Susanna J. Sturgis   Martha's Vineyard writer and editor
writer editor born-again horse girl

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New Year!

January 01, 2010

I went to a New Year's Eve party for the first time in years but got home by 11:30 p.m. Old Year. Actually it was a Blue Moon party that coincided with New Year's Eve. The direction was to bring a dish that you only make once in a blue moon, so I made a spanakopita. I had some to bring home. Starting a new year with spanakopita in the fridge has to be a good thing. I also started the new year with a generous slice of Pat W.'s chocolate cake in the fridge, but that is now gone.

I stayed up till 1 a.m. New Year. Hadn't done that for a while either. Highlight of 01-01-10 was biking with Travvy. So far Trav has been mostly a trotter. He can trot fast enough to win the Hambletonian if his legs were as long as a horse's. Sometimes he breaks into a lope. Today there was another cyclist ahead of us on the bike path, and he wanted to catch up. He ran like a sled dog. Glorious! I didn't have to pedal -- I just went along for the ride. I did check in with him a time or two to make sure he still knew I was there. As we approached our turnoff, a path through the woods that leads into the Nat's Farm subdivision, I said "whoaaaa" and applied a little brake. He slowed down. He was probably a little tired; it was the first time he'd run any distance pulling some weight. I want a scooter or a cart or a sled or something! First step is a pulling harness. Those aren't expensive. I'll scrounge up a motorcycle or small car tire and Trav can practice pulling.

It seems everyone is glad to see 2009 go. Me too, but the year that we finally got rid of the Bush II administration can't be all bad. Trouble is, it happened at the very beginning of the year so we've mostly forgotten it. Some people seem to have forgotten the entire Bush II administration. Amnesia does have its attractions, and sometimes the incoming of Y2K does seem like "only yesterday," but the hyenas and jackals who blame Barack Obama for everything that's currently wrong with the USA are both infuriating and depressing. If depression is anger turned inward, this may be a contradiction in terms. As long as I'm infuriated, I'll know I'm not catatonically depressed. As far as I'm concerned, the jury's still out on Obama. Blaming Obama is so much easier than even beginning to acknowledge how very deeply screwed up this country is.

The turning point of my year, the most important, portentous event, has to have been the death of my sourdough starter at the very end of March. Talk about timely kicks in the butt! Mud of the Place was going nowhere, which is to say that the previous 10 years of my life were looking like a colossal waste. I'd expected some people to hate it, but I hadn't expected it to be almost totally ignored by both newspapers and both bookstores. There were a few encouraging signs, notably a wonderful interview with Ann Bassett for her Vineyard View local TV show, but by March it was clear that Mud wasn't going to achieve either of my two big goals: to get more discussion going on Martha's Vineyard, and to find me more outlets for my nonfiction. My longer-term goal was to decrease my financial dependence on editing, a trade whose value in the marketplace is dwindle-dwindle-dwindling.

So I was sliding into a deeper and deeper funk, then my sourdough starter died. The essay that grew out of that is one of the best I've ever done. Its first readers were enthusiastic, and it was shortly accepted by Trivia: Voices of Feminism, for (online) publication in its fall 2009 issue. Trivia 10, due in September, still isn't out, or up, and word from the editor has not been forthcoming, but even if it never appears it's been my lifeline for the year. I've shifted into nonfiction mode and done some good short stuff, some of which has already made it into print. I reworked and abridged "My Terrorist Eye" and am circulating it again. And I've launched into To Be Rather Than to Seem, which has me excited enough to keep going.

The money from the sale of my father's house came through in the middle of the summer. I sat on the check for about six weeks and finally took it down to the M.V. Financial Group, which is affiliated with my bank, and had them invest it for me. I held a chunk of it out, though, and through the fall did some serious advertising in both island papers. This has given Mud a new lease on life -- now I've got people coming up to me on the street and congratulating me on my book. I've also learned that plenty of people can't tell the difference between an ad and a review. This confusion has already got me one speaking gig and many compliments. I'm trying to resist the urge to explain the difference.

Whether this renewed interest will lead anywhere, who knows? Mud got favorably mentioned, with a photo, in a M.V. Times article about self-published island writers. Mud wasn't self-published, and contrary to the writer's view it's not a mystery, but the owner of Edgartown Books called its sales "phenomenal." True, the sales would only seem phenomenal to someone who didn't expect it to sell at all, and the writer of the article should have known the book isn't a mystery since he reviewed it for the paper a year ago, but hey, PR is PR, even if the article is full of misinformation.


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