You plunk down the entry fee, hoping to be the lucky dog that wins the first-place pay-off of $40 (big money for writing contests!). Never mind that 150,000 other writers with more experience, creativity and contest-submission savvy are entering, too. This is fun, you chuckle to yourself.
The first steps down this slippery slope are reading a call for submissions, and remembering that dusty piece you’ve had stashed, homeless, in a desk drawer for six months. Calculating that an obscure topic (Emily Dickinson: Role Model for Writer Networking or The Upbeat Prose of Franz Kafka) will enhance your chances of winning, you hone and polish the article, cramming it into an envelope with a check, or if your husband hid the checkbook, cash.
You succumb to the notion that multiple submissions will increase your odds of winning. Entering five poems requires a $15 fee. Postage will cost you a buck-fifty. First place pays $40. If you win, your take will be $23.50. That will cover the cost of entering one, maybe two, more contests. You notice that this would be an excellent “story problem” for an elementary math text and decide to research the Writer’s Market for potential publishers.
One magazine I subscribe to has this racket down to a science. This rag doesn’t alert you by mail if you are a winner — you must scan the issue published three months after the contest deadline. You continue to take the magazine to see if you won. Subtract the subscription cost ($22) and your winnings are now down to $1.50. Since you write at the local coffee shop, subtract another $2 for the soy latte and the magazine owes you 50 cents (they ignore your letters to that effect).
You know you’ve got a “contest problem” when your family hints that they’re gathering for an intervention. Maybe you morph into Count Dracula while wrestling your husband for the mailbox key to check for the latest issue; or perhaps, like me, you’ve worn through your second copy of The Little Train that Could, your favorite inspirational title. It has pictures.
Literary contests take us through the same stages of grieving. Denial, the first, darkens our judgment before entering (I know the odds are in my favor this time) and reappears upon receipt of the issue announcing the winners (there must be a misprint!). That poem you’ve entered for the short story contest does tell a story, doesn’t it? Well! If the judges are going to be that narrow minded… The second stage, anger, bubbles up when you’ve scanned the back half of the magazine for the umpteenth time, line by line without finding your name. You throw the second-rate publication against the living room wall and swear off literary contests. Again.
Next, you bargain with God (you’ll tithe if only…), your husband (stalwart in the face of sexual blackmail) and the magazine editors ($3 bribes don’t go far). This strategy fails when God arranges that your child (nicknamed Pigpen) moves back home to save money to buy a house, your husband gives you that smug stubborn look and shakes his head no, and the editors send a carefully worded note to suggest professional counseling. You lie in bed, depressed.
Finally, you reach acceptance. But what part of the experience do you accept? The lie that you must be the worst writer on earth? No, you accept that the judges are all idiots…
No wonder so many writers drink. Hey, can I get a shot of something stronger in that latte?
— Cynthia Washington
Cynthia Washington is a freelance writer living in the rainy northwest. Despite the rain and clouds, she finds humor and joy in everyday events. Published in multiple magazines and online venues, Cynthia still believes she will make money at writing, but not through writing contests. She is teachable.
The lady sitting next to me on the subway with blonde tresses and a raspy voice proudly says, “I am going to lose 20 pounds.” Translation: wah wah wah. Just stop.
A man in my apartment complex asserts, “I am going to quit eating sugar.” Translation: wah wah wah whatever!
A hung-over mama in my spin class says, “I am going to drink less” in between wheezes as she chugs along on the bike and according to her on way less Vodka on the Rocks. Translation: wah wah wah. How boring.
Or more precisely STFU! Just stop, stop, stop. Please stop. Setting these goals that will never happen! Never. Ever. Happen.
I am like the revenge-seeking Grinch that stole New Year’s resolutions. I come with my big brown bag tossing people’s New Year’s dreams out the window, and then retreating back to the outskirts of Whoville. Like come on, why do I need a New Year to tell me to be a better person? Plus, I feel like most New Year’s resolutions are about weight and that makes me very angry on another level. My overall frumpiness feels threatened and my inner ninja fights back hard.
When I think of New Year’s Eve in my early 20s, I picture myself getting all dolled up in a slutty dress with way too much boobage popping out. I’d cover the girls in a cardigan that I would never take off (ironically feeling too slutty…) and high heels that I’d wobble around all night in like an elephant on stilts. Starting the night out walking confidently filled with high expectations, piss and vinegar, and whatever weight goal I set for myself starting tomorrow.
By the end of the night, and only God knows how many drinks, my head would be in the toilet, shoes in hand — barefooting the streets of New York — crying “I want my mommy” like my daughter does. Because dammit, when I don’t feel well,I want my mommy. Don’t judge.
What makes me so bitter? Well let me fill you in where my deep hate stems from.
I personally don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions because I think you should better yourself every day. I know a very Brady Bunch answer, but it’s true. A part of me doesn’t like them even more because a number provokes it. On Jan. 1, you are supposed to start whatever your goal is and pursue it hard — weighing it on a figurative scale of your success every day. Like an eating disorder, you are setting yourself up for disaster. This is why I advise you to evolve healthily each and every day of the year.
Every day, try to respect your body, always be true to yourself, don’t waste your time on nonsense, and spend your time with the people who love you the way you are. Most importantly, you will never be everyone’s perfect person, so just be YOU — that unique, vibrant, amazing person I know each of you are. It’s easy to be you everyday, and not fail at it. So just do what comes naturally.
This year, my first New Year’s Eve in my 30s, it will be my hubby and me in bed, watching New Year’s Rockin’ Eve 2017 or hopefully some Bravo special countdown — I can only hope, this is my plea Andy Cohen! My daughter will be fast asleep in her crib. Again, I can only hope. And it will be absolutely perfect. No expectations except for a kiss from my husband at midnight. And I couldn’t think of a better way to ring in the New Year. Just like every other day.
— Danielle Sherman-Lazar
Dani is four years in recovery from anorexia and bulimia, vice president of a transportation company, and a mother to a nine-month-old. Hobbies (when she has a minute to breathe!) include reading, writing or blogging, anything on Bravo (she is not afraid to admit her reality-tv/Real Housewives of Anywhere addiction) and the occasional workout. She has been published on Bluntmoms. Follow her on her blog, Living a Full Life After ED and like her on Facebook.
(Editor’s Note: Yes, Kate, there is a Santa Claus. Ann Hudock writes a touching rebuttal to a friend’s daughter — and to all those who doubt his existence. “I’m sharing here in case there are any other doubters out there,” Ann writes. “Let’s get this straight: Santa. Is. Real.”)
Your mom mentioned that you might not believe in Santa anymore. This is really so surprising to me that I just wanted to make sure it isn’t some kind of crazy misunderstanding?
Maybe you think you are too old to believe in Santa? Well I’m 48 and I believe in him with my whole heart. Maybe you should believe and just reassess when you are 48 because I can tell you my experience he is real.
Maybe you think you are too smart to believe in Santa. I know you are super smart like your mom and dad, but, honestly Kate, I have a Ph.D., and I still believe. I know how to analyze data (qualitative anyway), and all the evidence I have seen tells me he is real.
Maybe you have friends who tell you he isn’t real. Friends should always be trusted on matters of fashion and boyfriends, but on Santa you just have to look in your heart and decide what YOU believe.
Maybe you think he can’t really fly around the world on a sleigh. Well, Kate, I have had Christmas in Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Sierra Leone, Cambodia, Vietnam, Zambia and the U.K., and he has found me every single time. I’m going to Mexico this year, so if he doesn’t come, we can talk, but I know he will.
It’s up to you to decide what you believe, Kate, but you should also know this. In life behind every strong man there is a stronger woman and just as Santa is real, so is Mrs. Claus. She is running the show up there in the North Pole, not getting near enough credit or probably pay equity. So, if for no other reason, you need to believe in Santa until we can make things right for Mrs. Claus.
— Ann Hudock
Ann Hudock is a proud graduate of the University of Dayton (1990 and 1993) and the mother of four boys. She is the senior vice president for international programs at Plan International USA and loves the mission and vision of the organization dedicated to helping children around the world. She blogs at One Stiletto in Front of the Other: Moms in Trenches.
The moment my Dad lined the three of us up along the lip of our harvest gold and walnut couch, I knew it was a trap. I may have been seven years old, but I was savvy enough to see through “Do you know what Christmas is really about?”
“Jesus!” I proudly parroted, certain I had just saved myself and siblings from the ensuing spiel. And then he turned to my six-year-old brother.
“Do you know what Christmas is really about?”
Come on! Come on! You can do it! It’s a trick question. You just heard me say the answer.
Oh, thank God!
But then he turned to the toddler.
“Do you know what…”
I caved into the cushions as he launched into a lengthy lecture, one with too much information for my age and stage, that completely crushed that cute little Christ in a crèche and left me a very sinister second grader who had savagely slain someone with her sin.
When it was over, my brother and sister happily hurried off blissfully oblivious to their offense after becoming completely lost immediately after the opening bit about the babe in Bethlehem. However, the gravity of my guilt settled on my shoulders as I made my way over to the console TV where my mother had placed our nativity set, as she had done every year, ensuring we all would see it.
I surveyed the ceramics from Sears. There were the wise men still way off in the corner of the console working their way west for the Epiphany. The shepherd who carried his sheep for some reason rather than letting it walk. The ox and ass, who through stifled giggles allowed me to say “ass” at church. The angel with a clipped wing that had chipped when she slipped from her nail and crashed where the cradle should have been. And Mary and Joseph, all staring expectantly into the blank space where my youngest sibling would reach her chubby little fingers in on Christmas morning, to place the baby, ceremoniously signaling the start of our festivities.
All awaiting the arrival of Jesus, just so I could kill him.
It was a good thing I had been preparing to make my first confession in a couple of months. We had really only covered the venial sins in my Baltimore Catechism. You know, the little ones, like fighting with my brother and not making my bed. The stuff that would still let me into purgatory where I could be on a payment plan of penance. Nothing so dire it deserved damnation. But it turned out we should have been covering the mortal ones, because I was unwittingly a murderer!
Mrs. Johnson, my Wednesday night CCD teacher, had mentioned the mortal sins as a category not to concern our elementary school selves with because those were really big ones like killing someone…which I had apparently already done! And the only way to get a mortal sin off of your soul was to go to confession. So, I would have to sit and stew in my sinfulness until that Saturday in spring when I would finally be capable of confessing to this capital crime and cleanse it from my conscience. I was going to have to be extra careful not to take any unnecessary risks to ensure I survived until then!
Over the next several days, at recess, I stayed off of the ice my friends were so gleefully gliding across and sat on the steps. I skipped going to my best friend’s house after school. And every time we got in the car, I secured my seatbelt, even though this was 1980 and seatbelts were completely unnecessary unless we were on vacation and even then, I am pretty sure they were only required to keep us from climbing all over the car and driving my parents crazy on cross-country car trips.
I didn’t go out and play in the first snow of the season. I skipped sledding and stayed safely inside watching the neighbor kids out the dining room window. And this is when my mother was sure something was amiss.
“I know that Santa is watching, but it doesn’t mean he doesn’t want you to have any fun.” And then she winked.
Mom was well aware I knew who was what. I had known since kindergarten. It started with suspicions about The Tooth Fairy, then barreled through the Easter Bunny and snowballed right on over to Santa. I had always been an over-thinker and in a matter of minutes my five-year-old mind had managed to decimate the magic, much to my mother’s dismay.
But it stayed our little secret. She knew that I knew that she knew that I knew. But ne’er a word was said about it since that day more than two years earlier.
However, it wasn’t “Santa” that concerned me. It was that other guy in red. The one whose name also started with an “S.”
And as my worries piled up just like the snow outside, I finally could take it no longer.
“I don’t want anyone to die for me, I just want a Barbie.”
And then there were tears.
And a very simple response.
I don’t remember exactly what she said, only that she pointed out how very much she loved me. And if she could love me that much, to just think how much more God must love me and that Christmas and all the rest of it, in its simplest terms was about that love. And yes, there was a birth and a death, but there was a lot of living in between…and after. And so much living and loving for all of us to do as well.
And most importantly, she assured me that I was not a murderer and that dying for someone was something else entirely. And she let me in on a little secret…the best news of all.
I was getting a Barbie.
— Laura Becker
Laura Becker is an essayist who currently resides in Redondo Beach with her screenwriting partner/husband. Born in Missouri. Raised in Kansas. Adolescence/young adulthood in Iowa, which, according to Walter Neft in Double Indemnity, makes her a native Californian. She writes, quips, muses and laughs about almost anything…almost.
Rev glanced over, grinned again, then resumed her update. A lot had happened in the 20 years since they’d graduated from teachers’ college.
“I did get a teaching job. It was just part-time, though. But that was exactly what I wanted. Because, as you recall, I was working on my first novel. I was going to be a writer,” she said with mock enthusiasm. Mocking enthusiasm. “Yes I was.”
“What happened?” Dylan asked.
“Well you know what it was like back then. We were lucky if we got any kind of teaching job. Unless we wanted to teach English overseas. End of my first year, I was declared redundant.”
“There were two of you?” He giggled, then said, “I meant what happened to the ‘going to be a writer’ part.”
“Oh, I am a writer.”
“I write the questions that go on the LSAT.”
“You became a lawyer?”
“No, I don’t know anything about the law. Well, I do, but —”
“Ah-hah! I thought so!” He seemed so—pleased. “Misdemeanour?”
“Yeah — how did…” She glanced in the rear-view mirror before making a lane change to pass another stupid mini-van thing.
“The principal,” she sighed as she started the explanation. “I’d become a sub and after a few months of a day here and there, I got a long-term placement at one school — the principal caught me teaching my grade 10 boys how to put on a condom.”
“All of them at once?”
“Yes— no!” She reached over and cuffed him one. “It was a late and lazy Friday afternoon, and some of them were hubba-hubba-ing about their hot dates for the weekend, and I said something like, ‘You guys do know how to use a condom, right? ‘Cuz if you put it on wrong, it’ll bust, and you’ll end up a daddy.’”
“Bet that got their attention.”
“It did indeed.”
“So the principal laid charges?”
“I was ‘corrupting minors.’”
“Socrates would be proud. Still, it seems a bit over-reacting.”
“It wasn’t the first time.” He waited.
“I refused to stand for the anthem,” she said. “Every goddamned morning they wanted us to proclaim our allegiance. You’d think we were in the Soviet Union. Or the States. ‘Nationalism is…”
“an infantile disease,’” he finished the quote. “And the next time?”
“Well, the long-term placement got turned into a short-term placement…”
“Isn’t it usually the other way around?”
“Smart ass. At the next school,” she continued then, “I started a discussion club. I chose abortion as the opening topic.”
“Well, you can’t do that at St. Mary’s of the Eternally Blessed Virgin Who Never Goes To First Base Not Even If She Really Really Wants To. Especially If She Really Really Wants To…” he stopped then.
She looked over at him with inquiring eyebrows, but he didn’t elaborate. Didn’t really need to.
“It was a public school,” she said. “A regular public high school. Next time, it was something else. I can’t remember.”
“Yes, you can.”
“Yes, I can. The next time — oh, it doesn’t matter. The next time, when I…” She paused to find the right word, “left, I offered to sponsor an annual Award for Independent Thought. To be given each year to a graduating student chosen by the teaching staff. Each May, I’d send a book prize for the award. They’d give it out at the graduation ceremony in June.”
“The Awards Committee refused my offer. They said it would be too complicated to administer.”
“Ah, well, they’re administrators. The May-June thing probably stumped them.”
— Jass Richards
Jass Richards has a master’s degree in philosophy and for a (very) brief time was a stand-up comic (now she’s more of a sprawled-on-the-couch comic). Despite these attributes, she has received four Ontario Arts Council grants. In addition to her Rev and Dylan series (The Road Trip Dialogues, The Blasphemy Tour and License to Do That), which has reportedly made people snort root beer out their noses, she has written This Will Not Look Good on My Resume, a collection of short stories described as “a bit of quirky fun that slaps you upside the head.” “At the Beach” is excerpted from its sequel Dogs Just Wanna Have Fun. All of her books, including her most recent, TurboJetslams: Proof #29 of the Non-Existence of God, can be purchased (in print and various e-formats) at all the usual online places.
“Eating companion, do you not enjoy the manfingers?” his long time friend, Zignon asked.
Blignon burped politely from his armpit, “No, the Ancestors could not have been more mistaken about this meal, surely these are not manfingers!”
Zignon’s antennae curled in alarm, “But I selected them myself from the bio support. They were the plumpest in the tank!” He lowered his voice and whispered to his friend, “Ix-nay on the Ancestors-ay. You never know which generation-jay is listening…”
Blignon sucked in his eye, his face now flat and expressionless, and wrapped his mottled webbed feet around his companion’s ankles to assure him all was well.
“Old friend, this is nothing to fear. You will always be an honored eating companion. Do you remember the time we ate a whole, what was that called, a whole elphalent? No, eletank.”
“Oh, yes, eletanks. Tusks, grey hide, very tough as I recall. Delicious ears.”
They laughed. “Hraack, hraack, hraaaaackarakarak.”
“Blignon, beloved and honored comrade, who am I to report such a trifling issue as a food choice to the authorities?”
Zignon’s antennae relaxed.
“No, there must be an explanation for the difference in this delicacy. Do you remember when manrump was tough but manfinger tender?”
Blignon buzzed thoughtfully. “Could it be their food supply? Or our DNA alterations?”
Zignon frizzled his wiggit. “I am unable to answer that question. But observe on this history port, “he paused, pulling a screened device from his clothes, “that humans in the later period accumulated more energy reserves in their manrumps. If we zoom to their pre-computer age, their posteriors have a flat, almost defined appearance.”
The two friends examined portphotos of Oregon lumberjacks from the 1800’s zooming forward in time to human workers bent over keyboards.
Blignon’s armpit thripped excitedly. “Yes, yes, see the difference! These early humans do not fill out their posterior clothing. They do not manifest large manrumps. Oddly different from the inhabitants we subdued. Do you think they were banished to the wilds of conical forms because of this or are they typical of humans in that era?”
“It’s likely they were banished – anyone in their culture exhibiting physical discrepancies was shunned. If they’d had our technology, they might have shuttled them to another orb in their planetary system. Or heaven forbid, one of ours!”
“Hraack, hraack, hraackarakarakara.”
Their wiggits blithered simultaneously, backs rippling in disgust and good humor.
“Oh, ho, ho! What a dilemma! And no newly discovered landspaces to send them off to! They must have wished for a new Australiup to colonize with their wicked.”
The robowait removed their unfinished food when they signaled their desire to choose from the menu again.
“Should we try human again? Manrump might be a better choice. This batch appears well fattened. There’s very little muscle. Ah, yes, no wonder! Gleaned from a colony of writers.”
“Your choice, beloved companion, your choice.”
“Manrump it is then!”
The robowait returned with skewers of dripping meat. “Ooooh, how wonderful! This batch oozes concentrated energy reserves. We will have to deny ourselves the sweetness at the conclusion of our meal.”
“I rarely eat the sweetness,” Zignon confided. “It makes my hawoo erupt.”
Blignon cast a discrete look at Zignon’s nether region. “I love the sweetness. Can’t resist it.”
“Here’s to a fine evening!” they agreed, clinking orbs of red intoxicant together before spearing their food.
— Cynthia Washington
Cynthia has published in several magazines and newspapers, finally using that liberal arts education from Rutgers University. Her favorite writing pastime is composing limericks and Haiku and won first place in 2011 for Bad Christmas Poetry in the Tacoma News Tribune.
I live in a different time zone than everybody else — right now it is 8:49 a.m., Eastern time, 5:49 on the West Coast and 12:27 on Mars — so I was a little late in finding out that my granddaughter Chloe, who is 3, recently got a watch.
I have had one watch in my life. It was given to me as a college graduation gift by my parents, who liked to remind me that I was born more than three weeks past my due date and hadn’t been on time for anything since. The watch was one of those digital numbers that didn’t have two hands, which required me to use two hands to tell the time. It was a pain in the wrist.
Not long after my wife, Sue, and I were married, our apartment was burglarized. Her watch was stolen. Mine was left behind. It wasn’t even good enough for thieves.
At the time (4:32 p.m.), I resolved never to wear a watch again. And I haven’t. I am in a deadline business, but I don’t care what time it is. If I need to know, I’ll look at the clock on the wall. If I don’t see a wall, I know I’m outside and that it’s time (midnight) to come in.
Now Chloe, who was born a week early, has a watch. It was given to her by her parents, though not as a college graduation gift because even kids these days don’t grow up that fast.
At least it’s not digital. It has a purple band with pink and white flowers and a face with two hands, which means Chloe doesn’t need two hands to tell the time.
What she does need is somebody to teach her how.
That, against all odds, is where I come in.
Whenever Chloe visits, she wants me to read her favorite literary masterpiece, “Tick and Tock’s Clock Book.” Subtitled “Tell the Time With the Tiger Twins!,” it’s the compelling if somewhat repetitive tale of two feline brothers who are baffled by time, which makes them no better than me. Of course, I never tell that to Chloe. Instead, I begin reading:
“Brrringg! The alarm clock rang so loudly it made Tick and Tock jump out of bed.
“ ‘What time is it?!’ said Tock.
“Tick went to look at the clock.
“ ‘Um … the big hand … Not sure,’ he said. What time did the clock say?”
“What time did the clock say, Poppie?” Chloe asked recently during a particularly dramatic reading.
“It didn’t say anything,” I replied. “Clocks can’t talk.”
Chloe giggled and said, “Silly Poppie!”
According to the drawing on the page, it was 8 a.m., even though it was 3:15 p.m. in my house, so I helped Chloe move the plastic hands — the big one to the 12, the little one to the 8 — on the clock in the upper right corner of the book.
The rest of the story follows the messy Tiger Twins through their day, during which they can’t figure out what time they are supposed to leave for school (8:30), finish their painting project (10:15), have lunch (12:30), go home (3:30) and have dinner (4:45).
But the best is saved for last. That’s when Tick and Tock’s mother, who has just cleaned up one of their many messes, announces, “There, it’s all tidy now. Look, it’s 8 o’clock, time for bed.”
But the clock on the wall says otherwise.
“Tick and Tock looked at the clock and said, ‘No, it’s not! It’s 7 o’clock. We have another hour to play, hooray!’ ”
In one of the greatest endings in all of literature, the Tiger Twins’ mother can’t tell the time.
“Maybe,” I said to Chloe as I closed the book, “Tick and Tock should buy her a watch.”
— Jerry Zezima
Jerry Zezima, who served on the faculty at the 2010 EBWW, writes a humor column for the Stamford Advocate that is nationally syndicated through the Tribune News Service and regularly appears in the Huffington Post. He’s written three books, Grandfather Knows Best, Leave it to Boomer and The Empty Nest Chronicles. He has won six humor-writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and was named EBWW’s Humor Writer of the Month twice. He is the past president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.
If I could find that darn genie with that magic lantern, I’d ask the genie to make Erma my neighbor. For years, I’d read her columns, bought her books, watched her on the Phil Donahue Show and just loved her from afar. She would have been a perfect neighbor for me.
I envisioned her popping over early in the morning, her hair in rollers, wearing a fuzzy robe and asking to borrow a dozen eggs. I looked exactly the same in my 1960 kitchen. Her kids were starving, and they needed a protein-packed breakfast. I like to think she shopped like I did. I had the word EGGS on my grocery list and came home with grated cheese instead. I sent her home with a box of waffles to feed the little ones. That’s what good neighbors do.
Our style of parenting would also be a conversation over coffee after the little ones were off to school.
“Oh Erma, I don’t know what to do with my Tommy. He is so lazy with his homework.”
“Anne, he’s probably not getting enough sugar. Give him a Twinkie for dinner.”
“That is genius! You should write a parenting column, Erma.”
I also counseled her with her troubles.
“Anne, Andy and Matt are constantly refusing to share toys with Betsy. What am I going to do?”
“Well Erma, what I found best is to put masking tape on the boys’ hands, like mittens. Then, Betsy has a chance to play with the toys she likes. Just don’t forget to take it off, like I did.”
And when she got sick, I’d make her family meals and sit with her. She wouldn’t even have to speak. I’d just be there for her. We’d reminisce and laugh and cry. Then we’d do it again. I’d hug her really tight and tell her she was my best neighbor ever.
Years later, I’d fly to Dayton to be part of her writers’ conference. I’d make new friends, learn new ideas, and be so proud to be part of my best neighbor’s legacy.
I really miss her.
— Anne Bardsley
Anne Bardsley lives in St Petersburg, Florida, with her “wrinkle maker” of a husband and two spoiled cockatoos. She’s still recovering from raising five children. She is so happy she didn’t strangle them as teenagers as they’ve given her beautiful grandchildren. She is the author of How I Earned My Wrinkles: Musings on Marriage, Motherhood and Menopause. Her latest book, Angel Bumps, will be published by Mill House Publishing this spring. She blogs at www.annebardsley.com.