Uniforms bind us to one another

“You really shouldn’t be wearing spaghetti straps in class,” I said, staring at the pretty teen whose bare shoulders belied the fact that it was a chilly morning.

She rolled her eyes, insinuating, I think, that I was old and didn’t understand. I wanted to say that back in the ’60s, when I was about her age, my parents rolled their eyes at my hip-hugging, ragged-edged bellbottoms, tight leotard tops, and miniskirts that just covered the edge of my bottom. But I bit my tongue, knowing she wouldn’t believe me. Students seem to think teachers have no lives outside of the classroom and that, after they leave and the lights go down, we curl up under our desks to rest and wait until they arrive again the next day.

The whole dress-code issue got me thinking about uniforms. The term itself causes teens to gnash their teeth, practically weeping at the thought of someone specifying what they can and cannot wear. For me, however, uniforms generally gave me a sense of belonging.

My first uniform consisted of white figure skates, beige tights and a navy-blue skating dress. Though a mediocre ice skater by all measures, every time I saw those Olympians or the top-notch competitors I sometimes shared the ice with, I always pictured myself among them, gold medal proudly displayed on that ribbon around my neck. A kid can dream and dream I did.

As a Girl Scout, I can’t say I loved the white shirt, jaunty tam, and green skirt, which I did manage to hem to almost mini proportions. What I did love was my merit badge sash, it’s bright array of emblems signifying my scouting accomplishments. I took a great deal of pride in those small colorful fabric disks. All these years later, my sash is the only part of my uniform I still have and one I continue to cherish.

In my early twenties, I became a sports official, which necessitated all sorts of uniforms and accoutrements. Baseball required a mask, shin guards, and a chest protector that, ironically, supplied no real protection for those of us with actual breasts. There were ball bags and caps and steel-toed shoes, with grey polyester pants and light blue button-downs that, over the years, morphed into dark blue pullovers. And let’s not forget those little black plastic clickers that enumerated balls and strikes and outs. Any umpire who ever tried to work a game without one will tell you the near impossibility of keeping the count in your head.

Me Umpiring 3

Basketball, soccer, and ice hockey had relatively simple attire, by comparison: black-and-white striped shirts, black shorts or pants, and a whistle. Of course, one needed hockey skates for hockey, and those little red and yellow cards for soccer, but keeping track of the gear was pretty easy.

Not so for football – the only sport I still officiate – which is a complicated equipment affair that necessitates I tote a wheeled bag to my Friday night high school games. Athletic leggings are covered, in my case, by prescription-strength knee braces, which are concealed by belted black pants displaying a white stripe down each leg. I tuck the lanyard bearing my Fox40 whistle beneath the collar of my striped shirt and slip the notepad on which I’ll document the captains of both teams, each time out, and any nefarious behavior that might require further paperwork in my breast pocket. A blue bean bag for identifying the spot where a fumble was lost or where possession was gained on a punt is pushed into the left side of my belt, while my yellow flag is tucked between the top of my pants and right hip. An elastic down indicator encircles my wrist, which, like the previously mentioned clicker, is one of those seemingly inconsequential bits of gear, until you find yourself in the middle of a game wondering if you’ve lost a down. We also have caps and watches and radios and ear pieces and down clips and black shoes. Added up, my football gear might not seem like much, but the horror of arriving unprepared leaves me and many of my brethren carrying duplicates: two shirts, extra shoes and flags, enough whistles to outfit the whole crew, and multiple hats. Speaking of the latter, my cap is white, because I’m the referee and crew chief. And it is at that moment, when I look in the mirror and adjust that hat, that I truly feel like a football official.

anne-montgomery-referee

While working as a TV sports reporter and anchor my “uniform” was less specific than others I’ve worn, but there was prescribed clothing, nonetheless. In television, there is a specific look required. (If you want proof, click through your local news channels.) And though every station would shuttle me off to a consultant who would look me up and down and then proceed to change my hair, make-up, jewelry, and clothing, the results pretty much looked like every other woman who plied her trade in front of a TV camera.

Montgomery TV .75

One of my favorite uniforms is one that keeps me alive. My black, neck-to-ankle scuba skin  protects me from the sun, which as a red-headed freckled person is an ongoing battle. My buoyancy control device keeps my head above water, when need be, while my regulator allows me to breathe when I descend down into the sea. My dive computer helps me discern when I should take those decompression stops, so I won’t get the bends, and my fins help me maneuver through currents that might whisk me out to sea, if I’m not careful. Without my mask, I’d be blind in a watery world. As much as a uniform, my scuba gear is a life-support system.

Me diving 2 smaller

All of my uniforms share something in common. When I see ice skaters, or Girl Scouts, or sports officials, or scuba divers, or women on TV, I know we share a common history. Despite our age, or where we reside, or any other details that define our lives, we recognize that we hold similar experiences and, though we may be strangers, we are also comrades.

I hope that, at some point, everyone gets to wear a uniform. Maybe even the child in the spaghetti-strap top. Perhaps then she’ll understand that uniforms are nothing to fear, rather they are links that bonds us to one another.

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Anne Montgomery’s latest novel, The Scent of Rain, tells the story of two Arizona teenagers whose fates become intertwined. Rose flees into the mountains to escape from her abusive polygamous community where her only future is marriage to a man older than her father. Adan, whose only wish is to be reunited with his mother, is on the run from the cruelties of the foster care system. Are there any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other?  The Scent of Rain is available at https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780996390149 and wherever books are sold.

Get a jump on your holiday cooking

Perhaps you think we authors are just ink-stained wretches who care only for that elusive perfect turn of phrase. But you’d be wrong, because some of us care alot about food! In our hearts and minds we are dedicated foodies, so a bunch of us got together and created a cookbook that’s free to whomever would like to download the book.  With the holidays rapidly approaching, it’s time to grab your copy of The ABCDs of Cooking with Writers. And now, I will don my toque, as it’s my day to make the chili.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/751324

“It could have been taken right out of today’s newspapers.”

My thanks to SusanLovesBooks for reviewing my novel The Scent of Rain.

https://susanlovesbooks.wordpress.com/2017/10/06/review-the-scent-of-rain-by-anne-montgomery/

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Anne Montgomery’s novel, The Scent of Rain, tells the story of two Arizona teenagers whose fates become intertwined. Rose flees into the mountains to escape from her abusive polygamous community where her only future is marriage to a man older than her father. Adan, whose only wish is to be reunited with his mother, is on the run from the cruelties of the foster care system. Are there any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other?  The Scent of Rain is available at https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780996390149 and wherever books are sold.

 

What are all those fees that keep cropping up on review blogs and should authors pay them?

ten dollar bill

What if you could get a book review for ten bucks? But what if paying for the service made you quesy?

I’ve always said I’d never pay for reviews.

The big payouts to places like Kirkus run about $500, give or take the length of the book, so those are easy to refuse. And since even the idea of forking over a small amount for a critique seems tantamount to literary prostitution, the temptation to click that PayPal link is usually fleeting.

So what’s an author to do about these new seemingly innocuous fees that keep popping up on book reviewers blogs?

“I would be interested in reviewing this book,” said a blogger I recently contacted.

See me smile.

“Please note that I will not do a review without a blog post. If you want your book reviewed, you will need to choose the Blog Post Promotion with Review option. Payment links are at the end of the form.”

The fee was ten dollars.

See me frown.

Another review site, a rather glossy on-line magazine, requested $12 dollars for handling my cover art. Not sure what that means, exactly.

“I would love to review your book,” said another blogger. “I do have a cost per review policy set up. I have it set as a donation so the amount is up to you.”

Hummm? Is a donation a fee, if there’s a cost per review policy?

My head hurts.

I mulled these charges over, and here’s what I figured out. I’m asking a stranger who owes me nothing to read my 386-page novel. A stranger who, by the way, usually has a day job and a family life and may be a writer, as well. I’m asking that they compose pithy – hopefully positive – comments to be posted on Amazon, Goodreads, Twitter, etc., so that I might sell my book and earn a royalty check worth cashing.

In light of this revelation, and since a Hamilton appears to be the current going rate, I considered what I can purchase for ten dollars. Two Egg McMuffins with tax come in just shy of ten bucks. If I were the gambling sort, I could get in a couple hands of blackjack. I found a mini USB fan clock on ebay, which was very cute. And there was even a Batman money clip. But these are not things I want or even need.

As an author in our digital world what I lust for – there, I said it – are reviews. Perhaps you are now wondering how I handled the above requests. Well, damn, I paid the reviewers what they wanted! Did I feel like my hopes were being held hostage by benevolent booknappers? A little. Still, I understand the time and effort needed to review a book. (If you’re not convinced, think about how you’d fit being a reviewer into your life. I’ve pondered the idea and have no clue where I’d find the time.)

So, I will keep querying reviewers and will consider what they want in return. Somehow the fact that they don’t ask for payment for the actual reviews makes the idea a bit more palitable. When the costs go up, as they surely will, I will contemplate the issue again. In the meantime, I’ll make friends with PayPal.

 

the-scent-of-rain-ps-1

Anne Montgomery’s new novel, The Scent of Rain, tells the story of two Arizona teenagers whose fates become intertwined. Rose flees into the mountains to escape from her abusive polygamous community where her only future is marriage to a man older than her father. Adan, whose only wish is to be reunited with his mother, is on the run from the cruelties of the foster care system. Are there any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other?  The Scent of Rain is available at https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780996390149 and wherever books are sold.

Interview with Anne Montgomery

My thanks to Cindy Bohn for sharing our conversation on her Speedy Reader blog.

Speedy Reader

Today I have another treat – an interview with author Anne Montgomery. Anne is a former reporter turned writer. She has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. Her first TV job came at WRBL‐TV in Columbus, Georgia, and led to positions at WROC‐TV in Rochester, New York, KTSP‐TV in Phoenix, Arizona, and ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where she anchored the Emmy and ACE award‐winning SportsCenter. She finished her on‐camera broadcasting career with a two‐year stint as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Montgomery was a freelance and/or staff reporter for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archeological pieces. Today we’re going to be talking about her book, The Scent of Rain.

32337760I really enjoyed your book. (My review is here.) Where did you get the idea for this book?
The ideas for all of…

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