Monday, November 05, 2007

A Fresh Take

There are times when research is research. When that really important job you have to do is something you’d much rather be doing than anything else. And the best part is, technically, it’s work. You know, research.

I’m visiting a salt marsh farm in Essex, Mass., this week to meet an inspiring farmer/potter/mother/artist/person in general. (This was confirmed when Daphne told me today that she doesn’t really do the cell phone thing. That’s an indication of fresh air. By choice.)

The project is a book called Green Acres, co-branded by John Deere and published by Quarry. I’m going to meet Daphne’s five sheep, see how hay from the salt marshes makes a perfect garden blanket that wards off cold winter, and feel how the land can change a person, create a life that’s meaningful, fruitful, natural — how relationships with the trees and mud and even horse doo are more real and fulfilling than some of the more mechanical agreements we make with modern life. Stress, noise, 24/7, E.O.D., name your acronym for right-here-right-now. That’s the day I know. And I’m ready to step in some doo.

So there you have it. If research stinks, I’m O.K. with it.

I’m more than O.K.

Monday, May 14, 2007

I Moved...Come Visit!

It's official. I have a new home -- some real estate for published work, books and magazine. A virtual space of my own that houses my blog, news bites and all sort of html code (which is a sick sort of Internet pig Latin that I'm trying to master, so pardon any blips while I learn). The Web site project began last fall, with designer Dawn Zidonis of There She Goes, and her husband, John Paul. The duo built a knock-out home (lots of curb appeal!) for my work, and you know, I think it sort of looks like me. (Not the html.)

Come visit!

Explore, check out some new material (primarily a book released this month), and visit regularly. I will update my blog twice weekly, and I hope I can engage you with some of the interesting perspectives I gain each week from interviews and encounters I experience in the Writing Life.

Take a look, and leave some feedback at my door. (An email contact is available.)

Bookmark my new home,, and don't forget to leave me your address. Have browser, will travel.

Kristen Hampshire

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Headlines & Deadlines

Since I have been on a bit of a hiatus from the blog, I'll treat this like a news ticker of sorts. I hope you'll find it as entertaining as the reading you do in the grocery store checkout line. I can't impress you with stories of shaving my head (never!), baby neglect (unless you're talking about a sick plant named Margaret), or scandalous events resulting in adultery, rehab or a "don't" fashion expose in Glamour.

But here it goes....

Writer Gets Tangled in a Web
It's true. I have a website now, but it is still under light-duty construction. The framework is up, but I'm still hoisting the content. My blog will transfer to next week, and I know that having a personal home for my word dribble will inspire me to be much more of a slob. (Well, to write more often, is what I'm saying.) I hope you'll visit me at my new location, and of course, you can get there through write-life on blogspot, as well.

Seeing the Green!
Green, meaning landscape and lawn care and everything outdoors. I am authoring a series of books branded by John Deere, the first due out in May. These are consumer titles, designed to entice you to get your hands dirty, buck the green envy you have of neighbors and get some curb appeal of your own. The project was tremendously satisfying, and I have been working with a talented, creative team at Quayside/Rockport. The results of a frenzied fall (an "accellerated" book schedule, we'll call it), landed by FedEx on my doorstep yesterday. An advanced copy of the book. I am so very proud of it, and the design and photography I hope will inspire couch potatoes everywhere to Go Outside and Play! The second book, 52 landscape projects, one for every week of the year, will release in 2008. (I'll keep you busy outside, don't you worry.)

In Other Words...
Health and home design writing occupy quite a bit of time, and I've learned that the lime green room in my office means "fresh, energetic, motivated." I think the coffee is actually a catalyst for these emotions. I also am trying very hard not to forget to take a calcium pill, after working closely with Dr. Holly Thacker, director of the Women's Health pavilion at the Cleveland Clinic, to write her book, "Women's Health: Your Body, Your Hormones, Your Choices." Her vibrant, contagious personality seeps onto the pages, and her wisdom will inspire. (Due out May.)

Ready to Bite into the Big Apple
I'm anticipating a trip to New York City, after recently being accepted into ASJA. I'm looking forward to a weekend of "fresh, energetic, motivated" activity -- but mostly connecting with other writers and professionals.

Thanks for Sharing
This morning, my friend John Ettorre shared with me a fantastic piece that defined his workdays the better first part of the year. I realize how very few us freelancers share with one another about the words we labor over day after day. Show and tell is just not part of the job, many times. But it should be, because we get to peek into the window of others' worlds by learning what words they are crafting. In the writing life, I think it's entirely too easy to interview, write, edit, and forget. We may not remember that we penned the article by the time it is in print. We may never see them. But taking time to celebrate a big story, a query win, even a book, is such a rare occasion. On that note, Cheers! And in the words of Mom, who can say this and mean it: Who deserves it more?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A Diplomat for Cleveland

An inspiring conversation with Ronn Richard for Inside Business magazine introduced a crop of resolutions for Cleveland.

Richard is president and CEO of the Cleveland Foundation, the third largest community foundation in the country with more than $1.8 billion in assets. Before taking the helm at the foundation, he was a diplomat, a leader in research and development at Panasonic, and COO of In-Q-Tel, a venture capital fund sponsored by the CIA. Richard’s track record as a leader, intellectual and change-maker positions him as an ideal quarterback for helping to push an innovation agenda for Cleveland. Want proof? Look no further than the wind turbines in front of the Science Center. You can expect to see more alternative approaches that capitalize off of Cleveland’s natural strengths.

Richard is just the person to pull off change. Perhaps this is because he is different – he thinks like a R&D guy, he conducts business like a diplomat.

For example, prior to our interview, we exchanged business cards. Richard presented his carefully with both hands; he studied mine for a second before placing it neatly on the conference table within view. He treated each wallet-sized rectangle of card stock like a gift. Such ceremonial exchanges are business etiquette in Japan. I was tutored on these practices before traveling there several years ago. Do not write on the back of the card. Do not stick the card in your pocket. Do not put the card away without reading it in front of the presenter. Accept the card, nod, read, and express silent thanks. Before taking the job at the Foundation, Richard was a diplomat in Japan. I was not surprised to learn this.

About Richard, I wrote: A conversation with Richard is an intellectual one. His words are gentle, but pronounced with a sense of urgency. Statements unfold gracefully as stories – always with a lesson for Cleveland..

I think we can learn a lot from Richard – we already are.

Saturday, December 16, 2006


Grama had as many girlfriends as she did shoes, and that’s a lot to say. If she and Sara Jessica Parker lined up their duds toe to heel, the sturdy soled path would probably lead straight from Lancaster, Ohio to the ninth hole on a golf course in Myrtle Beach – a regular destination for Grama and the golfing girls.

There were the golfing girls…and also there were bowling girls, bridge club girls, churchgoing girls, and girls she just knew because I think she probably knew everyone in the small town where she lived from the time she was born until 85 years later. That was last Sunday. I’m pretty sure she’s been golfing ever since she left – and I imagine that where she is, there are quite a few people she had been looking forward to seeing in for quite some time. My grandpa for one.

“Oh, did we always have a time,” an old buddy told us as we celebrated Grama’s life, quietly. “I’ll tell you…”

She felt lucky that Grama and she wore the same size.

A bowling girlfriend who was the baby of their group remembered visiting our family’s house while Grama babysat us one time. My parents were on a trip, and the girls had a ball – a lunch at the country club and, of course, nine holes as an appetizer. Grama was a vital woman, her girlfriend said to us. Grama knew what it was to be a sturdy, lively pillar for her girlfriends and her family.

While looking at the mounted pictures carefully placed on boards, memories scrolled through my head like movie trailers…I felt like an elementary school girl in a 29-year-old body. The experience was a time warp.

I was back in Grama’s basement watching MTV when it was the newest channel in the 1980s, and my brother and I played Pac Man on my uncle’s Atari system. Grama had the latest technology in her basement.

During summer, I got to visit Grama’s all by myself – it was like camp. We’d shop for fancy dresses and shoes at Lazarus and eat lunch at her two favorite spots. One of those was in the bowling alley. Grama had her own ball.

I remember riding big wheels around the neighborhood with my brother, and at her house, there was a back alley which was top-secret territory, or so we thought. We had cool big wheels at Grama’s – mine had little seat on the steering wheel for Barbie, too.

At Easter we made hardboiled eggs with decorated shrink-wrap sleeves. Our baskets had baby peepers that perched on the handle, and there were Easter dresses with tiny bells sewn into their ruffles so every step sang with a jingle. There was always ice cream in the freezer at Grama’s, and we were allowed to have seconds.

In the mornings, Grama would boil water in a small metal pot for her instant coffee. Our family would go to breakfast at the restaurant around the corner. We always got grossed out when Grama ordered grits. She’d drop a pat of butter on the soft cereal and get a real kick out of when my brother and I turned down her offer. “You don’t know what you’re missing,” she’d try to tempt us. It never worked. Grama always bought scratch-offs for us on the way out, but she was the only one that ever won. I learned that she actually kept a tally of her monthly booty and had a playbill of winning numbers she referred to before deciding on her Pick Three.

Grama owned a knit shop in town for some time, before I was around to know of the yarns and camaraderie she surely kept there. She stored the leftover shopping bags from her shop in a cupboard in her vestibule. They were little pink paper boutique bags, just big enough to slide in a ball of yarn or set of needles. We liked to play store with them – and we never ran out of inventory when we bagged up artifacts we found in that cupboard. There were jillions of bags, too, it seemed. I hope there are a few left.

There were always playing cards at Grama’s, decks and decks of them. My brother and I knew how to play Old Maid – and 52-card pickup. Grama knew rummy and all there was to know about cards as far as we were concerned. She knew how to win her hand at cards, too.

There were holidays – Thanksgivings when my Uncle would pay my brother a dollar to eat a brussels sprout. And there were days after Christmas, when our family of four would visit and uncles, aunts and cousins would gather at Grama’s, too. I remember thinking it was funny that Grama stuffed her tree in the attic, decorations and all, so it was ready to go for the following year. These holidays grew farther apart and gatherings less frequent as we all got older. I realized that many of the times I think of Grama’s house are times when I was young – before the driver’s license, college classes, the first real job. But as my Grama said at my wedding just a few months ago, “I was there for everything.” And she was. Birthdays, graduation, celebrations, and weddings. Thank God she made that day – her character could not have been more lively. I don’t think there is a guest that wouldn’t remember her. Perhaps that is because she and my husband’s grandfather were quite a tag team during the ceremony – a comedy act, though an unintentional one. We are so very thankful that our party was theirs, too.

But for a couple days this week, I wasn’t old enough to be married or “grown up” – was I? I was eight years old again. But I wasn’t. And I was meeting three cousins for the first time, it seemed – we were all young at Grama’s, and now they were grown, too. We rode together in the car to the cemetery. We share the same last name and roots and Grama. We share dads who are brothers, who are feeling a different kind of blank space now without mom. We share a past and a lot of quirks we probably don’t even know about. With sad times comes reconnection.

The girlfriends who visited Grama that day understand that more than anyone, I think. They are saying goodbye to more of their golfing buddies; some are sick, others are still tan and strong. But none of them ever quit the game – the important game, that is.

A collection of pictures reminded us of that.

Grama in an Indie race car, holding wads of bills – winnings, teeing up with her girlfriends. A young bride, a lady jock, a mother, a Grama, a fierce spirit…and always, always a girlfriend.

“I always felt so lucky that your Grama and I wore the same size,” joked the baby of the group, who was coming to pay her respects. Somehow, that seemed like the highest compliment, not about shoes really. But about living.

Monday, December 11, 2006

"Begun is half done."

Simple -- but true.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Crossing Tracks

I woke this morning a few minutes before my alarm sounded -- I thought I heard thunder outside. That couldn't be...could it? Maybe it was in my head. I was, after all, having strange dreams about locating slides for an art log, thanks to a frantic squirmish with numbering and labeling 211 images that will appear in my book (which is now done!!). Tornado frantic. I rushed to the FedEx drop off and watched the last truck pull up for pickups at 8:50 p.m. last night. In my dreams, I was scrounging for missing slides, which would cost about $200 a piece --- and there were thousands of them!

But back to the thunder. My curiousity won, and I climbed out of bed at 5:58 a.m. and pulled on my running clothes. I wandered into the living room to find my shoes, and stretched my legs a bit. When I looked up and out the sliding glass door, all I could see was white. Winter White! The lake was invisible, the skyline a blur. Snow! The thunder was a snowplow, surely.

I hopped on the elevator and it chugged down 15 floors, opening a few times to accept early-morning passengers who looked at me like I was a foreign object. Yes, I was still going outside in the chilling flurry. You can't wait for nice weather if you want to exercise outdoors in Cleveland. And treadmills aren't the same.

Still dark, snowflakes captured light from the parking lot lamps and glittered in windy gusts. I began my cross-country trip down Lake Avenue, periodically removing my left mitten to wipe snow buildup from my eyelashes. The 4-inch thick accumulation on the sidewalk was pure and untouched. My footprints were the first to pack in a trail. Not a car in sight before rush hour, the salt trucks hadn't even made their rounds.

Most houses were still sleeping, though a few windows beamed with the blue light of morning news on the television. A magical morning -- I felt like I did when I was in elementary school and the first snow greeted us to a day off school and unlimited time outdoors, sledding, making snow brick houses, building snowpeople and snowdogs and snowkids, snow everything.

The spiritual quiet, the soft treading, the feeling that I was sneaking up on the world before sunrise... I was on a snow high.

"Behind you!!!"

I jerked my head to the left and back, and there was a hat-and-scarf-clad runner swiftly gaining on me. He barked his warning that he would pass me before long. I had no idea he was back there. Ahead, my path was still completely free and clear of any signs of foot traffic. A flash of disappointment slowed my pace as I realized my path was about stomped on. The man steered around me and his snowy tracks left giant skid marks, blurring the view in front of me and tarnishing the fresh snowfall.

I can't believe it, I thought.

Then, I reconsidered.

I truly thought I was the only one who was crazy enough to hustle down the snowy sidewalk in the dark. Running. Imagine what the people in my elevator would have thought of this scene! See -- I wasn't crazy after all! Though I loved the shiny surface of untouched snow, there was comfort in knowing I was not alone. And that this magical morning was for everyone to enjoy -- everyone willing to bundle up for it.

The man made a U-turn about a quarter-mile after he passed me, and I continued on the path, later noticing two women walking their dogs, and eventually seeing cars slowly creep east on Lake Ave. toward downtown. The world was waking, but I got a sweet bite of the white before traffic and bustle turned it into a completely different wonderland -- a sloppier one.