Monthly Archives: January 2012

The Research Hole

So, here I am, committing myself to editing this novel I started a long time ago. It’s the one a lot of friends have heard me talk about–Bess loses her entire family in a fire, moves to Redmond to live with her gay aunt, and goes survivor-guilt-crazy with sex and drugs. My daughter called the first draft a depressing read, but the agent who read the first 75 pages asked for the entire novel within two weeks–a clear sign of “Literary Fiction”, right? I rushed to complete the thing, a noob mistake I’ll never do again, and I shelved it after hearing that the pacing was off after the first 75 pages. No surprise, really. I took two years of dibble-dabble writing meticulous crafting to complete the first 75 pages and six months for the last 250.

After a couple of years on the shelf, it’s been creeping back into my consciousness lately, both as ‘unfinished business’ and a real desire to see the story completed. I have been struggling with the problem created by the unreliable narrator of a mentally ill fifteen year old. I finally figured out how to re-write the novel to solve the problem, but it means, well, re-writing the novel. Almost all of it. At 120,000 words,it was heartbreaking for me to contemplate trashing so much of that work. This is the hard part of writing…editing. Tossing out the chaff, recognizing what doesn’t work and just moving on.

I have committed to two hours a day of editing work on this particular novel, followed by the daily promise of blogging or writing erotica as a reward. If I lose myself in the editing process, that will be awesome, but this part of the journey is torturous.

Here’s an example of what is going to take up time that has little to do with the actual word-craft. I’ve changed the timeline so that a good part of the story takes place in 1991. I originally wrote it as a contemporary piece, and find myself in a bit of a bind. A character has slipped and fallen and needs help. In the original draft, she pulls her phone out of her pocket and calls for help. The re-write has the story taking place in a fictional remote town in Kentucky in 1991. See where this is going?

Argh. Not only did I need to find out if there were cell phones in 1991 (there were, see the photo), but I needed to decide if cell phone coverage would have been likely in a remote town in Kentucky. A single line in the text, and I’ve spent half an hour or more looking into how much one detail changes the scene entirely. (Try finding a map of cell phone coverage for 1991.)

Looking for one bit of information, sends me on a Wikipedia click fest in no time. I had no idea that the first portable handset was developed in 1973. I don’t remember seeing one until I was working at Quadtek in 1990. It was this huge brick of a thing that spent most of it’s time attached to the wall charging. We bought my first in 1994 when I was pregnant with our first child, and though it was a good deal smaller, it was still pre-flip phone. So, for someone to be carrying one in 1991, it probably wouldn’t be in her pocket, and she probably wouldn’t be using it out in the middle of nowhere.

Now I am looking at a section that I had written entirely in email format. Yikes. When did home email become common, and would a teenager in a small town in Kentucky have access to it? This is not a rhetorical question. *sigh*

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Happy Pie Day, America!


It’s National Pie Day
, according to the Pie Council that is. I didn’t even KNOW there was a Pie Council, let alone a National Pie Day until I heard about it on KUOW today. Local Pie Bakers were on hand to answer questions about pie to celebrate. Those of you who know me know I will likely take any reason, any reason AT ALL, to make pie. Heck, I made a rhubarb pie last week because…there was rhubarb at the store. That and the fact we had a very disappointing rhubarb dessert when we ate out the week before. I’d been hankering for something seriously rhubarby for a while. But, seriously, this family is a pie family.

In honor of the day, I put together a cherry pie with a lattice crust. After my Thanksgiving Lemon Pie mess, I was a little leery of trying it again so soon. So, I tried this new thing my friend told me about where you make the lattice crust on top of a flat surface, not the pie filling itself. It’s pretty fast to put together on parchment on top of a cookie sheet. The thing I forgot to do was to freeze it solid after putting it together. So, after an hour of resting in the fridge, I still had a malleable dough that did not want to just slide right off the parchment. Since the cherries were firm and not as liquid as the lemon filling, I just transferred the lattice one piece at a time, rebuilding it on top. Next time, I’ll freeze the lattice solid before trying to move it, but the filling was already in the shell and I didn’t want the bottom to get wet and soggy while waiting for the top to freeze. The concept seems sound even if my execution this time around wasn’t. The finished lattice isn’t as precise as the raw one because it fell apart with my fumbled attempts at transferring it over, but it will do.

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The 2012 Agriculture Census and You

We, or more accurately, my husband, received this in the mail a couple of days ago. As a general rule, I go through my mail when I get it with a casual glance to ensure I’m not missing anything important and toss it on the desk near the door to deal with “at some point in the future” if it’s not. (I could derail this whole post with my bad mail habits, so I’ll just skip those details for now.) When I do see something unusual or possibly important, like things with big warnings about breaking the law, I open it right away.

I read the letter that came with it in bemusement. The USDA-NASS has somehow pegged Bill as the “operator” of a farm. I pegged it to some sort of survey that showed we own five acres with a bunch of fruit trees. He took the survey online and was done with it, but I posted the picture here on my Facebook page. Other friends who live in varying states of suburbia mentioned they’d received the same Census form as well.

A quick google search for “agricultural census” takes us to the United States Department of Agriculture National Agriculture Statistic Service website–USDA-NASS for short. No need to click the link because here’s what they have to say about who the USDA likes to include in their census.

The Census of Agriculture, taken every five years, is a complete count of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Any person with estimated or expected annual sales of agricultural products of at least $1,000 is considered a producer and should be counted. The 2012 census will be conducted late in 2012 and into 2013 to reflect 2012 farming activities. It is the voice of agriculture: Make your voice heard. Sign up to be counted by clicking on I Want to… Make sure I’m Counted on the right hand side.

Okay…that’s all well and good, but it doesn’t say why the heck the government suddenly thinks we have any sort of agricultural product for sale. We grow veggies and eat them. I make a lot of jelly, but I give it away as gifts and make no profit. Clicking on the “About the census” link gives only outdated information from how the 2007 census will be carried out. The Frequently Asked Questions doesn’t help very much. Clearly, the site is still stuck in 2007 even though the same site has plenty of links to the results of the 2007 census.

I clicked and I clicked, but the official government sites did not give a clear rationale as to why we were suddenly being included in such a census or why people who live on one acre plots in a heavily wooded, never farmed part of Woodinville were also included in such a census.

What I did find outside of the government site isn’t really very much. A proposal made in 2009 by Kenneth A. Meter, called one of the most experienced food system analysts in the United States, makes my head spin a bit. Meter talks about food planning at the watershed level–a concept that resonates well with my organic and quasi-local oriented table. (I love chocolate and coffee…there are some things that will never be grown within 100 miles of where I live that I just won’t give up.) I find thinking about food distribution at this level exciting and sort of mind numbing at the same time, but perhaps this census has more to do with long-term planning and sustainability. The progressive in me would like to think that the USDA is finally acting, for once, responsibly and planning ahead for localized food production and decreased mega-agribusiness. You know, for when we have to get back to eating food that is grown locally when we can no longer transport perishables long distances on a regular and reliable basis.

Or, perhaps we can assume the worst. There is this blog that makes rather conspiracy-theory-like arguments and advocates tossing the survey into the trash with the junk mail.

I’ve clearly bungled into what could be a very controversial topic. At any rate, we answered the survey with a big bunch of “no” because, quite frankly, we don’t produce enough food to service our little family let alone to sell to anyone else.

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