Monthly Archives: January 2013

Glutton for Publishment

Two years ago, I was in the middle of pitching my Get Your Pitchfork On! manuscript to prospective publishers. Whoever thinks writers are pale, weak, sensitive creatures lounging on our fainting couches has obviously never seen us get rejection note after rejection note. Hunching over a desk in a poorly lit room and writing is one thing—publishing altogether another. In fact, I used to teach a how-to-get-published workshop called “Glutton for Publishment.”

Because I am one of these gluttons, I have been sending my work out for more than 20 years. I don’t take rejection personally; every editor has his/her own taste and mission with their publication. What might inspire someone one day might annoy them the next. Every once in a while, I get a bite! Being published by someone is a combination of good writing, good timing, and good luck.

So, I was absolutely thrilled when Adam Parfrey of Process Media contacted me to ask for more than my sample chapter to review! And then, when he sent me a contract! I was so happy I kissed it.

Kristy makes out with her contract

Kristy makes out with her publishing contract

With Get Your Pitchfork On! closing in on its first full year—after lots of reviews, interviews and articles written about and by me—one might think that the novelty of seeing my words in print might have worn off. On the contrary! Every time I write a new piece, the joy of seeing it enter the world begins anew.

Which brings me to Thursday last.

Thursday was a banner day, beginning with a guest blog post on the site of Denver’s illustrious Tattered Cover Book Store:

http://tatteredcoverbookstore.blogspot.com/2013/01/a-special-guest-post-from-author-kristy.html

In it, I describe the travails and benefits of living in a place with snow. A lot of snow.

And later in the day, HandPicked Nation ran the first of what will hopefully be many excerpts of this blog and the book itself:

http://www.handpickednation.com/making-value-added-goods-from-the-farm/

(Posting this may create some kind of blog-vortex, since their page sends you back to July’s original post.)

Some people save their rejection notes in a shoebox; some paper their walls with them (this is becoming more difficult with the triumph of email over snail mail). I recycle them and focus on the pieces that made it through all the hoops.

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Squirrel Eviction

Mike and I recently returned from a mini-vacation to find chaos in the basement: jars knocked from a shelf; hangers askew; insulation bits all over the floor. However, there was no sign of intrusion—all the doors and windows remained intact and locked. This could mean just one thing: a critter. Because all the damage came from up high, we assumed it was a squirrel.

It was late and we were tired, so we tried the easy solution—opening the door to the outside and going back upstairs. Before retiring, we closed it up again and hoped that would be the end of it.

The next morning, I woke to the sound of some scritchy-scratches under the floorboards. Mr. Critter was still on the premises.

Commence half-asleep comedy routine: I rose, put on my eyeglasses and slippers, and went downstairs. I hadn’t bothered to dress, nor remove the mouthguard I wear at night that makes me lisp and look like I have rabbit teeth. I crept down the stairs in my pajamas and opened the door to our backyard.

I continued slowly to the basement, which is divided into fourths. In the middle of the front “rooms” are the furnace and hot water tank. The back rooms have sliding doors. I didn’t see anything in the half I was in, so I made my way carefully over to a baseball bat and then opened the sliding door to the room below our bedroom. Nothing there, so I closed the door behind me. Perimeter ¼ secure.

I went back around the water heater to get to the far side of the basement. As I approached the sliding door to that room, a commotion erupted above my head—the squirrel was in the rafters, dodging along a pipe to get away from me. This was good; he was heading toward the open door.

“Hey, Thquirrel,” I said. Both Mike and I have a propensity for addressing animals directly. “You can’t thtay down here.”

The squirrel clung to his pipe and stared at me.

“Go on.” I said. He twitched his tail but didn’t move.

This Grizzly Adams strategy wasn’t panning out; Mr. Squirrel needed a bit more encouragement. I poked my bat in his direction. “Go on, Thquirrel!” I yelled.

The squirrel raced across a cable that was stapled to the rafters toward the other side of the basement. I ducked around him and got behind him, and then whooped and waved my bat in his direction, hoping to send him out the door. Instead, he darted back toward the far side of the basement.

Undaunted, I ran back over there too, got behind him again and commenced to yelling like a cowgirl on the range. “Hup, squirrel! Ha! Get on!” I banged my bat against the rafters and the air ducts.

The squirrel ran toward me! I shrieked and hollered, and he corrected course and holed up above the water heater.

squirrel

By this time, Mr. Squirrel was also upset. He glowered at the giant demonic lisping rabbit-creature pointing a bat at him, and barked and clucked.

I could hear Mike laughing upstairs.

There needed to be two of us; otherwise, I would just keep chasing the squirrel back and forth all morning. I retreated to the living quarters.

After dressing and eating breakfast, Mike and I prepared for Round 2. We made a plan—I would flush the squirrel toward Mike, and then Mike would flush him out the door.

Kristy gets her game face on

Kristy gets her game face on

We went downstairs. Even though the door remained wide open, Mr. Squirrel was still in the basement. I snuck over to the far side. The squirrel gave a few warning barks.

“Ready?”

“Ready.”

“GO ON, SQUIRREL!” I yelled. I banged the air duct for good measure. The squirrel took off on the cable toward Mike, who yelled and swung his broom. The squirrel missed a step and fell to the floor. He ran straight for the door and then—turned and ran toward Mike, who yelped and jumped in the air. The squirrel climbed some boxes and then dropped behind a section of pegboard attached to two-by-four stringers.

Now he was really mad. He cussed us out from behind the pegboard. We whacked on it a few times to try to scare him out of there. Then, it seemed like he might be stuck.

We pondered our next step.

“I just don’t understand it,” said Mike. “Why didn’t he go outside?”

I understood it. This squirrel wasn’t stupid—why curl up in a pile of leaves suspended in some tree branches when you can lounge in the rafters above a gas furnace?

But also, I looked out the door and cursed. While, yes, we had opened the door, we neglected to move the giant recycling bin that was right in front of it. So the squirrel might have left but when he got close he didn’t see green grass and trees, he saw a blue wall.

Squirrel 2, People 0

We ended up moving the bin, leaving the door open and going for a walk, hoping that A) Mr. Squirrel wasn’t stuck and B) The trauma of this episode might encourage him to leave. We lucked out; he was gone when we returned.

How To Remove a Squirrel from Your House

The best way is to allow/encourage it to leave on its own.

Step 1: Clear the pathway. Look at the escape route from both ceiling and floor level, and block any alternate routes.

Step 2: Wear gloves and have some sort of long implement—not to strike with, just to usher it toward the escape path.

Step 3: Quietly station yourselves on either side of the squirrel if possible.

Step 4: Action! Don’t go crazy but make some noise and use your implement. Be strategic. You want to encourage its Flight instinct and direct it toward the way out. Unless you get too close, you are in little danger of being bitten—the squirrel wants to stay as far from you as possible. Use this to your advantage by occupying areas behind the escape path. That said, don’t corner it, or it may feel that its only choice is Fight. Stay out of any place that will force the squirrel further into the house. The nice thing about a squirrel is it doesn’t want to be on the floor so it’s unlikely to hide under something.

Step 4a: If this doesn’t work, you might have to set a trap.

Step 5: Find its entryway and block it, so you’re not doing this repeatedly. It’s probably on the roof somewhere.

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Mending Day

Fixing something that is broken, rather than buying a replacement, can be one of the easiest economies in the world. This practice has died out in many American households: People love new stuff so much that they don’t seem to care if it’s low quality. Most Americans would rather have, for example, five cheaply made shirts than one well-made one. When the cheap ones wear out, why, just throw them away and get five new cheap shirts!

Mike and I try to find balance on this topic, as we don’t want cheap shirts and can’t usually afford good ones. One way we compromise is to buy the well-made shirts of yesteryear at a thrift shop. Another is to mend the clothes we have.

At our house, things that need mending sit around until there is a critical mass. Every couple of months, we collect the pile of shirts and stray buttons, pull out the sewing kit, and get to work.

ImageI have had this sewing kit since my seventh-grade home economics class. My mom took me to K-Mart and bought me a matching set of supplies: measuring tape, needles, thimble, seam ripper, and so on, which are red and still bear my surname and class section “08.” I have various colors of thread and dozens of buttons, most of which I acquired at yard sales.

In this photo you can see some of the original items; the pincushion is taped because it’s leaking sawdust!

Unfortunately, I’m about as good a seamstress as I am a cook, so I limit my efforts to maintenance. On this day, Mike had a few buttons to replace and a ripped-out pocket corner to fix, while I was trying something a little more advanced: hemming a pair of pants that a friend had given me. They fit perfectly but were just a bit too long.

Mike fixes his pocket in the least ergonomically sustainable posture possible

Mike fixes his pocket in the least ergonomically sustainable posture possible

First, I used my 30-year-old seam ripper to eliminate the old hem. I put on the pants and Mike helped me determine a good length. Conveniently, the new length lined up with the top of the old cuff, so I didn’t have to pin it. I ironed a crease for the new hem, cut off the extra, and started sewing.

Ironing the new length

Ironing the new length

Since I don’t have a ton of spools, finding a similar color to one’s sewing project can be a bit of a challenge. Mike made out all right with his plaid shirt, but I don’t have “denim”-colored thread. I decided the best thing, since the finish of these pants is akin to an acid-washed look, was to go light and use a buff-colored thread.

The key, when hemming, is to do most of the sewing on the inside so the hem isn’t visible. That is, on the outside you make the tiniest stitch you can, and then move the needle a quarter-inch or so on the inside of the pant leg. But don’t learn from a hack like me; here’s a tutorial.

Because I lose patience with sewing after about 25 minutes, I only did one row of stitches instead of two. So far, they have held just fine. Doing even this small amount of sewing makes me appreciate the hard work that goes into a piece of well-made clothing, even with a machine! And while no one would give my pants a second thought, I love to wear them and know that I put in a small amount of work and kept one pair of pants out of the new-crap-new cycle.

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2013 Events

In 2012 I had the good fortune of reading from Get Your Pitchfork On! in a number of bookstores, libraries and other venues. This year, I would like to focus on attending farm-to-table events, homesteading fairs, organic food festivals, and other such events. Do you know of one? Please share it with me via the comments section below, the GYPO Facebook page or email, kristy @ kristyathens.com (no spaces).

And if you’re in Portland on Monday, January 7, please join me and some respected writer colleagues (Jon Bell, Kate Gray, Robert Hill, Gigi Little, Gina Ochsner, Joanna Rose, Scott Sparling and Yuvi Zalkow) at Powell’s Books downtown for a special presentation supporting Brave on the Page, a new book by Forest Avenue Press that is chock-full of essays and interviews about writing, including an interview with me that editor Laura Stanfill posted in May in her blog series, Seven Questions.

It should be an inspiring evening of shop talk, so if you’re a published writer or an aspiring one, please join us at 7:30. There will be copies of GYPO to sign, too!

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