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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Ann Richter

Years ago I thought I'd be “musing” once, maybe twice a month. Didn’t seem all that ambitious. I mean, there’s stuff floating around in my head all the time. Just type it up. Well, it’s been over five months since my last blog post, so you see how that’s going. I could blame the pandemic or any number of modern day traumas, but I’m tired of that. Instead, I’m going to reboot my blog based on one of those floaty ideas.

From this point forward, “Musings” will be “Birds and Stars.” Why? Because birds and stars pop up in my writing on a regular basis. Also, I won't run out of stuff to talk about. By latest estimates there are over 10,000 bird species in the world, and when it comes to the universe, I've got light years' worth of material.

So let’s start with the birds. I just finished my Bird Nerd novel and took the big step of printing it out for its final fine-tuning before querying. What had begun as a short story, morphed into a novel, then morphed again into a rather different novel is finally done. I’m so thankful to my critique group and everyone else who had eyes on it (or parts of it) along the way.

Now to the stars (representing all of space—planets, nebulae, etcetera and so forth). I was pleased see my poem “City Girl Stargazing” published in the June issue of Spaceports & Spidersilk. Inspired by my childhood backyard stargazing in Philly, it tells the story of a girl who gets transported to the Andromeda galaxy. Since the earliest “wow” experience I remember was seeing Jupiter for the first time through my telescope, that’s how I opened the poem:

Last night I visited Jupiter—

a tiny, striped glowing bead that
grew into a monstrous world
that pulled me through its cloudy
swirls down, down to a secret core.

And there I met metallic giants
dancing on a molten sea.

I’ve also got more stars in my future, as I embark on another rewrite of my novel The Star of Moon Village. It’s been waiting in the wings for a couple of years now, and I’m chomping (champing?) at the bit to see what I can do with it to make it bigger and better. That should keep me busy well into 2023.

Okay, that’s enough for now. I’m already thinking of my next post, so that’s a good sign! Here’s to another attempt at blogging!

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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Ann Richter

Updated: Feb 15, 2022

I made it. I finally made it!

Not to imply that my other poems or stories were anything to sneeze at. Nor were the publications they appeared in. But I’d been submitting to Cricket magazine for so, SO long (like, honestly, I’ve lost track of how many pieces I’ve sent to them over the years). Now I’m happy to report that my poem and short article, “The Books of Timbuktu,” appears on its pages!

This journey started at my job, actually. I was writing video description for parts of Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s docuseries Africa’s Great Civilizations, and was captivated by the part about Timbuktu and the Mali Empire. I had no idea that the place had been a center of learning and knew nothing about the books from those days and the efforts now to find and preserve them. I didn’t race home and write the poem, though. Just thought about it. For about two years or so, give or take a few months.

Then at some point, still in the time before Covid, I starting Googling around and hanging out at the library researching Timbuktu, particularly its golden years from around the 1300s to 1500s. I then labored over a poem, and on March 25, 2019, submitted it to Cricket—a respected literary magazine for children. I waited and waited, and was thrilled with an acceptance nearly seven months later. They even took me up on the offer to write an informational sidebar piece to go along with it. As elated as I initially was, I knew it would be a while before it appeared in print, so over time I tempered my joy. Then Covid came, and other stuff—including some pretty devastating rejections of two novels I’d been shopping around—and then the joy returned out of the blue. That was September 1, 2021, when I learned the piece would appear in the February 2022 issue.

And the publication came just at the right time, on the heels of another big blow to my novel-writing career. A YA novel that I’d revised based on feedback from a very interested agent ended up getting rejected by her after all. She said it was a great manuscript and it was hard for her to let it go, but different types of stories were speaking to her at the moment. Fair enough.

But back to the joy. I must say, I love the cover of this issue of Cricket and I love how they laid out my poem and sidebar info! I haven’t read through the other pieces, but from what I’ve seen they look fabulous and I’m thrilled to be alongside them.

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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Ann Richter

Updated: Feb 14, 2022

Not even a month into Project FeederWatch, and critters are already getting on my nerves! Not the birds, of course. They’re what the project’s all about. From November to April I count the avian visitors to my backyard habitat and record the results on the FeederWatch website. (By the way, this is the first year I’ve included a birdbath. I’ve also leveled up my shrubbery selection. Exciting times ahead!!!!)

Birdbath decorated with gravel and stones
I know. Went a little overboard with the stones.

I’ve also decided to go more suet-heavy, for a number of reasons. One, there’s a pine tree nearby that a lot of woodpeckers, nuthatches, and birds like that hang out, and I know for a fact that woodpeckers are really big suet fans. And two, I wouldn’t have to worry about squirrels shoveling out handfuls of suet and spilling it all over the place like they do with the seed at my other feeders.

So anyway, my suet cage had been empty for a few days, so yesterday I went and got some no-melt suet dough since the weather’s been kind of warm. I figured that way the suet would last longer. Well, okay. So I go to bed last night with the block of suet still there (a slow day in the habitat), and this morning I wake up to find the cage flipped up over the fence.


But here’s the thing. It wasn’t opened, and the wire I’d wrapped around the top for extra security…was still wrapped around the top!

So what in the world got to the suet and gobbled it up that fast with the cage still closed? I can’t image a bird—or even a couple of birds—pecking it clean in one night. And besides, weren't they sleeping? Okay, not owls, but I’m not sure they’re suet eaters. Plus, their flat faces and short beaks aren’t great for getting at stuff in small cages. No, I’m thinking more mammalian.

Squirrels would be my first guess, but they’re not your typical creatures of the night. Now raccoons—sure, they’ve got those creepy people-fingers that could easily reach in and scoop out all that suet. Never once have I seen a raccoon in my yard, but I guess it doesn’t mean they don’t visit. It was a full block of suet, and pretty thick, so I’d have to assume two of them did the raiding. Also, bears aren’t completely unknown in these parts, but if a bear had been the culprit I would’ve woken up to much more than a suet cage flung over the fence (if the fence was even still standing).

Of course, as is the case for bigfoot and most other mysterious sightings you hear about, I didn’t get any video. My excuse? Well, I'd taken my low-rent security camera down when I was rearranging some stuff a while back and never got around to re-installing it. The night vision is pretty poor, but I might’ve gotten something. It’s back up now, so next time the creature pulls off something like this again, I’ll get to expose him or her for the thief they are.

Let’s just hope it’s not a weird neighbor.

*Note added on 2/14/2022: The night vision doesn't work on my camera, but from all the evidence I've collected, I'm pretty sure it's squirrels working together.

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