Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Nobody ever comments on my blogs. I keep reading how blogging is an important aspect these days for marketing your work. I read a piece yesterday talking about marketing and that you should pay the extra money to boost your work. I can’t help but wonder how anyone can afford to do all the extra promotions. I certainly can’t afford to keep forking over money. If I had more consistent sales then maybe more could be spent.
Then there are all the groups and places for membership to “get your name out there.” These are all good organizations to help the writer and artist, but $25 here, $35 there, and $50, $75… it adds up quickly. I’m looking at this coming year and need to figure out where to spend my money wisely. How many artists groups should one belong to? How many area Chambers of Commerce should be joined? And most everything joined means attending meetings which takes up time.
However, the networking is beneficial and it’s just as important to hobnob with those in other lines of business or genres. The community support and the Support Local campaigns help us all to build a strong community. Internet social networking is great, but it’s necessary, too, to get out and make physical contact with others.
A lot of artists struggle with the marketing aspect. Most of us just want to do our work. The world has changed and technology has made some things easier. There are many writers, artists, photographers out there these days and the competition is tough. Still, it’s a great community and most everyone is wonderful about exchanging ideas and techniques. Some are very successful with sales, others not so. I don’t believe it’s because one person is a much better artist. A lot of factors come into play.
Monday, December 22, 2014
Bouncing back and forth between editing for the InterTown Record, writing other stories and articles, and doing photography, there are times when I feel my eyes are just rolling around in my head. A new book is already started and the one started last year isn’t completed. “Too Cold for Alligators” is printed and for sale, so that’s a huge accomplishment. And of course it’s time to finish up the year-end reports.
This coming Sunday, two photographs need to be delivered to the town hall in Exeter for the annual New Hampshire Society of Photographic Artists’ show. I don’t have any idea what to bring. The goal in “getting better” in 2015 is to print photographs to mat and frame at 16x20 inches. Previously, they were either smaller or the overall size was 18x24 inches.
Decisions are hard. Should I print this photo or that one? It’s hard to know what might catch someone’s eye enough that they would want to make a purchase. Every time I think this is the one, it doesn’t sell. People love the pictures, but too few are sold.
Right now, I’m feeling tired. It seems that these past few months have been spent running pictures here and there. There’s the big push to print, mat, and frame. The hustle to get the pieces delivered on time. Then return to pick them up. Once one round is done, it’s time to gear up for the next.
And, as is often the case, the artist is never totally satisfied. I see the flaws. Oh, if I had just moved that way a little. Perhaps I should have added a little more contrast. There’s always something… but that’s what pushes me to do better next time.
Saturday, December 20, 2014
I read a short piece on travel writing this morning and was pleased that what was said for travel writing for today’s market is what I did in my book “Too Cold for Alligators.” Reading this made me feel that I am, at least, on the right track.
The main point that stood out was the importance of connecting to the readers which is something I always strive to do. My goal in writing the book was to bring the reader on the journey with me, and from the feedback received, I accomplished that. It’s not just about describing places visited, but telling stories about the journey.
Rereading “Too Cold for Alligators” in preparing for the next journey and book, there are areas to improve. The decision was already made to add more of other people’s stories in the new book and this morning’s piece was reinforcement to do just that.
One of the hardest goals will be to use less I, me, and my which will be a challenge in traveling alone. There are ways around it. Oh, not all the time, because it is a personal journey, too, but there’s always room for improvement.
“Too Cold for Alligators” is a good book, but the next one will be better!
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Today I am studying maps. Yes, I know, I say I make spontaneous trips and yet, I will peruse the atlas for hours to check routes. I just don’t make definite decisions in the planning.
Today, I found the Great Dismal Swamp brochure from the information picked up on the 2013 trip. It looks intriguing, so I looked up websites and maps. Oh, this is a place I want to visit! There are many trails, boardwalks, and canals. A birders paradise, too! It’s on the borders of Virginia and North Carolina and further east than I traveled on the previous trip. Yet it’s off Rte. 17, north of where I picked up that highway before. I could take Interstate 64 off of I-295 in Richmond and taking this route would bring me by Williamsburg. Williamsburg is a place I’ve always wanted to visit, too.
Coming out to the Atlantic Ocean will put me near Chincoteague Island; a place that intrigued me ever since reading “Misty of Chincoteague” as a child. However, I’m not sure that’s an area to visit in the winter. Turning south, the way will take me through Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Chesapeake where I will pick up Route 17S. Rte. 17 follows one of the Dismal Swamp ditches. According to the reading, the Great Dismal Swamp will be at least a two-day visit. Hmm, do I want to spend two days? But, the history and the wildlife and the trails… can I resist?
Everything will, of course, depend on the weather. I won’t know until I get there.
Sunday, December 14, 2014
The planning continues. Ideas run rampant jumping from one to the next. The excitement builds.
There’s a part of me that’s hesitant about writing another book so soon, but I have to follow this passion. And although it’s been in the back of my mind to talk with more people, today it’s a slap aside the head. Make people more of a focus! After all, the trip isn’t just about me and what I see. It’s also about the people I meet along the way and the stories they tell.
The last trip wasn’t so much about people as it was about my great adventure. I’ve done that, I’ve broken the ice. Now, there’s a bit of regret that I did not paying more attention to others. Yes, I did get permission to mention some of them in my book, but I never took people pictures. I never really wrote their story. Oh, I wish I could meet them again.
This next book will definitely add another segment. There will still be my personal traveling tales, the photographs, and bits of history of the places visited. However, this time I will purposely seek out others to add a people section to the journey. My goal is to include at least one other person in my daily chapters.
One aspect of including more people in this book is to pay homage to the men and women in the hospitality service. Their jobs are to make customers more comfortable and give them a memorable experience. From tour guides to information personnel in the visitor centers to wait staff in restaurants and those in the hotels, how often do they do they get in the spotlight? Maybe they’d get a kick out of a customer paying attention to them!
Of course, I’ll have to be careful. I never want to take someone away from doing their job. I often go out of my way to not be in the way or a nuisance. The last thing I’d want to do is get someone in trouble with their bosses. However, this may be a feather in the caps of whatever business or visitors’ site I write about.
Another reason to do this will be to help me with my shyness around others. It will also help me be a better reporter/interviewer.
Saturday, December 13, 2014
I said I’d go at the end of January, but I was not really sure if I would actually do it. It hit me this morning that the departure time is only a month away. Yikes! Am I going to do this? I am involved in a lot at the moment, but I definitely need a vacation. Yes, I will still work while on the road, but getting out of the house and away from the home area will do my mental wellbeing good. My thoughts settled into planning mode as I did the morning journaling.
What is different from this trip than the one in 2013? The main point is that I have a better idea of the highways. Last time I was totally clueless as to what the driving would be like and how far south I would need to be to find warm weather (a lot farther south than I’d thought). I know more about the kinds of hotels in which I want to stay.
The beginning of the trip will be following the same route as before. And of course, being winter, everything depends on the weather. I am looking forward to driving Rte. 9 across Vermont. I saw places where I wanted to take pictures, but didn’t stop. This time I want to stop. I won’t be quite as nervous driving through New York and I’ll know what to expect on the New York Thruway and on I-84W.
I don’t know if I’ll do the Sky Line Drive in Virginia again. I may do it, depending on the weather, just because of that scary road coming down into Sperryville along Rte. 211. Sperryville was another area that I wanted to stop for photos and didn’t.
There’s a Comfort Inn I stayed in Fredericksburg, Va., on the way down and the way back and I want to stay there again. My sights, though, will be set on Charleston, S.C., as there are places I want to revisit such as Magnolia Gardens, Middleton Place, and I want another carriage tour around the city.
Heading south from there will have a different destination than before as I’ll be heading for the west coast of Florida. I’m not sure of that route yet. A lot of planning and map looking need to be done.
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
The subject of food comes up often. We are barraged daily from the media, medical profession, and those quick to give advice on healthy eating habits. We are told when to eat, how often we should eat, what we should or shouldn’t eat, and are made to feel guilty for eating those items deemed unhealthy. Foods are broken down into components, chemicals, and structure to help us determine what is safe to eat. Listening to and reading all the hype that is out there nowadays, I can’t help but wonder what the real truth is and what is just hype from corporations pushing their own products, or people putting their beliefs and what works for them onto everyone else. Listening to some of those opinions, it’s a wonder many of us are still alive today… if all of what is said is truth.
I like food, but I am a fussy eater. I only want to eat food I like. I want to enjoy those foods without feeling guilty. There are certain foods I don’t mind eating all the time, while others I might get a craving for, or some if the mood hits me. I don’t want to listen to someone make comments on my eating habits. I am making my own choices. I listen to my own body when it says, “Don’t eat any more of that for awhile,” or “Let’s have something green and fresh today.”
AND, for the most part, I am healthy and I am HAPPY! Sure, I may be overweight and my muscles and joints ache (part from the weight and part from age). Maybe I would feel physically better if I ate more healthy foods and exercised more, but I love what I do and I am happy with the person that I am. And if that comes with liking foods that are on the “bad for you” lists, then so be it.
One of my greatest joys these days is to go out to eat with good friends. It’s wonderful that we can all order what we want without anyone looking down their noses at our menu choices. If we want a “big girl drink” or dessert, that’s OK and doesn’t mean that everyone has to do the extra. Yes, some have to be conscious of eating particular foods, but that doesn’t put pressure on anyone else to have to eat similarly. We make our own choices, enjoy what we order, and have the most wonderful conversations.
It’s a good life!
This is the time of year that people pay attention to giving thanks. I give thanks every day, so to have a special day for it is no big deal. What Thanksgiving Day means to me is a great turkey dinner, family, friends, and camaraderie. All of which could be had any time of the year, but because of the “declared holiday,” there’s a specialness added in.
However, because of circumstances and life choices, the thanksgivings of the past are just memories. Mom and Dad cooking the turkey, Dad making lumpy gravy, and then there were the side dishes. I loved the mashed potatoes and carrots, while Dad and my brother went for the onions and turnips… all you could eat. And that’s the crux… all you could eat. This is one particular day where there was always plenty.
My mother and I tried to carry the family tradition as long as we could, but times changed and other family members chose to make their own family traditions. In the end, it was just Ma and I, and when she was gone, it was just me, and for the first couple of years, even though I received many invites, I chose to be alone.
Last year, I took my brother’s offer to go out to Thanksgiving dinner with him, his wife, and Carol’s sister and brother-in-law. I was leery about being the fifth wheel, but they assured me they’d love my company. One big difference here was that we had always had Thanksgiving dinner around noon and they wanted to go in the evening (an added stress for me as I don’t like to drive at night). However, I went and had a really nice time and am going again this year.
While the camaraderie is good, Thanksgiving dinner in a restaurant is not the same as a home cooked meal. Over half of the plate was stuffing (and I don’t particularly care for stuffing) with a couple of thin (any thinner and it would be considered luncheon meat) over the top, a small scoop of mashed potato on the side, another of squash, and a spoonful of cranberry sauce. I guess the customers are supposed to fill up on bread.
We can’t hold on to the past. It’s important to make new traditions and be open to change. I am looking forward to spending time with Don, Carol, Sue, and Bob. I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving Day.
Sunday, November 23, 2014
I'm always at a loss on how to sign my photographs. Some photographers sign the actual picture while others sign on the mat. There's the fact that by signing the mat, the signature will be lost if the customer re-mats/frames. But how often does a buyer re-mat?
The guy who used to frame my drawings was adamant about NOT signing the mats! However, at a recent show, what caught my attention was that those pictures with the signatures on the mats stood out. The viewer immediately knew who the photographer was and the title of the piece if the photographer chose to put the title. If done tastefully, the signature does not take away from the pictures.
I actually liked how the mat signing looked.
So, am I going to start signing on the mat? I don't know, maybe. Done in pencil, it could always be erased if the buyer didn't like it. I still have my information on the back.
And that brings up another issue for the pictures matted, but not framed. I always put contact/photographer info on sticky address labels and attach them to the back along with a little bit about the photo itself. Customers enjoy reading what I write and it’s usually short. The problem comes when the buyer frames the photo. My info is then lost.
I am considering printing a double set of labels; one to attach and one to put inside the envelope for when the buyer frames the picture.
There are so many decisions to make!
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
“Look at this, Mommy! Look, look!” I see myself as a little girl, remembering the me I once was, running into the house with an armload of flowers fresh picked from the field – and yet, sometimes it’s almost as if she was somebody else. Was that me or just a story made up in my mind?No, I was like that! I had to have been like that. I feel it now; feel it when I go out taking photographs. I have that childlike awe, that excitement of discovery and I can’t wait to get home to show mommy… only, I have no mommy now. There’s no one to greet me or be excited to see what I found or hear my stories. She is gone; three years this coming Christmas. But, that passion is still within me, the flowers now the various photographs. The desire to share them burns in my soul. I cry out, “Look! Look what I saw today!” But there’s no one at home waiting to see.
I plug the SD card into the computer and eagerly wait for the upload. Some pictures are immediate deletes, but most are keepers. I open the editing program and begin taking a closer look. Most edits are just regular work; crop, adjust contrast and brightness and save the photos in various categories. Oh, I so enjoy this even if there is no one to see in the moment.
However, every so often, something magical happens. Something I did not notice when out in the field shows up on the photo on the editing screen. Hey, where did that come from? I didn’t notice that when I took the photo! It could be as simple as an unusual tree or a little chickadee or a particular color. Why hadn’t I noticed that before? The excitement returns. I love that surprise and the photographs often turn into a treasure hunt to find what I missed seeing earlier.
Perhaps it’s simply because when I am taking the actual photograph, my view is on a larger scale and the focus is not so much on detail at that moment. Whatever the excuse, those surprises I find later add a wonderful joyful dimension to my photography work.
My blogging comes in spurts. I keep telling myself to get better and do it more often, but other things needing to be done get in the way. Sometimes the words are just not running. Also, I often need a comment or something to spark the process that starts the mind babbling.There was much on my mind earlier. While upstairs doing my morning writing, showering, and getting ready for the day, a variety of topics screamed to be shared. However, by the time I got downstairs and get set up for working, all those earlier running thoughts have… run away. This happens often – my morning long hand writing triggers much, but by the time I am actually ready to do the technical part of the writing on the computer, my thoughts are elsewhere.
This is my lesson in getting it done while fresh in my mind and my theory about the muse. When the muse is present, she demands now and will not wait. If I don’t pay attention, she goes away. I have my morning routine, though. There are certain chores that need to be done before I can sit at the computer. Even when I make notes while doing the earlier writing, by the time I’ve taken that break from the creative process, the muse has left.
Today, there are a number of topics wanting to be discussed. They push and shove in the back of my mind each demanding to be first. Most have been building for awhile. It’s funny how they all want to be let out at the same time. Which do I choose? Of course, I want to write them all, but an audience will only read so much. Then, too, if there are no responses, the exciting joy that bursts forth onto the page dissipates and I am left wondering why I bothered.
But I have to! I have to write these things. They do demand to be let out, to be read. I can’t stop them nor do I want to. I always go back to the analogy of the little girl running home with an armload of flowers screaming with joy, “Mommy! Mommy, look what I found!” Writing is that joy for me and my “mommy” is everyone who reads these blurbs and responds.
Thank you so much.
Friday, October 3, 2014
I have over 45 big photo albums. I’ve been taking pictures since the 1970s when my kids were little, plus I have old photos from when I was a child. These albums have been taking up shelf space for years and now that I’m thinking about downsizing, something has to go.
Last night I got two big tote boxes and packed 15 albums so far. My heavens, those boxes are heavy! Later I watched an episode of NH Chronicle on TV. They had a segment on “doll” houses, basically shed-sized cabins, in which some people are now choosing to live and because of the small size, it is minimalist living.
I couldn’t imagine living in anything that small alone, let alone live with someone. Some of them a basically hotel room size; OK for a night or two, but not suitable for spend much time in. However, watching that show has certainly helped me make decisions on my own downsizing.
No. 1 is the fact that I am an artist. My life revolves around my art in all its aspects: writing, photography, drawing, painting, and multimedia. That means I want to pare out anything that does not pertain to my art and personal items.
And that means anything else has to be seriously considered! I’ve lived in good-sized houses for many years now. My “stuff” has spread out into all the rooms and as a multimedia artist, anything and everything can be saved for an art project… which is something I must seriously curb. I can’t save everything, especially as the multimedia is currently the medium farthest down on the list of things I do.
So this morning I got up thinking about all the photos and albums. It’s going to be a lot of work, but I think I want to go through them and throw out photos that are not good or no longer have meaning. If I am lucky, I can downsize to about half. This won’t be just about throwing away pictures, but deleting physical albums and combining the leftover pictures. (No one cares about these pictures… not even me, really.) Still, they are pictures of the kids growing up, pictures of me when I was little and pieces of my life.
And I will feel better cutting down on the space these albums take up. It’s one more step in the downsizing and it needs to be done before I can move.
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
I was asked the question at an authors’ talk the other night, “Do you write in long hand or do you type?”
That is a question often asked and yet, I was taken by surprised. My rambled answer felt to be a mumble of words that were not taken in. Maybe it was because the expected answer was for one or the other and not an explanation.
But for me, an explanation is necessary. Writing is not a simple process. I cannot just say, “I’m a writer” and leave it at that. There are layers, complexities, and purpose to be considered. I cover a variety of aspects of writing and each one has a different process. “What” I am writing affects “how” I write.
My mornings start out in long hand as I record highlights of the previous day and plan the current day in a journal. There are a few reasons why I feel morning journal writing, done in long hand, is important.
I love the art of writing. I’m a pen-aholic with an array of colored gel and ball point pens. Writing with the various colors is an art to me. Sometimes it’s just drivel, but often the writing takes on life and will go in a direction totally surprising. The journaling is a way of recording my life, thoughts, fears, and accomplishments. It also serves as a reference to the past.
The morning pages are also a way to get all of the previous day’s… thoughts, garbage, what-have-yous… out of my head so that I have clearer thought for the coming day. There’s something about putting the words on the page that frees me. Also, there are times that seeing the words written helps me to understand myself and my perceptions better.
Another aspect of writing in long hand is that there’s something about the process that opens my mind to a myriad of ideas. This is where the adage of “sleeping on it” totally comes true. When I crawl out of be 5-5:30 in the morning, words are already flowing. I have to hurry to get coffee and get to the writing desk. When that writing muse is present, I have to get the words down immediately. I’ll write down a statement someone made or comment on something that happened and the next thing I know, my mind is gushing like water from a faucet turned on full. The words flow and I go back and forth between the journal and making lists on scrap paper of ideas to pursue or things to do.
This journaling usually lasts an hour, then the switch is flipped and I’m done. The words stop flowing. My routine settles in regular chores and taking time for Pele play. If I don’t take the time to give kitty attention, she intrudes on my work and gets in the way being quite a nuisance. I finally settle at the PC to begin the day’s real work. Here I divide time between typing and writing in long hand. The long hand (a recording of the day’s accomplishments) came about because I’d fret over not accomplishing everything on my “to do” list. More things would be added than crossed off. A notebook of accomplishments gives me a visual of what I am able to get done each day. Being able to see how much I really do get done has been a big boost to my self esteem and quells the old “you’re so lazy” voice critic in my head.
The final piece of long hand writing is in the notebook I carry whenever I leave the house. There is always the potential for a story, interviews for the newspaper, or poetry. The notebook also comes out when I’m waiting for the food at a restaurant, if I’m waiting to meet someone, or when I find an interesting place to photograph. (I’ve even occasionally tried to jot down a couple of thoughts when driving which is not a good thing to do, but if I don’t write immediately, I don’t remember.)
Typing, on the other hand, is a different mind-frame. This is the more formal stage of writing when spelling, grammar, and punctuation are important. These days I keep a copy of the “AP Stylebook,” a “Webster’s Dictionary,” and various other notes on writing guidelines beside me or I might refer to www.grammarbook.com. I am always referring to the references to make sure the writing is correct.
Drafts and final versions of stories, articles, meeting notes, and more are done on the computer. Typing is how I write the actual stories. What I love best is the ability to easily make corrections. I am glad for spell and grammar check which help me to be even better at writing. I can write, read, and reread. I can have an immediate word count. I can save the writings for better accessibility and they don’t take up physical space. And the finished pieces can be easily shared!
It’s the typing that brings the writing to a more professional look and will help make errors more noticeable. When I see my words neatly typed out and I reach that point of feeling the piece is “done” then I have accomplished my goal. I am a REAL writer. I am a professional.
Sunday, September 14, 2014
This week there was a change in my perspective in how I see myself, in how I perceive others as seeing me. I truly feel I am coming into my own. I am achieving and have achieved some of my goals; goals so many years in coming, that I hardly recognize them now that they are near. Oh, I will never be perfect, but I can settle for “being perfect at being imperfect.”
“They Will Never Write Songs about Me” was a poem I wrote 20 years ago. This was my signature poem; a poem that stated how I felt about myself and how I was learning to understand and accept who I was/am. To this day, I cannot read or recite this poem without tears:
They Will Never Write Songs about Me
Sometimes I feel so insignificant
so useless, so unimportant.
I am certainly nobody’s hero,
never one to be looked up to
never to stand out in a crowd.
I will never BE somebody.
I am destined to stand in periphery
and they will never ever write songs about me.
Sometimes I get a glimpse beyond;
a glimpse, a fragile glimpse
of parted curtain, thinning veil.
What is it I see beyond the beyond?
clouded view of what could be,
cannot tell if it’s really me;
fear pulls the shade, no longer free,
and they will never ever write songs about me.
At times I am uncomfortable
when I look upon myself.
Who do I think I am
to dream I can be different?
So I continue to live in shadow
hovering between fear and wanna be.
I know that no one will ever see,
know too, they will never write songs about me.
But, to know I have a purpose
in the greater scheme of life,
to dare to make my stand,
to know I have a choice.
I AM one who lives in both worlds,
I guess it’s my destiny
Living in the periphery
is why they will never write songs about me.
Out of the well of darkness
of heartache and despair,
comes words to release the pain, the grief
and it’s these I wish to share:
fame and fortune care not for me,
open heart, open hand for all to see,
Letting everyone know it’s okay with me
that they will never ever write songs about me.
It came to me as I drove around that I have to be careful when out and about, especially in Bradford. Yes, the vanity plate on my Ford Escape gives me away, but it’s not only that; people know who I am. Those who read the “InterTown Record” see my name as editor, on articles, in my weekly Bradford Neighbors column, and under photos. They’ve seen my artwork displayed at various venues. They’re coming to know me (and I, them) as I search out people to interview.
Yesterday, I realized from the greetings I received that the poem is no longer accurate. I am recognized about town and if people don’t know me by sight, they know my name. (I remember how I felt a couple years ago meeting Laura Jean Whitcomb, editor of “Kearsarge Magazine.” I felt I was meeting a celebrity.)That was a big revelation, an eye opener. Oh, it’s been slowly building, but yesterday’s conversations made me feel a bit like I am a local celebrity. (It’s also humbling to think that. Who am I to think that of myself?)
However, before I get too big of a head, I am also very aware of my short comings. How wonderful it is when people nod greetings with smiles and often speak, but I am terrible with names and it’s embarrassing to admit it. I wait for a hint while they are talking to give me a clue to their name. I recognize the faces, know I’ve met them before, but the names or who exactly they are elude me. It makes me feel guilty. They know me, I should remember them!
I talk about the need for editing and proofreading and yet, I still make mistakes. Every time I write an article for the paper, I worry if I got the facts right, that people will like what I wrote, and I feel bad when I make a mistake. And of course, no one realizes how hard it is for me to actually “go out in the world” to get the interviews or cover a story or event. I struggle with groups. Still, I am making the effort and getting better at it.
Yesterday’s revelation is putting me into a whole different awareness. I want to be more careful how I act (and react) – and I realize that’s exactly what I need to do – act. The acting doesn’t mean I am pretending to be someone I’m not. I would never be comfortable in that kind of a role. This acting means that I have to shine my inner light, not hide behind insecurities, and always be courteous and friendly. I want to appear upbeat and positive. I want to hold my head high and exude a confident, but humble, attitude.
I always want to be nice, but now I am more aware of that need. I have to remember to smile when, for the most part, I am a somber person. I’m happy and content on the inside mostly, but I don’t always portray exuberance. I want to be a courteous driver and smile and wave at people I pass. I want to take my time, let others go first, etc. I want to be known for being a good writer, artist, photography and an all-around good person.
Most of all, I just want people to like me. I want them to like and admire my work. I want to sell my books, drawings, photographs, and other work; not only because of the need to make a living, (which I do need) but for the joy of sharing what I love.
“They Will Never Write Songs about Me” is changing… I am changing, have changed. They never will write songs about me, but people know who I am now or they’ve at least heard my name. I can no longer say, “I will never be somebody…” because I AM somebody. We are all somebodies and we need to know it and own it! I am “living the life of an artist” and that makes me so happy. I love what I do.
A new poem will be forthcoming…
Monday, September 8, 2014
Today I worked on what to say during an authors’ night program at the Brown Memorial Library in Bradford on Thursday, Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. I’m sharing the spotlight with another author who recently published a poetry chapbook. We each get half an hour to talk.
The subject of writing is a passion of mine and being limited to half an hour won’t be easy. The time has to also include reading, selling and book signing. Do I talk just about the book itself and the journey? Do I talk about the writing process and getting the book published?
The audience will need to buy a book before getting it signed, and because the library has a policy of no selling inside, the purchases will have to be made outside. (Or they could purchase one online or previously through me.) This is a bit awkward, but rules are rules. I am hoping that locals will pre-buy, bring their copies to be signed, and listen to the talk. I am also wondering if I ought to arrange to show up early (if the weather is good) and sit outside with my books for a bit.
Writing and selling my books is not my first go-round. I’ve written previous books and have participated in library events in the past. My latest book, “Too Cold for Alligators” is more professionally published. (I improve with each.) It’s my first “real” book as the others have been poetry and/or photography. I’m very excited about this latest adventure. I hope Thursday is a good turnout.
Thursday, September 4, 2014
The morning sun peeked through the trees sending long shadows across field. The air was brisk, refreshing and the wonderful smell of fresh cut hay filled my senses. Remnants of the predawn fog slowly dissipated in the sunlight. It didn’t take long before my feet were soaked and slipped in the wet crocs as I took photographs of the round hay bales and tractors.
The big field is usually mowed the first week in July and that didn’t happen this year. A couple weeks ago, familiar tractors and other equipment were brought in and the very far end of the field was done. A couple days later all the machines were gone. I wondered if there was something wrong with the field or if the hay wasn’t any good. My neighbor had told me that my little field is the wrong kind of grass. Did the big field somehow get contaminated?
Two days ago there was a tall green machine down the far end. What was that? From here, even with binoculars, I couldn’t tell. I’ve never seen anything like that before.
Yesterday I came home to hear a dull constant roar and upon looking out back, saw the field was being mowed. I was surprised and pleased. For some reason, I love the sound of tractors and mowing equipment. To me, that’s a highlight of summer (which is unusual because I normally don’t like the sound of loud machinery. Maybe it’s because farm equipment is a deeper rumbling roar.) Maybe it’s because it reminds me of childhood and how we used to play in the fields before and after mowing.
Near the stone wall to my property was a huge round hay bale. That was something new; usually this crew does the old rectangular bales. I grabbed my camera and hustled out to the field to photograph these new round bales. I couldn’t believe how much had been accomplished in a morning! An entire crew usually takes four to six days doing this one field with the mower, fluffing, raking into rows, baling, and finally a team of three or four would go around hefting by hand the rectangular bales onto a flat bed. In the four hours I’d been gone (and there wasn’t anyone in the field when I left) half of the field had been mowed and baled.
Now I saw that the tall green machine (green, John Deere, I should have realized that) made the round bales. The operator would stop the tractor, the back door of the baler would open, and the bale rolled out all neatly wrapped with blue twine. I was fascinated and took many photographs. I waved and gave the guys thumbs ups as they came around, one with the mower and one with the baler. They returned the waves. I felt like a little kid.
Later, I looked out to see some of the bales wrapped in white and being lifted onto a flatbed by the tractor. I couldn’t see the apparatus on the front of the tractor where the bucket normally would be, but I figured there must be some kind of gripper… maybe similar to those used to lift barrels.
They didn’t get all the bales wrapped and loaded. There is some work left for today, but this is a big difference and quite a time saver from previous years. Yes, I am impressed.
Friday, August 22, 2014
“Too Cold for Alligators” finally meets with my approval. Finally! It was a long time coming to get to this point and now I am ready for readers to buy.
I received my author’s copy on Wednesday afternoon and quickly looked at the pictures. They are a little dark, but that could be from my editing. I can’t tell when editing exactly how the picture will print on the book paper. I did lighten the photos and add more contrast to the original pictures. The book is now acceptable (to me) at this point. Even the printed text and maps look better.
Yesterday morning I did a more thorough look and the book passes muster. I am now ready for readers to purchase copies. I have ordered 50 copies and should have the books on hand for the upcoming estate and art sale that will be going on here Aug. 29 and 30. I will do book signings for anyone wanting to stop by and purchase a copy.
Have I learned lessons throughout this process? Of course, I did. I will know to make the photos even lighter for the next book. Maybe if I print a few on regular copy paper, that might help me with how the photos will look on book pages. I cannot trust that what looks good to my eye on the computer is how the photo will print on other printers and papers.
How do I feel about AuthorHouse and such publisher/printer companies? I’m not sure how much to say until all is really said and done. The main thing is that these places expect the authors to do most of the work unless the author is willing to pay a lot of money up front. You have to stay on top of everything and sometimes fight to make sure you get what you want.
That said, AuthorHouse did always come back and work to resolve the issues. One of the frustrations was that that every part of the publishing/printing process had a different contact person and sometimes that person had a slight accent and/or talked fast which made phone conversations a struggle. One guy I could hardly understand at all… which made a long phone call ending in total frustration when I found out he was trying to get $4,500 out of me for “marketing.” However, each person was friendly, polite, and patient. Most of the time, they responded back quickly.
So right now it’s about waiting for the copies of the books then seeing how well they sell. It’s waiting to see how many sell through AuthorHouse and amazon.com, etc. I’m holding my breath… kind of. I sooo want people to like my book!
Please visit AuthorHouse or amazon.com to purchase a copy; available in soft cover print or ebook. You can also read an excerpt.
Monday, August 18, 2014
The world is changing. What worked in the past doesn’t necessarily work now. I got into two conversations yesterday which turned to the same topic. How can we reinvent ourselves and help one another; some to provide a service while others are the artists selling their work.
Now, I do not know that much about marketing (my weakest point) as I don’t enjoy it and don’t want to have to do it. I think, too, in the back of my mind is always the concern of how much trust to put into the ones with whom you do business. It seems to me that the bottom line to marketing is convincing the public to purchase what you are selling whether it is good or not and more and more these days we find out that what we are told is not often the truth or products don’t hold up as advertised. (It’s a form of brain washing with the media and advertising pounding it into you that you HAVE to have this product or… well, I won’t go on.)
We’ve come to know that corporate America doesn’t have our best interests at heart and for CEOs and shareholders it’s all about making as much money as possible without caring who gets stepped on or taken advantage of or even if what they are selling is good. Maybe I have a biased notion of big business, but everything I am seeing and reading makes these convictions stronger. It seems the bigger the company, the more political and corrupt it becomes. At that point, it’s not about providing goods or service to the public, but what they can suck out of people. It’s all about making as much money as they can and to hell with the consequences.
What does that have to do with my topic today? My conversations yesterday were with a framer of art who is not doing the job she loves best and a woman in the printing business who is working for a ruthless company. Here are two women whose expertise in fields could benefit many artists and yet, they are not able to work to their potential.
I had two questions: “How can we reinvent ourselves to help one another and still be able to make a living?” and “How can we compete with mass produced cheaper products?”
Is it possible? I believe it is. We just have to figure out how to do it. For most of us in today’s world, we are not able to have our one dream job. We have to have the job that pays the bills. Some are lucky to have a spouse to provide that avenue, but for the many single women out there these days, the dream is put aside so bills can be paid.
How can we help one other? How can small-town framers and printers provide affordable services to the artists and be able to support themselves? I would dearly love to give work to local business. I would love to be able to sit one on one with a printer to discuss exactly what will work for me. And, in this do-it-yourself world (which is another subject I can go off on). I would much rather devote my time to my art and not fight with matting and framing. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to support each other so we are all doing the jobs we love?
I believe it can be done. Somehow.
Saturday, August 16, 2014
I participated in an Open Studio Tour last weekend at the Well Sweep Gallery in Hillsborough. A photojournalist from the “Villager,” a free newspaper covering the Antrim, Deering, Hillsborough area, came by on Saturday afternoon and spoke to all the artists and took pictures. He included me which was unusual because once people from a newspaper find out that I am also a photojournalist, I am often ignored.
And, because I know that usually one, maybe two, photos are used in newspaper stories I didn’t expect to be represented. Plus, photographers generally focus on skinnier, good-looking, interesting, more charismatic, out-going people than I.
I was surprised however to receive an email later asking for a blurb on where I get inspiration for my art. I responded with a couple of paragraphs to give him something to work with. Again, I did not expect that I would make the paper when there were many other artists around.
Yesterday, my friend and artist, Nan McCarthy, posted a link to the Villager on Facebook. I clicked on the link and was delighted to find that quite a few of the artists were listed with photos and blurbs about their work. I am on page 8! How exciting! Not only was there a photo of me, but almost everything I wrote in my blurb to him was printed. Yes! Recognition. How sweet.
You can read the Villager for free online at www.nhvillagernewspaper.com.
Friday, August 8, 2014
I finally heard back after sending updated photographs to AuthorHouse. It only took a week. I opened the file for the new galley to make sure the changes looked good. I thought for sure they’d get it right this time.
These pictures were worse! How can that be? The pictures were all blurry and this time, so were the maps. Why did they alter the maps? It looked like the images were all double exposed, like one image was placed atop the originally. They were all horrible out of focus. This was worse than the first time!
Needless to say, I was devastated. Is this the kind of work AuthorHouse does? I immediately shot off an email and I called. My contact person was unavailable, of course, and I left a message on her machine. When they were first working with me, they’d get back to me right away. This time there was a wait. I guess when everything is early and they are roping people in, the communication is better. I went to bed Wednesday night feeling like I’d been scammed.
Yesterday morning my mind had its usual flow of words and my anger and disappointment escalated. How much time have I spent on this project? How many other projects were left behind? And then to find I am STILL not be done with it? Do I give up? Do I turn into a bitch and rant and scream at them? I was nervous about sending the last complaint and to have to do it again is way beyond my comfort zone. The self-doubt warred with the frustration. Was this a sign my book really isn’t good enough?
Everyone keeps saying I need to stand up and demand satisfaction. This is a year and a half in the process. I can’t just let it go!
I made a list of all my issues so far and the disappointments and after doing my morning chores, I settled at the PC to send off an email. I explained my disappointments, that I felt I’d been scammed, and accused them of talking big and not being able to deliver a sell-able product. I called them amateurish and said if they couldn’t handle images, they should have told me up front. I also asked for my money back.
An apology was received mid-afternoon. She was sorry, but what she sent was a low-resolution file for me to approve, that she should not have sent such a big file through email. She re-sent the higher resolution galley through wetransfer.com (which is what I used to upload the photo file to them) and when I opened the manuscript in that program with the corrections, the photos and mapped looked really good. What a difference! This was more like it and if the book comes out like it looked there, I will be pleased. I signed off on the galley and now it’s waiting to get a printed copy. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
Monday, August 4, 2014
I did my first outside show of the season on Aug. 2 in Goffstown. There was light rain during set up and a couple people questioned whether to continue or pack it in. I opted to keep going and by the time we were set up, the rain had stopped. Rte. 114 through the center of town sees heavy traffic and lots of people stopped by to admire the art work. We enjoyed some great conversations.
I shared my canopy with Nan McCarthy who does “impeccably detailed fine art;” ie: very detailed small and miniature, photo realist, acrylic paintings. I do charcoal landscape drawings and photography and we both had cards. I love giving customers a variety from which to choose. I love seeing the variety of art styles and products, but I’m beginning to wonder if it’s too much of a variety.
I enjoy sharing the canopy because the set up and take down work is halved when shared. The conversations to and from the shows are inspiring. It’s also nice having someone in the booth so we can take turns visiting the other artists. It’s hard not to have self doubts when sales are slow. Questions abound. Is it either one of our faults? No, we are both very good at what we do.
Cyndi Hurlbut, who had the canopy next to ours, shared some ideas she’d been contemplating. It’s an old topic of the differences between fine art and fine crafts. Many “fine artists” don’t want to participate in shows where there are crafts. Her work is more along the line of fine art crafts. She said that recently she was put amongst flea market vendors during a show that mixed art and flea market. She didn’t make any sales as customers who visited that area were after the cheap “deals.”
The first year that the Center for the Arts in New London held their Art on the Green summer show, Nan and I shared a canopy. The next year we were told there would be no sharing AND I was told that I could not have my charcoal drawings and photographs under the same canopy. They were separating the “fine art” from the “crafts” and they considered photography a craft and not an art. Needless to say, I’ve not participated since. I could not imagine choosing between my drawings and my photographs. It’s what I do!
It’s been a couple years since then and although I don’t do a lot of shows, I think I’m beginning to understand. I’ve always considered any kind of creativity as art, but from a selling point of view, there does seem to be a difference. Certain types of customers are looking for that fine art and not the other and vice versa. Does this mean that the true “art collector” will not visit the booths or areas where there are crafters? And where is that line?
There also seems to be some kind of prestige at being able to say, “I’m a member of this, this, and that.” I, personally, have never been impressed by that and I tend to be bored by seeing these lists of memberships and where people have exhibited. I am more interested in the art work. I don’t care about their long lists of bragging. Maybe I’m wrong and it is important.
And speaking of memberships that brings me back to Cyndi’s subject. We’ve been members of the Hillsborough Area Artisans and Cyndi also belongs to the Monadnock artisans group. Both groups are going through some transitions. Both groups have fine artists and fine crafters and Cyndi is wondering that instead of mixing the artists and crafters, would it be more beneficial to the members to have two shows; one for the fine artists and one for the crafters.
This is a subject that will require some thought and conversation. In the past, I would have been against it, but now…
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
It’s time to buckle down and concentrate on the two upcoming art shows. This coming Saturday, August 2, I will be in Goffstown for their Uncommon Art on the Common show. The following weekend, August 9 and 10 will find me at the Gallery at Well Sweep in Hillsborough Center for the HAA Open Studio Tour.
Off comes the writing and editing hat and on comes the artist’s beret. Well, not a beret maybe because I am not actually doing the art, just preparing what is already done for the shows. I made post cards to promote the new book “Too Cold for Alligators” and I printed new brochures yesterday. I’ll do more brochures today and maybe print new note cards.
I wish I understood and knew the terms better for different kinds of hats. You all know that I talk about the hat analogy often regarding all my different “jobs.” I wish I could name a style of hat and come up with a description including color, material and accoutrements for each one. Then I could draw little caricatures of myself wearing these different hats. What fun.
I have today and tomorrow to work on this as come Thursday, I will be back to the editing role again. I have to get as much done as I will be without internet on Saturday and unable to do any newspaper work.
If you’re out and about on Saturday and get a chance, visit my booth in Goffstown from 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. I will be sharing with Nan McCarthy and we’ll have an array of cards, prints, charcoal drawings, and acrylic paintings.
Monday, July 28, 2014
I received a phone call late Saturday afternoon from AuthorSolutions. She announced that they agreed to do my changes at no further cost to me. Yes! She started talking about grayscale and the work their production team will have to do. I said that I have the photos in grayscale and asked if it would be easier for me to send the file and she agreed. I liked this better because then I would have control of the editing. (Of course it still depends on the printing.)
I told her the issues I had with the color of the cover being too dark for the background pictures to show and that the font on the back was too small to read easily. She said they would take care of that, too. I next mentioned my mistake of forgetting to put “insert photo 2186” after the text on the last page of the interior. I knew as that was definitely my mistake that it would probably cost me. She surprised me by saying they would include that, also.
I am pleased. A company should work at making sure their customers (authors in this case) are happy with the product. These self-publishing companies are set up to be, basically, printers of what they are sent. However, there must be satisfaction in the result. I have been set back a few weeks and will not have copies of the book for sale at the upcoming shows, but at least when I do get copies they will be up to my standards. They have done well in their agreeing to fix the problems and that they are including my own error is very much appreciated.
So, yesterday after finishing my editing work for the week and writing an article, I went through the pictures. I was told to send the files using wetransfer.com and I uploaded the photos and hit send. It took over an hour for the 50 pictures to transfer. I also sent an email detailing the changes I wanted. Now it’s back to the waiting game, but I am excited. This will work!
The e-book version will not change and is still available at amazon.com.
Friday, July 25, 2014
Busyness caught me again and Gail visited for a couple of days.” I sent another e-mail this morning to AuthorHouse to address other issues besides the pictures in my book Too Cold for Alligators. For a so-called good name company, I am highly disappointed.
Here is the response to my emails last week:
I apologize for the wait. The photos have been checked by the printer’s technicians. Below is the response:
“This is a B&W interior book printed at 106 line screen and in spec. If the author needs clearer, less grainy images, you may opt to upgrade to premium color instead. This is the way it will print on B&W.”
I forwarded your concern to our resubmission team. An assigned specialist will get in touch with you and walk you through the resubmission process. Should you wish not to push through with the change, please let him/her know.
Are you kidding? Needless to say, I responded saying again how disappointed I am and asked them if this is what they do to make authors spend more money to get an acceptable product. I also said that if this is the work they do, they will not get any more business from me.
Maybe I cannot blame them 100 percent. There was my own lack of experience with this type of thing. I should have known that I needed to lighten and add more contrast to the photographs. (That doesn’t excuse the lifeless, dull, grainy grayscaling.) It’s hard to change what looks good on the computer monitor to something that doesn’t look as good and trust that it will print well. Also, it was my fault that I forgot to put an insert photo notice for the last picture.
However, the first pages and first chapter can be previewed on amazon.com which includes the first picture and that doesn’t look grainy, dull and lifeless. Then again, the e-book is in color. Perhaps the problem is just with the printed copy. Still, I am very disappointed! As I don’t do e-books, the printed version is more important to me.
It’s looking to me like this might be a company that throws around big names then keeps milking the authors for more and more money.
Too Cold for Alligators is available as an e-book through amazon.com.
Sunday, July 20, 2014
Finding My Way through the Image Processing of Publishing
Another busy morning and I took time to photograph the book cover. When I edited the photo by adding brightness and contrast, I noticed that there were alligators in the background of the cover which I hadn’t noticed before as the cover color is dark. What a nice surprise… but only nice if customers can see it. I posted the picture to Facebook.
I decided to go through the photos in the file and grayscale them. I looked more closely at the photos in the book. Yes, they are still dull and lifeless, but I noticed, too, they are grainy and there are vertical lines like when the printer is running out of ink or the print head is dirty. I also noticed that the maps, while better than the photos, also have that running out of ink look.
I heard back from someone who bought the e-book. She said that the photos are okay, though a little dark. The e-book has the color photos. I do tend to be a little dark with my editing. I don’t know if it’s because of my eyesight or the computer screen doesn’t show the pictures as dark as they will be printed. I have to work on how I “see” the pictures in the editing program and add more brightness and contrast if needed. When I think the picture looks perfect, it tends to print dark.
I tried to take that into consideration when editing the photos for the book. Still, it’s hard to know how they will print in a book. The types of printers, inks, and the book pages play a part in how the images will look. The colors on my program are RGB and the ones at AuthorHouse uses a “CMKY color space,” whatever that means.
I often find when grayscaling my photos, I have to add quite a bit more contrast than from the color photo. So did AuthorHouse just hit a grayscale button without tweaking the photos?
So, I struggle through a Sunday wanting answers or to at least talk with a consultant to be able to resolve these issues.
Saturday, July 19, 2014
I still have not heard back from AuthorHouse. I checked Amazon this morning and my book is for sale there… with a two to three week lead time. Wow. I’m still struggling. I don’t want anyone buying the book in this state. I sent two more emails to AH this morning; more strongly worded than the past two days’ messages.
I’m struggling with coming to terms with how much of this is really MY fault. Yes, I should have made absolutely sure on the pictures. I should not have trusted that when they took the color photos and turned them grayscale that they would adjust the contrast as necessary. Then there’s the fact that the proofing is done online without seeing the actual copy (and now finding that actual copy to be unacceptable).
A lesson to anyone doing self publishing – these print-on-demand places print exactly what you send and don’t question anything. Why should they care? They get your money. So if what you send isn’t perfect, too bad. Oh, my lessons are always so costly financially to me!
Should I have known better to make my pictures lighter? I thought I had enough contrast. What I see on my computer screen looks good to me. How could I tell that the pictures wouldn’t print well on book paper? And yes, when I edited the color photos to send, I did peek at grayscale and thought they looked fine. So, what happened?
Am I now stuck with this? I am feeling that all my work the past year and a half has been for naught.
Friday, July 18, 2014
It’s here! Too Cold for Alligators arrived by UPS at 5 p.m. and I eagerly tore open the package. I opened the book to take a look. The maps came out good. I turned to the last page. The photo isn’t there, the one that was the most important to me. Oh, no. I looked at other photos and my heart sank. They are dull, lifeless, and some are too dark. I am crushed. This isn’t the type of work I do.
Shock set in as I wondered what my role was in all of this. I immediately messaged AuthorHouse to report my disappointment. I know that the “package” I bought (their cheapest, but to me, very expensive) only allowed one set of revisions to the text (which was done before I approved the galley) and that photo changes would cost more money. They required color photos because of the e-book saying they would convert the pictures to black and white for the printed copy of the book. When I reviewed the galley, I commented at the time that the black and white pictures were too dark. I didn’t know if that’s how they would look in print. The coordinator assured me she would speak to the production team. I worked hard on the photos and to see them looking as they do is heartbreaking.
I have 50 photos in the book, well, 49 as the last one didn’t make it in. I checked the manuscript this morning and that was my mistake. I forgot to put “insert photo: The Light in Her Eyes” although I had it listed on the List of Photos page. I am willing to pay for that as that was my mistake. However, the poor quality of all the other pictures brings tears to my eyes. A year and a half of hard work and this is the end result? I am ashamed and embarrassed. How can I expect anyone to buy this book? And if they do, what kind of reviews will they give it? Like I said, this isn’t the kind of work I do.
And of course, I wonder if this is a ploy to get authors to put out more money. They offer as little as possible in the package then offer all other services for additional costs. If you opt not to “buy” more, then do they print as shabby as possible to get the author to have to pay for corrections?
Needless to say, I am heartbroken this morning. I wanted to have the book in hand to sell at upcoming shows. That will be impossible now. I don’t know what to do next. I’ll have to wait to hear from them. I’ll let you know.
Thursday, July 17, 2014
I am proving this week’s previous blog writings correct. I am embarrassed to say that I have been called out on yet another mistake. These last two were totally my fault in not paying attention to numbers. Both instances had me putting in a wrong time. And what was one of the first things I was ever told? Always double check times and dates! Oops, sorry.
Well, sometimes you need the slap to the head to get you to pay attention. At least it’s not a physical slap, ha ha. I need it from time to time as I tend to slide into apathy as things I do the same every week tend to be skimmed through. This goes to show that I have to double check everything.
An email received yesterday informed me that my copy of Too Cold for Alligators has shipped. I can’t wait to see it! Did they lighten the photos? I hope so. They were too dark in the galley which didn’t have anything to do with how I edited, but how AuthorHouse changed the photos to black and white. I commented on it and they said they’d take care of it. I am hoping that everything will be okay and I can have copies on hand for the upcoming show on August 2 in Goffstown.
As for the next book on day trips which has been on the back burner for six months, I’m back to working on it. I have nine chapters done and I re-read them to catch myself up and re-edit. I’m holding off on the pictures until I see how the photos in Too Cold for Alligators come out. I’m also reconsidering the title and use of subtitles.
Random Day Trips: There and Back Again; Around New Hampshire in a Single Day would be a three line title, centered on the page. I’ll probably take out the “There and Back Again.” I never like long titles.
I still have pictures on display (and for sale) at the Connecticut River Bank, Broad Street, Claremont until Tuesday, August 5.
Uncommon Art on the Common is a one day show held on Main Street in Goffstown on August 2 from 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. Artists and artisans will be set up in the park and along the downtown area of Main Street. I will be sharing a canopy with Nan McCarthy and we’ll have cards, paintings, photographs, and charcoal drawings. Come on down and check us out.
The following weekend, August 9 and 10 will find me at the Gallery at Well Sweep on Center Road in Hillsborough for an Open Studio Tour from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
I will be entering photographs in an upcoming show at the Jaffrey Civic Center which will run August 22 through September 27. An opening reception will be held Friday, August 22 from 5 - 7 p.m. Regular hours are: Tuesday, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.; Wednesday - Friday, 1 - 5 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.