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Writing About Writing
updated: Sep 26, 2008, 12:00 AM

Thoughts From the Garden of Ed

Writing About Writing
by Billy Goodnick


I refuse to have another business card made. I keep four types of cards in two old cassette tape holders. That's the technology that kicked the crap out of eight-tracks. I've had a few proper business card holders - leatherette, brushed stainless steel - but they'd pop open and I could fit only a few cards in them. Then I'd forget to reload and get caught short. The cassette cases had been sitting around waiting for me to digitize some of my favorite tunes from long ago - Ruben Blades, James Brown, Talking Heads, special mixes from my big brother. They're the perfect size for a business card.

I carry four different cards - City of SB Landscape Architect, bgdc consulting, King Bee drumming and Garden Wise Guy TV. I divide the cards between the cases. Then I get one of those heavy blue rubber bands - the kind they use to hold stalks of broccoli together - and bind the whole thing up. If you haven't gathered by now, I'm thrifty and green.

So a fifth card for my newest venture would bring untold hassles, not the least of which would be putting a great strain on those poor broccoli bands and displacing my Joni Mitchell Dog Eat Dog cassette. Besides, I'm not sure I'm really a writer, yet, though it's harder to deny after just returning from writing symposium.

I guess if someone writes, has their work published or posted, people read it, and they get some form of remuneration, they're a writer. Fine - I'm a writer. Happy? But I'm not ready for another card.

I've backed into writing. Long story shortish: Rachel Thurston - that sultry vessel of song who keeps King Bee so popular - and I send e-mails to announce our upcoming gigs. I get a bit carried away in my writing, but fans have commented about how much fun it is to be on our mailing list. So I write a little.

Fast forward to August 2007. Nothing to do, poking around Yahoo, and stumble upon Blogger, a web site that helps people set up blogs. Next thing you know, I'm up and running. I figured I'd pontificate about sustainable landscape design and rant about the hideous, the misdirected, and the outright psychotic things people do to their yards.

My blog came to the attention of Barbara Lanz-Mateo, publisher of Coastal Woman magazine. She'd been interested in adding a gardening column and, coincidentally, had taken my class a few years back. Voila! I started writing The Garden Coach column in exchange for a color ad for my consulting business. How cool is that? 800 words four times a year and I get advertising.

The same thing happened with Santa Barbara Homeowner magazine, a direct mail monthly some of you receive, published by a up and coming entrepreneur named James Kappen. Those articles run about twice as long and range from design instruction to profiles of residential make-overs. I get a half page ad.

Then, since I frequently blogged about Santa Barbara-centric happenings, like my Santa Barbara Not-So-Beautiful Awards, I'd sent links to Ed. Next thing I know, Ed wants this bi-weekly tidbit. Sometimes you'll see my bgdc banner ad at the top of a page.

As much fun as I have with these columns, I have a lot of other things on my plate. So anything that would make this work a little easier, and maybe a bit more polished, is most welcome. That would explain why I spent the last five days in Portland, Oregon, at the Garden Writers Association 60th Annual Symposium. I vacillated when the announcement came a few months ago. As should be obvious from my business card holders, I am, ahem, cheap. But I talked myself into it, made some last minute bookings with the help of my ingenious spousal support unit, Lin, kissed her, my son Benjamin Cosmo, and Biff the Wonder Spaniel goodbye, and immersed myself in a new world.

I had joined the association earlier in the year at the behest of friend and garden writer, Nan Sterman. The GWA is an amazing group of people with expertise ranging from scientific botanical treatises, to book authors, newspaper columnists, magazine publishers and some seriously-talented photographers. I learned about self-editing, outlining, writing queries to magazines, researching esoteric bits, and possibly the most valuable lesson, how to make the most from my digital point-and-shoot Nikon. You can see a sample of my shots at my Flickr photo site.

Perhaps the trip will reveal a door that I didn't know exists. I met a lot of people and it doesn't take too many degrees of separation to make unexpected connections. In the meantime, the phone rings a little more frequently, new clients are calling to say "I read your column, saw your ad, and I need some help." Still, I don't think I'll be shopping for new cards anytime soon.

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Billy Goodnick is a nice guy who knows a lot about plants and garden stuff.


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