Secret Life of Bees

It occurred to me that some of my readers might enjoy reading about my brush with fame. Now to write my own book that sells as many copies! I wrote the following article in 2005 telling of my experience being interviewed by Sue Monk Kidd as she did her research on beekeeping before writing The Secret Life of Bees. You can read her account of the experience on her own web page under Visit to an Apiary.

Janice Green: Secret Life of Bees has Hemingway touch

By JANICE GREEN
Morning News
Monday, April 4, 2005

My husband, Dave Green, and I were enjoying a quiet evening at home when our lives were pleasantly interrupted with an unexpected phone call.

The lady on the other end of the line said she was Sue Monk Kidd and that she had been contracted to write a novel about three spinster women who were beekeepers in the 1960s.

She said she found our names and phone number on a jar of honey in a gift shop in Charleston and wanted to know if she could visit us and pick our brains about beekeeping.

I was thrilled. I knew this was for real because I had at least heard of her. Her name was familiar from some magazines I had read.

What’s more, I had a deep desire to write books. I wouldn’t miss this opportunity for anything!

When she arrived, we sat in the honeyhouse and we shared everything we could think of about bees and beekeeping.

We discussed what beekeepers do to care for the bees, the process of gathering honey and packing it into jars to sell, what causes one batch of honey to taste different from another, bee products such as pollen and beeswax, and bees in general.

We also dressed Sue in a long-sleeved shirt and put a bee veil on her and let her see inside some bee hives to give her firsthand experience. We also gave her the URLs of our Web pages about beekeeping for information. All in all, it was a great time and one I’ll never forget.

Sue was likeable and seemed highly interested in anything we found to talk about. We even shared bee stories from before either of us became involved with beekeeping.

We later learned that she was a very private person. I once tried to contact her and did a people search on the Internet, but was unsuccessful in getting her address.

When she contacted us three years later to discuss what should be written about us on the acknowledgements page she was happy to learn that we had tried and been unsuccessful.

She was also concerned that we might not want too much information on the acknowledgements page, as too many phone calls could become a nuisance. We have had a few calls, but not so many to make us wish them away.

When “The Secret Life of Bees” was published, we went to several stores before we could find a copy. We finally found one in Charleston where she was featured as a local author.

Within a couple of months we were seeing them everywhere. We pored over the book to see if she had gotten the beekeeping part of the story accurately, and were pleased to see that she was correct right down to a lot of the details. Dave and I had a few extra thrills reading it as we discovered bits and pieces of our past woven into the storyline.

At the time of Kidd’s visit Dave and Janice Green had the largest beekeeping operation in South Carolina. It had been focused primarily on pollination service for area farmers, but had attempted branching out into honey packing and distribution into North and South Carolina – an ill-fated venture, since a flood of cheap imported Chinese honey soon dominated the market and put a lot of honey-producers out of business.

The Greens sold their bees and pollination business three years ago, though Janice keeps a few hives for her own enjoyment. Dave is the editor of The Weekly Observer.

Let us know what you think of this story(Surprise the Florence Morning News by following this link.)

Copyright © 2005 by Janice Green

 

Facing retirement

Have the golden years arrived yet? I’m facing, perhaps prematurely, my retirement in two weeks and have a lot of mixed feelings about it. This came about partly because at 62 years of age I was unwilling to spend two hours a day driving on country roads with little or no cell-phone reception to get to the school I had been assigned to when my school was closed permanently.

But I’ve been wishing I could retire to become a full-time writer for two or three years now. I want to go at it seriously before I get too senile to be able to do pull it off. So here I am with my feet on the ground and my head in the clouds.

I’m very excited about one thing… I have received a scholarship to attend the Florida Christian Writers Conference this coming February. I hope my readers will say a prayer for me – that I will be able to order my steps so that I will be productive with my time, and that I will be able to walk so close to Jesus that I will have no doubts about where he is leading me.

Getting inspired to write

I’ve made up my mind to become a serious writer and am spending a lot more time at my computer with that in mind but writer’s block is very real. I can sit here and think and think until I sink into sleep…  again. I’ve gone to bed very late several nights in a row because I fell asleep at the computer trying so very hard to accomplish some writing.

I was struggling with this again last Thursday evening when I decided on a different approach. I got up from the computer, went outside and began walking around my house. Since I was writing for children, I focused on how I felt about the topic I was writing on when I was a child. I continued sorting out memories and what would and wouldn’t fit into the specific theme I needed to write on. I kicked the leaves and twigs as I tried to go back in time and then called my dog. It was my dog that actually was the catalyst that brought a workable story to my mind. I went back into the house, sat at my computer and soon had my story written out. I’ve made several revisions and received a couple of critiques on it by now.  Soon I’ll be putting it into the mail.

So what have I learned? When I get writer’s block I must get up and shuffle about and loosen up my mind. Today I wrote a second article. Maybe I can get over that writers block yet.

Hopeful news

I have received notice that I have been selected as an alternate to receive one of ten scholarships to the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference on May 18-22. That doesn’t mean that I will definitely get to go, but I will get to go if one of the ten has to cancel their plans to attend. It is exciting to think of the possibility of attending.

Now it’s time to pray and wait for the word.

Too many “don’ts” and not enough “do-s”

Writing submissions and slush piles are about to drive me crazy.  I have written and crafted illustrations for a Bible storybook which I have entitled The Creation. Now I am trying to figure out which publisher(s) to submit it to.   I went to Books a Million and to Barnes and Nobles to see which Christian publishers were represented there and to locate books that were most similar to what I am writing or planning to write.  Then I went home and looked up what I thought were the best matches in my Children’s Writers and Illustrators Marketto learn the particulars on how to submit my manuscript.  Every publisher I had selected was either not included in the book or had statements saying they were not accepting unsolicited or un-agented manuscripts. 

I cried. 

I posted my frustrations on my writing groups’ forums. 

I’ve been advised to attend conferences so I can “pitch” my manuscripts directly to some publishers.  I’ve only attended one such conference, and at that conference we were told specifically not to try to pitch our manuscripts to the publishers present.  We were told that it was rude.  But the lady I shared my motel room with encouraged me to look for Christian conferences.   I can’t afford the conference in Florida that she recommended, but I plan to apply for a scholarship for one that is closer to where I live and hope I will be able to get off work to attend it.  That one isn’t until May. 

Another option that was suggested to me was to send my manuscript to The Writer’s Edge.  If it was good enough it would be pitched to the publishers.  I studied their web page and everything looked good.  I was willing to spend the money to get a foot in the door with these publishers, and was preparing my manuscript and filling out the form to send it in.  Then I did a search on one of my forums and found all the reasons why I shouldn’t waste my money on it.  I’m looking a little at another similar writers’ service, but they expect money up-front as well.  The writers on the forum said that they heard publishers say at the conferences that they seldom look at the pitches on the printouts they get from these places.  I almost cried except I was relieved I didn’t have to spend all that money.

So here I sit at ground zero with a manuscript that I think is absolutely wonderful and I’m wondering how I’m going to get an editor to even look at it.  I don’t have a string of published work to brag on though I’ve done a lot of writing.  I have written feature articles for newspapers and have self-published some family books.  I was published once in a take-home story paper through the United Methodist Publishing House, but that was several years ago. 

I worked at the UMPH a short time while everyone still used typewriters and from that experience I understand about the slush piles.  I have personally separated the junk from the usable material for one of the editors there.  I also know that if I had sent something that had the quality of the book I am submitting, it would have been considered seriously.   

I suspect that the use of computers to make writing and editing your work easier before printing it on paper has played a major part in the tremendous slush piles that have become a burden to the editors.  It was my interest in writing that led me to spend over $2,000 for one of the first IBM PCs thinking which I thought I would use forever.  That was the first of many computers I have owned, my next one was a fantastic step up with a  hard drive that held a whole 40MG–enough room for all my software and files!  Unfortunately there have been many distractions in my life coupled with bad advice (like don’t send your best manuscripts first), and I have failed to persist in submitting the manuscripts I have written.   I have always found the hardest part of writing is researching the publishers and keeping the submissions in the mail.

So here I sit, highly frustrated, wishing I could think of some way to get my manuscript on a few editors’ desks.  I have a 2008 Christian Writer’s Market on order which will be delivered in the middle of January.  It may give me some more ideas.  But my restless A.D.D. spirit wants to do something NOW.  Why do I keep learning what not to do without finding what I can do?

Too many "don'ts" and not enough "do-s"

Writing submissions and slush piles are about to drive me crazy.  I have written and crafted illustrations for a Bible storybook which I have entitled The Creation. Now I am trying to figure out which publisher(s) to submit it to.   I went to Books a Million and to Barnes and Nobles to see which Christian publishers were represented there and to locate books that were most similar to what I am writing or planning to write.  Then I went home and looked up what I thought were the best matches in my Children’s Writers and Illustrators Marketto learn the particulars on how to submit my manuscript.  Every publisher I had selected was either not included in the book or had statements saying they were not accepting unsolicited or un-agented manuscripts. 

I cried. 

I posted my frustrations on my writing groups’ forums. 

I’ve been advised to attend conferences so I can “pitch” my manuscripts directly to some publishers.  I’ve only attended one such conference, and at that conference we were told specifically not to try to pitch our manuscripts to the publishers present.  We were told that it was rude.  But the lady I shared my motel room with encouraged me to look for Christian conferences.   I can’t afford the conference in Florida that she recommended, but I plan to apply for a scholarship for one that is closer to where I live and hope I will be able to get off work to attend it.  That one isn’t until May. 

Another option that was suggested to me was to send my manuscript to The Writer’s Edge.  If it was good enough it would be pitched to the publishers.  I studied their web page and everything looked good.  I was willing to spend the money to get a foot in the door with these publishers, and was preparing my manuscript and filling out the form to send it in.  Then I did a search on one of my forums and found all the reasons why I shouldn’t waste my money on it.  I’m looking a little at another similar writers’ service, but they expect money up-front as well.  The writers on the forum said that they heard publishers say at the conferences that they seldom look at the pitches on the printouts they get from these places.  I almost cried except I was relieved I didn’t have to spend all that money.

So here I sit at ground zero with a manuscript that I think is absolutely wonderful and I’m wondering how I’m going to get an editor to even look at it.  I don’t have a string of published work to brag on though I’ve done a lot of writing.  I have written feature articles for newspapers and have self-published some family books.  I was published once in a take-home story paper through the United Methodist Publishing House, but that was several years ago. 

I worked at the UMPH a short time while everyone still used typewriters and from that experience I understand about the slush piles.  I have personally separated the junk from the usable material for one of the editors there.  I also know that if I had sent something that had the quality of the book I am submitting, it would have been considered seriously.   

I suspect that the use of computers to make writing and editing your work easier before printing it on paper has played a major part in the tremendous slush piles that have become a burden to the editors.  It was my interest in writing that led me to spend over $2,000 for one of the first IBM PCs thinking which I thought I would use forever.  That was the first of many computers I have owned, my next one was a fantastic step up with a  hard drive that held a whole 40MG–enough room for all my software and files!  Unfortunately there have been many distractions in my life coupled with bad advice (like don’t send your best manuscripts first), and I have failed to persist in submitting the manuscripts I have written.   I have always found the hardest part of writing is researching the publishers and keeping the submissions in the mail.

So here I sit, highly frustrated, wishing I could think of some way to get my manuscript on a few editors’ desks.  I have a 2008 Christian Writer’s Market on order which will be delivered in the middle of January.  It may give me some more ideas.  But my restless A.D.D. spirit wants to do something NOW.  Why do I keep learning what not to do without finding what I can do?

How to Wash Dishes Once a Week

How to Wash Dishes Once a Week
(And Get Away With It!)
© 2002, 2004 by Janice Green
It’s All About Focus…
Part I: How to leave dirty dishes in the sink until the end of the week
Part II: How to wash all those dishes at the end of the week without losing your cool.
I envy people who have spotless homes and can leave their curtains pulled back and their front doors open without shame. I’ve even taken a stab at getting it together with the help of one of the housekeeping experts, “Fly Lady” (www.flylady.com), on the Web.

But for me, I’ve decided it’s a matter of focusing on what is truly important. As a school librarian, I have a whole summer ahead of me, and I don’t want to spend it all trying to catch up on nine months of housekeeping neglect. I love projects. I love to knit and to sew. I enjoy writing and have wanted to get my writing published for years, but something always comes along to snatch my time away. This summer is going to be different!

Part 1: How to leave dirty dishes in the sink until the end of the week

Our children have left the nest so we are only washing dishes for two. If you still have children at home, you must consider a different strategy–the children take turns washing them during the week and you wash them on weekends. If the children are small, put your breakable dishes on a very high cabinet shelf and buy plastic dishes. You may need to involve your husband, especially if you have male children. He must help set the example by taking a turn once in a while. If he protests, remind him that no husband has ever been shot by his wife while washing the dishes!

If your kitchen is conspicuous to your living room or front door, move to another house or put up a three-panel screen to block the view!

Now keep in mind that the purpose in all of this procrastination is to help you focus on your “matter of great importance.” Watching TV or videos doesn’t count, neither does sitting at the computer in chat rooms. If that’s your goal, get off your derriere and wash your dishes–every day!

Plan ahead on meals and make it as easy as possible. Eat boiled eggs and yogurt for breakfast. The pan doesn’t need washing, just empty it out and put it up. Once a week prepare a large pot of goulash or stew. Then cover the leftovers, still in the pot, and put them in the fridge. The next day dip out what you need and heat it up in the microwave. Also keep plenty of hot dogs, pot pies, and TV dinners available to avoid making a big mess cooking. Eat lots of fruit and raw vegetables such as carrots, celery, and tomatoes. Bake potatoes on a napkin in the microwave. Napkins are great throw-away dishes! Eat out once or twice a week where you will have a good choice of vegetables to help compensate for irregularities in your diet.

A major problem in this plan can be one of running out of dishes before the week is up. Take an inventory to be sure you have a reasonable number of plates, bowls, glasses, and silverware. If you don’t have at least service for 8-12, you may need to add to your supply. Keep in mind those dishes you use most and buy extras. You may also have to learn to settle for a plate instead of a bowl for goulash.

It is forgivable to make up a very small amount of dishwater in a bowl or large cup to dawdle out a few clean spoons or a few bowls or glasses. But remember, this is only for the purpose of enabling you to focus on your “matter of great importance.” No fair if you are only watching the soaps.

Managing the sink may become a problem as the dishes pile up. It helps to keep all the dirty dishes on one side of a double sink as much as possible so you can still wash your hands and fill a glass with water without bumping into other dishes. It also helps to make some attempt at keeping them stacked in an orderly way.

OK! So far, so good. You are approaching the end of the week. The second sink is beginning to accumulate dishes and there is probably a shortage of countertop space by the sink as well by now. You are ready for Part II.

Part II: How to wash all those dishes at the end of the week without losing your cool.

Visually size up the mess. Don’t start stacking and re-arranging yet, it can be too overwhelming and you might just walk away and never come back. Before your husband divorces you over this, you must keep your cool.

Locate your largest container, preferably a dirty pan like your goulash pot that holds a gallon of liquid. That is the first thing you will wash. First rinse out any loose mess, and then fill it with hot dishwater. If you don’t have one such container among your dirty dishes, use a clean one. Balance it by setting it at the front of your double sink with the side farthest away from you supported by the divider. That should provide stable support. Then pick out the largest, most obnoxious pieces to wash next. These are the pieces that fill up your dish rack so fast it will make your head swim. Mixing bowls, plastic storage containers, yogurt cups you are saving for temporary flower pots, pans… These pieces are the ones that are always in your way, so don’t save them ’til last, get them washed, and out of your way. It’s amazing how quickly this will trim the rest of the job down to size. This is also a good time to pick out your silverware and wash it, though it can wait with the other dishes as well. Finish washing the big pan, dry it and put it away.

Now you have more wiggle space and you can begin to stack and get your sink ready for more serious dishwashing. Put everything in one side of the sink while you rinse out the other side eliminating the gunky stuff you don’t want in your dishwater. Then fill the empty side with dishwater and transfer your dishes into it beginning with silverware if you haven’t already washed it, then dinner plates, smaller plates and ending with glasses.

While these dishes are soaking, dry the odd dishes and pans in your dish rack. They should have had time to partially dry already, especially if you rinsed them in very hot water. The hotter your dishes get when you rinse them, the faster they dry. Always keep this in mind when you are in a hurry. Don’t dry yogurt cups and stuff like that–give them a shake and set them out on your table to finish drying, or better yet, throw them away–you really don’t need them anyway.

Wash your glasses next and put them steaming hot into the dish rack, bottoms up. As they begin to drip dry, wash the bowls. Then back to the glasses, dry only the outside of the glasses and the top rim and put them right side up in your cabinets. They can finish drying there as easily as in your dish rack and nothing wet is touching the cabinet. Next rinse your bowls in steamy hot water and space them out across your dish rack to maximize the air flow around them as you begin washing your plates. Put plates in the rack so they stand up straight–don’t lean them against one another or they will take much longer to dry. Hand dry only as much as necessary to get them into the rack.

Somewhere at this point in the process you may want to take a short break. Treat yourself to a bowl of strawberry shortcake or ice cream while you can still wash the bowl and spoon. That gives you a head start on next week’s dishes. (Then again, you could just eat out of the container and only have to wash the spoon.) But beware, if you are inclined to forget to return to the task at hand you may need to skip the break, or tie yourself to the faucet with a long string so you won’t forget to return.

If you still have silverware to wash, it should be next. Then catch any odd pieces you may still have overlooked the first time around. Wash the counter tops, the stove top, empty and rinse your sink, and then wipe it dry ’til it shines–for the “Fly Lady!”

The first time you try this, you may have to keep your mind on the method, but once you are practiced up at it you may be able to plan your next great project from beginning to end or think through an article to write about as you wash so many dishes. How do you think I thought this one up?

Keep in mind that the only way you will ever get away with this excuse for putting off washing dishes is that you are making time to do your “matter of great importance.” Religious people fast to find more time to focus on God. Think of this procrastination as a “fast” of a different sort that enables you to focus on something really great. Reach for the stars!!!

Fasting…, hmmm, now there’s a thought… Maybe we can get this down to washing dishes every other week!