Thursday, June 1, 2023

Stepping off the Porch Swing and Into New Territory (A Blogiversary Post)

 For almost two decades, organizing has been a key interest and writing focus for me. When I started working seriously on the book that would become Know Thyself: The Imperfectionist's Guide to Sorting Your Stuff, I began including posts about organization here on the Porch Swing Chronicles. 

In 2015, I decided to step off not just the porch swing, but the porch itself and move my organizing posts to a home of their own, my Organizing by STYLE blog. Over time, themed posts like "3 Keys Thursday" and, later, "True Confessions Wednesday" became regular features. In 2021, I gathered my True Confessions Wednesday posts into a volume of their own.

Since the publication of Know Thyself in 2019, I've been posting less frequently at Organizing by STYLE but you can still find revolving features ranging from "Thursday Thoughts" to "Throwback Thursday" (and yes, "3 Keys Thursday") on -- you guessed it -- Thursdays on the Organizing by STYLE blog

To enter to win a copy of Know Thyself: The Imperfectionist's Guide to Sorting Your Stuff, (paperback), email me at with "Blogiversary Giveaway" in the subject line, and Know Thyself in the body of the email. One entry per person, please, limited to the contiguous United States. Deadline to enter is Saturday, June 3 at 12PM EST. 

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Dishing with Marita and Friends (A Blogiversary Post)

 One of my favorite things to do is to put my characters on the porch swing and let them talk. Here's a post from 2019, featuring key cast members from the MAC books (Casting the First Stone, Chasing a Second Chance and Courting Peace). Credit for the first three questions goes to Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project (and the page-a-day calendar I had back then). Anything else that arises is just life on the porch swing. :-)

Would you rather visit a gourmet grocery store or a nice office supply store?

Angel: Oh, definitely the gourmet grocery store!
Charli: Does the grocery store have ice cream?
Bets: Groceries? Office supplies? Ugh. Shoes!! (shakes her head and guffaws) Groceries.
Marita: Well, as long as we're not following the directions, I'll just go to the mall!
Angel: First question and we're already making up our own rules?
Bets: Angel, we have met, have we not?

Do you wake up naturally most mornings or are you awakened by an alarm?

Charli: (groans) Alarm.
Marita: Mine goes off before yours.
Bets: Depends on whether or not I'm temping that day. See, Angel. I can follow the rules. Sometimes.
Charli: When she wants to.
Bets: You got that right, kiddo.
Angel: I'm awakened by an alarm named Spencer. Luckily, she's cute.

If you could take an all-expense-paid trip to any city in the world, where would you go?

Marita: Paris.
Charli: Someplace I could try out my Spanish....Spain.
Bets: London. Or maybe I'd stay closer to home and pick New Orleans. I've always wanted to go to Mardi Gras.
Angel: Somewhere in Hawaii. I'd like to see the Pacific Ocean. But I'd rather take a cruise. I don't really like to fly.

Charli: Hey! Let's play "Would you rather?" I'll start. Would you rather travel by plane, train, car or cruise ship? I pick cruise ship.
Marita: Me too. Though planes are okay, too.
Bets: I'd take a plane to get to my cruise ship.
Angel: (laughs) Trains, cruise ships and cars for me, please.

Bets: Okay, I've got a question. And you can't say "both."
Would you rather marry for love or money?

Charli: Love.
Angel: Love.
Marita: Love. But it wouldn't hurt if he had money.
Bets: Do you perhaps have someone in mind?
Marita: No, but I do have a question.
A big, inexpensive wardrobe or a few key, expensive pieces?

Bets: That one is actually hard. I like a lot of clothes, but I could also get by on a few really good things. (She thinks for another moment). A few expensive pieces.
Charli: Me too. Then again, I can live in jeans and tee shirts.
Angel: A big wardrobe. And a walk-in closet.
Marita: Me too. I like choices.

Angel: I have one.
Read the book first or watch the movie first?

Bets: Do I have to read the book at all? Movie!
Marita: Movie.
Charli: Book first. Angel?
Angel: Book first.

Bets (stands): Okay, everyone I'm getting drinks!
Strawberry daiquiri or iced tea?

Charli: (slumps) Like I have a choice.
Bets: One of these days, kiddo.
Angel: Tea for me, please.
Marita: What do you think?
Bets: Be right back. And if anyone out there in cyberspace has any questions, send 'em our way!

Or, if you'd like to enter to win a copy of Chasing a Second Chance, email me at with "Blogiversary Giveaway" in the subject line, and Chasing a Second Chance in the body of the email. One entry per person, please, limited to the contiguous United States for paperbacks. Deadline to enter is Saturday, June 3 at 12PM EST.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Porch Swing Chronicles Meets Front Porch Book Club (A Blogiversary Post)

  It's always fun when someone asks me to write a guest post or join them on a podcast. Back in 2021, I had the opportunity to slide off my porch swing and join Linda Culbertson and Nancy Shank on their virtual front porch for their Front Porch Book Club podcast

I never know what to expect when I visit a new podcast. Years of teaching and acting have made me reasonably comfortable with off-the-cuff conversations, but awareness of rolling tape definitely adds an edge. Most of the time, things turn out well and I have fun, and this time was no exception. I had a blast!

Sisters Linda and Nancy have a really interesting set-up. Each book gets two air dates. The first is a discussion between Linda and Nancy, book club-style, about the book they're featuring. The second (that's where I came in) is a conversation with the author. It's light and fun, but they asked me some of the best questions I've even been asked about anything I've written.

I hope you'll check out the Casting the First Stone episode, along with at least some of the other episodes Linda and Nancy have posted in the past two years!

Today's Blogiversary Giveaway:

To enter to win a copy of Casting the First Stone (paperback or e-book), email me at with "Blogiversary Giveaway" in the subject line, and Casting the First Stone in the body of the email. One entry per person, please, limited to the contiguous United States for paperbacks. Deadline to enter is Saturday, June 3 at 12PM EST.

**(Please note: the giveaway has no affiliation with the Front Porch Book Club).

Monday, May 29, 2023

Celebrating my View from the Porch Swing

Photo: jackietrains via Morguefile

 This weekend, I'm celebrating 18 years of Porch Swing Chronicles! Despite my recent slowdown in posting, (thanks to taking on a bit too much all at once), I have no intention of getting off the porch swing any time soon. In fact, this week, I hope to make up for my unintended absence by featuring some vintage posts of porch swing visits, along with some giveaways.

How did this blog get its name? Here's the story.


Memorial Day weekend landed smack in the middle of all this [end of school year] craziness, and of course, there was a picnic to attend. My "to do" list scrolled endlessly through my mind as I tried to convince myself that taking a huge chunk out of a Sunday was a good idea. Everything in me screamed, "Run! Claim this time! Stay home and check things off your list!" Oddly enough, it was the first clear voice I'd heard in the mental chaos of the past several weeks.
I silenced it, however, and went to the picnic. While there, I wandered onto my sister-in-law's front porch and sat in the porch swing, easing myself back and forth, taking in the rural front yard so different from my own suburban lawn, looking over the porch railing at the creek where my brother-in-law had discovered three snakes that day. 
Slowly, amazingly, peace came. For the first time in a long time, I simply sat, enjoying the quiet, a talent I've never been able to fully cultivate. 
Before we left for home, I made sure to show my daughter [then eight years old] the porch swing. She and I sat there alone for a few minutes, and she discovered the fish jumping out of the water, then right back in. Instantly, she loved the swing as much as I did (though my husband remained puzzled by its allure). Then, my sister-in-law joined us, telling the story of the porch swing she'd taken from her grandfather's home when he passed away. It was certainly not the first time I'd sat on that swing, but it was the first time I'd heard its story.

Whether you're a regular reader, or you're reading this blog for the first time, thanks for joining me. Be sure to check out this week's vintage posts for a chance to win some goodies! 

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Write! Right?

 Driving to Pittsburgh last week, I was excited for a new, conference-related set of blog posts. But, as you can see, they didn't materialize. The combination of terrible internet service in the hotel meeting rooms and balancing conference time with daughter time meant that blog posts got shelved. 

But that doesn't mean I wasn't inspired. Now that I'm back (and back on track with the summer course I'm teaching), it's time to dig in! This morning, I put on my WRITER t-shirt -- the one I bought when Castle had new episodes every week -- for both inspiration (my own) and preparation (for a meeting with my writing accountability partner). The shirt, like my writing schedule, is a bit worse for wear, but that's no excuse. 

I'm ready. Let the creativity commence.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Friday Feature: Seatmate

 Last week, just before my trip to Pittsburgh, I finished listening to an Audible Original that's a contender for my favorite book of the year.

A few weeks earlier, I'd sought out a book by Cara Bastone after finishing Angela Duckworth’s Grit. I was getting ready to head into the end of semester grading tunnel and wanted something a little lighter. Since I’d really enjoyed the last of Bastone’s Audible originals, Love at first Psych, I thought another by the same author might be a good fit.

Enter Seatmate, which was even better.

I rarely listen to novels on Audible, preferring to curl up with that sort of a book in my lap, but Bastone has a knack for writing for the audio book genre. Like Love at First Psych, Seatmate is appropriately dialogue heavy, which makes it easy to follow the story even while driving, but Bastone also has a talent for working in character descriptions. Listening to this as a writer, I often thought to myself (and even said out loud), "that was a really clever way to do that."

The book definitely has a romance vibe to it, but it doesn't feel like formula romance. For me, that was part of the appeal because I'm not a big fan of the genre and haven’t read a romance novel, per se for more than two decades. Because Bastone creates likable, complex characters, she has the reader rooting for them as individuals, not just rooting for them to end up together, and she's good at creating suspense beyond the will they/won't they vibe of a standard romance.

Bastone makes excellent use of the audio format in terms of setting, story structure, and sound, using all of them to deepen character development, amp up conflict, and bring the listener into the story. Throughout the story, she brings in enough peripheral characters to keep things moving and interesting, without deviating from the story that we want to hear.

In fact, the book was so much fun to listen to that I think I want to write one! Audible, are you listening?

Wednesday, May 24, 2023


  I'm back! And busy! Turns out that wrapping spring semester, starting a summer online course, and going to a conference all within a week puts a person behind. 

No regrets. Pennwriters 2023 did not disappoint, (though it did lead to an all-new to-do list). And, from the "best of both worlds" category, I also got to visit with my daughter. 

Since the Pennwriters conference alternates between Lancaster and Pittsburgh, the things I was looking forward to in 2018 when the post below appeared (and the conference was in Lancaster) are slightly different. No sister time this time, and no workshops to present, but I did get the chance to pitch my book to two agents. The hotel stay was for just one night, and it wasn't at the Eden, but it did include dinner with a friend I see only at these conferences.

And the change of pace? Always welcome. Right up until I get home and it's time to tackle those lists.

May 2018:

Tomorrow, I leave for my favorite writing conference: Pennwriters. Here are five things I'm especially looking forward to:

  • Catching up with my sister. My sister is also a writer, and we share a room at Pennwriters conferences. We get to catch up on everything from writing stuff to personal stuff and everything in between, as well as dishing about...
  • Workshops to attend. Thanks to a wide variety of great workshops, I never go home uninspired.
  • Workshops to present. I love going to workshops, but I'm really looking forward to teaching at Pennwriters for the first time. I'm hoping for "just-right" sized groups for my workshops on Organization for Writers and Facebook Party Basics.
  • A hotel stay. I really love the Eden Resort Inn, where the conference is held. Though I spend most of my time in meeting rooms, I always manage to spend some time by the fireplace in the lobby and in the Courtyard with its greenery and fountains.
  • A change of pace. It's been a very hectic couple of weeks and I'm looking forward to a weekend that's heavy on learning and fun and light on responsibilities, as well as connecting with friends I see only at these conferences.
Guess I'd better think about packing! I'm sure I'll have lots to share when I get back.