Long Journey by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

Photo by Jesse Bowser on Unsplash

The river we paddled together,
skirting brushy banks,
avoiding boulders, portaging
around the crashing splendor
of waterfalls, that river
changed character
when you died.

I was becalmed for awhile,
drifting in aimless circles
on a still backwater
until I picked up my paddle,
continued downstream.

The river formed a new channel,
curves and flows more gently now
through grain-filled fields
and lowland woods
with shy browsing deer.

I paddle, one side then the other,
keep the canoe steady, on course,
admire the broad sky,
the herons and kingfishers,
splash of a trout.

About the Author: Patricia Wellingham-Jones

PatriciaWellingham-JonesPatricia Wellingham-Jones is a widely published former psychology researcher and writer/editor. She has a special interest in healing writing, with poems recently in The Widow’s Handbook (Kent State University Press). Chapbooks include Don’t Turn Away: poems about breast cancer, End-Cycle: poems about caregiving, Apple Blossoms at Eye Level, Voices on the Land and Hormone Stew.

All in Its Time by Tamara Palmer

In retrospect, like the best-laid plans, it all worked out great. This past spring I released my novel, Missing Tyler, twenty years after I began the first draft. To the world my launch appeared nuanced and executed with amazing precision. But what I know now, being in the driver’s seat, is that the years building up to the release are what enabled my novel to receive such a tremendous reception. The novel and I grew up together.

I take comfort in the knowledge that the years my novel went unpublished was not wasted time. I often scolded myself for not doing more at various times and society further reinforces that notion for all unpublished authors. But not only was that period not wasted time, it was perfect and necessary. Now that I’ve launched my novel into the world, I can honestly say it was released at just the right time.

I began writing Missing Tyler in the mid-nineties in a writing group in Lafayette, Colorado. At the time I was Tamara Wachtel. I was a few years out of college, bursting with creative energy to finally see a story all the way through to the end – to write a damn novel. Prior to that point, the most I’d written was a fifty-page screenplay as a senior thesis in college. I had various novel starts, all around the same page count. One of my favorites of the unfinished novels featured a main character who mainlined caffeine the way others shoot heroin.

As I matured past my early twenties and moved into a house with my fiancé, it was time to tackle a novel. To completion. One story was screaming for attention over the others. It wanted to be told. Those early drafts of Missing Tyler still exist somewhere on a floppy disk in a box buried in the house I now call home.

As I grew, Missing Tyler grew with me. I matured from girlfriend to fiancée to wife, becoming Tamara Palmer. Then I became a mother. I grew in my day job, carving out a career path from recruiter to manager to director to career coach.

It’s tempting to regret life achievements not having happened sooner but twinges of regret are tempered with understanding that if I had had my daughter when I was younger, my second novel, Finding Lancelot, would never have been written. The freedom I felt to attend a ten-day creative writing retreat in England in the early 2000s likely won’t return for many years to come. And when it does, I’ll be a different woman, post-menopausal, with a lifetime of history to fuel a different story.

According to my original plan, I was supposed to have sold Missing Tyler in 2008. At that time, I had secured a reputable New York agent who was shopping the book around. It was a terrible market though, and while there was some interest, no one was willing to take a stab at a newbie writer tackling death and grief. After my agent accumulated a substantial pile of rejection letters from all the big publishers, she told me she was out of ideas. Being seven months pregnant, I countered that I was out of time. With a baby on the way, I didn’t have time to continue exploring a creative venture.

Besides being immersed in new motherhood, the next group of years found me entrenched in learning the ropes of running a business. I gained exceptional knowledge in marketing and, more importantly, social media marketing. These have been my secret weapons in getting Missing Tyler launched into bestseller status on Amazon and, I hope, will be my ticket to getting Missing Tyler known beyond the confines of my communities.

The years I spent raising my daughter coincided with the burgeoning acceptability of self-publishing. I couldn’t have published Missing Tyler on my own in 2008 and achieved anywhere near the reception I have today. The backbone of social media has been the key to marketing my novel and social media has grown up a lot since my daughter was born.

And while I crave the legitimacy of inclusion in the writing club that a check from Random House confers, with self-publishing I was able to design my book cover exactly as I wanted. I didn’t have to modify my ending or change my title or make myriad other creative adjustments that the establishment likely would have insisted upon. Retaining complete creative control reminds me that this is truly my accomplishment. Even if one day Random House comes calling and offers a check in exchange for my book, I’ll know the offer is rooted in wanting a piece of what the world already loves and that I created on my own.

Also, had I published in 2008, I would not have had the last five years of public-speaking practice, during which I have honed my voice and have come to understand what it is to command a crowd and truly engage an audience. I’ve loved the book signings I’ve had thus far, feeling comfortable speaking to an audience about my journey and the importance of creativity in my life. I am a captivating speaker because I’ve learned what people respond to in my delivery. I look forward to every new speaking event.

And, had I published in 2008, I would not have had the years of maturing that allowed me to fine tune the manuscript. I would not have been able to read my novel through the lens of a mother. I would not have met my critique partner, David, who edited Missing Tyler through the eyes of a father.

They say everything happens in its time. Some say it’s God’s will, some say it’s just the roll of the dice. Whether it was fate, God, or a fluke, I’m grateful that I sit here at 45 reflecting back on a lifetime (to date) of experiences that brought me to this doorway. I crossed the publishing threshold armed with good writing chops, social media savvy, public-speaking ease and comfort, and a twenty-five-year working history of strong connections. Into the proverbial Crockpot they went to bring my novel into the world with force.

No regrets.

About the Author: Tamara Palmer

Tamara Palmer knew she was going to be a writer before she could even write. She would play elaborate dramas out with her Barbies for days, even weeks, on end. As she got older, the stories made their way onto a typewriter. Tamara obtained a BA in English/Creative Writing from Eastern Illinois University, and has had a handful of short stories and essays published online and in print.

Tamara blogs frequently for the career advisement business she founded in 2012, greyzone. “Missing Tyler” is her first novel. She lives just outside Chicago with her husband, daughter, and assortment of pets.

Sunday Brunch: Kitchen Table Writing

Kitchen Table Writing

I have a confession to make: I like to write at the kitchen table.

Kitchen Table Writing

This may not seem like something worthy of embarrassment, or even the least a bit of sheepishness, but the harsh reality is that when I write at the kitchen table, it means that I’m cheating on the Word Lounge, the blue-walled, soft-carpeted room filled with books and mermaid art, and beachy things and far too many Lt. Commander Data action figures (among others) that is my own special space on the top floor of the house. Action figures on office desk

That room, with the weight machine I’ve nicknamed Marcy’s Playground because that’s the brand of the apparatus, has a television with a Roku stick attached, because I like to listen to familiar dialogue while I’m working. It also has a giant picture window that looks onto the cozy street where we live, and a glass coffee table that used to live downstairs, but moved upstairs when we changed the living room furniture.

I love being up there when I’m editing audio, or recording an episode of the podcast I swear is not going to only exist in August this year. I love curling up on the ancient faded-denim couch that used to be my mother’s, with a book and a mug of tea or coffee. I love lighting the candle that sits within a wreath of seashells collected from the beaches around La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico, where my parents have lived for nearly two decades.

I love it when one of my dogs comes into that space with me and sprawls on that one sun-soaked rectangle of carpet, content to just be near me while I’m puttering or (com)putering.

But for some reason, I end up doing my best writing at the kitchen table. Well, I do a lot of really good writing in bed, a la Mark Twain, as well, but it’s the kitchen table where I feel most like a writer.

At this time of year, especially, the kitchen is my favorite room in my house. It has sliding glass doors that open to the back yard, and in the cool of the morning and evening, I can leave the door open and let the dogs wander in and out. I can look outside and see birds coming to visit the feeder I only fill when I remember. (This is intentional. I read somewhere that keeping a feeder full all the time makes the local birds dependent.)

Microphone - waitingMost often, the birds I see are grackles, but I actually like those birds, which aren’t jet black, after all, but deep indigo, purple, charcoal grey, and even, sometimes, subtle maroon. Sometimes there are woodpeckers. Often the big obnoxious blue jay with the Batman mask over his eyes comes to visit. I’m no Disney princess. The birds don’t ever clean up my house or create dresses from flowers and twigs, but I like seeing them.

As what passes for fall in Texas deepens into October and November, kitchen table writing increases its appeal. I can’t count the number of words I’ve written while also baking cookies, creating stews, checking on a simmering soup or baking pot pie, or even just nibbling on carrots and hummus, or apples and cheese, or wedges of oranges and endless pots of tea.

Outside, I can see the light change, not just from hour to hour as dawn becomes full daylight, and then fades into nighttime, but season by season – the light starts to thin in August, and by October, there’s a sense of crispness to the afternoon sunlight, even when the thermometer insists it’s really eighty-two degrees outside.

While my kitchen table writing is often the work I’m most connected to, the specific table doesn’t seem to matter. For years I wrote at my mother’s hand-me-down teak dining table from the Copenhagen store in Fresno… or was it San Jose?

Currently, my kitchen table is actually a big old library-type ‘partner’s desk’ with a center drawer in either side. It’s perfect for the breakfast nook, and more than ample for two or four people. Or one person, her laptop, several notebooks, coffee, and a plate of food. I told my husband the other day that when we move (we’re planning to sell our huge house and move to something smaller and all on one floor after the first of the year) I want to replace the corner desk in my office and use this table as the desk in my office.

I can’t explain where it comes from, but I have a feeling that kitchen table writing can happen even if the table is no longer in the kitchen.

Sunflowers on Kitchen Table

The thing about writing for a living is that it’s an incredibly internal vocation. I know I’m not the only writer who spends a significant amount of time living in her own head. I suspect that part of the attraction of writing at the kitchen table is that the kitchen is the heart of any house.

Or at least, it’s been the heart of every house where I’ve ever spent any length of time.

I grew up spending the summers with my grandparents in New Jersey, and the dining table was party central all the time. Whether it was just the family having a simple meal of grilled hamburgers, tomatoes from my grandfather’s garden, and corn on the cob from the farm stand down the road, or a late-night thing where all the adults were playing canasta and drinking syrupy black coffee, that table was the place to be.

When I visit my mother in Mexico, I bring my laptop to her kitchen table and write while everyone else is watching television (I’m really bad at ‘just’ watching television; I have to be doing something.) Last year, when I found that my travel charger would no longer provide my laptop with any power, I usurped my stepfather’s barely-touched laptop and used that, saving everything I did to OneDrive and Dropbox, because I had to write. Living room writing

There are times, of course, when I don’t want to write at the kitchen table. I often (usually) bring my laptop into the living room, set it up on a snack tray, and write while Fuzzy (my husband) and I watch television. Over last month, recuperating from pneumonia, I’ve returned to writing in bed a lot more, typically with a dog or two sharing the space with me.

But for the most part, the kitchen is my happy place, and one of my favorite memories is from one of my parents’ early visits to my home, where not one, but all four of us had our laptops or tablets on the kitchen table, all of us tapping away between bits of conversation, nibbling on cookies and sipping coffee.

Apparently, kitchen table writing runs in the family.

About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

Melissa is a writer, voice actor, podcaster, itinerant musician, voracious reader, and collector of hats and rescue dogs. She is the author of The Bathtub Mermaid: Tales from the Holiday Tub. You can learn more about her on her blog, or connect with her on on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.