First of all, it was Friday the 13th. Second of all, there were warnings all around to practice social distancing in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Stay home. Avoid crowds. Cancel big events.
So it was something of a surprise to get word that the West Michigan Women’s Expo, where I was scheduled to sell and sign books last Friday, was still a go. Granted, a few authors who’d reserved space at the event decided against coming, but a dozen or so of us intrepid—or foolhardy—souls showed up at DeVos Place with our books.
The Expo opened at 10:00, and while the crowds weren’t overwhelming, a steady stream of expo-goers ambled through. Book sales were not exactly brisk for the first few hours, but we were all hopeful things would pick up after lunch.
Then, around 1:00, the rumors began circulating. The Expo was being shut down, and we’d soon be sent packing. This rumor came in various forms, the most colorful version being that “twenty men in suits” had converged on the conference center and ordered the event closed. A later, more credible report had it that Governor Whitmer herself had issued the directive. (There’s a trenchant comment in there somewhere about one woman doing the work of twenty men (in suits!), but I’ll bypass that for now.)
Given the shutdown and the fact that many authors (including me) may now face cancellation or postponement of other events we’ve worked so hard to arrange, I’ve decided to turn the next two installments of HeartWood into virtual Author Expos.
Instead of strolling through, you can scroll through and visit the virtual tables of the authors you might have met in person at the cancelled event. With this many authors and books, I’ll bet you can find plenty of reading material to keep you occupied during this period of voluntary isolation.
And if you find a book you love, please consider using some of your unexpected free time to write and post a review on Goodreads, Amazon, or both. The author will thank you and so will readers who learn about the book from your review.
The HeartWood Author Expo is now open!
Jean writes speculative fiction. Her novels include Trust, Destiny Pills & Space Wizards, The Last God, A Broken Race and Sahmara. Her short stories have appeared in The 3288 Review, Bards and Sages Quarterly, Theian Journal, Acidic Fiction's Corrosive Chronicles anthology, The First Line, Tales of the Talisman, Brewed Awakenings II anthology, and more.
When not ruining fictional lives from the comfort of her writing chair, she can be found devouring books and sushi, enjoying the offerings of local breweries, weeding her flower garden, or picking up hundreds of sticks while attempting to avoid the abundant snake population who also shares her yard.
Joan H. Young
A lifelong outdoorsperson, Joan rode a bicycle from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean in 1986 and in 2010 became the first woman to complete the North Country National Scenic Trail on foot. Her mileage totaled 4,395 miles.
In addition to North Country Cache and North Country Quest, both about her experiences on the North Country Trail, Joan has written six cozy mysteries in the Anastasia Raven series and four Dubois Files children’s mysteries. Two essay collections, Get Off the Couch with Joan and Fall Off the Couch Laughing contain work originally published as newspaper columns.
Author, publisher, and animal advocate, Janet is the founder and publisher of Cats and Dogs, a Magazine Devoted to Companion Animals, a free publication distributed in West Michigan that promotes pet adoption and spay/neuter.
Janet holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Grand Valley State University and was a correspondent for The Grand Rapids Press for ten years. Her articles have also been published in Cat Fancy, The Muskegon Chronicle, and the North Ottawa Weekly. Her true story of taming a feral cat, “Wild Cat I Think You Love Me,” was published in The Ultimate Cat Lover (HCI, 2008).
Janet’s books include You Might be a Crazy Cat Lady if . . . , Dog 281 (Save Five Series Book 1), More Than a Number (Save Five Series Book 2), and the just-published The Save Five Club (Save Five Series Book 3).
Born in former Czechoslovakia, Emma is a journalist, author, short story writer, and screenwriter based in Lowell, Michigan.
“Small towns in Midwest America continue to inspire my work,” she says. “I find strength in my characters modeled after resilient people in the face of adversity. I love the Lake Michigan shoreline, its beaches and forests.”
Emma’s books include Shifting Sands: Short Stories, Secrets (Shifting Sands Book 2), and Greenwich Meridian Memoir, an epic tale of immigration and love spanning three continents and two generations.
Ellen M. Murray
Ellen is the creator of Think Spell Write, a reading program for students who struggle to read and write fluently despite having had reading instruction. These might be special education students, students whose education has been disrupted by trauma or interrupted due to frequent moves, or students who have not yet learned phonetic rules well enough to effectively apply them to read.
A 32-year veteran teacher, Ellen taught various subjects at different grade levels, always with dedication to struggling students and a passion for teaching reading.
“I love teaching reading!” she says. “I especially love teaching reading to students who feel they will never learn to read. I love that ‘aha’ moment when reading clicks for a student. I love when students are speechless or red-faced, or their face lights up as they realize ‘I can read this!’ ”
Brenda is a multi-award-winning author of pre-teen, young adult, and adult novels. She has published several picture books for children as well.
Among her titles: The Freelancer, On The Third Day: An afterlife journey, From Beyond the Grave: An afterlife journey – Part 2, A Lady’s Destiny, The Moment Of Trust, and Wilkinshire
Brenda volunteers her time writing plays for the Fenton Village Players to perform during the Ghost Walk and Historical Cemetery Walk. She also freelances for magazines from the Fenton, Michigan, home she shares with her husband and cats.
Be sure to come back in two weeks to meet more authors at HeartWood Author Expo II.
It all started with a gadget in a catalog.
No, it really started before that, when I was deciding what to take to a potluck. A salad? Nah. There’d probably be a lot of those. Dessert? Probably too many of those, too. Deviled eggs? Perfect!
So I boiled up a batch of eggs, plunged them into ice water to loosen the shells, and started peeling. Well, “peeling” isn't quite the right word. More like “mutilating.” The shells clung to the inner membranes. The inner membranes clung to the whites, big hunks of which tore off, no matter how carefully I tried to separate shell from white.
There was no way I was taking that mess to a party. So I made egg salad for lunch and whipped up a pan of brownies for the potluck.
After that fiasco, I took a scientific tack, reading up on egg cooking and peeling and following all the tips: choose older eggs rather than fresh ones, add baking soda to the cooking water, make the ice bath icier. No good. Peeling was still tedious and disastrous.
Then I saw it—the gadget in the catalog: The NEGG® Easy Hard-Boiled Egg Peeler. It’s a simple cylinder with bumps on the inside and caps on either end. You remove one cap, pour in a little water, drop in a hard-boiled egg, replace the cap, give the whole thing a few vigorous shakes, remove the egg, and voila! the shell slides right off. The online video made it look so easy, with the whole shell slipping off in one or two pieces.
Of course I had to have one! Ray obliged by getting me one for Christmas and even let me pick the color (yolk yellow, naturally).
Now let me say right here that I am not being paid to endorse the NEGG® (which stands for Naked Egg, in case you were wondering). Nor am I turning this blog into a product review. My intention is not so much to praise the product as to celebrate a simple pleasure.
Because that—along with un-mutilated eggs—is what we’ve gotten from this little gadget. Admittedly, it took us a few batches of eggs to get the technique down. I even emailed the company, asking for tips, and got a reply from none other than Bonnie Tyler, NEGG® inventor and CEO (Chief Egg Officer), advising me to roll, pinch, and push the shell, rather than picking at it.
Now, Ray and I have a ridiculous amount of fun boiling up eggs and taking turns peeling them with our handy little egg shaker.
That’s when we look at each other and say, “We really need to get a life. We used to ride motorcycles for fun. Now we’re peeling eggs?”
But you know what? Anytime you can find joy in everyday activities, I think that’s a good thing. Especially when the result is a tasty snack!
What simple, silly thing gives you a lift?
What's your favorite cabin fever cure? For us, believe it or not, there's nothing quite like a mid-winter car show. The bright lights and shiny surfaces seem to work wonders for our spirits. For decades, it was the North American International Auto Show in Detroit that gave us a lift every January. Starting this year, however, the Detroit show will take place in June, not January. Fortunately, there's still the Michigan International Auto Show in Grand Rapids. So this January, we gave that a go.
If you're not a auto buff, you may wonder what could be so interesting about wandering through aisle after aisle of cars and trucks. Well, it all depends on your perspective. Being a car guy through and through, Ray focuses on the technical aspects: horsepower, miles-per-gallon, that kind of stuff. I, on the other hand, am fascinated with the play of light on fenders, the shapes of headlights and taillights, the wardrobes of the spokespeople, and so on. I can entertain myself for hours taking photos from various angles and vantage points.
After going through my photos from the Grand Rapids show, I decided to look back at all my auto images--from car shows, museums, and roadsides--and share with you some of my favorites. As you'll see, rust and ruined paint catch my eye as much as polished chrome, and often it's the details that draw me in.
Do you find beauty in unexpected places? Share what you find, using the mail icon at the top of the page, and I'll post it in an upcoming blog.
In my last HeartWood blog post, I ruminated on work spaces and what to call them, and I took you on a tour of mine, henceforth to be known as my studio. I was happy that several readers took me up on my invitation to share photos and thoughts about their own work spaces. Here's what they shared:
Katherine Myers, Crafter, Claremore, Oklahoma
My space, sometimes called the craft room, sometimes the sewing room, is a lot more cluttered than your lovely space. The clutter is really made up of reminders of my crafting journey, from a crewel Beatrix Potter character I did in high school to whatever I’m currently working on. My mother’s old Singer is still the one I use, and a patchwork doll quilt made by my grandmother covers a back up machine. There’s a schoolhouse wall hanging courtesy of my daughter and rugs hooked from recycled wool. Also a spinning wheel I’m determined to use! And yarn, lots of yarn, for knitting. And I can look out the window and see hellebores in bloom right now!
Sandra Bernard, Author and Musician, Newaygo, Michigan
My space is my dining room table, which is piled with papers and books and snacks and Kleenex and CDs and the last 4 days' mail and a box of clean paper for my scribbles. Typing on the computer for my more creative moments just doesn't work--it's an old brain to pen habit.
Mark Winston, Professor and Senior Fellow, Centre for Dialogue, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC
Written from the heart,
from the heart of the woods
Read the introduction to HeartWood here.
Nan Sanders Pokerwinski, a former journalist, writes memoir and personal essays, makes collages and likes to play outside. She lives in West Michigan with her husband, Ray.