Category Archives: October 2012

The Call

I bought myself a fountain pen today. Haven’t owned one in years. As much of a tech-geek as I am, there is still something satisfying about the tactile sensation of pen in hand. Or book, for that matter.

I printed out my manuscript today also, in between helping my step-son clean his room. (He’s a sock hoarder and just came into my office wearing an exposed brain and his Captain America mask – he’s going as zombie Cap for Halloween.) Anyway, I printed out my manuscript because as much as I love computers, it’s damn difficult to do an extensive rewrite without being able to see the whole thing laid out before you.

The reason for the rewrite? Two and a half weeks ago I got “the call” … you know, that thing that most serious aspiring authors wait for.

As a friend pointed out, I handled that call – from Andrew Zack at The Zack Company – as I have handled other important phone calls from men in my life.

I hung up on him.

*laughs* To be fair, I didn’t know it was him when I hung up the phone and I hadn’t meant to answer it at all. I was at work, in the middle of a rather frantic day and trying to figure something out with a co-worker about a customer when my phone rang. I reached over and thought that I swiped to decline. I didn’t and half a second later realized I’d answered the call, so I hung up. I didn’t recognize the number after all.

Thankfully, Andy called me back and left a message. A message I retrieved once the excitement at work had been dealt with and I had a free moment. Of course, I sat in shock for a few minutes, flailed around, called one of my CPs (Lisa, of course, wanted to know what I was doing calling her instead of Andy. *laughs*) and then finally collected myself enough to go into the back of the office and call Andy back.

We chatted a bit, I mentioned I was at work and that I could talk more after I got home.

I’m not even going to play this cool, folks. After we got off the phone I punched the air and did a celebratory dance in my boss’s office. I have wanted this for years, have been working toward it for close to ten years. I have been through ten complete novels and just as many partials. I have written close to two million words in my lifetime. I have suffered through rejections on six novels, turned down an offer on one because as much as I loved the story I decided it wasn’t how I wanted to start my career. I have queried and subbed and WAITED. I have been this close *holds fingers apart* and had the devastating news pounce on me from my mailbox.

I took my hits. I shelved stories I loved because I knew they just weren’t going to work right now. I listened to the rejections to see what I could learn from them. I was patient. I was determined. I recognized the value of listening to what others had to say about my work and used that to be better. I killed my darlings – ripped my latest work to pieces after Andrew rejected my original version of  Behind The Throne and made it better.

And it worked. It took two years and a train ride, but it worked. I got the call from an agent I had decided I wanted to work with when I started this book. I still have a lot of work to do and yet another rewrite in the works, but I am optimistic and I think in the end it will make the story so much better. It will make it into the story I’ve wanted to tell along and share with you.

So what should you take from all of this? The road to publication is different for everyone. I have very dear friends who’ve made it look easy, but even I know that looks can be deceiving and they had struggles of their own and moments when they thought it would never happen.

It’s not always fast and it’s not always pretty. Sometimes it’s a slog through the mud, brutal and exhausting and you never think you’re going to see the light of day again. Lucky for me, I like playing in the mud. *smiles* But even I hit points where I wondered just why I was doing this and if I’d ever get the chance to move forward. Now I have that chance and I’m ridiculously excited and grateful to Andy for giving it to me.

K.B.

Advertisements

Doing the Impossible

About a year ago a man called Barry Peterson telephoned to say he was taking photographs of West Coast writers and could he take my picture?  I laughed, then agreed – I admit, a bit condescendingly. Who cares about BC writers, much less what we look like?

This week I went to the launch of Barry’s book, 111 West Coast Literary Portraits.  It’s a beautiful thing: large format, warm, charming black and white photographs on heavy paper, with portraits – 111 of them – on the left hand page and a short excerpt from that person’s writing, on the right.  My first thought was, “It’s beautiful,” and my second was, again, “Who cares?”  Who, except us 111 and maybe the other West Coast Writers who have no money to buy an expensive book, plus the few readers who still support writers enough to buy a gorgeous, hard cover coffee table book.

Then the speeches started.  “This book happened because someone believed in it,” said Alan Twig, editor of BC Book World.  I was still sceptical.  But as the story of how this book came – beautifully – into our hands, I changed my mind.  Barry and his partner of the time, Blaise Enright, got this zany idea to photograph writers and one of the first writers they mentioned the project to was poet Mona Fertig who also happened to be interested in printing – small projects like chapbooks, using handmade papers and an original hundred-year-old linotype press.  “One day these photographs will be a book,” Mona told them.  “I don’t have the facilities to publish it now, but one day I will.”  That was 1997.

Barry and Blaise continued to take photographs but it was slow work.  It didn’t pay for one thing, so it was done in their spare time, on their own travel dime.  When they photographed Alan Twigg – a “doer” in the world of BC writing – he loved the project and asked them to make available the dozen or so photos they’d done so far for a travelling literacy exhibit.  But that meant framing and packing and transporting and Barry and Blaize didn’t have the money.  Alan, a man producing a free literary journal out of his garage, handed them a cheque for $500.  “It’s a start,” he said.  A few days later he called to say he’d found sponsors; BC Hydro and BC Gas would help underwrite the cost.

Still, it wasn’t a lot, and life kept getting in the way.  The writers were far spread.  Barry and Blaize’s relationship broke up.  But Mona had turned her chapbooks into a small publishing house and whenever Barry checked in, discouraged, she’d say, “One day I’m going to publish that book!”

In 2012, she did.  There were money problems – it was an expensive project.  There were printing problems. The film was hand processed using archival fibre based prints and the first copies came back from the printer with white blotches all over the portraits.

But Mona and Barry (and Alan) never let go, and the proof of this impossible, improbable project was here in our hands, a testament to the power of a few people’s belief in it.

In a way, that’s what all writers do.  We have this unreasonable, uneconomical, actually almost ridiculous commitment to putting words on paper (or these days, into the ether).  Nobody wants to pay for them and unless you’re Philip Roth, nobody is waiting for what we write.  But we believe in it.  Sometimes we’re the only one.  If we’re lucky, we find a friend or a small group of friends who are likewise doing this crazy thing, writing.  Sometimes, with enough faith and enough hard work and enough dogged tenacity and living off pasta – we have a blog, or a published article, or a book in our hands.  Impossible, until we believed it – and our colleagues and friends believed it – into being.  No wonder some of us call our publications, “our babies.”  They’re a small miracle.

111 West Coast Literary Portraits is published by Mother Tongue Press.  See http://www.mothertonguepublishing.com/?page_id=428

Kate B.

Reconnecting With What Matters

For seven years, my husband and I worked opposite shifts in life. He worked nights, leaving the house around six in the evening and coming home at seven in the morning. I work the day shift, making sure our daughter got off to school with a healthy lunch, writing during the days, keeping the house and making sure everyone got dinner.

For seven years, this was our life, and it was manageable, but it was a struggle to get any time alone together. His job didn’t really give time off. He didn’t have a normal schedule that gave him set days off. And when we could manage a long weekend away, his body was still on nights, mine on days, so often we still didn’t spend much quality time together.

This past summer he got a new job with a new company. He works a nine-to-five, Monday-Friday now. Weekends off. It took me a while to get accustomed to the new schedule, since I’m the one who has to work around everyone else’s schedule, but it didn’t take long to get back into the hang of it. I have free time now I didn’t have before, and I am taking full advantage of that. From eight-thirty in the morning when he leaves for work until three when the kiddo gets home, the hours are all mine! Of course, you know what I wanted to do that first week? Sleep. Stay in bed all day and not move an inch!

Then, soon, I began to reconnect with the life I used to have. Routine. Ohhh it’s sweet and I missed it. I have six full hours to myself every single day now. Yes, I still have all the household chores that are expected of me, but I have time to read, to write, to sit and stare at the wall if I want to. Wonderful!

Then the biggest change of all…reconnecting with my husband. This one took a little more effort. It’s pretty simple living as roommates with only an hour or so a day to communicate with each other. We love each other, always have, there’s no doubt about that, but to actually have conversations that were deeper than relating what the kiddo’s weekend plans included? Yeah, that was a little weird.

So we started using his weekends to go do things together. Tourists in our own backyard type things. It’s brought us together with fun exploration and gives us time to talk the way we used to, once upon a time when we fell in love. This past weekend was our 13th wedding anniversary and we spent his two days off in Whistler, a place he’d never been, enjoying the chilly, wet weather, snowy hillsides and bright red maple trees. What a lovely time we had, and a great time of reconnecting.

Now, it’s time to reconnect with my writing and get back to work. Too much staring at the walls!

Have a great month, everyone. Find something to reconnect with that you’ve lost that matters.

Anna Leigh

The Heart Path

Follow your bliss.

It sounds so easy

until you try it and you realize

the path is dark

littered with doubts and discouragement

so you pick your way carefully

ignoring the choir of crickets

chanting you cannot

or you should not

calling you a fool

for taking the risk

for throwing yourself into the river

and daring not to sink.

It isn’t easy

to take this road;

you know, the one less travelled.

But the farther you go

the smoother the path becomes

the surer your footing

and soon you’re running, sprinting

through patches of sunlight

singing yes to the sky.

I want to tell you it stays like this

but all roads have potholes

unexpected turns

moments of uncertainty;

there will still be shadows

you will stumble, trip, fall

skin knees, bruise ego

lose heart

lose faith

lose courage

…and find them again.

Because although it isn’t easy

this chasing of bliss

once you have captured it, tasted it

once you have danced

the path of the heart

once you have soared

there is no turning back.

© Lisa DiDio, do not reprint

The End – Part 3 of 3

You’ve done it, or rather you’ve almost done it. You’re almost done with your book. But here’s the most important part – the end.

This is the make or break, your readers have been engaged this far and you really don’t want to let them down. But what to do? How do you get through to the end? I’ve heard this referred to as the “writer’s event horizon”, the “long-slog”, that place where everything can either come together or completely fall apart on you.

Welcome to the beginning of the end.

K.B.

Oh the end, the glorious end! The rush! That headlong slide toward the final epic battle. Or the big reveal. Or the cliffhanger. Or-

*laughs sheepishly*

The end is where Lisa usually yanks on my chain, bringing me up short like an out-of-control puppy. *grins* I am notorious for rushing through the end of my novel, crazy and wild-eyed, desperate to finish. I tend to forget about the details, the important wrap-up of loose ends, and little things like grammar.

When I hit the “end” of the book, I tend toward extremes. I’ll either have to just write the hell out of it and hope I can fix things in edits because the story is screaming at me to write it down. Or I come to a screeching halt and stare warily at the end of my novel like a poisonous snake, unsure about how to take it down without getting killed in the process.

The rush option obviously doesn’t have much of a plan other than to throw myself in headfirst and hope for the best. *laughs*

When I do the other path though, I:

1)    Revisit the outline – I like to make sure that I’ve got things in order, that all my loose ends are wrapped up and the readers aren’t going to have a “what the hell?” moment after they read the last word.

2)    Revisit my character motivations – to make sure that everyone is behaving the way they would and not just doing what I want to make the ending fit.

3)    Explore my options – I’m not always locked into an ending for a novel. I learned early on that it’s a good idea to be fluid with your resolution because trying to write toward a specific ending can really mess you up. If I’m not sure how it should end I’ll sometimes sketch out two or three endings and see which one fits the best.

Kate:

Over the years, I’ve probably written somewhere around a two hundred stories, novellas, and novels. And it took maybe half of those before I figured out how The End worked for me.

You’ll know already from our earlier blogs on this topic that I’m a complete fogwalker. I don’t know what the next sentence or chapter is going to be, let alone The End. But there is a place in every single story—from the shortest to the longest—where a decision has to be made about what will happen at The End.

That spot happens despite the fact that I still don’t know the ending, but when I first started writing, I could get stuck at that spot for weeks. And it truly is a spot. It might be as small a spot as a single sentence or as big a spot as a paragraph.

But once that sentence or paragraph is written, The End is implicit in those few words. I don’t know what it is, I only know that I’m rushing toward it.

So this is what happens to me at The Damn Spot (which I what I call it), which, oddly enough, is what constitutes The End for me. Because once I get through The Damn Spot, The End is easy.

1.   First, and most importantly, I have to figure out that I’ve reached The Damn Spot. Occasionally, I figure that out very quickly. Mostly, I don’t. I’ll just keep writing, unhappy and uncomfortable with what’s happening and not knowing why.

2.   Eventually, I do figure it out because it’s not often I get stuck like that anywhere else. Once I figure it out, the next step is easy. I will rewrite the sentence (or paragraph) until it feels right. Occasionally, that takes me three or four tries. More often, it takes me ten or twenty or even fifty tries and I’ve learned to stop fretting about that because it works.

3.   When I get The Damn Spot right, I just keep writing until I reach The End. And how do I know it’s The End?

4.   The End comes to me and I’m there. Right there. No waiting. No worrying. No fretting. The End is The End. I don’t see it coming, I don’t plan for it, it just arrives. Full blown like the richest, most aromatic rose of summer. It’s a miracle.

Lisa:

As usual, I’m somewhere between Kate and Katy on the spectrum. I almost always know how I want the story to end when I first start writing, and I almost always realize – typically about two-thirds of the way through – that I’m not far enough along in the story to have the original ending I envisioned actually BE the ending. (It’s a good thing I write series, as the “original ending” generally works its way in somewhere else in the arc.)

Once the realization hits me – usually with a loud oh shit – I have two choices. A) Rework things so that I can use that original ending or B) Acknowledge that my subconscious knows what it’s doing, let that scene go and move along, trusting myself to find the way to the Real Ending.

I never take option A. 🙂

So how do I get from Oh Shit to The End?

1)  Like Katy, I sit with my characters for a bit and make sure their choices and motivations are in line with their authentic (albeit fictional) selves. Then I check for stray threads, messy plotlines and unresolved questions that need to be answered.

2)  I keep writing, keep moving forward in blind faith that at some point, the Last Line will manifest. It may materialize in the middle of the night or when I’m driving or taking a shower, but suddenly, it’s just there. I may not understand it completely (since I’m not tuned in to all that will precede it) but I recognize it for what it is. I write it down and set it aside, but I never forget it. It hovers around me like an aura, whispering its delicious secrets, urging me on – and making me a little nervous.

3)  Now there is a plan, something I must work toward, so  at that point, I do something I rarely do throughout the rest of the book: I start vaguely mapping out the remaining chapters in terms of What I Think Must Happen. This knowing is partly based on my notes from step one, but gut instincts play a big part in it, too. (Gut instincts always play a big part in my writing process; I’ve learned to trust them implicitly over the years.)

4)  Once I have my “skeleton” outline, I make like Kate and just keep writing until one day, my fingers are on the keys, typing away and the Last Line appears on the page. Then the cork popping ensues!

 Your turn, peeps. Tell us how you wrangle the monster named The End.

An Annoyance

As I grow my following on Twitter, I am beginning to understand the frustration and dismay so many agents express over many submitters who call themselves writers, but in reality are the farthest thing from it. Before I ever attempted sending my thoughts out for anyone else to read, I worked hard to master the basics—spelling, punctuation, syntax, grammar—long before I ever attempted to construct a story. Nowadays, I constantly run into so many who are completely oblivious to any of these elements, all the while professing, as one who calls herself a “foklorist” does, to be “Raging author(s).” Or, as one lady in her late twenties says, “the brain still thinks were 18 a bit reluctant to disapoint it!? Aspiring author.”

Now I make typos all the time. Making mistakes is part of the human condition. But I search them out and correct them, whenever possible. Further, for most individuals writing, as opposed to Writing, isn’t much more than a necessary annoyance, a way to communicate. I’ll easily forgive an individual’s less than ept skills when they make no pretense, but these others who profess to be Writers irritate me because they cheapen what those of us serious about our craft are endeavoring to do. Let me illustrate.

Who among us would sit down at a piano with no prior instruction, bang away on the keys, then announce, “I am an aspiring concert pianist”? None of us. That would be ludicrous because everyone knows you can’t even begin to think about becoming a concert pianist without years of practice, years perfecting your playing, years mastering what the greats have composed. The same goes for sports. You don’t spend weekends playing sandlot baseball, pick-up basketball or touch football, then tell your friends you want to be a pro. They would laugh you right off the park/court/field. Yet, all these tyros making the same claim about a writing career are why, when the serious ones among us call ourselves writers, people sometimes roll their eyes.

I suspect the ones I’m making bones about do so because it’s relatively easy to string words across a page. A casual glance won’t reveal much, if anything, is amiss. Looks like writing, doesn’t it? But banging discordantly on a keyboard announces at once to the world how incapable you are, as does fumbling a pass, missing the hoop or swinging wildly like a garden gate.

An old high school classmate contacted me recently asking me to buy the two books he had published. I was overjoyed for him until I realized the emails he was sending all lacked one basic element: the paragraph. Let me correct that. No matter how long his messages were, they all consisted of one long paragraph—a two hundred, three hundred, five hundred word paragraph. With some careful prodding, I eventually learned he had hired an editor to hammer his words into something readable. He may have had a story or two to tell, but buying his way into print did not make him an author.

Now, I’m not telling anyone not to sit down at the keyboard and try. Try all you want. I had been trying for years before things started to come together for me. In fact, they are still coming together and I know for a fact I’ll be saying the same thing years from now even after—the fates be willing—I am published. In those early days, when folks asked how I was spending my time, I did not say I was a writer. I told them I was learning to write.

Yes, this is a rant. Will it accomplish anything? Certainly not. Nor will I say anything unkind to anyone starting out on the long road to accomplishment. I’m just trying to get at the burr in my side.

Raymond

Feeling Like A Celebrity

One of the things I really like about attending conferences is that you never really know who you will strike up a conversation with while you’re sitting in the bar, riding the elevator or attending a workshop.

My friend Sheryl and I attended the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention last April in Chicago. We’ve been to this conference several times before, and it’s one of my favorites. There are more book readers than authors, so it’s a nice place to talk to fans. There has been a bigger focus on writing workshops these past few years.

Sheryl and I were particularly interested in the “Indie Publishing “ programs, with some of the biggest names in the Indie publishing world,  speakers like Mark Coker, J.A. Konrath and Bob Mayer.  My critique partner, Sheryl, has an inquiring mind and she is often the first person in the room to raise her hand to ask questions.

After the second program we attended, a very nice young man approached her and said, “Hello, I’m Andrew, and I’m writing an article for the NY Times. You asked really good questions, and I’d like to talk to you about self-publishing.”

Andrew interviewed her, and since she talked about me and my recent self-publishing experience that inspired her, I was interviewed too.  It was great fun, but we both knew that reporters write articles that never get published, so we didn’t count any chickens.

That was a good thing, because Andrew reported to us in the summer that that the article was not going to be published. He hadn’t given up, but Sheryl and I went on with our lives, writing, editing and publishing.

Then a few weeks ago, Andrew reported that he had a friend at a magazine interested in the article, and he’d get back to us. We found out that the article was acquired by Time magazine. TIME magazine. Then we were told that they would be sending a photographer to do a photo shoot.

It worked out that Sheryl was volunteering at the Northwest Bookfest on the weekend we did the photo shoot. Chris showed up with Mike, (a helper to carry all the equipment). Chris had major camera equipment, reflectors; extra cameras, tripods,  it was just like those photo shoots you see on TV.  People kept watching, probably wondering if we were famous.

My favorite moment was when Sheryl and I had our photos taken outside the Teen Center. A gaggle of young ladies were standing and watching the process. I smiled at them and said, “You thought only tall, skinny girls were supermodels, huh?”

I have no idea when, or even if the article about us will be in the magazine. It still strikes me funny that they would include an article about Indie publishing in a news magazine. But should it happen, I’ll be thrilled to be featured in the same publication as Fareed Zakaria!

Deborah

Losing Drama, Finding Stillness

This morning, my older son slept through his alarm, well on his way to be late for his 9 am class. It would have been so easy to lay into him about responsibility and better planning, or use guilt as its usual weapon, or snarky humor in an attempt to mask annoyance for wit. Instead, I offered to drive him.

Last week, my younger son forget to check the family calendar before buying the entry ticket for the PSAT at the high school. When he did look at the test date, he realized he had a commitment that he couldn’t change and would not be able to take the PSAT. Nor could he get the ticket refunded. My initial internal response was to launch into a lecture designed simply to make me right and him wrong.

All of those choices might have felt good, in an emotionally cathartic sense, at least for the moment. They might even have felt like some kind of victory. As if every moment of every day is a battle in a larger war.

Am I annoyed that I had to shift my schedule to drive one son to school? Sure. Am I annoyed that the other son didn’t take 30 seconds to check the calendar before buying a ticket he cannot use? Sure. But here’s my life lesson: being annoyed is my emotion. Displacing it as anger on my children accomplishes nothing useful.

I assure you, I’m no zen master, able to serenely glide through a universe of strife with a beatific smile on my face. I’m your typical harried, middle-aged woman, coping with responsibilities and obligations. (Easier to juggle chainsaws, some days.) Yet, something held me back from lashing out. Because that’s what those responses are: lashing out from anger and fear in a fruitless attempt to control what cannot be controlled.

I’ve spent too much of this year wallowing in negative emotions. My writing career isn’t where I want it to be. In over 4 years, my agent hasn’t been able to sell any of my work. The title I self-published sells  a handful of copies in any given month. It’s all too easy to look at what does sell and drown in either despair or envy.

 There’s an old joke about a man who complains to God about all the misfortunes in his life. The details of the joke don’t matter, it’s the punch line that gets me. The man turns to God and shouts, “Why me?” God’s answer? “Why not?” The past two years have been enormously difficult ones in my life. It started with a house fire in December of 2010, continued with family crises and illnesses, and just one month ago, my mother passed away. I don’t think it matters how old you are when you lose a parent. Losing your first and most emotionally charged bond in life is an enormous blow. One that I’ve been moving through with the support of friends and family.

 I’d like to think that my newfound sense of stillness is a result of that process. I do know that ridding myself of the false drama of that adrenaline-laden nearly automatic response has been extremely freeing. Not just for me, but for my family as well. The son I drove to school? He apologized and thanked me. The son with the scheduling snafu? He will be taking some practice tests on his own and has offered to repay me the ticket fee from his own money. As far as my writing goes, one word, one sentence, one chapter at a time.

LJ Cohen

The Shadow

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.

One of the things I’ve contemplated often over the years is the shadow. What it is. What it means. How an artist can use it. How we as readers or viewers react to it and why it creates such intense emotions in those who read or see or hear it.

It doesn’t matter what the art – painting, dancing, writing, music, theater – the shadow has power.

The shadow haunts our dreams. That undefinable darkness or evil is far more frightening than the evil we can see or touch. That’s why movie makers don’t allow us to see the killer or the stalker until it’s too late. That’s why great horror stories don’t tell us exactly what the big evil looks like – our imagination of the shadow is far more frightening than anything we can actually see.

The shadow is individual. My shadow is different than yours and yours is different than the one that belongs to your sister or your brother. But we each have one.

One of my favorite shadow stories is the Pixar film, Monsters, Inc. That movie explores the shadow that all children know – the monster that lives under the bed or in the closet. Once we get to know that shadow monster, we’re no longer scared of it. The shadow is all about not knowing.

As a writer, I try to remember that shadow lurking in the hearts of my characters. No one is perfect, no one has lived a life without having done something they regret. Great stories – from A Tale of Two Cities to How the Grinch Stole Christmas – work because we cheer for the man who has done wrong and still turns out okay. That’s what we hope for our friends and our family, and that’s what we strive for with our characters.

Kate

 

When the Fair Comes to Town

Every year on the second Friday after Labor Day the fair comes to town. More specifically, The Big E comes to town and stays for seventeen days. Seventeen days of greasy food, carnival rides and games, and an astounding array of items to buy from beautiful handcrafted clay and glass tiles to more mundane Made For TV items like the Sham-Wow.

Billed as “New England’s Great State Fair”, the Big E has been a cornerstone of the Western MA tourist industry for generations. And, as somebody who used to live right up the street from the fair grounds, I can attest to the fact that thousands of people pour into the area, clogging up the streets and making daily life quite difficult for nearby residents. And the worst part of the entire thing is that for the entire duration of the fair, the only place to get a White Hut burger is in the fair. Okay, that last part might be a bit of hyperbole, but it doesn’t feel like it when you’re craving one of their cheeseburgers with fried onions.

One of the more interesting aspects of the Big E is the Avenue of States where each individual New England state owns a small parcel of land upon which sit replicas of that particular state’s original Capitol Building. State police from their respective states stand as security in the buildings and lottery tickets from each state can be purchased from the state buildings.

The fair began as an agricultural exposition and those roots live on 95 years later in the many livestock competitions, the dog and pony shows, and each year’s unique sculpture made from 600 pounds of butter donated by a local creamery. The sculpture is a work in progress through-out the show and attendees can watch the sculptor at his work in a small, refrigerated Plexiglas booth.

The food is typical fair food – corn dogs, candy apples, deep-fried everything, fried dough, cotton candy, and a myriad of other specialty food stands ranging from Mexican to Greek to Chinese. The one must-eat item seems to be the cream puffs; they’ve been a Big E staple for decades. I’m going to admit something shameful – I’ve never had one. A few years ago, in order to try and jazz things up, the fair concocted a new “it” food they call the Cra-Z Burger. It’s a bacon cheeseburger between two halves of a glazed donut. I’m honestly not quite sure how anyone can bring themselves to eat such a monstrosity, but it seems to be getting rave reviews. I’ll just stick with the éclairs the size of my head, thanks.

The fair doesn’t change all that much from year to year except for the concert line-up. Years past have seen big name stars like Reba Macintyre, Blake Shelton, Cheap Trick, Darius Rucker, and Miranda Lambert. This year’s guests include Alan Jackson, Jeff Dunham, and Rodney Atkins. On quiet weekend nights when the wind was still I could sit out on my front porch and very faintly hear the music.

And oh the people! That just may be the best part of the whole fair. This year’s winner for the most interesting outfit was a gentleman dressed in a female naval uniform complete with heels. We have no idea whether he was there as an attendee or as a performer, but he was hands down the best part of our trip this year. There was also an older couple we saw on our way to the Avenue of States. He was dressed in a beautiful brown suit in an early 1900’s style with a top hat and beard. His lovely companion was dressed in a stunning brown and gold flapper-style dress with matching headpiece.

Okay, I think I’m done sounding like an advertisement for the fair…

If you’re ever in the area around this time of year, I highly recommend spending a day at the Big E even if it’s only to go watch the baby chicks hatch from their shells.

Ana