A Writing Room

A room ded­i­cat­ed to writing—that’s an ide­al for any author. Or not. Some authors pre­fer tot­ing a lap­top or pen­cil and paper to the local cof­fee shop, or out­doors where there’s a love­ly view and pleas­ant weath­er.

Years ago, when I was a twen­ty-some­thing and liv­ing in Seat­tle, I did not aspire to be a writer. I thought I’d be a singer. My broth­er had a beau­ti­ful voice, my sis­ter played the piano. I had illu­sions of a fam­i­ly trio—for a few months. I took singing lessons. Since I lived at a board­ing house with a land­la­dy who said, “No prac­tic­ing at MY piano,” I rent­ed a prac­tice room sev­er­al days a week. All around me, oth­ers behind oth­er doors prac­ticed voice, clar­inet, bas­soon, or piano. But, for an hour, I had my own room.

When I start­ed writ­ing, with teenagers in the house, I heard about writ­ers who rent­ed office space, set it up with type­writer (before most peo­ple used any­thing resem­bling com­put­ers), and escaped into anoth­er world. I set up my type­writer in the base­ment. After a while, I, too, had a com­put­er.

Fast for­ward a lot of years, and my hus­band and I are liv­ing in retire­ment. Our chil­dren have chil­dren, and even a grand­child. I have my writ­ing space in the retire­ment home base­ment. I don’t need to escape from a hec­tic house­hold. But a cou­ple of days ago, I read about a local free-lance writer who has his own small office space in a local build­ing, a restored tobac­co ware­house divid­ed into indi­vid­ual offices.

Gee, should I con­sid­er that?

Nah. I look out my win­dow, and think—drive through weath­er like that, every day? Then I look at my desk, piled high with arti­cles I must save, my desk­top com­put­er, my print­er, my rolling chair, the full book­cas­es sur­round­ing me. Move all that? You think? Of course, if I had Kait Carson’s very neat office, maybe… Nope. Why change per­fec­tion?

I’ve always wondered—does tak­ing your work to a new place, one with­out a dish­wash­er to emp­ty, a dirty clothes ham­per full to over­flow­ing, and dust on every shelf—make for more time spent writ­ing?  Or, does tak­ing one­self away from dai­ly life also take away the inspi­ra­tion? Some­how, I think that answer changes by indi­vid­ual, and per­haps, even by the moment. What do you think? Have you ever tried mov­ing your work to a new space?

It’s All About The Book

5 star AStart­ing next week, every Mon­day will be my FIVE STAR READS day. I’ll talk about a book I’ve recent­ly read, or, maybe not so recent­ly read, that’s on my favorites list.

What makes a book one of my favorites? Ummm… could be because I stayed up late at night to con­tin­ue read­ing. Could be because I absolute­ly loved the main char­ac­ters, or the plot, or the sen­ti­ment, or… Per­haps I don’t know exact­ly what it is that tips an enjoy­able nov­el over to the superla­tive.

Like they say, my choice might not be your cup­pa tea. Even, on anoth­er day, it might not have been my favorite. But, rest assured, I’ll tell you what shiv­ered my tim­bers with each book. Like­ly it will be a mys­tery. But, not always. (I’m look­ing for­ward to list­ing a par­tic­u­lar mid­dle-grade nov­el.) I also like his­toric fic­tion, espe­cial­ly his­toric mys­ter­ies. A few romances res­onate with me (I have favorite authors). Often, a non-fic­tion will catch my eye.  I like com­e­dy in sto­ries, but I appre­ci­ate good sus­pense as well.

Along with my Mon­day with books, I’ll post anoth­er blog entry each Thurs­day. The sub­jects will be var­ied. I’ll include entries on both days to fol­low my mys­tery, his­to­ry, and spooks, oh my cap­tion. But, I’ll no doubt include some that could only be con­sid­ered ‘ram­bling.’

Come back on Thurs­day, and again on next Mon­day. Hope­ful­ly, I’ll have refined my five star reads logo. And, hope­ful­ly, I’ll find out how to reor­ga­nize my first page to include an option to fol­low my blog, to short­en the list of past posts, and, pos­si­bly, even include oth­er options.

What makes a book one of your favorites?

 

Saving Dogs

Dogs on a plane. A mer­cy flight for ani­mals fac­ing death in over­crowd­ed shel­ters.

Recent­ly our news­pa­per told the sto­ry of the Pitts­burgh Avi­a­tion Ani­mal Res­cue Team when they brought fif­teen dogs to the Lan­cast­er Coun­ty SPCA shel­ter. The PAART began when a cou­ple of new pilots want­ed a mis­sion oth­er than just fly­ing around Pitts­burgh. After one trans­port­ed a dog for a friend, the idea took hold. When the group hears of an over­crowd­ed shel­ter about to euth­a­nize dogs, they fly in and col­lect up to one thou­sand pounds of ani­mals and take them to a shel­ter that has room and peo­ple who want to adopt dogs.

Since 2006, they’ve moved more than 600 dogs. They’ve also shift­ed cats, ducks, even pigs and a python. Some­times the dogs are in crates, oth­er times they are loose. The alti­tude makes them sleepy. The only prob­lem has been when an affec­tion­ate dog wants to sit on the pilot’s lap. (The only dam­age to a plane was when one Great Dane chewed up the co-pilot’s seat.) Many of the dogs are pup­pies.

The team of pilots has gone out near­ly every week­end for the last two years. On occa­sion a pilot will adopt one of the dogs. But they know the dogs face a bright future. Local­ly, the Lan­cast­er shel­ter had pre­vi­ous­ly tak­en twen­ty-eight dogs from the same over­crowd­ed shel­ter in anoth­er state, but these were the first that came by plane. All of those those tak­en ear­li­er have been adopt­ed.

Our turnover has been phe­nom­e­nal,” said Lancaster’s Susan Mar­tin. “We live in such a great coun­ty. There are so many dog lovers.”

The full arti­cle with pic­tures is here.

More about Amish TV

I live in Lan­cast­er Coun­ty, Penn­syl­va­nia, where the words “Amish” and “TV” don’t belong togeth­er. Many, pos­si­bly most Amish don’t even use elec­tric­i­ty. We are befud­dled about all this “Amish Mafia” stuff. We, espe­cial­ly me, only know about it from our local news­pa­per. In fact, today’s poll shows 80.9 % say “Yes, enough is enough.” But that doesn’t leave near­ly twen­ty per­cent who want to watch it because 13.7 % say, “Hon­est­ly, I don’t watch this stuff and I don’t care either way.”

Okay, I’m get­ting the cart before the horse. What brought this sub­ject up again? A cou­ple of front-page arti­cles in yesterday’s news­pa­per. One tells about anoth­er “real­i­ty” TV show being filmed right now, “Amish Haunt­ing.” The oth­er is the sto­ry of a local film­mak­er who wants to com­bat those offen­sive Amish shows. (Fol­low the links to read their arti­cles.)

The film­mak­er, Mary Haver­stick, calls it Amish-sploita­tion. She won­ders what would hap­pen if some­one should pro­duce such films about anoth­er reli­gion, say, Chris­t­ian, Jew­ish, or Mus­lim. Nope, they wouldn’t do that. They pre­fer to attack a reli­gion that doesn’t believe in object­ing to any­thing, or tak­ing any­one to court.

Some­thing I learned—all those shows are cre­at­ed and filmed by a pro­duc­tion com­pa­ny called Hot Snakes Media. Besides “Amish Mafia” and the Haunt­ing men­tioned above, they have pro­duced “Break­ing Amish” and “Return to Amish.” Might sound like they spe­cial­ize in Amish pro­duc­tions, but they also have oth­ers, among them “Elder Skel­ter” and “Naked Sci­ence.” One has to won­der about the bril­liance of the TV audi­ence.

Fly-in Pancake Breakfast

A love­ly June morn­ing, clear and com­fort­ably warm. Sat­ur­day was a per­fect day for our planned out­ing. My hus­band and I drove to Smoke­town Air­port in Penn­syl­va­nia for break­fast. Why? We do it every year when they have the Fly-in, Cruise-in Pan­cake Break­fast. We eat break­fast then stroll around to see the antique auto­mo­biles and air­planes. We vis­it with our friends Jack and Shirley who have helped orga­nize and run the event for years, and any of their chil­dren or grand­chil­dren who might be there. (Three gen­er­a­tions of fly­ers in that bunch.)

This year we didn’t have any of our grand­chil­dren along to take a Young Eagles air­plane ride. That’s part of the event—a free air­plane ride and a Young Eagles cer­tifi­cate for all chil­dren ages eight through sev­en­teen. A band plays while peo­ple wan­der and watch a para­chuter jump from 3,000 feet. (Our friend Jack pilot­ed the plane.)

All the air­planes and antique autos are spiffed up and gleam­ing. We saw a bright yel­low street rod and anoth­er car from 1927. The air­planes includ­ed a cou­ple of ultra-lights, a home-built ir two, and a 1929 Fairchild 71. It’s one of only sev­en still fly­ing, and it sparkled. It has a long body for extra stor­age and wick­er seats for four or five.

Since we saw the news­pa­per pho­tog­ra­ph­er tak­ing pic­tures, I wait­ed until Sun­day to write this up so I could include a link to the air­port fly-in arti­cle.

I know this blog is my mys­tery, his­to­ry, and spook writ­ings, and this is only his­to­ry with a real stretch. But maybe it’s inspi­ra­tion. Hmm. Do I want to write a mys­tery about a dar­ing Nan­cy Drew type with her vin­tage auto solv­ing crimes?

One thing I do want to add is the link to the inter­view I men­tioned in my last blog post. (It’s now bro­ken.) Now, here’s where to find my Cof­fee Chat with Ally Shields.

Radium Girls

Radi­um girls?” What does that mean, you ask. Think “glow in the dark.” Now cast your mind back to the 1920s. Okay, my mind doesn’t go back that far, and I imag­ine, nei­ther does yours.

Let’s start from the begin­ning. I live in Lan­cast­er Coun­ty, Penn­syl­va­nia, home of Hamil­ton Watch and in the past, anoth­er watch com­pa­ny. A local news­pa­per colum­nist, Jack Brubak­er, has been fol­low­ing radi­um girls. He found sev­er­al, one is 102 year-old Cora Bod­key. When she was four­teen, she worked for Hamil­ton Watch paint­ing radi­um num­bers on watch­es. They used pens instead of brush­es and were warned not to put the pens in their mouths. Even then, in 1926, they knew that many women liked to point their brush­es by mouth and some were get­ting sick. Oth­er than that, they had no clue about radi­um, only that it glowed in the dark.

Even­tu­al­ly, watch com­pa­nies switched to using tri­tium and the gov­ern­ment began to strict­ly reg­u­late its use, although it was less radioac­tive. One woman, who used a brush, remem­bers they test­ed her urine every week, and, although it was always high, noth­ing was ever done about it. Few local­ly knew about any­one being sick, but one remem­bered a woman who died of tongue can­cer.

Radi­um girls were at work in oth­er places before World War I. One always thinks of the world becom­ing more dan­ger­ous. But now, in 2014, we think of a per­son of four­teen as a child, and radi­um as def­i­nite­ly noth­ing to han­dle. Come to think of it, every time I read of the dan­gers of mer­cury poi­son­ing, I remem­ber the time, maybe I was four­teen, when one of us broke a ther­mome­ter. We had a lot of fun rolling those lit­tle gray dots around the floor in semi-liq­uid balls, push­ing them with our fin­gers. Yep, mer­cury.

April Showers-And April Memories

The last day of April, and the rain is pour­ing down. I’m try­ing to remem­ber to sing the words to a song that was pop­u­lar years ago — April Show­ers. I’m try­ing to remem­ber that, accord­ing to the song, show­ers bring May flow­ers, but this isn’t show­ers. It’s a pound-through-the-umbrel­la down­pour.

Okay, instead or look­ing for­ward to those flow­ers, I’m look­ing back to Aprils of past years.

Twen­ty-five years ago the Penn­syl­va­nia Super 7 lot­tery was at a then-record high $115,500,000 jack­pot. Even­tu­al­ly, four­teen win­ners each received $317,524 per year for twen­ty-six years. They have one year more to go. (I don’t remem­ber this sto­ry. I wasn’t into bet­ting on the lot­tery.) I do remem­ber the then-pop­u­lar TV shows: “Alf” “Cheers,” McGyver,” and “Gold­en Girls.”

Fifty years ago the Ford Mus­tang made its debut local­ly, priced at $2,368. After six­ty years in busi­ness, when the 91 year old own­er retired, the Smith­son­ian accept­ed the fix­tures of his phar­ma­cy to cre­ate a “Gay ‘90s Apothe­cary” at the muse­um. Movies show­ing local­ly were: “The Hor­ror at Par­ty Beach,” The Curse of the Liv­ing Corpse,” Cleopa­tra,” and “Mus­cle Beach Par­ty,” (at the dri­ve-in with Annette Funi­cel­lo and Frankie Aval­on). I prob­a­bly didn’t see any of those movies. I was busy with a very young fam­i­ly of small chil­dren, and my hus­band was work­ing three jobs.

Sev­en­ty-five years ago the local library got its very first book­mo­bile. Most of the coun­ty adopt­ed Day­light Sav­ing Time-but one town held out for reg­u­lar time, how­ev­er their banks and busi­ness opened an hour ear­li­er to accom­mo­date their cus­tomers. Pop­u­lar radio shows were “Lum and Abn­er,” “Jack Arm­strong” (the all-Amer­i­can boy-I do remem­ber that one), “The Lone Ranger,” and “The Green Hor­net.” These were all before I was mar­ried, so this was not my coun­ty. I def­i­nite­ly remem­ber our book­mo­bile com­ing from Belling­ham, Wash­ing­ton, and stop­ping at the bot­tom of the hill, after a thir­ty-mile trip.

Now, I have no per­son­al mem­o­ry of one hun­dred years ago. I’m old, but not that old. How­ev­er, local­ly in mid-April it was Cleanup Week. Thou­sands of peo­ple includ­ing chil­dren paint­ed, scrubbed, white-washed, and swept while wan­der­ing judges toured and award­ed prizes. Anoth­er week some two hun­dred peo­ple attend­ed an after­noon social hon­or­ing Nation­al Ral­ly Day of the Suf­fragettes. The event began with singing “The Bat­tle Hymn of the Repub­lic.” Also dur­ing April, “The Last Days of Pom­peii,” a silent mov­ing pic­ture was being shown — admis­sion price ten cents.