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A LOADED WORD

Pitches fly at me from all angles. They fill my inbox, my snail mailbox, my spam folder. Like most editors, I’m accustomed to the daily barrage: the cheery PR spin and the aspiring writer working toward a byline, the pros with their polished queries. Requests, suggestions, demands, expectations… We get it all. Every day.

But “Aunt Marty” took me by surprise.

Her pitch, on behalf of her nephew Cody, was irresistible—proud and utterly charming: “When you are 23, work as a waiter, buy the worst looking house on the street, spend a year of weekends fixing it up, and end up with a showplace, you deserve to be featured in Ventana,” she wrote, launching into a glowing description of the home.

Now, I’ll be honest. I grew up in rural Ventura County and love this place, but there are times when the provinciality of our homey nook wears a little thin. It never lasts long, though. Whether it’s a neighborly wave or a simple note like Aunt Marty’s, something always reminds me that grass just doesn’t get any greener.

In his article on page 33, writer Mark Storer works the do-it-yourself makeover into a larger story about historical home renovations in Ventura. He tells a tale of two projects in one city, bouncing the Supan house off Bill Lucking’s trio of historical properties on nearby Ash Street.

Mark is a teacher in Camarillo. Around the time of this article, he and his class were working on Shakespeare. This was an atypical Ventana article to begin with, and his tendency to slip into character (“Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Ventura where we lay our scene…”) adds a whole new twist. It’s good to mix things up now and then. We hope it works for you.

In early fall, Susan Brown emailed me with a spot-on pitch—for spring. Her article about growing a hummingbird garden (page 14) is at once instructive and entertaining. It is locally-oriented and provides ample opportunity for those ever-necessary visuals. Susan has an MA in English and teaches English Composition part-time at Oxnard College, so I was confident about her ability to craft a good story.

What I didn’t expect was for her to give away money.

Susan chose to donate her compensation for the writing work—it is work, you know—to the Ventura Botanical Gardens, a nonprofit that is now five years along in its march toward a world-class botanical garden overlooking western Ventura County.

If you’re a regular reader of Ventana, you have seen subtle and not-so-subtle plugs (venturabotanicalgardens.com) for the project over the years. We endorse it not because it would appeal to tourists or enhance the economy, but because it would improve the quality of life that already exists here. Yes, there would be other benefits. And we’re happy about those, too. But our primary interest is simple and personal: a botanical garden would bring enjoyment to people of all ages in the community.

“Development” is a loaded word. Definitions like “progress” and “to bring to a more advanced or effective state” often don’t apply. But we’re not talking about Target and PetSmart here. This isn’t urban sprawl. A botanical garden in Grant Park would be an actual Merriam-Webster-approved development.

04-01-2012

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