Sunday, May 24, 2015

Little Pink Notebook: Habits Inspired by Mary Olive

"For at least thirty years, and at almost all times, I have carried a notebook with me, in my back pocket. It has always been the same kind of notebook -- small, three inches by five inches, and hand-sewn. By no means do I write poems in these notebooks. And yet over the years, the notebooks have been laced with phrases that eventually appear in poems. So, they are the pages upon which I begin."

                                        ~ Mary Oliver, "Pen and Paper and a Breath of Air"

As an antiquarian at heart, there are few writers in the contemporary world with whom I can relate. A notable exception -- one who I've come to appreciate as a great heroine of the literary world -- is Mary Oliver. Though she is best known as a poet, I confess that I have actually not yet been acquainted with her poetry. But her nonfiction is brilliant. If I could make my writing look like any author's in the world, it would be hers. Last summer, I encountered a little book of essays by her in a small bookstore. (Actually, it was a whole shelf, and with a skimpy wallet I had to struggle to settle for one selection.) The collection I bought was called Blue Pastures, and within days I had devoured all its words and wisdom. Oliver is an absolute sage in presenting the writer's day-to-day existence. Her essays in Blue Pastures are very much about the process and journey of being a writer. What I loved most about them was their eloquent manner of portraying the writer's life as something intimate, something contemplative. We see her at her desk frowning at interruptions, or outside wandering the wilderness, or as a young girl absorbing Whitman -- and always as a reflective, almost prayerful kind of scholar. It as though her whole daily universe was writing: the observation, the inspiration, the creation of it. In this sense, she has shown the habitualness of writing, how much it must saturate the writer's every moment. One essay in particular stood out to me: "Pen and Paper and a Breath of Air," which provides excerpts of a small pocket notebook she keeps for moments of inspiration. For about a year now, I've kept a similar notebook -- mine pink and tattered from being stuffed haphazardly in purses and backpacks of all capacities. Whenever a phrase haunts me, or a certain sight I pass strikes me, I whip it out to jot down whatever words I can to record the idea. (This usually occurs while driving; I can't tell you how many times I've had to pull over to write even two words down.) In reading "Pen and Paper," I was glad to see this tradition validated by another, established writer. But more importantly, it struck me how much Oliver and I share -- if I dare presume so much -- in regards to the dailiness of our writing. There is no moment, to my knowledge, when the writing process stops for me; it is always happening. True, the times I physically sit down to write are relatively sparse. My perfectionist nature is such that the actual practice of putting words into a word document is one to which I must devote an entire day -- hence, it is not a frequent ritual. But for me, writing is more than simply that one step of physical production. It's a habit, an addiction, a constant mode of mind. I see sunlight -- I appreciate. I read a book -- I contemplate. I hear a phrase in my mind -- I am inspired. These are the necessary steps in writing, which take about 80% of the entire procedure. What is finally written, what finally goes on paper (or, on the computer) is something I've
accumulated throughout the day. The process never stops. To be an artist -- and I truly mean be, in terms of identity and existence -- one's artmaking must never end. It must be the lens through which one sees and feels everything, even if only on the subconscious level. It ought to permeate every aspect of our life. It is very much like being in love: even when we are not physically embracing our beloved, love never clocks out, it is always there. Oliver's habits as a notebook-carrying writer – her constancy in artmaking, her series of endless daily rituals – comprise a way of life I have yet to perfect. Yet it’s one I am striving for always. Or rather, better to say that my environment is demanding it always.

To quote another recent favorite female author, Virginia Woolf -- that frustrating but magnificently deep writer of the unconscious -- "Passing, glimpsing, everything seems accidentally but miraculously sprinkled with beauty" ("Street Haunting"). Everything I encounter calls for attention. Every image on the street is a detail -- who's to say how vital a detail -- in a story I don't know. Every stranger or even friend I pass by, as I catch snippets of their conversation or notice an expression on their face, is carrying a life-story, one that I will probably never know to the full -- yet, "into each of these lives one could penetrate a little way." These observations are fragments, fragments of stories everywhere. Pieces that the writer gathers and ties together to make something whole out of it all. At the end of the day, every fragment of my life is a piece of the story I am longing to write.

Emma Moser
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Thursday, May 21, 2015


I keep thinking the debates on “self vs. traditional publishing” are over, but I still see a lot of new writers making horrible mistakes.
Instead of realizing that:
--It’s not really a “versus”: you can do both, do neither, do the whole thing smart or stupid. The important thing is to get out there and get readers, hopefully without losing your pants doing so.
--Money up front is a dangerous gamble. This is one of the obvious problems with “vanity publishing”—paying somebody money you hope to get back on sales (unlikely) instead of a press that invests in your work and takes profit from your later sales. But the same thinking goes for laying out thousands of dollars for editing or artwork or formatting, having been convinced that it will “sell your book” and you’ll get the money back in sales. (Slim chance.)
--You have to follow up. You have to promote your book. Nobody else is going to do it for you unless they charge you money up front for the least worthwhile author “service”.
--Buying into all the “rules” left over from traditional publishing and not applicable to what you will be doing—selling ebooks off amazon and other eTailers. There are no back cover blurbs (or back covers), no advance copies, no store browsers, no interior design.

If you are still new to what lies past finishing your manuscript, let me suggest that you take a look at this fun, possibly helpful, “revolutionary” free ebook.

If you have figured out that you want to go commando indie, this guide to bridging the gap between MS and reader base might be a big help.
Read Linton's interesting bio on his website:
Linton Robinson
Lin's Amazonpage

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Land of Mist and Moon

Below is the poem that was just published in the Pen Women anthology Poems of the Super Moon for consideration as a Poem of the week.

Land of mist and moon,
            snow and flower,
song-like sounds of the wind
            shiver through trees,
shaking moonlight and moonlit patterns
            on blue white snow,
glittering glaze and shadow shapes --
            midnight artistic masterpiece.

Cowering in shadow with bent head,
            a snowdrop sees only a snowy landscape,
yet a symbol of hope and of death;
close to the ground where death lingers
underneath snow-packed cemeteries,
where layers of dead, dried leaves --
autumn leftovers --
protect root systems that will come alive
            with the spring thaw.

Before sun replaces moonlight
a mist moves in and settles,
curls up like a cat on a fleece blanket
            dreaming of a land of mist and moon,
                        snow and flower.

Dorothy Kamm
Member-at-large of
The National League of American Pen Women was founded by five adventurous and ambitious women writers in 1897 because the literary world they wanted to conquer as journalists was exclusively a male domain. Barred from the all-male Press Club, their indignation about such discrimination against women made them decide to do something about it.  Now there are branches all over the United States. Check us out!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Landscape Gardening with CARE

Landscape Gardening is no longer simply a job of creating a well planned garden, grading the terrain, and then executing a plan of what to plant where. The 21st century brought about its own environmental necessities and eco-demands that have to be taken into account.

Through combining workshop style assignments with research and ‘hands-on’ experience, the Wright Scoop takes readers through a process that uses site plats to create landscape/gardens which respect an existing vista, preserving and enhancing its eco health. For any style landscape should not simply be a result of traditional design but be the right plant, installed in the right place at the right (optimal) planting season - creating eco-legacies of landscape green, sustainable urban/suburban communities which enhance green space for today and future generations.
Project Back Ground
The challenge for present-day homeowners, gardeners or Industry professionals is to be naturalists with a "waste not, want not" ecological commitment: become stewards of the land, caretakers for their environmental communities. Through ‘hands on’ research, Wright identified tips and strategies which enable the who, why, where, what, how and when of landscape gardening -
     Who: Understand the factors which influence a landscape gardening perspective; and then, describe it in terms of someone who presently does and/or desires to 'dig in the dirt'.
     Why: Define landscape gardens more in terms of a mission, a lofty perspective such as 'green' - 'providing for present-day needs without sacrificing the future'.
     Where: Location, location, location – conduct a site analysis which identifies climate and physical constraints.
     What: Combing the 'who, why and where' influence a landscape garden plan, develop goal statements which describe a proposed site.
     How: List activities that accomplish the identified goals.
     When: Using the 'what and how' activities, identify recommended installation time-frame as well as recommended maintenance time-frame; and then, create a landscape gardening schedule.
Enable readers of her research to become known as a person who enables an eco-legacy of CARE - conservation, accountability, recovery and eco-efficiency.

Sylvia Hoehns Wright is a nationally recognized eco-advocate, contributing writer and communications specialist; in her spare time  she is a passionate historian and member of the American League of Pen Women.(  As founder of the ‘Plants of CARE’ plant recognition program and recipient of the Turning America from Eco-weak to Eco-chic award , the Wright Scoop – Sylvia Hoehns Wright seeks to inspire people to create an eco-legacy of CARE, a perspective of conservation, accountability, recovery and eco-efficiency – ‘green’ America’s landscape! To review and/or acquire copy, link to Sylvia's store or for details of Wright's eco advocacy, visit web site 
In his review Den Gardner, executive director of Project EverGreen, says:"Wright’s eco-chic advocacy embodies every aspect of the consumer education campaign we hoped to inspire. For, our vision is to become a global organization that empowers people within communities to change society through the responsible creation and preservation of sustainable green spaces, such that the ever-increasing impacts of global warming in the world are measurably reduced; because Green Matters!


Friday, May 1, 2015

The Art of Self-Publishing -- Part II

So you have written a book and want to launch your baby out into the world? With my first book Next Time Lucky  I went through all the hoops to find an agent. After over 100  polite "No thank yous", a "very timely novel, but..." and some other gentle turn-me downs while encouraging my fresh writing style, I thought I had hit the jack pot. An agent from CA called me on a Saturday around lunch time --early in LA! She was even more excited than I was mentioning film rights! She just knew the right people in the industry and the perfect actress - Goldie Hawn- to play my protagonist, the matchmaker from Dublin.

With all the excitement, I totally forgot the migraine I was nursing. My best friend and mentor, Millie (RIP), found my good fortune this reason enough to send me a bouquet of flowers congratulating me on my imminent success and fame.

18 months later while I lived in suspended animation, it became evident even to me and my disillusioned, vainglorious, yet ambitious self, that this lady wasn't going anywhere. The promised movie rights would have been sold to her son for $1. Allegedly, he worked for a movie company -- in what capacity I never found out. Your guess is as good as mine. In the interim, I had learned about Preditors & Editors. Alas, too late!

The book was ready, overripe really, and something needed to be done before the timely touch turned into the timeless touch of a zombie.

I decided to self-pub. With my latest book I dared to send my manuscript to a few publishing houses. A big no-no, as I was told years ago. The ones I chose did accept submissions by email, yet never deigned to answer or even acknowledge the receipt of my book. So much for that.

I Once Had a Farm in Ireland is now up on Amazon for pre-order. Its paperback version will follow as soon as hubby as completed the complicated requirements of formatting. I use the remaining time until my chosen launch date, May 14, to send press releases out. Google Press Release and you'll find a number of websites where to publish your good news at no cost. They will also give you samples how to do that.
Next, I will also refresh my connections with the local papers and TV stations by sending them the news release.
For a while, release parties were popular on Facebook. Have you attended any? Did they work for you? I'd be curious to know.
Then there is the minor matter of a media kit. More about that in my next blog.
Siggy Buckley
on Amazon                                           Our Farm in the Winter