They swoop down from the high ledge, veer to the right, then left, circle round and land on the plaza ... moving as if they've been practicing a choreographed dance.
I was stopped at a red light in town when I saw them ... the pigeons.
I've always liked pigeons ... especially their iridescent feathers that shimmer when they cluck and bob along the sidewalk.
Next Saturday is National Go Birding Day and just typing those words makes me think of binoculars and rare birds sightings, bright colors, and dramatic tail feathers. Definitely worth the effort.
But what about the birds just outside your door?
When I saw the pigeons last week, I was reminded of Starr Sarabia, aka Bird Man. I remembered and found this video of Starr and the pigeons he loves ... and because this is the last week of Poetry Month and it starts with a poem, I wanted to share it.
His enthusiasm and passion for pigeons is delightful.
So many to choose from
Three samples and one gallon later, I've finally decided on a color for the bedroom walls, Napery: a warm, pale yellow.
It's an appropriate name, napery, though I did have to consult the dictionary to be sure. Napery are household linens, most often used to refer to table linens ... napkins and tablecloths.
Finding the right color was difficult, but sorting through the names assigned to paint colors added an unexpected layer of indecision.
Would you want to use paint in your living room the color of Windchill, or worse, Unraveled? Not me. I'd rather go with Contented, Celestial Skies, Melodious, Peekaboo Coral, or Shiny Penny ... though Turning Pointe may be a good choice if that's what you're after.
So many adjectives to describe paint. It reminds me how many words there are to choose from ... so many words waiting to be used.
If you find your writing is flat (uninspired, ordinary, repetitive, or mundane), up your word game. Grab the thesaurus or use an online version and find a word that better suits (conveys, illustrates, depicts, expounds on) what you're trying to say.
Not with multi-syllabic or fancy-schmancy words, but words that are concise. Words that help you say what you want to say in a way that delights (enthralls, satisfies) your readers.
Mixing it up
Whenever I make
in the blue
and red box
I think of him.
We were having chili for dinner and
he asked there there was anything
he could help with.
Sure I said, you can
mix the cornbread.
and red box,
I've made them
so often I've
what to add:
1/3 cup of milk and
one egg ...
I check the recipe.
He dumped the mix
into a bowl,
cracked the egg,
1/3 cup of milk
Surely not, he said.
Keep stirring, I said.
Huh, he said,
We filled the paper cups,
and slid the
onto the second shelf
of the preheated oven
and set the timer.
Ready in a jiff.
I'm never sure if I like the Jiffy mix because the muffins are good (they are), or whether it's the simplicity of the box with the wax paper liner, and how easy it is to make them.
Is there a dish or recipe that reminds you of someone?
I think I overslept today. Last night before bed I moved the clock forward for Daylight Savings Time ... but somehow it didn't take. (It's a digital clock with a complicated set of buttons.) Even though we slept and woke at the same time we have for months, we woke an hour late.
For weeks now, I've noticed the light. Or I should say, how the light is shifting ... mostly how light fills the kitchen at the end of the day as the days get longer.
It catches me by surprise and my timing is off. I'm accustomed to starting dinner when it gets dark. So dinner's been late lately ... because I think it's earlier than it is.
I've been watching the light. Looking for the light.
In the daylight and in the world around me ... especially in these confusing, dark times ... for the people in Ukraine ... for all of us.
It's not easy, but as a friend said to me, we have to continue to look for the light. We do.
There's light in the birdsong just before dawn, in brisk walks when the sun is at its highest, in the long shadows of the afternoon, in the honking of the geese that flew overhead yesterday afternoon, in sunsets out the back window, and in the moonlight that makes a snow-covered field look like sparkle snow in a storefront window.
It may be fleeting, but if we look, really look, we'll find it. We must.
Where can you find the light?
Even on the left, odd on the right. Always.
That's how it is. Every trade and every profession has them ... rules and governing principles that can't (or shouldn't) be ignored.
I purchased and have nearly filled a 200-page blank notebook. It's a decent quality, hardcover book, red, with a ribbon bound into the spine so I can mark my place.
When it was nearly full I went looking for another.
The same company that made the red book offers other styles, so I selected a different one. A black one. Cloth-covered with three ribbons(!) to mark important sections.
But there's a problem.
The page numbers are on the wrong side. The pagination in the red book is correct so it never occurred to me to check the pages in the black book.
They're all wrong. The odd numbered pages are on the left and the even are on the right.
In book design, like most professions, there are rules you can bend ... or break. And some you can't.
In book design even numbered pages go on the left, odd numbered go on the right. Always.
I can't use it.
I'll cut the pages out of the book and repurpose them. Yes, it's that egregious.
It's one of the reasons I'm releasing a new workbook: How to Write and Self-Publish a Book Worth Reading.
It's a step-by-step guide to writing and creating a book you'll be proud to share. One with even numbered pages on the left, odd on the right.
A workbook that takes you through the steps of writing a book ... including best practices for writing and rewriting. A bit about the difference between editing and proofreading, why you need an ISBN, where to get one ... and a few lines about signing your book once it's published because, yes, there's something to know about that.
That's my book ... and it's a reminder why we need your book.
You have experience, stories, and insights that come from doing what you do best.
Knowledge and insights people need.
Because whatever the equivalent is in your world, you know ... it's even on the left, odd on the right.
Over the past two years the neighborhood birds have been a source of amusement ... and a welcome distraction.
When I sit at my computer I look out a second floor window that offers a close-up view of bird activity in the middle of a pine tree that stands close to the house.
Occasionally I'll see a cardinal (more often than not, a bright red male) and most days, one or more chickadees. The chickadees are quite small, over-the-top charming, and not surprising ... the designated Maine state bird.
Each state has one ... do you know which bird your state claims as its own?
The chickadee was the inspiration for the latest stationery & writing paper set. Three designs, lined and unlined, along with second sheets(!), and three stamp designs.
I hope you like it and I hope you'll get a set for yourself ... for letters (written by hand or on a typewriter), for journaling, story writing, and list making ... maybe an account of all those birds in your neighborhood?
Celebrate our feathered friends and order your set today.
We never had a dog when I was growing up.
There were a few cats, a snake even, but never a dog.
I can't even recall knowing any one dog all that well, but there came a day when I wanted one.
So I went looking for one, talked about about getting one, did my research on bringing a dog home, and finally got one. A basset hound.
Why a basset hound? I think it was the ears. They have big, beautiful ears. Velvety ears. And they are solid dogs, well-tempered, and laid-back.
Unfortunately, they're not great about walking in a straight line, moving along from here to there ... at least not Agatha. Nope, she'd walk a few paces and stop. Sniff, move on, and stop again.
After reading the most popular and recommended books about having a dog, I understood the importance of daily exercise, and made sure we went out. Every day. We went in the woods and around the neighborhood, but it was always the same ... a herky-jerky trek from here to there.
Now, granted, I wanted a dog that was easy-going, but when it was time to get her out for some exercise, it became an exercise in frustration. For me and the dog.
The frustration, I realized, came from expecting Agatha to power walk, get moving, and do what I wanted her to do ... to go against her nature. Bassets are after all, scent hounds. Sniffing is what they do. Once I figured that out, I enjoyed out time outside.
What I learned
I learned to take myself for a walk first ... alone. And to accept what Agatha was teaching me ... to slow down and notice things.
In the coming weeks I'll be releasing a new picture book, Things I Notice When I Walk The Dog.
It's a picture book memoir. Agatha's legacy ... and part of mine.
Think memoir's not for you?
If you think memoir is not for you, think again. People love stories and you've go some good ones.
Stories you can share in a collection or how-to book.
Remember, memoir is not an account of your entire life. It's the account of an experience or event where some kind of understanding, lesson, or insight occurred.
How did you get started doing what you do? What does someone entering the field you're in need to know? What do you wish you knew? Share it and help someone in the same position.
Have you completed a self-initiated challenge where you learned something you didn't expect?
What do you do in your spare time? Are you a master chef, a marathon runner, or member of a band? What's that like? We want to know.
Once you get started, you'll be surprised at what you can share.
Writing about you experiences can feel self-indulgent or out of reach in the beginning, but you tell stories all the time. The challenge is putting them down on paper.
Want to ease into writing? Start writing ... in letters or a journal.
This Hello Dahlia! stationery journal allows you to print the pages you want, as many as you want. Use them to write your story, a letter, or roll it into your typewriter.
Getting started is the best, only way to begin.
Last summer we were walking in the neighborhood and overheard this exchange.
The woman asking the question lives in the house on the corner lot. She was standing in her yard ... the one with the beautiful flower garden behind the white picket fence. I know, it sounds ridiculously quaint. It is. It's also the only white picket fence in the neighborhood.
Anyway, she waved to her neighbor across the street with a garden spade in one hand, a flower pot in the other, and asked. "Would you like a red dahlia?"
The neighbor from across the street said yes and the woman asking said, "I'll bring it by this afternoon."
All I could think was ... but, I want one, too.
So I went home and made one.
A red dahlia collage ... the inspiration for the new printable stationery journal.
There are two (well, three) reasons it's a printable stationery journal.
1) Big blank journal books intimidate me ... and sometimes, when I want to journal, I write because I'm having a bad day, or something's troubling me. It's not the sort of writing I want to put in a book and leave on the shelf. A lot of times, I write and write and write and it helps me sort myself out. When I'm done, I shred the page. And even though I shred it, I want to write on a nice piece of paper. Hello Dahlia!
2) Letter writing. I like to write letters and I like stationery. And I thought, maybe you do too. With a printable stationery set, you can choose the pages you like best, and print just those ... as many as you want or need. And print some more.
3) And finally, my typewriter. I want to roll a nice sheet of paper into my typewriter and write a letter. But too many times, I waste time trying to create stationery or add something to dress up a blank sheet of paper. By the time I figure it out (or not) I'm too frustrated to continue. So there are unlined sheets in the set, too.
So here it is, Hello Dahlia!, a printable stationery journal. It's designed so you can use it for journaling, stationery, and typewriter papers. There are lined and unlined pages along with bonus pages with stamps, extra flowers, and gardening terms, so you can dress up your journal pages and stationery sheets.
Here's a sneak peak. See more and order your Hello Dahlia! set here.
It's my only plant and I'm fairly certain the only reason it survives is that it's a cactus that doesn't need a lot of water. And that's a good thing, because I forget to water it.
All the time. Dry as a bone when I take it down off the shelf. So I water it and talk to it and earnestly try once again to remember not to let it go so long.
When I first brought it home it was a tiny little starter plant. Just a few sprigs. But it was healthy. It blossomed and flowered ... more than once a year, I think.
Is that possible?
When it grew too large for its starter pot, I repotted it ... and then again when it outgrew that pot. It did well and continued to flower. Year after year.
Until it didn't.
It just stopped flowering and I don't know why. I talked to it, I paid more attention to watering and fertilizing, and did some research. But nothing. For years.
I tried moving it from one room to another, some with more light, some with less, but it never made a difference. Last year I put it in yet another location, high up on the top of a book case.
And something shifted.
It came back to life with a whole bouquet's worth of flowers. More plentiful, joyful, pink, and beautiful than ever.
Was it a fluke? Would it flower again? I wasn't sure.
It was not a fluke. It blossomed again this year with another round of fireworks ... new blossoms opening day after day.
I'm not sure what made it stop flowering, and I'm not sure what made it blossom again, but it reinforces the idea that we have to hang in there. Keep trying different things until something clicks.
If you've got a story or memoir project you've been thinking about, working on, muddling through, hang in there. Keep working at it.
One day things will shift and it will come together. If you need or want help, get in touch. We can talk about where you are where you want to be.
A Cool Twist on Sharing What You Know
There are so many ways to share what you know. It's one of the reasons I love what I do. And with each project, I learn something new.
Now, you may or may not be a fan of winter. I get it. Ice and shoveling after a snowstorm are my least favorite winter activities.
But the morning after a snowstorm?
It's just about as beautiful as it gets. The air is crisp; the sky is blue; rooftops, streets, and trees are frosted ... and there's a hush over the landscape.
Today I want to share with you two infographics I created for winter activities ... because the best way to get through winter is to get outside.
Well, getting outside is always a good idea, regardless of the season.
Anyway, here are two winter activities that will get you outside: making a snowman (or winter beauty as I call them) and ice fishing. Though truthfully, I'm all in on the first, not so much on the second, but I loved learning more about it.
I'm sharing these today to remind you that sharing what you know matters. And it doesn't always have to be in a long-form book.
You've got insights and knowledge other people are interested in ... insights and knowledge we need.
Share what you know.
If you've been thinking of a writing a book. That's a great idea.
But maybe a book seems too daunting or not the right format. Consider an infographic, a workbook, a timeline, or a web page where you can add links and resources.
It's time to share what you know, how you did it, and why it matters.
I know, it can be difficult to know where to begin, so let me help. Together we'll figure out how to share what you know ... and put it in a form that fits.
Just remember: People love stories, and you've got some good ones.
Call or write today to get the help you need to get started.
The Story Line blog is where we share short story memoirs, writing tips, and more.