Thursday, July 30, 2015

Busy Bee

Update on scheduling!

Normally, blogs here on VetWrite come out on the first and third Monday of the month.  Which means, dear readers, you might be chomping at the bit this Sunday, Aug 2. Maybe foaming at the mouth in anticipation. Heart palpitations? Normal. Cold sweats? It's ok. I know. I'd be excited if I were you, too.


Due to summer travel during the first and third weeks of August--New Hampshire and Liverpool! Wheeeee!!!--posts will be on the second and fourth Mondays of August.

This has been your friendly VetWrite PSA.

Thank you.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Bovine Bangles

Although we've visited with authors, sculptors, and painters on this blog, we have yet to infiltrate the creative mind of a jeweler. Dear readers, today is the day. Let's meet Dr. Kathy Swift, veterinarian, jewelry artist, and creator of Cow Art and More.

Dairy cow charm, by Kathy Swift, DVM
Cow Art and More is an online gallery where, as Kathy's website declares, "art and agriculture meet." Featuring a handful of artists who make by hand original and limited edition art centered around the agricultural community, Cow Art and More is a place Kathy has created to showcase her art and the art of others.

Kathy says that creating jewelry has always been a special love of hers. Growing up on a dairy farm in Virginia, Kathy's other love, cows, translated into a veterinary career in the dairy sector of Florida. In 2001, a chance meeting with a local jewelry artist reignited the artistic flame that was quieted by the hustle and bustle of veterinary practice. Soon, Kathy was taking classes at the University of Florida, Penland School of Crafts, and William Holland School of Lapidary Arts.

Barn charm, by Kathy Swift, DVM

Focusing on a line of contemporary silver jewelry, Kathy struggled with ways to bring her love of cows and agriculture into her art. "In the beginning, I didn't want to create farm-themed jewelry," she says. "I did that all day, I didn't want to do it as an art project as well. I finally had an inspiration of creating a realistic cow charm after the umpteenth time of looking at someone else's cow charm and thinking, 'That's not a cow. Those legs and udder are all wrong. I can do better than that!' "

Kathy still practices veterinary medicine, and splits her time between science and art. She notes it's hard to be creative as a veterinarian. "Being a veterinarian has given me a good analytic sense which has proven invaluable to my art side," she says. "I can't get creative with treating patients very often so I find that art is my way of expressing an inner imagination."

Jersey jug milk can charm, by Kathy Swift, DVM
Kathy admits it can be hard to balance her two professions. "I don't know that it's necessarily any different than any other work/life balance," she says, "but it does involve getting myself into a different mindset. The longer I do both, the more I find that it's hard to shift from one to the other all in the same day. It seems like I enjoy either better when I can do it for an extended period of time, say like an entire day, not just a few hours."

For those of you who may doubt the artistic wealth that is the kindly cow, please reconsider. "I love the artwork where the cow is just as I know her, including the subtle details like her ears and nose," says Kathy. "When you are with them for hours, you learn to love all their details."

Cowbell charm, by Kathy Swift, DVM

Kathy says her online business is growing steadily and she would like to see this continue over the next decade. "I have always joked that you will know I'm big time when you see me selling my jewelry on QVC!" she says.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Know Your Noir

When I think of noir fiction, my imagination turns black and white, with smokey overtones, cigarettes, booze, and of course murder mixing in a bowl of dry wit.

But that's being stereotypical.

I actually didn't know I was a noir fan until I flipped through the book Film Noir: 100 All-Time Favorites and gasped: Heat, Pulp Fiction, The Dark Knight... these were noir? My favorite movies? Granted, these are film and not books, but there's so much more to noir than just a cigarette and angst-y detective work. This is more than the Guy Noir skits of Prairie Home Companion. Noir, as author and veterinarian T.D. Hart says is, really, life.

T.D. Hart, a pen name for Dr. Jennifer (Mathews) Adolph, now writes noir fiction after selling her equine veterinary practice. On her website, Jennifer lays it out: "Noir characters fuck up, then fix it. Life goes wrong, then works out. And oh man, do they ever carry baggage...And yet... Noir protagonists survive, then win. Despite the deep, crawling ugliness of the crime, they find humor and beauty and honor in their fellows. Like sailors who survive a crippling hurricane, they know they will face other storms. And they damned sure enjoy the sunshine."

Let's meet Jennifer in a bit greater detail. She seems interesting.

"I was the kid with her nose in a book," Jennifer says. "A hopeless geek who loved horses more than breathing. As a young adult I turned that passion into a profession, working on breeding farms in Norman, OK." During this time, Jennifer worked with some of the elite Thoroughbred mares in the country. A veterinarian she knew encouraged Jennifer to return to college and apply to vet school. "You are better than you think," he told her.

Jennifer took the sage advice and graduated from Oklahoma State's vet school in 1997. "I started my equine ambulatory practice in Tulsa and worked for thirteen years as a solo practitioner," she says. "Along the way I got married, had three children, and built a haul-in facility for the business."

Busy bee. Enter, stage left: WRITING.

"The creative bug hit around 2008," Jennifer says. "Oddly it started with guitar lessons. Within months, I was writing--almost as though a dam had broken and my creative waters were again flowing. And things have never been the same."

During this period of creative re-discovery, Jennifer was still practicing veterinary medicine. Here, then, came the struggle we've explored before on this blog: how to balance practice with creative expression?

"I LOVED being an equine veterinarian," Jennifer stresses. "My clients and patients felt like family to me and I loved being able to ride in and save the day. But I didn't love not knowing whether I'd get to finish my dinner, take a quiet bath, or watch a movie with my family without being called out on an emergency."

A simple case of burnout, Jennifer diagnoses. We know the feeling, right? Empathy abounds. "In the end, I found myself having to work and getting to write, which seemed backward," she says.

So backward, in fact, that Jennifer decided to sell her practice. "Selling my practice is the scariest thing I've ever done... and also the thing I'm most proud of," she says. "I miss my clients and the sense of accomplishment at the end of a long, physically challenging day. I miss the foals and the high-fives at getting mares pregnant, the sense of wonder at transforming a gaping wound into a row of neat sutures. I miss being the hero." Realistically, Jennifer says she also, at the moment, misses the paycheck. But, the writing life is full of new, different rewards. "I get up every morning knowing I get to create a story out of thin air," she says. "And that's the most exciting, most fulfilling job I've ever had."

"I get up every morning knowing I get to create a story out of thin air."

Now a full-time writer, Jennifer hones her noir craft in a recently converted garden shed. She is polishing the final draft of her debut novel about a San Diego homicide detective who investigates the death of a rock star, discovering he had secrets worth killing for. Her character-driven stories capture deeply flawed protagonists. "The inspiration for my debut was seeing the furor over Michael Jackson's death and wondering how it would be to investigate the suicide of a star and discover he was quite different from his public persona," Jennifer says.

Early success has helped Jennifer's travels down the lonely road of writerdom. "My first [writing] award was the CNW/FFWA award for Best Novel Chapter and when I logged on and saw my name at the top, I screamed so loud my family thought I was being butchered!" she says. "Since then I've won the OWFI best mainstream novel and best mystery category and been a finalist in the Colorado Gold."

However, the reality of the tortoise-paced publishing world has taught Jennifer some lessons in patience and revision. "When my current manuscript won some contests back in 2012, I was sure I'd made it," she says. "Three years and umpteen revisions later, I've come to see the journey as a long, beautiful marathon through gorgeous scenery. If I'm tired, I rest. If I want to stop writing and go for a trail run, I do. Then I come back and finish my work. Honoring my craft as worthwhile work keeps me focused."

Jennifer thinks of her daily writing as exercise. "I've learned that writing is a muscle," she says. "Use the muscle, it gets stronger. Too much rest and it atrophies. So I write every day. I need time and quiet to really hear my characters. For the last several years I've escaped for intensive writing retreats. When I'm drafting, I shoot for 1,200 words a day. When I'm editing, I go as fast and far as I can."

"Honing my craft as worthwhile work keeps me focused."

Jennifer says over the years she's learned to relax into her writing and trust the creative process. She has an agent and a hopeful publication date for her debut novel in 2017. I'll certainly be watching for it.

"Writers are a welcoming bunch," Jennifer concludes. I concur and include myself in that group of open arms. *FREE HUGS FOR WRITERS!* "We're all learning and we're always willing to help other writers. The generosity is amazing. For me, it was a fantastic choice."

Recent update from Jennifer... As she continues to build her writing platform, she is now offering developmental editing to help new and aspiring writers get their manuscripts in shape for publication. If in need/interested in this service, please contact Jennifer via email at: jenniferadolph@ymailDOTcom. 


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Liar Liar

Well, it happened. I missed my deadline. I promised you a new post on Monday. That was three days ago. No post.






I.... I was on vacation.

So, in the mean time, enjoy these pictures while I type my fingers off.

Lupines at Lake Tahoe

Half Dome at Yosemite National Park

Sequoias at Sequoia National Park