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  • Writer's picturekiehart

Updated: Dec 1, 2023

Okay, I admit sometimes I do tire of product rating requests…

The days following vacations are hectic. The luggage needs to be unpacked and laundry sorted, the grocery list needs attention, the pile of mail will require some time, and a few dozen of the hundreds of digital photos need to be printed. Nevertheless, within 24 hours of returning from my getaway, the requests for product reviews began rolling into my INBOX.

The VRBO or hotel is usually the first to request a review, sometimes as early as check out: “Was the space well-appointed?” Duh, yeah, the shower was in the bathroom and the stove was in the kitchen. We are given rating options for bedding, linens, cleanliness, views, and parking. Negative reviews such as “pool was closed for maintenance” during the warm weather may deter other travelers who count on such amenities. When we traveled to Amsterdam, we rated our VRBO as excellent regarding ‘location’ and top-notch for our hosts, both statements were true, but we didn’t mention the leak in the ceiling on a rainy day because we told our host about it in person.

If your hotel boasts of a continental breakfast amenity included, it wouldn't be fair to complain about the store-wrapped muffin and hardboiled egg. I'll pocket a yogurt and banana and since I prefer poached eggs with rye toast for breakfast, my comment would be "great location in close proximity to shops and eateries."

Eateries love postings on their website! Photos of the veal marsala with a star rating and comments are appreciated. Restaurants love reading “Staff was courteous and professional” and “Best Reuben ever.” A response from the owner is likely if your comment is: "Tables were set too close together and there was no privacy to conduct a conversation.” or “Cucumbers were soggy.” You may receive a comment that the matter was addressed.

I’ve found that airlines rarely ask for reviews but rental car businesses love ‘em. The Uber driver or airport transport service will happily take a star rating -- the more stars the higher the rating. Tips are, of course, expected and comments are optional. Truthfully, have you ever wanted to write, “Driver would not shut up,” during the 2 a.m. hour-long drive from the airport?

Name-brand retailers like REI ask for product reviews. If you give a lot of reviews, on Travelocity, for example, a “badge” will be assigned for your FB site. A bragging right, of sorts, I suppose.

More often I've been receiving surveys after a visit to my doctor or Urgent Care facility. Those I ignore.

Typical rating systems are 1 - 5 or 1 - 10. Some folk get confused with low versus high numbers. Shouldn’t 1 be considered top because it’s first? Or is it the other way around? I’m also seeing questions like, “How would you rate your experience with our product?” followed with multiple choice options: Very Satisfied, Satisfied, Neither agree or disagree, Dissatisfied, and Very Dissatisfied. The middle choice leaves me quite confused. One of these days I think I’ll select that answer just for the fun of it.

This talk of reviews brings me to Amazon book reviews. Yes, some of you saw this coming. Did you know that every time you post a review of a book, you become the little voice in the author’s ear that whispers “Don’t you quit.”

The best tip for receiving reviews? Make it easy to leave a review.

So, Here’s How to Post a Review of Calico Lane on Amazon

1) Sign into your Amazon account (Amazon requires that you have purchased at least $50 worth of products within the past year before you are able to leave a customer review.)

2) In the Search Amazon field at the top of the page, type “Calico Lane by Judy Kiehart”

3) Click on the image of the book’s cover

4) Scroll down past Editorial Reviews and Product Details to Customer Reviews

5) See “Review this product”

6) Click on “Write a customer review.

7) Select overall star rating (1 is lowest, 5 is highest)

8) Type a headline

9) Add a written review (tell what you liked or didn’t like about the book)

10) Press SUBMIT

Ta Da!

Please help me reach 100 Amazon reviews for Calico Lane before the two-year launch anniversary.



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  • Writer's picturekiehart

Updated: Oct 1, 2023

Last month my post focused on school and learning. Embracing each opportunity for learning, especially if it takes you out of your comfort zone, is an opportunity for growth. Around the time of September's post, I began learning how to direct a short play by watching YouTube videos.

I thought you might enjoy a sample of my first three weeks as director of LEON.

I will begin by saying I’ve never directed a play or assisted in directing a play and I’ve never acted, so volunteering to direct LEON was a bit cocky, even for me. Sure, I wrote it and knew it, but could I direct it?

I dove into online research on “how to direct a play” and then filtered my searches for reader’s theater plays. The research included several dozen YouTube videos.

LEON is a humorous and bittersweet story of three sisters reminiscing about Christmases of the past and how a holiday knick-knack set of four angels bonded the sisters through the years. The 'catch' is that one of the sisters has recently passed and appears as a spirit.

Auditions were held and I chose three ladies to portray the sisters. The first rehearsal was the read-through. At the table, we read each line to determine if the sentences flowed easily. The cast of three were comfortable with the structure.

Next, we dove into the rehearsals.

Readers Theaters vary in the way rehearsals are held. Some allow for theater group members (and guests) to sit in as audience during rehearsals, while others keep the door closed until a few rehearsals have passed. I opted to keep the door to the rehearsal room closed, at least for the first few rehearsals, as it was my first shot at directing and I needed to find my footing with the cast.

During the first rehearsal, we worked on blocking.

I had been working on blocking in the quiet of my kitchen during the prior weeks. Two small plastic penguins, a plastic widget, and a square of cardboard were my cast and set. I read through each scene while moving the pieces around the square cardboard that represented the table. Actually, that was quite fun. Plastic pieces are easy to rearrange. The YouTube hint for blocking by using toys proved quite helpful.

But my cast are not plastic, they are live human beings. We fumbled through the first blocking rehearsal. A humbling moment was when Tina asked, “Should I be on this side of the chair or that side?” I realized this cast of seasoned reader theater actresses were LOOKING TO ME for direction.

I wanted to say, "Whatever works for you." But then I realized this instant was defining the entire idea of directing. Where does she have to be, so she's not in the way, so she doesn't bump into something or someone in the next scene? What did I do with the plastic penguins? Details matter!

I felt clumsy and I'm sure the cast felt a bit clumsy, but we all agreed it was the first rehearsal and things would get better.

The next week I was better prepared. We added props and continued working on the blocking. From start to finish -- with a couple of bumps -- it ran 30 minutes. Not bad, at all! We were excited! We did another run-through and cheered each other at the end. This was a productive hour; the movements were smoother, and we were gaining confidence. I suppose there will continue to be blocking adjustments during the next couple of rehearsals as we continue with what works and omit what’s not needed.

We have nine more rehearsals (one per week) until the dress rehearsal.

Jane, Beth, and Tina (the names of the characters) moved easily and followed my notes. They handled the props like professionals! I am also enjoying watching them give their characters personalities. I'm lucky to have such a great cast!

I recruited my wife for sound effects and prop control. And, Gio has offered to assist and step in as director when I travel East for two weeks.

Soon we will have a handful of rehearsals under our belts and as the cast becomes more comfortable in their characters and movements, I will hopefully become more comfortable with this new challenge!

We can't predict what may happen once the lights dim, some stuff can not be controlled. That's the fun of live theater!

For now, be assured, that the actors for LEON are NOT anything like plastic penguins!

Keep Learning!


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  • Writer's picturekiehart

Updated: Sep 3, 2023

...the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, study, or by being taught.

From the time we are born, we learn. We learn the names of familiar faces: mommy, daddy...and from that moment on...our curiosity takes hold and learning becomes equivalent to breathing.

The month of September brings school to mind. I loved attending school. I looked forward to selecting composition books and lined notebook paper at the department store. New shoes made me smile. The smell of chalk dust and pencil shavings, and then the fresh air on the playground during recess are still with me. Excitedly I joined friends I hadn't seen in months and shared summer adventures in whispers and giggles. I anticipated meeting new teachers and diving into the next level of reading and writing (math? well, not so much).

(Photo of the K-6th grade Lakeland elementary school I attended in Jermyn.)

And now, decades later, in my mind's eye, I watch Dad carefully cut paper grocery bags to size for wrapping textbooks to protect them from sticky fingers. He would fold the paper so that the grocer's logo would not show, allowing me plenty of unmarked brown paper for doodling. I watch Mom prepare my favorite lunch: a tuna fish sandwich with mayo on toasted wonder bread wrapped in waxed paper and tucked into my lunchbox.

And then there was Junior - Senior High School and following that, Junior College. A secretarial career and the challenges of married life and child-raising followed. In my mid-thirties, I began night classes (at the time, I didn't realize I would be attending college on the ten-year plan while raising a son, keeping house, and working full time) and, at 43 years old, received a Bachelor's degree.

After two decades of marriage, I adjusted and learned how to live independently and painfully learned how to 'start over.' After that, it was courses and training for residential appraiser licensing and certification.

And as retirement rolled on, my plan to write a book came to fruition. Then I learned how to independently publish. This learning came from participating in writing groups, webinars, and online courses during COVID lockdown when ZOOM was the safest, and only, way to socialize.

What was the most challenging learning experience for you? As a teen, was it how to drive a stick shift? As a young adult did balancing a checkbook come easily? Maybe it was surviving your child's 'terrible twos' or their Goth phase in Junior High? Or was it re-entering the job market after years of raising children? For many of us nowadays, we are learning how to be caregivers for parents.

If you could write a letter to your younger self about learning, what would it say?

Life is full of opportunities for learning.

Right now I am watching YouTube videos to learn how to direct a short play I have written. YouTube has millions of viral videos...while these are fun and informative, I'm not suggesting we sit in front of the TV or computer for long periods of time, but it's another way to learn.

What I'm suggesting is, as September unfolds, look for opportunities to learn. Libraries, colleges, and senior centers offer a wide variety of free or mostly free classes. If you enjoy reading, join (or start) a book club. Start a game night and learn new games --- I recently learned Rummikub and it's a whole lot of fun! Organized walks like 'mushroom excursion walks' and 'bird watching' can be great social events. Rather have alone time? Go for a solo hike with the Merlin app and learn to identify those feathered creatures on your favorite trail or in your backyard. And don't discount volunteer work. By volunteering for an organization like Habitat for Humanity, you'll learn how to use tools.

I suppose the gist of this month's post is my challenge to Embrace Learning!


Click here for prior posts:

In case you haven't heard, the ebook version of Calico Lane is now on sale for 99 cents and it's also available on Kindle Unlimited. Calico Lane has 79 reviews on Amazon. If you haven't posted a comment or star rating, please, please do so! Reaching 100 reviews works magic with Amazon's algorithms in getting Calico Lane to more readers!

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