Saturday, December 24, 2011


Christmas Poem 2011

Trees withered,
And now finally rain,
The drenched Earth rejoices
So hungry after the long summer drought.
We are unaware as the great engines spin.
Our one star in the curved arm of the Milky Way.
And we live another year on our blue ball marble
Hung by God, and wonder at the mysteries of dust
Come alive, and the door opened to glory in the highest.
This year the whispers of eternity ask me to put aside the thoughts
That slow my spin, they assure me of fathomless love and unending peace.
A soul candle flares with this light, here I am, dust brought to life
Oh, and I like the dry earth,
I stretch out my arms
And take in long
Awaited rain.

I will be back next year with more reasons to seize the day.

Here is my Christmas doodle.

My quote for this day:

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. Isaiah 9:2

Friday, December 16, 2011


Hi folks, I'm going to dip a little into Middle Earth here, and if you don't have a clue what that is, I'm sorry! I have the kind of family that has long discussions on whether they are elves, ints, hobbits, dwarfs, human, orcs, or wizards. I certainly am a hobbit. Around the holidays, breaking out the 10 or so hours to watch the extended version of The Lord of the Rings always seems like a good idea. This year has been no different.

So what does my LOTR jag teach me? What does my hobbit-self feel? I've launched out on a great journey too. My goal -- the life needed to tell a story about there and back again. Is any life less than a journey with a terrible burden? We all suffer. We all face dangerous waters and treacherous enemies. We all carry heavy things that have scarred us without and within. We all start out with a sense of purpose but find ourselves embroiled in great battles. Horrendous battles come and we face down unspeakable evils.

We form fellowships. They grow and flourish. We argue, we let each other down, we say our callous words and bring up all the dirt, and hopefully we bend to higher angels and find good moments -- we forgive each other, we believe each other, we hope for each other. Sometimes,we watch our fellowships shatter with no way to hold together the shards of broken bonds. But still, we press on. Our little battles are all part of much greater battle that rages. We live on a war torn planet, none of us have much control. My heart's cry is to see good triumph over evil. We take comfort in the fact that death is nothing to fear, but shining shores are ahead.

It's been a tough week for me -- the car's is probably totalled (son is fine, so much to be thankful for). And between writing articles, I have faced the deep waters of pressing on as a writer, hungering ever to write that stirs the soul and realizing I will have to face down my own weaknesses to do that. And over and over the Lord of the Rings has spoken to me. Thank you, J.R.R. Tolkien. I can imagine we could have been friends. I thank Peter Jackson, too, for making the movies. I can imagine we could be friends too.

And to my friends, let's live for greater things. Peace.

Here is a doodle: "Window into my imagination.

Here is I think my favorite LOTR quote from the movies:

Frodo: "I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: "So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."

from Lord of the Rings

Saturday, December 10, 2011


Hi, folks, it's the busy time of the year for me. It's not even thinking about snowing here, but my life is a flurry! For some reason I always get work in December, and this one is no different. I've got fifteen articles to write, a thousand or so essays to read, a novel revision to finish, a story start to polish, and a sample book for a company. Whew! My head is spinning.

I must Christmas shop sometime! My husband time is out of the country for the holidays. He's off fixing nuclear machinery in the middle of the Atlantic on the JOIDES Resolution. They are studying the Earth's crust under the ocean.

The crazy thing with all this stuff to do, I'm out of control with reading right now. Oh, my, I have a big stack by the bed. I'm also writing my own stuff. Fitting it into the corners of my life. And of course, I've got a organ and brass concert to go to and the Christmas light festival, and some pecan pie baking is my future too! Whoa! this is a crazy time of year.

The most important thing I know is to keep it all positive. Oh, believe me, it is a struggle. To me the sky is falling. Me and Chicken Little are soul siblings. So my hourly assignment is to not complain, enjoy my life, and write in every margin I can find.

Just a reminder, I hope that you give my picture book a look and help me win a library for Sul Ross Elementary. It's called "The Big Fuzzy Coat." I am quite pleased with it. Please consider giving it a vote if you indeed know what Facebook is. Select the following link and choose "like". Pass it on please.

Peace, friends. Seize the day.

No doodle this week. I'm entering the local baking contest with my Christmas Package Lemon-Raspberry-Macadamia-Nut Bars. Here is the pic.

Here is a quote to think about. Perhaps we should try to be this kind of busy bee. :)

Here, on the river's verge, I could be busy for months without changing my place, simply leaning a little more to right or left. Paul Cezanne

Friday, December 02, 2011

The Big Fuzzy Coat

Ah, hello, friends.I entered a contest that requires folks to vote for your work. I'm not the "popular sort" and it has quickly become apparent that this contest is about people who can really connect with media and are social butterflies of this world. I have always been a worker bee with a few of the best sort of friends in the universe. Still I'm giving it my best shot.

My friends are busy this time of year, and I tend to hang out with the Facewhat? crowd. You have to be on Facebook to vote in the contest. So the votes haven't exactly been rolling in yet. This is not me whining. I'm just trying to look out at the world and perceive it. Part of me is down. I've had just tons of asthma attacks this week to the point I just don't want to get out of bed. It's taking everything just to breathe. So what am I learning. Writing books is hard work. Promoting books is hard work. There is a lot of hard work in the universe.

The truest thing I know is trying is important and taking risks is important. Putting yourself in the public eye takes bravery. And if you speak and find that your are not a roaring lion but instead you are more of the quiet voice type -- that's nothing to worry about. Do the little things of your life with great love.

I hope that you give my story a look. It's called The Big Fuzzy Coat. I am quite pleased with it. Please consider giving it a vote if you indeed know what Facebook is. Select the following link and choose "like". Pass it on please.

If you don't know what Facebook is, it is nothing to be worried about. You can read my story anyway, and I think that you will like it.

I'm forgoing this week's doodle for my recent masterpiece. I made a lemon meringue pie. Here is the pic:

Here is a Bible quote that always sticks with me. It gives a sense of the deep waters the flow unseen.

And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. 1 Kings 19:11

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Without Knowing

Hi, folks. Today is sort of momentous for me. This is post 500 for Seize the day! I love this journey.

I think one of the great joys of writing is that in some deep way beyond the mechanics and craft is something indefinable beyond the knowing. My books always seem bigger than me. So much bigger. I'm just the poor sap showing up and trying to carve out of the rock mass of words a new shape. Maybe a weaver analogy works better. I find myself picking up the threads of emotions, relationships, and wisdom and weaving them together to find wholly unexpected patterns.

I don't have words to explain it but as I write the same energy that is revealed by the perfect execution of a double cabriole jump by a ballet dancer or the punch in my soul when I turned the corner to gaze on Monet's Waterlilies at the MOMA in New York -- a painting no photo can seem to capture -- the subtance of these feelings sneak onto my pages. As I carve my words, I feel memories of the moment I glanced up at the night sky to have my breath taken away by a rare fireball meteor or the day I came out of the post office to find super perigee moon rising. The feeling of those unexpected encounters fuel my pages with something indefinable and something beyond the words.

I sometimes write notes in my margins at the surprise the words bring to me. I hope that you open to more -- beyond the words, beyond the page. I hope that you move beyond what can be known and let the unknowable settle into your work. Take the time to make something for the ages, take the risk. Seize the day.

Here is this week's doodle. I did this a couple of winters ago. I call it Washington at Dawn. And yes the indefinable spark was in this view.

I decided that it was not wisdom that enabled poets to write their poetry, but a kind of instinct or inspiration, such as you find in seers and prophets who deliver all their sublime messages without knowing in the least what they mean. Socrates

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Help! Need Chocolate Cream Pie recipe and some writing tips

Hello, friends. Another week has raced past. We are rolling toward Thanksgiving here in the States at amazing speed. I am working on a feast but I could use a really good recipe for Chocolate Cream Pie. So if you have one, post it here.

To my NANOWRIMO folks -- keep it up! I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. You can do this!

I discussed with a friend this week the bonding that comes with sharing a recipe. I have a few that go way back. The cornbread my grandmother made, the kolaches from aunt's friend, my mom's sauteed green beans -- I think you can say a lot with food. I noticed that lots of writers just skip over the food in their stories, ignoring the bonding potential. I often write a scene with two characters making pancakes or sandwiches or something. It helps me explore surprising character connections. I don't always keep the scene in the work, but I do write it. Break some bread and see where it leads.

Thanks for dropping by. See you next week. Seize the day.\

Don't laugh at me. Here's another tip I use to make it real. I make covers of the books that I dream to publishing some day. Here is the cover of one the books I'm dreaming to see in print; my doodle this week is my dream cover of Fractals.

Writing is like walking in a deserted street. Out of the dust in the street you make a mud pie. John le Carre

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Hi, folks, I'm off speaking at the SCBWI Brazos Valley Conference today. I think the big lesson for me this week is accepting myself, warts and all. I long for things. I long to see far off places that I've only read about in books. I long to write books that children in those far off places will love. I long for my life to make a difference in this world. I long for so many things there is no way to put it all into words. The clock keeps ticking.

I've been told by many that as you get older this longing will lessen. I have not found that to be true. I comfort myself that I am in good company in this world of longing -- think about how many longed to go to the moon and never got the chance. A little birdie gave me some good advice the other day, to just accept that I long for things. I think this is echoed in the old folk song Mr. Rabbit -- "Every little thing is going to shine, shine, every little thing is going to shine.

Be yourself and seize the day! Back next week with more stuff.

I did this doodle when I was 18 or 19. I've been longing since I can remember. Here is "Ship at Sea."

This is the quote.
A book is good company. It is full of conversation without loquacity. It comes to your longing with full instruction, but pursues you never. Henry Ward Beecher

Saturday, November 05, 2011


Welcome, welcome, I hope that you are taking time for your art this week. If things haven't been going the way you want or worse your house of cards was kicked over, you must rise up. Overcome. And what if you stumbled, or what if you fell, you must forgive yourself if you have come up short in any area. You must because your work is valuable.

Dear artists and writers, you must plant regardless. If you push a seed into the earth, something is bound to come up. No special super skills needed. This simple process of sowing and reaping governs art. What comes up is surprising, unexpected, and the yields are greater than you can imagine and sweeter than your dreams. There are reasons to turn up the earth. There are reasons to plant the seeds.

And these reasons are not always easy to see. Seeds go into the ground tiny, hard, and insignificant. Then comes the water and rain and up springs so much life. I have this full memory of being in a corn field and picking corn as a young teen. I was somewhere near DeRidder, Louisiana.

The corn stalks were twelve feet high and were covered with ears. The rows stretched out so far I couldn't see the ends. I dropped each fat ear into a woven bushel basket. Wind made the stalks rustle like voices. The world had turned to corn.

Each ear was over a foot long and was as big around as my arm. I hauled that basket down that row. I pulled back the silky tassels of one ear. And slipped my finger tips across the golden kernels. I understood the power of a kernel.

My seeds are stories. You may paint, or sculpt, or weave, whatever. These seeds of art, transfer and multiply the truth. We plant them, and they grow into surprising verdant patches that at can take over entire fields and reshape the land.

Do that this week. Give it your all.

This week's doodle is Self-'ll.

This week's quote should strike a chord.

A light wind swept over the corn, and all nature laughed in the sunshine.
Anne Bronte

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Press On

Hi folks, I'm writing children's books in the margins of my life right now. Things always heat up to rocket ship busy at this time in of the year. I'm writing and reading for hire. I'm doing the full time mom thing, and in every extra space of time, I am writing my books. My assurance for success comes from my steadfast belief in the next step. If you press on and refuse to give up, you are bound to end up somewhere. I don't know if there is any particular way to keep pressing on -- endless short sprints, slow and steady, I think either works. Just be sure you are taking more than one step.

So where does all this pressing on energy come from? I look up at the stars and think, wow, we are like a speck of dust in a vast universe and then I think about men building their towers to the heavens. They are so sure they getting somewhere. And I have to say, I laugh a bit. For me, I hope my writing is making space in this world for some folks who don't really get much space -- you know -- the ones who have had their towers kicked over, the ones who must rise from the dust. I mean the smart ones and fast ones, the beautiful ones and the capable ones often get the lion's share of the pie, survival of the fittest and all. I'm working on making sure the ones who weren't even going to get a sliver of pie, get a whole slice. The thought of putting some balance in what seems like a skewed universe just charges my soul. It's like rocket fuel to my existence.

So get out there and pull on the yin or push on the yang. Let's bring the balance that stories bring to the world. Press on! See you next week.

This week's doodle has the fancy name "Landscape 3".

Here's a nifty quote to tack up on your bulletin board:

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan, 'press on' has solved, and always will solve, the problems of the human race.Calvin Coolidge

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Now For The Ultimate Creative Advice

Hi folks, yes, today I'm going to share the ultimate creative advice, so don't go away. I love fall because new books are rolling off the presses and that makes me want to dance. The only thing, I have been a little glum lately is there are parties happening up in Seattle to celebrate books that I totally believe in and I can't go. My critique friends are busy setting the world on fire with their stories. Just out or coming or out in the next couple months are these books:

Stasia Kehoe Ward's Audition
Holly Cupala's Don't Breathe a Word
Louise Spiegler's The Jewel and the Key
Janet Carey's Dragonswood.

I'm just saying, the company you keep can make a huge difference in your work. What a crop! They just fit writing into their lives and I'm happy to have traveled some of that road with them. We've had lots of hot cups of tea and shared lots of pages. I learned the most important stuff ever on my journey with them. If you are showing up and working every day, don't doubt your dreams! Don't doubt them for a minute.

Here is the ultimate creative advice, search out like-minded souls and work with them. It doesn't have to be a troop. One person can be enough. Share your dreams. Keep each other honest. Encourage each other to stay on the journey. All that rubbing shoulders makes your work sharper. It does. There are no rules to how to set up the connection; you and your kindred spirits will figure it out. I know that I'm telling you to take a risk. It's a real one. This process doesn't always work. Sometimes sharing your journey can end up hurting. I've seen the downside, and I still believe the deep connections creative souls share.

Don't journey alone, friends. Seize the day.

This week's doodle: "Magenta Cat".

Quote for the week:

Really great people make you feel that you, too, can become great.Mark Twain

Friday, October 14, 2011


Hi, folks, the writing journey is full of twists and turns and surprises. I am always trying to challenge myself to try new ways of writing. I love to explore new forms: graphic novels, screenwriting, novels in verse, post modernism, grown-up stuff, whatever comes my way.

Each new challenge brings more to me as a writer. I will be honest; these plunges into new writing can lead to some spectacular success but to just as spectacular failure. You have to be willing to take risks and be willing to fail big time to reinvent yourself through form.

One recent project I worked on was a resounding success. Author Holly Cupala wrote DON'T BREATHE A WORD. I had the opportunity to collaborate with Holly and artist Realm Lovejoy to create some exclusive content to go with the book. I wrote the graphic novelization for a short section. The work was challenging and it sparked up unused parts of my brain.I was a bit of glue to meld together Holly's story-telling and Realm's art.

I do love collaboration. I learn so much through this creative process. My collaborative gurus come from the music world. One group was the the Beatles and the other is U2. True collaboration is about making the others in the team shine. It's about giving everyone room to make mistakes and then the room to recover, and it's about listening to and hearing each other. It's about creating art as many with one voice.

Finally, consider trying a collaborative project. You don't have to dive in deep at first. My first collaborative baby steps were the open critique sessions of SCBWI in College Station in the mid 90s. My first baby steps included advice from Kathi Appelt and Donna Cooner. From the beginning I stumbled into some of the finest artists on the planet. Each collaboration has shaped my work in some way.

Find a avenue for collaboration to bring something new to your work. Seize the day.

We forgo today's doodle to give you a peek at the awesome novel, Holly Cupala's DON'T BREATHE A WORD. Watch Holly's website for opportunities to access this exclusive graphic novel content.


Here is the quote for the week:

"Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.” Ryunosuke Satoro

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Goodbye, Golden Coffee Cup

Hi folks! Glad you dropped by. If you are a long time visitor, you know that I hold my motivational event, the Golden Coffee Cup, every year in November, but no more. I'm discontinuing it. It's had a good run for five years and that certainly was tons of inspiration, but it's time for me to let it go. I need to refocus all my energy on the art of writing children's books.

I'm a little like a woman who knows about a treasure in a field but has not been willing to sell everything she has to go buy that field and mine the treasure out of it. So enough of that. I want to pull that treasure out and share it with the world. I can't begin to express how deeply I feel about creating a book that lasts for the generations to come.

I'm a plain woman with simple ideas. I wake up every morning and try to be better than the day before. I believe everything I do is an investment in what I will be. I can always change who I am, no matter what anyone says. I measure my wealth by the company I keep. And this I'm working on: Respect my work and don't let any voice especially my own devalue it.

I'm not a fast writer and I need more time to work. It's taking me a lifetime to achieve something that I hope will touch the hearts of young readers now and for years to come. I'm going to let my simple values guide me here. I'm not going to get the job done if I don't go all in. I don't know if I can do it, but I can give it my best shot. I have learned one thing about bravery. It's about being afraid and going forward anyway.

For writers, check out the Nanowrimo, for a month of writing inspiration. Seize the day will continue for all with its weekly inspiration. And now its time to face the looming question: What's next?

My doodle for the week;

I call this: "Roses on the Balcony".

My quote for the week:

There is an end to everything, to good things as well.
Geoffrey Chaucer

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Three Little Birds

Hi folks, I hope that you are taking time to write. I know it's hard work to put words on the page, and you may get discouraged sometimes. Here's a little secret I've learned. Some days I feel like my work is brilliant. Other days it's more like "at least I did something." Still others I actually feel like a two-bit hack who on her best day can write a grocery list. The secret is this: none of my feelings have any significance. The only thing important is that I show up.

I've met so many writers that feel desperation to create something good, something that will reach readers. Heck, I'm one of them. This morning the light of dawn nudged me out of my dreams. I was still sleepy, and I certainly was not about to pop out of bed. I was in the lazy place half-way between sleeping and waking. The whole sky was bathed in a rosy hue, softening the rough edges. Ah, then I understood what the universe was trying to say to me. I'm just like the birds singing at dawn. The sun has shown up. We have a new day to live, a new day to explore; it will all turn out in the end.

Wake up and let go of all the noise. While you have today, keep trying. Let hope speak to you in rosy sunrises or three little birds singing out your door. In all bleakness that is the world -- the evil sprung from Pandora's box, hope is here. Show up and spin out your stories. Your gift will make a place for you. No worries. See you next week.

This week's doodle is called "Three little birds."

Here is today's quote is also the inspiration for this post:

"Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin' sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin', "This is my message to you-ou-ou:"

Singin': "Don't worry about a thing, worry about a thing, oh!
Every little thing gonna be all right. Don't worry!"
Bob Marley

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Hi, peeps! I've got 24 articles to power through this week. I'm also digging into my WIP. Lots of pans on the burner, I hope I don't burn anything. I'm making another painful cut this week in the WIP. I'm not sure that I'm really a reviser but more of a reinventor. I'm writing stories the way I learned to write. Mema would get out a big mess of purple hulls and hand me a colander. I would shell peas and she'd tell stories. The thing about her stories that always stood out to me is they got better over time. This kind of reinvention means that I toss out whole chapters and try to take the story in a whole different direction to make a better story. That's just the way good writing works for me.

This idea of reinvention is a big one for people who write these days. Books are in flux, the whole industry is in flux. We are all in adapt to survive mode. A part of me wishes that I would have born in a time in history when technology wasn't changing so much. But vain wishes aren't a profitable use of time; I have to embrace this: "We have to decide what to do with the time that is given to us," like Gandalf said in Lord of the Rings. Mema was about telling rip-roaring stories. Her stories made me a better person. I hope that my stories do that. That's what I'm doing with my time.

So I work. I open the files every day and I work. I hope you find your purpose and your pursue it with all your heart. See you next week for more reinvention. :)

This is a doodle on the back of a church bulletin. I'm calling it "Parakeet and Girl">

Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.
Helen Keller

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Hi, folks. It's still hot here but not as hot as it was, and I'm majorly grateful for that. I'm working on my WIP this week. Writing a book reminds me of an old story in the Bible of Jacob wrestling with an angel. The angel wrenched Jacob's hip so hard that Jacob would limp for the rest of his life. The angel wrestled with Jacob all through a dark, long night. Finally, at daybreak, when the angel figured out that Jacob wasn't going to let go for any reason, the angel asked him what he wanted. Jacob replied, "Bless me. I'm not letting go unless you bless me." And the angel blessed Jacob because he had struggled with God and with men and had overcome. Writing a book feels like wrestling an angel.

Mixed in my angel battle are these moments that always come to me at dawn. I woke up this morning with a overwhelming feeling of hunger. Not for food -- I yearn for readers. I also yearn to uncover something of this world within the fictive dream. I work over words, sentences and paragraphs, chapters and read that WIP for the umpteenth time in hopes I can draw something out that shakes the foundations. Anything that can be shaken, will be. I'm into revealing what is left after the storms of this life, the stuff that is unfailing: our faith that things will work out in the end, our hopes of the future, and our love for each other.

The task is so much better than me. I get the feeling that I'm an old bucket in a field and I'm hoping for a decent rain. That's saying I don't know if I can do the thing I want to do. I can only try. So pull out your computers, pens, pencils, whatever you need to create shared dreams and work. I think the wrestling is a good thing. I think that hunger is a good thing. This journey is worthy. I think that's something many artists struggle with. Art doesn't generally put sacks of green paper in the bank. It will garner lots of roll-your-eyes comments like, "What do you really do?" and perhaps, "Why don't you do something useful with your life." Gosh, that stuff can needle into you. Some folks do find a wide audience, but I haven't met one that didn't have a long inward struggle to get what she wanted on the page. I haven't met one who hasn't felt the hunger.

So take it from someone who's been traveling the road for a while, take it from someone who gets wrestling with angels, this journey is worth it. Rise up. Keep on the road. Carry on.

I call the doodle this week: "Two trees".

My quote for the week:

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.
Friedrich Nietzsche

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Imaginary Friends

Hi, folks, I've been a big fan of imaginary friends my whole life. I believed stuffed animals were real as child. I had a little elephant - Pinky, who was seriously one of my best friends. After I'd given Pinky the Velveteen Rabbit treatment, I moved on to Buddy Bear. Me and my sisters had George and Susie and their parents and one of my favorites -- Hound Dog Bert. We wrote some stories of a superhero cat too. I was a rather dreamy child. I try to stay close to that child. I think that to create stories you need to be in touch with the child you were.

Think back to childhood and let yourself inhabit those memories. I think it's especially important to journal the events that you have an emotional connection with. To what end? To what purpose? For me, the way art works is I stir up my imagination with sights and experiences. I follow my muse and read stacks. I wake up my memories by thinking about them, I daydream about stuff, I chat with friends about my ideas and watch for their eyes to light up, and then I know I'm onto something. That's basically the genesis of creative process for me.

I hope this peek at my process helps jog loose something in you and you find deeper creative vision. Come back next week!

This week, I give you the doodle "Imaginary Neil." 'cause in the right universe we are good friends. ;)

Anyway, here is a quote for the day:

In the final analysis, a drawing simply is no longer a drawing, no matter how self-sufficient its execution may be. It is a symbol, and the more profoundly the imaginary lines of projection meet higher dimensions, the better. Paul Klee

Friday, September 02, 2011

I Contain Multitudes: Walt Whitman

I'm going to ramble some this week. I plan to scatter my thoughts like chicken feed; maybe something here will give you a little jolt. I hope so.

This week I continue the painful revision of my WIP. I move forward in little packets of about 50 words. I've sliced out a 2000 word scene and am slowly replacing it with something that actually moves the story forward. This is another brick in the wall of achieving phenomenal success in novel writing or perhaps another brick in the wall of stupendous failure -- I'm not about halves. I comfort myself with the bravery of trying.

I had lunch with friends Candy Fite, Nisha Coker, J., SCBWI BV RA Liz Mertz, and Tammy Hensel. J. said some profound stuff to me about writing what excites and infuses the soul. I'm working on that deep honesty. What does my heart yearn to write above all things? I'm not sure. I'm thinking about that. Something inside me want to dive into far flung universes and fantastical stuff. It feels like a good road, but I worry I might be too mundane to pull this off. Do you worry about stuff that?

On another note, I've learned so much about accepting all of me in the last couple of years that I'm going to toss out a thought or two. I think Walt Whitman was getting at something I've discovered too. He said this: "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself; I am large -- I contain multitudes." I am the bravest person I know and the biggest chicken too. I can rise up and fall just as hard in the same hour. I am certainly multitudes, and some of the folks in this crowd aren't worth two cents, I just accept it.

Well, that is is some wandering blogging. I hope something connects.

Here is a doodle:

Quote for the week:

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

from Still I'll Rise by Maya Angelou

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Hi, folks. I hope you have written pages and pages of great stuff this week. A friend of mine was reading my work in progress and said it was exciting up to a point and then the story lost all tension. Ouch.

Tension is a part of storytelling. Lack of story tension for me is almost always the same cause, I am afraid to bring my character on scene during the "bad stuff." The side character dies but my main character hears about it. I have to make the brave revisions and bring my main character into the thick of things.

Things always seem flat if the action is happening outside the page. I see this in work often. The author hints at a relationship but doesn't take the plunge to define it and show it in the present but reveals it through a flashback or vague dialogue.

Another misstep, the bomb blows up and we read a strong account of it from the main character's mailman. And, yes, if one of the important characters in a story dies, be sure that Luke is standing there screaming as Darth Vader offs Obi Wan Kenobi. I mean get the main character on scene.

I hope you look for opportunities to create tension this week. Open your work and ask yourself what is not here. That should help. See you next week with more good stuff.

The doodle this week: "Flower".

Tension is the great integrity. R. Buckminster Fuller

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Better than Yourself

Hi folks, I hope you are writing. I'm working on a novel right now, and I thought that I had really gotten the thing together. I have all these beautiful sentences, and I'm right, the writing is gorgeous, but it's not producing the right stuff in my readers. I have to cut the sentences because I'm info-dumping and also just pulling away from the central plot. I had to have a good cry to do these cuts. I've been working on this book for a long time. I'm the slowest writer ever. I really am.

My advice is: it's okay to cry, but don't give up. I think being kind to yourself is a good plan. It really helped me to go back to a draft in 2003. (I said I was working on this for a long time). I see my fear there -- fear to reveal my character, to let anyone see into the window of her soul to know her anger, her desperation, her hunger. I've been slowly carving out the shape of this thing. I stand by the cuts and additions I made then. I must be brave and stand by the ones I'm making today. I want so deeply to express to others what I know.

I struggle with verbal communication. I talk too much, don't listen enough, blurt out the wrong thing at the wrong time too often, have to say things 20 times to get to what I mean. I'd be lost if it weren't for the written word. I want to spin a story about what it means to be hungry to know things and yet have little access to knowledge and how that hunger shapes you. I'm summoning up all my courage. Calling out the better angels of sacrifice and endurance and doing the bravest hardest thing I know: saying what I mean.

If you are truly going to create something worthy, it's going to hurt. It's going to be wonderful too. Open up and let it happen. Peace.

I'm posting a silly doodle of a story I love: Noah's Ark. Noah was supposed to have taken about 120 years to build the ark after he got wind of the vision of it from the creator of all good things. It takes time to do something truly amazing that will lift other above the floods in this world.

Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.
William Faulkner

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Hi, folks! We are having the biggest drought ever here. Folks are losing plants all over the place. One of my bushes in the front yard is looking mighty parched. I'm not sure it is going to make it. It needs extra care. So what does this have to do with writing? The thing about the drought we are experiencing is that it is likely a sympton of climate change and not just an isolated event.

I feel this huge shift in the writing industry. No one seems to know what is going to happen. Online books are driving down book prices. It seems like fewer people are reading than before in recent history. Libraries are disappearing. We are in the midst of a huge "climate change" event in terms of books. It's hard to narch forward when the ground is shifting under you.

This is the season and time to be inventive, to be entreprenurial, and to be evolutionary. These are the skills that will propel you forward in a changing times. I ask you this week to take risks, to open yourself up to revolutionary ideas. Don't worry if you are a mouse at heart. Mice are very adaptable. I tell myself this a lot.

Peace, friends. Good things are ahead if you are willing to go with the flow. Open up.

I call this week's doodle: "Oahu".

Human knowledge has been changing from the word go and people in certain respects behave more rationally than they did when they didn't have it. They spend less time doing rain dances and more time seeding clouds. Herbert Simon

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Martha Weston Grant

Hi folks, I'm in Los Angeles this weak at the SCBWI International Summer Conference. The Hairston family on a journey to honor and remember Martha (Hairston) Weston). Martha published 50 picture books and easy-readers as an illustrator and/or author. Her first middle-grade novel was published shortly before her death.

Martha took time to encourage others in life and still her generous spirit is giving and has reached my way. I'm the 2011 recipient of SCBWI's Martha Weston Grant funnded by the Hairson family and that's why I'm at the conference.

I'm the author of 30 easy-readers and picture books, and I dream of seeing my YA books finding a home -- the hearts of teens all over the world. Thank you, Hairston Family! Thank you, grant committee! Thank you, SCBWI! I will to honor Martha's memory in every way, specially by generously giving back to others.

I know, short post. I'm kinda busy. I hope you all do whatever you can to inspire others this week and every week. Life is about each other more than anything else. See you next week.

This week's doodle is called: "Mom and son".

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be. Douglas Adamas

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Cat Tale

Hi folks! Hope the summer is humming for you. I'm still need to pack for LA and I have 11 more articles to write before Monday, three movies to watch and one book to read. You could say I am busy.

Anyway, a few years ago I promised my kids that they could have a cat, but I wasn't making good on that promise. My daughter found a starving flea-bitten kitten under a house. He was born to a feral cat. She didn't tell me she saved him, but just brought him home fleas and all. I didn't know for weeks until I discovered that our home had an awful flea infestation. I called the exterminator and they found the cat. We call him Mr. Tibbs.

And of course he is one my best buds now. He's one of the kings of the Earth. A naughty king and full of tricks. Pure evil. When he goes outside, he sometimes kills a pretty bird and leaves it on the step for the family. He does not share lizards. Any allegiance to humans is over if it is about a lizard.

If I'm in my office, he sits on my printer or behind my laptop. He knocks over every bottle of water that I keep with me while working. I've long since given up on cups and glasses. If I work in my favorite spot on my bed, he sits on the ottoman and he stares at bugs through the window.

He's watching me type right now. Oh, he just nipped my toe. I'm not scratching his neck enough. I've never seen a creature so pleased with his life. I am always letting his wise ways sink in. He gets hugged so much I've often thought his fur will rub off. Oh, dang, he knocked over my water bottle...

I hope that you share your pretty birds this week, let folks know what you need and generally get into all kinds of rowdy trouble (at least on the written page!) Seize the day.

I'm skipping the doodle this week for a photo of my daughter with the crazy cat she saved.

Quote for the week: I have studied many philosophers and many cats. The wisdom of cats is infinitely superior.- Hippolyte Taine

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Better Angels

Hey, folks! I hope your work is humming! I'm gearing up for my trip to SCBWI Summer Conference in LA. I'm making sure I am well read for the event and hence I'm on a reading jag. Lots of good stuff -- John Green, Carrie Ryan, Jennifer Donnelly, Matt de la Pena and a few just-pure-pleasure books like Gail Carson Levine's new mystery and a couple of books that have not even snagged contracts yet, but I am sure will.

I love it when the books have some meat. Reading them is like a workout. I become a better writer just for showing up. What a gift! I also love the part where I am transformed into a a better person while reading them too.

The news headlines are a little more chilling that usual with the massacre at the the camp in Norway and the way talented girl Amy Winehouse losing her life because of the avarice of drug dealers. People are fragile, so fragile. A part of me hopes that just as many good things happened in the past 24 hours that were not reported on the news.

As I writer, I feel the pressure to make a difference. I hate when I stumble and find a littleness in my heart. I desire respect for my work. I desire that my hard work be rewarded. But ulitmately I find these desires get in the way of the true purpose of the work. The goal is to get the ideas out there. I think that our creative gifts are a calling. Humility. I breathe it in. We are searching out the better angels of our nature. Let's be diligent and persevere.

I hope that you reach deep within this week. Draw out the meaning and mystery of what it means to be human. We are in all in the midst of great battles. Our art might help turn the tide in the best directions. Work hard. Don't let anyone tell you any different. See you next week.

The doodle this week is one I've posted before. It comes from my illuminated manuscript phase. It's called: Girl Holding a Tree.

This week's quote comes from one of my heroes:

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature. — Abraham Lincoln

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Little Details

Hi, folks! Short post this week. Lazy days of summer. Rained yesterday and it might rain today and I'm feeling so happy! I bought news glasses. I love new glasses. It makes the whole world look crisper.

Anyway, I tried on like 30 pair, enlisted the help of Bo -- the best accessorized person in the store, bemoaned the days when I went to a stylish boutique in Woodinville, WA for perfect glasses, and finally found a pair of glasses that looked like the ones I lost in the Gulf of Mexico last year. I'm am not one for reinventing the wheel.

What does this have to do with anything? Well, great writing is about the tiny details. I think about how my glasses express me and how they represent my personality. I like a dash of fun, mixed in with some smart cookie, and add to that a splash of capable.

So I'm way better at this accessorizing in writing than in real life. Details carve out the shape of your characters. I am totally aware of the stuff in their pockets, the clothes they like, the colors, the fabrics, even if my characters like buttons more or define themselves as zipper types. Great writing is in the details.

This week delve into these details. Make each detail a crisp representation of your characters. Think about this and come back for more next week.

Here is this week's doodle: Tree Sketch #1.

Here is quote of the week.

It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.
John Wooden

Saturday, July 09, 2011

The End of the Tunnel (AMENDED)

AMENDMENT: I've been caught red handed spreading salacious falsehood! Below I make this lovely analogy about Ferdinand M. sailing around the world and the feeling you get when you finish writing a novel. "Ferdinand Magellan didn't make it around the world. He was killed in battle in the Philippines. A fraction of surviving sailors did, however, complete the voyage. Your Magellan Theory works well for them." -- Writes a savvy reader. Sorry, folks. I do blame this utterly on my small town Texas education.

Oh, I read over for over 60 hours in the past two weeks and then I wrote 20 articles. I also revised an entire novel from end to end. I've got seven more articles to plow through and then I'm going to treat myself to fab reading jag. I really need one. I'm going to buy some new pajamas, and I'm going to sleep extra.

Someone asked me if I was "a lady of leisure" yesterday. Small town Texans always wonder what to do with me, not many writers live on this part of the prairie. I'm even working in the doctor's waiting room -- writing emails. I'm not exactly sure why so many people think I don't do anything because I'm a writer. Will someone explain to me how that rumor got started?

Anyway I've been trudging through a tunnel of work and there is light at the end of the tunnel. I call this that "Magellan feeling", you know the one he got when he came into port for the first time after circling the world in a wooden ship. You got to know every book journey is like that. The thing inside you is true and real but it takes a monumental effort to get it out of you into the world. Be sure to dance when you finish a project because it is a good reason to celebrate.

I hope that you keep at your projects. I hope you don't listen to voices that mock you or discourage you, wherever they may come from. I hope that you focus on that imagine burning so brightly within. Open up and let it shine out to us all.

See you next week with more of the good stuff. Seize the day!

This week's doodle is "Deer". This is my interpretation of a photo I saw a long time ago. But I did see a real deer just on Tuesday.

It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end. Ursula K. Le. Guin

Saturday, July 02, 2011

"Blank Page" Syndrome RX

Greetings! Have you ever been stuck on a blank page. I'm there today. The big white box of my blog is staring at me and I've got nada -- a big bad case of "Blank Page" syndrome. What's the RX? So here I am doing what I've done a thousands times before. Not worrying about it and pressing on anyway. Fill up the page with gosh awful work. Sometimes it'a all you can do to fill up some white space on a page. That's an achievement.

Another thing to do for "blank page" syndrome is go read a book. Go look at some art and call it work! Try taking a walk and soaking up the sights and sounds and smells. Listen carefully to some music. This process is a little interesting because you don't feel it changing you. Just disappear into the activity and when you come out of it. It will have fuelled you. Creative energy will surge inside you. I don't understand this process fully but it does work.

Finally, in the throes of "Blank Page" syndrome, I copy something. I mean, not clip and paste, but actually writing each word that someone else has written and feeling what they felt when they put those words on the page. I draw every line, copy every brush stroke of some provocative piece of art. Something in me me likes to mimic. I feel myself learning when I do this exercise. My muse comes back to me and more, the things I've learned are there in me, shoring up every word I write.

I hope you are helped by my "Blank Page" RX. I hope that you create your best works yet. Peace. See ya next week.

Here is the doodle. Thousands of years ago, an artist decided to draw a picture of a bird on a rock. Here are some thoughts I had as copied this at the Petroglyph National Monument. The artist saw the soul of this bird as a smiley face and that seemed right to me. This was one happy bird about to snag lunch. And that is it, isn't it, the joy of having another meal and existing another moment. This exercise is fuel for the artistic soul. Go copy something.

My quote for the week:

Employ your time in improving yourself by other men's writings so that you shall come easily by what others have labored hard for. Socrates

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Less Than

Hi, folks.

Today I'm going to chat about the times reality slips far below what you'd hoped for. Inside us all is a sense of fairness and rightness. But these days come "Less than perfect. Less than hoped for. Less than desired."

These slips happen to all of us, too much and too often. Sometimes those "less than" moments are immediately reflected out of us and then we too act like "less than" we are. The disappointment spreads like a cancer, doing it work of damage.

When unfair deals come our way, it often results in feelings of helplessness. We are damaged. We sometimes act out and damage others, even people we love. Everyone pauses but the perfection of the earlier days are gone.

This is where the hard work of faith and love must come into play. Remember all the times that you thought the thing was "stupid and bad" had ruined it all but in the end it all worked out anyway. Think about the good things that were worked in your soul because of the injustice that's undercut you. Take time to forgive yourself for every misstep. Ask for any forgiveness needed.

Let the disappointment work good things in your soul. Do this by calling to mind the good things before and having faith that a future and good hope are before you. Remember every voice that has believed in you.

I wish I could say that you will never be disappointed. You will be damaged. Don't let anyone pick on you for limping along. Let your tears fall and then let it go. Move on. Bravery is hard. You will come through.

Peace. Keep working, friends. I will be back next week.

Here is my doodle for the week: "Self Portrait '09"

When the waves are taking you under
Hold on just a little bit longer
He knows that this is gonna make you stronger, stronger
The pain ain't gonna last forever
And things can only get better
Believe me.

Christopher Stevens, Ben Glover, and David Garcia

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Necessary Edits

Hi, peeps, Molly here. I'm making a beehive look like a lazy assortment of sloths right now. I've got my fingers in too many pies, and I'm going to have to make some tough decisions. Editing in life is similar to editing on paper. Here are a few tips to help your writing or to help your life.

1. Think about what is moving the story forward. You have to cut out that stuff, even if it is greenly verdant prose. You have to also cut the business that is not moving your life forward, even if you like it.

2. Is it repetitious? Sometimes you end up doing the same thing twice but once is sufficient. You must cut the repeats. In life the same thing can happen. The repetition can be small and insidious. How many times do you need to check twitter, email, boards, etc.? How many times do you need to rehash that event in your mind?

3. Is this stuff efficient? I play a little game. Can I say this same thought with fewer words? Can I say this same thought with better words? In life, can I do this faster? Can I achieve more with improvements to my processes?

4. Is the slant of this on the spot? The writing may be awesome, but the point of view can slide off. I have to ask, is the writing true to the unique perspective of the piece? The same goes for my life. Am I spending it doing stuff that is authentically me?

5. Is there any lightheartedness in this piece? I have to add fun to my writing. If it's chugging along all dreary and dismal, I cut in some bigheartedness and some humor. Same for my life, I have to move away from my work and have some fun -- take in the sunset, the stars, or the birds in my yard. It doesn't have to be complicated.

There are tons of more ways to edit but these five seems like enough for now. Take some time and edit your writing. Also edit your life. Enjoy both more. Seize the day! See you next week.

Here is a doodle for you: "Abstract #1".

And here is a quote to shore up your week.

Hard writing makes easy reading. Easy writing makes hard reading.
– William Zinsser

Saturday, June 11, 2011

True North

Hi folks, I'm working through a manuscript right now and I'm feeling pleased. What a great feeling. "I meant what I said and I said what I meant..." Those words echo inside me. I encourage you this week to seek your "true north". Let that heart compass spin inside you and come to a rest in a particular direction. Then run after that direction.

Finding true north does not mean you don't have flaws. I find recognizing my flaws is a good thing. One part of the true north for me is to reveal things as they are with no attempt to shade anything one way or another. Another part is slice in a deep dose of hope. Another piece is be sure there is a laugh or two floating around in every story. I also like to create the feeling of the heart growing larger and the world growing bigger.

Seize the day.

Here is the doodle: "Fish".

There is no telling how many miles you will have to run while chasing a dream. ~Author Unknown

Saturday, June 04, 2011


I've got a pinch of a headache today and for some reason that makes my head want to shy away from deep thought and instead think about fluffily (my son made up this word years ago and it stuck) ethereal nonsense.

Did you know that "bee", like spelling bee, or quilting bee, or sewing bee, doesn't mean to get all hard working like a bee. Bee comes from a word that means prayer or favor. A bee means to get together and help each other out. So when a group of folks gets together to critique each others' work that could be called a critique bee.

I like that.

On more nonsense in me. I have pickily moods. Bologna sandwiches is one of my favorite curse phrases. I think that it is because I cannot imagine anything more disgusting than a bologna sandwich. I have been whelmed most of my life. This is the symbol for whelm => :|

My whole family is used to me and my nonsense word play. So play with your words today. Write some nonsense poetry. Draw some nonsense on a page. See if it doesn't make you feel better. See you next week.

I wanted something to illustrate whelm. I call this doodle: "Green Eyes."

Here is my weekly quote.

Forgive me my nonsense, as I also forgive the nonsense of those that think they talk sense. Robert Frost

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Concrete Goals

Hi, folks, ah, school is out! I'm still giddy the day that school is out. I love summer. The sultry heat, the wind, the endless sunshine, the beach, baseball, sitting in a lawn chair as the sprinklers spray -- summer always is a productive writing season for me. Mainly because the calendar thins out some, and I have chance to put in some marathon work hours.

My goal this summer is to read two of my novels and get them sparkly for marketing. I'm also going to do a second revision of my big fat sci-fi novel. I'm feeling so jazzed about that.

I hope that me lifting up the lid on my goals will help you make a reasonalble goal. One thing that I've found helps me is to keep a task list. I might revise for time, or revise for voice, or perhaps for scenes/sequels, whatever, it helps to be specific on this list. I might write read chapters 23 - 25, write the timeline for those chapters, revise them as needed to make the timeline makes sense.

I hope that you make a list of concrete goals and that you will do what you said would. Don't give up. Your dream is at the top of this hill. It is totally worth hiking up there! See you next week. :)

Today's doodle is called: "Surprise!"

The quote for the day is a popular oldie but goodie.

Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for? Robert Browning

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Perfect Storm

Hi, folks, I'm still reading a crazy number of essays, so a short and sweet post for the week. Last night the sky was on fire with lightning. Flashes lit every second, Rumbling was punctuated with cracks. Rain sprayed down like a shower on high. It was a perfect storm.

My favorite stories mirror thunderstorms. In the beginning the air is thick, sultry. The birds are chirping. It's quiet, too quiet. Flashes of lightning pop on the horizon as the storm rolls in. This is quick. It only lasts a small fraction of time compared to the storm. The next part of the storm is wild and unpredictable full of light and thunder. It rises to a wild crescendo and then ebbs off with random lightning strikes.

Bring something of thunderstorm in to your work this week. If your writing is a gentle rain, see if you can get a little storm going. A thunderstorm of a story is hard to put down. Inject some good old-fashioned storm slant into your pages and see if it doesn't pop! See you next week with more encouragement to seize the day.

Here is a doodle I call "Splashes Against the Page."

Here is a quote to keep you revising.

To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.Winston Churchill

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Change the Weather

Hi, folks, a short post this week. I am busy scoring some crazy number of essays this week. We are in the middle of a drought in College Station and yesterday we had a soaking rain. It was glorious. It made me feel that we all have droughts and how much more wondrous it is when the drought ends.

Every plant greened up overnight. I suppose every drought must end, but perhaps entrenched weather patterns will only move with big changes. For me that was bringing a definite end to "it's never going to happen talk." I just stopped. And as a friend encouraged me recently it's probably a good thing to let go of.

I feel the drought in my work changing. I mean really, I'm a voice of the universe crying out the glorious, tragic, awesome, (almost any adjective will fit here) story of us. My challenge for you this week is to seek a change. Whatever it is that you need to act on, but your not acting on -- give it a shot. See if the weather changes.

Peace all. See you next week!

Here is a doodle: "Bouquet".

And a good quote.

A change in the weather is sufficient to recreate the world and ourselves. Marcel Proust

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Soften the Blows

Hi folks, I sometimes feel I need to duck right now because the hits keep coming. I must work hard to lighten up. We have to just go through a lot of stuff in life, really hard, stupid stuff. We are supposed to be tellling stories, but things might be kinda dark right now. I have found a little laughter will go along way in making life sort special.

I went to the movie tonight. I liked the guy next to me who kept asking me questions during it. (Yes, I went to the first night premiere of THOR.) Who's that? Guy whispers. Stan Lee. I whisper back. You know the guy who wrote the Thor comic. Who's the guy with bow and arrow? Hawkeye. Who's the Stark guy? Iron Man. Something about hapless movie going guy next to me was making me giggle.

And then after the movie, my daughter looks at me and I look at her and we say together and laugh -- worst movie ending ever. It's these little moments that keep me glued. Keep laughing. Let laughter leaven your life. Let that influence you to supreme confidence and hope.

Just some ramblling this week. Hope you are laughing. Be back next week with more inspiration.

I call this week's doodle for no particular reason: "PINK".

Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it. Bill Cosby

Saturday, April 30, 2011


Hi, folks, I hope your work is humming. This week of handy advice is all about sleep. I have to sleep. A lack of sleep chokes my creative vision. I feel that nothing will work out. I despair of finisihing projects. I go to sleep and wake up and the whole world is bathed in rose-colored light. I can do anything again. If you are burning the midnight oil, let it go out a few nights and get 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night for a week. See if you find your work picking up magically.

I love the quote below about sleep dipping us in God and we are new-created. I hold this in my heart and soul. Another thing about sleep I really love is that I sometimes hear my mother telling me to wake up. For just a second, right as I wake, I feel she is still here and I am so close to the love she had for me again. It's the best feeling. I'm not sure why but dreams are something about who we are; they are about getting all connected with the universe. Don't miss out on that connection.

Really, that's all I've got for you this week. Take a nap! I've been a busy bee and managed not to sleep near enough, probably why I am chatting about this anyway. After your nap, do amazing work. See you next week.

Here is this week's doodle: "Boat on a Red Sea." This is a pencil drawing but I think I should try it in pastels and water colors too.

And if tonight my soul may find her peace
in sleep, and sink in good oblivion,
and in the morning wake like a new-opened flower
then I have been dipped again in God, and new-created.
~D.H. Lawrence

Saturday, April 23, 2011

April Showers: Storytellers

Hi, folks, today is the last in a series of April Showers. Today I'm going to talk about what brings showers to my soul and this is the multitude of voices. I love to write and shape stories, but I also love to hear the stories of others. I had the great privilege of being born into a family of storytellers. My mother's family comes out of Louisville, Mississippi. They spun yarns like nobody's business.

A great lesson of the storytellers is to practice listening. Make time in your life to hear the stories of others. Think about the questions to ask. Ask the right questions and who knows what you will unlock. I like to ask, "What do you know that no one else knows?" I especially like to ask children this question. These questions always lead to great stories too: "What was the most important moment in your life?" "Have you ever seen anyone die?" "What's the greatest injustice that you've ever seen?" So ask some juicy questions and listen. Take notes or record the conversation. Writers keep the records of who we are and what we want, so listen up.

Another great storyteller lesson is to revise to get your audience interested. I have seen master storytellers in action, and if their audience begins to yawn or heads begin to bob, master storytellers up their game. They bring in more action, more drama, more pathos, more comedy, more. They let this stuff flood in. A great storyteller knows folks need to lean on the edge of their seat, they need to cry, they need belly laughs. Stories need to feel alive. If you don't feel that excitment in your work you might need to up your game this week.

Glad you dropped by. I hope you listen to a story or up your game. Water your work.

This week's doodle: "A Place of Dreams".

A quote about stories:

These stories were the libraries of our people. In each story, there was recorded some event of interest or importance...A people enrich their minds who keep their history on the leaves of memory. Luther Standing Bear, Lakota.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

April Showers: The Great Joy of Writing

Hi, folks. I'm not one of the bravest souls. I'm nervous, socially awkward, crowd phobic... I haven't really had the opportunity to share what I can do with an audience the way I wish I could. I feel bummed about that. But I don't let myself stay stuck there. I flip the coin, and I see some child from Singapore, picking up one of my books and taking it home to their apartment. I feel better. My words slowly making their way into the world and that's why I put them on paper. More are seeping out all the time.

Sharing with an audience is a big deal for an artist, but still, something bigger is hovering. For me, in here, in the middle of my creative life is the great joy of writing. When I write words on the page, I find something wonderful, and the good news is that I have a better self and it can be found. I sit down to the write sometimes and eight hours burns up faster than a box matches. I've laughed so hard that I've fallen off my chair. I've bawled through sections of my work. I've yelled. I've turned myself inside out.

I hope that you try to connect with the heart of your work this week. Try to be kind to yourself if you feel like you have sown so many seeds but have never seen the harvest. I don't believe good words will return void. Here is a message that I see written in the fabric of the universe: "Soon and in joy." I hope that find joy in your work. Come back next week for more the April rain. This week's doodle is called: "Crescent Moon".

The quote for this week is deep water truth. Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls. Mother Teresa

Saturday, April 09, 2011

April Showers: Mixing it up

Hi, folks, I'm here with more about the stuff that waters my soul. This week I'm going to focus on how I mix it up. I think as artists we need challenges. We thrive on them. We have to do stuff that melts the ice within us, stuff that breaks up the frozen state that can stagnate us.

One thing I do on a regular basis is to mix it. I open myself up to forms of writing that I have never tried before. I take wild plunges into unknown territory. I especially head toward writing projects that make me uncomfortable. I have found that being uncomfortable is not a bad thing. It keeps me from complacency and laziness. It also keeps me on the road to uncovering the star stuff within me. '

When the clouds roll in the stars aren't visible. Mixing things up sets me off balance, like changing the weather. A good storm settles the dust and clears the skies of my imagination. My goal with all this movement is to keep turning up the amazing hidden stuff I can't see.

I hope that you take time to mix it up this week. Face that one challenge that you keep avoiding. See if it doesn't get some sort of powerful reaction to set off in in you. Seize the day. See you next week.

Here is a doodle I call, "My Starry Night." Mr. Van Gogh always helps me mix it up.

And the quote comes from Vincent too:

For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream. Vincent Van Gogh

Saturday, April 02, 2011

April Showers: Every Little Bird Sings

Hi folks, I just spent a month reflecting and now I'm going to spend some time writing about what brings water to my soul. A sweet spring rain will make all sorts of good things green up and bloom. One thing that inspires me are the birds around here.

Today, I listened to a mocking bird singing its hundreds of calls. I hoped that I would hear something rare, the song of an ancient bird. The notes of the bird touched something deep inside me. How a mocking bird stitches together the voices all around it, fuels my writer spirit. I want to create such a joyful noise when I write with the intent to reflect everything I've heard.

I also like to see a bird on a wire. I'm going to drop a little video below that captures the swarms of starlings that settle on the wires around here every night. There are thousands of them. Starlings flood the sky at sunset. It's a maddening crowd. Those birds dancing in the sky and roar of their voices, it makes my spirit soar. Energy pumps into my heart. Part of me want to morph into the sky and head up into the crowd to dart and weave with the best of them and find my place on the wire.

The last water I'm going to cover is the sound of birds at dawn. In Texas, you tend to get up earlier because it's hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk past noon. I love the sound of birds at dawn. As the sunlight begins to warm the sky, the cacophony begins. A dove begins to coo, cardinals whistle and call, thrushes, jays, robins, buntings. More and more birds began to chatter until it's hard to tell one voice from the other. They seem so much more aware of the passing night and coming dawn. They live to praise the return of the sun. The experience floods my soul. Every little bird sings out its song, and a hunger stirs n me to sing my song too.

There is no way I could ever cover all the birds that sing spirit into my soul. I hope these three snapshots open you up more to the things that water your soul. Keep working. Keep seeking a way to capture the light and darkness in your life. Seize the day. See you next week for more showers.

Here is the weekly doodle: "Bird at Dawn".

Here is my weekly quote:

The very idea of a bird is a symbol and a suggestion to the poet. A bird seems to be at the top of the scale, so vehement and intense his life. . . . The beautiful vagabonds, endowed with every grace, masters of all climes, and knowing no bounds -- how many human aspirations are realised in their free, holiday-lives -- and how many suggestions to the poet in their flight and song! John Burroughs

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Reflection: Living with Fear

Hi folks, I'm attempting to reflect on some heart stuff of writing this month. I like a little group of writers from the late 1800 through to the last century who spent their lives writing their hearts out and basically not getting everything they wanted out of life.

These gals, Jane Austin, Emily Bronte, Charlotte Bronte, Anne Bronte, Emily Dickinson, and Louisa May Alcott, I wish we could have been neighbors. They wrote from their worlds and their boundless imaginations and for most part struggled to put together a living. They suffered from many illnesses that limited their lives. They were the kind of people that paddled their own canoes mainly because no big ship ever came their way that could get them to better shores. Good things are born of suffering.

I can imagine how it felt to have the thing you greatly feared to make residence with you and then end up shaping every moment of your lives. Honestly I'm no scholar of their lives, but I have read most of their books. I've felt the pain they felt and the wild dreams that tagged along with them. I'm glad they took the time to share their view with others.

The big reflection from all this is simple. I hope that you keep writing even if things are hard. I hope that you keep spinning the stories that you are meant to spin. Believe a chart is given.

I hope that you live your life large and don't limit yourselves because the walls seem extra tight at times. Seize the day.

I'm calling this week's doodle: "In the dust".

I'm offering a garden of quotes today:

For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors and laugh at them in our turn? Jane Austen

I have dreamed in my life, dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they have gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind. Emily Bronte

I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will. Charlotte Bronte

She was trusted and valued by her father, loved and courted by all dogs, cats, children, and poor people, and slighted and neglected by everybody else.

Anne Bronte

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul - and sings the tunes without the words - and never stops at all.

Emily Dickinson

I'm not afraid of storms, for I'm learning how to sail my ship.

Louisa May Alcott

Friday, March 18, 2011

Reflection: The Unending Fire

Hi, folks, I'm continuing my March series called Reflection. I've spent the better part of my life tapping keys or scratching a pencil against paper. This week I'm going to dip into the cauldron where Art was born in me, the place where an unending fire started.

To understand how this got started, I'm going to give you a peek at when it began. It was in junior high school. During all my teen years, my dad was unemployed a lot and when he did work it was out of state. My mom suffered from serious depression. I didn't really have any words for what was happening. I just knew that most moms got out of bed and mine didn't. My best friend faced her daily share of difficulties too. Her father suffered from numerous grand-mal seizures and her brother had Down Syndrome. Our moms weren't there for us much through our teen years, and neither were our dads.

From the time we were 13-years-old, we had to take care of ourselves. I can tell you right now, we were afraid every single day. We lived and breathed, hoping against hope. Our hope was to someday have a stretch of days when we were not broken by circumstances. We were stuck in wildly rocking boats breaking apart on the coral reefs as we fought with every ounce of our being to find our way to a solid shore. We had to see beyond.

The thing that kept me sane? I breathed in books like air. I exhaled this same rarified air in the form of my words. I didn't start writing for anyone else but myself. I had so much bottled up -- the ground of me cracked open and an artesian well of words began to flow. It still flows.

My words seem inadequate, but I write today so that you hold to your vision and not worry if no one sees or believes in you. Remembering the days of pressure helps me keep moving forward at a writer. It helps me turn a blind eye to the fact that though many people have admired my work, no one has really connected with it in a way to give it a wide chance. I take the lessons of life and hope against hope. I let the Art flow.

I call this week's doodle "Self-portrait at 18."

The instruction we find in books is like fire. We fetch it from our neighbours, kindle it at home, communicate it to others, and it becomes the property of all. Voltaire

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Reflection: Stasia Kehoe Ward

Hi, folks, like I mentioned last week. This week's reflection comes from Stasia Ward Kehoe. Her new book AUDITION comes out from Viking later on this year. Her two blogs: Writer on the Side and A Year of Auditions are well worth your time.

In Stasia's Words: Many of us who write also express our creativity in other ways. We are painters, potters, singers, dancers, graphic designers, actors, clowns... So the question is: Do we compartmentalize these artistic outlets? Paint OR clown? Dance OR write?

At first, it seems obviously and easy to say that we set aside different times and places for different artistic forms. But perhaps this is a limiting conclusion. I believe you can sing a landscape or choreograph a phrase. You can understand the world through your own unique artistic lens. For example, when I develop story characters, I need to feel a visceral, physical sense of them--how their feet touch the floor when they walk, what makes their skin crawl, whether their spine is straight or slouched. When I am doing what I feel is my best writing--and whether the character I'm creating is a showgirl or a professor--I bring to each page a descriptive sensibility that comes from my dancer self. Similarly, if you are a visual artist, your connection to color, light, and line should not be ignored just because you are sitting at a computer keyboard.

Perhaps you've written a manuscript that is technically strong, seems like it should be great, yet some ineffable thing is missing. Or you've got a character you love but with whom you sometimes feel a vague disconnect. Try unlocking your novelist brain to let those other creative parts of yourself get in on the story. It may take a bit of fidgeting with the key. You may have to sing through your opening pages or close your eyes try to picture the absolute, exact colors that make up your main character's eyes. You may think this whole idea is crazy (and sorry about that). But, for me, this is the way to take my writing to its own special place. Lots of novelists discuss the elusive notion of "finding your voice." Writing with my whole creative self turns out to be what this phrase means to me.

Oh this is so true. I hope you take these thoughts to heart and let them really boost your work. See you next week for more reflections.

I'm always doodling to keep the creative spirit hopping. Here is this week's doodle: "Ballerina."

A quote to tuck in your pocket.

Mystery is at the heart of creativity. That, and surprise. Julia Cameron

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Reflection: All the World's a Stage

I take the month of March and reflect every year. This year my reflection time must be spent celebrating a new book, AUDITION (Viking, October 2011) from my friend and writer, Stasia Ward Kehoe. Stasia and I connected back in Seattle when we spent the day at ALA. Nothing like trying to cross the traffic-clogged 520 Bridge together to cement a friendship. This week's post is about the stage where books are created.

After bonding, we began to meet over bowls of soup and hot cups of tea for writing therapy for moms. She has four boys. I have the 4Js. She'd write a novel, and then I'd write a novel, then she'd write one, and I'd write one. We'd trade some of them and critique, but mostly we'd chat about our snubbed practices to write for flat fees and ponder how we ended up as self-employed building contractors -- replacing roofs, bathrooms, kitchens and vast quantities of flooring, like we didn't have enough to do.

We are working writers, nothing esoteric, nothing heady, nothing sexy about most of our work. It's like this: in spare hours (ha,ha), the spare ones after shooting out that flap copy or that 30 page article about blah, blah, blah, we turn our souls inside out on the page. When Stasia sent me Audition, I was transported into, for lack of better words, "the cult of ballet." I felt desperate for Sara. I wanted to jump inside this book and save this girl before she shattered. But Sara had to suffer, and I suffered with her. This book has unlimited SOUL.

I've invited Stasia to share a deep reflection to give you a taste of depths of her brilliance. Be sure to come back next week. I hope that you visit Stasia's two blogs Writer on the Side and A Year of Auditions. I hope you read AUDITION. I hope this story helps you seize your day.

No doodles this week but Stasia's just released cover:

And last a quote...

Stay the course, light a star,
Change the world where'er you are.
Richard Le Gallienne