Last week one of my fellow Question columnists arranged for all of us regular writers to meet to “wake” The Question newspaper.
I hadn’t realized how many of us there were! We made a very convivial corner of the pub and I was pleased to be a part of it. It occurred to me to wonder where all that writing power would be directed. If anyone needs something to read, you could consider starting a journal. It would certainly make for enjoyable reading.
I myself am not available for extra writing because I am writing all the time right now. I have been trying to find a coherent, logical and appealing way to organize all my Farm Story columns from the past few years into book form. They number in the hundreds, but I am at a loss as to how to group them. Seasonally? By Crop? By mechanical breakdown? By stress level? Will it be fiction? Creative non-fiction? Overwhelmed.
One of my fellow columnists, who is vastly more experienced in writing and also in possession of a cutting wit and sharp intelligence, heard me mention a book and snapped off a demand to know “genre, place and time.”
The answers to those questions are: “um, er, and huh.” Not quite good enough, Helmer.
So I am working on another book, but it’s not Farm Story. It could be considered boring, but that has never stopped me. At the very least it’s easy: I know my topic well. At best, there is a real possibility that it might be a cork in the bottleneck of creativity.
To answer the question. It’s non-fiction. Its working title is: No Doilies — a Farmer’s Guide to Selling at Farmer’s Markets.
My irrational issue with doilies is that they symbolize the market of yesteryear, where people sold their extra garden potatoes for $0.10 a pound because everyone could and did grow their own and the highlight was the pie competition and best bushel of wheat.
I have no experience at this type of market and wouldn’t presume to preach on the subject.
My other, less prejudicial and more legitimate issue with doilies is that they are difficult to keep tidy. If you are busy enough they should be askew most of the time making a messy market stall, which is unappealing to customers. If they are always squared up, then it indicates that you are not busy enough. They therefore have no place in my vision of a brutally efficient and profitable market stall, mutually satisfying between customer and farmer.
At this point I digress because the poignancy of the situation is dawning on me — this is my last chance to impart important Farm Story Soap Box Messaging and I cannot let it pass me by.
Quickly now, three things: at farmer’s market, I can make change for $20 bills even at the beginning of market, customers show up to do their shopping even in the rain, and… I would miss writing for you if I were to stop.
So I am writing the book. Or slim volume. Ever since I got the news about the closure of The Question I have been writing down everything I can think of about markets. Each time I think I have exhausted the topic, I tap another flow of words.
I’ll just carry on, then.
Anna Helmer is so grateful to have had the opportunity to write this column. Thank you to the readers, editors and publishers and to Alyssa Belter, who wrote it too.