Friday, March 27, 2015

Plum-Blossom Snowfall, Then Spring

While friends and relatives back east were being pummeled by snow, we were enduring a deluge of plum-blossom petals drifting to the ground. And that was before Spring officially arrived last weekend. It was supposed to pour both days, but Saturday proved to be bright and warm, and so we were able to get out in the garden and start prepping it for the growing season.

Barrels filled with soil in the sunny side yard.
A robin has staked out our front yard as his territory and sings from atop a blue spruce.

An Anna's hummingbird continues to rule the back yard and spends a lot of time and energy chasing an interloper away from the feeder and sitting on a branch chirping his indignation.

Meanwhile, the female hummingbird--whom the male chased from the feeder most of the winter--has forgiven her suitor his loutish ways and has a nest secreted away somewhere in the garden. He has gallantly decided to let her sip from the feeder.

Here she is enjoying some time away from tending to her eggs, looking rather like a tired mom nursing a latte in a Starbucks while someone else minds her children at home for a few minutes.

At night we can hear the spring peepers singing, a barred owl hooting, and coyotes yipping and howling. The morning brings a dawn chorus of robins, wrens, and sparrows with the flicker providing the drum section. I've always liked early-morning sunlight, especially on days when I don't actually have to be up early and can linger to savor it with a cup of coffee.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Odd Things People Say to Writers

Look! Even pre-Internet, cats. (Image courtesy Graphics Fairy).
A few weeks ago a humor piece about what it'd be like if strangers spoke to everybody the way they often speak to writers was making the rounds, eliciting chuckles, sighs, and rueful self-recognition along the way.

It made me think of some of the odd things people have said to me over the years as I've pursued my freelance-writing career.

I present them here with no irritation, astonishment, bitterness, or desire to have my soul soothed, because by now I just think they're kind of funny. Everybody in every walk of life hears people say stuff that takes them aback (how many times a day does a doctor hear "but I read on the Internet that..."?).

Scene: college cafeteria, freshman year.
Me: Oh, hello [unnamed arrogant author who happily lay around on college lawn with nubile college roommate discussing her, um, writing]! Er, I was just wondering if I got into your writing class?
Author: Hmm? Oh. No, I'm sorry. You have a lot of enthusiasm, but little talent.

Scene: college, different professor's office, later in freshman year.
Me: Um, hello [frightening professor who went on a tear one day raging against people who described things as being "a dull black"] wrote on my paper that you wanted me to come in and see you?
Professor: Hmm? Let me see. [Takes paper. Reads uplifting comment that says "Please come and see me. You have unusual talent."]
Me: [Silent. Scared. Hopeful.]
Professor: [Hands paper back abruptly. Fixes me with glare over pince-nez. Sneers.] Soooooo. You've come to hear me sing your praises, then?
Me: Oh! No! No, not at all.
Professor: [Rambles on a really long time about something.]

Scene: Living room, right after opening parcel that contains new book I wrote as work-for-hire about the history of everyday objects.
Houseguest (angry young woman fresh out of college): This your new book?
Me: Yes.
Houseguest: It's all just schilling for corporations!! Listen to this! [Reads text aloud in mocking tone.]
Me: Well, sometimes companies did invent and make stuff that we buy, like Band-Aids and crayons...
Houseguest: [goes on to scorch teakettle left on untended stove and to borrow clothing without returning it.]

Scene: Same living room, years later. Family from down the street whom we thought would be New Friends asks to see some of my books.
Me: Here's some animal books I did for young kids.
Guy from Other Family: "All About Baboons"???
Me: Yeah, I know, the title's funny! Can't help it, "baboon" is just a funny word.
Guy from Other Family: [Reads aloud from book while wife and children snicker and sputter.]
Me: [Silent in clear knowledge that these people will not be New Friends.]

Scene: kid's soccer game.
Soccer dad: So what's your next book about?
Me: Birds.
Soccer dad: Oh. So you just go and steal other people's research and write it all down.

Scene: UW classroom, science class for elementary-school teachers.
Fellow student: So you write books?
Me: Yeah.
Fellow student: So what are you doing in this class? You're here to steal all our ideas, aren't you?
Me: [Silent, thinking, What is up with this stealing stuff? And, hey, don't flatter yourself, lady.]

Scene: elementary school cafeteria.
Other mom: So what's your next book about?
Me: Birds.
Other mom: Oh. How boring!

Scene: A friend's baby shower.
Guest: I hear you're a writer!
Me: Um, yeah. I work as a freelance writer.
Guest: I've written a book! It's a memoir! Let me go get it.
Me: [worriedly waiting as fellow guest runs out of house to her home to fetch manuscript.]
Guest: [dumps manuscript in lap.]  Here! Maybe you can just read some of it for now.
Me: [vast alarm as manuscript reveals itself to be long, rambling diary filled with complaints about the woman's husband and personal details.]

Scene: Multiple occasions, throughout life, whenever people winkle it out of you that you're a writer of books for children. (Note, however, that the vast majority of people say pleasant things. Sometimes I think people are stinkers, but at heart I think most people mean well, so I actually don't mind the common comment "Would I have read anything you've written?")

"I've always wanted to write a children's book, but I don't have time."

"Really? Do you think that you'll ever write a real book?"

"Well, it's not like you need a college education to do what you do."

"That must be easy."

"Well, that's nice. I have to work for a living."

"So you just write stuff with short words?"

"Did you ever have a real job?"