After All!


‘The Poet’ by Constance Baltuck

I am not exaggerating when I tell you my sister Constance is a famous Alaska artist.  After all, she has a show hanging in the Alaska State Museum at this very moment, with several of her paintings in its permanent collection.  She was also just invited to show at the prestigious Artforte Gallery in Pioneer Square in Seattle.  (BTW, my walls are decked with early Baltucks, and Con has promised me their value will skyrocket after she dies.)

She felt these opportunities had dropped into her lap out of the blue.  But how many paintbrushes did she wear out preparing for this ‘sudden’ success?  For thirty years she has steadily produced beautiful art, selling out show after show.  The key phrase here is “After all…”  Yes, after all the hard work and promotion and never never never giving up, she has ‘suddenly’ hit the big time.

On the other side of the brain, my sister Miriam, heretofore the uncontested White Sheep of the Family, is a scientist.  She has worked for NASA, and at the White House for the Clinton Administration, and as the first female director of one of NASA’S three Deep Space Tracking Stations on the planet.  Her contributions to science were recently recognized when they named a planet after her.  Okay, so it was only a minor planet, but even so, it’s official…and if you don’t believe me, just Google ‘Planet Baltuck’.   So another sister busted her butt for thirty years working very long hours in very high heels to succeed in a tough field dominated by men.  That’s what you have to do if you want a planet named after you.

And if you want a book that bears your name on its spine and houses a novel that would make your mother proud, you must never never never give up on your writing.  It is a long hard journey that requires grit, discipline, and a hefty supply of bum glue.  But one day you will find that ‘suddenly’ you are a published author.  In the meantime, don’t be too hard on yourself, and always remember that success is relative.  I remember my mother declaring proudly, “Seven children, and not one of them in jail!”

Do you ever get discouraged?  Can you tell us what you do to maintain your courage and determination?  

If you would like to see more of my sister’s paintings, check out her website at: http://www.constancebaltuck.com/

The Egg Chain

null

My mother would sooner have gargled with toilet water than sit me down and explain the Facts of Life.  But I had four older sisters, and the Trickle Down Theory of Knowledge worked for me.  By age fifteen I thought I knew everything I needed to know, more or less, about the birds and the bees.   I was wrong.   One day a question popped into my head, and wouldn’t go away.   I went to my Grandpa Gus, who was a farmer, and asked him the question that was burning a hole in my brain.

“Grandpa, how can chickens lay an egg a day?   There just isn’t that much room.  Where does she keep all those eggs, and wouldn’t it be very uncomfortable?”

“Here’s how it works, Slivers,” he said.  (My Grandpa always called me ‘Slivers;’ I was a skinny little thing in those days.)  He reached for a pencil and sketched what he called “The Egg Chain,” a string of eggs like so many beads, graduating in size from tiny to AA large.  Only one is a full-sized egg; the others are smaller, but growing.  They are all connected and nurtured by a single egg sack.  Each day when the hen lays a mature egg, its little brothers and sisters move up one spot on the chain.  The next in line has one more day in the batter’s circle before stepping up to the plate.

My book ideas grow in the same way.   They say “Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched,” but it works for me.  I have a mental vision of my own writer’s egg chain, with all my chicks in a row, a half a dozen books-in-progress.  The first on the egg chain is the story I am currently hatching, next comes the story I plan to tackle once that one is brought to market, and so on.

Ideas for future writing projects are added, upon conception, to the end of this writer’s egg chain.  They are not so well developed as the big one, but are nurtured daily, perhaps by a conversation, a chance meeting on the street, a news story, during quiet time in the garden, or through purposeful brainstorming.  Each one is a little nest egg, with its own file in my computer, in which I save all my pertaining notes on plot and character.

Every writer should have her own egg chain.  Why?  Because already having a work in progress is an excellent way to avoid Empty Nest Syndrome once you send off your manuscript.   If you have Writer’s Block, you can work on another project guilt-free, because you’re still working on The Chain Gang.  And you never have to worry about all your eggs being in one basket.   So let’s get cracking.

 

Do you throw all your eggs into one basket, or prefer to plan several projects ahead?  

Photo by Carlos Porto
http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=345

Berry Picking, Blogging, and a Piece of the Pie

Do I have to?  I don’t want to put on my shoes, and it’s freakin’ cold outside, and now even doing last night’s dishes is starting to look good.  But if I don’t get my butt out into my garden every other day or so, especially now that it’s wet and cold, those ripe red raspberries will grow moldy and drop off the vine into the dirt.  And because I am the daughter of a Depression Baby who ate tuna salad that was green and fuzzy rather than let it go to waste, those fallen berries haunt me like fuzzy green ghostlets.  Waning daylight pokes at me like a sharp stick before I finally get my fanny out the door.

Once I get going, I always wonder what took me so long.   Sure, a spider might drop down in my face, but I try not to scream—it scares the neighbors–and toss the whole bowl of berries into the air like juicy fireworks—all those perfectly good berries hitting the dirt would send my poor mother spinning.

But I can’t hear the robins singing from my armchair, and I enjoy listening to the neighbors calling their kids in for supper.  And while my hands are busy, my thoughts carry me to unexpected places.  This evening I spent a little while with my Grandpa Gus, remembering how he would turn us loose in his garden to fill our bellies with sun-warmed berries.  For the grownup me, the icing on the Forced March Out to the Garden Cake was a colander brimming with raspberries, which turned out to be the filling for the pie.

In the garden I had a quiet moment to reflect upon the writing life.  If you’ve been a writer for more than fifteen minutes, you’ve already heard that if you want a piece of the pie, you need to establish a social media platform.  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, other ones of which I’ve never heard so I can’t even spell them, and a blog.  Kristen Lamb, the social media expert for writers tells us to blog at least once a week, ARGH!  But three posts would be better.  TRIPLE ARRRGGGHHH!

I was born an old dog, and new tricks don’t come easy.  My long suffering husband had to drag me to the computer (what is that thing and why are you making me touch it?), tie me to a chair, and force me to learn how to use it.  This happened only about a hundred times before I was willing to trade in my quill for a Mac.  Now writing equals cut and paste, and I use my quill for dusting the keyboard.  Then came e-mail.  (Why bother with that when I can’t keep up with snail mail, and it probably won’t catch on anyway!? )  But you can’t hold back the tide with a teaspoon.  E-mail and the internet were keepers, too; without them I couldn’t run a business, network professionally, or find nearly so many fascinating ways to procrastinate.

I’ve been pretty good about keeping up with the raspberry harvest this year.  If I can do that, I reckon I can learn one more new trick, and keep up with the blogging.  So here I go.

Copyright 2011 Naomi Baltuck