Category: On travel


Writing Conferences: A guest post by Jennifer Caloyeras

By Midge Raymond,

This guest post is courtesy of Strays author Jennifer Caloyeras, whose blog you can follow on her website. Enjoy!

What’s in it for you at a writing conference?

Each time I peruse the latest edition of Poets & Writers magazine, I see the endless amount of writing conferences offered across the globe, which got me thinking: Why should writers attend writing conferences?

I’ve attended a handful of these conferences (later this week, I’ll be at the SCBWI – Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators – annual conference in Los Angeles), and I’ve compiled a list of benefits these conferences have to offer both seasoned writers as well as those just starting out.

What you can gain by attending a writing conference:

1. Networking: Conferences boast hundreds to thousands of attendees, depending on the type. Either way, you meet tons of people. You’ll find writers working in a similar genre, in a similar city, or perhaps you’ll meet your next writing group member!

2. Access: Most writing conferences have established speakers who are active members in the publishing world. Writers, agents, and publishers are all in attendance. Inevitably, one of the questions that is always asked by someone in the audience is, “Can I send you my query?” And I have to say, many agents and publishers will give you something specific to write in the subject line of an email to gain direct access to them so that you can forward them a query letter and they’ll connect it to your attendance at a specific conference.

3. Exposure: Most conferences have a designated time when writers can sell their work to the other conference attendees. If you’re a published writer, this is a great time to practice your sales pitch as well as answer questions about the writing process. And if you’re just starting out, you can walk around and speak with scores of other writers and ask them questions about their publishing experience and their books.

4. They’re valuable: The speakers at conferences have all prepared something very specific to talk to you about, such as character development, how to land an agent, how Excel can be used to track your submissions, and how to book gigs at your local library. There is always more to learn, and there are always new ways to reach out to readers. I keep all my notes from these various conferences and reference them often.

5. They’re fun! There’s plenty of time to socialize with other writers, and lots of conferences will have an evening out where you can leave the notebooks at home and just have a night of fun!

So, how do you pick a writing conference that’s right for you?

Check out the back pages of Poets & Writers magazine.

Go to New Pages for a list of upcoming conferences by state.

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Vegan shopping in Portland, Oregon

By Midge Raymond,

Tell any vegan you’re headed to Portland, and you’ll be asked, “Are you going to the vegan strip mall?”

But of course.

This little strip mall is home to Sweetpea Baking Co., a divine vegan bakery with a large seating area and a wonderful selection of pastries (you can also special-order cakes (including wedding cakes), pies, cupcakes, and cheesecakes).

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We got a chocolate chip cookie, which was nice though not outstanding (it was a bit dry), and a chocolate croissant, which was dry and had so little chocolate I thought we’d been given the wrong item.

The almond twist, however, was incredible beyond belief — it was gigantic, melt-in-your-mouth sugary, sweet, buttery, and smothered in icing and crunchy almonds.

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Just a couple doors down, is the vegan grocery Food Fight, which was wonderful to visit in person, since we usually order online.

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It’s a small, regular-looking grocery store, but the beautiful thing is that everything inside is cruelty-free.

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Food Fight has fresh foods and juices, as well as an abundance of dry and prepared foods — and an excellent selection of vegan junk food, from Earth Balance sour-cream-and-onion potato chips to rice-cereal crispy treats to caramel sauce. There’s also a good selection of eco-friendly and vegan household items.

And the vegan message is not just in the food and goods but everywhere in the store.

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There’s a wonderful selection of artisan vegan cheeses, and had we not been traveling we’d probably have purchased at least one of each. (Click here to see some of the options.) Since Food Fight doesn’t ship these perishables, next time we visit Portland, we’ll be sure to bring a cooler and head straight home.

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Don’t miss this vegan strip mall next time you’re in Portland!

  Category: On travel, Vegan
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Dining well in Ashland

By Midge Raymond,

Updated! Louie’s is more vegan friendly than ever! Below this original article, check out what’s new at Louie’s … 

We love dining out in Ashland, though as vegans it can be tricky, even in this progressive little town. Yet this afternoon we rediscovered Louie’s, with its veg-friendly new menu and an organic-mint mojito (it was five o’clock somewhere).

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We sat in a shady spot by the creek, which was lovely even on a 90+ degree afternoon, and enjoyed Thai Peanut Wraps, with both regular fries and sweet-potato wafflettes. Other vegetarian- and vegan-friendly items (which we’ll be returning soon to try) include the rest of the artisan wraps (all of which can be made veg or vegan), the gourmet sandwiches (again, all of which can be made with organic tofu), and the black-bean chili (we’ll wait until autumn for this one).

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Louie’s is right on the Plaza, and by the time we left, its air-conditioned bar and restaurant was packed and overflowing. Even on such on a hot day, the creekside seating was lovely and filling to capacity as well.

Those who love sports are likely already very familiar with Louie’s, which lately has been a major hub for World Cup viewers. Tuesday night is Trivia Night and Wednesday is Bingo Night (with half-priced beverages).

But we’re especially thrilled to see Louie’s making its menu such a veg-friendly one…between these delicious offerings and and the mojitos, you’ll know where to find us when we’re not at Ashland Creek Press HQ.

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May 2017 update: Louie’s has always been one of the most veg-friendly restaurants in town, and on our most recent visit we were delighted to see these colorful menus that make browsing and ordering so much easier.

Not only does Louie’s have an extensive vegetarian menu but they offer a “vegan cheat sheet” as well.

We loved this, as it not only makes clear what items can be easily be made vegan, but it makes it a lot easier to ask; thanks to this cheat sheet, the staff knows exactly what to expect, and you don’t have to feel as if you’re asking too much by excluding whatever non-vegan item might be in a vegetarian dish.

In fact, thanks to this ingenious cheat sheet, I was inspired to sample something new: the Mediterranean wrap (which I may not have ordered in the past for fear of having to ask to hold the feta cheese and the pesto), and it was delicious. We also had the Thai tofu canoes, and of course the kettle chips and fries are delicious staples here.

We look forward to returning to go through the entire vegan cheat sheet and try every last dish. It is easy to see why Louie’s is always packed with happy people…it’s one of those rare and wonderful restaurants that considers its customer’s needs and meets them.

Dining well in Friday Harbor

By Midge Raymond,

San Juan Island is one of my favorite places to be in the world, mostly because of the stunning scenery and wildlife: windswept ocean vistas, rocky black-sand beaches, bald eagles, red foxes…the list goes on and on.

Almost as glorious as all the beauty and wildlife was to find a restaurant and wine bar that epitomizes all that San Juan Island is about. Mike’s Cafe & Wine Bar is not only lovely and delicious but its all-vegan menu and Northwest wines show that this local business is serious about its appreciation of the environment it calls home.

Let’s get to the wine first. Owner Mike Sharadin is also owner and winemaker of Northwest Totem Cellars, a small, family-owned winery producing hand-crafted wines in Woodinville, Washington. The wine list at the cafe features a variety of local wines, available by the bottle, glass, or flight — but Mike had me at the Northwest Totem’s Sangiovese, which was delicious and happened to pair very well with the pizzas I was having. Beer lovers: there are lots of local beers on the menu as well.

As for the menu — I only wish I’d been able to try everything on it (already looking forward to my next visit). If you stop in for a beer or a glass of wine, you might try the spiced bar nuts, pretzels with savory mustards, or truffle oil popcorn. Small plates include bruschetta, hummus, spanikopita, and a vegan charcuterie platter with mushroom pate, herbed tofu cheese, olives, and French country bread.

The larger plates include the most delicious vegan pizzas I’ve had. I tried the pesto and the supreme, both amazing: crisp, cheesy, wonderfully spiced, and somehow light and filling at the same time — in other words, just perfect. Other larger plates include a pesto “chicken” sandwich, pasta of the day, and a Szechwan Sizzle.

All this, and vegan cheesecake, too.

Next time you’re in Friday Harbor, don’t miss Mike’s Cafe & Wine Bar. It’s right in the center of town, at 135 Second Street), and a wonderful place to visit, whether you’re in the mood for a drink and a nibble or a meal and a bottle of good wine.

Even better, Mike’s is one of those few amazing places that actually walks the walk — a restaurant that reflects the beauty of its surroundings in its philosophy of food and wine.

 

PDX is helping to keep plastic bottles in check

By Midge Raymond,

I loved being in the Portland, Oregon, airport last week and being able to refill my aluminum water bottle at this handy fountain.

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As most of us who carry our own bottles know, it can be rather messy to refill them at normal drinking fountains (and, having to be held at those awkward angles, they never seem to fill all the way, do they?).

This is the first time I’ve seen one of these nifty fountains (I know, I don’t get out much), but I hope to see many, many more in the future. Among the best things about it is seeing the real impact of using one’s own water bottle as opposed to buying yet another plastic one…

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  Category: On nature, On travel
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