I’d always wanted to escape to those special places they have where authors can write in a tiny cabin in the woods. An isolated place where you could go for weeks with no distractions except when someone arrived at midday to place a picnic basket filled with marvelous goodies at the door.
The MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire and Bread Loaf in Vermont were my top choices.
I had plans.
When I retired after more than thirty years as an English teacher and High School Administrator, I was going to move to Vermont, buy a small farm on a few acres and write to my heart’s content. I would traipse around in the same outfit day after day (except when it was hot). Then, I’d spend the hours au naturale, taking a dip in the lake (Did I mention the lake at the end of the grassy, well-trodden path through the woods?) between long sessions of writing humorous short stories or quirky poetry or mysteries or broadway plays. (I’m quite versatile.)
I had plans.
Plans change (or so Robert Burns would lead us to believe). At age 50, I married for the first time. He was an old friend from the past. He just appeared in the middle of my life one day and then he became my life. He had children he cherished and then there were his grandchildren. Powerful magnets that kept us in a place close to their busy lives. Vermont became a far-distant country in my dreams.
One night while we were out dancing, I fractured my foot. I was forced wear a cumbersome, orthopedic boot for a few months. It was an enlightening experience, as I’d never sat still for so long in my whole life. One day, to amuse myself, I wrote a short story. It was set on a farm (What a surprise!) up in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts. Charley and I traveled there each August to sit on the lawn and listen to the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood, their summer home. My own little tabby, ZuZu, a faithful lap companion, became the central character. In the story she hears music from her loft bed in the barn.
She roams through the fields to investigate and meets a beautiful violinist playing Mozart who invites her to attend that evening’s concert. (The violinist is actually a real person, Anne Sophie Mutter. I had heard her play a few times and listened to her cd’s while imprisoned in my recliner.)I loved that story with its idyllic setting. I didn’t want to leave. So, I created more stories for ZuZu with settings around Tanglewood: The Hancock Shaker Museum in autumn; the Red Lion Inn at Christmas; the Berkshire Botanical Garden in springtime; Chesterwood, the Norman Rockwell Museum, The Mount. These were all places Charley and I had visited and enjoyed over the years.
I ended up with ten stories and, having time on my hands, sent some of them off to publishers. This was the beginning of a whole new education for me. The world of traditional publishing! Enough said about that.
I found out that most publishers will only take submissions and queries through an agent. I didn’t have an agent. I found out from the few companies which accepted my queries, that although my writing was “quite good”, my “children’s” stories did not fit into the acceptable page and word requisites. That they were “too regional”. That committing to a whole series by an “untested writer” was not in the books (forgive my wordplay).
My “Recliner Course” on traditional publishing was discouraging.
But then I embarked on a new course. I entitled it “Self Publishing in the Comfort of Your Own Living Room”. I developed the syllabus. (Since I tend to be a bit OCD, it was daunting. I revised the ten stories into one book, learned all about formatting, editing, illustrating with photo apps, copyrights, ISBN numbers, etc.,etc, etc., and in the end, I aced the course. A Berkshire Tale was launched into the world.
Once the boot was off, I began studying “Marketing by The Seat of Your Pants”. This syllabus changes every day. Visiting stores, reading in schools, meeting and greeting, book signings, and social media are major chapters.
I enrolled in WordPress’s Blogging 101 and whole new worlds, filled with interesting people, opened up for me. I’ve expanded the focus of my original blog, Around ZuZu’s Barn – The Importance of Early Reading With Children to encompass broader topics, even though A Berkshire Tale remains at the heart of it all. My new sub-title became Conversations With Kindred Spirits.
I had plans. They changed.
In the process I created my own McDowell Colony, my own Bread Loaf, my own “Boot Camp”. And from it all, a charming book evolved which has opened many doors for me.
I had plans….