Potatoes in a Barrel

I used to think that potatoes were a lot of work to grow and took up more space than my garden had to offer. About two years ago, I picked up a copy of the Farmers Almanac while waiting in an accountant’s office – the last place I expected a garden revelation. I ended up reading a brief how to article about growing potatoes in trash barrels, and have used that method to successfully grow potatoes for the past two seasons.

The process is fairly simply. First you need to drill or poke holes in the barrel so excess water can drain. DSC_0449.JPG

Next, put rocks in the bottom of the barrel. This will not only provide better drainage, but it will also help keep the barrel in place.

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Once you have your rocks in place, you will need dirt for the potatoes to grow in. I’ve found that buying a bag of “garden soil” or “raised bed” soil.

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Empty a bag of dirt into the barrel, filling about a third of it  up, and then go get your potatoes. The ones that have been in the fridge for a long time and are growing eyes or sprouting roots are good candidates. Keep in mind that whatever kind of potatoes you plan are the kind you are going to get. It’s not necessary but it is a good idea to cut them in half. DSC_0453

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Burry your potatoes under two or three inches of dirt. Then water them. DSC_0455.JPG

Keep the soil moist, and as the green tops grow, “hill them.” This means adding soil and burying some of the leaves, always careful to leave at least five inches of green exposed. When the plan flowers, the potatoes are ready to harvest. The most efficient way to do this is to just dump the soil and sift through it. I usually add it a raised bed that looks like it is getting low on soil when I am done.DSC_0457.JPG

The Dreaded Short Story Query

The Dreaded Short Story Query

By Sara Codair

Querying short stories is the most stressful part of the publication process for me.

The word query has a slightly different meaning in the world of short stories than it does for novels.When you query an agent of publisher about a novel, you are essentially submitting a cover letter and sample to see if they are interested. However, when you submit a short story, you generally include an extremely brief cover letter and the full manuscript. Writers refer to this as a submission, not a query.

 

The short story query is actually a follow up letter. If the publisher does not respond to the story in their advertised timeframe, then you are allowed, and in some cases, expected to follow up with an email. For me, this is more stressful than the actual submission.

The longer a market takes to respond to my story, the more I start over-analyzing their silence. Did they forget about my story? Did they put it in their maybe pile? Are they just really backlogged? Any of these are equally possible.

If they are just backlogged, I feel bad adding more material to their reading list, even if it is just one email, so I always keep my query email short.

I take cues from their submission guidelines regarding how and when I can query. Most publications will provide some information about querying in their submission guidelines. For example, Firefly has this near the end of their guidelines: “if a month has passed from the day you have submitted to us and you haven’t heard from us, please feel free to send a query with either “Query” or “What The Heck” in the subject line. We find the latter more cathartic.”

I queried them once, but in the end, they were just backlogged and rejected my story. Other markets, like the Sockdolager and Museum of Science Fiction, have responded to queries telling me my story has made it past their first round and is being held for further consideration. The most successful querying experience I had was with Helios Quarterly as it turned into an acceptance.

Some markets have made querying unnecessary with extremely specific guidelines and efficient submission managing systems that allow writers to track their stories progress through the queue. However, many smaller and/or new markets can not afford said software, so they rely on email.

The best advice I can offer is keep it short, and make sure you read the guidelines first. If a market says “don’t query until three months have passed” then make sure three months have passed before you query.

Most of my queries look something like this:

Dear Editor (s),

I sent you my story, “The Best Short Ever,” on June 4, 2016, and have not heard anything. Could you please confirm you received it and provide an update on its status?

Thank you,

Sara

Or

Dear Editor (s),

I sent you my story, “The Best Short Ever,” on June 4, 2016, and have not heard from you. Are you still considering it?

Thank you,

Sara

If I addressed my cover letter to a specific person, I will use their name. Otherwise, “Dear Editors” works fine.

I’ve never had an editor get made at me for querying. Most of the responses I get are sympathetic or apologetic. If a market says you can query after X days or months have passed, then do it. Just keep your letter short and polite. It will give you peace of mind and remind the editor you exist.

The True Danger of Fake News

While I do not shy away from politics on my social media accounts, I’ve tried to keep my political blog posts to a minimum. However, this post is political, and regardless of your views, I hope you will read on.

The True Danger of Fake News

By Sara Codair

No matter what side of the political divide people stand on, it is hard for them to deny that America is divided. What people do seem to disagree on, at least in comments, tweets, and Facebook posts, is what the source of this division is, who is encouraging it, and which side holds the majority.

While I don’t believe Trump created the divide from scratch, I am not alone in believing that he engineered its explosive growth. In his Atlantic article titled, “What Effective Protest Could Look Like,” David Frum, a former Bush-administration speechwriter, says “Trump wants to identify all opposition to him with the black-masked crowbar thugs who smashed windows and burned a limo on his inauguration day.” After an intense debate on an article about why Trump is not a Hitler-figure, I realized Trump had already done what Frum claims he wants. In an attempt to discredit me, his supporters kept bringing up allegedly violent liberal protestors who destroy people’s property. They wrote as if I been there,  destroying property and causing violence even though I’ve always believed violence undermines and delegitimizes protests.

In this political climate, the actions of those resisting Trump are being held under a virtual magnifying glass that highlights the worst of their actions. Frum writers, “Protesters may be up against something never before seen in American life: a president and an administration determined to seize on unrest to legitimate repression. Those protesters are not ready for it. Few Americans are.” I agree with him. We are not prepared for the information-manipulating Trump brought to the presidency with him despite all the warnings we have received from writers of dystopian fiction.

Whenever I try convince Trump supporters that they are being played, and/or that the liberals are not the evil baby-killers Trump portrays them as, they laugh at me. They tell me I am blinded by fake news and by snakes in sheep’s clothing and/or accuse me of living in my own little fantasy world. They say the “violent protestors” and “liberal media” are to blame. One person called The New York Times and The Washington Post liberal rags. Others called MSNBC and CNN fear-mongering fake news networks.

I won’t deny that the media has played its role in the growing divide, but I suspect they are being played, or possibly paid, by Trump. However, I cannot prove that last statement and will not even attempt to in this post because it is almost irrelevant. What matters is this: fake news exists on both sides. Regardless of who propagates it and which media outlets are actually fake news, it is out there. It exists. It is making the divide between American’s extremely difficult to bridge.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to argue with Trump supports, trying to get them to at least consider my point of view. What always prevents me from getting through to them are, believe it or not, facts. If I cite facts from a publication I consider reputable, like The New York Times, the Trump supporters will tell me it is fake news and either cite a conservative news cite that I consider to be fake news, or deflect completely by brining up mistakes made by and/or outright lies about past presidents (or presidential candidates). They like to assume that since I oppose Trump, I am a big fan of “Killary” and her husband.

Yes – I was not protesting somethings Bill Clinton did in the early 90’s like I am protesting Trump. Why? Because I was a child in the early 90’s. I was a sheltered, innocent child who cared more about playing outside and making up stories than what some snobby, rich grown-ups were doing in what might as well have been a different world. When I tell them that much, the Trump supporters either stop responding, or resort to personal attacks and/or completely irrational statements.

Some of the Trump supporters historical counter arguments date back before Bill Clinton. They go back to the civil war and beyond. When history fails to convince me, they resort to what I perceive as nonsense. For example, I told one person I didn’t care which political party had ties to the KKK in the 1800’s because it was completely irrelevant to the argument were having. This person responded by telling my the democrats had a new KKK called Black Lives Matter.

Another person told me everything I believe about the democratic party was wrong. They said democrats don’t care about the marginalized and minorities but are using programs like welfare and food stamps to enslave them.

Someone brought up the proverb:

give a man a fish and you feed him for a dayteach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime

I said that is what the democrats are trying to do with affordable public college.

They thought college was a joke and “not good enough” and didn’t seem to care about successes I’ve witnessed working at community colleges.

Whether you think I’m right, a deluded “libtard,” or something in-between, I hope you can at least see that I seem to live in a different reality than the people I was arguing with. They think the democrats are evil and out to get them and have been conspiring to take their freedom. They see Trump as a savior and nothing I say, not matter how factual, can make them see otherwise because they claim facts they don’t agree with aren’t facts at all, but fake news. Perhaps those people, or you, might accuse me of the same thing.

As a person who was born and raised Catholic, and who still practices Catholicism and believes in the teachings of Jesus, I often feel alienated by other Christians. To me, and to many of my Catholic friends, Trump is the antithesis of our beliefs. We struggle to see how anyone who follows the teachings of Jesus could follow a man so filled with green, hate and arrogance.

Last weekend, I posted this tweet in reply to Fox Business’. screen-shot-2017-02-06-at-2-01-02-pm

And here are some of the replies I received:

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These people and I seem to exist in different realities, and I do not know how to bridge the gap between us without comprising my own values and faith.

America is divided.

As Abraham Lincoln said “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

 How much longer can America stand if her citizens remain so divided?

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If I do not find myself to depressed or discouraged, I may write further posts exploring some of the issues I touched on briefly but did not fully explore in this post, like Christianity, Media, and Dystopian stories. Thank you for reading. Please feel free to comment, but please try to be respectful. Keep an open mind. Please.

 

 

Winning #NaNoWriMo2016

I have not been blogging as frequently as I once did. Aside from a busy semester, the other thing that can be blamed for that is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

In the beginning of November, I wrote a couple posts about NaNoWriMo: one saying I was doing it “for real” and another about how making my own cover image for the book helped me stay focused. Now, I am pleased to announce that I did it. On November 29th, 2016, I ended the first draft of my novel, “Like Birds Under the City Sky” at 50, 555 words.

“Like Birds Under the City Sky” is the third novel I have completed a draft of and the experience of doing this first draft was very different than my other two novels. It was shorter, it was done in a small amount of time, and I didn’t find myself living the characters in the same way I had in other books.

I wasn’t making up the next Chapter as I was driving to work or falling asleep. I didn’t feel like I became these characters as I wrote them. However, I did write every day. I did do my usual mix of some planning and some making things up on the spot. I had an end in mind, but gave my self the freedom to meet the group of genetically modified cats that helped my characters defeat their enemies.

Is this novel better or worse than the last two I wrote? I don’t know yet.

The pieces that were part of the short story I had originally intended it to be are beautifully polished and the rest of it is rushed and choppy.

The one thing I think I did a better job with was having a more focused, obvious and specific want or need driving the characters: my characters want to survive, be accepted, and be free from the people who are hunting them. Since the characters were being driven by what I might call “simpler” wants than the characters of my other novels, the plot was easier to come by, however, I worry that the characters didn’t experience as much growth as characters in my first two attempts at novel writing.

For now, I’m going to be happy that I finished a daft in a month, and I’m going to let that draft rest. I plan to send more short stories out, and send out more queries for Out of Focus. After Christmas, when I am on winter break, I will begin the process of revising Like Birds Under the City Sky, and get a better sense of how NaNoWriMo really worked for me.