Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Great River Writer's Retreat Contest

  • Read about the 2014 Great River Writer's Retreat Contest.
  • I was a 2013 winner and the Midwest Writing Center featured my photo on their announcement.
  • Beautiful grounds, peaceful lake, creative solitude, meals, and plenty of space to work.
  • Win 7 days/6 nights of relaxed writing freedom.
  • Applications accepted until May 31, 2014. Check out the details today:

Friday, April 25, 2014

Hemlock Ave.

I have to explain why I’ve used this photo of Hemlock Ave.

My husband and I drove from Davenport to Ottumwa this past Easter Sunday to spend the afternoon with his mother. We went south on Highway 218 until we got to Fairfield and then turned west on Highway 34. When we got to Jefferson County, he offered to stop at the various avenue signs that supply important names to my work-in-progress mystery novel. I got some good shots of the signs for Varnishtree and Smoketree, but missed Oakberry and Hemlock.

We’ve logged a lot of miles on Highway 34. To visit both moms, I bet we’ve averaged a round trip between Bishop Hill, IL, and Ottumwa, IA, once a month for nearly ten years.

Once leaving Illinois, Highway 34 becomes a four-lane divided highway in Iowa and it’s usually an easy drive when I have to do it solo. It offers plenty of time to spin story ideas and develop plot twists. And then I come to Jefferson County and its interesting array of signs for the crossing avenues. I’ve already mentioned a few. There are plenty of others. Most fall within the range of the typical tree names: Cedar, Beech, and Fir. But Teak? Isn’t Teak a bit of an exotic wood for the Midwest? Then comes the spice names: Nutmeg, Quince, Wintergreen. Those I can sort of rationalize, but Watercress? And my personal favorite—Tangerine. I wouldn’t mind finding out more about that one.

So, on the way home we pull to the side of the highway to give Hemlock its photo op. That only leaves one missed sign. But that one, Oakberry, is closer to New London and too far out of our way for this day.

I originally chose Oakberry as a tribute to a dear Bishop Hill friend who loves acorns. And what is an acorn? A berry from an oak tree—Oakberry. It will take a different route to get that photo.

If I’d planned better, I’d have taken all these photos before now. But planning and me…well, that’s an evolving relationship. For now, I have to settle for these photos and a start for this blog.