For the Love of Gardening

Flowers

by Jerol Anderson

I joined GardenComm because plants are my very best friends. It’s a thrill to plant a seed or little plant and watch it become a gorgeous smile-provoking bloom or vine or bush. I used to call them my babies. But, of course, now I have real babies and they have babies that I enjoy learning to know. So that parallel is not so easy to make when I know the real thing.  

I enjoy being alone a lot and a person who is alone a lot sometimes has a propensity toward a little depression. If I am feeling too alone, I turn to my garden in summer or my greenhouse in winter or just pop into a garden center for the earthy scent and the fresh air created by my friends. Even an hour or so of getting lost in a world of plants in the winter can truly get the endorphins flowing for me.  

The only anger I feel while gardening is when I work up to it in order to remove a prolific weed that is choking out some pretty little plant. And then the anger is really artificial just so I can muster the physical strength to pull out the big guy or the stamina to keep at the pulling project until it’s finished.  

I have friends and relatives, who don’t appreciate or share in my love, love, love of a garden. One friend actually has artificial flowers in the pots in front of her house during the gardening months. I can forgive them but I’m still learning not to talk about horticulture when I am around them. Someone very special to me, who had a negative bent toward flowers, stood with me one summer afternoon as we gazed from my deck across the zillions of perennials blooming. Her comment was, “Look at that cute little bird perched there.” It was a clay bird that adorned the birdbath. I’ve learned to force a closed mouth smile and nod.  

It’s also fun to laugh about my obsession with the garden. I mean even in the winter when I can’t get to sleep at night it’s not sheep I’m counting, it’s my garden for spring I’m planning and scrutinizing. ‘Who’ can live in the proximity of whom and be a true asset to the eye candy I’m creating for myself. And, it is for myself. Friends come over to share my garden and tell me I should sign up to be on a garden tour with others in the area. And have strangers gaping at and touching my babies??? Oops, I mean specimens.  

My obsession is as an escape. A place to go to forget everything else in the world, almost like meditation. But as a novelist it’s also fun to create characters who actually don’t like people – even their own children – as they worship the perfect rose or hydrangea. A good example is in the third novel of my Jessica Tyson Mystery Series, EMMA’S GARDEN. Or, at the other end of the spectrum, there are other characters in THE QUEEN ANNE FOX and A LAKE KOSHKONONG TALE, who truly find peace in the beauty of the natural flora and fauna of God’s creation. I am GardenComm. 

 Meet the Author

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When not writing, Jerol shares her time with her husband, ‘The Critique King’, two lovely daughters and their families (yes, grandchildren), another stepdaughter and stepson and their families (yes, grandchildren), and a bird named Tonto. She has Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and Biology. Also enough credits for the Chemisty Degree, but a triple major wasn’t allowed. All those science years are of yet another lifetime. They come in handy when crafting a mystery chocked with medical and forensic info. Visit her on her blog www.jerolanderson.com or on Face Book. 

 

 

I am GardenComm by Emma Biggs

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by Emma Biggs

I’m 13 and just joined GardenComm-but I already know all about it. I often tagged along with my dad, Steven Biggs, to see what all the fun was about. I’ve helped prepare for the annual regional meeting for a few years, and attended it for the first time last year! I have met A LOT of people through GardenComm. 

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I’ve been gardening for a long time (for someone my age)–and doing garden communications since I was 9. That’s when I did my first book with Dad. A few people asked me to come on their radio shows. Well, not just any people: GardenComm members. Preparing for those interviews taught me how to convey enthusiasm with my voice. Actually, it was a bit scary at first. But not too scary, because these GardenComm friends put their confidence in me (and Dad was beside me, too, of course). They trusted me enough to have me on their shows. Since then, I’ve done radio many times, and now even co-host my own radio show with Dad once a month. 

I recently got my own website and joined Instagram, where I share lots of garden pictures. Two years ago I graduated from giving talks with Dad to giving my own talks. I  speak about unusual crops, tomatoes, and gardening with kids. Last summer I branched out into video. Of course, it was another GardenComm connection: After Dad and I interviewed GardenComm member Jessica Walliser and her son, Ty, he and I decided to start a YouTube channel. I am meeting mentors at GardenComm who 100 (3).JPGare helping me turn what I love into a future. I can share what I love, and inspire my generation to garden. While that is fulfilling in itself, it helps me make money to buy more than my fair share of tomato seeds! Maybe I’ll breed some awesome tomato varieties one day too. My latest focus has been on urban farming and growing microgreens.  

It has been crazy with my new book out. Lots of speaking gigs, articles, radio shows, and in general, overwhelming kindness. All the fantastic people that I’ve met through GardenComm have interviewed me for articles and radio shows, provided me with priceless tips, and shared the word of my book. I know that I have the GardenComm family behind me to push me forward with all my garden communications. I am GardenComm. 

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Emma Biggs raised over 130 tomato varieties in her Toronto garden in 2018—gardening in containers, in straw bales on a driveway, in a neighbour’s yard, in wicking beds under a walnut tree, and on her garage roof. Her garden is the source of many of her stories. Her latest book, Gardening with Emma, helps kids find the fun in gardening (and helps adults remember how much fun gardening is!) This year, Emma will begin blogging about tomatoes for Harrowsmith, a garden and food magazine. Emma is the co-host of The Garage Gardeners Radio Show. She is also a host of kids gardening videos on the From Dirt to Dishes gardening channel on YouTube. Stop by and say hi to Emma at www.emmabiggs.ca, or on Instagram at emmabiggs_grows. 

From Byline to Brand

by Megy Karydes

As writers, many of us don’t consider ourselves a brand. We’re not a product, after all. Fact is, we are a company and we do provide services, whether we write feature articles on a variety of topics, author or ghostwrite books, or teach writing or communication courses. We engage with others, including editors, content marketing agencies, and fellow freelance writers. Through our body of work, we become known as “the garden writer” or “deadline slayer” or the person who will murder your darlings.

During the GardenComm webinar, From Byline to Brand, I’ll be sharing some reasons why writers need to consider how they present themselves as a brand and how being a brand can be an asset to us, helping us secure more work or finding sources.

Why Writers Need To Build Their Brand
Some writers cringe at the thought of being a brand. They’re often the same people who cringe at the thought of having to market themselves. As both a marketer and writer, this feeling always puzzled me. Why would you not want to make life easier for yourself by simply letting people know how you can make their lives better or easier?

By definition, that’s what marketing is: creating, communicating, delivering or exchanging offerings that provide value for customers, clients, partners and society large, loosely defined by the American Marketing Association. A brand is the name for the source of that product or service. In our case, we are the brand and we’re marketing ourselves.

Building our brand also helps us because being known for something helps to influence those who are in a position to recommend or hire us for our expertise. It helps us build a platform if we decide to write a book. It helps people remember us for the kind of work we either do or want to do.

Becoming Memorable
Building a brand isn’t just for those with a specialty in a particular topic. It helps those of us who want to make a change and try something new. Perhaps you’re a garden writer today but want to write more food pieces in the future. How can you make the transition? You can become more mindful of the garden pieces you write by pitching and writing stories with a food bent. With even a handful of clips, you can add “food writer” to your biography. The more of these stories you write, the more you’ll become recognized as a food writer without alienating your garden writing work.

Finding Your Audience
Building your brand isn’t enough to get you noticed. You need to let those in a position to hire you that you’re available and have the ability to deliver the kind of work they need. Using online social media platforms, email newsletters and simply updating your LinkedIn profile are just some of the ways to stay front and center. Face-to-face meetings with editors at conferences or other writers are important and effective ways to stay top of mind and make a personal impression.

During the From Byline to Brand presentation, we’ll review some best practices and you’ll see examples of writers who are strong at this branding game.

Building a brand isn’t hard. In fact, I find it one of the easiest ways to market my services because it helps me focus on what kind of work I want to attract. Still, wanting to build a brand isn’t enough. You have to set aside some time regularly to build it so it becomes part of your marketing routine. We’ll discuss some ways to make this an easier process so it doesn’t become cumbersome and, dare I say, maybe even make it a fun experience?

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Megy Karydes is a Chicago-based freelance writer and ghostwriter who often writes about sustainability, food, travel, and business topics. She also teaches graduate-level communication courses at Johns Hopkins University. In 2019, she’s hoping to channel more calm in her life so she’s made a commitment to meditate daily. So far, she’s clocked in six hours and 45 sessions in January! To follow her journey, sign up for her monthly newsletter at MegyKarydes.com where she’ll be sharing updates with readers.

On Being Social with a Purpose, Six Reasons Why You Should Attend MANTS  

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by Phyllis Gricus

True confession: I want to hibernate in January. I have no natural inclination to want to travel for hours with the possibility of bad weather. Then walk the streets of Baltimore in the cold. And then have to exercise my social muscle and interact with (gulp) people!

For me, winter is the season for hunkering down at home, usually socially unplugged.

I will occasionally be digitally social. You know, new-school style: Online. From the somewhat anonymous comfort of my warm, smart device. Not the old-school, real face-to-face time way. Yet, in spite of my trepidations, most years I do make the effort to attend MANTS. And, SURPRISE! I’m always glad I did!

Yes, I must continually remind myself, as if It’s a news alert…This just in: Social Exercise is good for you and your business! Maybe you have the same social hibernation tendencies? If so, let me share my 6 reasons to remember to get out from behind the digital screen:

#1 Camaraderie: Garden writers, err, Gardencomm-ers?* are an inspiring and fun group to be with. The name may have changed but the familiar fellowship among our members remains the same. Each time I attend an event with other members I am reminded that I have found my people.

#2 Idea generators: Andrew Pidgeon, the marketing director from FibreDust/Enroot Products discovered during his product presentation of Gift Wrap that Grows just what an engaged crowd we are. The wrapping paper, embedded with wildflower seeds, goes a step beyond recycling—it can be planted! The group threw out questions about growing zones, shelf life, and possible vegetable seed paper. When I spoke with him afterwards, he was thrilled with the crowd participation and suggested that we had just helped him write his next marketing plan.

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#3 Opportunities: There is so much to see at MANTS and without Marianne Wilburn’s keen eye for unique things I wouldn’t have learned about Best Bees, a company that offers beekeeping services to green industry professionals and interested homeowners. (A landscape design client of mine may be interested. See? Good for business!)

#4 Relationship Building: The social exercise continued as I moved from table to table at the Connect Meeting (otherwise known as “Let’s meet and drink at the hotel bar”). I was entertained as Pat Stone provided comedic foil to Doug Oster’s and Marianne Wilburn’s all-in-good-fun teasing.

#5 Energizing: Jan Kirsh, sculptor and landscape designer, attends MANTS each year for the social interactions with many of her suppliers. This year at the coaxing of Gloria Day, she stayed for the Connect Meeting and attended the Media Breakfast. Jan touts the creative synergy she draws from meeting people from different facets of the horticultural business.

#6 Education: Katie Elzers-Peters (The Garden of Words) is wicked-smart! I sidled up to her table to eavesdrop on the conversation about digital marketing. Did you know readers like lists? Thanks for the tip, Katie: You got this blog post started!

In summary, remember to remember the six reasons you will want to attend MANTS next year!

And remember to tag your media posts and share published work with the good folks who sponsor the media breakfast: Eve Hemsley Butt eve@MaroonPR.com; Anna Levendusky; Anna@MaroonPR.com

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#MANTSBaltimore | #MANTS2019

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*It’s also good to adapt to and even embrace change. Many thanks to the dedicated members and officers who are shepherding our organization into the future. Your efforts are appreciated!

Meet the AuthorPhyllis Headshot

Phyllis Gricus is the principle of Landscape Design Studio, LLC in PIttsburgh, PA, a firm dedicated to creating sustainable and imaginative gardens. As a freelance garden communicator she has written for various publications and media outlets.

“I am GardenComm” by Tom Christopher

by Tom Christopher

As someone who came up through the world of traditional print media – magazines, newspapers, and books – I have found the last few years professionally challenging. Opportunities in those older media have shrunk, even as I became ever more passionate about gardening. For me, gardening is not just as a means to self expression but also a way to initiate the public into a greater environmental literacy. I strongly believe that you can’t garden without becoming aware of the natural systems that underlie both success and failure in that craft. Gardening, because it is intrinsically enjoyable, is an ideal way to reach strangers with a message of greater environmental responsibility.

Casting around for new outlets, I turned to radio. The couple of contacts I had at local radio programs were both discouraging about my prospects of breaking in. It wasn’t until I contacted two fellow members in GardenComm, people whom I knew had successful radio programs, that I received any encouragement. Armed with these veterans’ advice, I pitched my services to two radio stations: an internet radio station whose studio is in a neighboring town, and the local public radio station, whose broadcast area covers much of central Connecticut.

Both stations’ studio managers were receptive. An initial spot as a guest on the internet radio station turned into a weekly gardening program. At first I served as a co-host, but within weeks I was hosting the program by myself. Meanwhile, the public radio station had accepted my proposal to supply weekly short radio spots about “greener” gardening – the studio manager there said that often programs came in a couple of minutes short and that my spots would be ideal for filling the resulting gaps.

Thanks to my years of reporting on the gardening scene, I have had little trouble finding interesting guests to feature on my internet radio program. I’ve also connected with the Connecticut Horticultural Society, working out an arrangement by which I interview its guest speakers each month on the day before they address the membership. And once a month I go downtown to the public radio station’s studio with the scripts I have written to record four two-minute spots focusing on some aspect of environmentally informed gardening.

Instead of watching my audience shrink, I am now reaching new markets. Many thanks to my generous colleagues at GardenComm.

I am GardenComm.

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Thomas Christopher is the author of more than a dozen gardening books, and of a syndicated weekly newspaper column.  He is also, now, the host of a weekly radio program, and contributes short spots to a public radio station, WESU in Middletown, CT.

“I am GardenComm” by Larry Hodgson

gc i am logo_finalby Larry Hodgson

With the coming of the New Year, the Garden Writers Association (GWA) has taken advantage of its 70th anniversary to update its name. It is now Garden Communicators International and will be known as GardenComm. This name change has been a long time coming.

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This was long the logo of the Garden Writers Association.

It’s been apparent for years that the name “garden writers”  simply didn’t cover it all. Many of its members are photographers, artists, lecturers, garden tour hosts, horticultural consultants, podcasters, PR people for public gardens and the horticultural industry or work on radio or television. All do reach out to gardeners to share information, but they don’t all write. Even garden bloggers—and there are many of us!—often don’t, for some reason, seem to consider themselves writers. So, a more comprehensive name was needed … a name like Garden Communicators International, GardenComm for short. Because all of us (yes, I’m a member!) communicate about gardens and gardening. It’s what we do and it’s what brings us together! 

I’ve been a GWA member for over 30 years. In fact, I’m a past president of the association and have held all sorts of offices within GWA over the decades, including chairing the Local Arrangements Committee for the Quebec City symposium in 2013. 

I can still recall how surprised I was to learn there was actually an organization for people like myself who made their living communicating about gardening. I was, in 1983, just starting my career, writing freelance about my passion for gardening for a newspaper and a few magazines and beginning to give lectures. I had no idea what I was really doing and whether you could actually make a decent living at it (I certainly wasn’t at that point). Then, while I was in Miami for the World Orchid Conference, I heard that there was a “Garden Writers Association of America” meeting in the hotel just across the street, so I wandered over … and met the friendliest people I’d ever run into to in my life. They just welcomed me in (well, I did have to pay admission, of course!) and presented me around. To my astonishment, I found myself hobnobbing with famous authors (well, famous in the gardening world) who treated me like I was one of them! And, I now realize, I was! 

I ended up skipping the rest of the orchid show and spending the final part of my trip attending outstanding lectures, visiting extraordinary gardens and simply socializing with this new group of like-minded people (we’d call that networking today). I was hooked!

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Don’t miss the 2019 Annual Conference and Expo.

It was thanks to GWA that I got my first book contract, that I learned how to put together a decent PowerPoint presentation, that I learned the tricks of the trade of being a garden speaker, that I was able to pick up the latest gardening news and trends and that I simply developed the reassurance that what I dreamed of doing—making sharing my passion for gardening my life’s work—was indeed a viable way of life. And every year I attend the annual conference and exposition, wherever it takes place (it will be in Salt Lake City in 2019!), to reconnect with old friends, meet new ones, pick up new information and visit exclusive gardens. I owe GWA—now GardenComm—all my gratitude. 

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Visiting outstanding gardens is one of the main draws of the Annual Conference & Expo.
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On the QT, GardenComm’s bimonthly newsletter.

Are you a garden communicator? Do you blog, write about gardening for a local paper, share information about gardening in other ways? Why not consider joining GardenComm? At $105 US for a year’s membership, that’s a whole lot less than just about any other professional organization (indeed, I spend more every year on seeds!) and you certainly get your money’s worth. And tell them the Laidback Gardener sent you, for…  I am GardenComm!

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Larry Hodgson

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Larry Hodgson is a freelance garden communicator living in Quebec City, Canada. A past president of GardenComm, he writes regularly for various publications, lectures widely and is the author of over 50 gardening books. You can read his daily gardening blog at laidbackgardener.blog. 

Pitch it Right for a Home Run

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by Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

GardenComm members and others recently posted on The Business of Garden Writing Facebook page that they wanted to know more about pitching to editors. Here are some tips on pitching articles for magazines, newspapers, corporate blogs, newsletters and other publications. 

  • Make sure the publication accepts freelance articles, photos or artwork. Not all of them do. Check the publication’s website for guidelines on submissions. Some publications provide guidelines and some do not.  
  • In the publication’s staff box or on the website, try to identify to whom the submission should be sent. Avoid “to whom it may concern.” If it’s unclear, send the pitch to an editor and address him or her by name. 
  • Read the publication. I know this sounds really basic, but you’d be surprised how many freelance writers don’t do this. If you can’t get an actual copy, look at the website. Pay attention of the tone of articles, what kinds of information is generally included. Are articles reported or written from personal experience? Are articles illustrated with photography or other graphics? If there’s a pay wall, call or write the publication and ask for a sample copy. 
  • Articulate in the pitch how your article fits in the magazine, what news or information does it present? Does it advance a topic? Will it speak to a certain demographic or skill level? 
  • Include a brief bio that indicates where you’ve had articles, photos or artwork published. You want to reinforce that you are experienced and up to the job. 
  • Identify whom you would interview for the article and what information they would contribute. 
  • Submit a summary of what the article will say.  
  • Send a couple of examples of photos or graphics that could illustrate the article. These do not need to be extremely high res, but should be large enough that the editor can get a good sense of the quality of the image. Keep in mind that some publications will assign their own photographer and graphic artist. 
  • Does the publication use a particular style, such as Associated Press? If so, write your article in that style. Follow any guidelines provided. Editors appreciate not having to edit for style, do they can focus more on content, clarity, flow and other aspects of storytelling. 
  • Consider running the pitch by someone who has written for the publication for review. 
  • Most publications work with writers and photographers as work-for-hire, so make sure to understand what rights you retain, if any.  
  • Usually email is the best way to submit ideas. Follow up with a phone call or an email in a couple of weeks. I know it’s terribly unprofessional, but some editors do not respond at all.  
  • Submit a clean, well-written, error-free pitch. Good luck! 

A recent experience 

Someone recently pitched a story for one of the magazines I edit. The idea was a good one, but it was obvious that she’d not read the magazine. Still, I accepted the story idea, which had good photos. That and the fact that I actually needed an article like she pitched. 

I sent her the guidelines for the article and she immediately sent back her piece, not written in the format required. In fact, there was no article, only photos. I emailed her back, suggesting that I had not been clear in what was needed and explained in more detail. I told her the info was in the guidelines. Her response was she had a creative brain and was not a detail person and had overlooked the instructions. She agreed to read the directions and resubmit the article. 

So, once you get the job, follow the guidelines and meet the deadlines. The less work or worry you make for an editor, the more likely you’ll get more assignments. 

 Meet the Author

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Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp, vice president of GardenComm, is editor of On the QT and the former editor of five magazines.  This article recently appeared in On the QT, Jan-Feb 2018. 

 

Baseball image courtesy of Worldsartsme.com