By: Sandy Bush, Vice President, Pennwriters

Last month my husband and I traveled through New England, spending a long weekend in Boston, and then driving up to Kennebunkport, ME. We had a fabulous time in Boston, and racked up lots of steps on my IWatch. We enjoyed seeing some old touristy spots we’d visited before, as well as a few new sights. By the end of our stay, we’d exhausted our travel goals for Boston, and headed north to Kennebunkport. I looked forward to an ocean view after the bustle and crowds of the city.

Our drive was pleasant and uneventful, and in a couple of hours we arrived at our destination, the beautiful Nonantum Resort. The resort, on the outskirts of tiny Kennebunkport, looked idyllic. With its water views and bright white buildings with crisp, navy blue awnings, this looked even better than I had hoped.

The staff, warm and friendly, advised us of popular restaurants, local sights of interest (ahem…the Bush Compound on the coast), and assured us everything was “only a short walk” from the resort. Ha! The walk into the town proper was a pleasant 20 minutes, but trekking back and forth several times kept the steps on my watch well beyond ten thousand. But, keeping with my goals of (1) eating lobster, (2) enjoying the ocean views, and (3) eating more lobster, made me happy we were active.

With only a vague sense of how far away the Bush Compound actually was, we set off walking one morning. I should mention, southern Maine temperatures rose far above normal during our stay–reaching well into the high seventies and mid-eighties. Unusual temperatures for this time of year. At home in Pennsylvania, temperatures also soared above normal, but who could complain? Sunny and warm temperatures in spring. Bring them on!

My main dilemma with the toasty temps was my lack of appropriate clothing. Assuming New England spring would be far chillier than south central PA, I packed mostly long sleeves, only long pants, and multiple sweaters, jackets, and coats. And two umbrellas. None of these were needed.

Walking along the gorgeous oceanside path, I soaked up the sunshine. However, the pathway had hills, and given the topography of the Maine coast, we walked up and down quite a few. After walking about an hour, I wondered out loud how far away said compound could be. Plus, how would we know when we spotted it? The place is littered with outlandishly over-the-top mansions. Everywhere you looked, wealth smacked you in the face.

Having seen the compound on the news countless times, we felt certain we’d know when we found it. So, we trudged on, getting sweatier and more sunburned as we shed as much clothing as possible. We stopped to take a few scenic pictures and take a water break, but finally, we glimpsed something that looked promising.

“There it is,” Todd said, pointing to an on-the-water group of houses and buildings on the water’s edge.

The largest building, a magnificent house, was the last in a line of lesser, more ordinary looking homes. Although impressive, we were far enough away that I wasn’t convinced it was the right place. “I don’t know,” I said, somewhat disappointed, “it doesn’t look that great. Plus, I thought I remembered it being white.”

My husband shot me a look of annoyance, and we ventured further, running into a nice couple who verified it was indeed the Bush Compound. “I really thought it was white,” I said to the woman. “I thought it would be more impressive looking.”

“Right,” said my new friend, “I thought it was white too.”

Again, my husband looked annoyed, but made friendly chit-chat with the woman’s husband. After telling them where we were staying, they looked horrified when we told them we walked. “Oh my, that’s awfully far,” said the woman, “would you like to catch a ride back with us? Closer to your hotel?”

Declining their offer and wishing them a safe trip home to Florida, Todd and I continued on our way, and got as close as possible without risking arrest. We took a few photos, and admired the tributes to G.H.W.B. beside the walking path. At this point, hot, sweaty, and cranky from thirst and sore feet, we journeyed back to the hotel.

Our lovely room had a balcony and a water view, so when we returned I wanted nothing more than to sit on the deck and relax. What I craved was something to read, but during my hasty departure for our trip, I had forgotten the books I’d meant to bring. Sadly, they remained stacked on the kitchen table in York.

Having spotted a mini library in the lobby, I decided to look for something to read. I chose Open House by Elizabeth Berg, a book I dove into and hated to put down. I relaxed on our deck, rolled up my sleeves and broasted in the afternoon sun. Sheer heaven.

With only one day left at Nonantum, I realized I’d never finish the book. “I guess I’ll have to buy it when we get home,” I told Todd.

“Why don’t you ask them if you can take it?” He suggested. “It doesn’t hurt to ask.”

Although embarrassed, I approached the front desk, and explained my dilemma. Before I could even get my story out, the sweet lady at the desk, blurted out, “Just take it with you. Next time you come back, bring a book to leave here.”

“My wife is an author,” Todd said. “She understands how attached people get to books.”

“Yes,” I said, “in fact, when I get home, I’ll mail you a copy of my first novel.”

“Oh,” said the woman, “that would be wonderful! I can tell everyone the author stayed here.”

I thanked her for her kindness, and returned to our room, resolving to mail a book as soon as we got home. After a long, traffic-jammed return trip, we arrived safely back in York. A few days later, I typed up a letter to Nonamtum, thanking them for their generosity, our wonderful stay, and enclosed a signed copy of Money Man with a handful of bookmarkers.

At our local post office, I mailed the book priority mail, which includes tracking. Since I am generally distrusting of government agencies, I immediately tracked the book’s progress. Imagine my surprise, when a couple of days later, the tracking showed the book was deemed undeliverable/incomplete address. According to the tracking info, the Kennebunkport Post Office, would try to deliver it again the next day.

Every day I continued to track the book. Every day the status remained the same. After a week of this, I resolved to contact the post office and ask why the book remained in postal limbo. Before googling the post office for a phone number, I checked the tracking one more time. This time: Returned to Sender. Sigh.

A day or so later, the battered package was in my mailbox. I was furious. I knew I had the correct mailing address. Why wouldn’t they deliver it? After ranting and raving about this to my husband, he offered to call the resort and inquire.

The friendly staff member on the other end of the phone was equally perplexed. After some back and forth via speaker, I asked if I should try sending it again using UPS or Fed\Ex. But “Ashley” our new front desk friend, suggested we add the p .o. box (although mail was delivered daily without it), and her name to the package as a guarantee it would make it to the hotel.

“Did you guys really piss off the post office or what?” Todd asked. “Why wouldn’t they deliver it?”

“I don’t know,” said Ashley. We all laughed.

Thursday I mailed the package again, venturing to a different post office. I brought the returned envelope with me to show the post office dude behind the counter. Unsympathetic, he only asked if wanted additional insurance or a signature for the envelope.

“Do you recommend a signature?” I said.

“Not really,” post office dude said. “It would probably just complicate things even more.” Sigh.

So I paid to mail it again, fingers crossed, with the newly obtained p .o. box number, and Attention: Ashley written in bold, black sharpie marker. I haven’t had courage to check the new tracking info yet. Maybe I never will.

Diving In Again

By: Sandy Bush, Vice President, Pennwriters

It’s been far too long since I’ve shared a new “snippet” for my website blog, “Sandy’s Snarky Snippets”. Covid did its thing, stole creativity, time, and drive from me, but now it’s time for me to move on. No more excuses. But, what to talk about? How about the Pennwriters Conference in Pittsburgh, PA in May 2023? Or maybe, how Pennwriters helped me become a published author.

I’ve been a member of Pennwriters for a long time, but many years passed without my ever attending a conference. I’d wait eagerly for our bi-monthly newsletter to arrive, and look longingly at the news about upcoming conferences. The newsletter was my only real connection to Pennwriters at that point in my life; that and mailing a check to the Treasurer once a year to pay my dues.

As the stay at home mother of two young daughters, it wasn’t possible for me to traipse off to a writing conference. I kept up with my writing, publishing in a local newsletter through the YWCA called The Mother’s Center. It was through this experience I learned I loved interviewing people, and developed a theory I still hold true: Everybody has a story to tell.

As my daughters grew, I had more time to myself. I had a number of part-time retail jobs, and stayed busy with volunteering at school, but I wanted more. It was around this time I made the decision to go back to college. Penn State (York) accepted me, and I dipped a toe in the pool, starting with one class. I was able to transfer my credits from Millersville, and steered myself toward a major in CAS (Communications, Arts, and Sciences).

After a year, my husband persuaded me to go full time and finish the degree I’d been chiseling away at for so long. During my final semester in my senior year at Penn State, I started an independent study with one of my English professors. I wrote an outline for an idea I had for a novel, and a chapter by chapter synopsis. It was the story of a financial advisor, so tormented by his crazy, wealthy clients, that he fears for his sanity and ponders finding a different career. Professor M. loved the idea and offered to edit for me. I started writing. My graduation was slated for December 2009.

Summoned to the Office of the Director of Academic Affairs several weeks into the semester, I learned my professor and my independent study were both terminated. Dr. Ph.D. interrogated me about my relationship with Professor M. and my own integrity (“Exactly what is this independent study you’re working on?”). I left his office fighting back tears of frustration and anger. Professor M.’s apparent “inappropriate behavior” none of which involved me, would cost me graduating in December. I would be shy three credits.

The only explanation I ever received from Professor M. was a voicemail message saying, “Sandy, please don’t hate me.” I never spoke to him again. I never learned why he got fired. As a student, I wasn’t privy to these details from Dr. Ph.D., or any other administrator.

In Spring 2010, I took two classes: A Government Class, which secured me an internship with the PA House of Representatives, and badminton. By May 2010 I earned the degree I’d worked so hard to get, and carried the banner for CAS at commencement, as well earning a minor in English. Hands down, one of the happiest, and proudest moments of my life.

After graduation, I continued to work on my novel, Money Man while working full time for Rep. Seth Grove. I loved my job, but with the many public service events I needed to attend–often evenings and weekends, I grew frustrated with the lack of time I craved to finish my book. With my husband’s blessing and encouragement, I resigned from my job with the PA House, and dove into finishing my novel.

Deciding I needed to become more involved in the writing community, I ran for Area 5 Representative for Pennwriters, and was elected. In May 2015, I attended my first Pennwriters Annual Conference in Lancaster. Terrified and exhilarated, I made many new friends, pitched my novel to an agent, and had one of the best weekends ever.

It took me almost eight years from the time I submitted my outline to Professor M. to published my novel in 2018. I could never have done it without the connections I made at my first Pennwriters Conference in 2015. With the editorial guidance of Demi Stevens, I published my book through her Year of the Book Press in Glen Rock.

Since then, I’ve published the sequel to Money Man, Money Man Marooned, and served as Area 5 Rep., Secretary, and Vice President of this amazing organization. I am so proud of the hard work accomplished by this volunteer organization, whose only goal is to help writers of all levels improve their writing.

As Vice President of the Pennwriters Board of Directors, I want to thank the Conference Coordinators Wende Dikec and Kathleen Shoop for a fabulous job. Every conference is different and special, but this one was phenomenal!

So, rejuvenated, pumped up, and scheduled for some fantastic Pennwriters online Zoom classes, I applaud my fellow Pennwriters, who never fail to inspire, teach, and support me and my writing. Thank you, my friends.