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Blog Posts Tagged: garden

what's cooking: my Next Big Thing

Thanks to the incomparably supportive Katherine Barrett (whose Next Big Thing is actually something I can’t wait to read, having read some of her earlier writing on the topic), I’m answering the Next Big Thing writers’ blog-hop list of questions.  I’ve actually got two projects which keep vying for the front burner, so I’m including them both.

1. What is the working title of your current/next book?

    Life is Messy: lessons from the school garden

    What Love Looks Like: putting our bodies on the line


2. Where did you get the idea for that book?

    Life is Messy (LIM): from how digging myself into our school garden program helped me recover from my divorce and get off my antidepressants

    What Love Looks Like (WLLL): from my first act of civil disobedience and the inspiring activists fighting the pipeline in Texas right now (and the title comes from Tim de Christopher’s speech at his sentencing hearing—if you don’t know about him, you should)


3. What's the genre of the book?

    LIM: straight-up memoir

    WLLL: interviews and portraits (photos)


4. If you could pick actors to play the lead characters in your story, who would you pick?

    This question presupposes that I have enough involvement with non-print media to have some idea of what actors are currently working.   Hmmm.   Laura Linney?  Jodie Foster?  Claire Danes?   (Can you tell I’m a lesbian?  I mean, have you ever seen a more obvious list of actresses a lesbian would want to play her, just so she could meet them?)


5. How would you describe your book in one sentence (10 words or less)?

    I’m going with 10 words “or so,” only a minor editorial change, right?

    LIM: depressed divorcee forced to revise bleak worldview by feral, dirty children

    WWWL: inspiring stories of women taking personal risks to make a better world


6. How will your book be published, submitted through the traditional route to a traditional publisher or will you be handling it yourself through Indie Publishing methods?

    I’m so very done with self-publishing.  Have your agent call me.


7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of this book?

    In progress, who knows (unless you are an agent or editor, in which case it’s almost finished).


8. What other books within your genre are similar to yours?

    LIM: I’m going to say it’s Eat, Pray, Love without the travel budget, without the kid-free independence, and without the fairytale ending.  (Then again, maybe that doesn’t leave much.)  And snarkier, so you have to cross it with Heartburn (because there are recipes, too) and then dip it in the mud. Or perhaps a lower-budget Split, with less war-between-the-sexes (the lesbian thing again).

    WLLL: Something like Refuse to Stand Silently By or Working, only filled with beautiful photos of super-cool women.


9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

    Refer to #2 and click the links.  I hate redundancy.  Or else I’m lazy.


10. What about your book will pique the reader's interest?

    LIM: the humor, mixed with a real portrayal of the hard parts of post-divorce life, tempered by almost-impossible-to-reproduce recipes (one starts with: “Double dig a small section of a field.”)

    WLLL: the inspiration! 


Okay, now on to the fun part: tagging the people whose Next Big Thing I want to know more about.  Here goes. I give you all permission to alter the list of questions to meet your needs.

Holly Hester, I want to know where this is all going, what look you will take on next, and whether your rock-n-roll wardrobe will be for sale in the school auction. 

Rian Kerfoot: your blog rocks, so when and what will be the next step?

Jenny Forrester, I know you are probably totally exhausted from The People’s Apocalypse.  Yet I feel you might have something up your sleeve.  Oh, and I owe you $15, which I will send soon.

And b.d. swain, are you willing to interrupt the chain of smut to fess up to your full writerly ambitions?  (Warning to readers, don’t click that link unless you like lesbian erotica.  I’m serious.  Very well-written porn.)

Tags: activism, book, garden, inspiration, kids, love, Next Big Thing, recipes, school garden, writing

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this is NOT about how great my garden is

No, I don’t want to see your greenhouse, all gussied up with post-holiday mini-lights.  In fact, IF I GET ANOTHER FACEBOOK UPDATE WITH A VERY CUTE GARDEN PICTURE, I AM GOING TO SCREAM.  Oh, look, I already started screaming without even noticing.  Because, clearly, I have been driven insane by the pervasiveness of precious homesteading photography.

I homestead.  Sort of.  Let’s just say I’m homestead-ish.  I have raised beds, and chickens, and fruit trees, even sometimes a horse.  None of which are scrapbook worthy.  Why is this, I wonder, when everyone else seems to be ready for Sunset Magazine to walk in any day?  For a while, I took to photographing my meager harvests in close-up with a wide-angle setting, to try and pass as competent.  Look, I grew a whole cup of beans!  I just saved the Earth!

But in reality (in stark contrast to facebook), I find gardening and homesteading to be, above all, messy.  The horse manure that fuels the compost pile, well, it doesn’t clean itself up, and I only get around to it irregularly.  And as for the chickens roaming at will about the place, well, they are a species not well known for its sphincter control. 

My weeds get out of control at times, and I leave stacks of cornstalks lying around until they rot in place.  While I was busy trying to clip back the ever-invading blackberries, my boys dug a mudpit that I keep thinking I’ll line with gopher wire and turn into another planting bed, but several years have passed without this coming to pass.

Thanks to our commitment to preserving bird habitat, large branches are always dropping in inconvenient places, and a rat has chewed through an essential part of my chainsaw, which I haven’t found time to repair. 

Oh, and the big dog died, which means I now have a deer population problem (three: mom and two babies).  2012 was a total loss of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, sunflowers, sweet peas, tomatoes, greens, fruit trees, and all the other stuff…basically everything except citrus, winter squashes and gourds.  This means that I get depressed whenever I try to do any gardening, which means I avoid the garden, which makes the garden even sloppier, which gets into a whole chicken-and-egg garden/depression cycle, and has the collateral damage of allowing big tangles of vines to grow up, providing the chickens with excellent places to hide their eggs, which makes it into a chicken-and-no-egg problem.

 But as January 1 rolls around, I feel pretty good.  After all, this time of year, I’m not really supposed to be doing anything (oh, shush, all you pruners—the deer did my pruning), and the bleak view in my garden is justified by the season.  This respite gives me the mental space to get all zen and make those resolutions to keep my thoughts disciplined and to choose love.   To take the high road above all the pettiness that three kids and an estranged ex-spouse can foment.  I start taking all my vitamins again, and direct my brain to stay focused on the positive.  I even manage to get outside to drag the piles of frozen cornstalks into the compost pile and clear the larger tangles out of the raised beds.  Everything is great.  New year, new me, new homestead.  Break out the camera.

A few weeks in and, well, things are sliding.  The rain made it too muddy to go out there.  And then we had several heavy frosts, which make me garden-avoidant in fear that my failure to cover my citrus trees will have had severe consequences, and there will be no lemonade come spring.  In other words, it’s a mess.

But… there’s always a “but.”  I just gotta find it.  And I think this time (New for 2013!), the “but” may just be a re-frame.  I need to STOP looking at pictures of gardens and instead retrain myself about what real gardens, and real life, look like.  It’s possible that I avoid my garden because it hasn’t turned out like the picture I have in my mind, like all the facebook posts of creative and well-designed food-rich sanctuaries.  In that way, it stands in for my life, which looks, post-divorce, nothing like I planned.  I thought my garden would be well-tended and neat, just like I thought my family would, and instead both are sprawling, unruly messes. 

So I need to stop fighting what is, and accept that life, real life, is hella messy.  I’m swearing off looking at pictures of perfect gardens (and for that matter “perfect” families).  I mean, who even knows what’s lurking just outside the frame?  And as soon as it gets even a little bit warm, I’m going out there to revel in my disheveled garden beds, and my mudhole, and all the vibrant weeds and sundry that thrive on neglect.  After all, the blackberries may be an invasive pain in the butt, but they sure are delicious, come summer. 

Tags: divorce, garden, homestead, messy

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