Writer Getaway, Day 1.5

I’m in Day 2 of three-day writer getaway with a friend (we’ll call her Marcia). We’re at an old inn about an hour from each of our homes. It’s our second visit; we came here this past spring for a two-day getaway that we both realized was not quite long enough. We chose this place because it’s roughly halfway between our homes, it’s affordable (thank you, Living Social deal!), has pleasant surroundings, good food that somebody else fixes, and is far away from the distractions of home (I’m talking to you, laundry/dishes/yard work/groceries).

There's a Mirror of Erised in my room! However, as Older Son observed after my previous visit to this inn, if the mirror's attempting to reflect my heart's desire, either it needs a tune-up or I need to seriously up my game.

There’s a Mirror of Erised in my room! However, as Older Son observed after my previous visit to this inn, if the mirror’s attempting to reflect my heart’s desire, either it needs a tune-up or I need to seriously up my game.

I arrived Monday afternoon, test-drove the in-room whirlpool first thing, watched a couple of sessions of an online video about plot and structure*, and went with Marcia to the Chinese restaurant up the street. Given that it was Monday in a small Wisconsin town (population 5,093), this was our best option from What Was Open. It worked out: the fried rice was the best I’ve ever had, and the message in my fortune cookie was: Act as if it were impossible to fail. Definitely a Win all the way around

After I came back to the room I lay down for a short nap and slept for 13 hours (not a typo). I feel 300% better now than I did yesterday at this time, although yesterday at this time I was not aware that I was operating below capacity.

I spent this morning re-watching a couple of the classes from yesterday so I could take notes, since what was being discussed was exactly what I need to learn for the novel I’m plotting now. It’s exciting when things fall into place, as they have been ever since I returned to this particular Work in Progress (hereafter known as the WIP).

Last week, for instance, I peeked inside one of the Little Free Libraries in our neighborhood and found the exact book that influenced the main character of this novel. I took that as another encouraging sign.

Things aren’t perfect. When I made the reservation I neglected to ask for the room I had previously, and I’m finding this one to be a bit short on natural light. The desk faces the wall, for starters. I’d move it to the window, but the window faces the brick side of a building across the alley. I did know this going in–this is the room Marcia had this spring–but Marcia managed to do just fine here so I decided that this was the room I was meant to have. It’s working out OK, but I do miss a portal to the outside world.

Update: 2 PM. Amazing thing just happened. One of the rooms on this floor is being renovated and today’s the day the crew showed up to put down the new flooring. With nail guns. Loud nail guns.

It was noisy but nothing I couldn’t live with, especially since I had my earbuds on listening to the videos, especially for the price I’m paying! However, an hour ago the innkeeper apologized for the noise and offered to move both Marcia (who was on the other side of the renovation) and me to new rooms.

And…one of the choices was the amazing room I had last time! I packed up in, like, nanoseconds, and then spent considerably longer unpacking and re-organizing. I now have both a desk at a window overlooking a not very busy side street AND…ta da!…a REFRIGERATOR! The latter is very helpful, because I brought a cooler of breakfast, lunch, and snack items and the ice is melting faster than I expected it to.

As I said, things seem to be falling into place.

*The online video class is a semester’s worth of lectures on Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy, with author Brandon Sanderson as the instructor. Links to the classes are here (they’re all on YouTube, apparently with the permission both of the instructor and the university, and they’re easy to navigate). Although my WIP is neither SF nor fantasy, the techniques he discusses for character, setting, and plot are applicable to any work of fiction, and as a long-time reader of science fiction, I’m finding the world-building and sub-genre discussions a welcome bonus.

© 2014 Anne Bingham and Making It Up as I Go

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Fun with the Apostrophe

I was right. It is Dan and Kate’s Rehearsal Dinner, not Dan’s and Kate’s Rehearsal Dinner.

And it only took me 40 minutes paging through three reference books to find the rule so I could quote it to the person who raised the question, whom we will call Mr. Dunson (not his real name).DSC00986

The books I consulted were Voyages in English 6, The Britannica Book of English Usage, and The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th Edition. I had to resort to books because one of the problems with being a writer is that, if you’re any good at all, you internalize the rules early on. With time, some of the details blur, such as the exact name of a tense (past perfect progressive, anyone?) or the geography of the parallel universe known as the Subjunctive Mood.

You know you’ve written something correctly, but when you have to explain why to a client or a colleague (or Mr. Dunson), it’s tricky to come up with the exact rule. Going online is easy but–and I’m sorry to disillusion you here–not everything you read online is 100% authoritative.

Besides, I paid good $$ for Chicago 15 so I use it every chance I get. (I have no idea where the BBoEU* came from; I’ve had it forever. Voyages in English 6 is a dated sixth-grade language grammar that I rescued from a wastebasket when I was helping a teacher clean out her classroom at the end of the year. It’s stamped “Complimentary Copy” so I suspect it was something she picked up at a convention. I keep it around because it’s a lot easier to navigate than either Chicago or BBoEU.)

For the record, the BBoEU rule regarding nouns in joint possession** is on page 322: Compound nouns and nouns in joint possession show the possessive in the last word only. But if there is individual or separate possession, each noun takes the possessive form.

In Chicago 15, the rule appears under “Particularities of the Possessive” in section 7.24:
Closely linked nouns are considered a single unit in forming the possessive when the entity “possessed” is the same for both; only the second element takes the possessive form. When the entities are different, both nouns take the possessive form.

In other words, Dan and Kate are having just one rehearsal dinner, which they both “possess” and so the apostrophe goes after the second name in the series. (The case could be made that Mr. Dunson and I possess the rehearsal dinner because 1) we’re paying for it and 2) it has yet to be bestowed. But I digress.)

I have so far been unable to find a reference to joint possession, by any name, anywhere in Voyages in English 6. They must have been saving it for the upper grades, along with subjunctive mood. Note to self: find copy of Voyages in English 8.

* Not to be confused with The Big Book of the European Union.                                              ** I bet I’d get a lot more hits on this blog if I added joint possession to the tags.***         *** And I’d draw yet a third crowd if I added unmodified possession.

© 2014 Anne Bingham and Making It Up as I Go

Posted in The Writing Life | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Scratched, Dented to Order?

This past week a manufacturer of premium made-in-Pennsylvania-when-not-in-made-in-China stainless steel cookware ran a two-day online sale of factory seconds.

On Wednesday morning, the second and final day of the sale, I received an email to the effect that many sold-out items had been re-stocked. I didn’t buy anything during the sale but the origin of those re-stocked items has been nagging at me all week.

Did one overnight production run really result in that many scratched and/or dented skillets and sauciers?

Did they send Harry the Hammer down the line to rough up the inventory to order?

If I’d bought something on Day 2, would my chances of getting a Factory First have dramatically improved?

© 2014 Anne Bingham and Making It Up as I Go

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Authors & Book Festivals: Is the ROI worth it?

Last week author Hope Clark suggested (in print! in public!) that book festivals might not really be all that great for authors.

Having worked a couple of festivals myself, I’ve thought the same thing.

Book festivals obviously are fun for the attendees—lots of people show up. Festivals probably are great for boosting the sponsors’ community outreach numbers, too. I wonder, though, just how cost-effective they are for the author in terms of sales, visibility, and networking v. the time and energy invested in prep work, travel time, and being there.

My most recent book festival experience was last year at a local college. The table I helped staff was halfway down a long corridor that branched off another corridor that led to the area where the main events took place. If memory serves, a whopping three non-staff people stopped by during my shift. I was there on behalf of a writer organization but the people at other tables in the corridor were authors hoping to sell their books. They had similar numbers of visitors, and zero sales. I’m told that Saturday was a little better, but Sunday was dead, too.

Admittedly, my own experience is limited to a statistically insignificant sample, and and I’m sure the location of our table was factor in the poor experience. I also suspect there are festivals out there that are more author-friendly. However, Hope Clark has a lot of experience with author events of all kinds, and her column echoing my own thoughts led me to wonder if anyone, anywhere, has done a Return on Investment (ROI) study to see if these events make sense for authors. While it’s nice to be recognized as a Local Author, warm feelies don’t pay the phone bill. There are more effective, less time-intensive ways to increase your local visibility and network with other writers than a festival.

It seems to me there’s a master’s thesis in here somewhere, or at least a survey one of the larger writer organizations could take on. Hard data sure would be helpful for planning one’s marketing strategy.

If you’re an author—or a reader who goes to these things—what has been your experience with festivals and other big-buncha-authors events? What works for you? What doesn’t?

If you missed the link to Hope’s newsletter in the first paragraph, click here. Scroll down one screen for the discussion in the “Editor’s Thoughts” column, just below the ad. Subscribe to her newsletter while you’re at it—it’ll show up in your email inbox late Friday afternoon (depending on your time zone) and it’s a great inspiration for weekend writing.

© 2014 Anne Bingham and Making It Up as I Go

Posted in The Writing Life, Time Management | Tagged , , | 11 Comments


DSC00289Winter went on waaaay longer than necessary around here, with absolutely vicious ice, but finally nice things are beginning to happen outdoors if you remove a compressed pollen season from the equation.

The very first Nice Thing of May occurred on May Day itself, when fifth graders from a nearby school tiptoed through the not-yet-flowering tulips to hang May baskets on selected doorknobs. I was thrilled to discover that our house was one of the favored ones!

As a measure of how desperately late the season is, flowers that usually show up in the May Baskets hadn’t begun to think about blooming yet, not even the dandelions, so this year’s May flowers were hand-crafted from paper. And wonderful they are to behold! The blossom in mine resembles a miniature hibiscus in a rich, dark pink that seems to glow from inside. Paper flowers might not be traditional, but the upside is that I’ll be able to enjoy this May Basket all month long. I might even put away for next year.

The spring weather also brought out the house-hunters, including the young couple below who seemed to be thinking about raising a family in our old sandbox.


Apparently a fixer-upper didn’t quite meet their needs; they waddled off after a few minutes and have not yet put in an offer.

This is probably for the best. There’s a gap in the fence along the back of our property through which an adolescent Labrador bounds now and then and I imagine this would be upsetting for a young mallard family, as would more sinister visits from area hawks, foxes, raccoons, and the coyote Younger Son saw down the street  as he was going to work early last Saturday.

To clarify: it was Younger Son who was going to work. I don’t know where the coyote was going. I’m just glad it wasn’t toward Younger Son because I don’t think his car insurance has an anvil rider. I must remember to suggest this if he encounters the coyote again.

© 2013 Anne Bingham and Making It Up as I Go

Posted in Notes from the Neighborhood, Seasonal | Tagged , | 14 Comments