SELECTED WRITING

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An excerpt from Otherwise Normal People, the award-winning non-fiction romp with rose-crazy people
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Published by Down East Magazine
Published by Down East Magazine
ESSAY AND MEMOIR
Writer's Digest Winner
Published by The American Gardener
Writer's Digest Grand Prize Winner
FEATURES AND TRAVEL
Published by The New York Times

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UNDERNEATH IT ALL

My grandmother in the Virgin Islands in the 1950s. She and my grandfather went there to get a divorce. They ended up having a fine romance. And getting the divorce.
I've been working on a different kind of memoir. It's about nakedness, lingerie, and the women in the family. Haven't yet decided which chapter goes first. So, UNDERNEATH IT ALL might start -

My grandmother loved to undress. First, the shoes – low-heeled Ferragamos, which she stepped out of in front of her open closet door. Then the cashmere twin-set, unbuttoned and hung on padded hangers. Finally, the skirt, linen or wool depending on the season, unzipped and clipped into a wooden skirt hanger. “Ah,” she’d sigh and take a sip of vermouth-and-soda mixed in a short glass with a twist of lemon. After that, she padded around in her underwear for a bit whistling tuneful unidentifiable melodies...

Or it might start -

We realized that my mother had it in for the neighbors when she chopped down their pine tree. It was just an immature sapling sprouting in the little grove that separated our yard from theirs, but they were upset. In fact, they rarely spoke to us again, which may have been my mother’s intention. I say ‘may’ because, for a person with a saw in her hand, she professed a remarkable degree of innocence. She appeared in the kitchen with fibrous shreds still clinging to the saw’s shiny, sharp teeth and announced in a bemused tone, “I think I just cut down the Sedgwick's tree.” She set her weapon on the table and bent to pick up sawdust that fell onto the floor...

Either way, I'll let you know more as work progresses.

Meanwhile, I'm still celebrating the awards from the Garden Writers Association for OTHERWISE NORMAL PEOPLE and Writer's Digest for the essay MY MOTHER'S BRAIN! I've posted the essay in Selected Writing. More on ONP below.


© 2007 Aurelia C. Scott - All rights reservedPublished by Algonquin Books
OTHERWISE NORMAL PEOPLE - Winner of the Gold Award as Best Written Book of 2008 from the Garden Writers Association of America

Critics rave: Otherwise Normal People is Fascinating, Vividly Engaging, and Colorful.

"What lengths we go to in our lives for plants! Not just rose nuts, but gardeners everywhere will love this book. I found myself laughing out loud and nodding with sage understanding -- sometimes at the same time." - Bailey White, NPR commentator

"Q-tips, cotton balls, and hazmat suits: welcome to the world of competitive rose gardening. Aurelia Scott's engaging journey into the underbelly of rose exhibitions will leave you wondering, Are these hobbists bloomin' nuts, or simply having more fun that the rest of us?" - William Alexander, author of The $64 Tomato

"Aurelia Scott has nurtured a wonderful bloom: a rose book for roasarians and people who can't tell a bourbon from a tea. Reading this delightful, fun story of obsession made me look anew at our backyard and ask, Where's my gardening shovel?" - Mark Obmascik, author of The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession

OTHERWISE NORMAL PEOPLE from Algonquin Books was published on May 18, 2007. We encourage you to support your local independent bookseller. To find your nearest bookseller, visit Booksense.

You can also order the book online from Amazon, Books Etc or Longfellow Books.


MORE REVIEWS OF OTHERWISE NORMAL PEOPLE

The Dallas Morning News 1/​25/​08 -

"Ms. Scott writes beautifully and compassionately about the rose-afflicted. Fascinating facts emerge in her profiles, such as how the world of roses is dominated by men, how rose aficionados hold more meetings than any other group, how old roses (those hybridized before 1867) have virtually no value to rosaholics, how hard it is to cross red roses and how rattlesnakes use rose bushes to shed their skins.

Otherwise Normal People offers no remedies. It also (alas) has no index – so keep a pencil handy to mark passages you will want to revisit or read aloud to a friend." Read more of Bill Scheick's review online at the Dallas Morning News website.

The Washington Post 8/​4/​07 -

"Scott leads readers through the slow, diabolical transition that takes 'otherwise normal people' from hobbyist to serious grower, putting rose-mania in perspective for the rosarian and the amateur. She has a light, humorous style but emphasizes that it's a serious discipline. After following Scott's journey to competitive rose-growing in the unlikely location of Portland, Maine, you will never look at a rose the same way again. The lists of rose varieties and definitions are invaluable to readers."

The Houston Chronicle 8/​3/​07 -

"This fun read — and note, it really is a read, with no photos — offers the rose lover's equivalent of the film Best in Show. Imagine a convention room full of cheerful, mostly graying folks who grow roses as an extreme sport. Scott, who says she's not the least bit competitive herself, observes this fascinating subculture lovingly as some of its stars strive to amass crystal bowls, ribbons and certificates — they don't do it for money — from the American Rose Society.

Typically, competitive rosarians obsess about exhibiting Hybrid Teas — since that's the only variety eligible for the ARS' top prizes: Queen, King, Princess and Best of Show. Their routine will amuse lazy gardeners. They maintain a critically timed program of feeding, pruning, disbudding, deadheading and chemical spraying; devise makeshift bloom protectors; and spend hours grooming blossoms to produce fat, perfectly formed specimens just in time for show days.

You don't have to aspire to showing the world's best-ever 'Peace' to enjoy the ride, and Scott manages to sprinkle plenty of fascinating rose history into her brew."

The San Jose Mercury News 6/​2/​07 -

"Aurelia C. Scott spent a year of her life being seduced by a bunch of truly obsessed people - a small but ardent fraternity of folks who grow roses in great abundance not necessarily for their beauty or scent but to nurture elusive prize-winning blooms.

Think dog-show fanatics in the documentary "Best in Show" or crossword puzzle devotees in "Wordplay." Scrabble geeks got their 15 minutes in the book "Word Freak."

Now we meet "Otherwise Ordinary People," freakishly competitive gardeners who devote a remarkable amount of time to pruning, spraying, coaxing and coddling the "queen of flowers." Not content to sit back and smell the roses, these gardeners then clip their most promising blossoms and carefully tote them by car or plane to the National Rose Show, held twice a year. There, more hours are spent huddled over these fragile creatures, fussing with elaborate
grooming rituals designed to nudge a bud to its proper degree of openness at the perfect moment.

The subtitle of Scott's book - "Inside the Thorny World of Competitive Rose Gardening" - hints at the riches inside. And you don't need to know a polyantha from a rugosa to enjoy the run-up to judgment hour, accompanied by fascinating snippets of rose lore and more than a little armchair psychology.

Scott's cast of characters includes a woman who dresses in Tyvek coveralls, rubber boots and a shower cap to douse her hundreds of roses in a cocktail of fungicide and insecticide dispensed via a 14-gallon gizmo called the Spray Boss. Then there are the men - and yes, most competitive rose growers are men - who seem as caught up in the gear they dream up to manage their hobby as the flowers they're producing..." Read my e-mail interview with reviewer Holly Hayes online at the Mercury News website.

The New York Times 4/​1/​07 -

"The blissful victims Aurelia C. Scott depicts in 'Otherwise Normal People: Inside the Thorny World of Competitive Rose Gardening' are, to put it bluntly, goners. There is no helping the patient who constructs an elaborate carrying case lined with dense foam and wooden racks to transporting roses to conentions, or builds his own power sprayer, or amasses a collection of Waterford crystal trophies..." Read more of Holly Brubach's review online at the New York Times website.


The American Gardener, March/​April 2007 -

"A single plant type can often inspire worshipful and even slightly deranged devotion, particularly when competition is involved, as evidenced by Otherwise Normal People: Inside the Thorny World of Competitive Rose Gardening. Curious about what makes rose competition participants tick, author Aurelia Scott discovered that it often starts innocently enough, say with a neglected rose bush that produces an unexpectedly exquisite bloom, and end up as a life-changing compulsion to collect and show every kind of rose imaginable. Among the stories of the rose maniacs she encounters, Scott interweaves intruiging pieces of rose history abd other fascinating bits of trivia.

Library Journal, 2/​23/​07 -

"Their gardens are overflowing with roses, and their homes are often decorated with rose memorabilia and trophies. They each have their own secret fertilizer formulas as well as an arsenal of odd materials to groom their prized blossoms. Who are these eccentrics? They are competitors in the highly demanding world of rose shows, and journalist Scott follows several as they spend their year grooming and maintaining their rose beauties for the next show. We meet a man from Maine who shows how he keeps his roses alive during the winter and a South Carolina couple who faces growing roses in the humid South. The ideal place for rose growing seems to be California, but that state has its share of challenges, namely, droughts and high winds. Marriages have been ruined by this obsession, and true loves have been found. The journey is a fascinating one. Readers will certainly be in suspense before the final chapters reveal who will take home the prizes at the American Rose Society's National Rose Show."

Booklist 2/​15/​07 -

"A rose is a rose is a rose, but don't tell that to the hundreds of self-acknowledged "rose-aholics" who wake in the middle of the night, pack up jury-rigged coolers and containers laden with pristine blossoms, and head off down the highway to compete in local, regional, and national rose exhibitions. Scott follows the most passionate of the bunch as they prepare their gardens, prune canes, protect blooms, and pinch back buds, all in the hopes of taking home crystal bowls, silver candlesticks, and, at the very least, blue ribbons proclaiming their prowess at growing some of Mother Nature's finichiest flowers. As colorful as the bouquets they propagate, Scott's rosarians represent an ecumenical cross-section of the American landscape: PhDs seek advice from long-haul truckers, first generation immigrants compete against Mayflower descendents, and long-married couples bond over blooms. With a breezy, infectious enthusiasm, Scott offers a vividly engaging account of big-time rose competition and the seemingly average individuals who take leave of their senses in this addictively sensory pursuit." - Booklist


Publisher's Weekly, 2/​5/​07 -

"Scott, a freelance journalist from Maine, hung out with several of the gardeners competing in the American Rose Society's 2004 spring national show. She discovered a subculture "where brain surgeons and construction workers are social equals," with a freewheeling competitive "spirit of make-do and can-do" that inspires improvisations like creating rose beds out of 40-gallon trash cans. (Two glossaries explain the classifications and other terminology for unfamiliar readers.) Scott's narrative structure-a chapter with each of her topics, building up to the competition, with a brief epilogue-is similar to the filmBest in Show , but she doesn't poke fun, and for the most part she's caught up in their "infectious" enthusiasm for roses. Whatever weight they exert on her own passion for gardening, however, remains largely unspoken. When Scott admits that her desire to practice organic gardening is dampened by her jealousy of the blooms an interview subject achieves spraying with chemicals, the personal revelation is jarring in its unexpectedness. The backseat approach frees Scott to elaborate on the outsized personalities of the gardeners she met. If only their colorful stories were matched by photographs of the flowers they raised."