Thursday, December 31, 2009


Last snow pic of 2009

There's an old adage: Begin as you expect to continue. So I'm beginning with writing.

And a recipe for Snickerdoodles:) Just for fun.

1 cup softened shortening of your choice (butter, margarine, Crisco)
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg
2 3/4 cup white flour

Cream together the sugar and shortening then add the eggs and mix well, until somewhat fluffy. Mix the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, nutmeg and salt together and then add to the sugar, etc. Roll into walnut sized balls. Roll balls in mixture of 1/4 cup cinnamon and 1/4 cup sugar. Place unflattened onto ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees 10-12 minutes until flat and slightly brown.

This makes a lot of chewy cookies, but that's never a problem.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A VERY short New Year's list

My Goddess of Compassion wearing her Christmas scarf

I've been enjoying the different lists on my friend's blogs (many of which are listed under the blogs I follow). Being creative people, they've all come up with creative, fun ideas.

This year, I'm having a list of one. One resolution for the new year. One to focus on. It is: for the next year, I'll strive to go beyond my limits. To dare new writing endeavors, to dare new experiences, to expand to my horizons and further and further. Why? Because I've noticed how the more I challenge myself, the more I succeed. Besides, it's fun, in a scary way.

There's an addendum to this short list of one, a resolution to possess compassion for myself, for my flaws and failures. If we don't forgive ourselves, we can't forgive anyone.

What are your New Year's resolutions, if any? Why? Why not?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Holiday Greetings!


And here's hoping you're at home (or traveling) with loved ones, safe happy and well.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Creative Product Pay

An uncopywrited photo for some color and cheer and that's the profit, but if I were a professional photographer...

My friends, fellow bloggers and different threads have been discussing the problem of the often low or no pay of many short story markets. This has brought to my mind the ongoing larger problem of what I call the "creative=not-being-real-work=free" problem. From my experience, every creative person struggles with the attitude, "You love doing this, right? So you shouldn't want to be paid, right? Isn't that crass commercialism that will only destroy your passion?"

Funny how nobody ever asks a surgeon or electrician or lawyer who has passion for the work about commercialism, i.e. being paid, destroying the enjoyment of the work. This was first brought home to me while I grew up. My father was a well-known, well-respected artist with his paintings hanging in museums all over the world. Still, often, way too often, someone would say, "You want me to pay HOW MUCH for this work of art?" Or even, "We're friends, this piece is small and Christmas is coming..."

Then, when I started film editing, I ran into the same belief. Editing is creative and fun, so why be paid money? And then was when I realized the crux of the problem. People who are not creative, aren't creative. Therefore, they don't create and therefore don't understand it's hard work. It takes tons of energy and many work hours to create something. And it can be tedious and boring (if you don't believe me, look at the same 10 seconds of film 400 times and then we'll talk!).

What do you think, dear readers? Is this part of the problem? Maybe the main part? Or maybe a comforting illusion?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Time of Deep and Lasting Change

Snow scenes out my front window

The solstice is headed our way. The days are drawing in for the new year. I've noticed that oftentimes this time of year creates frantic, stressful behaviors. Often, people change/shift/deconstruct and reconstruct their lives during the holidays (or shortly thereafter). Why? I believe it is because the world (or at least the Northern Hemisphere) is undergoing a time of deep and lasting change. In the cold and dark, living organisms are not merely asleep (including bears who hibernate--female bears give birth during the winter months). Instead, the living are profoundly...changed, altered, and different forever.

What does this mean for creative people? I believe it is a time to rest, relax and reflect on what's passed then move on to re-energizing and renewing. During this time, it's useful to ask many questions. Such as, "Where do I want to go with my creative passion?" "What's different about my creativity NOW?" "What do I want to keep?" "Discard?" "Change?" "What feels right?" Then I believe it's useful to sit with the questions and not worry about the answers. Let them come as they will.

Dear readers, what do you think? Has this been your experience of the dark days before the return of the light? Or? (And my Southern Hemisphere readers, is this true during June for you?)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Favorite Flavors for Characters

My Great Room mantelpiece, with a friend's artwork and the shadow of Shaolin.

Above is an example of how I like to decorate and my type of artwork, plus the shadow of a statue I have in my front hall. What does this have to do with favorite flavors and characters?

We all have differing tastes, even with the simplest, most common things. This came home to me this Thanksgiving. Myriad examples abound. Everyone has specific ideas of what is traditional food for Thanksgiving--all very, very different. For example, yams are traditional, but with marshmallows or without? Without for me, for growing up, my dad (he who hated sweets) would only eat them plain.

What this has to do with characters should be obvious. We're all so different, in so many ways, from the small (no marshmallows!) to the great and sublime. Adding those differences, big and tiny, to every character will create characters fascinating and walking around in your readers' heads. They may even live past your writing!

What are some of the ways you find to create characters? How do you do their makeup? A touch here--or layer it on with a trowel--or?

And finally, another pumpkin recipe in honor of the holiday season:
Pumpkin curry soup:
1 c. cooked pumpkin
1 c. milk, soy milk or broth of your choice
curry powder to taste
Mix, heat and ENJOY!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gratitude and pumpkin nut bread

My stomach-with-legs kitty on the lookout for Thanksgiving leftovers.

Proven facts: Gratitude increases creativity and productivity. Chocolate decreases inflammation. So I remember every day I'm grateful for family and friends and chocolate!

PUMPKIN NUT BREAD (I always buy big cans of pumpkin so I can make this)

1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2c whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp salt
dash cloves
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 eggs beaten
1/3 c. water
1 c. cooked pumpkin (fresh or canned)
1/2 c. chopped pecans (or any nuts or can be omitted)
1/2 c. dark chocolate bits (can be omitted, but why?)

Grease 9x5x3 loaf pan (cake pan works too).
Place all dry ingredients in large bowl, mix well. Add oil and eggs. Add water, pumpkin, nuts and chocolate bits. Bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours until done, let cool, ease out of pan.

Variations: use different spices, mace and allspice, used mashed sweet potato instead of pumpkin, frost if baked in cake pan with sprinkling chocolate bits on top and when slightly melted, spreading with a knife, cream cheese frosting works as well, as does raisins or any dried fruits.

Enjoy! And

Monday, November 23, 2009


A platform Bruce built

First snowfall of the season

A couple of posts ago I talked about the necessity of creating a platform. Above are a couple of instances of same. The first is of course a different type of platform, one created by Bruce, my permanent boyfriend. But it illustrates how to create "branding" as well as a platform: Bruce uses recycled materials in his creations. The platform was built with a shutter from our previous home and the basil was re-planted from this summer's garden. Bruce's Brand is becoming the guy who recycles while creating useful art. A brand can be created by creating different projects using the same creative process.

And what does branding have to do with snow? Well, I grew up in Sun Valley, Idaho, a world famous ski resort. And the ski resort is world famous for skiing in the sun. In fact, Sun Valley has been so successful at branding that many people don't know that during summers, it's also a great resort for all sorts of outside activities, with superb trout fishing, golfing, hiking, horse trails and on and on.

What does this mean for a creative person trying to establish or maintain or grow a career? It means branding requires some thought and planning. It needs to be original and specific, but hopefully avoids "Sun Valley is ONLY a ski resort" type of branding. Narrow enough to be distinct, but broad enough to be attractive to a wide audience. (How many people never read fantasy until Harry Potter?)

Difficult to achieve, I know, and I'm working hard on my own brand, coming up with new fresh ideas for promoting myself and my writing. I remind myself often, that branding, like any creative process is always a work in progress.

What are some of the ways you've branded yourself? Any that have worked well that you'd like to share? Failed miserably? Or do you take the organic approach and promote as it comes?

Next up: networking.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day

In my life, I've lived in several different countries, including those that do not have the freedoms we enjoy in the U.S. Much of the reason we have those freedoms is because of the efforts and sacrifices our veterans have made.

Honor them today.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Cooking up Creativity

Last rose of summer in November!
Powder Biscuit rolls, we ate the cake.

The holidays are roaring towards us, laden with expectations and promises and angst. First up (at least for my U.S. readers) is Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is the easiest holiday for me. Perhaps it's because it has the fewest expectations, promises and angst--and most of them are around food, or rather the creation of food. In my experience, many if not most creative people enjoy making stuff, in this case, food.

For example, my dad, an artist, adored making fudge. He never ate sweets, but every couple of months he'd make an enormous, vast amount of fudge, two to four pounds of the sweet stuff. He'd use all the best ingredients and spend hours creating pan after pan. When it had cooled, he'd take a tiny square to taste and make sure it worked. The rest of us ate the rest.

I've wondered about why he made fudge and have come to the conclusion that he enjoyed the process. He enjoyed using myriad ingredients, sometimes in new and different ways. And when those new and different ingredients and ways didn't work, he'd toss the batch out and start over (even if we wanted to eat the experiment). Because it was only fudge, only took a limited amount of time, and unlike his art work, was not going to go up for sale, he played while he created.

This is transferable to our creative work. When I remember, during process, to play, to try new ingredients and new ways, and to be willing to toss the entire batch out, I'm much more creative. I'm more likely to get into the flow of the work, instead of slogging through page after page.

I wish I had my dad's fudge recipes, but they were all in his head. Instead, in honor of the big food festival, follows are two recipes, both easy and delicious.

Here's a baking powder biscuit recipe:

2 cups white flour (can be unbleached)
1 teas. baking powder (I use more)
pinch of salt (omittable)
5-6 tablespoons of any oil or fat (I use canola)
2/3 c. of milk (soy ok)

Mix, dough will be stiff, I usually don't bother to roll into roll shape, 'cause I like 'em weird, but feel free to roll your dough.400 degrees for 15 minutes. Done.

Molasses Cake (This is one you can play with a lot, very forgiving.)

1/2 c. molasses (light or dark, your choice)
2/3 c. water
1/2 c. raisins (can be omitted, other dried fruits can be substituted)
1/2 teas. cinnamon
1/2 teas. cloves
1/2 teas. baking soda (I use more)
1 and 3/4 c. white flour

Boil water, combine with molasses and raisins, boil 5 minutes (to soften dried fruit) let cool.
Combine other ingredients together, add mixture.
Spray 8" by 8" pan (or oil and flour) bake in 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.

I use more of the spices listed above and often add ginger and nutmeg, sometimes even a touch of chili powder. I often add a half cup of chocolate bits and/or a half cup of nuts. This cake is a little dry and not terribly sweet, so sometimes I melt chocolate bits on the top for a quick frosting and sometimes I frost the cake, depending on mood. Plain, this makes a good breakfast cake.

So, dear readers, what are your favorite recipes for creativity? How do you bake up a wonderful novel or painting or song or?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!


My favorite story of Halloween is of my very first one. I was three and wore my bunny pajamas and my dad carried me around the apartment complex where we lived. Such an adventure! And candy too!

Do you celebrate the holiday? Have a Halloween story, fun, silly, sad, scary to share? Please do.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fall Musings: What is Failure? Success?

Fall views from my daily walk on the Oregon Trail

Several posts of my fellow bloggers such as Beth, Helen, Kathy, Sandra, Enid and Lynda made me think about how every time the seasons turn it is a opportunity for reflection on a life's course, past, present and future. This time of year when the ground goes fallow is especially conducive to contemplating the past. Not only the past, but what it means for the present and the future. And though the past is gone, it still impacts our behaviors and attitudes today. And while judging our experiences is a bit of a folly, still it's human.

But I've discovered that in judging the past, I'm continually...wrong. Which brings us to the topic. Because, what is failure? Success? It might seem easy to say, "I wish I'd been a bestseller with my first novel and therefore I'm a failure." Except that my first novel was written when I was 11 and much of it was written in colored markers. Now I believe that attempt was a success--certainly I knew I had the passion and discipline to write at an early age! And who can know what a "success" might bring?

And what is success? Again, the definition shifts like fine sand in a loosely grasping hand. I grew up in a posh ski resort and rubbed my hand-me-down Kmart coat elbows with the children of the rich and famous and "successful." And while having money is quite useful--still I'll never forget my friend who could never be without her nanny's supervision (we couldn't go outside often--fear of kidnappers) and who had never tasted peanut butter (chef didn't approve).

I suppose we'd all agree that failure is when we hurt someone, a successful life is when we leave the world a little better off for us being in it--but what about the less important aspects? For me, I count successes when I remain true to my writing passion and true to the love I feel for friends and family. I count when I forget those truths as my failures.

How about you? What do you see as past failures? Successes? Or perhaps more importantly, how has your perceptions changed over time of what might be a success or failure?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Basil and Creativity

Clipped basil re-rooting along with coasters I won in a contest by Enid of Steamy Darcy.

This year, none of the tomatoes were successful. But the basil exploded, witness the photo above, these are the leftovers. So what to do with all the basil? Ah, and there's the link to increasing creativity, because after using it in spaghetti sauce and in tomato cucumber salad and giving it away to friends...what's next?

Here's a few of the recipes I created:

First, preserving it:
Rinse the basil, chop fine and bottle with olive oil. Can use as is for the basil flavor alone or add garlic, onion, pepper, lemon, etc. and make salad dressing. Keep refrigerated when not using.
Hang it upside down and dry it, although this is my least favorite way of preserving it. It loses a lot of flavor, IMO.
My favorite: Rinse the leaves and put whole into a plastic bag and freeze. When the basil is frozen, crunch it up in the bag into little bits and use. A thank you to my s.o. Bruce for this, it works great.

Now for three recipes:
Add basil to any curry to make it "Thai" style.
Basil is great added to any Chinese dish, especially fried rice and chicken dishes.
Add basil to ground chicken or any ground meat when making meatloaf.
Puree basil with garlic and butter or margarine and spread on a halved French bread loaf, bake in oven (low temp or the basil will burn) for a twist on garlic bread.
And my favorite:
Tomato Basil soup:
2 cups of tomatoes (for spicier soup, can use 1 cup green tomatoes)
2 cups milk
1/2 cup of basil (it will taste strong)
Tablespoon of olive oil
2 tablespoons nutritious yeast (optional)
touch of pepper (optional)
Puree tomatoes. Heat olive oil in soup pan and add tomato puree and cook 5-8 minutes then add slowly the 2 cups of milk and simmer for 10 minutes, then add basil, yeast and pepper and simmer another 10 minutes. Soup will be thin, if you like thicker add 2 tablespoons of flour when adding milk and stir well. And my disclaimer: I'm not a professional chef so your results may vary.

Now the creativity piece--I discovered that having such a wealth of one thing, basil, led me to be creative in how I thought about basil. It became much more than "one of the spices that goes into spaghetti." It expanded and took on a more complex role in my cooking in some unexpected ways. And showed me a way to be more creative in my writing. With a character, for example, expand the character so it becomes more complex and then use the character in unexpected ways. Same is true for the plot--try thinking of it as many different ways as possible, play the what if game. What's an unexpected event? Another? Twist and turn the elements of your creativity and then jump out of boxed in expectations to another level.

Anybody got any other recipes for basil? How about a story where a plethora of whatever led to more creative thinking?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

One Lovely Blog Award

Sandra of My Little Corner presented me with this award a few days ago in her post One Lovely Blog Award. Sandra's site is great for new short story markets and other of interest to writers sites.

The rules are simple:

1) Accept the award and don't forget to post a link back to the awarding person.

2) Pass the award on.

3) Notify the award winners.

And my first rule is say thanks, thank you Sandra! (Anyone who is looking for short story markets NEEDS to visit My Little Corner.)

Passing the award on is difficult only because there are so many great blogs that I follow. Many of them are on my "Blogs I read all the time" list, so check it out, but that needs to be updated (soon, I promise). Please check it out and go to those blogs.

So, in the interests of brevity and because I'm partial I'm awarding this to one blog, to my dear friend Kathy's fun, wonderful and full of great writerly wisdom, blog: Well Placed Words.

Next, what basil has to do with creating.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Beyond and Above Platforming

This week, a good friend of mine, Lance Thompson, a script doctor will be presenting at the Idaho Writers' League's 2009 Writers Conference: Paint with Words. As well as teaching some excellent workshops, he'll be on a panel about "The State Of Publishing Today." He asked a couple of days ago for my thoughts on same, having gone to a major conference recently.

My recent experience at the conference and elsewhere is that the bottom line is (and will always be):

Like any major business, the publishing world is always in flux. At this time, two major factors are in play. One is the recession and the other is electronic publishing. So there's a lot of "It's harder than ever to sell" out there. But I've been writing and submitting and selling for a long time and that's always been the publishers' lament. In my experience, a recession helps the publishing business, which is usually slow and reluctant to change. And the electronic revolution provides a wealth of new opportunities for publication (I was published on Twitter, for heaven sakes!).

Every agent/editor who I spoke with or who was on a panel said the same thing: "We want to see the writing. It's only the writing that truly matters. Yes, we talk about platform and the publishing world and what's hot right now, but the quality of writing is everything. And as long as some people somewhere still read, we'll still be looking for good writing to publish."

It's the writing. We all need, in our desperate desire to publish, to remember it's the writing that sells.

Do you put the writing (often the most difficult part) first? Do you write first? Write every day? Or set aside times for concentrated writing and then work on other parts of your career by working on your platform or attending workshops or conferences or? Is your focus correct? Is there something you'd like to change?

Writing of workshops, Lance is also giving one of his excellent workshops, "Lance Thompson’s Screenplay Story Structure Workshop," in Eagle, Idaho on October 10 and 11--comment if you want more info.

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Platform for Success

This seems to now be all the buzz. "Platform, platform, platform!" was what I heard at the Willamette Conference from the editors and agents. Platform before publication? Before you sell your book? It seems out of the natural order and it seems the stuff of controversy amongst groups and bloggers--for example see Sandra's post on My Little Corner and the link to the Writers in Residence blog that discusses how and why to platform.

One event, however, convinced me of the reason behind all the insistence on platform. The first night at the conference there was a "pitch practice" session where writers could get up and...practice their pitches, of course. One writer's first words were "I've had a million (!) hits on my blog." That's all the agents and editors needed to hear. Why? Think about it. Even if those million hits meant only, oh let's say 200,000 people have visited her blog and only 10% of those buy the book, 20,000 copies are presold. Plus it's still true that book sell by word of mouth most, so even if it's 10,000 people who visit a lot--the writer has name recognition. Though not a guarantee, chances are the book will be a bestseller.

The publishing world is changing moment by moment and the electronic revolution is driving much of that change. We writers have to change our expectations (the publisher will do all the promoting of my book, I don't even have to think about it) and our business plans.

Does this mean spend all your time writing your blog or developing a web page or working on Facebook at the expense of the writing? Of course not. The writing always comes first and foremost. But creating virtual and real "face time" and "name recognition" is now a necessity, I believe.

So, dear readers, what do you think? Do you believe this may be just another reason to turn down authors or does it have merit? What has been your experiences: with creating a platform, or promoting a novel, or both?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Catching up is hard to do

My niece, Vik and I standing outside of the balcony (above) where Ernest Hemingway wrote "A Farewell to Arms."

My forever boyfriend, Bruce, riding on the ski lift down Baldy.

Me, doing the same as Bruce.

No, I'm not dead and neither is my blog. Both have been on what I believed was a short vacation. Or rather, a longer vacation than expected by me. First there was the vacation, then there was the recovery-catch-up-return-to-normal-life period, often the longer of the two--or at least it seems. While having fun, the time soars away.

Before, I used to balk at this "vacation recovery stage." After all, I'd taken plenty of time off, I should return home invigorated, energetic and enthusiastic, ready to leap back into, well, everything. Instantly have the house clean, the bills paid, and write all the pages I didn't while I was gone. I spent energy berating myself instead of doing what I could do and when.

Now, after vacation is part of the vacation. This works much better. Especially if the vacation has been of the American style "Go!Go!Go!" variety, instead of sitting on a beach somewhere, napping. At the most, guilt cuts into my energy and makes it that much more difficult to catch up and get back to normal. At the least, relaxing about returning from vacation allows me to realize the fun lessons, the epiphanies, the life memories, that help me with my writing. And recognizing the need for recovery time makes it much shorter.

How about you? When you return from a vacation, do you leap into action? Or are you like me, and need a break from the break first?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Post Conference Part One: Time is Money

Let's all pretend this is Monday's posting, as promised. Don't all creative people struggle with high expectations of what will be accomplished in a short time? Don't we all expect to come back from such an event invigorated and ready with tons of energy to leap to write or whatever? Do you experience this type of over-expectation?

Since I received a "yes" (go ahead and send pages) from several agents, I'm excited to send those out. But as my good friend Kathy of Well Placed Words mentioned to me, we forget that even good stress is stress and while the fatigue doesn't last as long as from stress, all the excitement and focus and work is tiring. And everything takes longer than is expected. Unpack, do laundry, catch up from days away...meanwhile it's frustrating not to work on writing.

So, dear readers, does this resonate? What do you do when over-expectations get in the way?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Of Groups and Conferences, Pros and Cons

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the first meeting of the Idaho Writers Guild. Fascinating and fun, but also amazing how much dedicated and professional talent there is in Idaho, the state with the least population of all 50. After a couple of hours, I returned home energized and invigorated about my writing career. On August 6, tomorrow, I head out to the Willamette Writers Conference for four fun-filled days of pitching agents. Or at least fun for me.

There are writers out there who despise attending any event or joining any group. Often true introverts, these authors point out that conferences and groups take away a lot of valuable writing time and energy. This can be true. The last few weeks I have been taking time to prep my manuscript, my pitch, my wardrobe, etc. and probably doing much more than I need--I'm a writer and being neurotic is required.

However, that time, for me has done several useful things. It has re-initiated and reinvigorated my enthusiasm for my craft and w.i.p. I've had myriad epiphanies about my work, both current and future. I've made a large number of wonderful, supportive contacts, fellow authors and other creative people. People who feed my creative spark, sometimes into a roaring blaze. And will meet many more this weekend. I always return from a conference energized to work and work harder, faster and more effectively than before. So for me, some group participation and some conference attendance are useful tools.

One point, don't make the groups and conferences and workshops become the writing. It's easier than you might think to replace the difficult work of writing, just plain writing and writing, with the far easier and entertaining activity of a group or whatever. It feels like you're working, progressing. And to a certain extent, that's true. But nothing replaces write, write, write. I suspect this is true of other creative disciplines as well, hence the "disciplines".

So, dear readers, what do you think about attending conferences? Joining groups? Does it help you? Or the opposite?

And I'll be back on Monday with a report on my experiences.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Summertime, summertime and shift happens

This is what summer is supposed to be like: lazy and relaxed.

But not this summer. Unless of course, you're my cat, when it's always summer. While visiting Swu on Swubird's Nest in the comments, he asked where everybody went this month? Well, I don't know about everybody, but I know where I went. I went frantic.

Perhaps it's worldwide, this overwhelm of everything. I know that amongst my friends and family, including my blogger friends, everyone seems to be in the same busy, busy, busy state. For example, I've filled every weekend in August! All with what I want to do and will love doing, but still, enough already.

Yet, I suspect and hope that this is a symptom of a healthy shift. When major change happens, it can be frenetic, especially right at the beginning of the change when the most energy is needed to shift. Most of the ultra-busy I know are that way because they are re-evaluating and then re-inventing portions (if not all) of their lives. In good ways.

Perhaps the answer then, is not to resent the lack of the summertime lazies, but to embrace the energy of change. Of course, it'd help if I had time to get the dishes and laundry done...

What about you, dear reader? Do you see major change in your life? If so, is it good or bad? Or neither? How do you get the laundry done?

Next post: of groups and conferences, platforms and product

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Let Freedom Ring!

It's early here, so our flag is not yet up!

And the flowers are appropriate because the vase comes from Bruce's mom whose birthday is tomorrow. Happy B'day Dorothy! And it's appropriate because the most important part of our freedoms is the freedom to express ourselves any way we want! This includes all my blogger friends, no matter where you may live--and ain't the 'net a wondrous thing?

What are your unique ways of expression? How do you celebrate the freedom in your life?


Thursday, July 2, 2009

Learning Gratitude

My friend, Kathy of Well Placed Words got me to thinking about how I learn. And the Fourth of July got me thinking about the freedoms I'm so grateful for, a primary one being freedom of speech. So here's a list of some of my favorite blogs with why I'm grateful to have each blogger expressing their freedom.

Well Placed Words: A great place to visit by a great friend of mine who's a fabulous editor and has fantastic and fun advice.
Pics and Poems: Dave has glorious examples of both with his posts.
Straight from Hel: Helen's another great editor who covers a wide range of writing topics well.
The Truth About Lies: Jim always has interesting, thought provoking content.
My Little Corner: Sandra provides market info to markets big and small, and everywhere in between.
Sia McKye's Thoughts: Sia's writer guests always provide entertainment and information.
Swubird's Nest: Swubird's often hilarious stories show how truth is stranger than fiction.
Cornish Dreamer: Rebecca's beautiful photos have to be seen to be believed.
Beth's Adventures: Beth has some great ones while she travels on her life journey.
Inspired Day by Day: The Muse is inspiring in her posts about her day to day inspiration for her writing.
The Book Lady: Caryn delights with her love of her subjects.
Peripheral Vision: If you aren't moved by Lynda's photography, then you aren't breathing.

There are more of course, and it's getting late so I may have missed a fav or two or three, but overall these are blogs that I visit often and am always glad I did!

How are you celebrating your freedoms?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Submitting and Succeeding

Weird pic, I know, but I didn't have any eggs!

Beth of Beth's Adventures inspired me to this somewhat-old-but-still-works metaphor. A couple of weeks ago, I taught a workshop in writing and marketing the short story. Most of the audience were newbies to the marketing aspect. When we got to that portion of the program, I was surprised by the resistance several displayed in submitting their short stories. I got strange questions such as, "If I enter this contest and win, then they'll want to put the story online and then it's published and I can't sell it to a 'real' market." This was for a no-fee online contest that paid a first prize of $700!

What you do when something like that happens is take the money and say thank you! and write another story. I wondered about this until I realized that, as new writers, the people protesting probably hadn't written many stories. So every story was like a precious, single, golden egg. To be treasured and protected and never broken (i.e. submitted just anywhere where it might make sell or win).

To make everyone groan, "You have to break a lot of eggs to make an omelet," AND "Don't put all your eggs in one basket." First, you need to make a lot of eggs to break. Write and write and write. Then repeat. This is even true of novelists. It takes on average 3 to 5 novels before a writer has written a publishable one. Plus, it's difficult to not keep your eggs in one basket (i.e. a few specific markets) if you only have a few eggs. After writing, submit and submit and submit. If you're writing short stories, start writing to the markets. The anthologies and contests that are specific...write a story for them and send them off. If it comes back, ship it to another market. That way you're not keeping all your eggs in a single basket.

This may seem obvious to more experienced authors, but I'm not certain about that? Every story is after all a delicate beloved baby. And rejections are painful. However, in my experience, if you have myriad babies out there then if they don't do well--write another. I remember coddling every single egg/short story at the beginning and then every chapter of my first novel. I've found it's much easier now to "let go" and move on.

What's your experience? How much do you write and rewrite? When do you release a work and submit it? What about other formats? Poets? Novelists?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Guerilla Learning, Part 2

A couple of pics of me editing.

As promised, here's the second part of what I learned from participating in the i48 film festival. First, and most significant, there are so many creative people out there that are so good at creating--since most creative endeavors are done alone, it amazed me how many people in a small city appeared and made films start to finish in 48 hours. 60 teams! And how well creative people could work together, as so many of us work alone. Plus, I discovered that working with others meant that the creativity increased exponentially. Instead of blocking ideas, ideas flowed, building one upon another. Fabulous.

Second, working to an incredibly intense deadline showed how to focus and get-it-done. Make the decisions and move forward. Don't hesitate. Don't second guess. Go with the first gut impulse. It worked. Could it have been a better film if we'd had more time? Yeah, probably, but the surprising thing is, just not that much better. What did that teach me? It's not necessary to edit and re-edit, re-think and re-do most of the time. Sometimes the first draft is the best. Surprising, huh?

What do you think? Have you ever worked creatively in a group? What was your experience? How about working to deadline? Or letting your first draft be your last?!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Guerilla Learning, Part 1

Me on the set of the movie "This Sucks."

Me and the great director of "This Sucks," Sherry Cann.

This post is about two things: learning a lot in a BRIEF period of time and learning from doing something creative that is very different from what you've been doing.

For the first time, I participated in the i48: Idaho's 48 hour film festival. Teams of filmmakers receive a prop, a line of dialog and a character at 6pm on Friday and must turn in a completed 3 to 6 minute film by 6pm Sunday. Exhausting! Fun! I helped write the script, acted, did a touch of the filming, and a bit more of the editing.

What did I learn? First, how to think in action scenes. Since I've been primarily a fiction writer, I never thought that in order to show a story (especially in a film) it must be action. Talking heads are boring (this holds true for fiction as well). In a film, you can't rely on describing the character's emotions or their conflict, you have to show it by their behavior. Dialog can be used, but again, I learned that dialog must be brief and very strong. People don't want to watch other people just talking. Same is true, I suspect, of reading dialog, unless it's powerful. Finally, in the editing, I learned that it can be hard to know where to start a scene and where to end--when do you have enough information without having too much?

Those are the three main things I will apply to my writing ASAP!

Next post: the creative process in a group.

Friday, May 29, 2009

10 Weird Things

Beth of Beth's Adventures asked for a list of 10 things people might not know about me. So...
1. I can chew my own toenails, but don't.
2. I grew up in a ski resort but prefer to ice skate. I was so small when I started skiing I kept falling off the ski lift.
3. I met the love of my life on (Hi Bruce!).
4. I love basenjis (an African hunting hound, barkless but not silent, not obedient but loving) and I'm on my second one, 20 years of basenjis!
5. I started college when I was 15 (and made it through by attending a liberal arts school and taking English and History classes only).
6. I'm of mostly Scots descent. I've been to England and spent a summer in Ireland but I've never been to Scotland.
7. I have eyebrows, but my hair is so light as I am a natural redhead you can't see them. Means I have to pencil them in, BUT I never shave my legs either!
8. My oddest job: hmm, I've had lots, maybe cold sales calling for a guy with a cold storage truck business?

Okay, that's only eight, but I'd love to hear from my readers...what are a few weird things about you? Share!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Teach to learn

The purple lady is me, presenting a workshop on manga.

On June 13, 2009 from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m in Twin Falls, Idaho I'll be presenting a two hour workshop on Writing the Short Story. This is not my first workshop, nor will it be my last. I also attend workshops, including Margie Lawson's on June 6 in Boise. For myself, I find teaching to be more valuable than attending. Not that I don't learn tons from being a student, but the old adage that if you really want to learn something then teach it is true for me. I've been remembering all sorts of things about writing the short story (my first love) plus learning new things as I prepare the class.

Do you, gentle reader, attend workshops? Teach workshops? Both? If so, what are your experiences? If not, why not?

Monday, May 25, 2009

My Grandma and Dad

Yes, my grandmother was taller than her son. She was 6'3" and he was only 6'. The photo above was taken in 1939, when my dad was in the Royal Canadian Airforce. He captained troop ships for the Canadians until the U.S. entered the war, then B-17 Bombers for the rest of the war.

Yes, it's Memorial Day, but what does a photo of two of my ancestors have to do with the creative process? Because, I believe, without our history we have nothing to create from. My father rarely spoke of his experiences in WWII or the Korean War, yet they had a profound impact on who he was and therefore who I am and what I create. Without that understanding and acceptance, we cut off so much of ourselves and therefore the raw stuff of creativity.

My grandmother is also in the picture because without her I wouldn't be a writer. When I was little and staying with my grandmother, every night we'd lie in her big bed underneath her chenille bedspread. "Tell me a story about when you were little," I'd demand. "Oh, child, you don't want to hear those stories again." "Yes, please." And every night she'd tell me the stories of her childhood as I fell asleep.

So this Memorial Day, honor and remember.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Prep Work

My honeysuckle bush in full bloom.

Helen Ginger of Straight from Hel mentioned my glorious roses in the comments of the previous post and Swubird of Swubird's Nest talked about his process in the comments of my post "Learning Curves" inspired this post on prep work.

We don't always think about the preparation that comes before a project, although it is one of the most critical steps. Without all the prep work that my wonderful s.o. Bruce does, I wouldn't have the glorious results you see above. But so many times creative people are inspired and rush into a project without taking the time to prepare. And get caught up as a result, stopped, or lose their way in the labyrinth. How many projects are abandoned because of lack of prep work?

To add to this, everybody's prep is unique. I, for example, must do an outline of a new novel, BUT only a loose outline. I know other novelists who almost write the book before they write the book and others who only have the story arc and main characters in mind. Some artists have sketches galore, while others have the picture only in their minds. But one certain way to know if you're not doing enough preparation is if you get lost in your work--and no I don't mean the right-brained kind of lost.

And yes, you can do too much preparation before the actual work. So much that you lose the energy of the project. But my experience with creative people is that overall we tend towards too little instead of too much.

What do you do when facing a new project? What do you consider an absolute necessity for preparing? What have you found on earlier projects that you wished you'd prepared for?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

Virtual flowers from my garden, real ones have yet to arrive.

Holidays are a time of remembrance, celebration and honoring others. May you do all three this day.


Friday, May 8, 2009

Learning Curves

Our new baby.

Above you see my reason for the slowdown in my posts and comments. We're the proud and excited new owners of a netbook, a nine incher, about the size of a trade paperback. Bruce, my wonderful s.o. realized that since my elderly (8 years!) writing laptop never got on the net and might die at any time, a backup computer might be good. And since it weighs less than 3 pounds, it travels well! But, right now, I'm on a learning curve. The keyboard is different and smaller. The screen is smaller and I haven't used a mouse pad in years. So, I'm slower than usual right now.

Which brings me to the subject of learning curves for creative people, because I've noticed when they occur in the creative process, it can be frustrating. To the point of blocking the process, or worse, abandoning the project altogether. While it's acceptable in everything else to have to take the time to learn something new, it seems unacceptable when it's writing or painting or even playing a musical instrument ("Well, if you just practiced more..." when you're practicing as much as you can.). Perhaps this is because people believe talent=proficiency, which it doesn't. Everything new takes time to learn and for what we're good at the curve can be a cliff instead, because we're already at a high level.

Add to this that creative people often dismiss any accomplishment (Of course I can write short stories, that's so easy. It wasn't when I wrote my first one.) that we "guilt" ourselves for not being instantly proficient at any new creative task. And all this takes the energy that could be used for learning and creating! So give yourself a break the next time you tackle a new anything!

Does this resonate with you, dear reader? Do you have learning curves going on that you may not even be aware of, and if you are, are you beating yourself up about now learning fast enough? Or even that you need to learn?!

Oh oh, low battery, now where do I plug in the charger...?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Merry May Day

What my rose garden may look like in a couple of weeks!


May is a month for major growth, as you can see from the photo above. Here's wishing all my creative friends a fun, productive new month.

(And a postscript, I've been visiting my blog friends this week, but a busy end of month beginning of new month has kept me from commenting as much as I prefer. To my readers, please visit my favorite blogs listed here--they're all fabulous!)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Recycle, Reuse, Renew

I make dirt. But first I make dinner. Then soup. Then dirt.

How? First I freeze all my vegetable trims (a bit of lemon and lime rinds and fruit peelings can be tossed in as well) while I cook. When I have a bag full, I fill a big pot half full of water and light boil the trims for an hour or two, adding water as needed. Voila, nutritious, tasty broth. All that's left is to take the leftover vegetables out to the composter and I've got new dirt.

What does this have to do with writing? Simple. Reuse, recycle and then it's renewed. Stuck in your novel? Pull a character and write a short story. Short story is way too long--maybe it's a novel. Try using your characters/ideas/plots in a new genre. Write an article about what you learned. Need to research something for your novel? Research it for an article as well. How about a blog post?

It goes on and on. Painters have been doing this for a long time, scraping off parts of oils they didn't like and redoing. Or reusing the same canvas. Or cutting the canvas into sections (my dad did this and it worked).

So, recycle, reuse and find it renewed.

How do you do this in your creative endeavors?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Eye of the Beholder

Yes, most people consider them to be obnoxious weeds, but...

...that's our culture as it is now. Dandelions are bright yellow, a yellow that we seek for "flowers." These "weeds" are edible and full of antioxidants that people pay big money for. The flowers are a bonanza for the bees. And dandelion wine is real and from what I've heard, tasty.

Why, then, is it a weed? Who says? Why do we spend millions of hours pulling the plant and millions on toxic chemicals to destroy it? And what does this have to do with writing?

Simple, it's all about perception. Cultural norms. Twist such things for character quirks--a woman who "farms" dandelions and makes all sorts of food from the plant, for an example. Turn a "norm" into "abnorm" for your plot--the Stepford Wives comes to mind. Turn an expected event into the unexpected--weddings are celebrations, have a bride who considers hers a funeral.

What are some perceptions to twist you can think of? Which ones have you done in your writing? Did it work, or were the readers too accustomed to the usual to understand?

This post was inspired by Earth Day.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter and Character Tags

Can you spot the edible eggs amongst the non?


Rebecca of Cornish Dreamer in her post "The problem with Easter" brought this post to my mind. I'm a seasonal candy eater.
This season, through today, it's Cadbury eggs--the old fashioned kind with the white cream filling only, none of that new fangled caramel or other stuff, please. After today, I don't want the eggs. Christmas is cherry filled chocolates and my birthday is chocolate cake with WHITE frosting.

It occurred to me that this is a character tag. Something I do that others don't that gives a little peek into my personality. By looking at ourselves and others and spotting these goofy bits, we can find great character tags.

Or at least I think I'm the only one who's Holiday candy specific...are you? Or do you have other oddities for a holiday that you're willing to share?

Whichever, have a fun Easter!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Fiction and Non-fiction

It's no fiction. Here's the first daffodil of spring.

The comments on my last blog entry inspired this post. Sia McKye started it with "We can take a 'fact' of science, history, politics, religion, life in general, and weave a story around it with fictional characters" and Lynda Lehmann added, "unimaginative people out there who don't really like to peer out of the hole of their own subjectivity" while Helen Ginger took that a step further with "Why do people think fiction is based on a true story? Don't they realize writers have imaginations?"

The Muse added another side to the discussion, "Don't they realize that a lot of fiction is based on fact?" Kathy McIntosh mentioned, "the insights they could gain by some time with the masters of fiction." Swubird admitted that he read mostly non-fiction but, "Fiction and nonfiction are like like mom and dad. We need both to get the whole perspective." And Caryn Caldwell ended the discussion with "As for readers of nonfiction, I've had a few of them tell me snootily, 'When I read, I want to *learn* something.'"

All these excellent comments made me realize that really we can't have one form without the other. We're born to be story tellers. So we tell stories. All of us. All the time. Whether there's a facts underneath the fiction or whether there's fictional elements within a true story doesn't matter. It's all tales. Think about it. Even the most straightforward piece of nonfiction is structured with a beginning, middle and end. It's how we think, how we order our world.

And who can say what is truth and what is not? This is at the crux of a lot of the non-fiction argument, some people believing that somehow if something can't be proven to have happened, it's a harmful, evil, filthy lie. But except for a scientific fact (and some dispute those) what can be proven? Ask eyewitnesses of an event and everyone will have seen something different. Ask a sibling about memories of an event and be amazed at the difference.

Of course there's an aspect to fiction that can make it much harder to write. It has to be reasonable and logical enough to be believed. To draw the reader into the fiction world. This is not true of non-fiction, read Swubird's excellent and fun, fun blog for examples of hilarious and fascinating non-fiction.

Thanks to all the excellent bloggers who commented on my last post that led to this post.

So, what do write when you write? Fiction? Non? A mix? And if a mix, which is your fav?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Happy April Fools

Cleo believes I'm playing an April Fool's trick on her.

But no, she's wearing a dress because she has an itchy skin condition and it keeps her from scratching. That's it for my April Fool's jokes and it's on the dog. Sorta.

Except for a phenomenon I've noticed in people who read only non-fiction. Some of them believe that all fiction is a trick. It's true. I've been, more than once, asked, "Yes, but what really happened? What don't you tell the truth? Why lie?"

Has this been anybody else's experience with non-fiction readers (and sometimes with people who don't read)?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

AFRAID a review and afraid of changing genres?

My kitty wondering if he dares read AFRAID by Jack Kilborn.

AFRAID is the first horror novel by Jack Kilborn, aka J.A. Konrath. J.A. Konrath chose a pseudonym for AFRAID because he writes the humorous Jack Daniels mystery/thriller series under J.A. Konrath. AFRAID is truly and firmly ensconced in the horror genre. A different genre for the author, which begs the question--should a writer write in different genres?

In some ways, the genres Konrath chose are closely related--Kilborn's Afraid is full of mystery, action and thrills. But the Jack Daniels series abound in fun, quirky characters whereas AFRAID has eccentric, egocentric and strange characters. Both have their share of evil individuals, of course. Perhaps the biggest difference is in the voice or "feel of the read" in AFRAID. This is visceral, ripped-out-guts, don't-turn-out-the-lights horror as opposed to a lighter, less violent, less ferocious style of his mystery series.

Did it work for Konrath/Kilborn to switch genres? In the case of AFRAID, I believe it did. Afraid is a strong book in the horror genre and a good debut novel for a "new" author. A good read, IF you enjoy horror.

And I believe I saw some good development in Konrath's pacing, characters and plot(I've read his Jack Daniels series as well). It's a danger, when you switch genres in "jack of all trades, master of none" but in most cases it stretches a writer to move into a different arena. An excellent challenge and growth opportunity--I certainly have noticed it in my own writing when I try something different. I suspect this is try of most creative endeavors--a painter using acrylics instead of oils, a musician trying rock instead of classical, etc.

So, dear reader, what do you think? Okay to change genres, try different formats and ways of writing? Or do you focus on working on one particular style and making it your own?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Expectations, Part 2

Out of a lot of work and courage comes...

A previous post discussed expectations that can get into the way of success. Here are expectations that lead to success.

1. Expect to FINISH. No matter what. Anything begun you should expect to finish. This is the first one that most people run up against and don't have the expectation of taking a project to the end. Many people start a lot of projects with enthusiasm but as soon as it gets tough, quit. And start something else. If you don't finish, you'll never know if it truly worked, or not. If you don't finish, you'll never know success.

2. Expect to work hard at your craft, all the time. Any creative person who doesn't expect to work on improving their skills, stagnates at best. Creativity increases with the hard work of getting better at your chosen craft.

3. Expect it to be difficult. Yes, being creative is a lot of fun. But, if you're serious about being any kind of artist--it's also work, lots of work. Work that is totally subjective so there's a lot of rejection. And sometimes you just have to slog through a project to see #1.

If you expect the above, I believe at some point you'll see some success. You may not be on the bestseller lists, or in the Metropolitan Museum, or even making a living from your creative endeavor, but you will succeed.

What are some of your good expectations that work for you?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Go Green!


Here's hoping you have a fun, joyous and safe, green and blooming with life day, regardless of ancestry or nationality. And if you do celebrate today, how?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Expectations, Part 1

My backyard yesterday morning.

Yesterday afternoon, Oregon Trail.

December, same trail.

Last weekend, it was 60 degrees outside. Bruce trimmed the rose bushes, took the sand out of the trunks of the cars and in general did the yard work for an early spring. Then, three days later, the snow came back. Not as much as in December, but enough. My poor roses...

Our expectation was that the weather would continue warm as it had been. We made decisions and acted upon those decisions according to the expectation. But of course, the expectation turned out to be wrong. Which got me to thinking, how often does that occur in our creative careers? Where do we act upon expectations and then find myself stunned by the result? Why do we have such expectations?

Part of it must be because of those sneaky feelings, hope and desire. Of course, without hope and desire no one would ever attempt anything creative. It's hard work. If we didn't have the desire to create and the hope of success, why try? But often, we fall into magical thinking. Along the lines of "if I attend this workshop and learn more of how to paint/write/any other creative endeavor then I'm sure to sell then" or "if I write this novel/paint this painting/photograph in this new fashionable bestseller style I'm sure it'll be the answer" or even "If I buy a new computer with this new software or this new camera or this new paint brush or paints or whatever then..."

How to avoid the pitfalls of time and expense that often comes from such thinking? I've always found that returning to my source line works. By that, I mean recognizing that the wild expectations come out of a true passion. (It's time for it to be spring so it is.) And that searching for simple solutions or shortcuts is only human nature.

Finally, roses are tough and will most likely survive. Quite possibly, their color will be deeper for the experience. Same as with creative people.

So what do you do when your expectations run wild? What happens? Is the experience disappointing or invigorating? Or both?

Next up: Good expectations (there are some).