I am enamored with disorderly used book stores.

The first impression that my wife and I had of Lowry’s Books in Three Rivers, Michigan was made when we parked outside the front entrance, or what we thought was the front entrance, anyway. The door that we parked near had a sign on it that said, “Lowry’s Books–The main entrance is five doors down.” We hadn’t even made it inside the bookstore and we were impressed by the expansiveness of the place.

The inside of Lowry’s Books is everything that a book lover would love in a used book store. There were books everywhere, floor to ceiling. There were huge stacks of books sitting on the ground. Bookshelves were arranged in a maze-like pattern, drawing the shopper deeper and deeper into used book heaven. And every time you thought you had come to the last room of books, you’d discover a doorway into another whole room of books.

The reason that my wife and I went to Lowry’s Books was because I was speaking at the Jot Writers Conference being held there. Had I known the used book glory that awaited us there, we probably would have made it there earlier in the day to accommodate the time needed to shop. As it was, I probably spent too much time buried in the stacks after the conference when I should have been hobnobbing with fellow writers. But if there is a community of people who would forgive me for ignoring them in favor of books, it is a fellowship of writers who attended Jot.

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Thanks again, to Tom from Lowry’s Books who allowed us to host our event there, but thank you also for having such a delightful bookstore in the first place. If you are ever within driving distance of Three Rivers, Michigan, Lowry’s is worth the trip. Just leave yourself a few hours to shop in order to make the trip worthwhile.

Learn to Draw Comics with Sam Carbaugh

There’s something you should know. Sam Carbaugh is going to have an event at Baker Book House this Saturday at 10am. He’s going to teach kids (and adults) how to draw comics. Then, he’s going to sign copies of his new book. I think it would be best if you came.

sam_carbaugh_eventHere are 4 reasons why:

  1. Sam Carbaugh is a cool guy. I’ve never regretted time spent with Sam, whether it was when he spoke at the Jot Conference or when I had lunch with him that one time.
  2. Sam Carbaugh knows what he’s talking about. How many people do you know who have a Master’s degree in comics? I know one. Sam Carbaugh.
  3. You’ve always wanted to know how to draw comics. Don’t pretend that you don’t. What’s the first thing you do when you open a newspaper? You look at the comics. And somewhere deep down inside, you wish you could do what the comic artists are doing.
  4. The event is free. All it takes is a bit of time on your part. Oh, and a phone call to reserve your spot in the class. How many things in this life are free AND cool? Take advantage of this one.

In order to attend, you need to RSVP to Baker Book House at 616.957.3110. After pleasantly greeting the Baker Book House staff member, kindly inform them that you would like to put your name on the signup for Sam Carbaugh’s event this Saturday.

And whether you come to Sam’s event or not, you should probably buy his new book, Comics: Investigate the History and Technology of American Cartooning (Build It Yourself Series). It’s a quality book that covers all the things you should know about the world of comics, and it is understandable on a kid’s level. Give it to your kids for Christmas or keep it for yourself. Whatever you want, just go get it.

I am addicted to the donuts at Post Family Farm.

Sometimes, it just feels good to come out and admit something like that. If you’ve been to Post Family Farm in Hudsonville, Michigan, then you know what I’m talking about.

mosey_family_farmMy wife and I took the kids this past weekend to Post Family Farm. Our eldest went earlier in the week with her preschool class and they sent her home with a pumpkin and a coupon to come back. Since we haven’t been able to get to an apple orchard yet this year, we decided that this might be a fun autumn activity alternative, so we packed up our boots (because mud happens on the farm) and drove out.

We all had a great time. The only downside (aside from the cost of visiting on the weekend (serious, go during the week if you can)) was the weather, which was so nice that everyone brought their families out for a bit of fun. But the kids did well, even with the long lines, and enjoyed a ride on the barrel train, met a few farm animals, went on a hayride, and picked a pumpkin from the pumpkin patch.

We waited until the end of our trip to brave the line for the donuts. Everyone who has ever mentioned Post Family Farm has brought up their homemade pumpkin donuts as the main reason to visit. We weren’t about to miss out on something so legendary, even if we had to wait for a full half hour in line to get them.

I wish I had taken some pictures before we gobbled them up, but as soon as we had them in our hands, taking pictures was the last thing on our minds. Oh man. They were so good. Upon finishing our half-dozen, I immediately regretted that I hadn’t got the full dozen.

So if you are in the Hudsonville area and you want a bit of family entertainment (and  mind-blowing donuts), stop into Post Family Farm.

I am thankful for Jot

2014_jot_4_leaderboard2

jot_4_andrew_livestreamThis past weekend, my writers’ group put on the 4th Semi-Annual Jot Writers’ Conference. It was a great time of encouragement, interaction, and learning. If you didn’t get a chance to attend in person, you can still watch the Livestream video here.

Or I could just give you incredibly brief synopses of each presentation:

  • Alison Hodgson – Getting started is hard. It is easier to keep going than to start again. One day you’ll be able to shove your success in the faces of naysayers (but, you know, in a professional and nice way), but only if you keep going.
  • Andrew Rogers – Rejection can be as hard for the publisher as it is for the writer. Don’t be discouraged.
  • Ellen Stumbo – Write the truth, even (maybe especially) when it is hard. You will be more helpful to those people who are going through where you have been than if you pretend you’ve never been there yourself. The truth is worth it, even it some people dislike you for telling it.
  • Sam Carbaugh – Writers get residuals where illustrators do not. Keep your priorities straight. Your book may be a flash in the pan, but your family will be with you for the long run.

One thing we did differently for Jot 4 was the addition of concurrent workshops following the main presentations. I led one on blogging (I’ll post on this tomorrow). Matthew Landrum led one on poetry. Jeff Chapman led one on fiction. I would have loved to sit in on these, but I couldn’t (since I was leading one at the same time), but I’d love to hear some feedback from those of you who did attend them. We’ll probably do them again anyway, but feedback is always helpful.

Speaking of feedback, I’d love to hear any and all of your thoughts regarding Jot.

  • Did you attend?
  • What was your favorite part of Jot?
  • How could we improve the next event?
  • Would you buy a Jot t-shirt or button?

I am an Axe Wielder

axe

I did something today that I never thought I’d do. I took an axe to my house in an attempt to save it.

The other night, my daughter noticed a wet rug in her playroom. My knee-jerk reaction was to blame the dog. If only it were that simple. The rug was wet because the ceiling was dripping. We had a leak.

After apologizing to the dog, I ran upstairs to the attic access situated atop the playroom and assessed the situation (Can I just stop just a moment to congratulate myself on the use of access and assess in the same sentence? Pretty awesome.). There were icicles hanging from the corner of the roof nearest the roof’s edge inside the attic.

Like most Michiganders this year, we had an ice problem. I didn’t find out until today that the ice problem was a foot and a half thick at the roof’s edge. Ice that thick prevented snow from melting and dripping to the ground, as is typical. Instead, water and ice were forced backward through the shingles and into my attic (then through the ceiling and into my daughters’ playroom).

And so I called in some help from my in-laws. They brought a ladder, a roof rake, and an extra set of muscles. I borrowed a sledgehammer and an axe from my friendly neighbor, and we went to town on that ice.

I don’t know if you’ve ever stood at the top of a ladder and swung an axe at your house, but it is an oddly satisfying experience.

It took some time and the ice ripped off a few shingles in the process of dropping from the room, but the leak has stopped. I have a feeling that 2014 will be a good year for those in the roofing profession.

I guess the point of this post is that a home is more than just an investment or a place to live. It is that place at which you are most free to be yourself. It is the gathering place of your treasures. And when your home is threatened, it is incredibly satisfying to unleash some savage axe-swings in order to defend it.

Any future boyfriends of my daughters reading this post in order to find out more about the Mosey family, beware that I don’t value my home nearly as much as I value my family, and that I will use the same tools to defend them.

Another Free Event for Writers

If you attended the first Jot Conference, you may recognize Chad Allen. Chad is the editorial director for Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Chad was kind enough to join us and talk about what editors wish writers knew about the publishing process. It was a great interview and if you have a spare half-hour, it’s worth watching.

Anyway, Chad will be doing another free presentation on writing next week at Baker Book House in Grand Rapids. So, if you live within driving distance and have ever doubted your abilities as a writer, you should attend this event.

Baker_Chad-6Here’s the snippet that Chad sent me:

The road to getting published can be tough. How can you improve your writing, build your platform, hold down a day job, and still have a life? What practices can writers use to find their voice and produce their best work? In this presentation Baker Books editor Chad Allen shares strategies to help writers be successful over the long run.

The title of his new talk is “You Can Do This, An Editor’s Manifesto: How Writers Can Stay Motivated and Keep Moving on the Road to Publication.” It’s happening next Tuesday, October 15th at 7:00 PM at Baker Book House (2768 E Paris Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546).

And if you are eager for the next Jot Mini-Conference, stay tuned. I’m hoping to pin the rest of the Weaklings down to discuss it soon.

A brief rant in response to my lack of free donuts.

US-coffee-wallpaper1024x768My writers group met up the other night at Tim Horton’s. At least a couple of us meet there every week to write, to discuss life, and to enjoy some quality beverages and baked goods.

We started meeting there because they were open all night, unlike the coffee shop where we had been meeting which closes at 10pm. By choosing Tim Horton’s, we were able to push our meeting time back so we could all tuck our kids (and spouses) into bed for the night before going out to write.

At some point, our local Tim’s changed their hours and now they close at 11pm. And that’s fine. But since they now have a definite closing time, I finally worked up the courage to ask a very important question.

“Out of curiosity,” I said to the clerk who had just taken my order for the least expensive drink they offer, “what happens to the donuts at the end of the night.”

He pointed to a garbage can. “They all get thrown away,” he said.

“Hmm,” said I. “My friends and I frequent this establishment weekly, often leaving as the only customers at closing time. Do you think it might be possible to throw them away to us?”

“Here is your drink, sir,” he said.

I went and sat down.

My writers group had a good time of writing and chatting and such, and sure enough, we were the last people there. The employees were systematically shutting everything down for the evening when I caught the gentleman’s attention who had helped me earlier and conversationally asked, “So, have you thrown those donuts away yet?”

“Not yet,” he said, then quickly moved on to the next step of the closing procedures.

I think somehow he missed my hint. Here I was, thinking that I could be the hero of breakfast time in the morning, providing my family with a bounty of day-old free donuts, but he missed my vision.

“Well, have a good night,” I called out as I pushed open the locked door to come home.

“Good night,” he called back.

It was a good night, but it could have been better, Mr. Tim Horton’s Employee Who Throws Away Donuts To Spite Me.

donuts-landing666x209en-fr-us

Flash Fiction 101

I know that some of you probably missed Jot: The GR Writers Mini-Conference, but that’s okay. We recorded our presentations. Posted below is my presentation with a link to my notes, if you should like to see them. Be sure that you check out the other presentations as well.

My Notes – flash_fiction_101

The evening went better than we could have imagined. Thanks again to everyone who joined us.

We’ll be meeting soon to discuss the next Jot event. If you want to stay up-to-date with what’s happening with the Writers Mini-Conference, bookmark the links below.

Thanks for your interest and support!

I am bad at first impressions.

Rogers-Will-LOCYou never get a second chance to make a good first impression.

— Will Rogers,
American cowboy, vaudeville performer, humorist, social commentator and motion picture actor.

While this may well be true, I find myself unable to make a good first impression. Possibly, this has always been the case. But surely since I met my wife.

In fact, I don’t even remember the first time I met her, possibly this was for the best, as it allowed me to feel like I got that elusive second chance at a first impression. But more on that in another post.

Today, I want to share about the first time I met my wife’s cousin, Allison.

DeAnne and I were still dating, and I was invited to her extended family get-together over the 4th of July. It was a good time with lots of food and I got to learn a bit more about the family that I was hoping to be part of someday. On the way down, DeAnne was telling me about some of the family members that we would meet, but I think she talked most about her cousin Allison.

Allison, or Ali, had grown up near my wife’s family when they were both young. Being the cousin nearest in age, they were good friends, but sometime in there, Ali and her family moved to North Carolina. They stayed close though, seeing each other at family gatherings like the one to which we were headed.

I don’t remember if we were instantly beset by the excited shrieks of long overdue, cousinly hellos, or if that came later, but I remember the introductory conversation that I had with Allison.

“It’s so good to meet you,” said Ali. “DeAnne says that you are a really good boyfriend.”

“I try,” I said. “She has a lot of nice things to say about you too.”

“Of course,” said Ali, “if you want to be with my cousin, you’ll have to get my approval first. What do you do?”

“I work at a bookstore, running the music department,” I said. “It’s a good job and I like the people that I work with. How about you? What do you do?”

“I’m thinking about going into Nucular Medicine,” she said.

“Oh, do you mean Nu-cle-ar Medicine? I’ve never head of that, but I’m pretty sure that it is pronounced Nu-cle-ar, not Nuke-U-Ler. Maybe if you can’t pronounce it, you should look at a different field of study.”

“Wow, ouch,” she said. “Well, it was nice to finally meet you.”

“Likewise,” I said, and went off to make a bad impression on someone else.

Just recently, Ali told me that my comments that day struck home, and she stopped pursuing a career in Nuclear Medicine. She now works at a Dentist’s office and I’m pretty sure that she is happy with what she does. All the same, I feel a bit horrible for being so offensive to someone who my wife values so much, especially since I was horrible enough to change the trajectory of her life’s work.

468px-Gypsy_WomanA while back I mentioned that I keep a book where I write down ideas for characters. I realized this past week that one of those character ideas was much more autobiographical than I thought when I wrote it down. The character was a guy who was cursed by a gypsy to only make really bad first impressions. The gypsy saw herself as doing the guy a favor, because anyone who could be friends with him after such a bad first impression was likely to be a true friend. Anyway, I just realized that I was writing about myself. Unfortunately, I also appear to be the gypsy.

Anyway, sorry Ali. And thank you to all of my true friends who are able to look past the horrible first impression that I made.