Nina Fosati

July and Domestic Adjustments

This month, the fear of everything closing down again served as an impetus to get things done. We replaced our king-sized mattress with two extra-long twins and installed an air conditioner. Both were objectives we kept putting off and now that we’re both getting a good night’s sleep, we wonder why.

We put in another step on the walkway down to the south lawn. The Chipmunk of Doom was warned it was going to happen, but he doesn’t seem happy about it, does he?

Husband finished up the remaining drawer fronts in the kitchen.

Aren’t they gorgeous?

I believe this is a picture of the last bouquet I bought. Cheap flowers from grocery stores were one of the few things that kept me sane this spring. Now, it’s blooming season and these beauties greet me every time I walk out the door.

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The lilies take turns showing off their soothing brilliance.

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And the wildflowers in the far back are a delight. I brought this one in to identify and haven’t yet – but if you know what it is, please don’t hesitate to tell me at TLSherwood01@gmail.com

As ever, the garden is what it is and currently, it’s well weeded. The peas were wonderful and now the beans and squash are here.

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Inside, I made new cases and transferred the feathers from my pillows into them. It’s so nice to have plump and cushioning ones again. I’d used Husband’s sewing machine. In a flurry of texts, that to me still feel unreal, I’m the proud new owner of a Singer sewing machine in a cabinet. Many, many thanks to the marvelous XO Man for the amazing offer and gift.

It’s setup in the bedroom and when not in use it serves as a new writing spot and I’ve even used it to set up the tablet for a Zoom session with Gina and Mary.

Speaking of Mary, she sent a ticket for virtual Crab Con and I went to check out the platform she used. I stayed for the Baby Crab Cam and some interesting discussions as well as a video. It was fantastic! She also let me do a bit of ghostwriting. Thank you!

I managed to submit seventeen pieces this month and am thrilled to say my piece “The Thinnest of Veneers” will be published in Cathy Ulrich’s amazing Milk Candy Review later this year. It started from a prompt in Kim Chiquee’s Hot Pants Office. I’ve knocked out at least five rough drafts for new flashes and an essay. A few things happened that have given me fodder I plan to explore soon. It’s been a while since I’ve felt competent in my writing. (And as soon as I wrote that, I received a rejection. Ugh!)

The library reopened and so far I’ve read Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere and  The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz. I’m catching up on stories in the New Yorker, too. I grew brave on a perfect day and visited with the spectacular Nina Fosati – outside and six feet apart. Not giving and getting hugs saddened me, BUT hopefully soon Covid will be in the past and we can all get back to whatever we choose to be a brighter and more humane normal. In the meanwhile, this creature tempts me to pet and to play, otherwise I’m sure I would have done even more this month.

Thank you for stopping by and for the read. Remember, you are AMAZING and I probably miss you!

Fast. Hot. Slow. Wet Cement.

I took advantage of Kathy Fish’s generosity last week and joined in the Fast Flash Reunion Extravaganza on Zoetrope. It was a great time and I adored reading other people’s work and saying “hey” to many fabulous and talented writers such as Raima Larter, Todd Clay Stuart, Nan Wigington, Cezarija Abartis, Matthew J Robinson, Jayne Martin, Jolene McIlwain, Alex Reece Abbott, Jan Elman Stout, Karen Schauber Karen Jones, Chris Haven, Patience Mackarness, Melissa Saggerer, Amy Braziller, Mary Crawford, Gay Degani, Andrew Stancek, Tommy Dean, and Chelsea Stickle. Over the course of that weekend, I wrote one creepy/Stephen King-ish flash, another that has a lot to flesh out and then two I didn’t post because they decided they couldn’t be flashes at the time.

What I’ve noticed is a similar progression of “lessening” lately. After a recent absence from Hot Pants, the first flash I wrote was solid and earned a finalist slot in a contest. The next piece wasn’t as good – though it had good parts – and the stories since then have had no true endings.

This is a reflection of my life. The lack of “the end” to Covid is insane and driven me to apocalyptic theorizing. The political news has altered my mind. Case in point: Mattresses. Not only is it the usual “what size and softness.” No, this creative mind of mine rushes to the financial outlook – no, not everyone will be all right. Will we? What if they stop making mattresses? What if we wait for the riots in Hamburg and Orchard Park and grab one then? What if our mattress is the only one in the neighborhood without bed bugs? What if climate chaos turns us all into backstabbing-for-survival neighbors? What if we lose in that battle? I don’t want to be murdered for my mattress. Black people have been murdered for less. Black people have been killed for no reason. The wide spreading-about of “bad apples” in law enforcement is astounding. Until it isn’t. Then it’s sad and awful. What kind of white privileged person am I? I may get Covid and I might survive even though my life has no more worth than anyone else’s simply because I am white and live in a state that took the threat seriously. Then again, I might fall under the care of that worthless physician assistant in Springville and die because he’s a useless jackass idiot.

Ah, there’s nothing like way too much information for a whizzing bang to the head. Obviously I’ve had time to over think and let small things fester. I vote we proceed to the picture portion of this post…

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A few of you dear readers were sent a video clip of an Evening Primrose exploding into bloom. You would think this boring, but it is fascinating. The process takes a variety of time but you notice it in the day, the ones getting ready. They grow plumper, like nourishment is rushing up the stems. In the dusk, you come out and watch. And wait. Perfect interlude on early summer nights when you seek communion and there isn’t a campfire. But with Covid, who is there to commune to?

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The hummingbirds were ferociously hungry this spring. I’ve never filled the feeders so much, but I only hung two feeders instead of three. There are many fuchsias, though. One has cascaded down from the hanging pot and I have watched the birds visit each of those flowers before visiting the nearby feeder. Other times, they treat the blooms as their dessert.

What is beyond sweet is the promotion work done by The London Independent Story Prize. The gorgeous and generous highlighting of their winning artists is amazing and much appreciated. I’m also grateful to Nina Fosati and everyone in the Hamburg Writers’ Group for their help and many, many thanks to Kim Chinquee and the Hot Pantsers for theirs! Also wonderful is the promotion the Journal of Compressed Creative Arts does for its writers. My story is here with much gratitude to Randall Brown for including it in this year’s amazing group of stories. I am honored. Thank you!

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At 10 months, new cat sprawls about when not terrorizing the dog. I’ve had her out on a leash and harness. She is a skittish thing, afraid of everything. I ordered “The Tiny Tawny Kitten,” a little Golden Book written by Barbara Shook Hazen and read it to her. New cat doesn’t believe it was my favorite story as a kid.

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The reestablishment of the once railroad ties steps is slowly taking shape. We’ve been to the campfire area a few times. Letting it seed out last year seems to have worked, but now there is greenery up there to mow. The labyrinth and all paths leading to it are the best maintained. I’m not up to discussing the garden. I don’t want to talk about my mild inconveniences and minor tragedies. It doesn’t seem fair to mope. At least not online. I think there is so much more people agree on than not, but it’s so hard to get anyone to shut up long enough to see the obvious things. How is observable, data backed science something to debate? Opinions are not fact. Health emergencies aren’t about your rights…

Sorry/not sorry. I feel like it is something I need to say. If you’re reading this, please wear a mask.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Speaking of opinion, the moon looked sneaky one night. Actually, that sounds like a great first line. After I post this, I’ll go see if it works. Who knows? Maybe it will lead to a story with a happy end. One with Covid contained and my Facebook family and friends intact. One where I have an agent, a book deal, and can report being annoyed over faulty sock elastic and feeling dread over how to effectively transfer feathers without feeling guilty for having such belligerent nothingness on my mind.

Thank you for stopping by and for the read. I appreciate you!

The Chipmunk of Doom is Visiting and He Brought Me a Bout of Ennui

I’m slightly mad at the world. Yes, I know it does me no good. Yes. I know all sorts of “oughts” to remove thoughts but I’m still kind of pissed – not about the lock down – but the indefinite time it will remain. I miss going to my writer’s groups, but we’re doing Zoom and Skype. I’ve touched base with the usual suspects. Some people I don’t frequently deal with have sent messages. I’m not lacking connection or – knock on wood – anything like food, so I’m fine and should shut up, but not knowing the end date is maddening. Maybe it’s just me.

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I’ve been working on the new novel. I’m fairly certain about the end – not exactly – but I think it will be hopeful and life affirming so yes, you should speculate if aliens have abducted and changed me. I’ve shown the start to the amazing Nina Fosati and she thinks the voice is good, so I’ll continue. As most people know, I don’t talk about my books while I’m writing them, so that’s all I’ll say about it – that and thank God for Mary and Gina for pushing me through this writing biz as long as they have. I was truly afraid when Gina left for PA it would be the end of the group, but oddly, the lock down has revived it.

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Working with a wireless keyboard makes me wonder if there will ever be a gadget that would write down one’s thoughts – or better, dreams. I’ve heard people are having vivid dreams. I haven’t been. I can usually remember them fairly well and jot down a few lines about them but recently, I haven’t been doing that. Are there only so many dreams around? I know, what an invalid theory since I can’t begin to imagine how anyone could test for such a thing. This is what happens in quarantine, odd thoughts which end up getting typed out instead of forgotten.

It’s also led to Husband completing another part of the kitchen – the corner cabinet door.

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Every year there is a yearning in spring for change. Sitting on the couch in the mudroom, I’m imaging the furniture in different places. Tomorrow, I need to check in during different times of the day. What will work as the sun goes down might be annoying in full sun. I haven’t worked up the energy to move anything. There’s a chance I’ll change my mind about the arrangement of this room. The new pest – I mean pet – hinders a lot.

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We’re keeping her as an indoor cat, but she’s insistent on getting out. I don’t know how the last cat learned her moves, but this one is brash and adamant about its right to do whatever it wants. Dog thinks that, too but he’s smarter than this cat. He generally stays within bounds.

So, that’s what I’ve managed to write for this post. My birthday cake was delicious. If I’d not been in a locked down state, I would have shared it with you.

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Thanks for stopping by and for the read. I miss all of your faces.

Novel Critique Groups and Writing for an Audience of One

It’s been a NaNoWriMo type of November. I can tell because I have an extra 50,000 words added to my novel and next to no pictures taken during these past 30 days. It wasn’t all writing and no socializing though. When I went to vote, I ran into old friends. I had a chance to talk to Maureen Lee and Kimberly Moritz after the SGI school board meeting – conveniently held in Colden this month. Springville Journal’s esteemed Max Borsuk was there, too. Five out of five Friday nights saw me in the Comfort Zone for the Hamburg Writers’ Group plus Husband and I went to see the movie “Knives Out.” The first snow has fallen and occasionally, it’s a pretty thing to admire as long as shoveling isn’t involved.

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After a gap when Mary Akers, Gina Detwiler and I pursued other writing projects, we each had new work to share so we reconstituted our roving novel critique group meetings. First stop: My home. Why yes, it was fun cleaning the whole house in two days and make quiche and cauliflower nuggets and two types of sweets because I wasn’t sure either would turn out. Dog went to a new groomer before the meeting and was far too sexy for a photo session.

I know, it’s a cheat to take pictures when he’s sleeping, but isn’t that the cutest Thanksgiving bow-tie? Thank you everyone at Paw Spa!

Anyways, I want to say that I’m still surprised that every book I write ends up being written in a different way. Last time, it was a ton of flashes that expanded into a whole. This time it was a lot of wasted writing trying to find a proper beginning. Regardless, once I found it, a lot of the themes and ideas I wanted to explore fell into place.

On and off through October, I worked on the blurb and the first chapter. I searched thumb drives for the abandoned bits and plumped out a catchall file with those meanderings called LineAboutMarriage. I know, it’s not a snappy working title, but it is a little more descriptive than NewBook17.0

I had sent the semi-polished first chapter to the amazing Nina Fosati and Prisoner for their take. Each were happy with it. When I revised it a bit more and sent it to Gina and Mary with no introduction to what it was about, I received my first negative response. It was a kind assessment of how she couldn’t tell if it was a romance or a mystery or what. And that was okay. I had been working at “genre” the last two books after I sent the dark literary “Ellie’s Elephants” to twenty agents and didn’t get more than a few requests for partials. “Blue” and “Near Eden” – the genr-y books had requests for fulls, but again, no agent took them on. For this novel, I’d abandoned the genre slant and wrote it for me.

Lots of people I’ve met have self-published. Some are lovely and I enjoyed them. A few people I’ve shown my early novel attempts liked them. I could have put them on CreateSpace when that was a thing, but my goal has always been to have an agent who will help with the process. Ideally, I’d like to be published by a big house. Making the long (or short) list for first-book awards would be a pleasant surprise, too. If I had self-published, I wouldn’t be eligible to strive for a lot of the goals I set out to reach from a young age. At heart, I’m still the 12-year-old who read “Peyton Place,” saw Grace Meticulous on the back cover in front of a typewriter and wanted to BE her.

But I don’t write like Grace Metalious. Or Nora Roberts. Stephen King, Douglas Adams, Madeleine L’Engle, Toni Morrison, or anyone else. I write like me and while I hope as I work through the rewrite of this crappy first draft, you and others will like it, in the end, the only thing I really want is for it to be a manuscript I want to read repeatedly and be happy to call mine. I’m writing for one person. It’s taken years to understand this oft-mentioned piece of advice

In the meantime, I appreciate you and the time it took to read this post. My new assistant is waiting patiently, so I must be off…

 

Thank you for stopping by and for the read!

Seeing spring flowers, George Saunders, and progress

Today, I was rudely woken by the racket of heavy machinery. It interrupted a dream conversation I was having with an old friend of mine named J. P. We were discussing the cuff links he bought – they were more expensive than the suit he was buried in. I’d gone to bed last night trying to find the “structure” for the novel I’m working on and had been toying with the ramifications of when the mother dies in the story. I think all of my novels involve a MC with a dead mother. If the mother is alive at the beginning of the new one, is that progress?

I’m writing this in view of these lovely flowers from a person whose book I’m beta reading/editing. When they hate the comments I have and the insights I’ll offer, at least I’ll have picture of this beauty. As a writer, I know that only thing I’m hoping to hear is, “It’s perfect! No changes needed!” when someone (Nina Fosati) reads my work. As an editor, I rarely read anything that doesn’t need a tweak or two…or much more.

Babel’s season ended last Thursday with George Saunders. I enjoyed his talk and the following conversation with Barbara Cole immensely.

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Many thanks to Nina Fosati for arranging and driving there this year. Speaking of driving, the maple dropped red bits on Ben so it looked like he had measles. Actually, he needs another part and will be back in the shop next week. So I guess that’s more “not driving” related than “driving.”

I’ve never had a dog I had to take to a groomers before. They do wonderful magic. Kobie went from this:

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To this:

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The transformation was huge and quick, unlike spring where the changes take time.

And the kitchen renovation. Man, that is taking time, too.

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Ah well, I’m enjoying it all while it’s happening and if it’s possible, I extend the length of beauty as much as I can. Perhaps that’s why I’m dawdling on the new book. It’s a good theory, don’t you think? Beats the easier to believe one where laziness is to blame.

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Thanks for stopping by and for the read!

Crocuses and Siren Songs

I had a birthday last week and it was not the best, but I survived and am looking at it thus: Bad starts lead to the best finishes. Since then, things are looking up. The crocuses have bloomed!

The car went into the shop and I’m allowed to drive it for a while. We’ll be traveling to my Aunt’s 80th birthday party this weekend and I’m glad we’ll be going in the car –not Husband’s truck.

Last Friday, I had the best time with Tamara Grisanti. I went with her to the Exhibit X Fiction Series. Kim Chinquee and Christina Milletti read at Hallwalls. After, we attended the reception at Christina and Dimitri Anastasopoulos’ home.

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I’m still reading the books I mentioned last time and added “Daisy Jones and the Six” by Taylor Jenkins Reid to the mix. So far – page 118 – not bad. I’ve also read many of the award winning flashes and micros from the lists that have recently been announced. There is so much great writing out there and so many contests and opportunities! Tamara sent an email about the Berlin Writing Prize. I let everything roll over me – birthday wishes, the readings, the theme of circus – and I pounded out a story on Saturday. Thank you SO much Tamara for the inspiration! And thank you once again Nina Fosati for being such an amazing, honest, and thoughtful first reader. Tamara and Nina, you both ROCK!

Speaking of things looking up, this lovely thing arrived the other day. I’m rather fond of it.

We took a walk in the back forty this weekend and found this stray.

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The frogs are in the pond.

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Our Christmas tree is now planted.

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I am thrilled to be able to walk out back again with ease. Scrolling through Facebook and Twitter, I found other calls and I am competitive – with others and myself. Always trying to write better, learn more, find typos…so I’m off to polish, possibly submit, and definitely read while listening to the siren calls of spring and submitting.

Thanks for stopping by!

Bits of Spring with a Cartoon Sheepdog Impression at the End

There’s a meme floating around that gives a rundown on “spring” and how it takes several stabs before it actually arrives. Creekside, we’re at the spring where the snowdrops appear.

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They are a welcome sign. I’ve also spotted tulips and hyacinths emerging.

Later today I’ll be transplanting the roma and cherry tomato seedlings to pots so yes, for me, spring is here, and so far it’s fabulous. Happy birthday to XO Man because it’s his birthday. Mine is coming up soon and I’ve already gotten a gift, Mr. Fishy fish!

Isn’t he adorable? Mary Akers made him and I’m using him as a tea bag holder. She gave him to me (Gina got one, too) yesterday at SPoT Coffee on Transit. There, I started a new story. On the way home, Ben’s check engine light came on – right in front of Goodyear. They plugged in the scanner and it was an oxygen sensor so I drove to the Hamburg Library. I returned “The Friend” by Sigrid Nunez. Great book, but a bit harsh toward memoirists of trauma, I thought. I picked up the books that I had requested: Coetzee’s, “Disgrace,” Brautigan’s “The Abortion,” and Saroyan’s “Boys and Girls Together.” I’ve been waiting on “The Abortion” for months and the copy I received also has “Revenge of the Lawn” and “So the Wind Won’t Blow It all Away” in it. After I read the others, I might take up the extras. “Disgrace” was referenced in the Nunez book. I read “Boys and Girls Together” yesterday. It has been touted by Jim Miner in the Hamburg Writers’ Group for a long time. Now I need to find out what why. I’m on the fence about finishing Cathleen Schine’s “They May Not Mean To, But They Do.” She had the biggest blurb for the Nunez book, and I adored “The Love Letter” but I’m on page 83 of this novel and can’t figure out why agents and editors thought it was important to publish. Maybe I’ll change my mind if I finish it. Maybe it’s not coming to me at the right time…

On the 17th, Husband was being loud with the kitchen renovation which pushed me to get dressed and drive to Rust Belt Books. I wish I had left sooner so I would have had more time to browse, it’s an enchanting space. There, I saw Kim Chinquee read from her latest, “Wetsuit” and Joey Nicoletti read from “Thundersnow.” Afterwards, some of us went to the Gypsy Parlor for dinner and drinks. (Tonic for me – it is Lent after all.)

I met Nina Fosati at the Comfort Zone on Wednesday the 20th.   We had a lovely meal then drove to Kleinhans Music Hall to see Min Jin Lee.

She was funny and bright and the question and answer question section with Barbara Cole was a delight.

The story I’ve been writing for the SMOLDR contest is finished. I cannot thank Nina Fosati enough for her help. Her insight and sharp eye were paramount in getting the piece as good as it is. I also want to thank Mary Akers for spotting the tense shift in the third section, James Wood for his “action verbs,” everyone in the Hamburg Writers’ Group who has listened, commented, and suggested tweaks, and Gina Detwiler who read the final version yesterday and said it was, “So Good,” funny, sweet and clever. Let’s hope the judges think so, too – knock on wood.

So those are the highlights from the past two weeks. I’m off to do Pilates, transplant seeds and write. If the weather holds, I’ll probably take the dog out again for an extended walk. Notice his resemblance to the sheepdog from the Road Runner cartoon.

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Thanks for stopping by and for the read!

 

Let There be Lent and Melting Snow

Even though I’m not Catholic, every year I give up alcohol for Lent. So, yeah. I’ve been completely sober for a week. This time, the thought of being done with drinking forever is stronger than it was last year, and stronger than the year before that. I mean, I’m not getting much out of it, am I? Plus, when I stop drinking, it’s so much easier to lose weight…and not engage in pointless Facebook and Twitter “debates.”

Tuesday held a pleasant surprise – and gave me an excuse not to watch The Bachelor. At the SGI Board of Education meeting, they voted to return the polling place to the Library/Media Center starting this May. Apparently, the points I made in my speech last month were well taken. It’s kind of nice to have made a difference for voters and according to Kimberly Moritz, future users of P-TECH. The handicap accessibility that was originally drawn up for that building is being reworked.

Wednesday was another writing session at Spot Coffee in Orchard Park – this time with Mary Akers! She was gracious enough to read the short story I mentioned in my last post. Oi, I’ve been polishing that thing! So many and such huge thank yous to Nina Fosati for her editorial assistance and keen insight into the genre. Mary noted a switch in tense that I corrected but said that otherwise it was good. I’m closer to sending it off. The rules for the contest have been slightly changed. Should I be lucky enough to make it to the top three entries, I’ll be begging for votes, as the winner will be determined “American Idol” style.

This morning the temperature was decent and I went out to hunt for signs of spring. No robins were spotted and no bulbs have emerged so far, but the sweet gum is forming buds.

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The windows are cracked open and fresh air is drifting in…it’s delighting me to step away from the computer and do something else, like take the dog to explore the melting snow and ice.

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Thank you for stopping by and for the read!

February Creeping Away

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I had every intention of posting last week – even started writing about how I assured Husband he needn’t buy me roses on Valentine’s Day, but he did anyways, and they were lovely – except I got called into work at the hospital gift shop (there was a code!) and a) I mucked up my hip and b) caught a non-severe stomach bug. Volunteering is not for the weak. The upshot is that I have more to write about.

My “read voraciously” urge has been slowing – I finished “The Inbetween Days” by Eva Woods and enjoyed it immensely but I’m just not getting into Kate Moretti’s “In Her Bones” so I’ll be returning it, unread past the first few chapters. It’s just as well, I’ll be evaluating a friend’s manuscript soon and determining if I want to take on the task of editing it. I was going to pick it up yesterday, but the roads were awful.

The awful weather – specifically those wild winds – delayed the return of my neighbor so I took care of these two charges for an extra two days.

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The Albright Knox offered free admission last week so Husband and I went up on Sunday. I returned alone on Tuesday with the camera.

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There’s a lot to be said for spending time with art. Those two days filled me with a peace. And I needed all the peace I could find with a torn up kitchen.

We went from this – notice the spaciousness under the sink.

To having a dishwasher installed. It is so quiet! And I’m learning things from it like “don’t put aluminum in here.” It’s quite wonderful and the kitchen is still torn apart and my mixing bowls and baking dishes are still in the mudroom, but this bit is a lovely improvement.

I have been slow to return to writing, but I plugged away on a short story and “finished” it. I sent it to the amazing Nina Fosati who pointed out the obvious – it isn’t “there” yet and I’m an idiot for not bothering to Google Monopoly properties before adding them to a story. Fie! I wonder if writing ever gets easier…

Kitchen Renovation Supervisor

Kitchen Renovation Supervisor

Thank you for stopping by and for the read!

 

 

Still around…

I am thrilled and honored that Barren Magazine has published “The Shots Fired, The Shots Called” in their gorgeous 5th issue and OMG! Cathy Ulrich tweeted about it while I was off-line in my funk. Remington Review published “Anniversary Plans” on page 5 and I’m thrilled with the outcome. I’ve liked that story a long time and it found the best home. Thank you to everyone at Barren Magazine and Remington Review for believing in my pieces and publishing them.

Yesterday, I had a lovely chat with Nina Fosati about stamina, direction, and purpose in regards to writing. I told her it’s the first time since I don’t remember when “a book” or a “goal” wasn’t foremost on my mind and how this made me feel…adrift.

Personally, I find it to be a sucky feeling and hope it turns into something freeing or worthwhile. Maybe it’s the weather. Or the anniversary of my mother’s death. Or some other “thing” causing this ennui, but I hope it resolves soon. In the meantime, I’m reading, tidying, cleaning, and trying to figure out the next step.

Regardless, I am grateful you stopped by for a bit. Thank you for the read and may your day be stunning!

Cheers!