So Now I’m a Publisher/Editor. Sort of.

Our Words Take Flight

I’ve been spending a lot of time over at Medium learning the ropes, and I have to say–it ain’t all pretty. Lots of learning curves; mainly, I suspect, because the powers-that-be at that behemoth website are still tweaking, still trying to make it a publishing company full of professional writers, good writers, bad writers, beginner writers, unsure writers, and non-writers. It’s quite literally a mess–but a fine mess.

I won’t go into great detail here. It’s too much. Exhausting. It’s been months now and I still don’t know how to do a whole lot of things that have nothing to do with my writing.

The good thing is, I’m writing more than I have in a long time. The bad thing is, I’m not making much money. But the obvious thing is, I was making NO money writing my blogs. So there’s that.

But the best part of Medium is the other writers. I’m involved in several communities on and off Facebook and I’m in my element. I’m happy there and that counts for something. Maybe everything when it comes to the things you love to do.

So, as if it’s not crazy enough trying to figure that world out, I’ve started something new. Medium is a website made up of hundreds of publications. They’re like magazines, each with its own stamp, its own style, its own feel. I decided I needed to have one, too.

Mine is called Indelible Ink. I thought I made up that title but when I went to buy the domain name it was already taken. And for sale for $7000. Really. Then, when I added it to Linkedin it turns out it’s the name of a tattoo company. So I’m trying to think of a name I like as well, but DAMN! That one is perfect!

I called it Indelible Ink because I envisioned a pub filled with strong writing that resonates, that’s memorable, that’s entertaining, that stands the test of time. I want pieces that can be read years from now and still reverberate.

I invited several writers whose work I admire and all but one has accepted so far. I’m getting submissions by email, too, and some are great but some just don’t fit. I hate having to reject anyone but I have a vision for this publication and I want to keep it. I know how rejection feels, but I know, too, that “not a good fit” isn’t the same as “you suck”. (Not that any editor would say that. No way.)

I picture myself writing alongside the writers who come there, feeling pretty inadequate. I like that. It means I might just have to sharpen my own skills. I call that a perk.

Anyway, that’s where I am now. Come on over! And stay a while. I miss you.

This is where I am:
https://medium.com/indelible-ink

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Posted in Art and Artists, Beauty and joy, Humor, Inspiration, On Writing and Media, Social Justice, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Guess What I’ve Been Doing? Writing. I’ve Been Writing

Sorry I’ve been among the missing here. Again! I’ve been writing at Medium.com almost exclusively since early March, trying to see if I can build a readership outside of my blogs. And I did. I also added publications willing to take my work, which energizes me no end.

I’ve joined three Facebook groups dedicated either to Medium or to the kind of writing I do, which gives me the sense of belonging once again to a writer’s community. I didn’t realize how much I needed that until I got involved with Medium and found those other writers.

Medium is a strange enterprise and I’m not sure I understand it even now. Anyone can write there and the formatting is a dream to work with, but it’s grown by leaps and bounds and draws thousands more each week–which means it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. Big names and publications, like The Atlantic, for example, publish there, but most are writers like me–barely making a blip on the writing scene.

Some get published in places I can only dream of, but when we’re on the Medium site we’re all of a kind, looking for readers like everyone else. I could write there for free but if I want payment for my stories I have to pay $5/month. Then that money is split between all the writers in a system that I still don’t understand.

A few writers there make thousands per month but they publish 3 or 4 times a day and have built up a strong readership. Their stories appear on the front page and are promoted in ways I don’t understand, either.

I’ll be happy just to get my five dollars back every month, and if there’s any more, it’s gravy. Lol. The stories, for the most part, are behind a paywall. New readers get three stories a month (I think) and then have to pay their $5/month in order to read more.

They have a clapping system I find silly, and even demeaning, but the oldtimers say it works, so who am I to question it? At first I was telling all of my friends to clap the full 50 allowed claps for my stories, begging them to do the thing I hate most about Medium, and then I found it was all for nought, since only paying members’ claps mean anything.

There are publications within Medium that require application and acceptance, and thus are considered prestigious. I’ve applied for and been accepted into three of them, two of which are considered at the top. (The Writing Cooperative and Writers Guild)

Then there is their curating system. If our stories are chosen by a group of around 25 Medium editors to go into their specific pages (For example, “Writing” or “Creativity” or “Politics”), the chances at being read go up exponentially. Everyone hopes for a curate but that’s arbitrary and not always given. I’ve had many of my stories either curated or accepted by publications but so far I haven’t noticed a rise in my payments. So we’ll see.

But the best part of Medium, for me, is the community. I’m meeting writers whose work I deeply admire–and some who have a long way to go. But we congratulate and commiserate and read each other’s works. And, okay, clap.

Since most of the stories I’ve written there are behind a paywall, I’m going to start cross-posting some of them here. I hope they interest you. Many of them are about the writing trade, so it could be you’ll just pass those by, but I want to keep this blog going and this is how I’ll do it.

I think what draws me most to Medium is the immediate interaction. People comment there. They highlight parts of the stories that interest them. They let me know they’re there and reading. I don’t get that here. Not to that extent. But I still love my blog and don’t want it to get lonely. And the best part is that, if you’re interested, you can read those same Medium stories for free! That’s something, right?

Here’s the link to Medium, so you can look around and see where I’m hanging out.

Thanks for being here. Thanks for supporting me. Thanks for being you!


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An Album of Unlikely Beauty

I was sifting through my pictures yesterday, looking for specific photos for a project (always a daunting task, since I’m terrible at making folders and keeping track of the thousands of pics I keep online), when I realized how, in many of them, I found beauty in the most unlikely places.

These, for instance, are pictures of our old dock wheel and footing, taken one miserable, icy morning.  It may have been the only bright moment that day, when I saw these from our window and bundled up, slipping and sliding to capture these icicles.

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An icy chandelier 

A spider web, nearly invisible any other time, suddenly becomes lace when a soft snow falls.

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Charlotte’s lacy web

All of the pictures here were taken in Michigan’s upper peninsula except this one. This is a fountain across the street from our winter digs near Myrtle Beach. It was taken last year in early January, and it duplicated again this January.  So much for Southern comfort!

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Ice fountain near Myrtle Beach

 

This is the spiral staircase at Pt. Iroquois Lighthouse, west of Brimley, Michigan.  The peeling paint makes it eerie and mysterious and, I think, beautiful.  I reversed and darkened the second one, making it even more eerie.

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Spiral staircase, Pt. Iroquois Lighthouse

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Haunted staircase, Pt. Iroquois Lighthouse

Way up in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula the old Cliff Mine Cemetery is nearly hidden, but near enough to US 41 to hear the sounds of cars going by.  A narrow foot path leading down into the trees is the only evidence that something might be there. The path leads through a large patch of myrtle to a few remaining headstones, untouched for over a century.

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Path through Myrtle at Cliff Cemetery

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Iron grave marker at Cliff Cemetery

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Celtic grave marker at Cliff Cemetery

There are only a few sandy places along our stony shore. Most of it looks like this. But I love to see how readily nature adapts to its surroundings. Nothing stops those little seeds from popping up, even among the rocks.

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Where there’s a will there’s a way

I found this beautiful fungus bouquet along one of the island’s hiking trails. I was using my kindergarten Android phone camera at the time so the quality isn’t  good, but I  still  love that I found it.

fungus bouquet

There’s a fungus among us and it’s lovely!

 

There were a pair of these moths on the mossy boulder behind our house several years ago, and I’ve never seen anything  like them again.  They’re a kind of sphinx moth, I think, with ludicrously fat bodies, but this one posed beautifully.

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Sphinx Moth

One Fall day a few years ago Ed and I took a photo op trip around Chippewa County looking for old barns and remnants of old homesteads.  This one has since fallen down, sadly.

old barn in Chippewa Co

Seen better days in Chippewa County

But this old homestead is still standing. For well over a century it’s endured Northern Michigan winters. It’s far tougher than I am.

old homestead Chippewa County

Old farm house, Chippewa County

the old farmhouse pump

The old farmhouse pump. A remnant, like a sculpture, of times past.

Look around,  look around and see what you can see. Sometimes it’s right under our noses! Enjoy.  I’ll do this again some time.

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Summer Solstice

 Belarus Ivan Kupala Day

Today marks the Summer Solstice, the first day of summer and the longest day of the year. Up North, where I live, the sky will still be light close to midnight. I love this time of year, and I especially love this day, but it’s always tempered with a mix of sadness, because tomorrow the cycle reverses and the days will begin to grow shorter.

Solstice celebrations started with the Pagans, and then the Christians got into the act with St. John’s Day. In Finland it’s called Juhannus and it’s one of their major holidays. There they make huge bonfires out of any cast-off wood, including old boats, and the flames reach incredible heights.

In my earliest memories, I can see huge Juhannus bonfires (kokko) up and down a Lake Superior beach where the Finns, including my aunt and uncle, had summer camps. Singing and drinking went on far into the night, and we kids opened the windows to our room on the upper floor and fell asleep to the sounds of three-part harmonizing, as our parents and their camp friends pulled out their entire repertoire and sang, slowly, sweetly, a capella.

They’re all gone now, all those people so full of life and promise, but the memories live on. Will there be bonfires on that beach on this night, people gathered around singing and celebrating the longest day, the start of summer, the hope of new life springing from the earth? 

Oh, I hope so. . .

Summer Solstice 2018 After 10 PM

Last light, Summer Solstice. I took this just after 10 PM on June 21,  2018

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Snow in the Woods, Ice on the bay. It’s May

We’re home! Ventured across the water last week and came into a warm house, with running water and everything! Our grandson Mike came ahead of us, slogging through snow and mud to work out all the kinks. The week before we thought we would be back, our nephew Randy scooped out the driveway and did the walkways with the snowblower, only to wake up one morning to another foot of snow!

Between the two of them they pumped out a ton of wet stuff in the crawlspace and Mike put on the waders and got the tap water running. It’s always a crapshoot when we come back from a winter away. This year,  in spite of the late snow, opening up was relatively easy.

Mother Nature is not kind to unheated cabins in the north country.  Walls crack, floors warp, and musty, sour smells tell us we’re bad,  bad people, abandoning our home to animals and moisture and who knows what else?

When we leave we shut everything down. We pack away canned goods and empty the fridge, drain the  water from pipes, and pull the plugs on everything electrical. We’ve learned the hard way that that’s how it has to be done. We came home once to pounds of pork and chicken rotted and stinking IN THE FREEZER. Some time during the winter too many days and nights below zero overwhelmed the sensors and they shut down.  We didn’t do that again!

We’ve come home to broken pipes more than once, so now we drain them almost dry and fill the elbows and low spots with RV antifreeze. All of this takes time but it’s worth it not to come home to unpleasant surprises.

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Ed lays a fire in the woodstove before we leave so it’s simply a matter of lighting a match when we get here.  Our propane furnace is an ancient behemoth of a thing and if it starts up the first time we push the magic button, it’s a miracle. We’d rather have a cozy fire, anyway, and it’s nice to have it warm when the furnace guy comes to fix the beast.

The amount of snow in the yard this year was startling, considering it’s MAY, but it’s almost all gone now.

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The bay was frozen solid last week but it’s breaking up, too. A fox and a band of deer ventured out onto the ice last week but now we have mergansers and goldeneyes swimming around in what little open water they can find.

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Spring comes late to the north woods, but our skies are electric blue, our days are getting longer, and the chickadees, the woodpeckers, the loons, the cranes are making joyous noise.

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All’s right in our little corner of the world.

At least for now.

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Writer Desperately Seeking Agent. Looking For Somebody Nice.

Okay, It’s come to this:

I need help.

I’m a writer. I’ve been a writer for most of my life. But if being a “writer” means you’re getting paid for your work, then I’m not that. Not any longer. There was a time when I could list my occupation as “writer” on our 1040A, but those days are long gone.

I’m just going to say this, hoping I don’t cry: I don’t remember the last time someone paid me for my work. Those days are such ancient history I  can barely remember what it was like to hold that check in my hand, kissing it wildly before cashing it. (Do they still pay by check? I wouldn’t know.)

I had a nice little writing career going there for a while. (Want to see my Linkedin profile? It’s right here.) Yes, I call myself “professional”, but it’s getting harder and harder to say it with a straight face when nobody wants to pay me.

I wrote an entire chapter on marketing once, in a book sold through Writer’s Digest, but whatever I wrote back then isn’t helping me now. Not now, not since the Internet exploded and nearly every writer struggling to be paid gave up long ago and took to begging venues to publish their works for free.

When I was teaching creative writing, again before the dreaded internet, I gave my students advice like this: If you want to get paid for your work, never, ever, ever give it away. Have some pride! Write well enough to be paid, expect to be paid, and you WILL be paid.

I said that.

You may or may not have seen my other, bigger blog, Ramona’s Voices. It’s about as liberal as it can get and not for everybody. I guess. (I don’t hide how I feel about that squatter in the White House, so if you’re a Trump fan, fair warning: Don’t go there.) It appears at a few other places, and I love that it does, but I can’t lie–I would love it even more if actual money changed hands.

I’ve been writing that blog for more than nine years, since January 20, 2009, when Barack Obama took the oath of office and became our president.  I thought I would stop writing it on January 20, 2017, when that guy Trump crossed his fingers behind his back and swore to uphold the office of the presidency.

But how could I stop? I set out to save the country and I failed miserably. Under my watch, despite my yowlings, my pathetic attempts at humor, my blatant wishing upon stars, I couldn’t convince enough voters to take the high road and throw the bum out.  Trump won.

Or so they say.

My plan all along, once I saw that some of my pieces didn’t suck, was to go through all eight of the Obama years, pull out the best, and publish them in book form.  The problem–and I knew this–is I’m a nobody. Why would anyone read a compilation of blog posts that hardly anyone read the first time around? Maybe they wouldn’t, but the reason I wanted to put them in book form is that I’ve never in my life published a book. And I really want to.

And then there’s this blog. Some of the stuff here maybe doesn’t suck, either.  I might be partial but I kind of like this one. And this one. And this one. Oh, and this one. And a bunch of others.

I  have two other books in manuscript form, almost finished, crying to be published. Plus, before I leave this planet, I have a hankering to be a syndicated Op-Ed columnist.

So you can see why I have to get cracking.

But I need help. I’m a writer who shudders at the thought of self-promotion. I want to write, I want people to read what I write, and I want to get paid for it.  I do. But I want someone else to be my pusher.

Can anybody out there help me? Do you know a…let’s say…an agent…(cough) who might take me on? One who can figure out how to get someone to like what I do and maybe even pay me for it? Can you put in a good word for me?

I wouldn’t ordinarily go this route–and I never would have recommended it to my students–but–and here’s another thing that might stop this whole plan in its tracks–I’m getting really old.

I know this is a route no one in their right mind would recommend, but it’s far better than Plan A, which was to paint myself in purple prose, make enormous wings out of my old manuscripts, and soar off of the roof of the Algonquin Hotel. During rush hour.

So can you help? I’m really a very nice person and not nearly as pathetic as this might seem. I can give references.

I think.

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Earth Day: A Revisit

Today is Earth Day in America.  The first, 48 years ago, was a big deal.  It was 1970.  We were in the mood to celebrate the earth and to warn against the destruction of our natural places.  Now we’re watching again as our supposed caretakers are licking their lips at the thought of all that land open to rape-for-profit.  

I wrote and published this piece eight years ago so you’ll note some outdated references.  I present it again today as a history, a warning, and a celebration of Earth Day.  (You’ll notice I’ve avoided updating it to reflect the Trump administration’s wholesale attacks on our lands and our environment. It sickens me to a point so far beyond the usual heartburn I’m admitting here and now that I’m just not up to it.)

The earth is our only home.  We owe it to her–and to ourselves–to keep her healthy. At some point we have to heed the warnings. We’re at the stage now where the earth would be better off without us.

On April 22, 1970, 20 million people, 2,000 colleges and universities, 10,000 grammar and high schools and 1,000 communities mobilized for the first nationwide demonstrations on environmental problems. Congress adjourned for the day so members could attend Earth Day events in their districts. The response was nothing short of remarkable, and the modern American environmental movement took off.

My major objective in planning Earth Day 1970 was to organize a nationwide public demonstration so large it would, finally, get the attention of the politicians and force the environmental issue into the political dialogue of the nation. It worked. By the sheer force of its collective action on that one day, the American public forever changed the political landscape respecting environmental issues.

Sen. Gaylord Nelson, Dem. Wisc – Founder of Earth Day.

Created by Walt Kelly for Earth Day, 1970

I remember that first Earth Day, April 22, 1970.  The scope of it was astonishing and really surprising. It was a grassroots movement in the best sense of the phrase, and we all felt good about it.  (Most of us, that is. The day after, The Daughters of the American Revolution branded  the Earth Day commemoration “distorted” and “subversive”.  (It didn’t help that the first Earth Day happened to fall on the 100th anniversary of Vladimir Lenin’s birth.)

What Gaylord Nelson originally proposed was a nationwide teach-in on school campuses.  He chose April 22 because it would fall after Easter break but before final exams.  It was spring.  The earth was renewing itself.  Environmentalism was gearing up and in motion, and it was a fine time to give the earth a day.  Richard Nixon was president and, while he didn’t participate in any of the day’s events (maybe because a damned Democrat came up with the idea), he was actively talking about attacks on the environment and the steps the government would need to combat them.  Pollution was a big issue already, and steps had been taken to de-smog the cities.  It was working.  (Nelson had actually talked to JFK in the early 60s about the need to draw attention to the environment, and a day to commemorate had been thrown out there then. Nothing happened.)

Industry was king, and the environmentalists, alarmed at water, ground and air pollution levels, were talking to brick walls (when they weren’t batting their heads against them).  In 1962, the year Rachel Carson published “Silent Spring”, 750 people died in London’s smog.  In 1965, four days of inversion held down a cloud of filthy air that killed 80 people in New York City.  In 1969, Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River caught fire. Earlier that year, an oil platform six miles out from Santa Barbara, California, blew out, spilling 200,000 gallons of oil, creating an 800 square mile oil slick that settled on 35 miles of California shoreline.  Almost 4,000 birds were killed, along with fish, seals and dolphin.

Enough had finally become enough, and under Lyndon Johnson and a congress that could see clearly now (even though the rest of us were still lost in a choking, eye-watering, salmon-colored, man-made smog), we saw a Clean Air Act, a Clean Water act, a National Wilderness Preservation System, a Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, a National Trails System Act, and, for what it was worth, a  National Environmental Policy.

That all changed, of course, when Ronald “A tree is a tree” Reagan became president.  For the Department of Interior, he chose James Watt, a notorious anti-environmentalist, to head it. He chose Ann Gorsuch, another determined anti-earthling, to head the Environmental Protection Agency.  What a laugh that was–or might have been, if it weren’t so serious.  They were chosen for the same cynical reasons George W. Bush chose his department heads–so that regulatory agencies could, from the inside, be forced to stop regulating.

Gale Norton, GWB’s choice for Secretary of Interior was called “even worse” than James Watt, by the Defenders of Wildlife.  I shuddered over that one.  I remembered James Watt, and I thought nobody could cause as much havoc on our little section of the earth as that little man did.  I thought we had learned something along the way.  I thought all those Arbor Days and Earth Days and global warming warnings had taught us all something.  Some of us obviously weren’t listening.

But now we’re in the era of Obama and former Colorado senator Ken Salazar is the Interior secretary.  The jury is still out on him; his voting record was either for or against the environment, depending on what I’m assuming was the alignment of the stars or the fullness of the moon.  I don’t know.   But he’s showing signs of bucking the oil industry, and he isn’t necessarily doing what his naysayers thought he would, so I’m willing to cut him some slack for a while. Lisa Jackson is the current head of the EPA. She’s a chemical engineer, which seems like a start, and she said this in Newsweek:  “The difference between this administration and the last is that we don’t believe we have an option to do nothing.”  I like that.  But she seems to think there’s no cause for alarm over offshore drilling.  That makes me more than a little nervous, considering the above-mentioned Santa Barbara incident, and the 11-million-gallon Exxon-Valdez incident, and today’s oil-rig explosion off the coast of Louisiana.  (I hope she remembers that the EPA is 40 years old this year, too.  In fact it’s a few months older than Earth Day–all the more reason for it to be the designated caretaker.)

This Earth Day, 40 years after the first, got a lot of play in the news and on the internet, but I was hoping to see crowds out there giving it their best.  I didn’t expect teabags, of course, but what I wouldn’t give for a sea of tie-dyes and peace signs and flower garlands…

The aroma of Pachouli…

All those things I thought were pretty silly in the day are looking downright good to me as I take note of the day we promised to give Earth a chance.

Sunset where I live

 “Sometimes I wonder if Lewis and Clark shouldn’t have been made to file an environmental impact study before they started west, and Columbus before he ever sailed.  They might never have got their permits.  But then we wouldn’t have been here to learn from our mistakes, either.  I really only want to say that we may love a place and still be dangerous to it.  We ought to file that environmental impact study before we undertake anything that exploits or alters or endangers the splendid, spacious, varied, magnificent and terribly fragile earth that supports us.  If we can’t find an appropriate government agency with which to file it, we can file it where an Indian would have filed it–with our environmental conscience, our slowly maturing sense that the earth is indeed our mother, worthy of our love and deserving of our care.”

Wallace Stegner, Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs

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