First Monday in September – a U.S. Holiday

LaborDayHere’s the annual look at why the first Monday in September is a holiday in the U.S.

**As posted on  (Published by A+E Networks, 2010)**

Labor Day, an annual celebration of workers and their achievements, originated during one of American labor history’s most dismal chapters. In the late 1800s, at the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, the average American worked 12-hour days and seven-day weeks in order to eke out a basic living. Despite restrictions in some states, children as young as 5 or 6 toiled in mills, factories and mines across the country, earning a fraction of their adult counterparts’ wages. People of all ages, particularly the very poor and recent immigrants, often faced extremely unsafe working conditions, with insufficient access to fresh air, sanitary facilities and breaks.

As manufacturing increasingly supplanted agriculture as the wellspring of American employment, labor unions, which had first appeared in the late 18th century, grew more prominent and vocal. They began organizing strikes and rallies to protest poor conditions and compel employers to renegotiate hours and pay. Many of these events turned violent during this period, including the infamous Haymarket Riot of 1886, in which several Chicago policemen and workers were killed. Others gave rise to longstanding traditions: On September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square in New York City, holding the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history.

The idea of a “workingmen’s holiday,” celebrated on the first Monday in September, caught on in other industrial centers across the country, and many states passed legislation recognizing it. Congress would not legalize the holiday until 12 years later, when a watershed moment in American labor history brought workers’ rights squarely into the public’s view. On May 11, 1894, employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago went on strike to protest wage cuts and the firing of union representatives.

On June 26, the American Railroad Union, led by Eugene V. Debs, called for a boycott of all Pullman railway cars, crippling railroad traffic nationwide. To break the strike, the federal government dispatched troops to Chicago, unleashing a wave of riots that resulted in the deaths of more than a dozen workers. In the wake of this massive unrest and in an attempt to repair ties with American workers, Congress passed an act making Labor Day a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories. More than a century later, the true founder of Labor Day has yet to be identified.

Many credit Peter J. McGuire, cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, while others have suggested that Matthew Maguire, a secretary of the Central Labor Union, first proposed the holiday. Labor Day is still celebrated in cities and towns across the United States with parades, picnics, barbecues, fireworks displays and other public gatherings. For many Americans, particularly children and young adults, it represents the end of the summer and the start of the back-to-school season.

If you’re in the U.S., do you have today off from work? 

I’m working half the day and helping my folks with yard and house work the other half.

Dear Writer, How Are You? Plus Shareworthy Reading and Writing Links

Dear Writer,

How are you?

Wait. Don’t answer. Take a breath. Pause. Bite back the rote response that jumped to the tip of your tongue before I’d even finished asking the question.

My default answer when someone asks how I am is, “Busy, busy but good.” I cringe each time I let those words slip from my lips. They say nothing, while managing to sound simultaneously pompous and pathetic. Busy, but good … I might as well say, “I’m breathing.”

So, how are you? I mean, really?

Wait. Don’t answer. Let the question settle. Think about what it really means.

Most of the time, “How are you?” is white noise. It’s an anticipated greeting that exists in a kind of conversational blind spot. Most of the time, it doesn’t really mean anything to the person asking. It’s just something to say – an automatic response meant to bridge the gap between making eye contact and actually communicating. And, a lot of the time, a response is not expected (or necessarily wanted).

But, what does the question mean to you when you’re asked? What does it trigger for you, perhaps below the level of conscious thought? Do you actually think about “how” you are? In what context – your health, your work, your financial security, your social standing? Does the inquiry send your mind reeling into the dangerous territory of comparison … how am I compared to what? To whom? Do you feel like the question is a test, a judgment, an expression of pity, an opening for voyeurism, or a challenge to a game of one-upmanship?

I suppose it all depends on who’s asking; but, putting that piece of the equation aside, how do you reframe the question in your own mind once it’s been asked?

So, how are you? How are you feeling about your writing?

Wait. Don’t answer. I don’t want the easy answer. I don’t want the glib one-liner or the clichéd statement about the writing life, both of which are designed to change the topic of conversation or at least move the focus off of you. I don’t want to put you on the hot seat, but I want to know how you’re really feeling … if you even know. Most of the time, I’m not sure how I feel about my writing. My emotional and logical thoughts on the subject are a moving target – sliding back and forth across a broad spectrum of feelings: content, frustrated, hopeful, resigned, confused, conflicted, overwhelmed, underwhelmed, tired, energized, excited, afraid.

I understand why glib one-liners and clichéd statements are such popular answers in casual conversation. How could any one of us hope to capture all the depth and nuance of our feelings about writing in an off-the-cuff response?

But, just because we aren’t expected to provide a full and honest answer in the course of casual conversation doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take the time to think about question.

How are you feeling about your writing?

It’s important to know, because how you feel about your writing affects every aspect of your writing – how you approach your practice, how consistently and frequently you write, and what you’re willing to try. How you feel about your writing dictates how brave you will be and how much joy you will experience. It frames your life as a writer, establishing your hopes, dreams, and expectations. Understanding how you feel about your writing can help you uncover hidden obstacles that are holding you back.

So, take a minute. Take a day. Think about how you are and how you feel about your writing. Don’t settle for easy answers. Dig deeper. Ask again. This isn’t polite conversation or white noise. This is important. This is real. You need to know this. And, once you do, you’ll have a whole new perspective on your writing life.

_jamie sig



 My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:





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Sundry Links and Articles:

Anna Wess GrannyThis doesn’t have much to do with writing specifically, but I thoroughly enjoyed Wise Whispers from the Granny Witches by Anna Wess.

An excerpt:

Oh, and these here are some deep roots, old gals, deeper than any rabbit hole on the mountain. We are the far-reaching branches and flowering nettles that stemmed from Granny, you know. We’re a regular Granny bramble, briers and all. We’re Granny’s girls, every stoic one of us. And I reckon plain beats pretty to death, just as she said it would. But plain can be as beautiful as can be, and there’s a world of difference between beautiful and pretty. We girls know this. Beauty doesn’t up and leave town when youth, like the fragile flower it is, has bloomed for its last season. Beauty is permanent. And it is not beholden to anything or anybody.

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin more me

Here’s to taking a minute, uncovering how we really feel, and more ourselves than we’ve ever been.
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

Friday Fun – Favorite Thing About Back-to-School

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: What’s your favorite thing about the back-to-school season?

JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: Ahhh … it’s that time of year again – pristine notebooks, sharpened pencils, crisp folders, and a new learning adventure opening up like the stiff and shiny cover of a brand new textbook.

Of course, the kids don’t use many text books these days. Most of my daughter’s seventh-grade curriculum will be online. And much of her homework and classwork will also be digital. But, that doesn’t mean that we didn’t make a trip to the office store to indulge in some new supplies (including a few treats that weren’t on the official class list).

But, apart from my writer’s joy at having an excuse to acquire new pens and notebooks, my favorite part of the back-to-school season is how it always feels to me like a kind of unofficial New Year. While this summer feels to me like the summer-that-wasn’t, and  I won’t be catching any R&R any time soon, September still feels a little like a fresh start. As my daughter and I fall back into a regular routine and the weather starts to shift into an autumn gear, I always feel like I’ve got a chance at rebalancing my world. And that always feels good.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson: My favorite part of back-to-school-season is that it’s September and that feels more like the start of a new year than Jan 1. When in school, I used to love going back to school, I loved learning – still do! And what’s not to like about new clothes! And all the new notebooks and pencils and pens! It was all so fun and exciting for me. I’ll spend this month reviewing my business goals and setting myself up for a successful 2017.

Reading Jamie’s reply — wow, really? Everything is digital? I loved making book covers out of paper shopping bags and being able to doodle all over them. And reading pages of books. I’m even still old school in that I prefer reading paper pages versus digital. Do kids even need pens or pencils any more?


Our Summer Vacation: Agents

OUR WRITING ROADMAPDuring the course of this summer I’ve been blogging about the process of writing a book. I suspect this topic, agents, will be a multi-post series. Today, let’s talk about how a writer meets/engages  an agent.

First of all, why would an author want to meet an agent? Do we still need them in this new publishing world order?

Agents are conduits to the publishing world. They develop relationships with different houses, and different editors. Some publishers will only take agented work. That is particularly true of the larger houses. Agents negotiate deals for their clients, and help their clients build a career. There are work arounds for having an agent, but my best advice is to do a ton of research on the topic before you make a decision. I am very happy that I have had an agent on my own journey.

Your manuscript is ready to go, and you are looking for an agent. How do you find one?

Do research online and using guides. Don’t pick ten names out of a hat–be strategic. Does the agent you are considering represent the type of work you do? Do they have a stable of clients who write what you write?

Read acknowledgements in the books you read, especially in the genre you write. People often thank their agents. Keep a list.

Before you send a query letter, read their submission policy carefully. If they aren’t taking clients, honor that. If they request ABC, don’t send them XYZ. Tailor each email/letter to that agent. Remember, you are seeking a professional relationship, so treat it professionally.

If you have an opportunity to meet an agent (pitch to them at a conference, for example) take it. Getting to know people as people is an invaluable step that often gets skipped over. My agent and I met long before he was my agent. A friend had me sit next to him at a conference so we could chat. You are going into business with this person, so get to know them.

Be respectful. An agent may turn you down for a number of reasons. They may love your book, but feel like they can’t sell it. In a business where relationships matter, don’t burn bridges.

Getting an agent is only one step on the road to publication. Your work should be ready to go before you line up an agent–if all goes well, they are going to look for a full manuscript. That said, start working on building lists, and relationships, now.


As Julianne Holmes, Julie writes the Clock Shop Mystery series. Clock and Dagger was released on August 2.

Life Is Like…

I’m transitioning to my new living space today — it’s been a long time coming and I look forward to no longer living half packed and half stored! It will be great to set up my new home and office space.

In the meantime, I saw a “Life is like…” quote recently and thought it would be fun to share our favorites – existing ones or originals that we made up ourselves.

From Forrest Gump: “My mama always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.’”-Forrest

And there’s this one about tea and friends:


“Life is like a camera, just focus on what’s important, capture the good times, develop from the negatives and if things don’t work out, just take another shot.” – Unknown

How about one I made up: “Life is like a rollercoaster ride, so many unexpected twists and turns, yet a definite beginning and end.”

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” – Albert Einstein

What’s your favorite / most memorable / made up “Life is like…” quote? Please share!

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Writing (in) the Moment Plus Shareworthy Reading and Writing Links


An unexpectedly lovely flowering burr that Daisy and I discovered on the river trail.

This has been the busiest summer I’ve had in a long while, and not in the fun, vacationing, reading, hitting-the-beach-and-hiking-with-my-daughter kind of way, but in the racing-to-meet-crazy-deadlines, working-seven-days-a-week, at-my-desk-’til-midnight kind of way that puts me in very real danger of total burn out. Despite moments of bitterness (Why does everyone else seem to be going on vacation, while I can’t??) and regret (My daughter will never be twelve again.), I am ultimately grateful to be as busy as I am. Being able to pay the bills is a Good Thing, and, as I’ve said before, this too shall pass.

Perhaps because of the complete insanity of my schedule and the breakneck speed of my days, any pocket of time that allows me to slow down even a little bit feels like an oasis. I had such a moment the other day when my daughter’s extended stay at the beach with friends left me to cover a dog walk for her. At first I was frustrated by the interruption (after all, it is her dog walking business), but I soon found myself thankful for the excuse to get away from my desk for a while. Even more important was the chance the walk gave me to exist in the moment, to just “be” as my canine companion and I walked down a wooded path that runs through town along the banks of the river.

It was late afternoon and still hot, but a rogue breeze wandered up and down the path, keeping the air just this side of oppressive. Unseen cicadas hummed their shrill tune from high up in the canopy of faded, drought-bedraggled leaves. A few ducks and gulls milled about, making slow circles on the surface of the river, and the sunlight that filtered down to the dusty path threw a greenish-golden cast over everything.

Daisy, my furry companion, snuffled about contentedly in the low undergrowth that lines the path, leaving me to my own thoughts. I walked slowly and felt, quite literally, like I was catching my breath. I closed my eyes and let my consciousness sink into the physical sensations of the moment – the hard ground beneath my feet, the gentle tug on the end of the leash, the warm air buffeting my face, the prickle of heat on the back of my neck. I inhaled and let the scent of late summer rush me back in time through an incoherent patchwork of summers gone by and other moments when I had paused to let a moment crystalize around me, captured in the web of my memory like an insect in amber. I heard, as though from a long way off, a layered symphony of sounds – the squabbling and chatter of the waterfowl, the muted whoosh of cars, a crow calling from the top of a soaring pine across the river, children’s voices from someone’s back yard, a siren somewhere towards town, and the cicadas.

All of this rushed into my mind in a moment, giving me the sensation of being pulled forcefully back into the world after a long period of sensory deprivation at my desk. I felt my shoulders drop and my chest relax slightly. I took another deep breath. This, I thought, is what people mean when they talk about “existing in the moment” – this grounded, open, undistracted way of being.

And then I realized how important it is to cultivate a similar feeling when we write. How we need to stay with the page, with the words, with each word. How we have to keep our minds from running away with our thoughts. Whether they are trying to drag us backwards to pace in agitation over the tired path of old regrets, or whether they are rushing ahead of us to worry about the unknown future,  our minds must be brought back to a point of stillness in the present moment. While looking back in time or imagining the future may provide us some inspiration, when we are actually at work, we have to stay in the moment with the story. We cannot, for instance, let ourselves get distracted by thoughts of missed opportunities or work ourselves into a frenzy of self doubt by wondering how our work will be received. I can’t tell you how many times my train of thought has been derailed by involuntary musings about how much a client is going to hate the piece I’m working on. (Reality check – they never hate anything I deliver.)

No. We can’t let our minds take advantage of us like that. Be in the moment. Stay with the story. Use the words to anchor you to what you’re writing. Like my feet planted on the path by the river, keep your attention rooted and focused – allowing you to tune in and stay with your words. It’s not easy, but when you find that space, you will gain clarity and flow in your writing. You will be able to let the rest of the world slip away so that you can focus on building a new one with your words. And then, in a kind of circle of magic, you will be able to invite others into that new world, sharing your story to help them focus their thoughts and maybe find their feet planted more solidly underneath them because of your story.

_jamie sig



My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:





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Sundry Links and Whatnot:

Miniature BookcaseI came across this delight via Messy Nessy, a Cabinet of Chic Curiosities. Obviously, as a reader and writer, I’ve always loved books and libraries. But, I have also always loved miniatures. Though I never had a proper dollhouse, I turned my childhood bookcases into a house (and stables) for a doll. And I still have a collection of Tiny Things, which I display in an antique letterpress drawer that hangs on my living room wall. So, it was not surprising that I would swoon a little at the sight of this beautifully detailed miniature library.

Perhaps even more delightful, was the discovery that the creator of this fetching library space, Lady Delaney, has not only a beautiful website to explore, but also an Etsy shop where you can purchase all kinds of miniature books as well as a kit to make your own collection of miniature books. Sounds like a lovely fall/winter project to me!

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Finally, a quote for the week:

pin stillness

Here’s to finding moments of peace in the chaos, staying with your story, and finding your feet beneath you.
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

Friday Fun – Staying Motivated When the Weather Has You Dragging

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: Be it long stretches of hot or cold weather, sometimes it’s hard to keep your writing mojo on track. What do you do to keep your writing on track?

LL HeadshotLee Laughlin: I am not built for the heat and humidity. I live in the Northeast for a reason! Typically we only have a handful of miserable hazy, hot and humid days and I am a planner by nature, so, I follow the forecast and plan my week accordingly. If I know it’s going to be miserable, I make plans to be someplace where I can stay cool, be it a waterpark with the kids or an air conditioned library.  I love winter and I love snow, to me it’s an excuse to stay locked away in my writing cocoon!

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson: Like Lee, I’m not very productive when dealing with high levels of humidity. I need cool and comfortable to keep my brain from feeling like mush. And iced coffee. So a cafe is a great place for me to keep my writing muse inspired and active during the hot and humid summer days.

JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: I see a trend developing here … I also abhor hot and humid weather. For this reason (although I feel guilty about the environmental impact), I do run my central air as soon as the temps and dew point reach a certain point. As a full-time freelancer working from home, comfort is critical. If I’m feeling sweaty or sticky, my concentration goes right out the window. In the winter, cold is less of an issue. As a born New Englander, I can handle pretty chilly temps, and I’m also not above donning a pair of fingerless gloves. I also warm myself from the inside out with endless mugs of tea.🙂