Saturday, June 24, 2006

What customer service?


So after my bee-stinging incident on Wednesday evening, I was all set to have a website done by Thurs -- but that didn't happen since the composer we're using kept screwing up and I have a big web learning curve to master. I want my website to happen soon! But, the longer I think about it and figure out what I want on it, the better it'll be. Poets & Writers magazine has a great article about writers getting website and some basic design tips -- check it out!

I got another big wrench in my publishing plans when Office Max called to say they couldn't print my chapbook because the B&W printer broke down. WHAT?!? How could they let this happen and aren't they a little mad that they're losing my business? I guess not. Kerri the "I don't give a sh*t" associate let me know the bad news and to tell you the truth, I had a feeling that they wouldn't complete the job. So the afternoon she called, I picked up my flash drive and decided to go to Staples instead after calling them. Well, at 8:50am the next day, Staples was closed!! It was supposed to be open by 7am and the store associates were left waiting outside for their store manager to open up the store. Now I worked in retail for 9+ years and I NEVER let this happen at my store. ARGGHH! So I decided to go Sir Speedy, on Hillsborough St. across NC State where I was heading anyway for my Independent Study meeting (to finalize my Shubuta paper). Sir Speedy had two knowledgable employees: Eddie and Wendy who scanned my flash drive and let me know they needed my image files on the drive, too. ARGHHH. So I had to drive back home and get those and then come back down to State. Well, I got it all done, and Sir Speedy will have my books done this Monday afternoon! Yay -- "Ghostcards" will be out this week. Let me know if you want to buy one at avosborn(at) earthlink(dot) net only $7!

Then the day started turning around. I found a wonderful location for my trio of "Write from the Inside" workshops: 8/30, 9/6, and 9/13 all on Wed evenings 7-9pm at the Edible Art Bakery on Hillsborough St in the same complex at the Royal Bean Coffee shop, Playmakers and Ben & Jerry's. Owner Bobby Reynolds and I worked out the rental details and we're all set. Dessert and coffee will be provided for the participants as well as a take-home writing manual/journal filled with tips. $130 for the workshop and I'm offering a 20% discount for students. The shop is wood-paneled with Art Deco touches and very quiet. This will be a creative nonfiction workshop designed for writers at all levels to help find your voice and write with passion and power - and hopefully get published soon. I believe it's a lot easier to publish nonfiction than fiction and anyone can do it, with the right tools. I'm also having a free workshop Wed. 7/12 at the Royal Bean and that will be a fun-filled evening of writing prompts and sharing each other's work.

I believe that my experience with bad customer service gives me the edge for my own programs. Plus, I've had so many years of practicing good customer service in my various capacities with Belk. You can bet everyone who attends my workshops will get a personal Thank You card.

This week I'm attending Meredith College's (Womens Only) Focusing on Form workshop, which is the place where Jane and I met 2 years ago. I'm taking poetry with poetry great Betty Adcock. Promise to give you some highlights this week!


Till next time,
Alice

Friday, June 23, 2006

Building Bridges revision

Jerry D. (JD) Mason let me know that the Charlie Lang and Ernest Green (the two 14-yr old boys who were lynched off of the Shubuta bridge in 1942) that "the boys did not get hung from stealing tires. That got hung from "raping" a white woman. Actually they just scared her as she was walking home on just south of Shubuta. But the boys had been in trouble before for having tires, which as a rationed item." Sorry JD for the misinformation. I started a riff on tires being black and rolling and how these boys wanted to roll, but were trapped. JD's book on Shubuta also shed some much-needed light on how the boys were forcibly extracted from the Quitman jail and how the City Marshall, G.F. Dabbs, tried to hold off the mob. The Mississippi governor, Paul B. Johnson, dismissed the lynchings and wanted to find who did it. Definitely, by 1942, lynchings were not public spectacles anymore like at the turn of the century, the teens and the twenties. This lynching occured in the early morning hours when darkness could cover the lynchers' trail. The FBI also investigated.

More soon!
Alice

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Backyard stingers

I'm working right now on my Shubuta, MS/Hanging Bridge research while scratching SEVEN yellow jacket bites. Yesterday, after I picked up my son from daycare, we threw his ball around outside and then my husband came home. At that point, I tried to round up Daniel, but he was admiring the neighbor's A/C unit in back of our yard. The property line between their house and ours is divided by scrub brush, twigs, old pots, old firewood -- general nature trash. Then Daniel starting asking for ice and I assumed a mosquito had bitten him, and where was his ball? As I soothed him and looked for the ball -- the swarm descended. The stings began in my shoulders, stomach, legs and left wrists. I didn't know where they were all coming from and the little buggers were sticking to my clothes and Daniel was clutching his ear. Big white mounds with blood red tips soon formed. Now he was really screaming and I wanted to scream too. Thankfully, I protected him from the worst, but they got me pretty bad and I'm allergic to wasps, bees, bugs, etc. We're talking a 6-inch swollen mark on my wrist and two huge welts on my stomach. In fact, my bites woke me up at 5am, so I got some schoolwork done. Ouch! Maybe Daniel won't go in the backyard today.

So, as I'm doing the Shubuta/lynching bridge research there's a lot of contradiction. I thought that the Hanging Bridge had a historical marker on it, but it doesn't -- another one does that is its sister. Hopefully, my Shubuta friend, Jerry, will help me figure some of this out. But, he did send me his book and a good photo of the Hanging Bridge. It looks kind of scary to cross, with an overhead metal span and it's maybe 50 feet from the Chickasaway River -- which I know floods.

Today, I'm getting my website done - wish me luck. This is a completely new enterprise for me. I'm also picking up my chapbook, "Ghostcards" from the printer today, and I'm nervous because maybe they didn't do it right or maybe I made a major editing gaffaw. Well, we'll see how it goes. Only $5 (that's $2 off the cover price if you're reading this blog).

Till next time,
Alice "I need some itch cream" Osborn

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Vacation planning

With everything going on with graduate school and work, I was avoiding digging into our vacation, which starts mid-July. But, fortunately, my in-laws were paying a visit in mid May and you know what that means! I cleaned, cleared out the Goodwill clothes, and bought 2 books on the Adirondacks. My MIL is a travel agent and will be taking care of our son while my husband and I are on our week-long trip to NY State. I felt the pressure and could hear her say, "All the good places will be already booked!" The weekend they visited from Long Island was also our 4th anniversary and I brought the guidebooks to dinner (so me and my husband, Keith, would have conversation fodder, if you're wondering). Well, it happened that our server's grandparents were from the Adirondacks and he gave us wonderful suggestions on where to go and what to see. We had a focus now and the trip wasn't just a green blur on the map.

Keith studied the map and I studied the places that had historic interest like Saratoga Springs and Fort Ticonderoga. We finally had a gameplan of sightseeing and hiking. Maybe a day trip to Montreal was in the mix. Keith said, "We're so close to Canada, why not?" I could see we would be moving around a lot, but that's what we do on our vacations -- we're active people.

I easily booked our room in Saratoga Springs on Expedia and our first B&B in Jay, NY was also an easy booking. Jay is a very small town 17 miles east of Lake Placid and it has a broken covered bridge. This B&B is called the Book & Blanket and the owners include their Basset Hound Zoe in every correspondence. Many B&B's only have 2-3 units, which makes me wonder 1) how did they house people for the 1980 Olympics and 2) how do these B&B owners make any money? I called another place while waiting to hear back from our first choice (the Forest House B&B) at Blue Mtn Lake, owned by Ann LaForest ("the forest" in French) and it turned out Karl's B&B was little more than a basement apartment serving cold cereal and coffee. Bev ran the outfit, while Karl is disabled. I spoke with Bev (very nice lady) and later when our first choice emailed me back (the Forest House B&B), I called Bev again to let her know not to pencil us in. Bev asked where we were staying instead, and I told her. Then she informed me that Ann's brother had gone missing in late April and no one had seen him since. Shocking. His body still hasn't turned up. We're still staying there, though, because it's the best (and only) B&B at Blue Mountain and we plan on hiking 2 long trails there. So sorry, Ann.

Next post -- my new friend, Jerry Mason, from Shubuta, MS gives me the scoop on the Hanging Bridge and the lies told around his town.

Cheers,
Alice

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Dandelion Days

June 15, 2006

Jane K. Andrews

I walked for the Cure for 3 reasons. 1.) I like to walk and sometimes I like to walk with friends. 2.) I get a tee-shirt that declares me a good person. 3.) My friend Gail’s mother has breast cancer, but Gail doesn’t know how she is faring because her mother has been estranged from Gail and her two brothers for 4 years. Disease did not draw the ties of family tighter. Still, I wrote Becky’s name on my tag. I wrote my friend Stephen’s name as well although he has thyroid cancer. A breakthrough in any cancer treatment I figure spells some hope for all cancer treatments. 4.) I am ridiculously superstitious and walking for the Cure makes me feel like I am propitiating the malevolent spirits of cellular chaos who may take it to mind to metastasize into terrorist cells attacking vital organs unless they are duly acknowledged with respect, awe, and a blister on the ball of the right foot.

Last summer I had my first mammogram. My friend Beth made me. She went with me to keep me from being nervous.

The technician, Jenny, said, “Sling ‘em on up there, Mrs. Andrews.”

I slung what I had and waited to receive the postcard Beth told me the radiologist would send me telling me everything was swell. I did not get a postcard. I got a letter. Not good. Any news from the radiologist that won’t fit on a postcard cannot be good news. I did not open the letter. I still have not opened it. I stared at it. I moved it from the dining room table to the buffet and back. I held it and tried to imagine that it was a letter praising my magnificent (if diminutive) mammaries. Finally, George, my OBGYN called me and said there was an “anomaly” in my mammogram and I needed a second one. Holy shit. I was ready to sign up for a drive-thru mastectomy. I am not vain enough to die fjust to look good in a sweater.

“I have a blip on my mammogram,” I told my friend Elaine.

“I’m going to think of this blip,” she said, “as a dandelion.”

I waited.

“You know how a dandelion goes to seed and you can just blow the seeds away? I am going to think that you will just blow this blip away like a dandelion.”

I was silent.

“Poof,” she added.

For the 6 days I waited for my retake appointment I took long walks and thought about breast cancer and dandelions. Whenever I started to panic, I blew a little puff of air, like a tiny Lamaze breath to make a wish and send the anomaly on my film floating away as harmless as down.

It wasn't until this Monday after the Susan G. Komen Walk for the Cure when it was time for another mammogram when it was time for another mammogram that I remembered the down of the dandelion sends seeds on the wind to bloom the next year.


Sunday, June 11, 2006

Bridges, Part 2

So, here's my update on the Hanging Bridge in Shubuta, MS, which is part of my research for my Independent Studies Class. I called the Clarke County Chamber and got a call back the next day from Miss Anne who told me to contact Jerry Mason, who has done a book on the Shubuta Bridge. Great, I thought! So I called him in the early afternoon yesterday after finding nothing on Google. Jerry did call back and immediately knew which bridge I wanted to know more about it. He sure knew his stuff. He said his book on Shubuta took 9 years of research and he used old newspaper clippings and tried to get first hand accounts, but many of these people said, "Don't you dare use my name!" on account that they didn't want to get lynched, too, I imagine. Mississippi wasn't very safe back then if you were on the other side of the color line. Jerry and I talked and it turns out his father witnessed the dead boys in 1942 being dragged through town and he also said they were put in jail (then the mob took them out of jail and lynched them under the bridge) because they stole tires! But back then, this was a big deal because rubber was rationed. If you came across a tire, you had to turn it in and these boys didn't bother. I'm getting Jerry's book for only $20 and he says it has lots of before and after (restoration) pictures of the Hanging Bridge. Now the bridge is closed to the public and this happened after they found a dead women's body in a car -- I say this bridge is cursed!

Yesterday, I started laying out my poetry book and hit a few snags with Adobe Pagemaker, which I hope to resolve this afternoon. I want to include photos on the pages since my book is called "Ghostcards" -- makes sense to me anyway. Looking through my old photo albums is a little scary-- Ack! I have bad hair! and what about those bangs~ I also am next to people that I don't see anymore; we've all gone our separate ways.

I also sent out an email for my free writing workshop in Raleigh at the Royal Bean and have gotten several responses! It'll be from 7:30-9:30 on Wed. July 12th and all writers at all levels are welcome.

Till next time (which will be about vacation planning)
Alice

Balancing bridges

Well, here's my first blog post. My summer's been pretty busy since I'm a 2nd year graduate student at NC State. I'm done with my academic courses, although I'm taking an Independent Studies class that only meets 2hrs a week. The class is African-American literary response to trauma. It's a little depressing because I'm researching why bridges were popular lynching sites. I'm studying lynching photographs from James Allen's "Without Sanctuary" (Yes, people took photos of actual lynchings, they were made into postcards and Allen collected them). My job is to find out what the Shubuta, Mississippi bridge looks like because I'm relating Langston Hughes "Bitter River" to my bridge topic which is dedicated to two 14-yr old boys who were lynched in 1942 on this bridge that's also called the Hanging Bridge, since in 1917 5 people were also hanged there. So, I'm calling the Clarke County, MS Chamber of Commerce tomorrow to see if I can get a copy of this infamous bridge. I'll keep you updated.

Along with this course, I'm designing my website www.aliceosborn.com along with Jane's husband's and son's help. Thank goodness! I've already set up my domain and host. I'm hoping this site will bring writers to my workshops and retreats and will advertise my editing services, as well as my books-to-be. I'm also hard at work on my first poetry chapbook, "Ghostcards," but need help getting my Word documents loaded into a pdf format. I'm hoping to have these two big projects done by June 26th, the start of Meredith College's Women's Only Focusing on Form, which is week-long writing workshop. I'm taking poetry with NC poet Betty Adcock and I can't wait.

I wish I could get more motivated to get my thesis done. My project is on "Creating Communication in the Composition Classroom" by writing personal essays that are framed by transformative creative non-fiction texts. I may even switch around some of the texts since one of my selections may be too long for my hypothetical students to finish. But I have to get my draft done by Aug 1st -- wish me luck!

So on top of all this I also write technical articles for the web and my editor/publisher, Will (aka Webman) gives my weekly deadlines. My last 800-word article was on the 7 non-security uses of video cameras and finished it before midnight on Sunday (my deadline). Whooo Hoo! Every week it's something new and trying to get these articles done over the weekend is tough since I have a husband and very active 3 1/2 year old. So I work Fri and Sat nights and pinch time where I can. Daniel goes to daycare/school during the week, so my days are spent writing/reading/researching and I'm fairly productive. I also started a p/t job with Katharine Giovanni, a business owner and self-publisher and is giving me wonderful tips. I got this job through my hairdresser, who is another fantastic person. Here's my philosophy: create a circle of terrific people and you'll become terrific yourself!!!

Alice out!

Test Post

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