Saturday, July 25, 2009


Welcome, folks. Lazy summer days abound, hence I'm keeping it short. I'm calling this one "Kraft" because of Kraft macaroni and cheese -- you know, the comfort food in a box. Add milk and butter. For some reason almost no kid will object to KM&C. So what in the heck does that have to do with writing? I think the familiar is something important to understand when writing books. I think there is a place for stuff outside our experience, but I also think it is important to be aware of what makes childhood magical, personal.

I think the magic of childhood is discovery of the familiar through new eyes. I'm young at heart. I still like to play, pretend, and imagine. I'll never grow too old to make a mud pie. To be an effective writer for children, you need to open up to the child you were. Go back in your memory. Pick an emotional moment in childhood. Whatever comes to mind. Happy. Sad. Excited. It doesn't matter.

What does matter is what was closest to the surface in your memory. That memory tells you a lot about what you should be writing about. Take some time and really put that memory on paper. Write about every detail, interior self and exterior world. When you are finished take the same scene and try writing it from a fictional point of view. I hope something exciting happens. Happy writing.
I put this doodle up in celebration of this year's ComicCon. I call this one "SuperHero Eggs".

I can't resist The Barenaked Ladies and this week's playlist hit: "If I had a $1,000,000." This is one I remember singing at the top of my lungs with my kids on cross country trips.

My quote for the week: "If I had a million dollars, we wouldn't have to eat Kraft Dinner, but we would eat Kraft Dinner"

My favorite line from "If I had a $1,000,000."

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Oh, yay, for summer days. I went on a thirty mile bike ride today, and I am full of amazing snapshots: the little tiny white dog that was sure it could take on a bike, the woman riding her bike with her parrot, and the man who said he knew the secret formula for time travel. I'm always collecting images -- the time travel thing, that's a whole novel.

My friend Katherine Bond has been chatting with me about her need to feed her muse. This is the kind of muse that is the source of an artist's inspiration. I'm going toss out some quotes here because back in the day everyone was into their muse.

Dante Alighieri, in Canto II of The Inferno:
O Muses, O high genius, aid me now!
O memory that engraved the things I saw,
Here shall your worth be manifest to all!
(Anthony Esolen translation, 2002)

John Milton, opening of Book 1 of Paradise Lost:
Of Man’s first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste
Brought death into the World, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat,
Sing, Heavenly Muse, [...]

William Shakespeare, Act 1, Prologue of Henry V:
Chorus: O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention,
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!

Yep, having a muse is something to think about.

My inspiration comes from several things. I like to do something sort of crazy beyond my skill set and experience. My 30+ miles bike ride was just that sort of thing. I've walked on erupting volcanos, jumped out of third story windows (there was a net!), and learned how to throw a set of dishes on a pottery wheel. This sort of buzzing activity jazzes my creative self.

Another big infuser of muse power into my universe is to chat. Oh, how I love a good conversation. I live to hear others tell me their story. I also love a good book or a fine movie -- not as good as a conversation, but pretty good. Yes, surprising really, I'm a writer, but I love a good conversation more.

Yet another muse connection is to play certain kinds of thinking games. I do not know how to explain this but it is true. I especially like Scrabble, Boggle, Settlers of Catan, Backgammon, and Risk. A good game will make me want to stay up all night writing. I'm not sure what games are firing up in my brain, but they are.

I have other muses, but hey, folks, I've got to sleep sometimes.

I talked about a tangential subject to MUSES in a blog entry back in March, Pure Genius. Please check it out if you need more inspiration.

I hope that you take some time this week and follow your muses. See where they take you.

My doodle for the week is "Up in the Sky".

Today's playlist hit is musical madness: "Lonesome Polecat" from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Singing and dancing!

Health is the first muse, and sleep is the condition to produce it. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Doorway into the Unknowable

Another lazy summer day, yay! Holly Cupala tagged me this week with the question: "What are 15 books that I will never forget?" First there aren't 15 for me. I'm not sure how many, but way over 15. I do think there is some value in seeing what comes to mind, right off the top of your head. I found that I had not one but two allegorical books at the top of my list, and I nearly added a third. I really love allegory. I also love signs and portents. The Urim and the Thummin have also always fascinated me. The mysterious lights and perfections of the Hebrew people kept in the breastplate of a priest for the purpose of divine communication has always intrigued me. These mysterious objects were a concrete way to connect with the Divine's will. Like the prophets, along with dreams and visions, God's voice could be heard.

The Divine is out of fashion in these days. The idea that everyone used to read the stars, tea leaves, and even decks of cards to know the future and understand now makes me think we are losing something as the years roll by. I know people still do these things but they have become very National Enquirer and part of the sideshow of life. I live in such a rational world, but there is a part of me that never forgets that there are deep waters, secret places, and unfathomable mysteries all around us. I hope that my writing is always a doorway into the unknowable. Writers are about the future. Some might call them prophets. They delve into the mystererious, the secrets, the deep.

My best advice, tell you story, and don't be surprised if the very act of communicating sheds light in a dark place, and that place might be you.

My doodle this week is called "Comprehending".

The playlist hit is an oldie from America and is called "Lonely People".

The quote for the week:

Whatsoever that be within us that feels, thinks, desires, and animates, is something celestial, divine, and, consequently, imperishable. Aristotle

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Oh, Say Can You See

Today will be short again. Happy 4th of July, Americans! I know there are a few readers out there who live down under or across the pond who might not have the 4th on their radar. I'm hearing unending explosions right now. They really love fireworks around here. The air smells acrid and the smoke is shrouding the full moon. We zipped around about 5 police cars surrounding a wild party at house on the way home from a family gathering. Ah, the 4th.

This week I was thinking about the power of the things you don't say when writing. It's the heart of showing. Don't tell me your character is angry. Slam a fist into a wall. Kick the bedstead. Throw out a string of angry words. The heart of story is to not say things but invoke the undstanding of these things in the reader. You have to search for the words make your reader think. The words that open their eyes. Don't be satisfied with the surface of your writing. Dig deeper.

The best writing has a bible of subtext. Some of this subtext will always be subconcious for the writer. You won't be aware of it but I do think that there are ways to sense it is there. Your passion for your work is a good barometer.If you feel so deeply about your work that you are laughing and crying while you write, this is a good sign. Let the work speak without trying to shovel out what you mean. Be crafty. Be delicate. You might surprise yourself. Enjoy the journey.

Today's doodle is a quick watercolor of one morning a few months back. I call it "Washington at Dawn."

The playlist hit come from the US Marine Band with a nifty version of The Star Spangled Banner! I know there a few Marines out there who visit this blog. Thank you for your service! Remember to write every day.

When you wander, as you often delight to do, you wander indeed, and give never such satisfaction as the curious time requires. This is not caused by any natural defect, but first for want of election, when you, having a large and fruitful mind, should not so much labour what to speak as to find what to leave unspoken. Rich soils are often to be weeded. Francis Bacon