Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Ode to the Librarian Revised

 Ode to the Librarian

By Mary R. Davidsaver


The forecast calls for a fine hot Iowa day.

Dog walkers pass by on their early rounds.

A dragonfly hovers over my garden.

Gold finches dart between host and nectar plants.

I savor a light caress of coolness,

Before the heaviness of corn sweat descends.


One Monarch touches down on a milkweed leaf.

Then quickly launches itself at another.

I left those “weeds” to stand tall and straight this year.

If prairie winds knock a few down,

I save the leaves to feed caterpillars.

Not so many this season.  


Few found my urban spot.

A small space devoted to Monarchs.

My contribution to raising migration numbers.

This morning I released six new butterflies.

A milestone for this meager year.

I share that on this day of remembrance.


The day we gather to celebrate a life of service.

Honoring a librarian to generations of children.

Who nurtured their curiosity with books.

Gave them a peek into the author’s craft.

Sent them out into a world not of their own making.

They have the chance to challenge, to create, to change.


Six Monarchs flying into the unknown.

Each having the chance to make a difference.

I knew little of the librarian’s life.

Only enough to know she would be pleased.

She always had a ready smile and a kind thought.

Happy to share a moment of joy with any one of us. 

Saturday, August 20, 2022

2022 Monarch Releases


I have released 26 Monarchs as of 8/20 with 2 in the chrysalis stage and one still munching on leaves. I have a Monarch momma out in the garden still laying eggs. Which is good since we had a late start to the season in the Davenport, Iowa area because cool spring weather.

I released this year’s first Monarch on 7/25. Last year I had released 23 before that date.

I collect eggs laid outside in my suburban garden dedicated to milkweed and from other people who ask me to take in their eggs.

Last year, I lost a lot of caterpillars with them turning black and dying. I had one with OE. I also had caterpillars parasitized.

This year, I’ve only lost three to turning black and dying: one hatchling, one large cat, one in a chrysalis on the second day. No sign of OE this year. No parasites.

I took in four large cats, close to final stage, just to see how they are doing health wise in the main garden. I believe that is where my failures came from. (I had them isolated in containers.) The hatchling came from nearby and was one of four eggs I hatched. I’m not sure if it died because of something I did or didn’t do. I have had trouble in the past with hatching eggs, leaves drying up too soon. I did better this year with daily moisturizing small individual leaf sections with each egg and placing them on whole leaves, everything stayed viable longer. I then placed the hatchlings on milkweed cuttings I gathered from the yard (escapees from the garden area). This was very much like the racks of test tubes that are sold on some sites, only I’m using small bottles.

I began noticing the differences between caterpillars last year and figured out which ones were going south, or somewhere else. It’s interesting that the majority of my released butterflies this year have been larger females and are not staying around. Out of 26, I’ve seen 5 males. Not like past years at all.

I’ve had a registered Monarch Waystation since 2014 and started raising caterpillars in 2019 when I got tired of not seeing any adult butterflies.

Monday, August 15, 2022

A Review Of: The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing by Richard Hugo


What I want to remember:
"A poem can be said to have two subjects, the initiating or triggering subject, which starts the poem or 'causes' the poem to be written, and the real or generated subject, which the poem comes to say or mean.... [discovery]. C1, P4

"Once you have a certain amount of accumulated technique, you can forget it in the act of writing. Those moves that are naturally yours will stay with you and will come forth mysteriously when needed." C2, P17 [I've tried calling it training the unconscious/subconscious parts of the brain. And yes, they will be there when you need them.]

"No semicolons. Semicolons indicate relationships that only idiots need defined by punctuation. Besides, they are ugly." C5, p40 [:)

Nuts and Bolts, chapter 5, was my favorite chapter.

Chapter 4, page 30, gives us the writing exercise from Hell. Hugo goes on to insist it often got his students to produce their best work.

Other quotes worth remembering:
"You are someone and you have a right to your life." C6, P65
"Writing is a way of saying you and the world have a chance. All art is failure." C7, P72 [Don't be so hard on yourself.]

I found this little book helpful for those occasions when I pretend to be a poet. It's useful for the other times as well.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Bouchercon 2022


I’m the author of two cozy mysteries set in the village of Bishop Hill, a former communal society of Swedish immigrants founded in 1846 on the Illinois prairie of Henry County. I consider that place and its history as important to my work as any other character.

I haven’t been to a big mystery-based conference since the solar eclipse almost overlapped Killer Nashville in 2017. I was part of a panel then, I don’t recall the exact title, probably due to the last-minute changes that shuffled me off in a different direction from my original request. I’ve waited months to find out how I’d fare with my Bouchercon 2022 panel placement.

When I first looked through the list of my fellow panel members for the upcoming Bouchercon in Minneapolis, I couldn’t figure out why B. A. Shapiro seemed so familiar. I went to my bookshelf, to the area where I keep the special books, the ones I used for reference, background, and fact checking—and there she was!

The Art Forger was one of the few books I’ve ever allowed myself to mark up. I remembered how her information on noted forgers of the past and the prevalence of forgeries in general were eye opening and aided the development of my forger in Clouds Over Bishop Hill, my first cozy mystery.

I checked through my blog posts and found that Shapiro and The Art Forger came to my attention through a library sponsored book club. I went on to mention her and the book three times on posts between 2014 to 2015, basically the time period between NaNoWriMos, National Novel Writing Months. I credited her with helping me work with POVs and providing some technical terminology. Much needed since I didn’t have a strong background in painting.

This time around I and my book are part of a panel that will discuss the merits of The Mystery of Multiple Points of View and Multiple Timelines.


Along with B.A. Shapiro (The Art Forger), I’ll be sharing space with

Marty Ambrose (Lord Byron Mystery series),

William Boyle (Shoot the Moonlight Out),

Julie Carrick Dalton (Waiting for Night Song),

and Stanley Trollip (Wolfman), as moderator.

[These titles only represent a small sampling.]


This Bouchercon conference might be the best ever for me. I can’t imagine having a better experience than spending quality time with these authors.


Bouchercon 2022 Minneapolis, September 8-11

Find links for Clouds Over Bishop Hill and Shadows Over Bishop Hill at:

Or find me at the conference.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Ode to Rochelle A. Murray, Aug 6, 2022


The forecast calls for a fine hot Iowa day.

Dog walkers pass by. Out for early rounds.

Same with gold finches. A dragonfly hovers over my garden.

All savor the light touch of coolness. Before the heaviness of corn sweat descends.


One Monarch visits the blooming plants. Briefly rests on milkweed leaves.

I left them to stand tall and straight this year.

The prairie winds have knocked a few down. I save the leaves to feed caterpillars.

Not so many this year. Only a few Monarchs found my urban spot.


I devote my small garden to Monarchs.

It’s my contribution to raising the migration.

Today I released six new butterflies.

I share that with you on the day we gather to remember Rochelle.


To celebrate her life of service as a librarian to children.

Who nurtured their curiosity with books. Gave them a peek into the author’s craft.

Then out into a world not of their own making. Six butterflies fly into the unknown.

They all have the chance to challenge to change to make a difference.


I only knew a little of Rochelle’s life.

Just enough to know she would be pleased.

She was always there with a smile and a kind thought.

She’d be happy to share a moment of joy with any one of us.

Releasing a Monarch butterfly at Davenport's Fairmount Library.

July 29, 2018

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Editing and Gardening


I’ve done a lot of gardening throughout this spring and early summer. Started out with the usual need to finish clearing out the leftovers of winter. Trimming back the plant stalks I left standing for over-wintering insects. Hopefully for the kinds I want. I wonder sometimes when I see countless numbers of orange beetle-like bugs working at making countless more of their kind just waiting to descend on the uppermost leaves of my milkweed plants. I need those tender leaves for momma Monarchs to lay their eggs on. But I digress.

This year’s gardening tasks took an interesting turn when I was asked to be part of the Grace Lutheran Garden Walk. Really. I never thought of my little corner plot as all that interesting, but what my husband started as a Valentine’s Day gift ten years ago has evolved. Early on I was challenged to think of a theme for my small space and quickly settled on the needs of Monarch butterflies. I once captured a Monarch for a high school science project. That was well before anyone had documented their impressive migration. I chose to turn my little plot into an official Monarch Waystation. You may call it an act of atonement. The website I turned to was:

To spruce up for the garden walk I got nice edging installed around my corner spot, which, in turn, gave me a little more space to work with. Since the garden walk theme focused on wildflowers and native plants, I could let my milkweed expand without worrying about them standing out so much. Early on I did try to camouflage them. Not an easy thing to do. It’s gratifying that people have come to appreciate my gardening attempts. The same is true of Monarch mommas: they visit, they lay eggs, I collect some to bring inside to ensure that I have adults to release in time for the migration south. My best source of information on raising the numbers for the migration is:

Gardening, like all things, has its ups and downs. This spring was wet, cold, and stubbornly late. That delayed the arrival of Monarchs for my eastern Iowa area. By early July in 2020 I had released eight adults; in 2021 the count was seven. This year I’ve yet to release any. In fact, I am totally relieved that I have six Monarch caterpillars to feed. I had been dreading the thought of a butterfly-less year. Believe it or not, in my few years of urban gardening I have seen a sharp decrease in butterflies and bees. It’s plain to me that anyone gardening for host plants and/or nectar plants for pollinators is doing a service for all of us.

Back to my title. How does editing relate to gardening?

Okay, I digressed a lot. To be fair, I did stick with an insect theme for four paragraphs. But all the time I spent in the garden planting the new, removing the old, rearranging things to improve the focal points made me think of my recent rounds of editing the written words of manuscripts and short stories. It all comes down to making decisions, choosing the changes that will improve the whole. We humans are good at sculpting our world, bending the real and the imaginary to our wills. You might call it synergy: the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

We should always try to make the story better—to make our stories better.



[P.S. I’ve had good luck with Rest Cloud and Vivosun mesh cages for butterfly habitats.]

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Favorite Bookmark #8


Steve Semken, the publisher of Ice Cube Press, recently celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of his vision for showcasing Iowa and rural America in stories, poetry, and books. I met him at the MWC’s David R. Collins Writers’ Conference one year when he was listening to book pitches. 

Ice Cube Press, North Liberty, Iowa, has supported many regional poets and authors. The poetry of Salvatore Marici is a notable example. Ice Cube Press has published most of Sal’s work, such as: Fermentations and Swish Swirl & Sniff.

Favorite Bookmark #7


Susan Furlong is a regional writer of cozy mysteries. Reading her first book in the Georgia Peach Mystery series gave me a taste for peach salsa. Plus, a very practical tip on how to thaw out frozen fruit. All that on top of an interesting mystery set in a small town. I find it always helpful to see how other authors handle the close-knit chumminess of small communities.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Favorite Bookmark #6


This bookmark is from a writers’ group that meets in Muscatine. The typewriter makes it a favorite. I used an old Underwood at one time. I recall the stuck keys, the messy ribbons that jammed up and left the fingers ink stained. It was a great invention for its time, but I have moved on.

You can go retro if you want, I’m sticking with the word processor on my computer.

Writers On The Avenue, WOTA, meets on the third Tuesday of the month at the Musser Public Library from 6-8 pm. Find information on Facebook or at:

Monday, April 25, 2022

An Anniversary Special with some publishing tips:

Dear New Author,

The Midwest Writing Center, MWC, captured my attention sometime around 2008. It was about the time when I started writing for the Galva News. I had a great editor in Doug Boock, but I knew I had a lot to learn if my news items and features were going to get better. Julie Jenson McDonald was a columnist and feature writer for the Argus-Dispatch newspapers. She often wrote about MWC, then located on the third floor of the Bucktown Center in Davenport. The trip from Bishop Hill to Davenport for one day workshops was the best option for me at the time. Out of the usual three offerings, I could count on one or two that would meet my needs.

I was never an attentive English student in school, and I basically had to start from scratch. So, while I was catching up on what I should have known all along and learning the nuts and bolts of writing, a book about Bishop Hill percolated in the background.

When I thought it was time for me to seriously think about publishing my first book, I naturally looked to MWC Press, an imprint of the Midwest Writing Center. Along with the one-day workshops I’d been attending I splurged and enrolled in a three-month novel writing workshop. From there I gathered the courage to register for the David R. Collin’s Writers’ Conference, an annual event at the end of June. Courage was the correct word here because I began as the shy person in the back of the room afraid to raise my hand, get noticed, or be expected to speak. Breaking away from all that took time, but it did happen.

I presented my first novel, Clouds Over Bishop Hill, a cozy mystery, to a panel at the 2015 Collin’s conference and it was accepted as a MWC Press printing project. After content and line editing, it was published in Aug 2016. All that editing was very valuable for me. I still feel that it gave me the best possible book for that time.

My first foray into self-publishing came in 2017 with a slim volume of short stories. My original goal was to have a few handbound books suitable for Christmas gifts. I ran out of time and decided to use CreateSpace, since MWC Press used it. I did my own formatting and cover. I got something that was adequate.

My second journey into self-publishing came with Shadows Over Bishop Hill, the sequel to COBH. Again, pressed for time because I wanted to have it out for Bishop Hill’s 175th anniversary in 2021, I thought that since I had some experience with formatting, I’d be OK to tackle a bigger project. I was wrong. CreateSpace had turned into KDP, Kindle Direct Publishing, and was much more involved than I expected. My computer literate husband and KDP University helped me get the novel ready to publish, but it was a stressful time for me. That was just me. Others may have more computer skills than I. Just know that the pros do earn their money.

And speaking of pros, I paid professionals for cover designs or both novels. Getting blurbs for the back covers always takes time and it often comes down to politely asking an author you know well for help. Another bonus for attending workshops, conferences, and critique groups.

Marketing is a huge job for any author and doesn’t diminish no matter what kind of publishing one pursues. One of the advantages I got out of presenting to MWC Press at the 2016 DRC Writers’ Conference was their request for a marketing plan. It made me think of my possibilities. Unfortunately, all plans have been put on hold or drastically altered in the past two years of pandemic. I am still trying to cope with that.

My best advice to any new author would be to check out KDP and see if it’s a good fit. Do be aware that using Amazon ISBN numbers, while free, will limit your marketing options. Read the fine print. I created my own press and purchased my own ISBNs. KDP is my printer.

Self-publishing and hybrid publishing opportunities have grown immensely and there are options out there that I don’t know about. As frustrating as the last book was to complete, I would do it again. My advice would be to do the research and find the best opportunity for your needs.

I hope this has been helpful.

Mary D

MWC is a non-profit organization and a great asset for this area with resources for any writer, at any stage of their career. Find information at:


Favorite Bookmarks #5

This is an older bookmark for MWC, the Midwest Writing Center, a vital resource for the Quad City area. I’ve saved it because of prominent directive to Read! Write! 

The flying books are a nice bonus.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Favorite Bookmark #4


I remember Misty Urban making her own bookmarks, at least I thought of them as bookmarks. She’d print out a short story, flash fiction really, or a poem on nice paper then glued each one onto card stock. I managed to save few of those before she flew ahead to several versions of a regular type of printed bookmark.

Then she moved on to stylish versions of Victorian calling cards: many, many cards, as if one precious thing was never enough. I supposed the teacher in her could not stay still.

All this effort was for A Lesson in Manners, a collection of short stories that was my first purchase. It won her the Serena McDonald Kennedy Award.  

Of all the promotional pieces from Misty that I’ve saved, I like this bookmark the best because it begins with an “elevator pitch” that’s simple and comes perfectly to the point:

    "A how-to manual for dealing with

 love, lies, loss, and loneliness."

It's valuable lesson unto itself.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Favorite Bookmarks #3


I created this bookmark to go along with my first Bishop Hill mystery. The design was based on a postcard created by C. Hope Clark.

I met Clark through the Midwest Writing Center. It was the first year she taught a workshop at MWC’s David R. Collins Writers’ Conference, held annually in late June.

I bought her book and fell in love with the thought of using bookmarks to maybe, somehow, tempt readers to give us struggling authors reviews on Amazon and Goodreads sites. I think it worked better for her than me. But then, she has been quite prolific with writing award-winning mysteries, teaching, hosting award-winning blogs; ever being an inspiration to all of us.

I’m in the process of redesigning my bookmark to promote a new book and adding important new information for both books. The plan is to have it in time for the 

Bishop Hill Book Fair on April 2 at the Creative Commons at 309 Bishop Hill St. from 11-4 pm.

Update and Preview

Should have this double-sided bookmark ready for the bookfair.

Photo shows: on the left, my most current Bishop Hill mystery; and, on the right, my first mystery with an updated, and polite, appeal for reviews:

    "It's a fact of life for authors: 

We need reviews. 

Please consider posting a 

review to Amazon & 

Goodreads after reading."

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Favorite Bookmarks #2


What’s not to like about a Yoda bookmark? 


Originally, this was part of a panel of USPS postage stamps. I used the stamps and saved the decorative sidebar as a bookmark.

I and one of my Bishop Hill neighbors did our best to buy out all the Yoda stamps our tiny Bishop Hill post office had in stock. After going through my bookshelves, I came up with three more of my impromptu bookmarks in various conditions.

Can I say it? 

Yes, the force was with me.

Got a favorite bookmark? Please share.

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Favorite Bookmarks #1


Years ago, I participated in a panel discussion in Muscatine, IA. It was sponsored by Writer’s on the Avenue. I shared the table with Rob Cline and a couple of his writing buddies. He made his book sound so appealing that I had to buy a copy. We were wrapping up the sale of Murder by the Slice when he offered me a special bookmark. He treated it as something special, like it came from his personal stash, and he was almost loath to part with it.

Why was it so special? Not only did it look like a slice of pepperoni pizza, it SMELLED like one. Seriously, the top pepperoni has a scratch-and-sniff coating that still works after all these years. But then, I have tried to treat it like the gem it is.

It became my all-time favorite bookmark even if it was lacking in a few basic details. Like any printed information about the book, the author, the publisher, the ISBN number, stuff like that. I can accept those deficiencies because I’ve never run across anything like it since. And how often are writers told to use all the senses in their work? Lots. This type of bookmark just might be the perfect reminder to add a little something for the olfactory receptors. Who knows, it might help keep readers engaged … and hungry for more. 

Worked for me.


Got a favorite bookmark? Please share.

Monday, January 3, 2022

Reviewing Your Reads

I was searching through some of my old blogposts and came across my photo of a slide Gary Metivier used in a presentation at the Children’s Literary Festival in 2016. I liked the concise way it framed the essence of plotting with five Cs:

“Create a Character readers care about, in a Conflict with stakes, making Choices, whose Consequences build to a Climax.” Cheryl B. Klein, author of The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults.

I thought of using this framework for a review when I was given a copy of Bee in Her Bonnet by Jannifer Powelson.  

First draft:

Bee in Her Bonnet is Powelson’s fifth book in the Nature Station Mystery series. The first chapter introduces the character of Kristen Matthews as the owner of the Nature Station, a natural resource education and event center. It’s a business that has grown over the first four books, as has Kristen’s reputation and talent for amateur sleuthing in her central Illinois hometown of Eklund.

There is nothing better for conflict than a murder discovered the day after a bridal shower was held at the Nature Station with a visit to its brand-new pollinator garden as one of the party activities. The stakes couldn’t be higher when the white-haired relative of the soon-to-be groom appears to have fallen victim to a severe reaction to a bee sting.

Kirsten’s choices are limited. She has questions to ask. Leads to track down. Because the nice old lady’s past harbored some not so nice secrets. But Kirsten has so much help streaming in from the many locals who have come to expect great things from her detective skills. The consequences of all that help and ego boosting praise just might compromise Kirsten’s ability to make the best decisions. Who’s telling the truth? Who’s holding out on her. What is she missing?  The answers to these questions can mean life or death as she nears the climax of the action. Readers will want to know if they solved the mystery or not. I certainly didn’t. Jannifer Powelson has created a fine addition to her Nature Station Mystery series.

Second draft:

     I was introduced to Jannifer Powelson’s Nature Station Mystery series when I was given a copy of Bee in Her Bonnet to review. This is Powelson’s fifth book in the series, so I was meeting her protagonist, Kristen Matthews, at a high point in her personal life; she is engaged and has a winter wedding in her future. Kristen’s business, the Nature Station, is doing well as a natural resource education and event center. In fact, as the action opens, it is summer, and she is hosting the bridal shower for Hope Johnson, co-worker and best friend. We are introduced to a lot of people: family, friends, citizens of small town Eklund; all have potential as either victim or villain. A visit to the Nature Station’s brand-new pollinator garden is turned into a bridal shower party activity.

     The next day, Kristen and Hope are first on the scene when the white-haired relative of Hope’s soon-to-be groom appears to have fallen victim to a severe reaction to a bee sting. The stakes are high for Kristen, time is in short supply for her to find the murderer and save her best friend’s wedding day.

     But Kristen’s reputation and talent for amateur sleuthing precedes her every move. She has questions to ask. Leads to track down. It seems the nice old lady’s past harbored some not so nice secrets. Kirsten has so much help and information streaming in from the many locals who have come to expect great things from her detective skills that it just might compromise her ability to make the best decisions. Nothing is easy. Who’s telling the truth? Who’s holding out on her, and why? What is she missing? The answers to these questions could mean life or death as the murderer prepares to strike again in an ending I did not see coming.

     Friendship, family ties, and the chemistry of small town Eklund are key themes for this book. As is the author’s respect for native plants and prairies. Jannifer Powelson has created a fine addition to her Nature Station Mystery series.


Book reviews and star ratings are important gifts for authors. I always try to write something about the books I read and then post to Amazon and Goodreads. The more popular titles of well-established authors don’t need as much help as local, regional authors of small presses or the self-published. For those, I make an extra effort.