Saturday, January 20, 2007

Catching Up, Working on Tax Records, and Keeping Priorities Straight

At our first 2007 Southern Illinois Writers Guild meeting on Thursday night, we followed our usual critique pattern started by Linda Allen, when she was president. We gather in a large circle and give self introductions as we go around the circle. We might tell about current writing projects or successes or other brief tidbits. If writers want to read a short piece of writing, they have a willing audience. After a kind volunteer with the watch calls time, then even briefer time is allowed for comments from that audience. Although we call it Critique Night, we might more accurately call it Sharing Night, for there is not time for any real critique. The experience of reading work aloud is very important for writers. I’m especially pleased that we can offer this opportunity to our college student members at the beginning of their careers.

Although I did not read this time, I did show Pat Evans’ new book published by Violet Toler’s new publishing house Wayside Publishing. We have needed someone in our area to start such a publishing business for those who don’t want to start their own house to self-publish.

I admitted to the group that I had been focusing on the holiday and family the last six weeks and have written little other than on my blogs. I had no more than explained that I write on Sunday night on AmazonConnect and on Wednesday night here on blogspot when I realized I had not written on blogspot the night before. So here I am catching up again.

What I was doing instead of blogging on Wednesday night was one of my least favorite activities in life--working on records. I hate keeping records--although I enjoy looking at them after I force myself to finish them. I know we can learn a lot from records--like how much I spent on travel expense to a signing where I only sold one book, for example. And how much the “freebies” on one website add up to over the course of a year since I have to pay a substantial postage and handling fee. With gas so high, expenses far outweigh income, so I’m struggling to come up with a year that will show profit. As I understand it, I cannot even count the losses on income tax unless I make a profit three years out of five. Although I only write part time, I don't consider my writing a hobby.

Since I am not getting rich as a writer, right now I comfort myself when I am able to donate a book to a good cause as I did today for a young student’s blind auction to raise money for a mission trip. Also comforting is when someone tells me how much they have liked reading my book. That is my profit. Yes, I have every fan letter in a scrapbook. And one of my favorite memories of my entire life will always be the Murphysboro farm wife who came up to me at this year’s AutumnFest at John A. Logan and told me in great detail how much she loved reading my book. That joy cannot be measured in dollars and cents. I am glad I achieved my retirement dream of finally having a book on the shelf with my name on it.

Sometimes reaching a dream is more important than anything else. A phone call earlier in the week told me that Lori Parks was closing her consignment store in our village--The Cluttered Corner with its many rooms filled with artistically arranged shelves and tables of crafts, antiques, and collectibles. Like all consignment shops, there are always many bargains there. Now she is busy getting vendors to mark down their prices. By February, the store should be full of even greater bargains for fortunate shoppers.

We are going to miss Lori’s business in our community, and she is mourning the dream she successfully started and enjoyed for almost two years. Always positive, Lori looks to the future grateful that she has had such good experiences in life before she is 30. Now she is focusing on the extra time she is going to achieve to enjoy and care for her family as Shannon works at his new sawmill business near their home, and she spends even more quality time with their son Levi.

I remember well the excellent article Lori wrote for Tammy Waters’ community newspaper when Levi was born. She wanted the community as well as her family to be educated on Levi’s medical condition and all the surgeries he would be going through. A talented homemaker, business woman, and writer, Lori will no doubt accomplish many more dreams in the coming decades. I picked up my checks for the books she had sold for me and my unsold books. I left the store knowing that while profits are important, family priorities can be even more important.

Running on up the road to our village library, I got to visit with my friend Loretta and get some books for winter pleasure. Pleasure is also sometimes as important as profits.

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