Saturday, October 30, 2010

Waxing Rhapsodic

There's a hidden treasure in the North Carolina mountains. You have to drive just about as far west as you can go, towards Murphy, but just before you get that far if you take a little jaunt south, you'll find Brasstown, NC.

Brasstown isn't really much of a town. There's a post office and a few other buildings. The small country store with a couple of gas pumps is called Clay's Corner and is the self proclaimed Opossum Capital of the World.

But turn onto Brasstown Road next to Clay's Corner and you enter a fascinating little piece of the world called the John C. Campbell Folk School. If you are a crafter, musician, dancer, or storyteller, you enter heaven. Even if you're not, you might be before you leave, because the Folk School was started in 1925 for the express purpose of keeping the traditional folk arts alive and well in a non-competitive, community oriented environment. Browse the Folk School catalog and you will find a wide variety of classes. Wood working, knitting, calligraphy, blacksmithing, quilting, writing, and the list goes on and on.

My husband, a wood worker, was told about the Folk School about two years ago, and immediately wanted to attend a class there. He was originally looking at a class in May of 2009, but as soon as I found out about it I wanted to go too, and I couldn't take the needed time off work in May. So we made a deal. If he would wait to go when I could go too, we'd pick the week we went based on when the class he wanted was offered, because I was positive I could find something I wanted to take. The class he wanted was offered again in November 2009, so we started planning.

I initially was hoping to take a knitting or spinning class, but since the class offerings vary each week there wasn't one being offered the same week as my husband's class. I considered taking a class in Italic calligraphy, since I do calligraphy, but am completely self-taught, however a writing class was being offered and I was still talking about writing a lot, but actually doing very little writing, so I signed up for the writing class in hopes of writing motivation. We couldn't wait to go, but it was only January. 

We went to the Folk School in November 2009, completely psyched about the classes we had signed up to take, and we weren't disappointed at all. The classes were fabulous. What we were totally unprepared for was the rest of the experience.

The Folk School is a community. The students that come to the school range in age from 18 to 80's+, are from all over the country and the world, and during the week that you are there, they are your community, and you will never want to leave. You will live together, eat together, learn together, dance, laugh and sing together, and you will have the time of your life.

Forget fancy hotel rooms, the accommodations are mostly houses that have been donated to the school or bought over time and converted into rooms. Some have private baths in the room, some have baths shared between 2 or 3 rooms, and there is also some dormitory style housing with hall baths upstairs in the main building. They are nothing spectacular, but they are clean and decent, and if you don't stay on campus, you will miss a huge part of the experience.

The meals are at set times and served family style. When the bell rings, everyone lines up outside the dining hall and files in, grabs something to drink & finds a seat. In many ways it's like being at camp as a kid, except you don't have to sit with your bunkmates, and the food is actually GOOD. They encourage you to sit with different people each meal and, while by the end of the week you will have found a couple of people you tend to sit with regularly, it's really fun to sit with new people and hear where they're from and why they came and what they're learning. If you have special dietary needs or preferences, they are very good at accommodating those as well. They always have a vegetarian option and they will also prepare diabetic, gluten free, and I'm sure other options if you let them know before you come that you will need those. I'm a very picky eater & there was only one meal that I really did not like, but they had plenty of fresh fruit and a salad bar, so I didn't go hungry.

Classes are scheduled for 3 hours in the morning and 3 hours in the afternoon, but since the classes are so hands-on, most instructors will open the classrooms in the evening as well if you want to come in and work on your project. As a member of the writing class, I could work wherever I took my laptop (not required by the way, one of the students in my class was in her 80's and did everything in long hand), but my husband went back to the woodturning studio almost every night.

If you don't want to do class work in the evening you will certainly not be bored. They had contra dancing (similar to square dancing) one evening which was a blast. There are concerts, poetry readings, and demonstrations by instructors of some of the classes being taught that week, that you can attend. Or you can always find someone just hanging out in the living room of Keith House (the main building), which also happens to be the only place you can really get internet access. But you know what? We both took our laptops, and cell phones, and if it weren't for the fact that I was using my laptop for my writing class, I don't think I would have touched it all week. The cell phone reception is very spotty up there, but there are places you can get a signal if you need it.

If you're an early riser, which I am definitely NOT, they have something called Morning Song every morning, which is usually someone singing or telling stories. It's very mellow and laid back and actually a very nice start to the day. I even dragged myself out of bed most mornings to attend.

I could go on and on about our wonderful experience at the Folk School, and how we cannot wait to go back, although it will probably be a few years before we are able to return. I could find something to take every week for a year, and never lose interest, but unfortunately I haven't buckled down and written a best-selling novel yet, so I still have to work the day job. But I have probably written more than enough for anyone to expect in one entry, so while I may not be done talking about the John C. Campbell Folk School on this blog, I'll stop for now.

But go check out their website and start planning your next vacation!  While you're there, you can visit Mouse Towne, but that's another post.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Truck

I got in my car this morning to go to work. When I turned the key in the ignition, instead of the nice low throaty growl of the V8, I got "click, click, click, click, rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr" and all the lights flashing on the dashboard. I called my husband at work & described the sound to him & he thought it might be the starter, but of course he wouldn't be able to tell until he looked at it.

I live an hour away from where I work, so calling a coworker to come get me wasn't an option, and my husband works an hour away in the opposite direction, so there was no point in his coming home either. So that left the motorcycle and the truck as transportation for my daily commute.

The motorcycle really wasn't a viable solution because 1) it was raining, and 2) I haven't ridden enough recently to be comfortable riding it to work through all the traffic I encounter. So that left the truck.

When I say truck, I mean TRUCK. The Truck is a full-sized Chevy 3500 long-bed with dual rear axles. It's also getting a little crappy, but it sits parked most of the time and we mainly use it to haul stuff, so it's sufficient for its purposes. The battery tends to drain if you leave it sitting for a while, but my husband, handy man that he is, has installed a knife switch so it's easy to disconnect the battery.

I don't mind driving The Truck at all, even though I have to drive with a pillow behind my back because the back of the bench seat won't adjust straight up enough for me to see over the steering wheel, and even though the AC doesn't work and it was 80 today so I had to drive with the windows half open. Driving large vehicles doesn't bother me. A few years ago my daily driver was a Ford Expedition, and when we used to off-road a lot, I drove the Ford F350 dually quad-cab we had at the time towing a 32 foot gooseneck trailer, with 2 lifted Jeeps on it, through Washington, D.C. traffic. The key to driving large vehicles is learning to use your side view mirrors A LOT and remembering you're driving a large vehicle when making turns, changing lanes and stopping. No, I don't mind driving The Truck at all, but parking The Truck at my office today was a royal pain in my ass.

I have an assigned parking space in an underground parking deck. The Truck would fit into the deck, but it wouldn't fit into my parking space because it's too long, and it's a dually. There is some on street parking by permit, so when I got to work I went and got a permit to park on the street for the day. Except there was no where to park that would accommodate The Truck. There was half a block of empty street right in front of my building, but that's reserved for certain personages, of which I am definitely not one, even though none of them were actually there. There was another empty half a block on one side of another street, so I parked there, got all my stuff out, disconnected the battery, (because the last thing I needed was to come out at the end of the day and find The Truck wouldn't start) and was walking toward my office building when one of the parking guys came out to tell me I couldn't park on THAT side of that street. I threw my stuff back in The Truck, reconnected the battery, and began the search for somewhere to park The Truck. A few trips around the block yielded nothing, but finally, after 20 minutes or so the gods smiled and someone who either had a large vehicle, or was one of those people who feels the need to leave 5 feet between the cars front and back, must have left while I was circling, and I found a space. I should have known better than to leave at lunchtime, but I did, and repeated the circling process when I returned, and finally located enough room to once again park The Truck.

All in all, not a big deal and really just a minor inconvenience in my day, but I got home tonight and my husband told me my car just had a dead battery, and I felt a little stupid for not realizing that it was something I could have taken care of this morning.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Blue Ridge Fall

Fall is my favorite time of year.

I love….

The cool mornings, that turn into warm, but not hot, sunny days, and then into cooler evenings. Especially the "football weather" evenings when it's cold enough to wear a turtleneck and a sweater, but not need a coat.

The smells of campfires and burning leaves.

The colors of the leaves changing as they desperately hang on to tree limbs before beginning their descent.

One of the most beautiful places to view the changes of nature in the fall is the Blue Ridge Parkway, so since I can't think of anything else to write about at the moment, I'll leave you with some pictures I took on the Parkway a couple of years ago.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


I've decided to do NaNoWriMo again this year. I last participated in 2004, and I actually wrote a little over 50,000 words on a women's fiction type novel. I haven't really gone back and read what I wrote, so I don't know if it's any good or total crap.

Nano is good for just forcing you to write and get words on paper, without editing or worrying about whether it's really any good. My biggest problem in writing creatively is turning off my internal editor. I tend to try to edit as I write. This is probably due to the writing I do at work, which is often under a deadline, so editing as I go is necessary in many cases. But with creative writing, it's usually better for me to just get the ideas out and then go back and weed through and refine.

I'm going to try a mystery this year, so I've been doing some brainstorming and trying to come up with the basic plot, characters, etc. I thought I had come up with a good basic premise, but I was really struggling with making the story go past a certain point and beginning to worry that I would get 20,000 or so words in and it would hit a dead end. In trying to rethink some things and come up with new ideas yesterday, I started switching some characters around within the basic plot and hit on something I think will work better.

My previous killer is now the one that gets killed. Amazingly, this is making things mesh in my mind much better. Most of the motives and general storyline I had already come up with will still work, just with a different killer, and a lot more suspects. In my previous version there was too much of a disconnect between the person who got killed and the rest of the story. In fact, that person is no longer really even in the story.

The hardest part in planning for Nano right now, is that I want to start writing some of the scenes I've imagined in my head. To stay "true" to Nano, I'm not supposed to start writing until November 1. Some of the fun and probably a good bit of the momentum is in doing this with all the other people participating, so I'm being good for now and just making notes. I'm trying to really think through my characters and come up with a good basic outline for the plot, in hopes that once I start writing I won't hit a point where I don't know what to say next. And I'm entertaining myself by coming up with character names that I would never hang on any child of mine. How would you like to have been named Andromeda?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Going Public

A recent article in Writer's Digest, titled "How to Lose Blog Traffic and Alienate Readers", tells me that I shouldn't just write about whatever comes to mind. Apparently, I should have a "focus area" for my blog, and shouldn't write about random things outside of that focus area. I don't think I have one of those.

On the other hand, I don't have any readers to alienate either. No one's expecting to read any certain type of post from me, because no one's reading my posts. That's my fault, since I haven't actually told anyone this blog exists, which brings me to the real issue.

It's one thing to put this out on the internet, and know that someone, somewhere MIGHT read it. It's a whole different, heart pounding type of anxiety, thing to think that someone I KNOW might read it. What if my writing sucks? What if I'm not interesting, funny, controversial, or insert favorite adjective here, enough?

But if I'm going to write, I'm going to have to let someone else read what I write eventually, so I think it's probably time to go public. I'm going to start small though, my husband (Hi Honey!) and some family members, and I might put it in my profile on some boards I frequent. We'll see from there.

As for that focus area I should have, for now the focus is ME, and whatever portion of my life I choose to talk about, or whatever thought lodges itself in my mind as a good topic for a post. I can tell you that I will not talk about work in anything other than a general sense, because I like my job and I need my job, and that also means that I will not discuss politics or any politically charged issue, but for now, anything else is still possible. That may change over time, as I figure out what I'm really doing here.

So, if you're reading this…be kind.

Monday, October 18, 2010

What I'm Reading

For several years I kept a list of all the books I read.  For some reason, I didn't start one this year.  I want to keep one for 2011, so I decided to go ahead & start one now for the rest of 2010.  The post below this one contains the beginning of the list, but I've linked it on the sidebar as well.  I've added the few books I remember I've read already this month.  You'll probably notice as time goes on, that I tend to find an author I like & then read everything they've written.  So you will often see a string of books all by the same author.   Lately I've been making my way through Laura Lippman, although I have to say I think I enjoyed her earlier novels more than I'm enjoying her more recent ones.  None has been bad enough yet to not actually finish though.

I've really been trying to cut back on purchasing books, so I've been using the library more.  I rarely re-read books and there are very few authors that I will buy any longer in hardback.  Stephen King and Margaret Maron are the two that I still buy in hardback, because they are the two I really want to keep, and that I do re-read from time to time.

Most of what I read these days is mystery/suspense or women's fiction, but you will also see some fantasy novels and popular literary novels.  I go through periods where I read non-fiction as well, mostly civil war and WWII history.

2010 Reading List

A list of books I've read.  Starting this a little late in the year, but want to get in the habit for the new year.

October (8+)
The Last Place by Laura Lippman
No Good Deeds by Laura Lippman
Another Thing to Fall by Laura Lippman
Home at Rose Cottage by Sherryl Woods
Every Secret Thing by Laura Lippman
Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner
Spider Bones by Kathy Reichs
To the Power of Three by Laura Lippman

November (7)
The Lacemakers of Glenmara by Heather Barbieri
A Slender Thread by Katharine Davis
Christmas Mourning by Margaret Maron
Summer Brides: The Borrowed Bride\A Bridge to Dreams\Sister of the Bride by Susan Wiggs, Sherryl Woods, Susan Mallery
Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
Waking Up In Dixie by Haywood Smith
Cross Roads by Fern Michaels

December (15)
Return to Rose Cottage by Sherryl Woods
Signs in the Blood by Vicki Lane
Art's Blood by Vicki Lane
Patterns in the Sand by Sally Goldenbaum
Deja Vu by Fern Michaels
The Christmas Clock by Kat Martin
Holiday Magic by Fern Michaels, Cathy Lamb, Mary Carter and Terri DuLong
The Night Killer by Beverly Connor
Moon Spinners by Sally Goldenbaum
Dust to Dust by Beverly Connor
Old Wounds by Vicki Lane
In A Dark Season by Vicki Lane
The Confession by John Grisham
Exit the Rainmaker by Jonathan Coleman
A Holiday Yarn by Sally Goldenbaum

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Yarn Obsession

I learned to knit, at camp, somewhere around 4th grade. My grandmother taught me to crochet before she died when I was in 6th grade. I had no real interest in either craft at the time. My mother was the one that made sure I took knitting at camp, and learning to crochet was just something to spend time doing with my grandmother as she wasted away from cancer. Although I have done counted crossstitch most of my life, I promptly forgot how to knit & crochet.
A few years ago, I decided I wanted to learn again. I went to a big box craft store & bought I Taught Myself to Crochet and I Taught Myself Knitting. Amazingly enough, it all came back to me relatively quickly. Still, it was just a casual hobby. I made a couple of fun fur scarves. Then I decided to crochet my sister an afghan for her birthday a few years ago. However, I seriously underestimated how long it would take. I worked on it off & on for a few months, then I broke my hand (another story for another day) and couldn't work on it for several months. It was almost a year later before I picked it up again. She finally got that afghan in August 2008, about 2 1/2 years after I started it!

In July of 2008, things changed. I found Ravelry and I became obsessed! So many yarns, so many projects to do! My yarn stash has grown and continues to multiply. I've become addicted to knitting lace and learning new techniques. My list of projects I want to do keeps growing, so much so that I have a hard time deciding what to work on next. I've been having fun though, and the only thing it's really hurt is my pocketbook!

Friday, October 15, 2010

I Am A Writer

I've always been a reader.

I've always wanted to be a writer.

I can't remember not being able to read. I don't recall learning the alphabet, or struggling to sound out words, it just seems like the knowledge was always there. I was the kid that had to be forced to go outside because my nose was in a book, the kid that read under the covers when I should have been asleep. I still am I guess. Even now, a good book will keep me from doing things I should be doing, and keep me up until the wee hours of the morning. I almost always have a book with me, and have been known to read while waiting in line, or even while waiting on a stoplight to change.

I've always dabbled in writing. The first thing I really remember writing creatively was a play. It was something about a troll that lived behind a hill, and I think I even got some friends together to make a cardboard "hill" and produced my masterpiece in my parents' garage. I've kept a journal sporadically over the years, but never with any consistency, and I was a great letter writer in junior high and high school. Somewhere in the room over my parents' garage there are still several shoe boxes filled with letters from friends I made at camps and almost every note I passed in school. But I've never considered myself a writer. It was just something I wanted to do….someday.

Over the past few years, I've thought about writing more, but I still haven't done much about it. Several years ago I found NaNoWriMo, and I got all excited and motivated, and even cranked out a 50,000+ word novel in the month of November. I've never even gone back and re-read it. Last fall, my husband and I went to the John C. Campbell Folk School. (Great place, and probably something I should write about another time.) I took a writing class and love it, but since then haven't done anything other than think more about writing. I seem to always be waiting for the "muse" to strike. I read, I think of ways I might change the story I'm reading, I even read about writing, and I have scraps of paper all over the place with character and story ideas, but I don't actually write.

I've come to a stunningly original realization lately. A writer is someone who writes.

I may never be paid for writing, but I can be a writer. So this is my beginning. 

I am a writer.