A Writing Conference and an Air Show

Last Thursday afternoon, a rumble of jet noise lured me away from preparations for the opening night of the 2015 Hampton Roads Writers Conference.

Air Show Sept 17

When I realized the jets over our yard were Blue Angels, I dropped my pens, notebooks, and folders and ran for my camera.

Air Show Sept 17

My fascination with jets, helicopters, and rockets traces back to childhood. My father worked for Sperry Rand, and later for United Space Boosters, Inc., so the space program loomed large in my life. We lived close enough to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center (in Huntsville, Alabama) to make field trips with school and 4-H, and when my father relocated and remarried, his new position took him to Titusville, Florida. There, during a summer visit between 9th and 10th grade, I got tantalizing glimpses of Kennedy Space Center and the Vehicle Assembly Building.

Books, television, and movies fed my aerospace fascination as I finished high school and moved on to college. Somewhere along the way, I discovered the Blue Angels.

Thursday’s flights over our house were practice runs for the Blue Angels’ appearance at the 2015 NAS Oceana Air Show, which overlapped the writing conference on Saturday but not Sunday, so I didn’t have to choose between them.

Air Show Sept 17

As usual, I arrived at the conference full of energy, eager to spend a few days in the company of writers. By Saturday afternoon my energy was dwindling toward exhaustion, but it was a happy and inspired kind of exhaustion. Here’s a list of the sessions I attended:

  • Mastering Dialogue – Princess Perry
  • Friday Keynote Address – Ellen Meister
  • Bringing Your Book to Market: Overview of Self-Publishing – Dr. Chris Kennedy
  • Copyright and Wrong: The Basics of Intellectual Property – Melissa Edwards
  • How to Give a Great Reading – Ellen Meister
  • Psychic Distance: How Close Are Your Characters – Ellen Bryson
  • Saturday Keynote Address – DeWitt Henry
  • Hit the Ground Running: Storytelling through Action, not Exposition – Heather Flaherty
  • The Business of Poetry – Renee Olander
  • Marketing Your Work – Michelle Garren Flye
  • Breaking Down Backstory – Ellen Bryson
  • What Is Paranormal Romance and Why Is It Selling So Well? – Vanessa Barger

I can’t pick a favorite from these sessions. They were all brilliant. I came home with ideas for each of my various works-in-progress, and my contest entries were returned with very helpful comments from the judges. (My fiction entry won Honorable Mention!)

Award 2015

I slept late Sunday, of course, but woke to the sound of jet noise as the Air Show moved into its final day. I hurried through feeding the cats, who were outraged that I had slept past their breakfast time, while my husband gathered our gear. Then we were out the door and on our way.

Air Show 2015

Air Show 2015

It was a beautiful way to end a perfect weekend.

A New Nest

Nest Building June 16

We’ve given up on the old nest box, which produced year after year of failure. After removing it, we decided to add a variety of nest boxes to the yard and see what works best for the birds. This little wren is testing one of the new boxes.

Nest Building June 16

I believe this is a house wren. Please comment if you can correct or confirm my identification!

Nest Building June 16

He started the nest Sunday evening, worked through the day on Monday, and has spent most of this morning singing.

Nest Building June 17

The nest looks wonderful, to me, and I hope he finds a mate who agrees.

Nest Building June 17

Video clips from Sunday evening and Monday:

Indigo’s Christmas Toys

Several years ago we purchased a set of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer toys. We bought them on a whim, because we both have fond childhood memories of watching the animated Christmas special. We didn’t know that our dog, Indigo, would claim the toys for her own. They became her favorite part of Christmas, and ours. She knew what box they were stored in, in the attic, and visited them as often as allowed during the intervals between holidays. Each November, she danced underfoot as we brought the box downstairs and unpacked “her” toys. Then she climbed onto the couch and stared at them for hours on end. Her first task every morning was to check on the toys, and she begged for us to make them sing over and over during the day.

Last year, my mother died in October. Selfish in my grief, I skipped Christmas altogether. I didn’t decorate or buy gifts. I didn’t send cards or listen to carols, and I complained about the month-long marathon of televised nostalgia.

During the year of my cancelled Christmas, Indigo aged dramatically. Her hearing loss advanced to complete deafness, and an insidious onset of distraction and anxiety altered her personality. So I shouldn’t have been surprised, today, by her muted reaction to the Rudolph toys. She danced a slow, stiff dance as I placed them on the mantel, wagged her tail as I activated them each in turn, and then wandered away in search of a warm place to nap. She has not returned to the toys, and I have not tried to remind her of them.

It seems that this part of Christmas must move into the past and take its place among all of my other holiday memories. I’m sad to lose such a simple source of joy, but I’m happy to say it’s not completely gone. Two years ago, we spent an afternoon filming Indigo with her toys, and I have this video to treasure and share…

Thread-Waisted Wasp Video

Another thread-waisted wasp. This time I got a few video clips as it dug and sealed its nesting burrow.

Final Day of Air Show

We went back to the air show on Sunday to see the final performances. Here are scenes from the F/A-18F Super Hornet Demo, John Mohr’s barnstorming in a Stearman biplane, and the Blue Angels.