Saturday, December 12, 2009

Now Hear This: Jessica Kane's "Straining to Parallel Park in an Open Field"

Those of you who are acquainted with Jessica Kane and her varied artistic talents have been eagerly awaiting release of her four-disc CD of readings from her written works, "Straining to Parallel Park in an Open Field." The rest of you will want to find out what you're missing.

Jessica Kane seizes not only the day, she seizes each nanosecond of the day. And then she writes about it.

While most writers focus on the big things in life, like birth, death, war and peace, Jessica pulls out her rippled-glass magnifier and inspects and muses about life's odd and infinitesimally small happenings, such as the fortuitous finding of a parking space on a busy street; mundane conversations in an airport; a visit to an animal shelter; a chance encounter with the mom of a childhood friend; or the love/hate feelings toward a jelly-dribbling spouse. These seemingly trivial events, rendered in exquisite detail, serve as springboards into the inner workings of Jessica Kane. Her mind-meanderings about these events, about life and about her own place in life evoke reactions ranging from giggles to guffaws and misty eyes to tears.

Jessica's content is remarkable in its unremarkable-ness. Her style is inimitable, and her language, albeit earthy, is delightful. Sample a few bits of Jessica's readings at, where you may order the four-disc set. If you live in the Warrensburg, NY, area, you can catch her at Willows Bistro on Thursday, January 14th at 2 p.m. She'll be one of four readers, joining Doug Deneen, Pat Leonard and Susan Jefts. You'll have a great time.

"Adirondack Guest Informer" - Reading at Christmastime and All Year Long

And now, Gentle Reader (I've always wanted to write that -- "Gentle Reader." What's the alternative, "Rough Reader"?)

Well, anyhow, I'm back, and so are you, and I want to tell you a little bit about our upcoming Winter issue of Adirondack Guest Informer and give you the final installment of our list of featured books. My own historical novels are there, too, but since they are shown on the right side of this blog page, I've eliminated them from the following list.

The Winter issue will inform and entertain with stories by Glenn Pearsall ("How Did Wevertown Get Its Name?"), Anne White ("Murder on a Cold Winter Night"), Christine Auclair ("Exploring the Adirondacks on Snowshoes"), Miroslav Ivkovic (about a bigfoot sighting) and my own piece about maple sugaring ("Sweet Adirondack Spring"). Be sure to visit the magazine online, or, if you are traveling in the Adirondacks, ask your hotel for a copy.

If you still have gifts to purchase, here are our last suggestions for book purchases.

You Can’t Find a Rainbow in the House!
by Christine Auclair. Written to inspire children to become more aware of their outdoor world and the amazing gifts of beauty that nature offers. A blend of the author’s vivid photography along with her great-niece’s brilliant illustrations bring the pages to life! A portion of the proceeds from each sale benefit The Magic Foundation, a non-profit organization that assists children with rare diseases.
Available at

The Adirondacks that are the Other Half of Me, by Mary Amelia Paladin This book is humorous and heartwarming, yet not indulgent. The author writes about the Adirondacks as a place that provides the feeling of home, a place that brings forth an emotion that burrows deep within and never leaves. Anyone who lives in, loves, and visits the Adirondacks understands what that means. Available: local book/gift stores, , , special order @ Barnes & Noble stores nationwide, Borders (NE region) and
ISBN: 978-0-615-29279-3

The Adirondack Guest Informer feature "The North Country Bookstore" will continue in each issue of the magazine. If you have written a book about the Adirondacks, or set in the Adirondacks, and would like to see its cover gracing our pages, please contact me. And that, Gentle Reader, concludes this post, except that I invite you to see my books (yes, I know, crass commercialism) Adirondack Gold and Adirondack Gold II: A Summer of Strangers, at right.

From Authors at "Adirondack Guest Informer" - More Good Reads

I'm so excited about the response to the listing of the Adirondack Guest Informer authors and their books here in my most recent post (see "Good Reads for Christmas Giving.") These are the authors and books featured in the magazine's new feature, "The North Country Bookstore," which we call your way to "Take the Adirondacks home with you." The feature debuts in January. Here are some more titles to tantalize you.

Secrets Dark and Deep, by Anne White
“A lively puzzler. White’s best yet.” Julia Spencer-Fleming: All Mortal Flesh. In this fourth Lake George Mystery, young mayor Loren Graham stumbles on a terrible secret and is forced to confront her greatest fear.
Hilliard and Harris, 2007, Worldwide Mystery 2009
Available: Amazon or your favorite book source
ISBN 1-59133-198-6, 978-1-59133-198- 8

Nature Through the Seasons, by Nancy Wotton Scarzello. Are you interested in barred owls, birch trees and dragonflies? Wild mushrooms, hibernation, ice-out and bears? Discover nature in your own backyard with this collection of essays from the author’s experiences on Lake George and in surrounding fields and forest. Signed copies available: from the author ($13 includes shipping), or 101 Hall Rd., Ticonderoga, NY 12883

Adirondack Mouse and the Perilous Journey, by Irene Uttendorfsky. “Stuart Little meets The Lion and the Mouse in this new tale in which the smallest of heroes overcomes the biggest obstacles.” Liana Mahoney, Teacher and Author. 2006 Best Children’s Book, Adirondack Center for Writing. Young readers will cheer for Adirondack Mouse as they follow him on his Journey, a quest as beautiful and perilous as the Adirondack Mountains themselves. ,
Spruce Gulch Press, 2006
Distributed by North Country Books
Available, local bookstores
ISBN 0-9625714-4-x

Watch my next post for the remaining books featured in the Winter issue of Adirondack Guest Informer.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Good Reads for Christmas Giving

If you check on this blog from time to time (bless you if you do!), you know that there are frequent and extended dry spells between posts. You also know that I always have an excuse. Why should this time be any different?

I've been busy with a new project, collaborating with the publisher of Adirondack Guest Informer to beef up the content of his travel magazine. He conceived the notion of creating a new feature called "North Country Bookstore," a page about books set in the Adirondacks. Each of the authors whose works are featured there will write one or more articles for the magazine over the course of the year, adding a new dimension to the publication.

My part of the magazine's growth has been to recruit authors, schedule and edit the articles they will write, and write a little myself. I knew it would be fun, but, even so, I hadn't realized what a wonderful group of people I would meet and come to know in the course of the project--Miroslav Ivkovic, the publisher, and his wife Maria, Nicole Oddy, the designer, Christine Auclair, a new staff writer, and all of the other authors. The books they have written include picture books, history, mystery, nature/environment, memoir and historical fiction. There are books you may want to buy for gifts for others, and some you'll covet for your own snuggle-by-the-fire winter reading. Beginning with this post I'll post information about these books, complete with details about how to acquire them in time for the holiday. Here's the first installment.

Echoes in These Mountains by Glenn L. Pearsall
Recipient of a “Letter of Commendation” by the 35 county Upstate History Alliance, this critically-acclaimed book tells the history of the Adirondacks through an entertaining exploration of 55 historic sites in a small Adirondack town. $23 includes sales tax and postage: Johnsburg Historical Society, PO Box 144, Wevertown, NY 12886

The Diary of a Northern Moon, by Gloria Waldron Hukle. Two friends return to the Adirondacks after World War II. One dies. The other prospers, but for decades carries a secret about his dead friend. A Lake George murder forces confession. Set in North Creek, Lake George and Albany, N.Y. Available: Hoss’s Country Corner, Long Lake, NY, ,, or Toll Free l-888-280-77l5.

Threads - An American Tapestry, by Gloria Waldron Hukle. An l8th century wealthy Native American woman of mixed blood searches for her missing African American slave amidst prejudicial hatred. Available: Hoss’s Country Corner, Long Lake, NY, ,, or Toll Free l-888-280-77l5.

I'll list more from our North Country Bookshelf in a couple of days, so check back. And don't forget to check out Adirondack Guest Informer in January to catch the new author page all of the great articles. Content will change quarterly, so bookmark the site.

A Summer with Charlie, by Richard Edward Noble

In my role as a reviewer for, I recently reviewed Richard Noble's book A Summer with Charlie, which, as he tells it, is fiction, or very creative nonfiction. Whatever. I read it and found it funny and poignant and...well, here's the review:

A Summer with Charlie
By Richard Edward Noble

What do you have when you take a bunch of guys in their late teens and early twenties in the early 1960s, who pride themselves on just “hanging out” on whatever corner they aren’t chased off of in Lawrence, Massachusetts, the hometown of Richard Edward Noble? You’ve got a colorful slice of poor New England mill town Americana—the banter and blue collars, slang and girl-watching, cop-taunting, delis and diners. You have a nostalgic memoir.

Daub onto this palette a splash of craziness, as the gang – sometimes upward of twenty guys—rents a beachside cottage for the summer, with loud parties, lobster bakes, and beer, kitchen sink “fruit punch” and a back porch toilet, something akin to “Animal House.” Then you have a nostalgic, humorous memoir.

Now add in Charlie, an older pal just returned from service in the Navy. Charlie, the boys learn, has come home to die, thanks to extreme radiation exposure. Can you figure out how this affects the story? Neither could the gang. They just kept on keeping on. They pulled Charlie into the fold – the parties, the wild raunchiness, the disrespect, the laughter and crazy fun. The memoir became “A Summer with Charlie,” a nostalgic, humorous and deeply moving story of growing up.

Charlie, in his sweet, innocent way, confided to the guys that he didn’t know how to die. But during the summer he spent at the cottage with them, he showed that he knew, not only how to die, and to do so with grace and courage, but also how to live. He quietly enriched the lives of the boys who shared that time with him and taught them lessons about life and death never to be forgotten.

Noble’s writing is fresh and true. His characters and their dialogue are alive with reality. He resists the temptation to pretty things up, to trim away the ugly parts, and in so doing, creates an unforgettable story about the innocence of youth, about growing up, and about death. The author promises, “A Summer with Charlie will make you laugh. A Summer with Charlie will make you cry.” It does all of that. Moreover, A Summer with Charlie will make you remember. And think.

Fiction by Richard Edward Noble
Noble Publishing
ISBN 978-0-9798085-6-2

Other works by Richard Edward Noble include:
Hobo-ing America
Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother
The Eastpointer
A Little Something
Noble Notes on Famous Folks

Persis Granger, a reviewer for Book

Friday, November 6, 2009

St. George Island Writers' Retreat ~ Full House

I'm overwhelmed, and happily so. The four-day St. George Island Writers' Retreat, for the first time in its history, is filled to capacity. Ten writers will drop their everyday lives, put other cares and concerns on hold and spend four full days honing writing skills, exploring ways of putting stories on pages, asking questions and offering support.

Of varying ages and locations, these writers have traveled many different paths to this retreat--news writing, music ministry, teaching, nursing, to name a few. Their writing backgrounds differ. Some will carry published books under their arms and others will tote manuscripts nearly ready to query. Still others will offer up their first tentative pages. No matter; the retreat is a great leveler. Each has a need to be there--for the training, for the time, for the emotional support, the camaraderie--for all the essentials of transforming words into art. Every participant comes with goals, striving to improve. Every writer wants time to run material past our mentor, Adrian Fogelin, for constructive feedback.

November 12th is fast approaching, and I feel like a kid waiting for the first day of school. First comes the Apalachicola Writers' Workshop Day and Authors' Night, a chance to dust off our skills and become energized. There is still room for a few more participants in this off-site workshop day. Then we'll settle into our routine of morning workshops, feedback sessions and blocks of writing time--occasionally broken up by a brisk walk on the beach.

I just can't wait.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Opportunity Knocks - St. George Island Writers' Retreat

Who says opportunity knocks but once?

Every day dishes up opportunities--to hone old skills, acquire new ones, meet people, make friends, sail uncharted waters, soak up scenery. The person who closes up shop after one knock misses a lot.

So much for philosophy. As you might have guessed, I'm shouting from the rooftop about one of my favorite things in the world - The St. George Island (FL) Writers' Retreat with Adrian Fogelin, and the Apalachicola Writers' Workshop Day that kicks it off. This event runs November 12th through the 15th. Here are the details.

November 12 - The Apalachicola Writers’ Workshop Day (three workshops and lunch at historic Trinity Episcopal Church, on-your-own supper in Apalachicola, and a free evening program of short readings and signings at Downtown Books--Adrian Fogelin, Susan Womble, Dawn Evans Radford, Richard Edward Noble, Mary Lois Sanders, Wandat T. Goodwin, and me. A special highlight of the evening will be the official launch of "A Bridge to France," a memoir written by Joan Burnett Harrell. This book has just been edited and published by her daughters with support of Joan's friends from the St. George Island Writers' Retreat, where she had done some of the writing and revising of the work before her untimely death this spring.

This Workshop Day is included as part of this year's retreat, but also is open to writers who may not be able to attend the entire retreat. Workshops are taught by award-winning novelist Adrian Fogelin, regional author Dawn Evans Radford, and editor par excellence, Mary Lois Sanders.

November 12 through 15 - The St. George Island Writers' Retreat
, held at the Buccaneer Inn. Adrian Fogelin will present one workshop each day, and the rest of the time is devoted to writing, reading for feedback, and consulting one-on-one with Adrian. There's always a little time to sit on the deck or kick off your shoes and take a hike down the beach, picking up a few of the shells that decorate the glittering sand.

Participation at the retreat is limited to ten writers, both men and women. The experience is powerful and motivating, designed to un-stick a stuck writer with a work of memoir or fiction in progress, or jumpstart one trying to begin. Two participants of past retreats have mustered the strength to push works through to completion, and another writer, who has attended three years and has signed up again this year, is well on her way. Three openings remain as of this writing.

If you have been nursing the idea of trying to do some serious writing and have passed up chances to start, this is opportunity knocking.


You can check out details (and register) on my web site,, or pick up the phone and call me. It's 352-463-3089.

Talk soon.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fall - In Love with the Adirondacks

Fall is no wishy-washy affair in the Adirondacks. There’s no seamless progression from summer to winter here. The seasons change with an explosion of reds, golds, yellows and oranges, with the crunch of tinder-dry leaves underfoot, with a crackle and snap of freezing nights that whisper of winter to come and sing sad songs of summer past. Activities and ambiance evolve with the seasons. Canada geese trumpet the change in their southward journeys, settling down here or there to glean a cornfield before continuing on. Residents lay in firewood, and the sharp smell of wood smoke scents the air. Cold cellaring, canning, freezing or pickling prepares beets, carrots, potatoes, squash and pumpkins for winter storage. Lush garden plots fall fallow.
Between the time that everyone wonders, “Where did the summer go?” and the time they start to ask “Do you think it’s going to be a hard winter?” the Adirondackers experience autumn. The hustle and bustle in little villages abates, and one neighbor can spot another at the far end of a grocery store aisle. “How did your garden do?” one will call. Responses vary, depending on that year’s growing season, but the conversation often ends with, “I thought frost would never come!”
Fall is a time for biking, for hiking mountain trails, for parking at scenic overlooks along Adirondack highways to capture foliage and wildlife on cameras. Here in Thurman it’s a season for wandering through the Thurman Station Farmers’ market to look for fall veggies, tasty baked goods, maple products and hand-crafted gift items.
And then there are fall’s special events. On October 10th visit Nettle Meadow Goat Farm’s Open House from noon to four p.m. There will be activities for kids, live music, farm tours and cheese dish tasting for all. That same weekend, both Saturday and Sunday, Thurman hosts its second annual Fall Farm Tour, running from 10 to 4 each day. Valley Road Maple Farm opens early (9 a.m.) to begin dishing up pancakes, and Whitefield’s Farm will stay open late (6 p.m.)
The Adirondack scene changes as the sun recedes to the South, but this mountainous region offers no less—and perhaps offers more—in the fall. The pace of each day is slower, the air is fresher, and biting insects are all but nonexistent. Crowds seldom jostle us, and we have more time to share with neighbors. All savor the last few rays of strong sunshine, knowing that winter soon will blanket the land, a time to hunker down by the fire and savor memories of the seasons past.

(Thanks to Miroslav Ivkovic, publisher of Adirondack Guest Informer, for allowing me to adapt and use here the article submitted to him for the fall edition of his magazine. – Perky)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I Remember

Writers and teachers of writing are divided in their opinion about use of writing prompts. Some like them, and some do not.

I do.

At the recent Adirondack Mountain Retreat, Irene Sherlock invited us to read a brief piece about remembering and then to write a bit on the subject of our own memories. I had said in an earlier conversation that I don't have a lot of memories, but, amazingly, a piece of writing appeared on my computer screen that seemed like the beginning of a memoir I had never intended to write, something that was better than I had thought I could write, on that topic, anyway.

Where do those words come from? What vein do writing prompts tap into that yields such rich ore? Yes, I like prompts; I may have to make up my own as I go prospecting for new material.

And yes, I do remember. I remember more than I thought.

This week my head is full of memories of the retreat and of the people who made the hours dance and the days sing. The camaraderie, the laughter, the tears--we shared so much, and virtual strangers at that. The instruction and gentle nudging from Irene as we tried our wings on new projects strengthened us and moved our work forward. It was a wonderful four days.

I remember, and I smile.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Adirondack Mountain Writers' Retreat - Time to turn off my monkey brain

The Adirondack Mountain Writers' Retreat, a break I've anticipated with immense pleasure, begins on Thursday. I'll have four days to visit with writers, soak up seminars and apply new techniques to the stalled old novel atrophying in my computer. It will be a joy to immerse myself in writing after the craziness of this summer. Tonight I should play with the neglected novel to warm up for the retreat and remind myself of the issues I'd like to address in my blocks of writing time.

But every time I start to pull up the file, my mind leaps to another topic, some must-do task that I convince myself should take priority. Frustration sends my mind racing to other times and places.

I remember running into Margaret, an old family friend, at a cocktail party. I hadn't seen her in decades, during which time I had attended college, married, held jobs and had children. For her the time had stood still. Just as I'd always known her, at age 92 she still sported closely cropped pure white hair, thick glasses, a ready smile that flashed over a slight overbite, and a spunky, irreverent attitude.

We exchanged pleasantries and chatted over canapes, and somehow the subject of yoga arose. "Meditation!" she snorted. "I don't have time for it. If I tried to sit still and meditate, I'd be mentally making lists: Prune the roses; weed the flower beds; pinch the suckers off the tomatoes; remember to buy milk--or some darned thing!" She gave a hearty laugh and I joined her, knowing that her self-description fit me perfectly, too. No meditation for either of us. Too busy.

Years later when I attended an Alzheimer's support group meeting, a yoga instructor invited attendees to try some relaxation techniques with her and to meditate. Uh-oh! There it was again. A voice in my head announced that this would be a useless endeavor, as my mind was busily engaged in rehashing a conversation I'd had earlier, rehearsing a talk I was to present later, assessing the group in attendance, wondering if I had dressed appropriately, thinking about finding my way out of the city after the program. The instructor's calm voice worked its way through my internal chatter. "Turn off your monkey brain."

Monkey brain? Wow, another perfect description of me--or of my fragmented attention, at least. Monkey brain--that compulsion to overwhelm myself with projects and concern myself about every detail, attacking the work with the precision of a scatter gun. That penchant for "multitasking" that I convince myself is so efficient, is just my old counterproductive friend, the monkey brain.

Somehow, at the instructor's urging, I suspended my disbelief in the power to change. I did it. I was amazed to discover that I could disengage from all that busy-ness, still the chatter and let the tension slip from my body. I remember well how refreshed I felt then, and how powerful.

This week it is time to experience the feeling again. I will enjoy the opportunity of the moment and focus on soaking up all that the retreat can offer to me as a writer. I believe I have a choice, and I choose to turn off my monkey brain. There will be time to handle all those nit-picky details next week--if the monkey persists in swinging into my tree.

Learn more about the Adirondack Mountain Writers' Retreat at There's room for two more participants.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sharing a Writer's Good News - Charlotte Cowan Honored by White House

I love good news. And when the good news is that a writer's work has earned him or her honor, it's GREAT news. Some of you know that for the past few months I've been a reviewer for Through my review writing I've enjoyed the books of author Charlotte Cowan, whose "Dr. Hippo" series of picture books were written to help young children and their parents understand the effects of common ailments and how to treat them. Dr. Cowan just sent me the wonderful press release below, and I wanted to share it on this blog. Isn't this great? Learn more about (or order) Charlotte Cowan's books at or on her own web site.


Selected as one of the Nation’s Leading “Social Innovators” for Healthcare Education; Receives Prestigious Recognition by President Obama at the White House

CONCORD, Mass. – July 01, 2009 – Dr. Charlotte Cowan, creator and author of the Dr. Hippo Series of Children’s Books, has been selected by the Obama Administration as one of the leading social innovators in the country. In an exclusive reception at the White House this week, Dr. Cowan was recognized by President Obama and members of his recently-formed White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation.

Dr. Cowan was chosen by the Obama administration for her five award-winning, creative children’s books aimed at educating parents and children about ubiquitous illnesses, decreasing family anxiety and reducing unnecessary and expensive reliance on doctor offices and emergency rooms. After training and practicing pediatrics for many years at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, Dr. Cowan formed the Hippocratic Press in 2004 to focus creatively on those illnesses that affect tens of millions of American families and cost billions of healthcare dollars.

During the reception, President Obama commented: “There’s only so much that Washington can do. Government can reform our health care system, but we need innovative approaches to help people manage their illnesses and lead healthier lives. Ultimately, the best solutions don't come from the top-down, not from Washington; they come from the bottom-up in each and everyone one of our communities. Today, I want to recognize that pioneering spirit and thank you for the contributions that you're making to our communities.”

Dr. Cowan’s books turn time-honored Hippocrates into a kindly pediatrician and protagonist in her Dr. Hippo Series of children’s picture books. Each of Dr. Cowan’s books, The Little Elephant with the Big Earache, Peeper Has a Fever, Katie Caught a Cold, Sadie’s Sore Throat, and The Moose with Loose Poops, contains its own, separate Parent Guide. The Parent Guide answers common questions such as: “How can I help my child to feel better at home?” “When should I call the doctor?” and “When may my child go back to school?” Inherently entertaining and comforting, Dr. Cowan’s picture books educate both parent and child through repeated readings thereby empowering families to stay at home, to give their children excellent care, and to call appropriately for medical advice or visits.

“I am greatly honored to be recognized by the Obama Administration’s Office of Social Innovation. I hope that today’s recognition accelerates my goal of using children’s stories, the Dr. Hippo Series, to get health education out of the pediatric office and into the hands of American families, thereby increasing the accessibility and affordability of excellent health care across America,” said Charlotte Cowan, M.D.

The illnesses Dr. Cowan has chosen for her first series of stories are those that affect and infect children everywhere. Facts about these illnesses—responsible for the vast majority of pediatric sick visits nationally—are below. (Their references are at Dr. Cowan’s website: .)
• Ear infections are responsible for 30 million office visits and more than 10 million antibiotic prescriptions annually.
• American children have 6-10 colds each year. These cause over 22 million lost days of school annually. Antibiotics are prescribed for 47% of upper respiratory infections -- i.e. the common cold, despite their lack of effectiveness treating cold-related viral infections.
• Fever is the most common complaint of children seen in the Pediatric Emergency Department.
• Approximately 7.3 million outpatient visits attributable to sore throat occur yearly among children in the US, and group A streptococcus is responsible for 15%-36% of cases.
• Sore throats, caused by both virus and bacteria, have significant infectious and noninfectious complications. Group A streptococci, the most common cause of bacterial pharyngitis among children and adults, are the leading cause of acquired heart disease among children throughout the world.
• Acute gastroenteritis continues to be a common illness among infants and children worldwide. In the US, diarrhea accounts for more than 1.5 million outpatient visits, 200,000 hospitalizations and 300 deaths per year.
Dr. Cowan’s full color picture books feature child-friendly animal characters that entertain the reader, and combine empathy with education. In addition to making both children and their parents feel comforted and cared for as they face the inevitable illnesses of childhood, Dr. Cowan’s books also have an impact on child literacy.

“I hope that I am writing books that educate parents and children, reduce unnecessary healthcare costs, and encourage children to read. This is a tall order for a short story!” offers Cowan. “As parents read these books to children, they will begin to feel better. The creation of such warm associations with reading is the beginning of literacy. A child who is read to by a concerned parent, and who is reassured by that reading, will develop into someone who loves to read.”

Already found in the Departments of Public Health of ten states where The Little Elephant with the Big Earache has been used for Antibiotic Awareness Outreach Programs, Dr. Cowan’s books are available nationally in bookstores and on More information about the Dr. Hippo Series can be found at (Logo image by Elaine Garvin)


Media contact:
Sara Buda

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Getting Back on the Writing Horse ~ Whatever Works

I think most people who aspire to write hit those dead periods when the inspiration to create is nonexistent. (Have you noticed how long it has been since my last blog post?) So many things can squelch the urge to write--an unkind critique, family issues, work problems, general busy-ness, absence of the muse; you name it, we've all blamed one or all of these things.

More important than what causes us to stop writing is what it takes to get us going again. Serious writers need to keep going, and I have to remind myself - a lot - that it is easier than I think. The way to start writing after a dry spell (do I hear "Sahara?") is just that: to start writing. I pick up the laptop, carry it away from the phone line (which is how I still connect to the Internet) and go into a quiet room where there is not one shred of committee correspondence, not a single bit of material waiting to be written up for the historical society, no photos to scan, no calendar, no anything. I face a blank wall and start typing letters onto the screen. Despite my absolute conviction that it will do no good, that my brain is truly empty, the letters turn into words, words string themselves into sentences and sentences clump into paragraphs, starting to look like--something. Amazing. If I'm really lucky I'll see a word or a turn of phrase and think, "Hey--that's not half bad!" And then I'm off. An hour or two fly by, and I wonder where they went and why I have been moping around stewing instead of sitting down and doing. For me, that works.

Recently a friend, who had been bemoaning the fact that she hadn't been producing any new poetry, told me what worked for her. Another woman had made a remark--intended as a compliment--that got under my friend's skin. It irritated and burned and festered until she sat down and wrote about it, cranking out one fine poem. That was a solution for her.

I don't spend hours contemplating these things - that would be frittering away too much valuable time - but sometimes it's worth a few minutes to address the question of how to boot ourselves into writing mode again.

Well, looky here. A few paragraphs adorn my screen--not gems, but something, better than nothing. Thanks for bearing with me. If you have a favorite method of jump-starting your writing, please share it in a comment below.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thurman Station Farmers' Market - A Plan Comes Together

I can still see it in my mind's eye now, that impish grin growing on George Peppard's face as he clamped a cigar between his teeth, lit the end, looked around at his team of military misfits and said, "I love it when a plan comes together."

No cigar here, but I know that feeling. There's a special sense of completeness, of wholeness, when a plan is crafted and all its details are executed. That is most apt to happen, as it did with clock-like predictability each week for Peppard, when a team goes into action, each member taking responsibility for some aspect of the project and seeing it through.

It has been my privilege to be part of a team like that--the Thurman Station Farmers' Market committee. This gang, pulled together in late June, has been amazing, and it looks as though our very ambitious plan to open a farmers' market at the historic site of Thurman Station in the small town of Thurman, NY, will come to fruition on August 12. Organized under the umbrella of the Thurman Station Association, this group owes much to the cooperation of the Warren County Department of Parks, Recreation & Railroad, the Town of Thurman and the Upper Hudson River Railroad. There has been enthusiastic response from vendors, and we expect a dozen or more to offer such goods as produce, crafts and antiques. All that remains, after the final paperwork is approved, is to share the excitement with the public when they come to shop at Thurman Station Farmers' Market.

The plan is coming together!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

"Coifed to Cook" - A must-follow newbie on the blog scene

It's always fun to share good news about good people, and alerting you to the new blog just begun by writer Irene Sherlock and her friend Gina Weckle brightens my day. Gina and Irene have been working on an innovative book that will amuse you, intrigue you, entice you down memory lane and make you salivate. Irene once described the book as--let's see if I can get this right: "part cookbook, part ethnographic retrospective."

Tell me you aren't intrigued! Tell me you aren't dying for the book to come out! Fortunately for us, Gina and Irene have begun a blog to sustain us while we wait for the birth of "Coifed to Cook: How She Wore Her Hair While Roasting Artichokes." Hair? Did I forget to mention that these creative women both have a longtime history as hairstylists? Now you are really curious. How do hairstyles figure into this work? How does one create a book that wraps up your recollections of Donna Reed, Chubby Checker, mom's mac and cheese and that bouffant you flaunted in ninth grade?

You're just going to have to visit Gina and Irene's new blog, "Coifed to Cook." I guarantee you will enjoy the trip--and after you've finished chuckling, you might find yourself roasting artichokes.

Oh--leave a comment, won't you, to let these authors know you stopped by? Just click the little link that lists the number of comments, and a new window will open for you to submit your remarks. Pass the link on to your food- and fashion-conscious friends, and be sure to try one of the recipes and let Irene and Gina know how it turns out!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Poets & Writers, Inc., Supports Adirondack Mountain Writers' Retreat

It is with great pleasure and no small amount of pride that I share with you news received today from Poets & Writers, Inc. For the third year this great organization will grant funds for the Adirondack Mountain Writers' Retreat, supporting for the second time Irene Sherlock's workshop presentation. Those of you who know Irene will not be surprised. Her credentials are outstanding:

Irene Sherlock is associate director of publications and design at Western Connecticut State University and an adjunct lecturer in the Writing department where she teaches undergraduate and graduate writing classes. She holds an M.A. in English from WCSU, an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Goddard College and an M.S. in Marriage and Family Therapy from Southern Connecticut State University. Her poems, essays and short stories have been published in Amaranth, Calyx, Chautauqua Literary Journal, Cloven Sphere, Cream City Review, Connecticut Review, Fairfield Review, Miranda Magazine, Poem-memoir-story, Poetry Motel, Primavera, Roux, Runes, Slipstream, Tar Wolf Review, The New York Times, White Pelican Review and in several anthologies, including “Single Woman of a Certain Age” (re-released by New World Library in May) and “Modern Love: 50 True and Extraordinary Tales of Desire, Deceit, and Devotion.” Her essays have aired on WSHU National Public Radio.

Irene Sherlock’s memoir workshop at last year's Adirondack Mountain Writers' Retreat was enthusiastically received by participants, one of whom wrote, “Irene created an environment that was firmly defined. Critiquing was honest, direct and heartfelt, but always offered with kindness and respect.” I can't wait for our session August 20 - 23, 2009. About half the participant slots have been filled, and already it promises to be an engaging and stimulating group. I need a little jump-start for my novel in progress, and this is guaranteed to do the trick. Check the website if it sounds good for Email me from the site if you have questions.

Meanwhile, thanks to Poets & Writers, Inc, for the partial funding from The New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency, to help make this workshop available this summer.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Correction re Adirondack Mountain Writers' Retreat

This is a quick note to let you know that, upon further discussion with writer friends, I have decided not to add to the Adirondack Mountain Writers' Retreat a public reading at Willows Bistro. It really complicates many things at the retreat. So the announcement in my June 14th post that there would be an August 22nd reading at Willows is now incorrect.

Do know, though, that our second Thursday readings will continue as planned. Writers who would like to be readers for our future readings should stop in at Willows Bistro and ask Debbie to add their names (and contact information) to the list. Reading times will need to be kept short so the program does not last overly long and so several will have a chance to share their works. Once you've signed up, we can fill you in on the details. The list is set up in advance of the date so the readers' names and selections can be publicized. Don't be shy; stop in to sign up. (You know you want a cup of that coffee, maybe a wrap to go with it....)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Wind in the Willows

Okay -- it wasn't "wind," it was reading, and good reading at that. Seven local writers laid it all on the line and read from their works (many were works in progress, not finished, published pieces) at Willows Bistro on Thursday evening.

We all were so gratified to find ourselves speaking to a full house! The audience was warm and friendly, clearly in tune with the readers, laughing in the right places, silent in the right places. It was a wonderful experience for us as writers reading our raw works and, in a manner of speaking, baring our souls.

Debbie Swan was wonderful, rearranging her furniture, dishing up scrumptious desserts and brewing bottomless carafes of rich coffee. Her adorable grandson (don't tell him I said that) served and bussed tables like a pro. If you missed us on Thursday evening, you'll have a second chance, and a third and more. Debbie has invited us to join her each month on the second Thursday. There will be openings for other writers, as well, and some have already signed up. Do forward this blog to those who might like to participate, either as readers or listeners.

In addition to the regular second Thursday readings, mark your calendars to attend a special August 22nd evening of readings presented by participants in the 2009 Adirondack Mountain Writers' Retreat, led by poet/writer/teacher Irene Sherlock. I'll remind you.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Writers to Read at Willows Bistro, Warrensburg, NY

Tomorrow, June 11th, marks the occasion of the first "Readings at Willows Bistro," an evening that promises to be fun for all. Eight local writers will be on tap to share bits of their work, which, when you think about it, is kind of a leap of faith. Reading aloud from your personal writings to a group of mostly strangers is a bit like standing naked in public (not that I've ever done that, you understand). The core of this group is comprised of members of a small writers' group formed last fall after the 2008 Adirondack Mountain Writers' Retreat. Since then we've picked up a few others who thought the readings would be fun and challenging.

Willows Bistro proprietor Debbie Swan graciously offered to host our group in her funky place at 3749 Main Street in Warrensburg, and to make her delicious coffees and desserts available. Those visiting for the first time will be charmed by the hand-painted furniture, the old store-front feeling and the rotating exhibits on the walls. This month Debbie is featuring the photography of John Parker, who shoots high resolution panoramic photos. His Adirondack scenes are breathtaking. John will be on hand tomorrow evening to answer questions about his work, so we will have a full lineup. Those presenting short readings will be David J. Pitkin, Barbara Edwards, Diane Golden, Carla Palmirotto, RayLene Corgiat, Pat Leonard, and Doug Deneen. And me. The content of the readings include fiction, memoir and poetry, so it will be a varied program. We've already learned of some writers who would like to sign up for "next time." We'll let you know when that is going to happen. If you are in the Warrensburg area and want a great place to relax and enjoy a little homegrown literature in a charming ambiance, stop in at Willows Bistro tomorrow evening. Be there or be square!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Meeting "Sassy Pat"

A little less than a year ago, I became acquainted with Pat Richards. While visiting in the Adirondacks, she had read an article about the Adirondack Mountain Writers' Retreat, and emailed to congratulate me on having been awarded a 2008 Poets and Writers grant to help fund it. We exchanged more emails and struck up a friendship as we talked about our respective writing projects. She was on the brink of debuting her memoir, "Sassy Pat Knitting" at Autumn Leaves Book Fair, hosted by "The Chronicle" in Glens Falls. I was unable to attend the book fair, and missed meeting Pat, but we continued to correspond. I learned that her book had been inspired by none other than her mother-in-law, Thurman native M. Frances Ingraham Richards, who, like Pat, was an avid knitter, and who disciplined herself to faithfully journal about her knitting. Pat offered to read from that journal at a meeting of the John Thurman Historical Society, and a plan was made for her to do that on June 2nd. That's this coming Tuesday! I'll finally get to meet my friend, and I know that all who attend will enjoy hearing bits of Frances' journal. I hope we'll get Pat to read from her own writing, "Sassy Pat Knitting," as well.

See you soon, Pat!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Joan Burnette Harrell - A light that continues to shine

Sometimes you meet someone and feel an immediate affinity. There's a warmth, a sparkle, a feeling of shared interests and values that slides that person into your circle of favorites as deftly as a shoehorn easing a heel into an oxford.

That's the way I felt the first time I met Joan Harrell, with her soft Georgia accent, telling stories about growing up dirt poor in rural Georgia. She told me about her mother, a World War I war bride from France who left her home country to live with her husband's kin on a Georgia hill farm where she was seen as an odd foreigner, unable to speak the language.

Joan was writing a memoir, telling of that brave French mother, of a hardworking farmer father, of struggling to survive in hard times. The book would continue with Joan's own life story--marriage at age fifteen and divorce after three children, of living alone and struggling to feed those three mouths. She told of falling in love again, but still with financial burdens impeding. Love found a way, and in 1950, Joe, the man of her dreams, came to her door and said simply, "Hello, Beautiful."

Their marriage was to last over fifty years and produce four more children. Happiness, heartbreak and hard times ensued, but Joan shone through it all. After her children were grown and settled and her husband had died, she searched for something new to help fill her life. She decided to dedicate herself to turning years of journals and dreaming about writing into the creation of a book.

That's how we met--at a writers' retreat, where she was polishing her fascinating tale. Her stories told of sitting on the back porch of the family farm, listening to her mother's stories about France, of her mother's yearning remark, "I wish I could build a bridge to France." That became the inspiration for Joan's title - "A Bridge to France."

At the end of the retreat, Joan said, "I'll be back next year, if the good Lord's willing." We all laughed.

We weren't laughing this spring when we learned that Joan had been diagnosed with an aggressive, terminal brain tumor. She chose to fill her final weeks, not with medical appointments, chemotherapy and radiation, but with short trips with her adult children, visits with friends and grand- and great-grandkids, laughing about old times and poring over family photo albums.

Three friends from the retreat volunteered to try to get the book into print before Joan died, so she could realize her lifelong dream of publication. Her daughters emailed us the manuscript and we edited and proofed and swapped ideas back and forth with huge help from the daughters. Before Joan died she was able to hold a formatted manuscript in her hands and hear the final two chapters read aloud by her children. She knew, finally, that her book would be finished. Perhaps more important, she knew that her children would share in her project and take it to completion.

This sad story has unparalleled beauty. I felt honored to have been a part of Joan's heroic journey, supported by her children. I was so touched by the care and love they showed her.

Joan was a beautiful light in this world for all her years, and in my life for just over two and a half years. In my mind I still hear her melodious voice relating tales, and I feel transported to that back porch. I laugh when I remember her bringing field peas to the St. George Island Writers' Retreat last fall, and my reluctance at having to admit that, Yankee that I am, I'd never tasted them and didn't know how to cook them. That was okay, I quickly understood. Joan had taken joy in picking and freezing them the previous summer and would gladly prepare them for the group. Mmmmmm. They were SO good. I loved sharing time, stories and field peas with her.

I think about her life, from which she exited so graciously. I think about her remark, "I'll be back next year, if the good Lord's willing." And I wonder about what her life has become. Is Joe there? Perhaps he'll say, once again, "Hello, Beautiful." It seems only fair.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Thurman Townwide Sale - Recycling at Its Best

Today marked the start of the long-awaited Thurman Townwide Sale, an annual opportunity for Thurman folks to empty out attics, basements and barns, and for shoppers to find a lot of great deals on things they want or need. Many volunteers pulled together to make this event come together, and now the preparations are complete.

I had agreed to help out a sick friend at her yard sale, and at the last minute decided to set out a few of my own things as well. Hooray! Tonight there are half a dozen things that won't be cluttering up my barn any more, as well as one of my novels that is on it's way to someone's bookshelf. That feels great.

Better than that, though, is the fun of having shoppers come around, stopping to visit, exchange banter and share history. We had a really enjoyable day today, and I look forward to getting back out there again tomorrow and Sunday, and perhaps snapping a few pictures to help me remember the weekend. Maybe you can come, too. Check it out at We're just north and west of Lake George Village.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Keeping an Eye on the Star

In the midst of the small-town bustle that is life in our mountain town of Thurman, I sometimes have to stop, take a deep breath and reorient myself. The busy-ness can be all-consuming, and, like a hiker forging a path through woods and around lakes, swamps and mountains, I have to stop and let my eyes linger on the bright stars that define the route to the desired end point.

One of the gleaming beacons was has always been my interactions with other writers, that shared energy I get from reading with them, discussing (and/or commiserating with them about) plot problems, voice, point of view and so on. This past Thursday was a wonderful day to get my bearings, as I met with a small writers' group that has been congregating around the southern Adirondacks for the past few months. Thanks for helping to point the way, friends!

Another bright spot this summer will be the Adirondack Mountain Writers' Retreat that I host in late August, when Irene Sherlock will lead a small group of writers in a four-day workshop at Beaver Meadow Lodge. I love the retreats--the energy they generate and the renewed focus I feel. Today seemed an appropriate time to mention it here, as one retreat registration is now being auctioned off at The price is very attractive this morning - $145. One day and fifteen hours remain before the end of the auction. If you are interested, it looks as though placing the winning bid could save you a good deal of money, but you shouldn't delay much longer. See details of the retreat at my site,, and see auction details at:

This chilly Adirondack morning I wish all my writer friends the chance to think about that which will renew their focus, refresh their energy and send them back on the trail toward their respective goals. I'll be sitting quietly by the woodstove with my laptop, doing just that. And perhaps I'll write, too....


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Back in the Adirondacks - Getting Settled in

We arrived in the North Country on Sunday, under Thurman's sunshiny blue skies. By Monday I was already knee-deep in small town fun, although still surrounded by unpacked totes, bags and boxes. There is so much to do, and I feel as though I'm slogging around in circles in quicksand. Slowly, slowly there is progress.

And there are bright spots! One of the best sparkled during a discussion with another writer on that perennial topic of squelching the inner critic when we write. I had just had several conversations with Robin, a Gainesville writer, on that very topic, as we commiserated about how tempting it is to polish every new sentence, fix every comma...and then loop back and rewrite the whole paragraph. Perish the thought that someone might see our typos and think we are illiterate!

We know there is much to be gained by resisting that editing impulse and just forging ahead with the story -- "vomiting words onto the page," as friend Shari calls it. (Shari is really good that way.)

So when e-acquaintance Jen said that she had found a neat solution to the first draft self-conscious nitpickiness I can be so guilty of, my ears shot up. She shared a trick that her friend Laurie had learned from SARK, author of "Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper: Gifting the World with Your Words and Stories, and Creating the Time and Energy to Actually Do It." SARK says to give your internal editor a job, to keep her busy so she'll leave you alone to create.

Here's how Jen describes her way of utilizing the idea:
Have given my inner critic a job (per advice from another literary friend). Have sent her to count calories so that she is too busy to jam me up! It is pretty funny to visualize her with calculator in hand, donning an old-fashioned draftsman's green visor, working furiously at tracking the calories and reporting them on a yellow legal pad.

I'm still grinning over that one. I love the image, and I love the sharing among members of the writing community. I owe so much to so many.

Maybe tomorrow I'll find the top of my desk.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Adirondack Mountain Writers' Retreat Opportunity

The Adirondack Mountain Writers' Retreat is coming up, and I have good news for writers looking for a way to save money on the registration fee. One commuter registration to this summer's retreat will be auctioned off in the WMHT public TV spring fundraiser. Bidding opens April 21st and ends May 5th. Log on to, get registered to bid, and try your luck. You might just get a great deal and benefit a good cause at the same time.

If you are not the successful bidder, remember that other discounts are available - the Friends' Discount (for two signing up together), the coupon discount for returning Beaver Meadow or St. George Island Retreat attendees, or, new this year, the coupon to be found with my retreat ad at I hope all who wish to sign up will find a way to make attendance affordable. Because attendance is limited to ten writers, those seriously interested should inquire soon.

The retreat, August 20 - 23, will again be held at rustic Beaver Meadow Lodge in Thurman, with the gifted and intuitive writer Irene Sherlock, who knocked our socks off last summer. This year we offer a four-day creative writing workshop (fiction, memoir, personal essay) and invite writers to bring a work in progress to share in readings and critique groups, and for private consultation with Irene. Find details and registration forms on, and, as always, don't hesitate to email or phone (518-623-9305 after April 19) with questions. It will be wonderful to hear from you--or anyone with whom you care to share this message.

Perky Granger

Friday, April 10, 2009

Adirondack Bound

I can count on one had the number of days left before we hop in the car, point it north and return to the Adirondacks. Between now and then there will be countless decisions to make: take this? Or leave it here? Finish this? Or hope I can remember to do it when I get home? Scrub this? Or assume it is clean enough until I get back again next fall? Decisions! I hate them. And packing--so stressful.

And when we get back, there are the inevitable "re-entry" problems -- getting re-accustomed to cold weather, heating with wood, possibly not being able to drive all the way to the house until snow is gone and moisture-laden soil has had a chance to dry. And then there will be all those things we can't find, and the inevitable question: did we pack that somewhere, or is it still back in Florida. Stress--oh, yes.

But there is, as you guessed, a big payoff. It has been way too long since we have had family time, and the littlest ones have grown so much. We can't wait to see them all. And then, there are those beautiful mountains and woodlands. Maybe I'll just click together the heels of my ruby slippers and get there faster.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

"Girl with a Pearl Earring" - That simplicity thing again

As far as I can tell, I'm the only person who didn't read Tracy Chevalier's "Girl with a Pearl Earring" years ago, when it hit the New York Times Bestseller List. I admit I'm not what you'd call "au courant." I probably didn't even spell it correctly. But I read the book recently (thanks, Astrid) and loved it. For anyone out there who might be even less "courant" than I am, this is the story of a fictitious sixteen-year-old Dutch girl who becomes a maid for the family of the Dutch artist Vermeer in the 1600s. The story is told by Griet, the girl, who is working to help support her family, impoverished due to an accident that caused the blindness of her father, a tile painter. I can't describe the plot better than the jacket blurb, which says this is a novel about "artistic vision and sensual awakening." Griet's narrative is powerful - not because of what it says, but because of what it does not say--what it enables our imaginations to provide. The passion that lies beneath the surface of this story ignites the plot.

If you've been following the ramblings of my blog, you know that this "simplicity thing" is something that I've been trying to get a handle on. Once again in this novel we see the power of simplicity in writing - the old "less is more" principle. I'm going to be scrutinizing my work, looking for ways to achieve simplicity. If you know of other published works that achieve this effect, please leave a comment.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Relaying News from the International Women's Writing Guild

An inspiring and interesting email popped into my in-box this afternoon, and I wanted to share it with you. The following press release was sent by Hannelore Hahn, founder of the International Women's Writing Guild, telling of the imminent release of a book that is a testimonial to friendship among writers. Additional information is supplied at the bottom, telling about the Guild's 57th Big Apple Conference, a wonderful event at which the book will be formally launched. Read on!

Six Writer-Friends Complete Book
for a Dying Author/Friend

When Elizabeth Aleshire was hospitalized after suffering a heart attack last summer, she fully expected to recover and complete her book, 101 Ways You Can Help: How To Offer Comfort and Support To Those Who Are Grieving. But that was not to be. A second heart attack dimmed the prospect of recovery, and Ms. Aleshire expired at the age of 59 with a third of her book unwritten.

While still in the hospital, Ms. Aleshire received daily visits from six writer-friends, all of whom had met over the years at the International Women's Writing Guild's annual “Remember the Magic” summer conference at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, where Ms. Aleshire had taught in each of the past 25 years.

When it became clear that Ms. Aleshire would not recover, the six writer-friends offered to complete her manuscript posthumously. Permission was granted by both the author and her publisher, Sourcebooks, and the team went into “emergency mode” to write the unwritten chapters in time to meet the book's publication deadline.

The book, 101 ways You Can Help: How To Offer Comfort And Support To Those Who Are Grieving, will be in bookstores by the end of April.

On Sunday, April 19, the six friends and co-authors—Kathy Barach, Marsha Browne, Zita Christian, Judy Huge, Paula Scardemalia and Anne Walradt—will tell the story of completing their friend and teacher's book as part of the International Women's Writing Guild's 57th Big Apple Conference's “Meet the Authors” Open House at the Scandinavia House, 58 Park Avenue (near 38th Street) in New York City.

The “Meet the Authors” Open House will be followed in the afternoon by a “Meet the Agents” Open House where writers have the opportunity to briefly discuss their work with literary agents.

“Many writers have found their agents at this event,” says Hannelore Hahn, the IWWG’s Executive Director who founded the nonprofit organization in 1976. “Actually, some 4,000 books have been published by IWWG members since we started more than 30 years ago.

“But publication has never been our only goal,” she adds. “That is why we always begin our twice-yearly Big Apple Conference weekends with a memoir-writing workshop. Writing from personal experience is immensely important for both the writer as a writer and the writer as a person.”

This year’s Big Apple Conference begins on Saturday, April 18, with Lisa Dale Norton's all-day writing workshop, “The Compassionate Memoir: Using the Process of Memoir to Change the World.”

For further information, please contact Hannelore Hahn at the IWWG’s New York City office by telephone (212-737-7536) or email (


Friday, March 20, 2009

Nettle Meadow Goat Farm is "Big Cheese" in National Media

Isn't it great when hard work and dedication pay off in well-deserved recognition?

I've just received word that Nettle Meadow Goat Farm in Thurman will be featured on The Food Network’s new series “Will Work For Food” on March 30th at 9:30pm EST and again on April 5th at 4:30pm EST. Food Network host Adam Gertler traveled from Los Angeles, California to spend the day with owners Lorraine Lambiase and Sheila Flanagan learning how to milk goats, pasteurize milk, and make Nettle Meadow’s trademarked cheese known as Kunik. You can read details and see a few farm pictures at

In the few years that Sheila and Lorraine have owned the farm they have substantially increased the herd size and cheese production and begun repairs on the historic old barn. They have poured a ton of labor and more than a little sweat into the operation, and it's great to see their efforts recognized. Their shop is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. so you can pick up their unique cheeses, and they also offer tours on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, but you must be there at noon or two p.m. Put that on your summer agenda as a trip to make with friends young and old, but in the meantime, be sure to check out "Will Work for Food."

Congratulations, Lorraine and Sheila!

Monday, March 16, 2009

P. in the Pod

I've been meaning to write about the first meeting of the novel pod I joined as part my membership in the Writers' Alliance of Gainesville. You may remember that I was nervous about that first session, held last Thursday.

I've been laughing ever since.

As our session began, each of the four members nervously fingered the marked-up copies of the other writers' chapters, wondering, I assume, as I was, how forthright to be about perceived weaknesses in the writing of these writers we didn't really know. The critique began a little tentatively, each of us tempering his/her remarks with qualifiers. "This is just my opinion, but..." or "Now you might have a reason for wanting this in there, but...."

During discussion of one writer's work, I ventured that the chapter got off to a slow start with what I felt was too much back story and too little sizzle. I was pleased to note that the other two critics were nodding their heads as I said it. Great! I must be making astute comments, I thought.

It was not until we got around to discussing my chapter that I realized why their nods had been so enthusiastic. Guess who else's work had the same starting gate flaw? They let me know - ever so politely - that I, too, had unloaded a ton of back story before I hooked the reader's attention!

They were right, of course. How had I missed that? I swear, I read my chapter critically - many times - before printing it out! Well, I have some re-writing to do on chapter one, and I need to take off my Pulitzer-colored glasses before I hammer out the next draft of chapter two.

But that's okay. That's why I joined the pod. See you Thursday, gang.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sometimes a Lamppost, Sometimes a Dog

I wrote some time ago that, through the Writer's Alliance of Gainesville, I would soon be participating in a small critique group, dubbed a "pod." Well, last week four of us met in what I hope will be just the first of many good sessions dedicated to fiction writing. We seemed compatible, which is great for a bunch of folks crazy enough to want to write who have never met before. That was hurdle one.

At that meeting we each gave the other members a copy of several pages of our respective works-in-progress, to be taken home and critiqued before this afternoon's meeting. Hurdle two.

Will they like what I wrote? If they don't, will they say so? And if they do say so, is that bad or good? There's something about putting your work in someone's hands and saying, "Critique me" that is akin to sticking out your chin and saying, "Gimme your best shot."

Well, wouldn't you know, right when these thoughts were swirling through my head, Glenn Pearsall just sent me the following quote:

"Asking a working writer what he thinks of critics is like asking a lamppost how it feels about dogs." (Attributed to Christopher Hampton, Academy Award-winning British playwright)

Perfect! Today I am a lamppost.

But now I have to ask myself another question: How will the other writers react to my critique of their works? Were my comments on the mark? Will they be regarded as helpful and constructive or negative and picky?

Either way, I'm not just a lamppost, I am also a dog.

I'll let you know how it goes, and what wisdom I glean from this experience.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Maple Fun on Tap in Thurman

Those of you who know me even a little bit are aware that I am an ardent cheerleader for the little Adirondack town where we live in spring, summer and fall. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I am able to stay connected and involved with community projects there all year long. Right now Thurman is gearing up for the annual maple events, when the town and visitors turn out to celebrate all things maple.

Thurman has quite a number of maple producers - those stalwart folks who admit to being addicted to sugaring. Many tap sugarbushes that were run by their fathers and grandfathers before them. Most primarily use plastic tubing, some with vacuum assist, to deliver the sap to the sugarhouse, and then a variety of equipment is employed to remove the extra sixty percent of water to make it syrup. There are wood- and oil-fired evaporators, SteamAways, and even reverse osmosis machines. There are bottling machines and candy making machines and equipment that makes delicious maple cream.

If you haven't had the chance to see these operations up close, March is the time. I understand the sap has started running, and a great season is anticipated. On March 14th several maple producers will welcome the public for Maple Weekends, and they will open their sugarhouses Saturdays and Sundays throughout the rest of March, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you just can't wait that long, head over to Valley Road Maple Farm, where Mike and Ralph start their breakfast at 9 a.m. They'll flip you some fluffy, hot pancakes with award-winning light amber syrup to drizzle over them. You'll see demonstrations and tours, and you can browse and buy maple goodies. There's no admission, and on certain days there will be special activities. On this first weekend, catch a live radio broadcast by Froggy 107.1. Each weekend Martin's Lumber will offer sawmill demonstrations, talk about sustainable forestry and show off their finest maple slabs and interesting stained glass stepping stones and paper bead earrings.

Saturday evening, March 14th, is the annual Maple Sugar Party, with live music, a buffet of home cooked food, and traditional jack wax (sugar on snow) for dessert. Hot maple syrup that has been cooked down is ladled over cold snow, forming a chewy confection not to be trifled with! Tickets for the dinner are $10 for adults, $5 for kids 6-11, and free for kids under six. Your support benefits the American Cancer Society, and charity never tasted so good.

I hope those of you within driving distance will pile into the car, pick up a neighbor and head for Thurman. It's a great way to celebrate spring. Details (and maps) can be found by clicking on links at or phoning 518-623-9718. Or email me,

Friday, February 27, 2009

Goodness Spacious!

Awhile back I mentioned that I would soon be reviewing a book by Stephanie Bennett Vogt called "Your Spacious Self: Clear Your Clutter and Discover Who You Are." After some serious procrastinating, I read the book. In my review, I explain the stalling:

Why had I agreed to review this thing? I just knew what the author was going to say. She was going to tell me I had to clean up my act and throw things away. My inner voices were already screaming, "No, no! I can't put my stuff away; I'm using it! Throw that away? No, no! I might need it sometime! Besides, I've had it since I was in sixth grade!"

I will fast forward tell you that I read the book, really liked it and reviewed it. It was as painless a treatment of the subject of de-cluttering as a clutterholic could wish for. Instead of feeling shamed and chastised by the book, I felt understood, nurtured and empowered. Vogt has a really interesting approach to this topic. If you'd like to read more, visit and find the complete review under the nonfiction listings.

This experience reminded me that I need to stay open to new ideas, fresh approaches to old problems, alternate possibilities for change in my attitudes. Right on the heels of these revelations came a note from my daughter, recommending an online article, which, as it turned out, was written in a similar vein. The article is called "The Power of 'Yes,'" written by a blogger "J.D." and can be found at Whether it be the power of saying "yes" or of visualizing positive outcomes, I do believe that when we adopt a positive attitude, we radiate it. And some of that radiance shines back into our lives.

Go for it!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Writer's Alliance of Gainesville Hosts Lola Haskins


I went to my first poetry reading when I was a teenager, a long time ago.

I went to my second on Sunday. (What was my hurry?)

The first one was a reading in Hudson, NY, given by Dorothy Stickney, who, as I recall, was a close friend of Edna St. Vincent Millay. She read from Millay's works, and the poem that has stuck in my mind since that night lent its name to the evening's performance, "A Lovely Light."

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends--
It gives a lovely light!

Sometimes I feel as though I've adopted that philosophy in my own life. So surely I wasn't scarred by my first poetry reading.

It amazed me on Sunday to realize that my life has flown by without further exposure to performed poetry. Lola Haskins was wonderful, both in her recitation of works and in her remarks about the "cross fertilization" of the arts. Of particular interest to me was her story of teaching a course to medical students. As I understand it, her goal was to get them to think in new ways, to open up their creative receptors. She said she had them dance and paint and sing and they worked very hard at it. She had to stop them and say, "You aren't going to get an 'A' for studying hard in this course. You won't get an 'A' until you jump off the cliff." What a concept! What a creative woman, who regularly works with artists in many disciplines. I'm disappointed that I didn't stick around to pick up her book on writing, but expect to do that soon. Check out "Not Feathers Yet" if this intrigues you as much as it does me.

Meantime, I'll be thinking about jumping off some "cliffs." And maybe I won't wait another fifty years to attend another poetry reading.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Tale of WAG

I'm off this afternoon to attend the second meeting of Writer's Alliance of Gainesville, or "WAG," as it is already known. This meeting will be great - a presentation by local poet and teacher Lola Haskins, author of "Not Feathers Yet." I'm looking forward to it.

WAG is also launching the start of several writing "pods" - small genre-specific critique groups that will begin meeting soon at various spots around the area at the convenience of the pod members. I plan to join a pod. I need to join a pod. Critique, as painful as it sometimes can be, is the forge that tempers our writing. My natural tendency is to write in isolation, re-read several times, and decide I'm "done." Without feedback, however, I'm missing the opportunity of making my work better. Writing that is intended for the consumption of others ought to be "market-tested."

I'm approaching this part of WAG with mixed feelings. I've belonged to groups before, and actually had good experiences. But each time I venture forth anew, I wonder if I'm too much of a wimp to bare my soul in front of others, and wonder, too, if I can make a valuable contribution to the other writers' work through my feedback. The only way to find out is to jump in, so I will. I'll report back.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

History and Quotes

I've had some correspondence lately with Glenn Pearsall, who has just published his book "Echoes in These Mountains: Historic Sites and Stories Disappearing in Johnsburg, an Adirondack Community," a really interesting work about the history of the town just north of my home in the Adirondacks. Glenn selected fifty-five sites in Johnsburg, NY, about which to share both documented history and oral tradition. He writes, too, about the folks associated with them, as well as supplying a very generous number of photographs and the GPS coordinates so the reader can go find the sites, if he chooses. It's a great book about a small town that has been touched by some most notable people. See my complete review on and Amazon.

I'll bet Glenn does what my husband and I do in the spring. Before the trees fully leaf out and obscure the landscape, we drive around the back roads and take note of the old cellar holes with toppled chimneys, silent testimonials to another era. We wonder who lived, worked and died there, how and when. We note the day lily sprouts heroically poking through the dead leaves for yet another season, and lilac buds swelling on bushes that faithfully stand sentinal beside the house. If only they could talk and tell the tales!

Since writing his book, Glenn says, he keeps stumbling across quotes about writing, and he shared a couple of great ones with me:

Jeff Mallet, creator of the cartoon "Frazz" says: "Writing well meant never having to say, 'I guess you had to be there!'"

And the following zinger is attributed to Samuel Johnson: "Your manuscript is both good and original. Unfortunately, the part that is good is not original and the part that is original is not good."


On that note, I'm going back to edit the article I'm working on.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Reading and Writing

If you check in on this blog with any regularity, you already know that I write here only sporadically, and lately have been slacking off big-time. I apologize--with an explanation/excuse.

I've been reading.

As writers, we are told frequently that we should read good literature to better understand our craft and find worthy models, and that certainly is true. My recent reading has included a number of books submitted to me for review--some really good, some not so good. And some well-written, but mechanically flawed. I'm finding that all of them help me in some respect. The really good ones teach and inspire me; the not-so-good ones heighten my awareness of the rookie mistakes that always want to worm their way into my work. (I can see them so easily in the work of others; maybe I'll become better about spotting them in my own.)

And those mechanically-flawed ones! As the self-proclaimed Queen of Typos, I'm not throwing stones here, but I feel compelled to say that we, as writers, have to remember how much errors detract from the positive impact of our work. I used to bristle at the idea that an editor at a publishing house might "whimsically" reject a query or manuscript just because of simple errors, but I have come to understand how that can be. We need to methodically inspect our work, then enlist the aid of others known to be meticulous in such matters, to go over the work again and again. And again.

My recent reads, in addition to Eric Norcross's "The Violin Diary" mentioned earlier, include "Sassy Pat Knitting: A Memoir" by Pat Richards; "Echoes in These Mountains: Historic Sites and Stories Disappearing in Johnsburg, an Adirondack Community" by Glenn Pearsall; "The Moose with Loose Poops," (don't ask!) by Charlotte Cowan, M.D. Most of these appear at

I'm currently working my way through "Journeys: An Anthology of Short Stories" a collection of prize-winning stories published by The Creative Writer's Notebook, and "Your Spacious Self: Clear Your Clutter and Discover Who You Are," by Stephanie Bennett Vogt. I'm also reading some short stories submitted for the current Creative Writer's Notebook contest.

So that's my excuse, and some thoughts prompted by all the reading. Share with us here what you are writing or reading.

My best,
P.S. I've just gone over this thing and fixed about six errors. Let me know if you see more!