Waking Up to Rejection

wpwrite1As any writer knows, there’s nothing quite like starting your day with a nice dose of rejection. Not that we don’t appreciate all the hard working editors toiling into the wee hours of the morning to send that email at 2am so that it’s there to greet us at 6am. And if you’re like me, you hear nothing for a few weeks and then start off your day with several, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

wpwrite5So why do we writers do it? True, it’s all a part of the process of building a thicker skin, of learning to laugh in the face of rejection and keep on writing, but there’s more to it than that. Yes, there’s nothing quite like starting your day with a nice dose of rejection, but there’s also nothing quite like starting your day with an acceptance letter, nothing like opening that email that glitters with shiny happy fairy dust and a, “Yes! We’d love to publish your story!” and a contract attached.

wpwrite2 Of course, sometimes those little emails of happiness come a little less often than you’d like. Sometimes, the rejection letters aren’t so polite. And sometimes, you get a series of lovely, personal rejection letters where the editors say they love your story, love your writing, and would love . . . for you to send them something other than the piece you sent them, which they have no plans on ever publishing. Maybe this makes you feel like resorting to other tactics to break the cycle. You probably shouldn’t. (But I wouldn’t blame you if you did.)

wpwrite4To all the other writers out there, I feel your pain. I’ve had days where I’ve been so frustrated that I’ve printed a story out just so my dogs could tear the pages to shreds. Days where I’ve shed tears while lamenting all of the time I wasted on a goal that was obviously never going to happen. And days where I drove to the bank to cash a check I receive for a story with a smile so big I could barely see the road, only to begin the cycle anew. If writing is what makes you happy, never give up. Keep writing, keep submitting, and never lose faith in yourself.

 

Willey Pond

willey pond1willey pondWilley Pond is a picturesque little stop right off the US 302 highway that runs through Crawford Notch State Park. It’s across from the Willey House Site building, so you can grab an ice cream or some fudge while you’re there. This pond, with crystal clear waters and happy, paddling ducks is nestled at the foot of Mount Willard. A bridge over a dam provides access to the far side of the pond where you can find hiking trails, picnic benches, and a nice slice of quiet should that be what you’re looking for. A quick, must see stop if you’re in the park.

The Secret of a Cup a Day

coffee Whenever, in conversation with a new acquaintance, people find out that I write, I get the inevitable comments about how much coffee I must drink. It’s true. Somehow, the notion of someone who writes and a coffee guzzling fiend have become inextricably intertwined in people’s minds. So it’s no wonder that when I say I only drink a cup a day that I’m always met with a disbelieving eyebrow arch. But it’s true. I have noticed, however, that the size of my mug is continuously evolving . . . but that’ll be my little secret.

Echo Lake & White Horse Ledge

White Horse Ledge overlooking Echo Lake
White Horse Ledge overlooking Echo Lake

I recently went for a solo hike. Solo meaning, I get to do everything my way, which may or may not be a good thing. So I loaded my pack with water, a week’s worth of food, a print-out of the manuscript of my second novel, and the book I’m currently reading (for my lunch break). It made for a heavy load, but I wasn’t planning on conquering any 4000 footers so I figured I could handle it.

My goal for the day was to find a nice, quiet spot and to work on my edits without puppy distractions or internet access. I drove down the road to Echo Lake State Park. I’d never been there before, but had heard it was a beautiful spot. The rumors were true. It was absolutely gorgeous. The beach was also cram-packed full of visitors, all screaming for a dozen different reasons – they don’t call it Echo Lake for no reason. So I hiked around the lake to catch the trail for White Horse Ledge.  I had hiked the nearby Cathedral Ledge before, and I figured it would be much quieter if I climbed to the top and admired the lake while I worked from above.

echo1Entering the forest was like entering an enchanted wooded cathedral, with bird song filling the air and a pressing solitude so until the circus I had left just moments before. I had a map, and found my way to the trail that looped around White Horse. It wasn’t well maintained – very narrow in areas, in other places marked only by leaves that were slightly crushed. Then there were an abundance of blazes painted on the trees – until the trail markers stopped at the bottom of a huge cliff. I spent a half hour hiking in every direction, looking for a trail or a marker, attempting to make my own trail, knee deep in dead leaves trying to not think about ticks as I pulled myself up around each side of the rock face until it became apparent that 1) I must not be on the loop trail and 2) blazing your own way may not be the best idea when hiking alone.

One of a million.
One of a million.

So I decided to return to the lake, eat lunch and rethink my plan. On the way back, I spotted many trail markers that did not mark the path I was on. It looked like someone had taken blue paint and just randomly marked trees for kicks. I’ve been on a trail where I’ve suspected this before, so I followed my own prints back to the well marked main trail. I then ate my lunch in the company of frogs.

the watcher
the watcher

I couldn’t have been more pleased. The shallow waters of the lake were rife with tadpoles, and hundreds of little baby frogs the size of pinky nails were leaping across the sandy shore in herds like impala on the serengeti. One big bullfrog soaked itself just offshore, keeping watch. Had I been younger . . . who am I kidding, if I had had a proper container to put them in, I would have collected some to study and then brought them home and made a frog sanctuary in my yard. Don’t judge me. 😛

Random flower on the beach.
Random flower on the beach.

I tried getting some work done, but between sprinkling rain showers and the echoed noise from across the lake, I gave up on my plan and moved on to a new spot for the day. Turns out that White Horse Ledge is a popular area to rock climb – with crampons and ropes and tools which I prefer to only use in a rock climbing gym. But the view is amazing and it sounded like the people in the water were having a blast, so I’d recommend Echo Lake as a nice place to play.

The Secret Place by Tana French

bookI love Irish author Tana French. Her prose is like poetry which she uses to bewitch you while she takes you on a crazy ride over the course of the pages. When I read fiction, I want it to punch me in the gut, to leave me breathless, to be so good that I have to pry the book out of my own hand to put it down and get some work done. French never disappoints.

French usually includes a bit of the supernatural in her books, which made me uncomfortable at first. What – my forensic mystery isn’t all cut and dry? Using your imagination is required to fully understand the aspects of the case – gasp! Now I find that I enjoy that little extra edge. It makes you think all the more, it adds extra layers to the plot, it makes the story more of an experience than your average journey in reading.

I can’t recommend French’s books enough. If you haven’t read her before, I would suggest starting at the beginning, with In the Woods and reading your way through to her most recent. Have you read any of her books before? Let me know what you think. Do you know of any authors with similar styles – I’m always looking, please let me know!

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20821043-the-secret-place?from_search=true&search_version=service

Ripley Falls ~ Crawford Notch State Park

ripleyripley1Ripley Falls is a horsetail waterfall located in Crawford Notch State Park, NH. One of New England’s steepest-angled waterfalls, it boasts a drop of slightly over 100 feet. The falls are only a half mile up the trailhead, which has some steep and rocky patches, but is a quick and easy hike. I highly recommend making the 20 minute climb to see it for yourself.  

Drywall, Tiling and Grout, Oh My!

When we bought our house, we really liked the fireplace in the bedroom. Or maybe I should say that we liked the idea of it. What we didn’t like was the outdated, beat-up unit that was currently in the wall. We also weren’t too thrilled that the model was a direct vent gas fireplace, which isn’t just unsafe, as everyone rushed to tell us – it’s also against building code, even here in New Hampshire, the “Live Free or Die” state.

First let me say, I don’t think I had a firm grasp on what the project would entail before I started. This wouldn’t be a quick out with the old, in with the new swap, but a multi-faceted job that would require several skills which I did not yet have.  So the first logical step would be doing some research, self-education and planning, right? Yes. Yes it would. Is that what I did? No, it was not. Because I am me, and in my world (ie. when I’m working on a project by myself that makes me emperor by default) I make the rules.

diySo, Step 1: Demo – Demolition is the first step for several reason, all of which make perfect sense to me. For one, starting a project by having some fun gets things started right. For two, once you demo, you can’t change your mind. There’s no going back. Once there’s a hole in your wall, something has to be done about it. So with my husband’s help, we pulled the old unit out, which meant pulling the stone strips that framed the old fireplace off the wall. FYI – the stone had been stuck to the wall using some extraterrestrial glue which was crazy strong and tore chunks out of the drywall. I’d love to get my hands on a tube of that stuff, so Alf, if you’re listening . . . alf

Step 2: This is the ‘reality strikes’ phase and it just might be the scariest step of all. It involves staring at the big hole you just made in the wall, and realizing that you’re the one who has to do something about it. So I put in the new electric model, which was quite a bit smaller than the original unit, and stared at the empty space around it. Then I turned the fireplace off and on a bunch of times for inspiration, so I could imagine how nice it would (hopefully) look when I was done. When it became apparent that the blank space wasn’t going to magically fill itself in for me, I reluctantly moved on.

diy2Step 3: I bought some drywall, joint compound and drywall tape (which isn’t really tape at all – it’s paper with no sticky side – who knew?). I also bought a brand new utility knife. This one had never tasted blood before, and I’m happy to say it still hasn’t. My last one was like that bloodthirsty plant in Little Shop of Horrors. I can’t tell you what a relief it was to use a knife without hearing it say, “Feed me, Shannon.” I’m not one of those people who watch youtubes to see how to do something. I like to read how, and see step by step pictures. I used this LINK to learn how to drywall. I even cut it out in one piece with little rectangular ears on it to fix the drywall that was ripped of by the glue. It was perfect. Until I bent down to get the drywall tape and it fell on my head and broke. Go figure. I used the broken pieces and it turned out just fine. (NOTE – I knew I was going to tile over the area, so I did not have to be concerned with doing the neatest job, as you can see.) diy1

Step 4: After I admired my drywall job for a week, reveling in all my drywall handyman glory, it was time to learn how to tile. I used this LINK for the basics. Then I went to my local hardware store and found the perfect tile. Or, at least, the tile I really wanted to diy3use. The catch – it was backsplash tile, and had interlocking edges. It was also made of stone. The interlocking ends meant that I would have to cut the ends off the tiles for my edges. The stone meant that it would have to be cut with a saw. The saw meant either buying or renting a piece of equipment that I wasn’t willing to spend money on. So I settled. I found square sheets of mosaic stone tile that would not need cutting. Tiling diy4wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. It was actually pretty easy until I got to the grouting part. For some
reason the grout was flinging around the diy5room like I was a monkey with a pitcher’s arm. This being a bedroom and not a shower, I really wanted to keep the clean-up to a minimum, so I used my hand to apply it. Maybe not the best idea, but it kept the fling radius to a minimum. My last remark about tiling is that scrubbing the grout off of the tops of stone tiles, with all their porous little clefts and crevices, was not the most enjoyable hour of my life. I imagine that it’s much easier to clean porcelain or ceramic tiles. diy7

Step 5: The last thing that remains to be done is to capture anybody with eyes that you can get your hands on and make them admire your handy work. This step would be easier if my emperor status and power extended beyond the realms of my own imagination, but they don’t. Just for the record, my dogs think I did a fantastic job, but prefer my kitchen adventures.

Nonfiction – Clever as a Fox by Sonja Yoerg

cleverI really enjoyed this book. Much like Jane Goodall, Sonja Yoerg writes in a way that both inspires confidence in the author’s knowledge and creates a world of imagery for the reader to immerse themselves in. This book is reader friendly in that you don’t have to be an animal behaviorist to enjoy, appreciate and understand the subject matter. That said, you will most likely learn something while reading this book. It entails a certain amount of effort. If you’re looking for a story to entertain you while you’ve got one eye on the kids and the other on a pitcher of margaritas, you should probably opt for a fictional beach read and save this book for another day.

This book is written to make you think. It doesn’t just discuss animal behaviors and their varying degrees of intelligence. It educates the reader on how intelligence tests are created, the history of methods used by different sects of behaviorists, the inherent flaws of each method – basically this book will challenge your very definition of the concept of intelligence. It made me think of my perceptions of the members of the animal kingdom in an entirely new way. It even made me consider that (gasp!) my Jack Russell might not be quite the genius I thought her to be. (But then she made it quite clear – she is indeed a genius – an evil genius 😉 naughtypups

Joking aside, this book has made a huge impact in the way I think about not just animal intelligence, but also animal equality. As the author suggests, perhaps the Great Chain of Being is wrong. Perhaps an animal is not more intelligent (or worthy) simply because they are considered to have more human-like qualities than another creature. And when you start to consider the impact (or lack thereof) of intelligence on survival? Wow. I will be enjoying the information I learned from having read this book (and the private mental debates stemming from this new info) for a long time to come!

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4892491-clever-as-a-fox

Non-fiction – The Demon in the Freezer by Richard Preston

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/198505.The_Demon_in_the_Freezer 

bookTalk about horror – the thought of biological warfare is a truly terrifying idea. Richard Preston does a wonderful job of breaking down both the science and the facts, reconstructing scenes from the past to immerse the reader in the climate in which events occurred and decisions were made.

It’s impressive that doctors were able to eradicate a worldwide disease as deadly as smallpox. Unfortunately, in today’s politically volatile climate, with a modern population that has no immunity to the disease, very few vaccines on hand, and so many samples of the disease remaining in unfriendly hands around the world, it seems that this ‘dead’ disease is still very much of a threat. Richard Preston reveals the known details of this risk in an unflinching manner.

Although it is harder to sleep at night having read this book, I’m glad that I did so. With the startling realization that, due to the eradication in the 1970s, people my generation and younger probably wouldn’t recognize a smallpox rash if we saw one, I googled images to familiarize myself with what it may look like. It’s not pretty. I’ve chosen to not include images here, where they could assault the eyes of the unsuspecting, but I would suggest that readers who are interested take a look for themselves. Education is a key tool for survival.