Thursday, December 8, 2016

Slogging Through Nos For Five Amazing Yeses

First of all, just so you know, I looked it up: and both "nos" and "noes" are acceptable spellings for the plural of "no" and "yeses" and "yesses" for the plural of "yes."

Phew, now that we got that out of the way: yes, this year I did wade through so many nos, but I got five amazing, wonderful yeses.

And one thing I learned: while the nos are hard when you get them, like, "ouch" hard, they are also gone in a second. As soon as you move on and do something else, you have forgotten it. But the yeses live on, and are so much bigger. So although I only read about shooting for 100 nos about a month ago (it is my new goal for 2017), I did get about 25 rejections (out of 41 things sent out, I haven't heard back from everything yet). But I got five wonderful yeses and they really made my year.

So as a sort of year in review, here are the yeses I received:

1. Wildacres Writing Residency.



In January of last year, as my New Year's Resolution of sorts - the first one I actually kept - I decided to take myself seriously as a writer. I would apply to things. I would send stuff out REGULARLY. I would not be deterred (for years) by a "no." After reading this article on writing residencies, I applied to Wildacres (application deadline January 15.) In March I heard I was accepted and in July I spent the most amazing week there, completing the first draft of a memoir, and writing and finishing other short stories, essays, and poems. I also sketched daily, hiked in the gorgeous mountains and to a waterfall, ate wild berries and mushrooms, made new friends and generally had an amazing time. One week was too short. If I apply again, I am definitely asking for two.

2. Readers Write Essay in The Sun Magazine: First Impressions, November 2016 issue

Another determination I made was to submit essays to the Readers Write section of The Sun Magazine.  Each month they provide a prompt and you can write a personal essay using that prompt. The prompt is often just one or two words, leaving it open ended. Starting with the Feb 1 deadline, I sent an essay almost every month in 2016. The one I sent in April (deadline May 1) was accepted to be printed in the November issue. I heard about the acceptance soon after coming back from my residency at Wildacres.

3. My essay: Time and Space to Write, about my writing residency, was published in Literary Mama blog, October 24, 2016.

4. While at Wildacres, I was contacted by St. Lynn's Press to do Technical Editing for a book on Wild Edibles, The Scouts Guide to Wild Edibles by Mike Krebill, released November 15, 2016.

While this is a bit iffy as an inclusion, in that I didn't apply for it, I said "yes" so I am including it. It was a nice experience and an excellent book, but I certainly learned that publishers have earned their reputation. I will leave it at that. I am hoping the next time I work with a publisher it will be through an agent, to help me negotiate and make sure that they do not breach their contract. So while you may not find my name credited on the copyright page as specified in the signed contract, you can find me in the acknowledgements - thanks Mike!

5. Artist Opptortunity Grant through Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council 

I won a grant! This grant will help me get to the Bahamas and take a workshop "Write Your Story of Loss and Transformation" with Mirabai Starr. The yes came in 2016 so I am including it here, but the workshop is not until May 2017.

Lots of stuff to look forward to in 2017! My writing workshop in May, 100 rejections, and hopefully, maybe, another yes or two.


Monday, October 31, 2016

A Whirlwind Wrap Up Of My 31 Day World Tour


Well, I did it! Around The World In 31 Days! I wrote every day of October.

I started in Northampton with carrot juice, went to Germany where I almost couldn't buy myself a pair of men's shoes, was called a Stupido Turista! for just barely skirting getting ripped off in a train station, and went to Rouen, France, to learn that Joan of Arc was not burned because she people thought she was a witch or even for impersonating a man, she was burned for the crime of wearing men's clothes! Maybe there was something more than fashion police at work in Germany when I tried to buy men's shoes!!

I had my sins washed away in the Vatican walking through the Holy Doors, saw a marionette opera in Belgium, and drank coffee in Stars Hollow to celebrate Gilmore Girls with the rest of the country.

I did all sorts of things in Pittsburgh, including eating an Iroquois lunch at Conflict Kitchen, found wild edible mushrooms in the woods, and learned about the plight of refugees from the Doctors Without Borders traveling exhibit, Forced From Home.

I went to England as an exchange student in high school, (revisited) and probably went to Quebec City with my French Club, where I tried escargo for the first (and last) time after having sipped some wine.

I biked to DC, faced my fear of spiders in New Mexico, found armfuls of sand dollars in Wrightsville Beach, NC.

I hiked up Mt. Jefferson in New Hampshire, the Wind River Range in Wyoming, and Delicate Arch in Utah.

I reviewed some travel movies and even gave you my number one travel tip.

I mused about birds and magic, remembered going to Cooperstown as a kid and Nashville just this spring.

I'm so glad I took the 31 Day Writing Challenge, I'm already looking forward to next year! And now, onward to November, and Nanowrimo!!

Ciao,

Melissa
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This is the last essay of my 31 Day Writing Challenge: To write about any one topic for the 31 days of October. You can sign up to participate here.

I've chosen to write about places I've been for the next 31 days, you can find the whole list of essays here(Around the World in 31 Days.)


Note: All the pictures in the article are from pixabay, and are "Public Domain, free for commercial use, no attribution required."


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Nashville In The Spring

This past spring I visited my friend in a city I'd never been to before: Nashville. 

Nashville - the music city - is known for country music and honky-tonking. We all know that. What I did not know is that there is a life-sized replica of the Parthenon right in Nashville. Amazing. 
Inside the Parthenon is also a 47 foot statue of Athena, holding a nearly 6 foot Nike (goddess of victory) in her hand.

And though we did do some honky-tonking one night, enjoying the Big Bang dueling piano bar, we also had a gorgeous walk along the Music City Bikeway
...and some great vegetarian meals at Sunflower CafeThe Wild Cow, and Woodlands , an Indian Restaurant.

What was most amazing about Nashville in the Spring were all the Redbud trees in full bloom - a sight for sore eyes after such a long cold winter as we had in Pittsburgh.
Not only were they in yards around Nashville, but they lined the highway as I drove along I-40 East to Winston-Salem to meet my family for Easter weekend, (Easter was Sunday March 27 in 2016.)

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This is the thirtieth essay of my 31 Day Writing Challenge: To write about any one topic for the 31 days of October. You can sign up to participate here.

I've chosen to write about places I've been for the next 31 days, you can find the whole list of essays here(Around the World in 31 Days.)



Note: All the pictures in the article are my own or from pixabay, and are "Public Domain, free for commercial use, no attribution required."


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Halloween Chamber Pot Story

I have been to Cooperstown.

I have been to the baseball hall of fame, but that's not why I went to Cooperstown.

I went to visit a friend, who lived in Long Island but went to Cooperstown in the summer and lived down the street from a farm. The house she lived in had no indoor plumbing. They had an outhouse. They brought in drinking water after pumping it up from the ground, and boiling it first. At night they used chamber pots. Yes, this was in my lifetime. The 1970s. In Cooperstown, NY.

Back up. I was born in NYC, then we moved to Georgia and then back to NYC. While there the second time I attended nursery school and kindergarten with my friend, Aliza. I was distraught when we moved away (first to NC, then to Syracuse, NY). But we wrote. Actual letters through the actual mail. For years and years and years.

And one summer, I was probably around ten or twelve, my parents took me to Cooperstown so I could visit with her. During the day we played with the kids at the farm down the road. The farm with the cows they milked by hand, which we got to try. At night we slept in a bedroom in which her parents also slept. And at night, her parents got up to use the chamber pot, which was in the middle of that same room, between their bed and ours. And I had to witness it because though it was dark and the middle of the night I was awake. Because I never slept.

And it was so horrifying to my 10-or-so year old little self that I decided it would be an appropriate story to share today, on the Saturday before Halloween.


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This is the twenty-ninth essay of my 31 Day Writing Challenge: To write about any one topic for the 31 days of October. You can sign up to participate here.

I've chosen to write about places I've been for the next 31 days, you can find the whole list of essays here(Around the World in 31 Days.)




Note: All the pictures in the article are from pixabay, and are "Public Domain, free for commercial use, no attribution required."

Friday, October 28, 2016

Forced From Home Exhibit


Today our homeschool group visited Forced From Home, an exhibit from Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontiers). We learned about the plight of refugees, displaced people, immigrants, all around the world, from Honduras, the South Sudan, to Syria and beyond. 65 million people. That is difficult to comprehend. In this picture we are sitting in one of the tiny inflatable boats that tries to cross the Mediterranean, usually with about 50 people in the boat. We only had about 25 people and the boat was beyond full.

We were led by our tour guide, "Sheep" (Chip, pronounced in French, so he went with it.) He is a psychologist and has been working overseas at the refugee camps for years. Now he is touring with this amazing exhibit.

Very eye opening exhibit. And terrifying. To think what these people go through. And what if suddenly our country revokes citizenship of people, kicks them out because of their religion? Is it that far off? Isn't that what Trump says he is going to do if he becomes president? Oh my God.

If this exhibit comes anywhere near your city, go. It's in Pittsburgh til Oct 31. Next stop: Philadelphia starting Nov 5. Check the website for all the information. It is free and so so worth seeing.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Facebook Break - Let The Adventure Begin


Five more of these to write. I sort of want to say I've done it, and yet. I cannot think of what to write on today. Except to say that facebook is ruining my life. Seriously. I stare at it incessantly. It sucks all the time from my day, the creativity from my brain. I despise it. And yet I can't look away.

I need to take a facebook break. A 100 percent break from facebook. In fact, perhaps for the month of November - nanowrimo - in which I am writing a memoir about wild food, somehow, I will write it, I will not go on facebook. For the entire month. Can it be possible? I think and hope so.

So for now. It is today October 27 and actually I think I can start now. I think I will not go on facebook anymore until at least Dec 1, and maybe I'll stretch it out and say until 2017, or maybe never again. Maybe I'll even get that software that blocks it. I think it's called Cold Turkey. I just downloaded it, but haven't set it yet. I shall see if I can stay away on my own or if I need it. What about my phone?

I will write about the good things that have happened so far.

An essay of mine - Wildacres, Time and Space to Write - came out in the Literary Mama blog. (This is a bit of a travel piece, actually...)

Wildacres Writing Residency: Time and Space to Write

I've been writing for 30 years. I wrote in high school, took college courses in writing, and after college, took workshops in Amherst, Massachusetts and Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. Yet I've published very few essays over the years. Though I write fairly regularly and consistently, I fit my writing around my family's schedule, often skipping days and cutting my writing time short. I am unorganized and don't often go back to what I'd previously written. I write a lot, but usually do not revise or finish my pieces.

At the start of this year I made a promise to change that. To focus. To take myself seriously as a writer. After reading an article, “26 Amazing Writing Residencies You Should Apply For This Year,” I applied to one in North Carolina which offered one week residencies, perfect for me - someone not accustomed to leaving her family. To my delight I was accepted.

...read the rest here

I also read an article about why one should strive for 100 rejections a year.

So far this year I have had 20 rejections, 3 acceptances, and 17 things I haven't yet heard back from yet. Next year I'll do so much better...I bet I could double that number, easy. ;-)

The interesting thing is this: the writing and the publishing (and the trying to get published) are two totally different things. Although I will argue that in trying to get published, I do finish and revise my pieces, whereas if I'm just writing I will often not do more than a first pass. So there is overlap. However. The writing is the part I love to do. Sending pieces out and getting rejections back...that's like a game. It means very little. The article argues that even getting published - for the most part - means very little. If you are a best selling author I'm sure it means everything, but for most of us, there is the thrill of finding out you will be published, another little thrill when the piece actually comes out, and that's it. It's fun but fleeting. What I like about the article (and the little anecdotes people like Liz Gilbert and JK Rowling tell us about being rejected), takes the stigma and the sting out of rejections. It's hard to just go, "Oh well..." and keep going on. But that is what you have to do. And it gets easier the more you do it.

But so. Around The World In 31 Days...today has me glued right here to my seat. And yet if I am able to tear myself away from facebook, I think some truly amazing adventures might just be in store.

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This is the twenty-seventh essay of my 31 Day Writing Challenge: To write about any one topic for the 31 days of October. You can sign up to participate here.

I've chosen to write about places I've been for the next 31 days, you can find the whole list of essays here(Around the World in 31 Days.)


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Arta's Magic Garden


March 15, 1992.

I have arrived in on a "farm" in Upstate NY. It's not a farm with fields and barns, though there is a small hand built barn which houses the goats which are now roaming freely around the land. There are more woods than open land. It's not even yet the spring equinox, yet I have come to be an apprentice to herbalist Arta Myst (shall I say this is not her real name? It's not, in any case.)

When I arrive I am first attacked by geese then ignored by my host and herbalist whom I am there to apprentice. She is still in a meeting with her editor, who also ignores me. To be early, I learn later, is a cardinal sin to Arta. It is presumptuous and demanding. At exactly 3 - the time I was given to arrive - I shall be greeted warmly by Arta, not a moment before.

I look around and the land looks barren. There is still snow in patches of the brown earth. Why was I to come so early? How would I learn about herbs when the land looked, to me, still dormant?

Yet my education was to begin right away, with a weed walk the next morning (nearly noon, the days did not start until 11 at Babbling Brook - the name of the place - when we had our talking stick ceremony.)

Arta was a self-proclaimed Green Witch, Goddess, and Honorary Native American, hence the talking stick ceremony and the teepee out back, where we would host full moon circles. As I followed her into the empty woods I was amazed when she pointed out trout lily leaves - where did they come from? Delicate green leaves with light pink mottled leaves. As if by magic I began seeing another leaf, then another...I was standing in a colony of trout lily leaves which, until Arta had pointed them out, I hadn't even seen. "Taste" she said, so I did. It was sweet with a slight kick.

"Come," she said, and I followed her until she pointed out some dark green leaves. "Now taste these," she said.

I put one in my mouth and chewed. "Garlic" I said, "or maybe, mustard."

"Exactly," Arta answered. "This plant is called garlic mustard, and it is a delicious edible green that goes wonderfully on a salad. Pick some," she directed, and I picked some of the leaves and added them to the basket she was carrying.

I followed her toward the sound of a little brook. I could hear the water running lightly through the forest. "Stop here," said Arta. "What do you smell?"

I stood and breathed. Urine. "Are we in an animal's den?" I asked.

"Why?" Arta asked.

"I smell urine," I answered.

"Yes!" she said with excitement. "Look," She led me to the stream where we found some green plants that looked almost like mint - with opposing serrated leaves. "These are stinging nettles, Urtica dioica. They do smell like urine, cat pee. Guess what part of the body they are good for."

I had no idea.

"Just guess," she said again, "base it on what they smell like."

"Bladder?" I asked.

"Kidneys," she answered, "Bladder yes, but especially kidneys. See how the plant lets you know how to use it? We won't pick them today, but we'll come back tomorrow afternoon, when it's sunny and warm, to harvest these."

We headed back toward the house and we stopped by a rock, on the side of which grew a light green fuzzy looking plant.

"Here's mullein," Arta said, "another wonderful medicinal plant. This one is good for the lungs."
"So would it be good for coughs?" I asked.

"It is BAD for coughs," she said. "Do you hear the difference? Why would I take something that is GOOD for a symptom? Be careful with language, language is very powerful. I hear herbalists saying that all the time: take this, it's good for headaches, or cough, or back pain. Then you're body hears: 'I am taking something that is GOOD for my pain,' and your pain or illness gets stronger. Be careful what you say," Arta warned, "Say only what you mean."

I followed her through the gate toward her house, where she had a couple of empty garden beds. She pointed at the far one. "See that?"

All I saw was a bunch of weeds. "What?"

"The chickweed."

I was looking at them, but I was looking through them, they didn't even register to me because my mind had dismissed them as weeds.

Arta sighed with exasperation. She walked to the weeds and beckoned me to follow.
She squatted down by the delicate green plants with small leaves and tiny white flowers. "Stellaria media, little star. This is chickweed, and it will be the base of our salad tonight. Grab it by the handful, but be careful, don't pull too hard. Leave the roots, and it will keep coming back. This is my favorite spring green. Taste."

"The leaves or the flowers?" I asked.

"The whole thing," she said, exasperated once more. "Just pick it up and try it."

I did and it was such a fresh green taste, like spring personified.

I looked out over the brown ground, gray rocks, patches of snow. I saw nothing, yet there was so much there if you knew where to look. Spring was definitely on the way.

And that was my first lesson in real witchcraft.

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This is the twenty-sixth essay of my 31 Day Writing Challenge: To write about any one topic for the 31 days of October. You can sign up to participate here.

I've chosen to write about places I've been for the next 31 days, you can find the whole list of essays here(Around the World in 31 Days.)





Note: All the pictures in the article are my own or from pixabay, and are "Public Domain, free for commercial use, no attribution required."