August 17, 2014

Author Sheila Webster Boneham is Walking Southeastern North Carolina



I’m a walker. In the best of times, I walk three to six miles a day. I developed the habit a few years ago when we were still living in Indiana where my Animals in Focus mysteries are set, and I’ve mostly kept at it since we moved to North Carolina in 2009. I walk “unplugged”—no music, phone in pocket for emergency only. I walk for exercise, to clear my mind, to feel my environment, and—yes—to work out problems with plots, characters, pacing, and other elements of whatever I’m writing at the time.
I live in Wilmington, a beautiful city in the “lower Cape Fear” corner of southeastern North Carolina. Although many people come to Wilmington and neighboring towns for the beautiful Atlantic beaches, Wilmington was and remains a river town with a rich, complex, and sometimes disturbing history. Luckily for me, this area is also rich in beautiful places to walk in a variety of natural and developed habitats.
One of my favorite places to walk is Airlie Gardens http://airliegardens.org/, a sixty-seven acre private garden that dates back to 1867. With my annual membership, I visit the garden several times a week, and no two walks are ever quite the same. The gardens, of course, change as the blooming seasons take us from camelias to azaleas to saucer-sized magnolias, and the annuals bloom and die, and the perennials blossom in their turns. One thing that doesn’t change much, though, is the grand old Airlie Oak, a massive five-hundred year old live oak tree dripping with Spanish moss.

On one side, Airlie borders the saltwater marshes and open channel of Bradley Creek, which links directly to the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and, from there, to the ocean. Airlie is a birdwatcher’s paradise, and one of the highlights is the osprey pair who nest high above the marsh’s edge. A freshwater lake meanders through the center of the gardens, and it’s a rare walk that doesn’t include views of Great and White Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Red-headed Woodpeckers, and many other birds. On warm days, oodles of turtles sun themselves on logs in the lake, and occasionally you might glimpse one of the non-venomous snakes that live in the gardens. Every time I walk there, I think that a fictional garden like Airlie would be the perfect setting for a novel.Another of my favorite places to stroll and unwind is the New Hanover County Arboretum, http://www.gardeningnhc.org/. Although only seven acres, the grounds of the arboretum include a large pond alive with waterlilies, papyrus, water hyacinths, and other water plants, and a big school of humongous koi who love to be fed from the fish-food vending machine. A small bog garden winds along one edge of the property, and I love to walk there among the dragonflies. At the back of the arboretum, a Japanese garden, complete with tea house and Zen garden, provides a peaceful retreat.
Finally, and first, I love to walk on the beach and along the salt marshes, especially on the two islands that make up the town of Wrightsville Beach, just east of Wilmington. The best times to walk there are, I think, early morning and just before sunset. The many birds of the coast are busy, and if I’m very lucky, I’ll see dolphins leaping beyond the surf line. I can’t think of anything more calming, or inspiring, than that.

Sheila Webster Boneham writes, among other things, the Animals in Focus mystery series published by Midnight Ink and featuring 50-something animal photographer Janet MacPhail, her Australian Shepherd Jay, and her orange tabby Leo. Book 1, Drop Dead on Recall (2012) was named Best Fiction Book of 2013 by the Dog Writers Association of American and a Top Ten Dog Book by NBCPetside. The Money Bird (2013) continues Janet’s adventures into amateur sleuthing with the help of her friends, and Catwalk, the third book in the series, will give Leo and his ilk a bigger share of the spotlight this fall. Sheila is also the award-winning author of seventeen nonfiction books about dogs, cats, and animal rescue. Sheila’s books are available from all the usual sources, and personally autographed copies can be ordered from http://www.sheilaboneham.blogspot.com/p/autographed-books.html. Learn more at sheilaboneham.com, or connect on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sheilawrites and www.facebook.com/groups/writersandotheranimals. 
Sheila Offers a Prize to one Lucky Person Who Comments:A Sheila Webster Boneham Autographed book of winners choice to one poster.  Include your email for contact info in your post. Visit her website to check out all her work!
(All info provided by author Sheila Webster Boneham)

23 comments:

Sheila Boneham said...

Thanks for having me here today, Annette.

sheri levy said...

Loved the post and photos. Yes,I agree. Walking clears your head and revives mental energy.
Wilmington sounds lovely!

shannon said...

Gorgeous photos! I lived in Winston Salem for awhile and Wilmington was one of our favorite vacation spots. Such a beautiful place. And you're right, Sheila... walking is the number one tool I use when I'm stuck in my writing. :-)

Sheila Boneham said...

Thanks, Shannon. One of the things I love about Wilmington is the variety of natural settings - beach, marshes, river, woods, city....

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Hello, Sheila. I am also from North Carolina and have lived here since I was 5 years old. I'm in Charlotte. You lucky lady; you live in my favorite town in the world. Wilmington is a beautiful and historic place to live. It's a city, but doesn't feel like one since its old world charm continues even now. It's a place where local artists flourish and UNC-Wilmington is well known for its art department. I love that they saved the Cotton Exchange and made it into unique shops and Chandler's Warf has a down home restaurant that serves the best iced tea in the south. Just sayin'. I hope you decide some time in the future to write some of your stories based in Wilmington.
In the meantime, I wish you every success. I enjoyed reading your blog. Walking is a great way to clear your head and meet your neighbors.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Truly lovely photos, Sheila! Like you, my husband and I love to walk. It's energizing for both mind and body.

Susan Whitfield said...

I live in eastern North Carolina and know Sheila. She's very talented! While I sometimes walk with music, I often do as she does: work out plots, dialogue, etc. while getting the blood flowing. I can then go home and write with some success. Thanks for another great post!

Stephen L. Brayton said...

See, this is the environment I'd enjoy. Peaceful, serene, some animals, some water, some woods. Thanks for sharing NC with us. slb0@outlook.com

Sheila Boneham said...

Thanks, Susan and Jacqueline! So many writers are walkers! Sarah, I'll be in Charlotte in November - maybe we'll have a chance to meet. And yes, this is a lovely area - much to explore!

Fiona McGier said...

Never been to North Carolina. Now it's on my list for states to visit if we ever get to retire. I've only seen an ocean a couple of times in my life, and I'd like to remedy that with some camping close to beaches. And the only dolphins I've ever had the honor of watching are in the zoo. Sounds like you've got some really inspirational places to walk. Thanks for sharing.

Cara Marsi said...

You paint such a beautiful picture of Wilmington, NC. I live in Wilmington, too, Delaware, and it's not as pretty as your Wilmington. Great pictures too. I walk about 2 miles a day to exercise and clear my head. Walking is great for working out plot points. I love that you write about animals.

Sheila Boneham said...

Stephen, it is a lovely place in many ways. Not perfect, but it certainly has its pluses! Come visit sometime.

Sheila Boneham said...

Fiona, I hope you get here some time. Or somewhere along one of our beautiful coasts. Cara, I've been through your Wilmington on the train - I've heard it's also a great town, in different ways, and it's certainly easier to get from DE to other places than it is from here. That's perhaps my biggest complain living here - we're a bit cut off. But the walks make up for that!

Hope Clark said...

Nice post. Wilmington is a beautiful area, very close to my stomping grounds on coastal South Carolina. Thanks for the wonderful re-visit.

Mary Preston said...

I love walking too. You get to see so much more.

Lovely pictures.


marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

Linda said...

Very true about walking being a way to get the brain working. As a teacher, I advise my students to do at least some of their walking around without "plug-ins," so that they can take advantage of letting their brain work for a while without outside stimulation.

Since you're a photographer as well as a writer, I'm curious as to how the photography plays into the walking. Do you go on some walks specifically for the photography opportunities or, having seen something worth photographing, do you go back later with camera and equipment?

Does Lily the lab ever share these walks?

jrlindermuth said...

You have some delightful areas for walking. I'd much rather walk in places like those than in an urban area or a mall.

Radine Trees Nehring said...

Loved this re-visit to Wrightsville Beach and Wilmington. We we were introduced to your area in the novels of Ellen Hunter, and subsequently attended Cape Fear Crime Festival (Library sponsored) a couple of times. Not only the scenery enchants...the food---WOW!

Sheila Boneham said...

Thanks, Hope and Mary. It is a beautiful area of a long and beautiful coast.

Sheila Boneham said...

Linda, such great questions! And yes, I worry sometimes that so many young people seem to be always plugged in. (Does this make me officially an old fart?) But I think silence and solitude are essential not only for creativity, but for our souls.

As for photography - I'm very much an amateur, but I have always loved making nice photos, and I've taken a few classes. I think I have a good eye as well. I often carry my small point-and-shoot when I walk because if I don't have a camera, I will naturally see something fantastic that I want to photograph. But often I intentionally walk without a camera, because it's a different walk then, and when those moments present themselves, I am forced to slow down and be present in a different way. And yes, sometimes I go out with the intention to "find photos." I could write a whole blog about this (and no doubt will!), but I find that photography and writing complement one another and stimulate creativity in difference ways. In fact, a photographer friend and I are designing a course to co-teach on writing & photography.

And yes, Lily the Labrador Retriever (and her many predecessors, including some of my cats!) are often part of my walks. Dogs are not allowed at Airlie Gardens, so she can't go there. I love walking with dogs, but I also love walking alone, and they are different walks.

Sheila Boneham said...

jlindermuth, I've taken lots of urban walks, too, and they are of course different from natural areas, but cities have their own charms and rewards. Malls - meh. ;-)

Sheila Boneham said...

Nadine, when were you here for CFCF? The old festival, when it was run by Bristol Books, was a lovely small conference. My husband and I came down for it several times and that is, in fact, why we decided to move here (at least for a while). I wonder I we were here at the same time? And you're correct - there's a lot of good food around here. :-)

Sheila Boneham said...

Happy Saturday, all! Sorry to be late with the drawing results - we had a BIG storm last night and I stayed off line. Just catching up now.

I did a random draw to find a winner and Radine Trees Nehring, you won! We'll talk off the blog to iron out the details.

Thank you again to everyone who commented - and to those of you who read but didn't comment. I hope to see you again online or - who knows? - in person somewhere. Cheers!