Two Truths and a Lie

Version 2

Truth: One of my favorite things to photograph are dinghies.

When my friend Hallie Sawyer tagged me today to write a post based on the Two Truths and a Lie game, of course I jumped at the chance. For one thing, I haven’t posted a blog since February. (Truth. Sad, but still a truth.) For another, Hallie and I just talked about how I wanted to blog more (Again, truth). But, most importantly, Hallie is one of my very favorite friends I’ve met in the blogging world. (Truth.) Hallie is one of the funniest women I know–we laugh together all the time–and she has a heart the size of Kansas. She’s a mom to three kids, a holistic health advocate, and a physical fitness guru who has helped me become more physically fit. So when she tagged me, I couldn’t turn her down. (Truth. This one’s for you, Hal. Love you.)

I’m going to list two truths and a lie, and then I’ll challenge another blogger to do the same. So…here goes…one of these is a lie and the two others are truths:

  1. My first kiss was with a boy named Martin, and I married a man with the last name Martin.
  2. When I was in college, I worked as a squid cleaner at a seafood restaurant.
  3. I grew up all over the world, and I’ve lived on every continent.

Leave me a comment with your guess of which one is a lie (or which two are truths). Come back on Monday when I’ll post another blog and you can find out whether you’re right! Thank you Hallie for the push to post a blog. You’re the best (Truth.).

Now my turn to tag someone: Jamie Miles, one of my favorite bloggers. To be honest, I can’t remember exactly where I met Jamie…but it was about four years ago. We connected over our sense of humor and our kids and (of course) writing: Jamie has been a beta reader for one of my novels, and I hope to return the favor. She lives in Georgia, she’s an award winning humor columnist, she blogs, and she writes fiction. Jamie has three kids and one of her kids has the same name as one of mine (Truth.). She and I both love okra (Truth. I’m not sure Jamie knows this; I learned it today from her blog.). She is an avid runner and, I’m just guessing here, is always on the go. Will you play along, Jamie? I hope so because I love your blog posts–they always make me laugh!

Jamie, this is a two post game–like Hallie said–you state your three things in one post, adding a link to the blogger who tagged you (that’s me!). In the second post, you admit which of the three things was a lie, and you tag another blogger.

Now, you should go read Hallie’s Two Lies and a Truth post…and then subscribe to her blog. Because she’s the best. If you want a blast from the past, here’s another Two Lies and a Truth post I wrote back in 2011!

And don’t forget to guess which of my three statements is a lie. And just for fun…leave me three of your own and I’ll guess, too!

Three Good Days

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It was low tide so this lobster trap float was high on the shore

Late this morning I went to a favorite waterfront spot to take photos—the Town Landing in a small town nearby. It was packed (by Maine standards). Swimmers. Kids catching crabs. Sun bathers on the rocks. Two boats being launched,  a teenager taking off on his paddleboard.

It’s been raining for about a week. Today it’s clear, not a cloud in the sky, and there’s a light breeze. Humidity is low.

An ambulance was sitting in the small parking lot, but there was no emergency. Four EMTs sat on the dock eating lunch. As I walked by, I heard one of them say, “We get three good days of weather in Maine each year, this is one of them.”

It’s true. Unfortunately I only had my iPhone with me so my photos aren’t the best…but here’s Maine at its best. I guess there’s a reason we have state slogans like Vacationland and The way life should be. These days will carry us through the next winter; they’re what we wait for.

For more of my Maine photos, follow me on Instagram @juliamunroemartin

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There are plenty of boats in the harbor–these dinghies are used to row out to where boats are moored

Love Notes: things to love mid-winter

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This photo was from a much warmer day (last summer), but it seemed perfect for a post about love… 

I meant to get this blog posted yesterday, for Valentine’s Day, but I didn’t, and here’s why…

Another blizzard. More snow predicted. But here’s the thing: it missed us. (Collective sigh, followed by a cheer.) Various predictions said we’d get one to two more feet of snow out of this storm, adding to the four feet of snow already on the ground. Instead we woke up to two inches! Yesterday was a flurry of activity to get ready for the possible power outage, being snowed in, etc. We even succumbed to the “bread and milk” grocery run, except since we were baking bread and I’m lactose intolerant, instead we bought flour and yeast. (By the way, if you haven’t seen the hilarious bread and milk youtube video, here’s a link.)

Here are a few more things I love this month:

For my post on Writer Unboxed yesterday I asked other Writer Unboxed writers to contribute Valentines to Writing. Why and how they love writing. Check out “Writing…Will You Be My Valentine?” to see the twenty wonderful love letters, poems, and words about writing. I loved compiling this Valentine box of words.

At Great New Books this month I posted a recommendation for Roz Chast’s graphic memoir Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant. I saw this book as a long love letter to her parents (as they went through the aging process). The book is at turns hilarious and heartbreaking and Chast is amazing at expressing feelings through her cartoons. I loved this book.

Lately I’ve seen a lot of Common Ravens. These massive black birds, “cousins” of the crow, are larger than a Red-tailed Hawk, and I don’t see them often in Maine. (I don’t think… they are solitary birds so if I saw one alone, without comparison to another bird, I might think it’s a crow—crows weigh about half as much, but without comparison, this difference is hard to see). You can tell ravens from crows in flight by the raven’s wedge-shaped tail. I saw a lot of ravens in the west when I drove across the country, but it’s really spectacular to see them in the snow. The contrast is beautiful and striking. I haven’t gotten a photo of one yet, but I would love to by the end of the winter.

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Winter is far from over. This is a shot of the Cousins Island Bridge, looking toward the mainland.

Winter…which is far from over, despite the lack of snow from this particular blizzard. We are in the deep chill, with temperatures well below freezing (we’ve had thirteen days below zero in February; I don’t love that). I still go out and take photos, but with clear skies, sunrises and sunsets are less spectacular (we’ve had a few good ones), most boats are out of the water, and it’s harder to get access to beautiful areas—the snow banks are huge.

Another thing I really love today is that it’s only 32 days until the Spring Equinox. And even though I’m sure we’ll still have snow on the ground, there’s a lot of hope resting on that day!

How’s your winter going? What do you love this month?

Great New Books Favorites

2014 GNB Favorite Books copy

One of the best things I’ve done this year was to become a contributor to the Great New Books blog team. When my writer friend (and Great New Books founder) Jennifer Lyn King visited Maine last year, she contacted me and asked me if I had time for a cup of coffee. Instead, Jennifer and I took a tour of my little corner of coastal Maine. Jennifer and I both love photography and the day we went out was absolutely gorgeous…we had an amazing day and both of us posted photos on Instagram before Jennifer headed out for a sunset lobster dinner with her family (who I also had the happy opportunity to meet).

I digress. Before we parted ways, Jennifer asked if I might be interested in joining the Great New Books team—if an opening came up. I quickly said yes, and I was thrilled when just about a month later she emailed and said she was expanding the team and asked if I would like to join.

When I joined Great New Books, I became a part of an amazing group of readers and writers; in addition to founder Jennifer, they’re Hallie Sawyer, Nina Badzin, Jessica Vealitzek, Lindsey Mead, Stacey Loscalzo, Cathleen Holst, and Katie Noah Gibson.

Great New Books is all about weekly sharing of a new book one of us loves:

Our passion is for recommending quality books which keep us turning pages long through the night, great books which have the potential to touch hearts, and lives, and open doors to a better world.

But Great New Books is so much more than that. We’re nine women. All from different backgrounds, at different stages of life, but our lives intersect at a passion for reading and writing. And I can now happily say that I call these eight remarkable women friends. We share our lives through weekly emails, something I count on every week…continuity in my life that’s a little discontinuous of late. For that I’d like to say thank you. To Jennifer for the invitation to join, and to the other women in the group. Thank you for being a part of my life and for allowing me to be a part of yours.

This week’s posting on Great New Books is even more special than usual because we each contributed to it (Jennifer did an amazing job compiling it, too!). Each of us picked the favorite book we read this year, and that’s what this week’s post is all about.

Over the past several weeks, the nine of us on our GNB team — Lindsey Mead, Nina Badzin, Jess Vealitzek, Hallie Sawyer, Stacey Loscalzo, Cathleen Holst, Katie Noah Gibson, Julia Munroe Martin, and Jennifer King — have worked hard to each try and pick our favorite book from 2014. Between the nine of us, we’ve read over 450 books this year. It hasn’t been an easy task to choose just one book apiece. But here, after long deliberation, are our favorite book picks (old and new) we’ve read this year …

So please head over to the Great New Books blog. Read about our favorites, and sign up to receive the weekly posts while you’re there, too. I can promise that every week you’ll read about books that we feel passionately about—and isn’t that what reading is all about?

Happy New Year,

Julia

 

 

 

Going to the Birds

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The Arctic Tern

 

Summertime is prime bird watching time in Maine. We get the songbirds of the meadows and woodlands, but we also get the water birds. Gulls, terns, waders like Great Blue Herons and Egrets. A lot of birds of prey too. Ospreys and Eagles and hawks, oh my.

I confess I love them all.

Yesterday MEH (My Engineer Husband) and I went for a drive to Wolfe’s Neck Farm (yes it’s as beautiful as it sounds). We saw all kinds of birds. In fact on the mouth of the Little River, where it flows into the bay—on the tidal flat—we saw six Egrets along the river. It was an amazing sight. We took a few photos from afar, but when I got home I looked at them and decided none was close enough nor could be enlarged without looking blurry so I threw them away.

A hawk... I think a Broad Winged (any birders out there want to chime, er, chirp in?)

A hawk… I think a Broad Winged (any birders out there want to chime, er, chirp in?)

This is very uncharacteristic (I have almost 10,000 photos on my computer and another 6,000 on my iPhone, so clearly I rarely trash anything), and I immediately regretted it (well when I decided to write this blog). I wanted to include that distant photo of the six egrets but I didn’t have it anymore. Moral: don’t throw anything away. Better moral: Keep at least one photo of everything. Addendum: buy an external hard drive to store photos.

Anyway, last night we watched A Birder’s Guide to Everything—a sweet coming of age movie about bird watching and life. And today I went bird watching again at the Town Landing in the next town over, the place I go almost everyday. And boy was I glad I went. I immediately saw several small seabirds flitting around, plunging into the water and diving for fish. I knew they were terns, but what I didn’t know until I got home was that I was watching the Arctic Tern.

This gives you an idea of the speed these birds move. I guess they have to in order to cover as much ground as they do!

This gives you an idea of the speed these birds move. I guess they have to in order to cover as much ground as they do!

This is what I learned from the Cornell Bird site: the Arctic Tern has the farthest yearly journey of any bird. It migrates up to 25,000 miles from its Arctic breeding ground to where it winters in Antarctica. I probably could’ve stood on the dock and watched these birds all day. They were as beautiful as they were acrobatic.

Although there's no bird in this photo, it is my favorite of the week. Partly because it's so beautiful, partly because the people in the photo are friends of mine and I know how happy they are while they're out sailing together!

Although there’s no bird in this photo, it is my favorite of the week. Partly because it’s so beautiful, but mostly because the people in the photo are friends of mine and I know how happy they are while they’re out sailing together!

Although none of my photos of the Arctic Tern are that great, I still decided to include them in this post (I learned my lesson with the egrets!), because I guess the Arctic Tern may top my list as my favorite bird this year.  My all-time favorite is still the Hermit Thrush. A songbird, its song is just beautiful. (If you have time, you should follow the link and listen to the “typical voice,” well worth it!)

Are you a bird watcher? What’s your favorite bird? What’s your favorite outdoor activity this summer?

Cheers,

Julia

“Just Today”

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Just this

“Good morning,” he said, smiling, nodding. “Nice day.”

He’s the captain of one of the lobster boats at the town landing one town over. The place I go to take photos almost every day. He’s there, too, getting his lobster boat ready to go out. No matter the weather he goes out—everyday I’m there anyway—yesterday I took a photo of his boat heading out in thick fog.

Today was different. It was bright and sparkling, there was a freshening breeze, and the pea soup from yesterday was…well…a thing of yesterday. I was sitting on a low concrete retaining wall, basking in the sun and taking photos.

After he greeted me—the first time we’ve talked except when I’ve asked him if it was okay to take photos of his boat—I greeted him back. “Good morning. Really nice! I’m just enjoying the warmth…knowing what’s coming.”

He looked like he wasn’t sure what I meant. Did I mean I thought the fog was coming back? Another storm?

Yesterday

Yesterday

I meant winter.

“Wint—” I started.

He cut me off before I could finish. “You don’t want to do that. Just today. That’s what we have. Just enjoy today.”

I thanked him, we shared a smile, a moment, and he continued on his way to the dock.

It stayed with me, his advice. I tend to be one of those people who wants to know…everything. To not leave anything up to chance. It makes me a little nervous. It’s gotten easier (as I’ve gotten older) to relax into enjoying, just enjoying the day, the sun on my face. And my solo cross-country trip last summer helped me move in the right direction—toward living in the moment—but I needed to hear it this morning.

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Today

I’ve got a long to-do list today. It felt like too much this morning before I talked to the boat captain—who I’m sure has just as long or longer a list—but now it feels doable. More enjoyable anyway.

And I may just make a second trip to the water’s edge… and not just today.

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The fog blowing out to sea

What about you? Are you like me? Often getting ready for something instead of just enjoying the day? Or are you better at just enjoying today? 

Cheers,

Julia

Five Things Making Me Happy

photoSpring is finally here in Maine. The snow is gone and the first daffodil bloomed in our yard yesterday, and to celebrate I decided not to wear long underwear today (although I did debate; the thermometer registers just 41 degrees). It’s been a long, hard, cold winter, and I’m ready for spring.

Jackie Cangro’s recent blog really resonated with me. She wrote about why she’s thankful for spring. Even on gray, cold days like today, I’m feeling inordinately happy about Spring along with the need to celebrate the things that make me happy.

Wikipedia says…Happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.

And here, in no particular order,  are five things creating my personal state of well-being…ranging from contentment to intense joy!

1. Bird life is returning! We still don’t have leaves on the trees (they’re just starting to pop), but that’s almost better—I can see all the birds I hear. This morning we saw a Great Blue Heron land at the tippy top of a tall pine (it was pretty amazing). We also saw a Downy Woodpecker, a Pileated Woodpecker, and two days ago we saw a bald eagle (that’s not the royal we…by me I mean me and MEH—My Engineer Husband). The Ospreys have also returned to the coast of Maine and I’ve seen plenty of those. Along with the exciting, the usual cadre of robins, finches, juncos, chickadees, and gulls are out in full force.

2. And speaking of MEH, he’s back at work… definitely adding to my sense of well being (although I do miss him being around all the time).

3. I’m also learning to live with 24-hour supervision…how can this be good you’re wondering? I recently got a Jawbone UP. Like I said it’s been a long winter and I haven’t gotten nearly as much exercise as I should have. On top of that, I haven’t been sleeping too well. This handy hi-tech bracelet-gadget will hopefully help me by tracking my steps and sleep. It’s also a good way to remind me to not be quite so sedentary in my writing habits—I’ve set it so that it buzzes every 45 minutes to remind meto get up and move around for a while. Now that the ice is gone and the weather is a little warmer I can get outside and walk!

4. Instagram is my new social networking favorite. I’ve been snapping up a storm and (best of all) connecting with other photographers from all over the world. What a wonderful community! I’ve found the Maine group (#igersmaine) and one of my photos was already selected as an #igersmaine picture of the day (the one accompanying this post). I’m mostly enjoying the photos of horses, ranches, cowboys, and the open lands of the western United States because they’re providing inspiration for my WIP. But I’m also loving the photos from all over the world: Moscow, Nairobi, New Zealand, Australia, England…just to name a few. And I’m learning how to do timelapse videos which has been very cool (thank you @timelapse_California for all the help!). Oh… and I love the baby goats…because what’s not to love about baby goats? If you want to connect with me on Instagram, find me @juliamunroemartin.

5. The song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. It’s on my iPhone’s “Feel Good Songs” playlist. The list is an eclectic mix featuring songs of Michael Buble, The Spiral Staircase, Darius Rucker, and Taylor Swift. Call me corny, but these songs really do lift my mood and make me feel more positive—which is one of my big resolutions for the year: focusing on the positive.

What’s making you happy this spring?

Cheers,

Julia

‘Can Do’ Tomboy Lessons

“I saw only two vehicles this day – both as I was heading home. Both men with surprised looks on their faces when they saw me.”

Today I am very happy to have Melissa Crytzer Fry as a guest on my blog! Melissa was one of the first writers I connected with in the blogosphere. We became friends over our mutual love of writing, photography, and the natural world around us—even though we see very different parts of the world: she in the middle of the desert and me on the coast of Maine. Her blog, appropriately called What I Saw—helps me really see and think about what I see every day around me. If you haven’t read it, you definitely should. It’s an amazing combination of great writing, beautiful photography, and wonderful observations about nature (and life). Please enjoy this small sample from one of my favorite bloggers… 


‘Can Do’ Tomboy Lessons by Melissa Crytzer Fry


My dad wanted boys. But when two pink-bottomed girls were placed gently into his arms two years apart, he did what any good dad would do. He loved us without hesitation.

And he did something else. He taught us that we could do anything that his boys might have done. Was he still pining for the sons he didn’t have? Maybe.

But I wouldn’t change a thing. Because, in our rural corner of Pennsylvania with its cornfields, hay bales and Holsteins, we grew up doing things that most girls wouldn’t dream. We drove tractors, chopped wood, played basketball, shot guns, rode motorcycles and drove go-karts faster than we had a right to. We dug ditches, changed spark plugs, knocked down chimneys with jackhammers and restored vintage cars.

View of Grandpa’s silos from the backyard of my childhood
 home. Grandmother’s (and grandpa’s) house was not over the
 river and through the woods. It was more like “over the
 meadow and through the cornfield.”
I wouldn’t say we were fearless. We were simply beef-fed and garden-raised tomboys, groomed for independence (even though we had boyfriends, went to prom and knew how to apply our makeup). Maybe that independent spirit guided me to Arizona in 1998, while my family remained in PA.
Maybe that same “can do” spirit led to my newest creative outlet: Jeeping. Alone*. In the remote rattlesnake-, bobcat-, scorpion- and mountain-lion-laden Sonoran desert. With my laptop.

My Jeep, Betty, takes me to a nearby natural desert spring.
This aerial view taken from a helicopter on my 40th birthday
shows the remote road I traveled during my first solo
 adventure (see photo above).
This office location in another nearby wash included
serenading by a lovely canyon wren. Betty has
ignited my creativity!
Oh – did I forget to mention that, in between Jeeping, freelancing and blogging, I’m an aspiring novelist, chasing the same publishing dream as so many others? You know: feeling a bit knocked around, bruised and bloodied over the years – but equally hopeful, optimistic and determined. Probably more of the latter. Can anyone say Taurus? Or maybe … maybe it’s that ‘can do’ attitude inadvertently drummed into my thick-skulled tomboy head by my dad?

*Of course, all of this outdoor adventure required
some refresher training at the gun range (thanks, Neighbor Mark).
And I obviously depend on my wonderfully supportive husband
 to help me learn as I go. Yep – I still need to work on tire changing,
using the Jeep winch, and even more practice with 4WD terrain.
What holds you back from reaching for those seemingly impossible dreams? Naysayers? Gender or age stereotypes? Something else? What activities might you try in pursuit of that ‘can do’ attitude?

—————
Melissa Crytzer Fry is a freelance writer and journalist living out her writing dream in southern Arizona, among wildlife ranging from javelina, bobcats and quail to mountain lions, coyotes and Gila Monsters. She pays tribute to Arizona’s natural world on her blog, What I Saw, sharing photography and asking questions that apply to writing in particular, and life in general. Her literary novel-in-progress was named a semi-finalist in the 2011 William Faulkner William Wisdom Writing Competition. Twitter: @CrytzerFry.

Finding Inspiration in My Own Backyard


Littlejohn Island, Maine

When I hit a bump in the road recently and wasn’t motivated to write as much as usual, Arizona writer friend Melissa Crytzer Fry gave me some advice:

“…find someplace outside where you can just go and be with yourself—take the camera. That ALWAYS inspires me. Just go take photos one day in your backyard to jar your creative juices into flowing again. You can do it!”

Well, I took her advice, and today I’m guest blogging at Melissa Crytzer Fry’s blog in a post called “The Photo-Therapist,” that you can read here, about what happened when I took her advice to heart (I’ll give you a hint: my guest post includes more photos like the one above!).

I hope you enjoy my post at Melissa’s, and if you aren’t already familiar with her great blog, you’ll definitely want to check some of her posts out too—she’s an amazing writer and a talented photographer.


Cheers,
Julia

Answers to Your (In)FAQs

This is a photo of an old church
around the corner from my house.
If you want to use this or another of
the photographs on my blog,
please ask first!

Dear Readers,

Today I will attempt to answer questions you are curious about. No, not those of you who visit (and read) my blog on a regular basis and ask me questions. But you, the other ones—and you know who you are—those of you who find my blog via a google search, one that is perhaps only tangentially related to my blog. One that, when I read it, makes me smile, shake my head, or just plain wonder.

This post is dedicated to you, random searchers. Welcome to my blog, feel the wordsxo love: I will attempt to discern what you were after, answer your questions, or at least commiserate. (This post is also dedicated to blogging friend Sara Grambusch who gave me the idea!)

1. typewriter smudges: Is a typewriter smudge something left behind by a ribbon? I’m guessing it’s something you want to remove, right? If the smudge is on your skin, try fingernail polish remover; if it’s on the paper, I’d go for the white out…do they still make white out?…For the record, I once wrote a post on a typewriter, and it has plenty of smudges, so don’t feel bad, it happens to everyone. It’s part of the charm.

2. creepy church: One of my posts had photos of a church up the street from where I live; I take a lot of photos of it to help me establish a mood for my WIP. If you want to use one of my photos, I’m honored. But please ask first.

3. Chicken With Crow Experiments: I’m sorry, I don’t know where to find experiments that deal with both chickens and crows (and yet when I googled this myself my blog came up 5th in the google search list, I have no idea why). I’ve never done one of these experiments. However I do write a lot about crows (MEH—My Engineer Husband, see #12—and I love crows), so maybe I slipped a chicken in there somewhere…



Abby eats lots of peanuts, as many as she can. She seems fine,
but please consult your veterinarian if you have real concerns.

4. Is it okay if my dog eats the peanuts I feed to crows? My dog Abby eats them (shell and all) and she seems fine! Of course, she’s a lab. Please consult your veterinarian if questions remain.

5. Hermione mug: Did you find one? Please tell me where, I want one too.

6. man stuck in a rowboat: I’m sorry, I hope you got out. If you didn’t, try calling the U.S. Coast Guard. Immediately. You could get cold, see #8.

7. How to make a bridge out of toothpicks:One time my daughter built one of these in middle school. It was a huge pain to make, but it was beautiful. And she got an A on the project. She gets a lot of A’s.

8. Is 1 degree cold or hot weather: Do you spend too many hours of the day in your house, in front of your computer? I’m not sure how you don’t know this, but 1 degree (either Celsius or Fahrenheit) is considered cold, yes. Please go outside next time your thermometer says 1 degree and live the cold (but Mom says wear a jacket).

9. Iphone low battery: I have this problem too, so if you found a solution please come back and tell me.

10. antic house: The definition of antic is an attention-drawing, often wildly playful or funny act or action. I live in a quaint antique house, and there’s nothing funny about it. And I honestly think I’d prefer to live in an antic one—it sounds like a lot more fun.

11. Oprah waving: I wrote a post about Oprah and Meredith Vieira, and how I want to be interviewed by them when (for the record, I refuse to say if) I get famous. I don’t want to see Oprah waving, I want her to give me a hug like she gives all her guests. And yes, I admit a bit of a girl-crush on her (and you too, Meredith—just in case you’re reading!).

12. 8 meh: I only have one MEH (My Engineer Husband). But he’s as good as 8 regular MEHs any old day. He’s a keeper.

Cheers,

Julia

p.s. What are some of the weird searches that got people to your blog? I’d love to hear in comments! And if you have more questions for me, leave them….I’ll try my best to answer them.

Sunrise Thoughts on Half a Habit


This morning I looked out the window at the sunrise and thought: “What a beautiful sunrise to capture on video…” Then my thoughts wandered to standing on the bridge overlook and making the weekly movie of the sandbar beach.

And then I remembered, no more. Apparently the routine has become a habit: look up the tide chart online to check the daily tide predictions, check sunrise and sunset times, put new batteries in the video camera, make a plan for when to go. In all, it would take us about an hour to plan, drive, shoot the video. Then another hour to post the video and write the blog.

A two-hour habit. Me, a creature of habit, said—a little wistfully—to MEH (My Engineer Husband): “It’s Sunday and we don’t have to make the video.”

“Isn’t it grand?” MEH said.

So here I am to let you know: today I’ve only been able to give up half the habit. If you visited today expecting to see the beach video, check out last week’s post and explanation for why it’s not here!

Are you—like me—a creature of habit? Or are you more like MEH—happier to just go with the flow and enjoy the ride?

Cheers,

Julia

p.s. Tomorrow I’ll be posting a very special interview and giveaway for my one-year blogiversary, so please come back!

The More You Know…

A view out my main character’s window

These days I’m focused on my Work in Progress (WIP)—the one I finished a first draft of last month. I’m all set up on the dining room table with everything I need. Almost everything.

While I reorganize, edit, rework, I’m also doing research. I want to make sure I get it right. It’s a work of fiction, that’s true, but it’s reality-based. It takes place in a fictitious town, on a fictitious island in Maine, but there are still things that need to come across as real.

So as I go through the draft, I have a notebook in hand, and I’ve been making notes of everything I need to check. Questions about things like tides, how water flows, boats, land density, how houses looked during certain times in history, cultural and societal details, renovation and construction of houses, fishing and lobstering, and even treatment of mental health.

These details are what will make my story real to a reader, I know that. But right now—more importantly—they are bringing my story and characters to life for me. Maybe it’s partially my journalist roots, but one of my favorite parts of writing is the research: making lists of questions then figuring out how to get the answers.

I’ve done both primary and secondary research.

I’ve looked at documents, many many old (and new) photographs, deeds, land plots, architects’ drawings, maps of Casco Bay, mental illness case studies.

My dining room work station
I read books, search the web (of course), but I’ve also visited a few libraries, local historical societies, the Town Assessor’s office, the Town Engineer’s office, the County Registry of Deeds. I look at the documents they have, talk to the people who work there.

Because one of my favorite parts of the research process is sitting down with a person or talking to someone on the phone, a list of questions in front of me. Asking questions. Listening. Understanding. People who grew up on islands, people who summer on islands, people with deep roots in Maine but also not so deep. Fishermen and lobstermen, historians, and anthropologists. Contractors, mental health providers, engineers.

And I’ve been going on field trips (which I’m sure sounds like absolute torture…): islands, beaches, out on the water in lobster boats and ferries, old houses, local construction projects, walking trails in local wooded areas, gardens, even coffee shops and cafes. This is one of the reasons I started making the weekly Sunday videos from the beach overlook. Most field trips are planned but some have been impromptu. I’m driving someplace else and I see something I want my main character to see or someone she should talk to. I stop and do some research on the fly.

As I talk to people and visit various offices and experts, I take tools with me: always my reporter’s notebook (and pen), my iPhone (for photos and audio recording), often my SLR camera. Photos have been indispensible in reminding me what I see and even how I’m feeling when I see something: a sunset or sunrise, the starry sky, a moonrise, a boat or a house, a natural landmark or object, and—yes—I’ve even taken some photos of people (some without them even knowing, it’s true).

As I edit and write, I keep photos handy. In particular, a photo of a house—the one I imagine my main character lives in. I also have a photo of the views my main character sees out her window. My notebooks are also by my side, and I read through them frequently—if an interview is particularly important, I’ll type it out. The physical act of transcription helps me remember. If I make an audio recording, I transcribe it as soon as possible.

But that’s where the information stops: in a notebook, on a typed sheet of paper, in a photograph or photocopy, and in my mind’s eye. Most of the research will never see the printed page in my WIP—not in a form anyone but I will recognize. But these details I’ve collected help me shape the story: my character, her history, the things around her, what she sees and feels. And ultimately they will bring my story to life not just for me but for you too.

How do you make your stories come to life for you and your readers? What kind of research do you do for your stories? Are you like me—you enjoy the research process?


Cheers,
Julia

Windy Sunrise on the Coast of Maine

(Sunday, October 16, 2011, 6:56 a.m. EST, 52 degrees F)

This morning we went to the beach overlook at sunrise—6:56 a.m. The eastern sky was streaked with beautiful pinks, oranges, and yellows. (Unfortunately we don’t face east when we take the videos; we face north!) It was very very windy this morning, so much so that it almost sounds like rain, and there were small waves cresting along the sandy point.

As we stood on the bridge, waiting for the best light for the video, our dog kept pulling MEH (My Engineer Husband) toward the path to the beach. Finally MEH relented and headed down to the beach while I took the video from the bridge…which means on this week’s video, you can see MEH and Abby strolling down the beach. While MEH was down there, he took some amazing photos of the sunrise!

As I took the video, I was excited to see a lobster boat with what we think was a “steady sail” on the back! A steady sail keeps the boat from rolling when it gets windy and the seas kick up—certainly the case today. And believe me, the wind had a definite chill to it, yet another reminder that winter is heading our way. Soon we’ll be standing on the bridge taking videos in the snow and ice, just like in our very first video postcard, Perfect (Maine) Beach Weather.


Finally, here’s one of the photos MEH took of the sunrise. Greetings from the coast of Maine!




Maine: The Way Life Should Be

When you cross the state line into Maine, you’re greeted by a big sign that says:

Welcome to Maine

The Way Life Should Be

In the summer time it’s hard to argue with that sign. (The winter? That’s another story!)

Today I’m participating in the iPhone Photo Phun link-up with Lizand Kristin. Liz and I have a very cool bond over our iPhones—we got them the same week and bloggedabout them the same week. So of course when I heard about her new link-up, I had to join in:

“Starting this Wednesday, August 24th, we’re hosting the first link-up of our new weekly meme: iPhone Photo Phun! What is iPhone Photo Phun, you ask? Well, it’s a weekly post that is comprised solely of photos taken with your iPhone!”

So, here are a few of the 313 photos I’ve taken since I got my iPhone—these capture a little bit of what summer in Maine means to me!

Summer wouldn’t be summer without a garden, and
this year’s no different! Here’s our vegetable garden.

And here are some of the raspberries…. YUM!
The morning glories are GLORIOUS this year!

Of course Maine wouldn’t be Maine without harbor views…
this is the boat landing in nearby Falmouth Foreside

The skies change and cast amazing shadows on the water….
here’s a view of Portland from afar
Another view of the Falmouth boat landing, showing the dock
and the tide pools…
minnows, hermit crabs, and barnacles (oh my)!

And finally, summer means lots of long walks
with our lab Abby… she’s about the sweetest
 and happiest dog around!

 iPhone Photo Phun