Notes from a Sabbatical

Kate Flora: When I first announced that I was thinking of taking a sabbatical from FipZyfbARtKRsnMVeU+JOAwriting, not only were my friends skeptical, but I was. It was more of a joke than a reality—a declaration of restlessness and surprise at finding that the next book wasn’t breathing impatiently down my neck. But about two weeks ago I closed my computer and stepped away, curious about what would happen if the pressure to write wasn’t there every day, dogging my steps and making me feel guilty if I didn’t write my daily quota of words.

For the first several days, I had a grand time. I puttered in the kitchen. I puttered in the garden. I read some of the accumulated magazines I’d been carrying around in my tote bag all summer. I read Anne Tyler’s Redhead by the Side of the Road. I swam in the cool Maine ocean. I drank gin and tonics on the porch and watched a succession of wonderful Maine sunsets.

I made pulled pork. Roasted vegetables on the grill. I grilled bread. Made salmon burgers. Salad with fresh corn and faro with coconut milk. I baked a cake from a recipe my friend Karin clipped from the Courier-Gazette years ago and decided it was one of the best cakes I’ve ever had.

I tended my mini-garden where my pathetic little cucumber vine is making exactly two inelegant cucumbers and the sun gold tomatoes are beginning to ripen. Bees are happily swarming around the many pots of summer flowers I have out on my dock.

And then my exploration of bliss and leisure was suddenly derailed. Shortly after my husband and I had been happily swimming in the cove, a neighbor came over to tell us that those sirens we’d heard were because another neighbor had been attacked by a shark while swimming just around the corner.

Suddenly everything about my cottage by the edge of the sea was colored with danger. I told my husband that it was as though a piano had fallen out a window and landed just behind me. Thinking about poor Julie and the trauma for her family pulled me right back into something we crime writers think about a lot—the ripple effect of crime, of all terrible events, and the lingering impact such events have on the survivors, the community, and people’s sense of safety.

VBQ+rl%zRvqTcQT9JKvDFwDespite the way this tragedy has sent my mind ticking over, I’m not yet ready to go back to work. I’m enjoying exploring how long it will take me to get restless and what story will appear and demand to be written. I expect such a story to arrive soon. I’ve already started dreaming plots and wonder if I’ll be able to write the book I’ve been toying with for more than twenty years. In the meantime, I’ll keep puttering, gardening, cooking, and watching sunsets. And hoping that the sea will become less menacing.


Here’s the recipe for that cake:

Yummy Rhubarb Farm Cake


Georgeanne Davis –Courier Gazette


Preheat oven 350 degrees

Grease 9” springform pan


½ stick melted butter

½ C. vegetable oil

1-l/4 C. sugar (I used just 1 cup)

2 TBS. lemon zest, finely minced

1 egg

1-1/2 C buttermilk

1 tsp. vanilla


3 C flour

¼ C cornmeal

1 TBS baking powder

½ tsp. baking soda

¾ tsp. salt

2 Cups ½” dice rhubarb (about 3 big stalks)


In a large mixing bowl, whisk together butter, oil, sugar and lemon zest.  Whisk in the egg, then buttermilk and vanilla.

In separate bowl, stir together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Fold the dry ingredients into the batter and then gently fold in the rhubarb. Spoon into the and bake about 55 min., small cracks will appear on the top and the cake will begin to color. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack before removing the sides of the pan.


From the kitchen of Fluffy Quimby






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3 Responses to Notes from a Sabbatical

  1. By the time this passes, if it ever does, we’ll all have a primal understanding of the 7 year itch. I’m going through a stretch where I switch books part way through several times a day until I find one that hooks me. It’s not that the ones I stop reading aren’t interesting, but I’m antsy after 5 months of different with no respite in sight.

  2. judyalter says:

    The flowers are beautiful and the food sounds wonderful. Sounds like a refreshing sabbatical.

  3. Alice says:

    Kate, your post is by far one of the most heartfelt of all of the many that I’ve read by the Crime Writers (or certainly since Lea wrote about her final months.) Thank you for sharing so beautifully.

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