Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Old Christmas

I am blessed to have grown up in a family that loved tradition, but didn’t mind being flexible when circumstances called for changes. Daddy worked shift work, so sometimes birthdays and even Thanksgiving dates were moved so he could be part of the festivities.

Now that my children are grown, and even their children are grown, we gather at my house on Saturday after Thanksgiving Day. That allows my girls to have Thanksgiving at home or with their spouse’s families without them having to take turns or try to hectically fit it all in on one day.

This year we are not even going to try to do the whole turkey dinner thing. The center piece of the menu will be my mama’s scalloped oysters. Julia will make them since she gets it closest to “right”. Mama didn’t have a recipe written down, so it is all by memory.  I am fixing a spiral cut ham and roasted veggies. I am cooking up some fresh pumpkin and haven’t decided what I’ll do with it yet. My daughter, Julia, says she is bringing collard and cornbread sandwiches. That will be something new to me, but sounds yummy.

I have changed my old tradition of putting the Christmas tree up on Mama’s birthday, the 16th. I put it up on Thanksgiving Day now, since I have a nice quiet day to myself. Then the great-grandkids can see it when they come on Saturday.

I don’t remember Daddy working on Christmas, so we kept pretty close to tradition with Christmas morning festivities.  I can remember as we got older Daddy used to comment that we should celebrate on Old Christmas so we could buy gifts on sale. We laughed. I don’t think he realized how prophetic his idea was. But, some years ago we adopted that old Outer Banks tradition of observing January 6th (or the first weekend in January for us) as Christmas, complete with the oyster roast. Everyone comes to Memaw’s House (that’s me). After I read the Christmas Story from Luke 2, a tradition my mother started when I was a child, we exchange gifts. Then we start preparing the food. The oysters are cooked outdoors and we also cook a Low Country Boil. There is beer for the grownups and hot cider for the youngsters. The evening usually ends with us huddled around the fire, toasting marshmallows and making smores for dessert, while singing to some guitar playing by my talented daughters.

This new tradition allows my children to have their own Christmas at home or with the spouse’s family, and they don’t have to travel in the holiday rush. And like Daddy said, “You can buy presents on sale.” I’m sorry it took so long, Daddy. But, just want you to know it was a really good idea.

For more about Old Christmas on the NC Outer Banks you can read my article at

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Do You Need a Literary Agent?

Some writers, once they have finished writing a book, struggle over whether they should look for an agent or a publisher. “Do I want to give 15% of my royalties to an agent?” they ask themselves.

I have had both experiences. My children’s fiction was published without an agent and I can say I had no problems in dealing directly with my publishers. The publisher was a regional, non-profit and we had the same goals – to share North Carolina’s stories with young readers.

When The Book of Miniature Horses was published I was collaborating with a photographer, and he already had a literary agent. I “inherited” the agent with the collaboration. I went on to writing The Book of Draft Horses and The Book of Mules without collaboration but still with the agent’s representation. I have never regretted that she gets her 15%. I think she earns every penny of it. She negotiated my contract with the publisher, getting a higher advance than they offered, caught clauses that were not in my best interest and is just an email away from answering all my stupid questions. I would have been floundering on my own without her, dealing with a bigger publisher and a more complicated contract.

Now that I have a novel (for grownups) to market I am querying fiction agents first. I am glad to pay them to help me search for a publisher, and then help deal with the details after we find a publisher. So, onward, and back to the agent list in my new copy of The Writers Market.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

How Long Does a Spider Live?

There is a little spider that has been living in my office window between the glass and screen for a long time. I am sure it has been keeping me company well over a year, maybe two.

One day as I watched it travel up and down its enclosed environment I wondered, “How long do spiders live anyway?” Of course I turned to Google to find my answer. I learned it depends. It depends on the gender and species of the spider.

Females generally outlive males – in part because some spiders like the Black Widow eat their mates after mating. Females can live several years. Some live only two years while the big ones live the tarantula can live as long as twenty-five years.

I am not sure of my spider’s species. It is small, at least compared to the wolf spiders that show up on my patio at night in search of bugs drawn to the light. I don’t think it ever leaves its habitat between the screen and glass of my window. I suppose that is a safe place for a spider to live. Nothing can get to it. So, maybe it will live a full life, whatever that may be for a spider.