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Good Bugs for the Garden

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Pauli Tooley
Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?
My mother used to sing this little ditty to me in the spring in time for the annual gardening project. When she wanted me to do gardening I was inclined to read a book or explore the woods behind our house collecting bits and pieces of unique shaped rocks or plants.
None-the-less, I got my share of tending to the garden. My mother would say, Now, Pauli, break up the fallow ground. Dig deep with the shovel and turn over the dirt, see how packed it is? I didnít care about this task at twelve years old. It was pure drudgery and rated right up there with washing the dishes.
But, I find when I am writing that my ideas get compacted on the surface and I have to dig around to make the story refreshing and inspired. The research and study in a new area of interest makes my mind bring up facts and happenings I forgot a long time ago. I find information in places I wouldnít have remembered, left in the hardpan of old ideas. I toted many bags of decomposed manure to fertilize the new garden for my mother. She fertilized my mind with new experiences and people. She taught me to rub elbows with Ďfertileí minds. Contact with others who have information I need is in seminars and hearing speakers on genre related information, and of course, meet other writers and editors at conferences.
I must plant my ideas. Mother taught me to use the best seed. Sometimes, I write for the sake of writing to get ideas on the page. Then I sort the seeds to find the kernel of a story idea. If undecided what angle of the story has the best merit, I may use seed catalogs. In this case, I read other authors that write what I like to read. The way I glean the seeds further is to outline a few paragraphs of their story. I find what spoils my seed.
When our garden started to send up shoots I could taste the sweet corn, and tomatoes. But my mother said, ď We must thin the corn stalks down to two or three in the hill.Ē I didnít want to loose any of the juicy ears of corn. It was hard for me to pull up any potential crop. I learned from the hardy, large produce we had for many suppers that pruning and cultivating are important.

I cultivate my story by writing all that I can. I let it get cold and grow up in my mindís eye. I go back over it and clip, pull out the weeds and prune with all my fortitude. If something is good, like characters that donít have a story life yet, or plots not going anywhere, I save it for the compost pile. And in my early gardening days there was the county fair. We picked the best vegetables and took them to show. I canít ever remember a blue ribbon, but the satisfaction, I will never forget.

I pick my best writing for show. Do final edit, format for printing and prepare it for shipping to the best market and SHIP IT OUT. Then I write for the next shipment out, while waiting for my harvest. I canít stop to look back for old straggler plants to bear wilted fruit.
I look ahead for the harvest that can come in two forms. One is obviously a rejection form with manuscript in tow. The other is a check with a letter from an enthusiastic editor for my labors. No matter which I get, to keep the garden growing I must repeat the cycle.
I clean off the old material. Weeds left growing will seed in more weeds. No use for dead plants. Even the ones that bore a lavish crop this year must be cleared off for a new season. I review the editorís rejection response carefully. Every garden gets caterpillars or meal bugs, so I donít take it personal. The process starts over again. In Ohio the September wind off Lake Erie chilled my lower parts, but by my shovel the fertilizer was dug in deep to age into the soil for next springís attempt to grow a garden.

Of course, all minor chores were done by kids in the good old days.