About Jamie

I'm a mom and a new wife. I edit books for a living. And I travel when I can.

An Introducton to a Wonderful Blog: Autumn Cottage Diarist

I’ve been meaning to introduce you to my friend Roz Cawley. For years now.

You know how it is. 🙂

Born in Wales, living now in the wilds of Berkshire (in the south of England), she describes herself as a writer, therapist, and gardener. I think it depends on the day what hat she wears, and I happen to know she has many, many interests (antiques, folklore, death traditions and rituals, books, genealogy and family history, wildlife … oh, I could go on and on).

You can see everything on display in her wonderful blog Autumn Cottage Diarist: Days in the Life of a Welsh Woman in England. Which, as I say, I’ve been meaning to bring to your attention. And now the best reason to do so in a blog about travel: Roz has been to Romania!

I have returned from just a brief week in Romania, but a huge leap in my interest and appreciation of a country and its inhabitants—an interest which has only just been kindled, but will call me back again and again to dig deeper and discover more. How do I even begin to convey the flavour of the adventure? How can I express the joy of circle-dancing the night away at the gloriously happy wedding of my son and Romanian daughter in law—the central reason for my visit?

Be sure to see also “I Guess We’d Better Talk About … Him,” about a Romanian you may have heard of—Vlad the Impaler. Give it a go, you’ll learn something too!

The End of Summer

It always comes, doesn’t it? The first leaf in the backyard.


The mint starts to bloom because you haven’t clipped it enough.


You drive out to the last farmers market and the weeds are high around the pond.

At the farmers market.

The market is still bright and full but we all know this is the end.


There are always too many tomatoes.

A last bouquet.

You choose flowers and pumpkins, and bring them home. The cat enjoys them. 🙂

Spot with pumpkins.

Enjoy these days while you have them. 🙂

Where in the World Is … Thomas Cook?

“LONDON (Reuters) – Hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers were stranded on Monday by the collapse of the world’s oldest travel firm Thomas Cook TCG.L, sparking the largest peacetime repatriation effort in British history.”

So began a flurry of stories on 22 September. The 178-year old British travel company Thomas Cook shut down, literally overnight, with some 600K of its customers vacationing around the world. The New York Times told us, “Thomas Cook was no ordinary travel company. Founded in 1841, it changed the face of British travel. Its ubiquitous storefronts specialized in low-cost package holidays that put beach vacations in exotic locales within the budgets of middle-income Britons.”

And not only that. “Around 21,000 Thomas Cook staff globally lost their jobs, including 9,000 in the UK,” the Independent reported.

It’s a sad story on so many levels. But what happened? This sub-headline in the New York Times covers it in a nutshell: “Its package tour business model was successful for 178 years, but as consumer demand changed and moved online, the company did not.” You’ve seen me post about packaged tours; I’ve never been particularly interested. And the market for these types of vacations has grown older, while younger vacationers are very DIY, looking for the bargains here, there, and everywhere. This isn’t all of it—the company had too much debt and had become overextended; additionally, many vacationers were putting off travel due to Brexit—but it’s the most of it. Hate to see it happen.

Got My Hearing Aids Today

“Are you a musician?” the audiologist asked when my hearing test concluded. Her first words.

So I explained to her about the twelve years of piano lessons and the sevenish years as a junior high and high school and college drummer and the years spent with the drums and guitars in my living room …

On that day some months ago I learned I have “dramatic and unequal” hearing loss. Because it’s so very unequal, I had to have an MRI to rule out other (bad*) things that might be causing the hearing loss. (*And as it turns out, nothing bad causing the hearing loss.)

My problem is in the higher registers. More than a year ago I was telling Gerry that I thought the speaker in our car was blown because—we listen to the classical station—the pianos sounded metallic rather than woodlike and the violins just sounded screechy. A few months later we bought a new car … and the “speakers were blown” in that car too. Oops: it was me, not the speaker. (sigh) On this day, then, the audiologist wondered if I’d been exposed to an unusual amount of loud. And I had.

The first thing I did when I got home was call my son, who is a professional musician. Turns out these days, players are aware of the hearing hazards of musicianship. Then there were weeks of other tests, conversations with friends (“you’ll love them!”), investigating insurance, and, finally, appointments to be fitted with the hearing aids.

They’re pretty cool. I can control them from my smartphone, and I have several programs I can choose to use, depending on my circumstances. I can also develop my own settings. (Actually, that’s a bit advanced for me, but I’m willing to give it a try.) So! I got my hearing aids today, and it’s all good.

Keeping the Facts of Your Life Straight

From a weekly email from Austin Kleon, who is a big advocate of journals, as are many creatives:

Here are 10 things I thought were worth sharing this week:

This week I tore through Tara Westover’s memoir, Educated. The book is about many things, but one of them is the power of journals and diaries to help you cope with trauma and keep the facts of your life straight. (Westover has kept a journal since she was 10. “My journals supplied me with a level of detail I could never have had if I relied on memory alone,” she says. “I recorded meals I’d eaten, conversations I’d overheard, work I’d done for my father in the junkyard or my mother tincturing herbs.”)

I’ve been writing stories since I was five years old, but I’ve kept a journal just twice in my life—once when I was a new mother, and then again during the run up to and after my divorce. I’ve got a journal somewhere of my most vivid dreams, too, because what there is to be grokked in a dream fascinates me.

Of course, Facebook could be called a journal, don’t you think? It’s a record of day-to-day events. And elements of this blog could certainly be called a journal. Even my daybook journals my daily activities. There are many benefits to keeping a journal (no matter where you keep it).

Now I’m an editor—I edit books—and I’ve noticed that even when I’m editing, all my thoughts get organized when I write. I write to figure out what I think. I’ve written about this before:

  • On editing: Writing clarifies thoughts, sparks creative ideas, makes connections you hadn’t seen, helps problem solving, unlocks intuition. I am often astonished at what is revealed to me when I start writing down my thoughts and ideas (from Whole-Picture Editing).
  • On asking questions: When I get stuck (editorially speaking), when I’m confused, when there are so many trees that the forest—er, story arc—seems obscure, I tend to fall back on formula. Meaning, I ask myself some standard questions and see if the answers, like bread crumbs, lead me … anywhere. Out of the woods (from Interrogatory Editing).
  • On outlining: Capture your ideas in writing. Sketch them out in a paragraph or briefly outline them. You will never regret this (from How a To-Do List Is Like a Book).
  • On process: I make a note about it so I don’t forget. Sometimes just a sentence or a paragraph, sometimes a whole outline. I might even research it a little. Now I’m conscious of it, but in an unconscious way. It is not on the front burner, just “rolling around in the back of my mind.” It can stay there for weeks or even months (from The Waiting Is the Hardest Part).

I haven’t needed my journals to cope with trauma, but I definitely use some form of writing every single day to make sense of … well, life. I’m getting ready to start a family history project, and I think writing it out—if my initial attempts are any indication—will help me make sense of the person I am.

Timing Is Everything

We had a trip planned for next month, September (to Germany to visit good friends), but in late spring we cancelled it,* due to everything that we had on our plates. I was already exhausted (the holidays, work, illness, family things), and we hadn’t even made an itinerary yet.

The village of Maulbronn. Picturesque! (From Wikipedia. Attribution: Gregorini Demetrio.)

Gerry had been suggesting we postpone, actually, for weeks, and I’d resisted, because our friends had set aside the time. But finally I realized he was right. When we made the decision, it was like a weight lifted.

Within a week of this decision, we heard from Gerry’s brother that he and his wife needed to reschedule (due to unforseen family events) their trip to visit us from October … to September, the very time we’d have been gone. It freed me up to spend three weeks with my son and his wife during the birth of their daughter in May/June.

And you know, those weren’t the only serendipitous things. If we still had a flight on September 10th, we’d be in trouble right now, because Gerry no longer has a passport he could enter this country with (he could leave … but not reenter). He’s a citizen now, but we haven’t even started the process to obtain his American passport (it’s only been a week, after all, and I’ve been sick working).

Timing, as they say, is everything.

• • •

*Posponed, really.

Taking Better Photographs: Love the One [Camera] You’re With

It’s a common dilemma: I just saw a great photo but my “good camera” is at home. Because it’s heavy, because I didn’t intend to take photos during this excursion, and on and on. And I end up using my phone.

The point of this article, though, addresses that: you don’t need a new/better camera. You just need to get good with the camera you have in your hand. Love the one you’re with, as they say.

There are many tips here:

>Try different angles.
>Eschew symmetry.
>Take advantage of the Golden Hour.
>Turn off the flash.
>Use photo editing apps.

Read the article; you’ll see. I just have two tips to add:

>In nature shots, keep the horizon straight. Or the fence. Or the porch. Don’t get too anxious to take the shot and forget to level the camera.

> Edit as much as you can before you take the photo. Something distracting off to the left? Take a couple steps to the right. Or get closer to your subject. Crop now in your viewfinder, rather than later.