Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Play by Play Closing 'For a While'

John and his delightful wife Joyce at a Salem Red Sox baseball game recently.
It saddens me that my old friend John Montgomery is closing Play By Play Magazine, the Roanoke Valley-based sports monthly, "for a while." This was a publication that gave him great joy, if not great riches and it always showed between the covers of the tabloid.

The current September issue is the last one, says John, at least until market conditions improve.

In this last issue, John writes, "This rainy-day thing appears to be an appropriate metaphor for the status of Play By Play--as with this issue, No. 136, we head for the dugout, at least temporarily.

"Sour business conditions have made it prudent to cut our losses and cease publication ... you have to know when to fold 'em." As is John's habit, he jumps right to a smiling face: "But enough of the gloom. Let's celebrate 10 complete years."

That's 10 years of BPB, but it was preceded by eight years of the Sports Journal, which John founded with Sam Lazarro, now a Salem lawyer. At the time of that startup, the three of us worked for the Blue Ridge Business Journal and the Roanoke Times had not started its ownership influence, which eventually led to the demise of the PBP and the Sports Journal. I contributed some to the SJ and later to BPB, but always as a "guest," never as a regular. I enjoyed doing it, but was pretty well tied up with the other publication to get too involved.

I spoke at the Kiwanis Club recently at the invitation of John and he mentioned then that he was considering closing the publication. It had become more work and less play, I'm afraid, as tends to happen when projects don't pay for themselves. I know that first-hand.

John recruited a lot of people to contribute to SJ and held on to them for PBP. His was always a mix of features and commentary, let by Mike Ashley's always-readable column. Mike is one of the truly funny sports guys in the country and I keep trying to push him into a book.

Anyhow, I'm hoping this works the way John wants it to, whether it's a comeback or something else. He's one of the truly good guys in this end of the state and he deserves good things.

Gratitude: Anne Giles' Observations

Anne Giles
Today I am grateful for:

Anne Giles and her insights about her recovery from alcoholism.

Anne has been writing a blog (here) that I hope she will turn into a book soon. Her observations on her fall and subsequent rise are telling, meaningful and a deep learning experience for me.

Take, for example, this from today's post: "Do you want to be right or do you want to be close? ... Some people engage in conflict with me to get their one-up needs met by attempting to put me one-down and in the wrong. Some people engage in conflict with me to overcome a frustrating distance between us. I am getting better at discerning--or even asking directly about--the other person's motivation when initiating conflict."

That is a specific circumstance I have faced of late (and I have more than 20 years' sobriety, so it doesn't stop; in fact, it becomes far more complex the clearer our minds become) and I have felt like I was on an island with it. The constant drum of criticism--what I'm feeling--does not always equate with what is being said. It, like so much else, is a matter of interpretation--my interpretation.

This and many other insights make me grateful for my friend, Anne.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Photos: Bringing in Fall with Paddles in Hand

It was one of those gorgeous full-throated fall days on Carvins Cove today, the first of autumn and my pal Anne Sampson and I took it in from on the water. It was a day of light breezes, choppy water, goose bumps and a lovely sailboat (above).

Here's some of what Anne and I saw.

This is Anne charging forward from water level.
The sailboat in silouette.
Anne and me playing kayaker footsie.
Selfie with Anne in the background.
Here's Pampa in black and white, paddling to beat hell.

Photos: A Brief Trip to the Forest

Tree hosts the 'shrooms.
Probably because it's the first day of fall, but I got a strong urge to get out into the woods today and
wound up at Chestnut Ridge Loop Trail off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

It's not a spectacular hike, but the forest is thick and lush along this trail, which traverses the side of a mountain and is relatively flat. It's also about 15 minutes from downtown Roanoke, which also makes it attractive. Here's a brief look at it.

The air was crips and breezy, clean and bright and the sun streamed into the forest. Beautiful mid-day, it was.

Flat, easy trail, though slightly uphill.
Heavy mast means a cold winter.
The obligatory selfie.
Virginia creeper is turning red.

Gratutide: The Magic of Autumn

These two photos were shot by me within yards of each other a few years ago in Wasena Park.
Today, I am grateful for:

Autumn, which begins today at 10:29 p.m. with the autumnal equinox.

Fall, for me, is the beautiful season, the moderate season, the season invented for photographers and photography. The yellow late afternoon light creates moods that simply cannot be faked in a studio. It is a melancholy light and, for many, a melancholy season. Not for me, though. I celebrate the end of summer and the segue into a season of spectacular skies, colors, temperatures, breezes. Autumn is especially magic in our mountains, one of the few places in the world where the fall color is this spectacular.

So, like the Wiccuns and others who love nature, I celebrate it at its best.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

High Bridge Trail Is Nothing Special, but Farmville's Cool

Here's Leah and meah on the High Bridge near Farmville.
Lots of bikes out today.
Took a ride over to Farmville (with a quick Lynchburg stop to pick up Leah) to ride what I thought would be alovely High Bridge Trail, just outside town. Not so spectacular. Mostly, pretty boring.

It is a flat, short-ish trail with a high, long bridge as the goal. There is no scenery to speak of on the way to the bridge; just a well-kept, flat old railroad bed of a trail. One of the more boring rides around, I'd say. Even the bridge, one of the nation's highest-longest (though not one of the highest or longest, one without the other; it's 2,400 feet long, 125-feet high), is simply a flat, wooden bridge over a gorge centered in a flat countryside.

The real treat of the trip is the number of furniture warehouses in downtown Farmville (where I'd never visited, just driven through) and a great hamburger at Charley's Waterfront Cafe. This burger--the Waterfront--comes with three cheeses and carmelized onions--was so big at eight ounces, Leah and I split it, then split her cobb salad. We both had a great and plentiful meal.

The furniture warehouses will wear you out (maybe they're "wearhouses") because many of them cover three or four floors and each floor is huge. The selection is big, if not especially great in the bargain category, from what I saw.

Nice road trip, I thought.
The Waterfront is across the street from a furniture warehouse.
The bridge is the goal, but it's mundane.
The Appomattox is a dinky river at this point.
Leah watches me taking pictures below the bridge surface.
Leah and me at the landmarks plaque.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Photos from the Fall Forest Thursday

Mushroom eating an acron. Or something like that.
Here are some photos of the earth as it is from a short hike out near Hollins University Thursday. The woods are splendid in their detail.
Goldenrod makes a lot of people sick. But this bee likes it.
Pinecones are getting ready for Christmas.
Virginia Creeper is ready for fall.
Blue mushrooms are new to me. Can you eat them?
These red berries are all over the woods.
Check the spider web.
My turtle buddy was curious, but was more involved with his dinner, a worm.

Resting Next to an Honest-to-God Classic

I parked next to this 1955 (or so) Austin Healey yesterday at Vic Thomas Park and I did all I could to keep from drooling on it. This is a thing of beauty.

The AH is probably the most popular sports car in the history of Great Britain and it was in its golden age 1950 (when it was introduced) to about 1958. This model, to my mind, is the peak. Look at the way the windshield folds back when resting and soak up the beautiful design. Even the hood is designed beautifully.

Giving Back Those Pesky Roanoke Times Papers

This is a photo of several weeks' worth of those worthless "shopper" publications The Roanoke Times throws--uninvited--into my yard on a weekly basis. I have called and e-mailed complaints about the litter five times and have received absolutely no positive response. This morning, I took several of them back to their place of origin.

The arrogance of the deliveries is simply mind-boggling. I am told by one who works in the building and deals with this situation that my return of the papers is hardly an earth-shattering first. "People have brought entire garbage bags full of them and dumped them outside," said the Times employee. "We get this often."

It would seem to me that somewhere along the way somebody would get the message--especially the advertisers who are not getting a good reputation by supporting this outrageous behavior. I am also told, by the way, though I have not checked it out myself, that leaving these packages on our lawns without permission is legal. I am wondering if I start taking my garbage and leaving it at the entryway of the newspaper what the result would be legally.

In any case, I invite you to take your papers downtown, drop them off in the entryway of the paper and if anybody says anything, tell them to shove the paper where the sun don't shine.

Grandin Theatre To Host Beer Party (Kinda)

The Grandin Theatre has scheduled the showing “From Grain to Growler,” a documentary on the Virginia craft beer movement, Saturday, Oct. 18 at 4 p.m., part of a celebration in Grandin Village. It will be new general manager Ian Fortier’s first special event.

Says Grandin Theatre Foundation board member Richard Rife, “I think this event is indicative of the ways the Grandin will try to reach out and involve the community and invite patrons to regard the Grandin as more than just a place to see a movie.”

The documentary looks at the expansion of craft beer manufacturing since 2012, when the state passed a new law governing it. The event will feature the film, a one-hour tasting of local beers and a panel discussion featuring the filmmakers and some local craft beer makers.

Fortier says, “The explosion of craft beer brewing companies in the past few years has launched the Commonwealth into the positive national spotlight. This movement has a basis in agriculture, job creation, job retention, economic development, recreation, and secondary industries. We felt this film was an opportunity not only to celebrate the growth of this industry but also showcase some of our local brewers products, and stories.”
Tickets to this event can be purchased online at www.grandintheatre.com or may also be purchased at the box office. 

Rife says, “We look for it to showcase local craft brewers as well as educate beer lovers about craft brewing across the state. It should also bring new customers to our Grandin Village restaurants at its conclusion.” 

(I shot the accompanying photo at the Salem Red Sox ballpark a couple of years ago. Although I'm a recovering drunk and can't drink beer, I like the shot a lot.)

Photos: How To Eat Soup

The tofu pho soup served at the Hong Kong Restaurant at Roanoke City Market Building is so big and so hot hat I have do divide the serving, putting about half into a clear plastic "go" container in order to help the halves cool off.

Sophisticated Asian food connisuers eat this stuff with chopsticks. I'm not sophisticated, so I use a spoon and a fork. Together. I once watched the co-owner eat her soup with chopsticks, then, when the solids were gone, she turned up the liquid and finished it off. Like I'm doing here. Thought that was cool.

(Photos by Sonya Chappelear.)

Gratitude: In Scotland, a Democracy

Today I am grateful for:

Democracy in action. No, not ours. We don't even have a democracy (except with a capital "D," which is a misnomer). We have an oligarchy and it doesn't work, either.

The democracy to which I refer is the one in Scotland where yesterday a remarkable 85 percent of voters turned out to determine if the Scots would remain a part of Britain (they did by 10 percentage points). In America, a presidential election generally brings out half the voters (I think the other half are shellshocked by the TV ads and can't think straight).

In 1980, Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter with 27.3 percent of registered voters in his corner. Reagan--you probably don't remember--beat Carter with just 50.7 percent of the vote, hardly a landslide. In 1984, he won 58.9 percent of the votes cast (though he was still in the high 20s for overall registered voter support) and 49 states in a landslide election. Looking a little closer, that percentage is misleading.

Between 1840 and 1900 (when only males could vote and most of the time African Americans were not allowed at the polls), voting turnout was good: it fell below 70 percent once, and was more than 80 percent three times.

Today, though, with most of us absolutely fed up with not only our leaders, but our form of government, interest is difficult to drum up. In Scotland, where people still believe in their government, voters turn out--as they should.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Tip for the Day: Working with an Editor

My friend Darrell Laurant, a newly-minted novelist and veteran journalist, asked me the other day to contribute suggestions on how to work with a magazine (or other publications) editor for a piece he is writing. Actually, he asked for me to list the things that piss me off. But I didn't want to do it that way, so I simply constructed 10 rules for working effectively with an editor.

Any of you out there who have anything to add or who disagree with any of these, let me know. I'd love to hear about it. Here they are:

Rule No. 1 for writers: There is not an "editor." There are "editors." They are as different from each other as writers or truck drivers or stock brokers or lawyers or waiters are. Each has a personality, a philosophy and a publication that harnesses her personal and professional skills to meet specific goals of the company.

Editors don't usually mangle your copy because they are rotten people. They do what the company requires and what their experience tells them is best for their publications. I was an editor for 30 years before getting out of the management/ownership end of the magazine business and becoming a freelance writer again. I found a world that was unfamiliar and a little scary. I had forgotten what I knew: some editors and publications are difficult. I had to adjust. To each one.

The 10 tips: 1.

Turn in clean, correct copy. Typos and incorrect information will get you sent to the woodshed. People's names MUST BE SPELLED CORRECTLY. There simply no acceptable excuses for a misspelled name.

2. Turn your work in on time. Early is good, but I have discovered that you can be too early (I tend to work fast and that has been a problem). If you are 20 percent early, depending on the publication, you're on the money and the editor will remember that when assigning again.

3. Be certain the assignment is clear up front because you will have to re-write, otherwise. If you can get the assignment in writing (I always did that as an editor), all the better. I often have a back-and-forth with the editor if something is not clear. Sometimes the editor doesn't know what she wants--or doesn't want--until she gets it. That can be maddening and creates extra work. If you are secure with that publication, tack on a surcharge if there is extra work.

4. Offer opinions and options if you have special expertise in a topic. Editors are generalists and, as such, are pretty smart. But they can't be expert in everything they assign. Your help is welcome to a good editor and it will put you in good stead.

5. Suggest, but do not argue. Editors often get instructions from executive offices to have a story done a certain way. If your suggestion countermands that, she will reject it. The rejection is not personal.
6. Be certain you know the publication's style before you decide that your personal style is acceptable. You need to be able to write the same story several different ways. Find the one that works best for the specific publication. That means you have to be familiar with the publication. For example, if you are asked to write a personal profile, see how that has been formatted and published in the past and replicate it.

7. Editors are busy--so busy sometimes that they miss important information, ignore important questions, fail to return phone calls and e-mails. Don't let those failures interfere with the quality of your story. Call or e-mail until you reach the editor if you have a question that will affect the accuracy or quality of your story. That is essential and if she's too busy, call her anyway. But don't call/e-mail for every little detail. You're being paid to make decisions. Make them.

8. When you turn your copy in, it is no longer yours. Accept that and let it go. Some editors will mangle it; others will treat it with great respect. Determine what your limit is on changes and make your decision on whom you want to work for based on that limit. It doesn't do anybody any good for you to pitch a fit over changes, though it is required that you stand up for the facts and that you fight to keep the editor from making your journalism a piece of shill for an advertiser.

9. Be certain that you get writers guidelines if the publication offers them. If not, ask what the publication's policy is on pre-press review. Having the subject of a piece read it before publication is standard procedure for some publications, is absolutely forbidden by others and sometimes it is inconsistently applied. Get it clear. Some subjects will not talk to you unless you agree to a review before publication. Tell your editor that and let her deal with it. She will make the decision and you will be in the clear.

10. Remember always that you are representing the publication that is paying you for your work. Dress well, be respectful and write your story with truth, not just with fact. If you are having trouble finding the truth, talk to the editor and get some guidance. Whenever you have an important question about anything having to do with a specific work, talk to the editor. She makes the decisions. Accept that, embrace it and get to writing.

(Photos: Getty Images, janefriedman.com,  mckenziesdragonsnest.com, fionaraven.com.)

Memoir Writing Workshop Scheduled Oct. 8 in Wirtz

Betsy Ashton
My pals Betsy Ashton and Judy Ayyildiz, both of whom have taught at the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference, have scheduled an all-day workshop in Wirtz (Smith Mountain Lake) Wednesday,Oct. 8 for those of you pondering writing your memoirs. Both--I can attest--are accomplished writers and excellent teachers.

Here are the details, provided by Betsh:

Judy Light Ayyildiz and I will present a writing workshop blending techniques of fiction and memoir writing at the 4-H Center in Wirtz. It begins at 10 a.m. and end around 4 p.m. The $40 registration fee includes lunch.

Judy Ayyildiz
Many of you are in book clubs with members who "have always wanted to write their memoirs" but who don't know how to get started. Others of you are in writing groups with similar members. Some of you work at libraries. All of you have friends who live in the Smith Mountain Lake/Roanoke/Lynchburg area.

 If this is something you would enjoy, Judy and I would love to have you. We have an event page on FB.  https://www.facebook.com/events/280675642133447/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming

Throwback Thursday: The Clown Is a Clown

Elmo feeds me popcorn.
Getting drilled on the fire drill (I'm at left).
In about 1978 or '79 I was assigned by the features editor of The Roanoke Times to join the Ringling Brothers Circus, which was in town, to be a clown for a day. The editor said, "You are the natural choice."

This is one of my all-time favorite assignments because, frankly, it was, indeed, a natural for me. A clown named Elmo was assinged to teach me (I just know he loved that! Probably did something awful to get the assignment) and he did. The No. 1 rule? "Don't ever touch a clown if he's not expecting it." I had just touched him. I didn't do it again.

Elmo put on my makeup, reminiscent of Emmett Kelly, the sad sack clown once played by Henry Fonda in a movie.

During the course of the schooling, I learned to ride an elephant named Mollie (sweet little gal). We did the big parade at the start of the performance and then I dismounted and got busy with routine after routine. The one pictured above right right is a wild firefighting scene. I'm holding the newspaper for some reason. Don't recall why. Maybe it was predictive of what newspapers would become (oh, that's a cheap shot!).

I think what touched me as much as anything else during the hours-long performance was getting face-to-face with small children and really being  a clown. Then having them ask for my authgraph: "Danbo." Kinda like "Dumbo" only different. They laughed. I did, too.
Mollie and me ready to roll.