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Report From PIA – November 19

You know how you can go for years without being aware of a particular plant, word, product, or person, and suddenly, once you find out about it/him/her, you see this plant, word or name everywhere?

It’s like the time six years ago that my brother-in-law-once-removed, John Korman, asked me if I knew about Viburnum plicatum ‘Summer Snowflake’. I didn’t know it, so John sent me one. Suddenly, I saw this Viburnum all over the place; it was mentioned in articles, at nurseries, and pictured on numerous websites.

Now that ‘Summer Snowflake’ that John sent me is growing at Poison Ivy Acres. Today, however, it wasn’t a plant I kept seeing, but a message. Here’s how the day went:

This morning I had time to read one article in the New York Times, and fortunately, it was an uplifting one. I learned that college students across the country have been protesting about sweatshop conditions at sportswear manufacturers. They have demonstrated, advocated, and petitioned in order to help foreign workers who make their garments.

It seems that Russell Sportswear, which manufactures apparel emblazoned with college logos, has agreed to reopen a plant that was closed after the workers voted to unionize. These young American students worked for something they believed in, and they’ve finally seen results. They decided that they wanted to grow a more equitable and humane system for manufacturing the clothing we wear, and they set about making it happen.

Later in the day I was reading Becoming A Category of One, by Joe Calloway. I’m only a little ways into this book, but I was struck by the question he asks early on: “Where do you want to go?”

The early chapters of this book talk about the wisdom of truly knowing where you want to go, and what it will take to get there, before you set out on a journey. Hmmm… kind of reminds me of what I frequently write and speak about. What do you want to grow?

Later this afternoon I had a conversation with someone who is very experienced in the publishing world. I’d sent her some sample chapters of the book I’ve been working on, and she gave me some important feedback.

After saying that everyone who read it had liked the writing, the illustrations and yadi yada, she said that the big problem was that no one was clear about what I was aiming for. “Who is the audience for this book?” she asked.

On the surface she was asking me who would buy the book…an important thing to know when you’re trying to persuade a publisher to take something on. But beyond the practical and financial aspects of the matter, she was asking what I want to accomplish with this project. What are my goals, and where do I want this book to go?

It seems clear to me that I was getting the same message throughout the day. I’m heartened by the article about students who’ve worked hard for something that they see as important and right. I’m reading a book that’s asking me where I want to go, and this publisher is asking who I’m writing for.

Once again life/God/the universe presents me with the opportunity to walk my talk. I write and speak about “what we want to grow” all of the time, and now it’s time for me to focus on this, specifically, in regards to this new book.

It’s funny, because now that I’m thinking in those precise terms, thinking of who the audience for this book is, and where I want to go, I see the answer clearly. Suddenly, it’s everywhere I look. Details to follow.

That’s no guarantee that the book will go any further than my own head, of course, but at least I’ve gotten the message that I need to rework this proposal, and bring it all in line with what I want to grow. At least now I can see that there are, so to speak, ‘Summer Snowflake’ Viburnums all over the place.

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