BookScapes: What’s Your Pleasure?

By now, you probably know that (starting Aug 7) I’m moving my monthly newsletter (All About Thyme) and my blogs (LifeScapes, BookScapes) to Place & Thyme, on Substack. The books and resources will still be right here, of course, and I’ll cross-post here a couple of times a month. But community sharing is easier and more private on Substack than it is on the open web. I’m looking forward to the move.

Over the years, I’ve posted only occasionally to BookScapes, and on Substack, I want to do more. I’ve thought of lots of options and possibilities—now, I’d like some feedback from you. Here are some of the ideas I’ve been playing with.

Book reviews, book sharing, reading group. On BookScapes, I’ve written about books I found interesting, like Tom Hanks’ recent novel, as well as interviewing authors whose work I especially appreciate. Over on Facebook, I’ve been hosting a Saturday book party, where we trade reading lists. At Story Circle, I’ve hosted book groups, where we read a book and discuss it. Would you like to see more of this? If we created a reading group (a book a month or every couple of months, with online chat), do you think you might participate?

Writing. Yours. I’ve written a book about the memoir process (Writing From Life), compiled a collection of writing prompts, and taught a gazillion writing courses for the Story Circle Network. a women’s writing organization I founded in 1997 and which gains more energy every year. Anybody interested in prompts, writing how-to, ways to explore your writing interests?

Writing. Mine. Each of my book series (Pecan Springs, Darling Dahlias, Cottage Tales, Robin Paige, Hidden Women, the early YAs) has a backstory and an inside story. If you’d like to know more about the books, I’m glad to share, if that’s your pleasure.

Publishing. I started writing commercially in my early twenties. Over the decades since, the publishing universe has experienced tectonic changes—more changes, really, than at any time since 1440, when Gutenberg invented moveable type. I typed the first story I sold on a pre-WW2 Royal typewriter, before the word “pixel” was invented. I submitted it through the U.S. mail, before the internet was anything more than the bright idea of a handful of scientists wanting to share their research. Now, a new technological change seems to come along every ten minutes. How have these changes affected writers, readers, publishers? Want to explore some of that?

New writing. I’d like to spend more time on short fiction, maybe spinoffs from the series (Dahlias, Pecan Springs, Hidden Women) as well as other things. I could share it in serial form. Interested?

Your turn. When you have a minute or two, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you’d like to see in a regular edition of BookScapes, over at Place & Thyme. You can either use the comment space below or the contact page. And if you haven’t subscribed to Place & Thyme, now might be a good time to do it.

Reading note. A writer only begins a book. A reader finishes it.–Samuel Johnson


32 comments on “BookScapes: What’s Your Pleasure?

  1. Has Suzanne Simard’s Finding the Mother Tree been mentioned here? It certainly fits the “work of people who spend time with nature” criterion.

  2. I loved those badgers, Nancy–my favorite characters in that series. I’ve thought about 1940s Dahlias, but that world was so different in so many ways. Not sure we really want to go there.

  3. I love the darling dahlia series. I am hoping it goes on to the 40’s! I found your writing with the Beatrix potter series. It reminds me of the Thornton w. Wilder books I read as a kid. The community of the fordst animals, especially the Brockery and Prof. Owl. 😊

  4. You may need to sign-up and login. I have found it to be safe and a good source of interesting reads without being in your face continually and it’s free!
    The current post will pop-up once you are in.
    There also was a recent post on AI that was easy reading and thoughtful. The man reads like most of us breathe. 🙂

  5. Sandy, do you have a link for that Gates post? Yes, author interviews are on the possibles list–so many attractive options, may be a challenge to fit them all in!

  6. Bill Gates has a post today at Gates Notes regarding Alzheimer – with a lighter side. It might be a useful starting point for that topic and caregiving. It reminded me that I forgot to mention in my earlier post that I really enjoyed your recent interviews. I would love to hear/read more interviews. Like one with Gates, and several other well-known people getting on in years! Maybe a series of author interviews?

  7. Thanks for subscribing, Nancy! All are welcome, free/paid, whatever. And yes, the newsletters will show up in your email box, where you can read them, instead of clicking onto the web.

    But no, it’s not about money in the end. Everybody will have just as much free content from me as they’ve had since the late 1990s: a couple of posts a month. It’s about creating an intentional community where we can have a conversation that is not on the open web but behind a wall–a wall about the height of a double quarter pounder with cheese. 🙂

  8. I’m not sure I know where Place and Thyme will show up ? Will it be in my email? I did subscribe but only for the free ones. Unfortunately I cannot afford anything else. And here I thought being a fan was free! Imagine that. Its always all about money in the end.

  9. Pam, I’m reading BUTTERFLY and enjoying it (managed to get an ARC). What intrigued me most was the marketing phrase “true-crime novel.” First time (I believe) that I’ve seen that–and it struck me as reminiscent of Capote (IN COLD BLOOD as the “first nonfiction-novel”). BUTTERFLY rewards a careful read–it would be fun to do that together. Glad you’ll be joining us over at Substack. I think we share many common interests.

  10. First and foremost I will always read what you write first, Susan! Even as I’m going back through the earlier China books on Audible, I see why I love your writing style, and not only that, you keep things fresh with your research and knowledge about what’s going on around you/us. So I will always read your writing, whether backstories or new.

    I’m interesting in what is going on the publishing world. Due to the Internet, I am friends with a few of my favorite authors, and I like to see what you all are having to deal with.

    I enjoy your book reviews and your book sharing posts. I’m intrigued by a reading group. I’ve never been part of a reading group, but I would consider being part of one you create.

    I have written non-fiction for the historical association I worked for, and I love to write. I am interested in your writing prompts, how-tos, and exploring my writing interests, whether non-fiction or fiction.

    I thought of you and your love of digging up the truth about unknown women. I just found out about Sara DiVello’s BROADWAY BUTTERFLY, an unsolved murder of Dot King set in the 1920s. One point of view is from Julia Hartman, the Daily News crime reporter at a time when women were not crime reporters. It’s out next Tuesday, in case you’re intrigued.

  11. I’m planning to continue the Saturday book parties on FB, Becky. I never fail to learn about a new-to-me book! I appreciate your comment about educating as well as entertaining. Way back in the beginning of the China series–maybe after Bk 3–one reviewer wrote that “China Bayles is always trying to teach us something.” That reviewer was right, then. And she’s still right! I write to learn, and I’m always delighted to hear that readers read to learn, too.

  12. I enjoy your FB posts each Saturday where your friends share what they’re reading. A book club would be fun.
    And I’ve learned so much from the Dahlia books about that time period and from China about herbs. So for me any further explorations whether about technology, gardening or historical events is welcome.
    Thanks for alway educating and entertaining.

    Becky (aka Beckster)

  13. My, you have some marvelous fans! Love all of the posts below as well as your mindful comments. As some have said, my talent lies more in reading than in writing. Thus, I appreciate your Samuel Johnson quote. The great performer deserves a captivated audience! And I am happy to play that part. When China is trying to squeeze behind that car in a lights-out garage without making a single sound, I am there with her! This is so true that both China and Ruby have been known to pop up in my dreams. Perhaps that might be a topic for sharing if others have had that experience, too. Or there might be a corner for ‘rants and ramblings’ for poor souls like me that are so inclined. Non the less, I will be interested in all of the inner workings of writing and how one gets it done. Along with thoughts on your many interests in nature, gardening, animals and cooking. Perhaps a seasonal focus on such things? As to trotting off into our later years, I am happy to follow you with your remarkable energy! I see your red cape with the 80-something and Loving It!

  14. I have the feeling that it’s a good time to document the work of people who spend time with nature–now that we’re starting to see how we’ve changed our planet. Sounds like a very worthwhile project, Pamela.

  15. Thank you for creating this forum. Got a Place & Thyme subscription recently and looking forward to ideas of writing prompts and writing groups. I have organized my journals and memories and begun writing short stories about living in Rain-country SE Alaska for 30 years with the unusual stories of people and work there for US Forest Service. Hearing about your backstory for books sounds Great! Love Cottage Tales and Darling Dahlias best. I am halfway through reading China Bayles series. Also, interested in possible routes to publishing and sharing ideas about aging with grace and verve!

  16. Yes to a reading, sharing group. And yes to serial stories from some of your previous books. I always am interested in why a story was written so yes to the inside stories.

  17. I subscribed so I think that indicated an interest in everything, although I’m not a writer or a potential writer. My forte is reading what people are writing. lol

  18. Susan, All of the topics you pose are of interest to me. The backstory of the Dahlias and Pecan Springs are my favorites – what goes on in your mind as you conceive these ideas/story lines and then capture them on paper, well digitally? It would be interesting to explore the changes from the invention of the printing press to current publishing possibilities. How do you learn so much about herbs and cooking and write at the same time? Your energy is amazing, and your interests so vast. Thank you for all you do and share with us.

  19. On behalf of Agatha and the rest of us murderous perpetrators, YOU’RE WELCOME, Patricia! 🙂 I have to say that it might be harder to pull the wool over readers’ eyes now than in Christie’s day, because they read more (they’re more experienced) and book discussion groups help them develop strong reading skills. Christie’s career got off to a bang-up start with that book. Congratulations on getting your MS off, and especially for embarking on the next WIP. In genre fiction, the name of the game is “series,” and publishers want to see producing writers.

  20. I think we’re all interested in “what works now,” Sherie–and watching the author/publisher lawsuits developing around AI’s invasion of copyright. I’m deeply complimented to learn that my books still earn your shelf space and very much appreciate “satisfyingly built.” I give a lot of thought to “hidden” construction (it’s like the framing under the cladding of a building) and am delighted when a reader notices that.

  21. Yes, to everything! Especially writing prompts. I’ve just sent off my very first manuscript to an editor who has agreed to read it after six or seven rewrites. And now I’m in the plotting phase of my next WIP. I did a very rough draft during NaNoWriMo but now I’m adding in a couple B plots and I’ve changed my murder victim.

    And, as a longtime fan of all your series, I’d love spin-offs and backstories from any or all of them. Cottage Tales have a special place in my heart along with the Darling Dahlias, although I find them hard to read in the summer months … no air conditioning in those books.

    I reread The Murder of Roger Akroyd in tandem with Sisters in Crime. They had a panel on zoom discussing just how Agatha Christie pulled the wool over all our eyes while still playing fair. Afterwards, I remember wishing I’d written Agatha Christie when I was a teenager and she was still alive, thanking her for all her delightful murders over the years. Then it occurred to me, you’re very much alive and creating. So, here’s a big fat THANKYOU! for all the wonderful hours I’ve spent reading all your books. Thank you for killing off half the population of a small town, just to entertain me and your other readers. Thank you for playing fair yet still baffling me as to who the killer is this time.

  22. I haven’t done much writing-about-writing-for-writers, Sue–because I have the feeling that most of my readers are readers, not writers. But Substack offers the option (if I want to exploit it) to allow subscribers to select sections of a publication, which can then be developed more extensively. Eventually, we might have a group of contributing writer/readers there. Re your essay anthology. I worked on a similar project for Story Circle in 2007: We published with the Univ. Texas Press: a logical choice for us, but sad that they didn’t put it into ebook format. (Digital was a new thing then, and the Press was hesitant.) It was a lovely experience. I’m still in close contact with several of the writers.

  23. I don’t know how I missed the full offerings of Bookscapes part of your writing! I can see where using Substack can harness your work into a central location. Until the pandemic, I was a part-time freelance writer focusing on articles for print and web. I wrote about the intersection of plants and people: functional activities like growing, eating, medicine-making, and fiber creating and the conservation and appreciation of plants and their stories. I used the pandemic to slow down, rest and reconsider the future of my writing. I am researching the genre of nature memior (e.g., Terry Tempest Williams, Margaret Renkl), specifically the voices of women and their experiences/relationships with nature. My current project is writing & editing an anthology of essays written by women. I just subscribed to your Place & Thyme.

  24. Anything!
    Would love to learn more about your writing/publishing career. — and your take on how it works now, and what to watch out for as AI gets involved.
    Can already tell that some magazines I’ve always valued have adopted it, as recent articles have swaths that make NO sense, and no one caught it in editing.
    Is editing even a thing anymore?

    Would LOVE the backstory to any/all of the series. I’ve read them all.
    I’ve kept them all.

    In the early 2000’s, when I had to downsize my personal library, I kept all of your books. I realized I could learn much about the craft of writing by reading your books — they are so satisfyingly built. And I reread them regularly.

    Probably don’t quite have time to join another book group. But would love to know about it.


  25. I’m taking notes–thanks, Cynthia. On the 1981 pandemic: Bill is currently reading Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World, by Laura Spinney. You might pick up some research suggestions there. You’ve probably thought of this, but my first stop is usually a newspaper. If you don’t have library access to the family’s local/area papers, try–amazing archive (I use it for the Dahlias, other historical work). Good luck. Fascinating topic!

  26. yes to occasional book groups.
    writing about family during 1918 flu epidemic, research, gathering data, etc. Any ideas for me?
    internet publishing; connections I might find??? like I am lost in the 70’s!
    love cottage tales so yes to backstory there!
    I have so enjoyed your writing over the years!

Comments are closed.