Nope, you did not read that title wrong. This spring and summer, I toiled on my first non-fiction (clueless at first) while creating my first big gardens (also clueless at first).
When I began writing, publishing a non-fiction piece was one of my goals; after all, non-fiction, self-help, and how-to books are what I generally read. The areas I wanted to explore through non-fiction were women’s empowerment, emotional healing (for everyone), healthier living through nature, and relationship violence prevention. These areas have been cornerstones of my entire career and volunteer history.
Upon entering the writing field, creative energy was burning through me. I had to write, the need undeniable. I think I used writing as a form of therapy. I am pleased to say it worked. While I would not say I am normal (such a boring word though, right?), I am no crazier now than I was four years ago.
Back then (four years ago), when the writing bug bit me, I sensed that composing a non-fiction piece would be a research-laden, information gathering, data collecting job of a mother-loving project. I was up for it, but first I needed to express the pent up emotion and passion I was feeling in order to focus. I made a decision to push the non-fictions aside in order to pump out romance novels.
I told myself that as soon as I released the pent up emotion and passion, I would move on to non-fiction. It took three years and fifteen romance novels (most adult themed) to reduce it to a manageable level. (Honestly, I did not know I had that much passion in me but, hey, my publisher was happy, and I stayed out of trouble behind a computer).
Once I got it all out, I focused on one of my original goals: non-fiction.
At the same time, I began creating a small farm with a homesteading partner. He knew poultry care, and taught me. I took on the raising and care of our egg-laying hens, and the flock of meat birds (turkeys). Swinging my wicker basket to gather the eggs, and singing the ‘A tisket, A tasket, eggs in my basket’ song (yeah, I improvised) is one of the few things that will get me out of the house before black coffee.
My homesteading partner also had experience running equipment, and knowing how machinery often ‘malfunctioned’ when I used them, he did not teach me that, and kept me away from the tool shed for everyone’s safety. I am okay with that. He can play with oil, chains, metal, and noise. I will stick with squawking hens and garden pests.
He knew a bit about farming corn, but not much about any other vegetable, so I pretty much took on the gardening with the help of stacks of library books, and good old Google. This is where his equipment skills really came in handy. Rototilling a 20×30 plot with a snazzy noisy rototiller was way more efficient than my puny shovel and hand tiller.
So there I was, putting a new book onto the page, while putting new seeds into the ground. I tried to divide my time equally. Although when the veggies matured, I was in the gardens more than my office. But hey, one needs fuel to write, right? Baking loaves of zucchini bread, simmering vats of blueberry jam (what a mess), pickling just about anything that looked edible (just eat it, don’t ask), and turning almost every herb or vegetable into a muffin was essential to fuel the writer.
Writing non-fiction and working in the gardens were very similar. For both endeavors, I checked out every available library book on the subject. One librarian even emailed me when I missed my usual Friday visit two weeks in a row. She hoped nothing was wrong (that’s when you know you’re a nerdy bookworm).
I began both projects in overdrive. I gathered all my notes and sat (hard for me at times), and tapped away at the keyboard until my butt hurt or until my eyes blurred, whichever came first. I contacted friends, past coworkers, and conducted online surveys to gather data (lots of data!). I researched every angle of my book. After three tedious weedings—I mean edits—I have enough material left over for another book.
As for the farming, I bought enough seeds to feed a small community of rotund vegetarians. I did draw plans for plant placement in the three plots. I was so excited when planting time came (long winter and all) that I veritably danced down the rows flinging seeds here and there. It was a whirlwind of spring sunshiny fun. However, when the plants began to grow, despite my (ahem) careful planning, things were popping up in the wrong places. From that point it was called the mystery garden. It became a game of name that veggie or herb. And occasionally, is it a weed?
It took a good two months to sort everything out and redo the garden schematics. Kinda fun, but kinda not. As with my research data for the book, there was abundance. I am happy to report that we will not run out of basil, potatoes, or kale—for the next millennium.
Both jobs pushed me to the limit (creatively, physically, and emotionally). Writing always pushes my limit, but the farming did so equally. Don’t laugh, losing an entire crop of pumpkins to something chomping their wee little heads off was distressing, never mind the squirrels that pillaged the corn like pirates. I became adept at setting traps to catch the buggers, kind of turned into Wyle E. Coyote in my pursuits. Many critters were relocated, until the one varmint I hadn’t considered moseyed into one of the traps: Pepé Le Pew. After a good dousing of essence of skunk, my trapping days were over.
Writing and farming required gads of time. I fell into a routine of homesteading all day, and henpecking all night (mmhm, I type with two fingers). I weeded my book in synch with my gardens. I edited the gardens in synch with my book. There was a sweet synchronicity on the days I harvested this or that crop, and would complete a chapter.
Early winter is the scheduled publication for the book. Until then it will be more editing, and more work. The crops will need more weeding, more picking, and more storing, and in the meantime, I look forward to the publication. At that point the last of the crops will be harvested, the soil turned, and the land put to bed for the winter. Then I can rest.
Maybe. I just got a new seed catalog in the mail, and that next book ain’t gonna write itself. Bah, who am I kidding. Rest is nice, but so is work. Besides, someone’s gotta feed the wildlife around here.
About May Woodworth
A self-proclaimed ‘nature girl’ and avid traveler, May weaves her love of the outdoors in all of her tales. May began exploring the US and the Canadian Maritime at the age of 16, leaving her Boston roots to travel cross country and camp throughout Nova Scotia, the northwest woods of Oregon, the southern beaches of California, and everything in between. While pursuing a career in human services and raising a family, she also volunteered for countless organizations pertaining to ecology and wildlife conservation.
“After a very busy and fulfilling life I have now carved out time to explore my new found passion: writing. I hope my writing brings readers a diversion from everyday life because that’s what it does for me. When I write I slip into another world. Time has no meaning. Dimensions blur. Combine. In that other world there is the greatest reward. Greater than happiness. Peace.”
Buy May’s book, Heart of the Hurricane, HERE!