I attended the Chuckanut Writers Conference this weekend and pitched my book, The Parting Glass, to 3 different agents. All three expressed interest. Two requested a couple of sample chapters via email and one wanted a completed manuscript. So, now I have the challenge of actually finishing my book. I’ve been so focused on perfecting every last sentence I write, that progress has been slow (although I am about 25,000 words in). Some valuable advice I got was to set a minimum writing goal. Each day, for example, maybe I write 15 minutes at an absolute bare minimum or maybe 2 pages. I can perfect it later.

I know many hours of writing and self-promotion are in my future, but that’s okay. It will all be worth it when I see my book on the shelves of Village Books. It will be worth it when I can actually do what I love for a living. I’ve never wanted anything so badly in my entire life.  And to think (as my friend Sherry pointed out), I almost took a political science class last fall instead of Laura Kalpakian’s Memory into Memoir class. Sometimes one decision can change the course of your entire life.



This has been a lazy day.   There were things I wanted to get done, intended to get done, but I got sucked in by the Janissaries terrorizing the poor Irish in The Stolen Village and gave up on doing anything else. 

I’ll let you in on a little secret.  I don’t take photos everyday.  Oftentimes I’ll take pictures of multiple subjects on a photo walk so that when I am having a lazy day or week, I’ll still have something to post about. 

Today’s photo, for example, comes from a few miles down the road.  I took it last Sunday along with some pictures of flooding and old boats.   The rusty colors in this old, askew post make a good addition to my Rust Canvas collection.   As I was considering it, I thought this might end up bothering David, who loves clean, straight lines.   We shall see…

It’s Here!

One of my favorite memories of Ireland involved what I thought was an imaginary story of Algerian pirates kidnapping an Irish village.   Apparently, in 1631 pirates stole the entire village of Baltimore, Ireland and then sailed back to North Africa with their ships full of new slaves.  Only two people would ever return.  

Kieran entertained me with this story while I was in Midleton, Ireland.  The concept of a stolen village seemed implausible, but when I returned home and googled it – I found out it was true!  In fact, I would later find references to the mass kidnapping in a couple of Irish history books I already possessed.   I felt bad for laughing every time he tried to tell me the story.

Anyway, he promised to mail me the book, The Stolen Village, and a handwritten letter.  I waited for what seemed an eternity, but tonight when I opened my mailbox – there it was!   I absolutely LOVE mail that isn’t bills.  It takes time and effort to write a real letter, and people just don’t do it anymore.

Cork Photo Shoot

My friend Trisha has a wonderful tradition.   When she shares a bottle of wine with someone special, she and that other person (or people) sign the cork and date it.   Over the years, she’s accumulated a plethora of corks and signatures that I thought would be fun to photograph.   The photo above is one of many I captured over lunch today.

I learned of this tradition a couple of years ago when I first visited her home.  This inspired me to start my own collection.  Looking through all the names and dates is kind of like looking through a photo album.  I can remember exactly what I was doing and how I felt at the time.   There are only two corks which aren’t included in the general population, and those are the ones I brought back with me from Midleton, Ireland (in County Cork, ha!).

Naughty or Nice

Dear Santa,

If you find yourself in Bellingham, Washington on December 25th please bring the following:

  • A Nikon D300 and an assortment of lenses
  • Camera accessories including a tripod and camera bag
  • Something Irish
  • A personal trainer
  • A personal chef
  • A Land Cruiser
  • First quarter tuition

I know it seems like a lot, but it never hurts to ask.  You can’t receive if you don’t ask! 

I will use these gifts for nice and not naughty. Well, mostly.   It would probably depend on how you interpret “something Irish”. 

Thank you!

I Want A REAL Tree…

What do you do when your roomie wants a real Christmas tree and you feel indifferent?  You call your friends, buy some hot apple cider, and then drive into the country to find a real tree, of course. 

Here is the proper way to locate the perfect tree and cut it down yourself. 

First you find a U-Cut tree farm with a great view.

Wander through the farm until you find a tree you can’t live without.  Give it a big hug.

Ask Andy to give you a quick lesson in saw basics.

Feel empowered.

Before you get too involved in the cutting, it’s important to have someone hold your glasses.

Put a little muscle into it.  That tree isn’t going to cut itself down. 

After it’s down, have Andy  help you walk the tree back to the truck.    Rick will be texting people about it.

Drink hot cider while the boys finish the job.


Meet Rocky.  I spent the afternoon at the Nolan home with him and his sister, Ginger.    These little dogs were so cute, I couldn’t resist making one of the pictures from today’s photo shoot my picture of the day.

This was my first real photo shoot with animals, and it was both an adventure and learning experience.  First of all, Rocky and Ginger were very well-behaved.  However, it was a challenge getting both of them to look the same direction at the same time.  Also, using a flash made their eyes green.  Photoshop does wonders, of course, but I’m wondering if anyone out there has experience photographing animals and if they have any advice for further projects?   Diffuser to use?  Compact portable lighting?

Favorite Search Terms

I was reading Lisa’s blog this morning, and she mentioned the random search terms people used that ultimately connected them to her WordPress blog.   This got me looking at my own site stats, and I found some interesting things!  Now, I have absolutely no idea who actually is doing the searching.  All WordPress tells me is that someone, somewhere typed one of these terms into Google or another search engine, and that lead to Jolene’s Life in Focus.  

These are some of my favorite search terms from the past month.

learn to love guinness
love yourself
jolene artist alfalfa
дикие животные  (What does this mean??)
the revenj of the missipp squarl  (interesting way to spell it…)
statistics on cat scratch fever
blowing in the wind
pub photography
deciduous leaf litter
pictures of things in focus
cat paws
snow caps candy
“neptune theater” and “haunted” or “ghost”
hard life in Africa
busted laptop
how to take a self portrait with a cell phone
ireland door art
tromme Tanzania
wild animals
wild things on facebook

Also, Since August, I was searched for by name 82 times.   Not bad!

Sorry, I have no photo of the day for Thursday.   Instead of playing with the Canon, I helped my friend Ian decorate his Christmas Tree tonight.   It was nice to play the role of friend instead of photographer, so the camera stayed at home.

Visit Harris Avenue Cafe

2010 was tough, but a creative gold mine.  I took thousands of photographs this past summer and fall!   I was scheduled to display my work at Harris Avenue Cafe this month, so I had to narrow it down to my 10 favorites.   This was quite the challenge.

After much debate and buying a $5 Home Depot hammer, I nailed my 10 framed choices to their walls.  So, if you happen to be up in Bellingham, Washington…and in the Fairhaven area…and if you happen to be hungry, you should visit Harris Avenue Cafe!   I personally recommend the Eggs Toulouse with smoked salmon.  

Here are the 10 I am displaying.  Which is your favorite and why?  I ask because, as a photographer, I’m always curious as to what moves people. 

8×10 Print; $50

Bellingham, Washington

8×10 Print; $50
Bellingham, Washington

11×14 Print;  $75
Whatcom County

12×18 Print;  $85
Bellingham, Washington

12×18 Print; $85
Mount Vernon, Washington

Twisted II
11×14 Print; $75
Bellingham, Washington

Vanishing Point
11×14 Print;  $75
Dublin, Ireland

8×10 Print; $50
Bellingham, Washington

Closed Door
11×14 Print; $75
Whatcom County

On Edge
11×14 Print; $75
Sedro Woolley, Washington; Northern State Hospital

You can purchase prints from my website at   If you are interested in any of the above photos, which are already framed and matted, visit my website for contact information.   I am willing to print, frame, and mat any photo of your choice from my galleries.  Canvas prints are also an option (much less expensive if you purchase from me directly than from the website).  

I love doing this stuff!

Barbed Embrace

11 months down, 1 to go.

How do I kick off the final month of 2010?   I thought this barbed wire seemed appropriate.  Let me explain.

I had high hopes for 2010.   I was enrolled in college courses again and working towards nursing school.  I was focused.  I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.   And then a single relationship shipwrecked my plans.  

This isn’t a post to belittle the person who broke my heart, because that broken heart was a gift.    I had fooled myself into thinking I had my life together, and that my path was straight.  The truth was, I was lost at sea and whether it was that man or someone else, I was sailing into a storm.    When it passed, and pieces of me were scattered across the beach that’s my life, I found that in my rebuilding I wasn’t at all who I thought I was.  

So, 2010 was what I’d like to call a “Barbed Embrace”.   While I was supported by wonderful people, and I learned a lot both spiritually and emotionally, it still hurt.  A lot.  And while I can’t wait to leave this year behind, I can’t forget what the pain and rebuilding taught me.  

There’s beauty, even in our suffering.