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Viewing Blog: Appalachian Morning, Most Recent at Top
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Articles on creativity, painting, writing, and crafts, from the beautiful Appalachian hills of SE Ohio.
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1. The Best of Appalachian Morning, and a Thank You!

When Mark and I moved from the beautiful hills, forests, and caves of Southeastern Ohio to the equally beautiful hills, forests, shoreline vistas, and incredible big skies of Northern Michigan, I debated within myself as to what to do about Appalachian Morning, a blog I started soon after we moved to Athens, Ohio, in 2008. Could "Appalachian Morning" be a term that related to a way of thinking about my surroundings, wherever I might be? An attitude and perspective of looking at the world around me with an open heart and a creative mind? I thought perhaps it could be.

Now that I have lived away from SE Ohio and within Northern Michigan for five months, I see there is a difference in these specific environments and the term Appalachian Morning no longer seems to fit my relocated shoes. Also, I am examining carefully my time on earth, as I think we all do now and again, and want to lay the foundation for my fictional series on a wonderfully imaginative locale known as Pletonia. Creativity abounds in Pletonia, from the very beginnings of unusual life there, encompassing the plants and creatures I will be drawing and sharing at a related website and blog. If you'll bookmark this link, www.janicephelps.com/findingpletonia.html, you'll be kept up-to-date on Pletonia-related creative projects and events.

Thank you for four years of encouragement and support for Appalachian Morning. Knowing that my essays, photographs, and art projects posted on this blog have been viewed over 40,000 times fills me with happiness, and your comments on the blog, at OpenSalon, and on Facebook have helped me to feel a part of a large community of people who love art and crafts and writing and books and photography…people who approach life with an open heart and an inquisitive mind.

I will continue to post at Open Salon, from time to time, on subjects that interest me as well as a blog feed directly from Pletonia's forthcoming blog site. OpenSalon is a wonderful community, and I want to stay connected. Here is a link to my blog at OpenSalon: http://open.salon.com/blog/janicephelpswilliams

Below, I've listed links to popular Appalachian Morning blog posts (alphabetical by subject). I will also make some of these available in ebook format soon for folks to download and share at no cost.

Altered Book Projects and Artist Trading Cards (ATCs)

Art in Public Places and Memorial Topics

Children's Book Illustrations

Drawing with Markers or Colored Pencils

Illustrating a Children's Book; Illustrating Book Covers

Miscellaneous Essays

Needle Crafts and Art Dolls

Outsider Art


Photographs of Harbor Springs and Petoskey, Michigan (Emmet County, Michigan) 

Photographs of New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans: 5 posts with photographs (Spring 2011)

Photographs of Southern Ohio


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2. Reposting of "Our Time in NYC on September 11th, 2001"


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3. Review of "The Forever Marriage" by Ann Bauer

The Forever MarriageThe Forever Marriage by Ann Bauer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Forever Marriage
by Ann Bauer

From the publisher's description: "The Forever Marriage is at its heart a mystery, and the mystery is what, exactly, the nature of Carmen and Jobe's marriage might have been. Page-turning and irreverent, The Forever Marriage is a compelling examination of a relationship and of a woman facing up to her imperfect past. It merits comparison to the best work of Anne Tyler, Elizabeth Berg, and Alice Sebold."

I loved it: because of the characters, who are flawed and complicated and surprising; because of the excellent writing and storytelling; because of the way the story alternates between the past and the present, giving us a more complete picture as the pages turn of what might really have led up to the great dissatisfaction with which the main character, Carmen, has had to cope throughout her married life. I have known Carmens and I have known Jobes and it is interesting to think what happens when two such different people marry and create a family and life together. People are drawn to their opposites and marry for all sorts of reasons, many of which they are unaware of at the time they make the choice, when young and not yet with a complete understanding of who they are.

Carmen, the main character, seems at the start to be a real bitch. Even her best friend seems to think so. She is not emotionally attached to her lover, but uses him to make up for the lack of sexual activity in her marriage. You may not respect Carmen or like anything about her at first, but hang in there. Typically, if I do not like the main character of a novel, it is hard for me to stay with it, but I'm glad I did in this case. I trusted the author, and she honored my purchase of this book and confidence in her by revealing to me an understanding of human nature and the complexities of love that wowed me.

Even though there are universal themes in this book, I've never read a story quite like this, and that is one reason why I enjoyed it so much. Yes, it dealt with cancer, adultery, a child with disabilities, but I didn't find it depressing or uplifting, but rather realistic in the aspect that all of these main characters, Carmen, the late Jobe, the lover Danny, and the mother-in-law Olive, as well as the boy with Down's Syndrome, Luca, were all more than they seemed at first glance and more endearing by the end of the book than at the start.

I also loved the descriptions of mathematics and how as the book progresses we see that perhaps Carmen loved Jobe more than she thought she did. And he certainly loved her, though at some point I wondered, what was it he needed that she was never able to provide? How did he cope with that? It was interesting to see how the author added dimension to this character of Jobe as the book progressed.

I thought the title of the book was a brilliant choice.

This is the first book I've read by Ann Bauer. I found her writing at Salon.com when doing a Google search under autism. I then went to her website and ordered her two novels. I hope she is writing a third. I find her characters and storyline insightful and memorable.

--Reviewed by Janice Phelps Williams, Sept. 9, 2012 www.janicephelps.com

View all my reviews

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4. "Open House" by Elizabeth Berg

Open HouseOpen House by Elizabeth Berg

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read Open House by Elizabeth Berg for the first time four years ago. I discovered her books at the library and read all of Berg’s titles available there, then purchased some additional titles as well. I’ve now read all of her books except, oddly considering my profession, her book on writing, which I haven’t finished yet. A few weeks ago, I decided to purchase paperback editions and re-read a few of Berg’s books. I started with Open House.

I’ve just now gone to Berg’s site to grab a short synopsis, and see that Open House was published by Random House in 2000. This novel was the author’s first (written), but not the first she had published. Here is the synopsis from Elizabeth-Berg.net.

A woman whose husband has moved out decides that, rather than selling their house, she will keep it and rent out rooms to boarders. This novel, which was an Oprah pick, is about finding the gifts inside yourself that you've ignored or not been aware of. It emphasizes the fact that sometimes it takes a tragedy to get you to the best place you can be.

Here is mine:

When husband David leaves Samantha after many years of marriage, Sam first reacts by imitating Martha Stewart in an attempt to create the perfect home for her and her 11-year-old son, Travis. When this soon wanes, Sam, determined to keep the family home, opens the doors of her house and the doors of her heart to a few strangers and a man named King, who has a degree in astrophysics and works for a temp agency. Sam starts working there, too, and as the book progresses, Berg weaves the story of how a person’s heart can heal and open to the beauty of the world around them once again, even when they are so profoundly changed by circumstances that they may feel unrecognizable to their former selves. When Sam faces what she thought she once longed for, and makes a surprising decision, some readers may recognize having been faced with a similar dilemma as time marches on and our old dreams boomerang back in our faces, challenging our new desires.

Open House is not simply my favorite Elizabeth Berg book; it is one of my very favorite books ever. This is because it is well-written, well-woven, and I can relate to much of the storyline. My first marriage lasted about the same length as fictional character Samantha’s. My boys were about the same age as Sam’s son, Travis. I, too, had to figure out how to earn money, how to handle a life that had suddenly changed in what felt like every single way, how to parent pre-teen sons and in that process re-invent myself, or find myself, or just grow and change, like many people do. But this commonplace process takes extraordinary strength, I believe (not compared to humanity but compared to what we might have been called upon before to have), and Berg seems to think so also. She blends strength and a fragile sensitivity into the character of Sam (as well as King), and this makes the main character someone you would want as your best friend; someone you want to be happy and to be loved.

As a writer, I find it impressive that in the 241 pages of Open House the author has created endearing characters and a story that touched me so deeply because as I read it I thought, Yes, that! I did that same thing. I felt that same way. This is the magic of Berg’s writing, in this book and in others. If you haven’t yet discovered her books, start with one of her many titles soon.

Note: This is not a paid review, nor a requested review, and I have never worked with Elizabeth Berg, though I have liked her Facebook page.

~Janice Phelps Williams, writer, illustrator, book designer at www.janicephelps.com
Author of Open Your Heart with Pets: Mastering Life through Love of Animals (Transformation Publishing 2012)

View all my reviews

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5. For the Path to Publication, the Map Is under Development

An author I have worked with, Jessica Bell, posted a link today to an article from Forbes: Publishing Is Broken, We're Drowning in Indie Books - and That's a Good Thing, by David Vinjamuri. Here is the link.  I wrote a lengthy comment on Facebook about the article, and decided to post it here as well. I'd love to know your thoughts.

I'll be traveling for a few days, so may be delayed in replying to your comments...

My response to Vinjamuri's article:

I can see this issue from several sides: publisher, author, reader. And, Vinjamuri covers the subject well. He doesn't talk much about editing, though, and what I've noticed in 14 years of working with indie authors/self-publishers is that they, some of them, devalue editing. They don't understand the role of an editor, they don't know how to evaluate if an editor is able to do the professional job needed, they confuse proofreading with editing, and they don't know how to access the level of editor they need to ensure their book has its best chance. (The same can often be true of cover design.)

I can't tell you how many times a book has come to me for design already having been "edited" and it is in no way ready for publication. But the author doesn't see it. I've often been hired to re-edit work that was previously edited at great cost and, to be completely honest, there have been times others have been brought in to do a second round of editing on work that I've been involved in (because it takes years to learn how to be a great editor). Publishing houses have multiple people who are professionals and read the manuscript and offer structural suggestions and marketing suggestions and proofreading suggestions. A self-publisher, even if he or she hires the best designer and freelance editor available, would find it difficult to replicate the team effort publishers put into books (at least some books, certainly not all, and certainly not as they did as assuredly decades ago).

It all comes down to money. It takes money to make money. It takes years to learn how to write. It takes years to learn how to edit. I bet if there was a survey, 80% of the people in the US would say they "want to write a book" or "could write a book." In actual fact, it is not such an easy thing to write a successful book. It's a profession, but how does one get paid while they develop the experience and time in the chair at the keyboard that is necessary? And then, when they are finally *there*, a young acquiring editor feels they are too old at 40 or 50 to have much to say.

I have been astounded by the poor quality of ebooks being promoted by self-publishing authors who are hurting their careers by their rush to publish. At the same time, as a writer I understand this and have perhaps fallen victim to the seducing voice of publication as well. I am writing a book. What will happen to it? Who will read it? Is there hope of finding a publisher for it? Should I spend all that time on it then?

Many small publishers will find it difficult to be profitable selling ebooks. The profit margin is so slim. And, in selling printed books, there are so many difficulties on the distribution end. The distributor who gave me my start has gone bankrupt. Borders, the most open store to small publishers, has gone bankrupt. Sometimes I feel like starting a little printed catalog and mailing it out to people to look at while they read their coffee and maybe they will order a book. In fact, there are a few publishers who send me this sort of thing and I love them. The brochures are quirky and the publishers have a definite brand.

I have thought about going the other direction from print on demand, in the direction of collectors' editions of handcrafted books, and then an ebook for those who can't afford the handcrafted book. I'm going to look at this option for "Finding Pletonia."

As a former publisher, I can tell you that ending my 11 years as a publisher (due to the climate of publishing, the numbers, the lack of capital, the competition, the returns, the time in my life that all these things took place, the other choices that I had that were more profitable and fulfilling) has been sobering and of course caused me to think about what works and what doesn't; for me, for authors, and for publishers. And also for readers! I keep settling into bed with books that just don't work well or were not marketed/titled/designed/categorized/proofread correctly.

What I would say to any writer starting out who wants to be published is to write because you must; because there is nothing else on earth you want to do more than writing; because you are willing to work at it; because you want to do it whether you succeed or not. Figure out a way to support yourself, educate yourself about the craft of writing; save up for the services of the best editor you can find, and keep at it.

A final word: Be sure to visit the link to the Forbes article that prompted my post, and also read the many great comments writers have left. It is very insightful and, I think, inspiring to see their comments. I think it is a wonderful time to be a writer, but it is a confusing time as well. The nature of publishing is in transition and it will be exciting to see what the landscape looks like in 3, or 5, or 10 years!

 Forbes: Publishing Is Broken, We're Drowning in Indie Books - and That's a Good Thing, by David Vinjamuri. Here is the link.

~Janice Phelps Williams, www.janicephelps.com. (I am an editor, illustrator, and book designer and have brought more than 250 books "to life" since 1997. I am also the author of the "traditionally" published book: Open Your Heart with Pets: Mastering Life through Love of Animals)

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6. The Steps to Create Illustrations for a Children's Book

Today,  I am the guest of Karen S. Elliott, The Word Shark, at her blog for writers and readers. I discuss my path to becoming a book designer and illustrator and list out the steps involved in creating illustrations for an author and/or publisher.

Here is the link:


Have a great weekend,

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7. Free Patterns from Yarn Companies, and More! Janice's 2012 List!

One of my most visited blogposts is "Yarn Companies Offering Free Patterns" from 2009. It's time to provide a new list...my gift to all those who love to knit and crochet! Remember, it is never too early to start working on holiday gifts. Enjoy...

This lovely lavender yarn was purchased on a trip I made with my husband to New Orleans. Learn more at this link.

At left is a hat I made using a Vogue Pattern.

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8. July in Northern Michigan!

A snippet of my day yesterday and some photos taken throughout the month of July. 

"Love is to the heart what the summer is to the farmer's year - it brings to harvest all the loveliest flowers of the soul." ~author unknown

Harbor Springs, MI, Saturday Farmers Market

Prep work at Chandler's Restaurant, Petoskey, MI

Antique cash register on display at Chandler's Restaurant.

Art in the Park, July 21st, 2012, in Petoskey, MI

9. My New Studio and an Altered Book Swap with Angie Ledbetter

Angie Ledbetter and I recently decided to do an altered book swap. I wrote previously on this blog about altered book projects:

A Collaboration, a Swap!

Angie, who lives in Louisiana, is a writer (co-author of Seeds of Faith: An Inspirational Almanac: Seasonal Essays, Recipes and Tips), editor (at Rose and Thorn Journal), and recipe dispenser (at the GumboWriter blog). She is also a wonderful "doodler" and shares her colorful sketches with friends on Facebook and also in a FB group for those who love to draw and doodle. And that's not all, Angie is also a thoughtful photographer who captures beautiful images and shares them with inspirational messages on Facebook. 

I am a writer, book designer, and illustrator by profession, and an amateur photographer. I also love making altered books and seeing the work of others as well and was happy to have the opportunity to do a trade with Angie. I love her postings on Facebook, her photographs, descriptions of delicious Louisiana cooking, and the wonderful Rose and Thorn Journal.

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10. My Revolutionary War Ancestors

Between June and December 2011, I spent a lot of time looking into our family history. I wanted to give my mother, sisters, husband, and sons scrapbooks with information about their ancestors. These first pages are taken from the scrapbook I made for my children. Gen. William Heath is their uncle, seven generations back. Also, Silas Phelps (1720-1816, 6 gg); Eliphalet Phelps (1743-?, 5gg, Captain Forward's company); Eleazer Heath (1756-1850, 5gg, "Continental Line"), and Joseph Heath (1758-1836, 5 gg) fought in the various state militias in the Revolutionary War.

And the information on Martin and Dwight are from my husband's ancestors. Martin was his 5th great grandfather and Brig. Gen. Dwight his 6th great grandfather.

Thank you, ancestors, for all your efforts on behalf of your descendants.


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11. Videos, Photos, and Poems...Oh My!

Dear Friends,

Beginning with our move to Harbor Springs, Michigan in April to my road trip to Philadelphia in May to a bevy of creative activities both personal and professional this spring...I've barely had time to catch my breath, but catch it I have. Breath after breath of "Pure Michigan" air...and it is so good for me! 

Mark's poems and my photographs are paired in a book that will be out soon via MagCloud. The title is A Season of Industry and the ISBN is 978-0-9855870-5-5. We chose MagCloud's site because they offer color printing and also ebook versions; their price was right, and I don't want all of my eggs in Amazon's basket. Others have reported good results with MagCloudA Season of Industry will be available July 1, 2012. $14.99 for color book and $2.99 for ebook. 

I not only love taking photographs, but shooting video as well. It's just a hobby, but when you live a creative life and are willing to try new avenues of expression, it can only benefit your primary areas of endeavor. Taking photos, making videos, working on altered book projects...all help me to think creatively with fresh ideas and approaches to book design projects.

In May 2012, I drove from our new home in Northern Michigan to Philadelphia. I propped a Flip videocamera in front of the small triangular window at the dash of my Honda Fit. It was fascinating to see what the camera recorded as the miles sped by! I then paired the video with photographs and asked my son Jesse, who is a DJ in Philly, if he'd write some music for it as I didn't want to step on anyone's copyrighted music. When Jesse's music was paired with my video, it was amazing to me to see my interest in the repetitive flashing of construction cones, vertical road signs and barriers, tall Northern Michigan trees, and yellow/white dash signs on concrete barriers matched with house music with a sweet beat. I was entranced, and I hope you will be too!

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12. More Memorials: How We Remember Together, Part Two

Yesterday I posted several photos and links of memorial statues. Today, I've found more to share with you. Some may be familiar already, others not. All, I think, are worth considering. Today I thank those for envisioning, funding, creating, erecting, and maintaining these public memorials.

Memorials to the Attacks on the United States, September 11, 2001

The Firemen’s Memorial, situated along Riverside Drive at West 100th Street, is one of the most impressive monuments in New York City. The monument was designed by H. Van Buren Magonigle (1867-1935), and its sculptures are attributed to Attilio Piccirilli (1866-1945).
Thank you to Nilesite on Open Salon who suggested this memorial.
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13. How We Remember Together: Public Memorials

For several years I have been interested in public memorials and how an artist, working with a community, implements his or her vision to permanently honor a specific person or event. On this Memorial Day 2012, I offer a few links, paragraphs, and photos of public memorials.
Franklin Roosevelt Memorial in Washington DC
“They (who) seek to establish systems of government based on the regimentation of all human beings by a heandful of individual rulers… call this a new order. It is not new and it is not order.”

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14. Living In Harbor Springs, Michigan - May 2012

It has been nearly 6 weeks since Mark and I moved from Athens, Ohio, to Harbor Springs, Michigan. So much has happened! I am going to let my photos do most of the talking! These are not in chronological order, but neither are the happy memories, visual experiences, and feelings that swirl around in my heart and mind as I become acclimated to this new hometown.

When spring finally arrived, Mark and I went down to the Marina after dinner and enjoyed seeing the first boats docked in the Harbor Springs marina on Lake Michigan.

This is the most recent photo, taken  May 24 at Petoskey State Park, about 10 miles from our home. I lived by the Gulf of Mexico for 17 years. It is good to live near water again!

I loved this plant, growing on the sand dunes.

We have become more active recyclers in our new town. These "friends" appear at the various recycling collection stations.

Here is my Hipstamatic pic of the marina in May. Soon, this place will be full of boats!

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FabricToday I'm celebrating the release of Jessica Bell's new poetry collection, Fabric ... Wait! Please don't close the tab at the the mention of poetry! Trust me, just read a little note from the author herself before deciding to disappear ...

Jessica says:
My poetry will not baffle you with phrasing that scholars award for academic genius and that can only be understood by those who wrote it. My poetry is for the everyday reader. In fact, it is even for those who don’t like to read poetry at all. Because it is real, stark and simple.

The poems in Fabric are no different. They explore specific moments in different people’s lives that are significant to whom they have become, the choices they’ve made. It’s about how they perceive the world around them, and how each and every one of their thoughts and actions contributes to the fabric of society. Perhaps you will even learn something new about yourself.

So, even if you do not usually read poetry, I urge you to give this one a go. Not because I want sales (though, they are fun!), but because I want more people to understand that not all poetry is scary and complex. Not all poetry is going to take you back to high school English, and not all poetry is going make you feel “stupid”.

You can still say to people that you don’t read poetry … I really don’t mind. Because if you read Fabric, you’re not reading poetry, you’re reading about people. And that’s what reading is about, yes? Living the lives of others?
Are you still here? I hope so!

Please support the life of poetry today by spreading the news about Fabric. Hey, perhaps you might even like to purchase a copy for yourself? The e-book is only $1.99 and the paperback $5.50.

Here is a link to the book trailer on YouTube:

Here are the links to buy your copy:

Janice says: "Let's support those who take the time to create poetry, it adds so much to our lives and opens our eyes to seeing words, and life, in new ways!"

About Jessica Bell:

If Jessica Bell could choose only one creative mentor, she’d give the role to Euterpe, the Greek muse of music and lyrics. And not because she currently lives in Greece, either. The Australian-native author, poet and singer/songwriter/guitarist has her roots firmly planted in music, and admits inspiration often stems from lyrics she’s written.

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16. Harbor Springs, Michigan. April 24, 2012

Tonight after dinner, Farley (our dog) and I went for a drive and took more photos of our new hometown, Harbor Springs, Michigan. We are learning our way around. The camera helps to "see" what is around us. On this 45 minute ride we saw a wild turkey, two beautiful Golden Retrievers, two geese, some black squirrels, and three deer. I also decided to play around with the settings after-the-fact. I was in a colored-down kinda mood...

This farm is high up on the coastline above Lake Michigan. 
What a beautiful location for a farm!

A small pond with Lake Michigan in the background.

17. My Favorite Music

So, today my son mentioned Neil Young, and that prompted me to remember music from when I was in high school (including Neil Young's music)...and then that prompted me to think of music that I've listened to at different times in my life and...well...before you know it, I was compiling a pretty long list.

The following list is in chronological order as to my life, not necessarily to when the songs were recorded. Starting with childhood and working up to the present day. These are the songs I remember listening to. They were my favorites.

Open Salon readers: I have not been able to crack the code for how to embed videos on Open Salon. Though I've followed their directions, it never "takes." So, for easy viewing, and to see the embedded videos, please visit this post at its original site (April 22, 2012) on Appalachian Morning. Thanks!

1950s: Video of The Chordettes singing "Lollipop Lollipop"  

 Woody Guthrie singing "Red River Valley"   (I "discovered" Woody Guthrie's songs when I was in high school, but I've included this song early on because I had a toy guitar that would play this when you wound a little handle. No, Woody wasn't singing then, but later on I had several of his albums.)

1962: Video of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons singing "Big Girls Don't Cry"
This was not a favorite song, nor group, of mine, but my older sister listened to them. I remember one time I asked her if Frank Valli "knew he sounded like that?" I couldn't believe someone could be famous and have that high-pitched voice. But then, Tiny Tim had not yet started performing!

 Peter and the Wolf by Sergei Prokofiev.  I loved this record as a child.

1961: Andy Williams singing "Moon River"  My father played a Gulbransen organ and I can remember him playing this song quite a bit.

 Ella Fitzgerald sings "I've Got Rhythm"  I took tap dancing class and loved this song.

‪Tchaikovsky - Swan Lake  In ballet class, I danced on my toes to this and pretended to be a swan too, though often I felt like an "ugly duckling."

1969: The Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun" (slide show) This was the first song I learned to finger-pick on the guitar.

1968: A video of the Beatles singing "Revolution"  By the time I got to high school in 1970, this song epitomized the mood of teenagers in the U.S.

1969: Melanie singing "Beautiful People"  I loved Melanie's pure heart and wished she could be my friend!

 1969: "Coming into Los Angeles" by Arlo Guthrie at Woodstock Minute 2:29
I do not know why I liked this song so much, perhaps the rhythm. When my sons tell me its not about the words, but the music, I'll remember this song...

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18. Driving around Harbor Springs, MI: Part One

Last week, Mark and I moved from beautiful Athens, Ohio, to beautiful Harbor Springs, Michigan. After 13 years of enjoying the hills, trees, caves, lakes, and architecture of central and southern Ohio, I have opened my camera bag 500+ miles to the north and found hills, trees, a much bigger lake, and interesting architecture that delight me with slight differences, perhaps due to sand and exposure to cold and lake air and the cultural influences of this northern region.

Oh dear...it is early in the morning, I'm still tired from unpacking, so I'll just get to the good part... photos!

This was my first trip out of the house as a resident of Harbor Springs. I drove down to the edge of Lake Michigan and saw this scene above, which I thought was quite lovely. I got out of the car, zipping up my jacket, and heard the sound of little wild things, I'm not sure if they were frogs or insects or what, but while this photo looks serene, the atmosphere and audio were humming. I wish I knew the names of trees (and birds and bugs and insects), but it is enough for me to love the look of them, the color and shape, the way they move in the wind and change with the seasons.

I was about to get back in my car, when I noticed something through the trees. Here is a little rock structure, above! 

Here is a view, slightly farther down the road, looking back toward the marina at Harbor Springs.

I think this tree is quite wonderful, living as it does on the edge of a Great Lake and weathering everything Mother Nature sends its way. Here is a close-up, below.
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19. Birds in Our Yard

When the trees release their leaves, birds are soon visible to me in a new way, stark against grey branches or a blue sky. Last year my husband bought me a zoom lens, so that I could take better photos of these beautiful creatures. Our home is within the city limits of Athens, Ohio (USA), a small town that doubles in size from September through May when students at Ohio University fill the sidewalks, roads, and restaurants. Athens County is in the Appalachian Foothills; the hills begin just north of town and become steeper as one approaches the city, which is somewhat bordered by the Hocking River and near to a variety of steep hills, cliffs, forests, caves, and lakes. It seems to me a great home for wild- and not-so-wild-life. I know we certainly love it here and having dreamed of living near woods for many years, as I did when a child; I never get tired of walking out our backdoor and looking for something to photograph. Oftentimes that something has wings!

These photos are from various times of the year.

The red-tailed hawk, above, was watching the sunrise this past Sunday morning. He turned to look at me, and I looked back, letting him know the two little dogs in the yard are "Mine! Mine! Mine! … but you are a handsome bird."

We've had a ton of crows in our woods lately. If you want to hear a crow convention that took place at sunrise last week, click on this YouTube link (and see our woods).

Here I was practicing my manual focus skills on a moving target.

The crow below is looking in the opposite direction of the hawk shown earlier. I think they were ignoring each other.

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20. My Memories Scrapbooking Software -- and a chance to help The Art of Autism!

Recently, I received an email from My Memories asking if I would like their digital scrapbooking software for free in exchange for blogging about their product one time. It was the first time I have ever been offered anything for free in exchange for a blog post. I thought about it for 10 seconds and said yes, here's why: I switched from a PC to a Mac last June and haven't yet installed a good Mac-friendly scrapbook program on my laptop yet. And I've got over 8,800 photos in this little baby. They want to be organized. They want to be remembered.

So, I said yes and downloaded the software. Then decided I would do a "Year in Review" book and see how it worked.

But first, a look back at software I've used to date.

CREATIVE MEMORIES: I regularly attend Creative Memories workshops and LOVE them and their products. Creative Memories makes products for traditional scrapbooking and digital scrapbooking. I love their colors, designs, choices, and catalogs. As a graphic designer, I find their designs and presentations the most pleasing and professional. So, I haven't been inclined to switch teams, until a problem happened last summer…

Having created a wonderful 72-page scrapbook of for my mother's birthday in 2010 using Creative Memories StoryBook (for PC) software (click on this LINK for a free trial download), I had some experience with the process.  I had it printed as a hardcover book by Creative Memories and it was beautiful! My mom was thrilled. Here are some sample pages:

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21. Vine Leaves Literary Journal -- ISSUE ONE!

I am so pleased to share with you Vine Leaves Literary Journal, from the creative minds of Jessica Bell and Dawn Ius.

Vine Leaves seeks to fill a gap that is overlooked by other journals. From its home page:

The world of literature nowadays is so diverse, open-minded and thriving in experimental works, that there doesn’t seem to be any single form of written art missing from it ... you would think. But there is. 
The vignette. 
It’s rare for a literary magazine to accept the "vignette" as a publishable piece of literature. Why? Because it is not a “proper story.” We beg to differ. 
So, what is a vignette? 
"Vignette" is a word that originally meant "something that may be written on a vine-leaf." It’s a snapshot in words. It differs from flash fiction or a short story in that its aim doesn’t lie within the traditional realms of structure or plot. Instead, the vignette focuses on one element, mood, character, setting or object. It's descriptive, excellent for character or theme exploration and wordplay. Through a vignette, you create an atmosphere. 
Vine Leaves, will entwine you in atmosphere; wrap you in a world where literature ferments and then matures … 

Jessica is the author of String Bridge, a novel about a woman's desire to return to her musical roots, and Twisted Velvet Chains, a collection of poetry. Jessica produced an original CD "sound track" to go with String Bridge. She also maintains a hugely successful blog. Just this week, she learned she'll be hosting the Annual Stei

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22. Ash Cave, Hocking Hills, Ohio

Yesterday I had an extra few hours on my hands as my visit with Bryce was cut short due to him having a headache. So, I decided to take the long way home. After a hectic week, it was lovely… I wanted to share it with you.

This farm can be found on Rt 22, just west of Circleville. I've driven past it in all seasons of the year and in all types of weather conditions. It always looks beautiful to me. Often there are brown and black horses grazing in the pasture in the foreground, and there is a pond as well--all seen from the main road and as I drive past acres of crops in the summertime, I think of what it must be to live on a farm like this. To grow up or grow old there.

After  our visit, I dropped Bryce off in Washington Court House and drove eastward, back down Rt 22, to take his friend to her home. I stopped, though, to take a photo of this barn. The paint is weathered now, but during the Ohio Bientennial in 2003 it was fresh and bright (see Pickaway County Bicentennial Barn) One barn in each county of our state was painted with this emblem. (See "Ohio Bicentennial Barns")

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23. The Beauty of the Earth: Trees!

A while ago I had written on this blog about trees ("A Poem as Lovely…") and asked for others to send their favorite tree photos for me to share, with their permission. How wonderful to see these tree-friends of friends, to view what caught their eye through camera's lens, to wonder at the beauty of it all!

Here are the photographs, as well as a list of my past blog posts on trees and links to some of my favorite tree websites.

This first set of photos is by Füsun Atalay who blogs at Open Salon and is also the author of Will of My Own

Spanning continents and countries, Will of my Own: A Memoir contains the author’s life story, her unique observations, heartfelt reflections, and her once unspoken thoughts concerning her family and relationships. It describes her relentless struggle to understand and connect major events in her life in her attempt to find a new will to live in the face of losing those she loved and letting go of those she believed would never hurt her as they have.   
“I believe however, that truth, no matter how painful some of it may be, needs to be acknowledged before it can be understood and owned,” Atalay reveals. “I hoped that by facing the truths I’ve been reluctant to face, I will be able to accept them, give them their voice and release some of the ghosts I have been living with.” 


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24. For a New Beginning, Some Things Must Change

Winter: a slow freezing, dripping, hiding, melting. Cold air, cold feet. Deer and ice. Coats and hats.
Spring: already here…lavender, lime green, blue sky, birds sing, thick grass.

Last summer, Mark and I went to Petoskey, Michigan, on vacation. We loved it there. It was August and I got to wear a sweatshirt! There was a beach right on the shores of Lake Michigan. Petoskey is located in Little Traverse Bay, on the north edge of the lake, about an hour from the Mackinac Bridge. See location of purple pin (disregard blue dot).

The air was so fresh and, just like their tagline, "Pure." I could breath there in a way that I find difficult in August in Ohio (or Florida, where I lived for from 1981-1999). So, we returned home, with memories of the beach at Petoskey State Park...

And the lovely flowers, and the comfortable Bay View Inn…

We kidded each other that when we retired we'd move to Petoskey, or Harbor Springs, it's close-by neighbor around the bay. Here is a photo of the marina at Harbor Springs…

Well, one thing led to another, and it was determined moving to a cooler climate by the lake would be very good for me, for us. We figured out a way to do it and made a drive up to Harbor Springs in February to look at houses. We were there during the state junior ski championship and a nice little snowstorm came through, which I didn't mind at all. (I got a good tree photo, after all.)

25. "Tree of Sighs" by Lucrecia Guerrero wins National Premio Aztlan Award

Congratulations, Lucrecia Guerrero! Lucrecia has won the NATIONAL PREMIO AZTLAN AWARD for 2012. The National Hispanic Culture Center has named her novel Tree of Sighs as its novel of the year!

The Premio Aztlan Literary Prize is a national literary award, established to encourage and reward emerging Chicana and Chicano authors. Renowned author, Rudolfo Anaya and his wife, Patricia, founded Premio Aztlan in 1993, and the prize was reestablished in their honor in 2004 by the University of New Mexico Libraries.

Tree of Sighs by Lucrecia Guerrero

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book. The writing was skillful, sensitive, and beautiful…a carefully edited yet emotionally unrestrained literary novel. The cover illustration by Alfredo Arreguin ("Nuestra Señora de la poesia" 1994)--well, it is one of my favorite book covers ever (and I'm an illustrator, so I can just drool openly).

The story centers on a girl named Altagracia (Grace); her youth in Mexico and subsequent servitude to a woman in the U.S. From the back cover: "After escaping servitude and imprisonment, Grace endures life on the streets and a succession of jobs, and she eventually lands in a comfortable marriage. But a phone call from a person in her past sets her on a journey to the border, where she meets a man who holds the key to her past, learns the truth about her grandmother, and ultimately finds herself."

Tree of Sighs begins in 2000, but then quickly flashes back to Altagracia's childhood and by page 40 we realize her life is about to take a devastating turn. We realize it in the same way Altagracia might have realized it, when a cardboard sign indicating she is mentally deficient, is hung around her head to get her past the border guards and into the U.S. Life become

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