We’re back in the Pacific Northwest for the summer—so many people and things are calling us here, including family and friends . . . and, of course, the weather and boating season!
And our gardens. We have five different small garden areas at our place: a front berm with native plants, a shaded English garden near our kitchen patio, a sunny back patio area, a raised bed vegetable garden, and a grassy woodland side yard. On any given day, Michael and I are out working in one or more of these spaces. There is nothing like digging our hands into the earth to plant a flower, a vegetable, a tree, or a shrub and then watching as everything comes into bloom (especially my new dahlias!)
Many poets—Rudyard Kipling, Emily Dickinson, William Blake, Maya Angelou—have written of the joys of gardening and of the fruits of their labors.
This is a favorite gardening poem of mine, written by American poet Archibald MacLeish.
by Archibald McLeish
And summer mornings the mute child, rebellious,
Stupid, hating the words, the meanings, hating
The Think now, Think, the O but Think! would leave
On tip-toe the three chairs on the verandah
And crossing tree by tree the empty lawn
Push back the shed door and upon the sill
Stand pressing out the sunlight from his eyes
And enter and with outstretched fingers feel
The grind-stone and behind it the bare wall
And turn and in the corner on the cool
Hard earth sit listening. And one by one,
Out of the dazzled shadow in the room
The shapes would gather, the brown plowshare, spades,
Mattocks, the polished helves of picks, a scythe
Hung from the rafters, shovels, slender tines
Glinting across the curve of sickles — shapes
Older than men were, the wise tools, the iron
Friendly with earth. And sit there quiet breathing
The harsh dry smell of withered bulbs, the faint
Odor of dung, the silence. And outside
Beyond the half-shut door the blind leaves
And the corn moving. And at noon would come
Up from the garden, his hard crooked hands
Gentle with earth, his knees still earth-stained, smelling
Of sun, of summer, the old gardener, like
A priest, like an interpreter, and bend
Over his baskets.
And they would not speak:
They would say nothing. And the child would sit there
Happy as though he had no name, as though
He had been no one: like a leaf, a stem,
Like a root growing —
I’m closing in on finishing Irish, set in Ireland and the U.S. in the late 19th century. Based loosely on my great-grandmother’s story of coming to the U.S. from Ireland alone in 1886, this highly fictionalized narrative will be ready for early readers soon. I’m thrilled to be in the Fall 2024 cohort of She Writes Press for my fourth novel. Thanks, publisher Brooke Warner, for including me!
Podcast guru and author Grace Sammon welcomed me and my three critique partners, Shelley Blanton-Stroud, Gretchen Cherington, and Debra Thomas to her wonderful podcast, Launch Pad, last month. What a great host! The time flew by as we talked about what makes a great critique group and about our new novels, all written since we met in October 2020.
Have a listen—here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bSLtMnls4KU
Join Me Live in Conversation with Laurie Buchanan
If you’re in driving distance to Bellingham, Washington, join me live in conversation with sister She Writes Press author Laurie Buchanan at 7 p.m. on May 19 at Village Books in Fairhaven.
This is the third time Laurie and I will be hosted by Village Books, and the first time live!
The bride, the groom, the toast, the explosion . . .
What should be a joyous occasion for Sean and Emma turns lethal in this third installment of the Sean McPherson series.
Friends and family gather for the union of Sean McPherson and Emma Benton at Pines & Quill, a writers’ retreat in Bellingham, Washington. But just as the festivities begin, an explosion shatters everything. From Bellingham to New Orleans and San Francisco, the chase is on to discover who is dead set on ensuring the newlyweds don’t live happily ever after.
“An involving thriller with compelling characters. This propulsive novel ably expands Buchanan’s entertaining series, which is built primarily on engaging characterization.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Buchanan shows a sure hand as an action writer. . .A smooth, ultra-professional read.” —Booklist
To register for the event: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/laurie-buchanan-in-conversation-with-ashley-sweeney-impervious-tickets-621072593847
Book Club News
I recently enjoyed a long, conversation-filled afternoon in Tucson as a guest of my long-time Tucson friend Aimee Smythe at her monthly book club. Aimee and I met (of course!) at Tucson Festival of Books in 2018 as we waited in line to hear some of our favorite historical fiction authors. We have visited every winter since and share book titles back and forth. Aimee’s group, Women of the Night (WON) formed in the 1990s on an overnight camping trip in the Sonoran Desert and has been going strong for more 30 years! Thank you, Karen Loquvam, for hosting on your beautiful garden patio, and Mary, Marty, and Elizabeth for the stimulating conversation. And the best news? They’ve invited me to join them anytime I’m in town to discuss their chosen read!
Upcoming Titles for the WON Book Club
- Children of the Jacarinda Tree, by Sahar Delijani
- Solito, by Javier Zamora
- Zorrie, by Laird Hunt
- The Night Traveler, by Armando Lucas Correa
- Only the Beautiful, by Susan Meissner
- The Dressmaker of Prospect Heights, by Kitty Zeldis
Okay, readers, I need your help! As my work in progress, Irish, is wrapping up, I’d love input on what you’d like to read next from me. I have a few ideas vying for my attention, and I’d love to add more ideas to the hopper (any time period and location in the U.S. is on the table here).
Would you like to read a pre- or post-Revolutionary War-era story? A Civil War-era story? Reconstruction? Industrial Revolution? The Gilded Age? A WWI story? The Roaring Twenties? The Depression Years? WWII? The 50s or 60s or 70s?
And where? The Northeast? South? Midwest? Mountain or Plains states? Southwest? Northwest? Alaska or Hawaii?
Be creative! An example might be:
A 1770s story set in rural Maryland, OR
A WWI story set on a remote Montana ranch, OR
A 1970s novel set on suburban Long Island
(these are just examples, not ideas on my radar yet!)
I’ll consider all your ideas and pick one lucky winner’s name for a $25 gift certificate to your local indie book shop (or bookshop.org).
And, who knows? Maybe I’ll love one of your ideas so much I’ll pursue it!
Send your ideas by using my contact form at https://ashleysweeneyauthor.com/contact/
Before I head back out into the garden, or back to my writing desk, I wish you a lovely May.
What brings you joy in the springtime? I’d love to hear.
Until next month, Happy Reading . . .