Literary Limbo

Okay, well maybe not literary, per se, but the handle sounds better than author’s limbo or writer’s limbo. I’ve always been enamored with the alliteration thing.

Why does everything in the publishing industry take………so………long? It’s bad enough it takes us months, if not years to plow through the hundreds of pages to create our work of art. Just to make it to The End! Even magazine articles, only a few thousand words long, take months and months to appear in the periodical, so long sometimes I don’t even remember it was me who wrote the damn thing.

But we are writers, and we plow through, and make it to The End. Our novel, our nonfiction book, or our memoir. Then there’s the endless revisions. Little do we realize, that’s just the beginning.

Next comes the submission process. Contest after contest. Query after query. Pitch after pitch. Little blips on the chart when we make a contest final, or an editor asks for a partial. We polish and we submit. And we wait. And wait. And wait.

And then the day finally comes – the call. Or the letter. Or the email that tells us we have arrived. We are validated. We are being offered a contract on our work. We choke up, print it out, hold it lovingly between our fingers. Then we go back and print it out again, just to be sure we haven’t imagined the whole thing. Then we skim the document over, say a little prayer to the literary gods, cross our fingers, and we sign.

And then we wait. And we wait. And we wait.

It’s a well-known fact that from the signing of a publishing contract to the day the book becomes a reality – that is, with a cover image and an ISBN number of its very own – two years or more is not uncommon. So what’s two years in the grand scheme of things? It might have taken two or three times that long to write the silly thing. So why does it seem like time stands still after the ink dries on the contract?

I stand in the purgatory of the not-quite-published. I mean, I have three contracts – count ‘em, three! But I signed them all within months of each other and now the waiting game begins. Heavens, it only took nine months before I held my children in my arms, and I was two months into the process when I found out they were coming. In comparison, this seems like an ice age.

I will share my one big fear. Mama always said if you had a bad dream and you told somebody about it, it wouldn’t come true. This isn’t exactly a dream, but I’m hoping the same rules of protection apply. So here goes.

I had a friend in a writer’s group who, after years of writing and submitting and counting rejection letters and waiting, finally signed a contract on his book.

Then he died. In his sleep, about thirty years before his time. Before his book ever came out.

So here it is, folks. I’m putting it out there so it doesn’t happen to me. If, by some ironic twist of spiteful fate, it does, this blog will stand as my witness.


There. I feel so much better.

Orchid Love

I’m not sure when my obsession with orchids became, well, an obsession. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I have a problem. But the rest of the world may not agree.

It started about ten years ago when we lived in Florida, where orchids thrive indoors or out, and are plentiful and inexpensive. I bought two white phalaenopsis orchids in full bloom. They are touted to be the easiest kind of orchid to grow and maintain. It only took me a month to kill one, about three months to kill the other.

Now let me clarify the definition of “kill.” Most people believe that once the blooms dry up and fall off, and the spike itself turns into a stiff, brown stick, the orchid is dead. So very NOT true. Orchids can bloom several times a year under the right conditions, but during their resting stage, they are boring-looking, thick-limbed, hatless gnomes. Patience, less frequent waterings and feedings, and time are all that’s needed for the plant to throw up another spike toward the heavens and bloom again. Mine, sadly, were really DEAD-dead. The thick green leaves shriveled up. On one plant, they turned into nubby, brown shards. On the other, they paled to yellow and actually fell off.

I mourned my second orchid fatality, but the tragedy spurred a kind of challenge for me. I WOULD learn how to care for an orchid, and not kill another one. Enter orchid number three.

My third phalaenopsis traveled with us from Florida to Texas to North Carolina to Massachusetts over a period of four years. It didn’t bloom after losing those initial flowers, but the leaves remained green and reasonably healthy looking. Once we were settled in our permanent home in New England, I repotted the thick-limbed gnome, fed it, and talked really nice to it.

The spike went up in late February, developing three buds in a very short time. They got bigger, and bigger, and then…poof! I woke up one late March morning to a fully-opened white flower as big across as my palm. Two other, slightly smaller blooms followed. The flowers remained so perfect for such a long time, my son teased that he’d glued silk ones onto my previously sad looking orchid. They didn’t wither and fall until early July. Followed, miraculously, by another spike! This one had four, smaller blooms that lingered in radiant beauty until early September.


Which is when, I suppose, the obsession began. While walking through the garden department of our local Home Depot, I encountered a display filled with healthy phalaenopsis of various colors. But straying just beyond this brilliant display, I discovered another half-dozen plants sequestered up against an exterior, concrete block wall. They were wilted, most of their blooms were gone, and their leaves were doing that same shriveling up or turning yellow thing my first specimens had done.

I bought three of the sorriest looking plants for a fraction of their healthy companion’s price, took them home, and nurtured them. But not until after giving the manager of the garden department a piece of my mind, and lodging an email complaint to the corporate office, accusing my local store of “orchid abuse.”

I am happy to report that at this very moment, a year later, the three blooming orchids in my collection are those very same three, half-dead, doomed specimens. Two of them just sent up new, second spikes.

And today I wandered into the same store’s garden department thinking, “Beware: the orchid lady is here.” I was pleased to discover no wilting or unhealthy plants, only a lovely display of phalaenopses (is that the correct plural form?) in full bloom. I chose a yellow and pink variety I do not currently own.

As the checkout girl was struggling to scan the bar code on the bottom of the pot, I warned, “Don’t hurt my blooms!” But alas, one of the flowers succumbed to excess pressure from the clear plastic wrapping. It lay, dismembered, at the plant’s base.

“I’m so sorry,” she said. “Let me go get you another plant.”

“NO. I want this one. It’s okay. I’ll take it anyway.”

The look on my face must have told her I was a very, very serious orchid addict. Although I did not ask, she insisted that I accept a 20 percent discount off the minimally damaged plant. And, she was right. I am a very, very serious orchid addict. This latest adoption raises my collection to a total of thirteen.

Oh my, that will never do. Thirteen is bad luck, right? Wait right here – I’ve got to run back to Home Depot and pick up another one.





History Blips

My followers on Twitter and Facebook are familiar with my meager contribution to the internet’s cacophonous fray of virtual communication. I commemorate “today’s date in history.” Some days it’s harder than others to find something blip-worthy.

I usually have to dig a little. There’s never a shortage of the bad or the sad: acts or declarations of war, bombs dropping, terrorist attacks, gruesome crimes, hideous massacres. Man’s gigantic history book would shrink to a pamphlet if negative events – just those of his own making! – were edited out. I love history now, but it’s taken me a half-century to learn how to love it.

In grade school, they called it social studies. I didn’t mind the geography segment: it was pretty fun playing around with all those maps and colored pencils. But history was just one big long bore. I remember struggling through each night’s reading assignment from a thick, new book whose glossy cover glorious adventures. Inside, I found mostly tales of death and destruction. Dates, dates, dates. Numbers. Tallies. The Battle of This. The Great Depressing That. I was terminally obsessed straight A student. I diligently forced myself to read *every* *single* *word*. To my shock and chagrin, I arrived in class the next day and discovered I couldn’t remember a single word.

So how did I become the History Blip Fairy? There’s more to history than wars and death and destruction. There’s culture. There’s art and literature and music. There are mysteries. There’s evidence of amazing and glorious creative imaginations. There are evolutions and explanations of why and how man has arrived at today that don’t need explosives to make them work. It all depends on the lens through which you study our past.

One definition of the word “blip” is a “bright spot of light” or a “brief upturn.” That’s my interpretation. Every day, I share a brief, bright spot in our history. A day when something good happened. Stop by and start your day with a smile.