten a bit, but not as much as it should have.

I have been planning to get new counter tops for the last four or five years. I guess it's time. . . .

Meanwhile, Elena, if you're going to be at the next Pen Women meeting, I shall hand deliver your prize to you then. If you can't make the meeting, let me know where to send it.

And to commenter Jane Smith, who offered to send me her copy of The Sonnets, the book sounds like something I'd enjoy (I'm a Shakespeare fan), but sending it all the way from the UK would be a bit pricey. However, if you really want to, perhaps we could arrange a book swap. Contact me through the link on my website.

Meanwhile, how do I get an anvil off the countertop?
~

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Thar She Blows!

The wind, that is. Today it really blew!

Even though we have a still month of fall to go, winter started today. I should have known it was coming. A few days ago, most of the leaves had fallen.

Maggie runs through fallen leaves on Monday.

When I fed the dogs and horses this morning, it was cold—I had to break ice on the horse tubs and pour hot water into the dog buckets—but the sun was shining. The wind was only a light breeze. I thought the day would get warmer.

It didn't. Within a half hour, clouds rolled in and the wind picked up considerably.

The view north—the Peaks of Otter are in the distance.


The view northeast. Smith Mountain is at the right.


To the east. Check out the "pink" sun coming from behind the cloud.


And to the south. That's Turkeycock Mountain on the horizon.

For a while, snow fell. Correction: the snow didn't actually "fall." It blew horizontally.

The cats—except for Potter who no longer has a desire to go out—went out from time to time, but didn't stay long. I spent most of the day letting them out one door and in another. When I did the evening feeding, I wore double layers of clothes besides my hooded jacket. I was still cold.

Inside is better on a day like this.

I don't care what the calendar says. Winter is here.
~

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Cat Came Back (with Rainbows)

I was all set to write a post titled “Boo Radley Has Left the Building,” but now I can’t.

For the two or three folks who’ve never heard of Boo Radley, he was the reclusive character in Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill A Mockingbird. Jem, Scout, and Dill were determined to make Boo—who had reached near mythological status in their minds—come out.

For years, my reclusive cat Potter—the feline equivalent of Boo Radley (and who was plucked off Route 40 in Glade Hill the same day the first Harry Potter movie came out)—wouldn’t go outside. This fall, he “left the building” for very short trips to the end of the deck.

Before daylight on October 21, my husband let Potter out because “he was crying to get out.” Potter took off.

After I couldn’t find the elusive kitty anywhere—and it was clear he wasn't coming back, I conferred with my animal communicator friend Karen. She said Potter was close by and frightened and that Camilla (my little brown cat) knew where he was but wouldn’t tell. Camilla says this is good for him, Karen added.

After a few days, we caught fleeting glimpses of Potter, but we couldn’t actually catch him. In fact, we couldn’t get near him. Karen thought we’d have to trap him. Cats like him often turn feral she said. She referred me to a “Lost Pet Behavior” article on her website. The “catatonic/xenophobic cat” profile described Potter.

Potter was hanging around, though, and would come into the garage to eat if we weren’t close. We’d often watch him on the security camera. He’d occasionally answer my calls with a meow or two. But he wouldn’t come to me.

Yesterday, while working on my new website, I looked out my study window and saw a rainbow. I stepped onto the front porch to snap a picture. Some critters lounged on the porch. Ruby Sherwood, the little yellow dog from down the road, sat in the wicker chair.


Potter was on the wicker settee. When he saw me, he leaped off and vanished into the boxwood. (Apparently Potter has been entertaining friends on the porch while he’s AWOL.)

I snapped the rainbow picture and sat down.

A cloud finger points to the rainbow.

After a moment, Potter meowed from under cover of boxwoods. I talked to him; the meows came closer. I sat still and focused on the idea of him coming back to the settee.

Shortly, he did. I reached down, and he allowed me to pet him. I worked my arm around him and scooped him up. Trapped in my arms, he protested, but I kept hold until I got him through the front door.

Ruby stayed seated for the whole cat-grabbing. She’s very fond of my wicker chair.

After Potter was back inside, the sun came out.


Later the sky darkened, but another rainbow appeared—one that was mostly red.


I think Potter might be glad to return to housecat status. He’s friendlier than he’s ever been before and is behaving almost like a regular cat.


And he didn’t ask to go back out this morning.
~

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Rainy Days and Reading


This morning was cold and rainy—a good day to stay inside. The cats, who can’t understand why I can’t stop the rain, have begged to go out one door and then appeared at another door and begged to get back in, etc.

This morning might have been the kind of morning that inspired Robert Frost’s poem, “My November Guest”:

My Sorrow, when she's here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.

Indeed, the trees are mostly bare now, and the pasture lane is definitely sodden, but I don’t think my “Sorrow” is with me. Actually, I’m pretty upbeart this morning.

I blogged about “My November Guest” two years ago. You can read the post here: http://peevishpen.blogspot.com/2006/11/rainy-november-days.html

Rainy and chilly autumn days are perfect days to stay in and read. I just finished reading a wonderful book, Earl Hamner’s Generous Women—An Appreciation, which I bought when I heard Hamner read from it at Hollins University last month. The book is a delight.


In his dedication, he writes: “With this book, I wish to salute, thank, and celebrate the lives of some ladies who have shaped me into the man I have become.”

In 27 chapters, he does so admirably. Each chapter not only celebrates a lady but also reveals much about Hamner himself. In fact, Generous Women is a wonderful memoir.

I’ve read a chapter or two a night for a couple of weeks. When I read the chapters that I’d heard Hamner read, I could still hear his voice in my mind. If you need a good rainy day book—or a book to read anytime—I highly recommend Generous Women.

While we—at least I— think of Hamner as the creator of The Waltons, his writing career covered much more territory. Long before The Waltons, he wrote some scripts for one of my all-time favorite TV shows, The Twilight Zone.

One of these days, I want to visit his hometown of Schuyler, about 80 miles up Route 29 from where I live. While Hamner is no longer associated with the “Walton’s Mountain Museum,” I figure the museum might be worth a look.

Meanwhile, I’ll stay inside this morning and do housework (which I’ve relegated to days too cold or wet to wander the woods). I need to organize the study and clean the kitchen.

Speaking of the kitchen, if you can provide the correct answer (or maybe the most creative answer, if no one gets the correct answer) to the following question, I’ll send you a free copy of my novel, Patches on the Same Quilt.

Why is the anvil on my kitchen counter?


Contest ends at noon on November 21, 2008. Use the comments section for your answer.

Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy the rain while it lasts. We need it so badly.
~

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Two Appalachian Poems

I don’t write much poetry anymore. When I do, the poem is generally an Appalachian poem about folks who own land—or who are owned by it.


The Interview, a poem I wrote not long ago, won third place in the 2008 Virginia Writers Club contest. The $25 I won covered the cost of my lunch. I've reformatted the poem a bit to fit the blog, but the words are the same.

The Interview

© 2008 by Becky Mushko


Sure, I’ll talk to a fine looking young feller like you.

Don’t get much company nowadays.
Got plenty of time, nothing to do but set here.


Teacher sent you, did she?
“Get out and talk to some old codger,” I reckon she said.

Well, you found one. Pull yourself up a chair.
Little closer—I ain’t gonna bite.

Ain’t got enough teeth left for serious biting nohow.

Now whatcha wanna know?

What did I do? Farmed two hundred acres
like my daddy and his before him.

Tobacco, corn, and wheat—them was the money crops.

How? Me and a mule
struggling against a hard ground.
Many a time, I’uz tempted to fling down the reins,

leave the mule standing in the middle of a furrow,
and just up and leave.

Where would I go?
Town, I reckon. Work in a factory or a mill.

Make reg’lar money. Be somebody.

But I never did go.


What stopped me?

That farm held me tighter’n a spider holds a fly.
Sucked the juices right outta me.
Left me the old dry husk you’re looking at,

tangled so tight in its web I’d never get loose.

Then, too, I couldn’t work walled in.
I’d got used to the sky, y’see,
everything growing green around me.

Besides, who’d look after the place?
I can’t stand
to see a good farm
overrun with pokeweed and cat-briers.


Folks held me, too. Family ties grip tight, that’s sure.

By the time I buried Mama and Daddy,
I had me a wife and a crop a’ kids.

Time was, I couldn’t go nowhere
without one a’ them chaps
hanging
onto my pants’ leg tighter’n a tick on a dog.


Then they growed up,
scattered like seeds in the wind.
Not a one took root.

They come back, visit,
brag how good they got it in town.


Did I ever go modern?

Well, yeah—got a tractor, y’know.

Then more and more machines.
Debts piled up high
as Mama’s pancakes on Sunday breakfast.


Did I make a good living?
Heck, no!
But I reckon I made me a right good life.

Anythin’ else you wanna know?



One of my favorites is “Aunt Maudie,” which was published in Stitches: The Journal of Appalachian Literature more than a decade ago. It also appeared in Blue Ridge Traditions and was a part of Homespun, a 1999 presentation about Blue Ridge culture.

Aunt Maudie
© 1997 by Becky Mushko


Settling herself in a split-bottom chair
on the remnants of her front porch,
her hands weather-beaten as the porch rail
she grips to steady herself,
she leans forward. With age weighing
heavy on her like a winter shawl,
she says, “When you got land, you got something.
Clothes, fancy things—they don’t last.
Husbands run off; children grow
up and away from you.
Land, it’s always there.”

Her land lies too close to town
To be much account for serious farming;
Not close in enough to fetch top dollar, even
if she’d consider selling.

A run-down trailer park leans so close
against her, she shuts her front door
in summer to keep out
the brassy voices of women
shrilling at drunken husbands
who drink to escape
the brassy voices.

Over the past seventy years,
what was her grandpa’s five hundred acres
was chopped of, whittled down, doled out
to one heir or another: razor thin slices
like her grandma’s smokehouse ham
served to hungry-eyed young’uns
til the plate was only a slice
away from being licked clean.

The one slice left is hers;
Unlike the others, she’d not been tempted
(”Not by love nor money!” she brags)
to sell herself out.

“Well, I don’t need much,” she allows.
“I’ll make do with enough for a garden plot
long as I can find somebody to come plow.”

From under her sun-bonnet, she squints
Past other people’s laundry flapping
On rusty clotheslines, and sees the farm
the way it was when she was a girl:
Traffic noise transforms into lowing cows
or clanking trace chains; her spindly tomato plants
fighting each other for sun
against the fence become a crop
spreading green over too many acres
to look at all at once.

Every so often,
after a rain, she smells
the sweetness of wet earth,
new-plowed and waiting.

“You ain’t got land,”she says,
her voice rich with conviction,
“you ain’t got nothin’.”

~

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Field Trip—1953

Fifty-five years ago, on a cloudy November day like today, my third grade class went on a field trip to a nearby dairy farm. I can remember wearing my gray winter coat with a fur collar—a coat I'd inherited from my older cousin Marty and would soon pass on to my younger cousin Judy.

I wrote about this experience several years ago. One version appeared as a commentary in The Roanoke Times several years ago. I used the version below for a presentation at a Lake Writers' memoir workshop.

View from the Schoolhouse Window
© 2002 by Becky Mushko

In 1951, when I started first grade, Huff Lane Elementary School in Roanoke, Virginia, was still new. It had been built the previous year to accommodate all the kids whose families lived in the post-Korean War housing development across the road from the schoolyard.

On the other side of the schoolyard, right where the asphalt playground ended, was the edge of the civilized world: a huge field was where Pete Huff's farm began. Sometimes wheat grew in the field, sometimes corn, and sometimes alfalfa, but the field was always forbidden territory to us as we played on the playground. When we climbed to the top of the jungle gym or the hot metal sliding board, we could catch a glimpse of the dairy barn and the cows in the distance.

In 1953, when I was in the third grade, we stepped off the edge of the world—into the field—and took a field trip to that dairy barn. That late fall afternoon, we tromped across the cut-over cornfield to the barn for a close-up view of the Holsteins munching hay while milking machines made strange noises.

For years afterward, I believed that a field trip always involved walking through a field. Consequently, all the other field trips I went on—which involved climbing onto a bus and eventually going into a building—were disappointments.

In the 1950s, each school day started with morning devotions. We stood up, faced the flag, and pledged. The phrase "under God" hadn't been added then, but we didn't need it because we also said the Lord's Prayer. That's how we knew God's name—it was Hallow Ed, as in "Hallow Ed be thy name." And we always sang. Sometimes we sang "America," and sometimes we sang my favorite, "America the Beautiful."

One morning in the mid-50s, while we sang "America the Beautiful," I looked out the window and actually saw the "spacious skies." They were bright blue. I looked at Pete Huff's field—now planted in wheat—and saw the "amber waves of grain." Beyond the field, I saw the "purple mountains' majesty" of Fort Lewis Mountain and Brushy Mountain in the distance. In front of the mountains, the breeze rippled through the field, which might indeed have been a "fruited plain." That day, God indeed "shed His grace" on me and gave me a glimpse of the America we sang about.

Things have changed since I attended Huff Lane School. Now it's called "Huff Lane Microvillage," whatever that is.

I doubt the students ever sing "America the Beautiful." After all, it contains a reference to God, so the song is no longer politically correct. I know kids haven't said the Lord's Prayer at school for years, so they probably don't know Him as Hallow Ed.

The asphalt playground has been replaced by grass. The jungle gym and sliding board are gone. A high gray wall with mountains painted on it separates what's left of the playground from what is no longer farm.

Whenever I drive past Valley View Mall, where Pete Huff's farm used to be, I pass close to my former school, and I feel a little sorry for the students behind the wall who'll never see the world the way I once did and who can never step off the edge of the playground and take a real field trip.
~

This is a picture of my fourth grade class at Huff Lane School in Roanoke, VA, taken a year or so after the field trip but around the time I saw what I sang. The teacher was Mrs. Ellen Clark. I'm in the striped dress in the center of the picture. Beside me is Dorothy Boyd, who was a wonderful artist. I've forgotten a lot of classmate's names, but I think Mary Elizabeth Van Liere is to my right and beside her is Diane Gross. Linda Wills is in front of Mrs. Clark, and Patricia Taylor is beside her. H.W. Scott is at the opposite end off the row from me. Behind him is Sue Jennings. I think Mary Huddleston is beside Sue. In the front row on the left side are Peggy Carroll, Neil Robertson, Brenda Keaton, a girl whose name I can't recall, and Donna Lovell (in the Brownie Scout uniform). The picture was taken in the library.
~

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Another Wild Woods Walk

Last Friday, Anita came from Roanoke and Claudia and her dogs came from down the road to join me and my dogs on some explorations around a couple of my farms. Every good walk starts with a visit to the creek. Both Maggie and Penny love water:


We saw a lot of faces in the woods:


Here's a closer look:


This one's kind of a one-eyed face, or maybe the blue eye is actually a smile:


And this one looks like the profile of someone eating something. Or else, hiding inside, there's a small woman with a high bouffant and a long nose.


See the beady little eyes on this ground-level face? The moss gives it a Princess Leia hair-do:


And this one seems to have bugged-out eyes and a long nose (and maybe a row of spare eyeballs).


We saw more than faces. The tangle in this picture is actually a humongous grapevine. Notice the green chair just behind the fallen log? That'll give you an idea of the size of this thing:


And this tangle was just sort of interesting;


You never know what you'll see on a walk in the woods.
~

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Virginia Writers Club: 2008

Yesterday, I went with three other Valley Writers to the Virginia Writers Club annual meeting. This year is the VWC’s 90th anniversary. Consequently, many pictures were on display to commemorate some of the club’s history.


I was in several of them.

Do you see my pictures? Think Ida B. Peevish.


The event was held at Randolph Macon College in Ashland. Yesterday was the first time I’d seen the campus in daylight, although I had attended several fraternity parties there in the mid-60s.

We had a wonderful buffet luncheon on the second floor of the Macon dining hall. Many works of art decorated the area, including this interesting sculpture.

Part of the entertainment was the presentation of Jim Morrison's short play, "Visit to a Writers Group," with past and future VWC presidents playing the parts. It was a hoot.

The guest speaker was Dean King. I’d heard him speak twice before—at the James River Writers Conference several years ago and at the CNU conference a couple of years ago. His presentations are always worth hearing. Plus I like to hear professional writers tell about their experiences.

When I first joined the VWC over a decade ago, most of the members were professional writers. Now, it seems that the majority are vanity-published (myself included).

Maybe, now that I’ve been voted in as a “Member-at-Large” on the VWC Board of Governors, I can do something to help attract more pros again. We could certainly benefit from their expertise.

I didn’t come home empty-handed. I received a check for my third-place poetry win in the VWC’s annual two-tier contest. I’d won first place in the Valley Writers Chapter contest, which made me eligible for the second tier. One of the VWC membership benefits is the annual contest.

I also returned with a copy of Sally Honenberger’s new book, Waltzing Cowboys (Cedar Creek Press).


The book isn’t in bookstores yet, but it’s on amazon.com for pre-order. Sally’s blog, “News From the Author,” updates readers on what she’s doing. I’ll post a review on this blog in a few weeks.

Stay tuned.
~

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Fired Up

Lately, when I look out my window first thing in the morning, I’ve seen fire. Not real fire, but my crape myrtle showing its autumn colors that fill my window with blazing oranges and reds.


I’m getting fired up about writing my next novel, too. November is National Novel Writing Month—wherein folks sign up with the national headquarters and agree to turn out a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I almost signed, but then I decided I didn’t want to be obligated to participate in the forums, e-mails, etc., that signing up entailed.

Instead, I attended the Roanoke Public Library’s version on Monday night. About twenty of us there committed to turning out our novels in a 30-dayperiod. We’ll meet periodically during the month to check progress, etc. The second meeting was tonight, but I wasn’t able to attend. I’ll go next week, though. At the end of the month, a drawing will be held for a chance to have five copies of the winner’s work printed. Printed, not actually published—so the work can still be queried, collect rejections, etc.


I wasn’t fired up about the election until it was over. Last night, I stayed up to listen to Obama’s acceptance speech and was glad I did. His speech was the best presidential message I’ve heard since John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address. His theme—“Yes, we can”—resonated with me (and apparently with everyone listening in Grant Park).

So I’m getting fired up. I’m thinking, Yes, I can crank out my YA novel if I put my mind to it. I’ve been turning the plot line over in my mind for a month, but I have little in the computer to show for it.

I’m thinking that a President who has a strong command of the English language will do wonders for the spoken word and maybe the written word.

I’m also thinking it’s really neat that the two incoming first daughters will finally get the puppy they’ve wanted for so long.

It’s nice to finally get what you want.

Or at least to get fired up about something.

~

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Maggie Turns Three

by Maggie Mae Mushko (three-year-old border collie)


Yesterday, for my third birthday, Mommy took me and Hubert to Smith Farm for a run. Daddy was already there. He was mowing weeds and moving hay.

Before I loaded into the truck with Hubert, I did a bit of herding by making a tight run around Cupcake who was eating hay up in the pasture. However, she ignored me. That old horse just doesn't do herding. It's no fun for the herder to herd if the herdee refuses to be herded.

Ruby Sherwood, my little yellow friend from across the field, watched us load and chased the truck for a while. Yesterday must have been National Roadkill Day in addition to my birthday. Within a fifth of a mile from home, we saw a dead fox (a big one!), then a doe, and finally a possum. Mommy wouldn't stop so I could inspect them. Ruby stopped chasing us to sniff the fox.

At the farm, we played ball for a while. Then Hubert and I took to the woods.


Before long I was in Standiford Creek, which is very low. It was even dry in some places, but I found all the good water spots.


Even Hubert joined me in the creek.


After we'd soaked, we started through the woods. You can barely see me in the picture below. (Hint: my white tail looks like a white dot against my black body.) Heck, you can hardly see Hubert. He blends right in with the woods. (Hint: he looks like a log right above the middle of the creek.)


I found a few interesting things to inspect, but we didn't find any little critters. Or even any big ones. I looked high and low.


I even looked in some holes. Nothing here.


But I took time for another soak in the creek.


Hubert and I had a good time, even though we didn't find anything to chase. I still wish Mommy had stopped to let us sniff that fox in the road, though.
~

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