It all started this morning, as I sat sipping my coffee on the sofa, going over my recipes for the Wisconsin State Fair. I began to realize that in many ways, cooking is like writing. They both take a great deal of effort, and once the product is completed, you should feel a sense of relief, and accomplishment. If I could feel that way about cooking, why couldn't I feel that way about my writing? I used to feel that way about my stories, but latley I have felt dissapointed in the way I chose to present the characters to the world. I let that feeling slip from my mind, as I hurried about the house gathering up my breads and jam. It was already 10am when I left the house, and I only had one hour to make it to the fair in time. No problem, I thought to myself. Little did I know, that there was a huge accident on the freeway, and traffic was backed up for miles. So there I sat, at a stand still, on I-94 on a hot mid summer day. I was frustrated, and worried that all my baked goods would start to go bad in the car. Then, almost as if "someone" was hearing my thoughts, traffic started to move. I decided to pull off the freeway, and take some side streets instead. I saw this car pass me on the left, and pull right in front of me. I should have laid on the horn, but all I could do was smile. My friend Minxie says to look for the signs, and this was a big one! Just as suddenly as my frustration came, it quickly lifted at the sight of this car. I am sure many of you know why.
Once I reached the fair, I was in high spirits! I took my number, and waited to be called so that I could hand in my 4 entries of the day. They were pumpkin bread, white bread, scones, and strawberry jam. After my number was called, I reparked my car, and came inside to meet with my mother. The room was bustling with eager exhibitors awaiting their turn to show off the items they had taken so long to create. Afgans, and quilts of all shapes and colors hung from the rafters within the horticultural building. The magnificent assorment of textiles was truly something to be seen, and they had been judged the week prior. Today was reserved for pies, cookies, breads, salsas, and an allotment of multiple creations. I obliged some of my friends with a run to McDonalds. Everyone was hungry, looking at the tasty arrangements of foods which lay before us. It is a very hard thing to witness such mouth watering creations, and not be able to eat one morsel.
The aroma of freshly baked breads, scrumptious cookies, and envigorating salsa lingered in the air as I arrived back at the fair. Everyone dove right into their "not so good for you" lunch. The judges arrived on the scene just minutes before all the excitement began. Food was hurried back and forth to all the judges, and the crowd sat patiently as each category was judged one by one. After each class was judged, the winners (1st-4th place) were announced across the loud speaker, which in turn was met with cheers and applause from the crowd of on lookers.
It was taking a long time for them to get to my entries, and since I was dying of thirst, I decided to take a look around the fair grounds for some water. Have you ever wondered what the state fair looks like before the crowds pile in for some summer fun? Well, let me tell you, I was intruiged. The grounds were full of life everywhere I went. At one point, I thought I might run into some trouble, and hid behind a pilar under the Milwaukee Mile Race Track. The bleachers were empty, and the tents were all set up for the array of vendors that would soon occupy the space.
What I didn't expect to hear, or see, was race cars! That's right....race cars! As I stood there, under the bleachers, the loud and furious sounds of engines swept by me, peeking my curiosity. Sadly, I could not see very well from where I was standing, so I let my imagination take me away. That is the exact moment when I realized....I still had it in me. The ability to imagine myself in a far off place, to put myself in someone else's shoes, to take my experiences and relive them through writing.
The sun was beating down upon me, as I walked further into the state fair. Out of no where, one of the workers came up to me and told me about a vendor on the other side of the fairgrounds that was open for business. So off I went in search again for some water. It was futile to try and use the various water fountains that I passed, since they hardly worked. I reached Mr Ed's Chuckwagon, and ordered a brat (my weakness) for my mum and I to share, and a bottle of water. At that point, I would have settled for a beer, but the water was like heaven to me!
I made it back to the fair just in time to see my pumpkin bread disqualified, as I knew it would be. It had not turned out as well as I had hoped. My mood began to shift once more into frustration. I had worked so hard to make all these things for someone else, and I should have been making them for me. Just like I should have been writing for me, not for someone else. All was not lost though. My white bread was up on the judges table, along with 7 others. I grabbed my copy of the Public Enemies book I had brought with me, and buried myself within its pages. I did not want to see my poor bread suffer the same fate as the one before it. But to my surprise, 4th place! Not bad.
Next up came the Strawberry Jam. My history of jam making in this category has not gone down very well. Needless to say, I have NEVER placed at all at the state fair with my strawberry jam. I watched, nervously, as the judge surveryed all 8 participants jars, and pushed mine off to the side. I thought, oh no....here we go again....another year at the fair...another year of not being placed. I turned to a friend of mine, and repeated what I said last year. "I will never enter this category ever again. It is always jam packed full of people, and I am always the first one to be discarded." To which she agreed, and that was one of the reasons she did not enter the strawberry jam category either. Then all of a sudden the judge was at the microphone......1st place for me! I could NOT believe it! I wanted to jump, to scream, to take back the words I had uttered not moments before. I had beaten my mum, her friend, and all the other people in that class. My hope was restored, and my mind began racing with the tales that I would tell my friends when I got home. My mum looked at me with that look that only a mum can give you. The one that says I am proud of you, without even having to say a word. I too, was proud of her. She had recieved the Berry Growers Association award for her cherry pie, and countless other ribbons, and places, for her various jams and jellies.
I needed a bit of fresh air, so I once again strolled outside to enjoy the sunshine. I walked up and down the fair. I snapped a few photos, and rested on a picnic table near some pink petunias. I closed my eyes, and let the sun wash over me. I felt peaceful, and calm, not like the past few days when all I felt was frustration. I thought about the words that were so eloquently written by our fellow Captain Jack a few days ago on his blog. I understood completly how he feels about having writer's block. Sitting there on the bench, I realized that all I needed was the inspiration to start writing my ideas down. Even if they are just that....ideas. Some of the best novels in history have come from a single idea. It is that one spark of that single idea that can arrise the passion within the soul. Whether it be the smile of a child, the sounds of a passing car, or sitting on a picnic bench staring up at the sun.
I had been at the fair for 9 hours now, and my scones were next up on the table. I saw 21 entries in this class, and thought I had no chance. I had been disheartened when the same scones had not placed at the county fair last week, and even more so when I saw how many people had entered into the scone category at the state fair. One by one, I saw the scones pass by me on their way to the dreaded "rejection" table. Now, I don't like to use that word since no one should feel rejected if you tried your best, but still...there it was...staring me in the face like a bad dream. I nervously stared at each plate as they went by, but mine was not there. I grasped my mum's arm, and hung on for dear life. She, in turn, did the same to me. We were both as anxious as each other since we were both in the scone class. More and more plates passed us, as we watched helpless. Then the judge came up to the microphone. 2nd place for my mum, and 4th for me! Again, I couldn't believe it. Now you may think 4th place is not very high, but considering it came 4th out of 21 entries....that's pretty good...and I was happy.
After that, I went over to the photography board. I had entered 2 photos of my dogs, and my friend. I should have entered the pics of Columbus, but alas....I did not. Next year however, they will be entered. Neither of my photos had won, so I quickly gathered them up, and headed off to take some photos of the empty fairgrounds.
This is what the Horticultural Building looks like before everything is added
The famous Lions Corn Roasting booth! I hear it is their 50th anniversary at the fair!
So what bands are playing this year?
And this sign says it all....a French Booth (Thinking of Johnny when I was there LOL) that makes Cheese Curds!!!When I left the fair, I felt that accomplishment that I have been needing for so long. I may not have placed as high as I would have liked, and I may not have won with all my entries, but I found something much more valuable. I found the inner artist that has been laying dormant for so long. At the end of the day, I finally understood that it did not matter to me what other's thought about my stories, just as long as I enjoyed them. As I said cooking is like writing. You hope that other's will enjoy what you create, but all in all....it is the creator that truly has to appreciate what they are doing, and be satisfied with the result. I will not go as far as saying that my writer's block is cured, but it is on the mend. In the words of my friend The Captain, "They tell writers to find some medium in which to put words even when in the grips of a writer's meltdown, and putting anything down at all helps to reestablish your connection with words." That is why I decided it was time to take a simple idea, and try to focus on getting some of that connection back that I have missed for so long. I found inspiration through my friends, writing on the blog, and just taking a moment to stand still and think. The next thing I need to work on, is my spelling!