Saturday, December 26, 2015

Gifts: Empathy

I'm continuing my creative gifts series. This is all about writerly gifts that I've received from others on my journey. I'm extremely wealthy when it comes to receiving these gifts. This week I'm going to talk about Holly Cupala. Holly is someone who has been generous to me in so many ways I cannot count.  She is one of the most deeply empathetic people I know. She aware of the feelings of a wide range of people; she feels deeply what they are going through. She is a gift to us all.

I tend to be socially awkward. I do care about other people, but I end up seeming really callous sometimes. One reason is I don't always feel what others feel. I recognize they are feeling something, but inside me I don't feel it. I have deep sympathy for them, but that is not the same as empathy. Everything I write has to relate somehow directly to my experiences, what I have felt. This limits my creative spectrum, but there it is. Exposure to the empathetic has helped me become a better writer and a better person. 

Here is how this thing works: I've been bullied so I can write authentically about that. I wasn't at 9:11 and did not personally watch anyone die that day so I cannot write authentically about that. Empathetic people feel what others feel. The clueless part of me is I forget that people are feeling what others are feeling, because I don't. When I see someone writing about something outside his or her experience, I struggle with: "Is this authentic? Some rare individuals really do connect with experiences that are not their own. I'm blessed to know one of these people.

Holly has helped me learn to respect how others feel even if I can't feel it. She has taught me how empathy expands your world. When I am hurting, my first thought is to get away from everyone, wrap myself in blanket and deal with feeling pain.  Empathetic people feel something and realize there are people all over feeling that and reach out to others that feeling the same thing they are feeling. Empathetic people surround me. I think they get it more than most that I need some help. 

Holly's writing really shows off  her empathy for others. Her characters have greatly varied experiences. Even when she is working out of what she knows, she's injecting what she has felt from others too. Her influence has forced me into the shoes of my antagonists. No character should be flat, but each one should be full of life. Exploring the intersection of characters has greatly expanded under exposure to Holly's empathy.  

I hope something about empathy helps you march toward authenticity. I will begin a new series in the new year! Happy New Year!

Here is the cover of one  of Holly's books. 



And finally a quote for you pocket.

Good fiction creates empathy. A novel takes you somewhere and asks you to look through the eyes of another person, to live another life.
 Barbara Kingsolver

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Gifts: Tapestry

I'm continuing my creative gifts series. This is all about writerly gifts that I've received from others on my journey. I'm extremely wealthy when it comes to receiving these gifts. This week I'm going to talk about Janet Lee Carey.She is a friend, a writing mentor, and critique partner. She is also one of the best living fantasy writers. Through critiques, conversations, and reading her books. This week's gift is tapestry; everything is interconnected.

I've read many of Janet's books and love her characters. They are always part in this world and part of another. Janet understands we are not just flesh and bone; there is an immaterial part of being human. STEALING DEATH. I still feel the weight of Kwaja, the sack of souls that main character Kipp has stolen. His family has died in a terrible fire, and he stole Kwaja from a grim reaper type to stop death. Kipp will never see another person die. Death disconnects us from whom we love. It must be stopped and yet death cannot be stopped. Pull one thread and the fabric unravels.

We all have these moments in life that transcend the drudgery of day to day living. The warp threads of tapestry are hidden; the stuff that backs everything up. The weft threads create the colorful picture. Janet's characters are not blinded by cold intellect but are lit with light of love. Her series The Wilde Island Chronicles: Dragron's Keep, Dragonswood, and  In the Time of Dragon Moon reveals her skill at broad canvas. Janet recreates the Pendragon myth with this series. Tapestry is especially important in the last book, where two hard-to-weave-in threads find their place.

This is vast storytelling at it's best, but what is so important about it, is every thread is given attention. There are no blank spots on this tapestry.  Read her books to uncover the value of tapestry in writing. You are welcome.

Finally, Janet was one of the precious people who put together their pennies and brought me to Washington State for a writing retreat earlier this year. I had a tough year. My poor noggin' let me down, and I spiraled into Depression. I am much much better now. But just like her characters in her books, she is interconnected to those around her.  When I was struggling to swim in the life's ocean with it's seasonal storms. She reached out and put my feet on the ground. She made sure my little warp thread continued to be a part of the tapestry of writing. (Yes, I was a hairbreadth away from never writing another word.) All of are co-creators together. No one is an island. We need all the voices.

I hope you continue your creative work. Weave your threads. I know it is hard work. Don't stop. Our life is so much richer if we create our tapestries of story.


Here are the covers of the Wilde Chronicles!.


Finally a quote for you pocket.

We don't accomplish anything in this world alone... and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one's life and all the weavings of individual threads form one to another that creates something.
Sandra Day O'Conner

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Gifts: Audacity

I'm continuing my creative gifts series. This is all about writerly gifts that I've received from others on my journey. I'm extremely wealthy when it comes to receiving these gifts. This week I'm going to talk about Chris Eboch. I have had the opportunity to hear Chris speak many times. She is a friend and a writing mentor, and through critiques, conversations, and reading her books I've learned the importance of being audacious. This week's gift: audacity.

One of her books (that is not published) has had a huge effect on me as a writer. In this book, she offs the main character several times and then follows a new main character.  I can't tell you the shock I felt the first time I read her story, and the first main character died. It was an audacious move that has kicked at me for years. She did something I've never seen done in a book before. She was fearless. Her story demanded the death of her main character and she did not hesitate. This is the lesson, if you are hesitating you are not really sure of your story yet. Dig deeper.

So what exactly is audacity in writing. It's a very good thing for your plot. It's about going there in an original way. I think it has to do with the author getting out of all the muck of writing advice and serving the story. Can you march to your own beat? You are not going to make folks turn the page unless you are fearless. I mean moxie is where it is at. Chris is a soft-spoken person who climbs sheer rock faces for fun. A fast hike across the Grand Canyon, OK! She translates her own gutsiness into her characters, and readers are happy about that. Translating your daring spirit into your story will give it a mega-boost.  

 Be audacious. Scoop out the best of yourself and thread it into your work. Plots must turn with sharp, clean moves.  Don't be muddy or wishy-washy -- good advice for life too. Excellent writing should force the reader to test his or her own mettle. Yes, characters need to be dimensional to get a reader  that involved. Great stories need to get under a reader's skin. They need to demand the reader not just sit there but become involved; in the end the reader needs to changed--forever.  

Sounds hard? You bet, but totally worth it.  

This week be audacious. Write something irresistible. If you want help. I suggest you look at some of Chris's work. She writes as Chris Eboch for children and Kris Bock for adults (romantic suspense). Her books will shake you up.   You may also want to check out her writing books: ADVANCED PLOTTING too and YOU CAN WRITE FOR CHILDREN.   You are welcome!

More gifts next week. 

Here is the cover of one of Chris's (as Kris Bock)  romantic suspense books. It's so beautiful. 


You want to turn the world upside down?  
Here is a quote for your pocket.

Audacity, more audacity, always audacity. Georges Jacques Danton


Saturday, December 05, 2015

Gifts: Tenderness

Hi folks, I'm starting a new series. I'm sharing creative gifts that I've received from others in my journey. I'm extremely wealthy when it comes to receiving these gifts. This week I'm going to talk about Bonny Becker. I had the opportunity to hear Bonny speak many times when I lived in Washington State. I also took the time to really study her books and think about her writing.

I received a bag of creative gifts from her but one stands out. Bonny taught me the importance of  a light touch--tenderness--in storytelling.  (It works for life too, believe me.)  Tenderness is about making vulnerable characters. They may be armored up top, but turn them over and they are squishy and soft. The story journey really is about turning that prickly character over and letting them get a little sun on his or her belly.

As a storyteller, I want to pack in stuff, get the plot going. Bonny has shown me it's about not rushing forward, but instead being patient and letting things work out. It's about heart with flaws. It's about tiny and mighty against huge and timid. Tenderness is found in the intersection of these opposites. Bonny has taught me about the absolute power of awareness. Tucking the truth about one character into the pocket of another transforms a flat story into something amazing.

Finally,I learned this from Bonny: how tenderness brings the beauty of the lilies of the field to story. She offers not just vulnerable but fragile characters. Beauty springs up like Texas bluebonnets when you thread in devotion and affection. Tenderness brings gravitas to storytelling. If you write quiet stories, tenderness will infuse them with  the sunrise. It is so quiet before dawn, but the sun rises and glory!  The birds' cacophony amazes. The clouds burn. The sky eats the darkness. This is the power of tenderness. Add it to your work.

Bonny teaches at The Northwest Institute of Literary Arts.  Her newest picture books is just out: Cloud Country. This was done in collaboration with Noah Klocek. It is amazing.  Don't just take my word for it. Give this and all her books a peek. You are welcome.

No doodle this week. Here is the cover of Bonny's new book in collaboration with Noah Klocek:



I will be back next week with more gifts.

A mother's arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them. Victor Hugo

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Uplift: Focus

Hi folks, this is the last in my Uplift series wherein I try to write words that will lift you up. We are at the end of a month, so this will be short, but overwhelming useful (hopefully).

My dad taught me this. Where you come from isn't important. Know who you are. Figure it out. Dad is an interesting person. As a young child he was totally cut off from his past, and set adrift without parents, family, anyone but himself.  He had to rely on the charity of strangers and carve a life for himself as a person with no past.

You might have a lion inside that is roaring at you!  You might be tied up with the stupid decisions of your past and the past of your family and friends.  You might be tied up with the stupid decisions of entire nations, religions,and races. Or you might be like my dad, a person with no past, no story, nothing. Where do you go from here?

The degradation you have suffered isn't important. The gaping holes in your past aren't important. What others think about you isn't important. What you think about yourself is the important thing. The next step is the future. If you are reading my blog, it is likely you are a creative soul. The things you create are always for the future. You focus on what counts by adding value to future of others. Seriously, be the biggest investor you can possibly be.

Next week, a new series. Gifts.

A doodle for you!

He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened. Lao Tzu


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Uplift: Be Thankful

Hi folks, I'm continuing my Uplift series. A short one this week but full of riches!

One way to cause your work to soar is to be thankful. We choke on our successes when we don't take the time to thank others for their helpfulness. Acknowledging others is a way of sharing your success; it's a trans-formative process. It acknowledges you did not create work in a vacuum. You are interconnected with all around you;  without the spokes to your wheel, you never go far.

Some keep a gratitude journal to remember all the great things that they wants to give thanks about. Others take time every day to be thankful. There is no best way. Thankfulness helps lift me from a depressed state and gives me hope. It helps me avoid stifling my imagination, choking my growth, and losing my joy. Being thankful makes the ties that bind to be much stronger.

Thankfulness is getting above the waves of life and surfing over a turbulent ocean. You will find your way, day by day. Complexity does not equal better. Thankfulness simplifies you and puts you in touch with the better parts of yourself. It sweetens hard work. It helps you approach work in a way is not "crazy making."

Giving thanks makes you strong, so difficult to knock over. It makes you a better person. The act of thankfulness leads you to right choices and will move you closer to wherever you want to be. A thankful heart is better than a pain reliever;  it can cure what ails you.

Finally, if you want your work to sing? Sing the praises of others. Giving honor and acknowledgement to those people who have helped you along the way. Enrich your life.
We live in troubled times; it's comforting to know that one simple act can do so much for everyone.

I will be back next week with more Uplift.

Here is the week's doodle, The Peace Monument, Bamako, Mali.



A quote for your pocket. 

Keep your eyes open to your mercies. The man who forgets to be thankful has fallen asleep in life. Robert Louis Stevenson

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Uplift: Be Revolutionary

Hi folks, I'm continuing my series Uplift. Something I think we can all use right now. It is difficult to turn to a news site and see the troubles of our world. What can an artist do to alleviate any of it? How can an artist work in the midst of it? Is it possible to find uplift in this morass of suffering?

Here is a truth that has come to me. I write because I must. Words flood into me. My artistic endeavor is a gift to me first and to all after. It is something like I'm an artesian aquifer. Deep in us all is the ground water of human existence and it is seeking a place of release. We are animate matter: self-replicating, chemical factories, and electrical maps. We are fragile. I have a short span of days in light of the ancient universe, to share what the spark of life has revealed to me. Use you time wisely.

So much flows from human existence and not all is good. There is terror, murder, mayhem, profane, a list so long, but just the first few on the list places weight in my heart. Thankfully, there is good--mercy, hope, help, kindness. I am one voice among the many, but my voice counts. My choice how to use my voice counts. Like all artists, there is so much pushing up under me. I must allow this art a place, and hopefully, like a fine poet who was called to throw a stone at a giant, I will take down the enemies of my age.

Artists are outliers. I like to do the math. We have about 318 million people in our country. 2.5 million work in all the arts (I'm including the part-timers and unemployed). 7 in 1000 are artists. I'm a writer, and we are really rare birds: 4 in 10000 or so are writers. This is why you have friends all over the world, and you have a difficult time finding folks in the neighborhood who are working on their craft. Even if we are rare, we are mighty.

Art is mightier than any sword because it changes the minds of others without having to lift the sword. We keep hurling our bombs at each other in hopes that the other side will see our point of view. Really?  As a mother, I can tell you hurling rocks will never change the heart. You may defeat your enemies, causing them to hang their heads with bitterness but you will not change them. Non-violent change is true road for everyone, not just the oppressed.

Not everyone producing art is trying to pull the good water out of the human groundwater. Art can be full of good or not. It can laced with terror or laced with kindness. Don't be a con-artist. Regardless though, it's better to put your ideas on a page and think about them, than to force them down the throat of your neighbors at the point of a gun, sword, etc. Don't worry about stopping the foul wells. They don't bring life and people will leave them. We need water to live.

So here it is artist: Use your words. Use your pictures. Use your song. Use you dance. Use every way you can communicate an idea, but if you use your fists, your shouts, your better ways to throw rocks and fire, you will fail. You will always fail.  If you are a well-spring of art, know that you are the only one who is working in a way that will bring forth true change. We are the revolutionary who bring forth sudden, complete, and marked change! Yay!

Change the world for the better, folks. I will be back with more Uplift next week.

Here is a doodle for you: Open Door.




A quote for your pocket:
I am more convinced than ever before that the method of nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity. Martin Luther King

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Uplift: Be Bold

Hi folks, I am starting my new series about what gets me off the ground and in to the creative flow. I call this series UPLIFT. I hope this blog  helps you reach your stratosphere.

Boldness is about moving past fear, and you will need it to find success in your creative endeavors. The first step on your journey to boldness is to win some small battles. What will lead to a high rate of success? Follow that path. Once you win that small battle, don't put yourself down for winning a small battle. The day of small battles is important. You aren't going to win the big battle if you don't win some small ones.           

Identify your weaknesses, really own them, and then create workarounds. You may need to build a team. Don't do this alone. You will spend where things are important to you. If you are broke, try barter. Trade your skills. Also identify your strengths. This is simple but you need to think about how those strength will help you. Take some time and explore that strength. What will help you do?  Are you focusing on what you can't do or what you can do?  Your focus will make all the difference. Be a can-do person. If that makes you cringe, it may be time to reinvent yourself. 

What does boldness look like in your work? First, trust your vision. You are the gal who is driving the creative bus. Don't allow anyone  take that from you. Cling to your point of view. Boldness means letting people see your work and incorporating their feedback in ways that moves you toward your goals. Boldness means accepting that you may fail, but choosing not dwell on that. Boldness is about healthy, encouraging self-talk. Boldness is all about taking the hits but dwelling on what you learned from them. Boldness is about choosing action over fear. Do it.

I hope you are bold this week.  I will be back next week with more uplift.

Here is a doodle for your pocket. Primary and Secondary





Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Chicken by Chicken: Soul Wrapped in Cake and Doughnuts

Hi folks. I'm finishing my Chicken by Chicken series for the month of October.  I write about my real challenges in the series. This week: Soul Wrapped in Cake and Doughnuts. On top of depression, anxiety, partial blindness, and dylexia, I suffer from obesity. It is a daily battle. I hope my journey helps you find your way.

Yes, my soul is wrapped in cake and doughnuts. I have suffered from obesity since the birth of my third child. Gosh, you have no idea how difficult this is for me to write about.  It's just a piece of cake. It's just a doughnut. Don't eat it. Ah, but that cake and doughnut is about that moment of pleasure in a life that has not had so many pleasures.  Yes, I struggle with eating for emotional comfort. Like any addict, I hope to drown my sorrows in momentary pleasure. Obesity is a treatable disease and I'm working on it.

I don't have my obesity under control right now, but I haven't given up hope. I long to be well from this need to eat sugar. I live in a world that values the young and so called "beautiful." Thankfully, I have this fantastic understanding of beauty that keeps my chin up. My understanding was a gift. A photographer called Emerald England opened my eyes to the beauty of everything.  I was at my highest weight of my life when I met her. I will tell you right now. I am the kind of person that everyone calls a beautiful heart.

I'd hired Emerald to take a headshot of me for my website. I apologized to her for asking her to use her incredible skills on someone like me.  She looked at me in surprise and asked why.  I told her my truth. I'm fat, dumpy,and gnome-like, and she takes pictures of beautiful people. She looked stunned and told me without hesitation, you are going to find out today that you are beautiful. I laughed and said OK. She took the shots and I went my way. When I received the pictures, I couldn't breathe.

Indeed, Emerald was right. I was beautiful, not just my heart, but the outside of me. Ever since that photography session, everyday, I stand in front of a mirror and speak the real truth to myself. You are beautiful, Molly.  You have a health problem with food. It's complicated, but it doesn't lessen your beauty. I have an illness that has to be treated.  This illness does not make less of a human being.  That is someone else's problem.

So my soul is wrapped in cake and doughnuts.  I'm working on it.  Obesity is a tough disease to live with, but it is not an ugly-maker. You have value, whoever you are. Your flaws are part of your beauty. (My contemporary romance, Plumb Crazy, is really inspired by my journey with obesity. The main character, beautiful Elva, was another gift to me.) Here s a secret. Your so-called flaws will inspire your work if you let them.

I will back next week with my November series, Uplift.

Here is a doodle for you!


A quote for your pocket too!

The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mode but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives the passion that she shows. The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years. Audrey Hepburn

I'm adding one of Emerald' England's pics, so you can see for yourself:



Saturday, October 24, 2015

Chicken by Chicken: A Glitch in the Software.

I'm continuing my Chicken by Chicken series. I am writing about my real challenges in hopes that my story will help you find your way.

This week I will chat about a glitch in the software of my brain. Along with the whole blind-in-one-eye thing, the anxiety thing, the depression thing, daily, I face dyslexia.

What is that like?

I have a hard time distinguishing left from right. I leave articles out of sentences.  I repeat letters in words. I leave letters out of words. I skip words. I don't put words in the right order. I flip bs, ds, ps, and qs. I love lists, but I really hate numbered lists. I thank God that we don't have to look up stuff in dictionaries manually any more! Also, I'm am freaking brilliant with math as long as calculation is not necessary.

I think you get it--glitch in that brain. .

I have hundreds of "work arounds" for this problem. I read my writing backwards. (Ah, yes, reading backwards or forward, right side up or upside down makes little difference to me.) I change fonts. I change the size of fonts. I change the color of fonts.  I only copy edit 5 or 6 words at a time. For math, I'm horrible at calculation but amazing at estimation. I solve every problem until I get the same answer three times.

ADVICE: If you are older, be sure to find some expert on dyslexia to offer you new ideas to deal with your glitches.

Dyslexia makes some easy things very difficult to me.  I have found it is useful to work with the problem and not against it. I am full of stories. Here is a fact. My stories have to be stronger than the average story because I have to get professionals to look past the fact this writing needs "more editing than most." So be it. I'd pit my imagination against, the best grammar any day. I also am one tenacious soul.

In the end, dylexia has brought me some wonderful gifts. The best one is empathy. I love chatting to kids with reading and writing problems. Reading is not about the AR points you can rack up. Writing isn't about the grammar.  Reading is about finding a secret door into new worlds. And writing is about expressing ideas that only you can express.  I can seriously say, "Don't let a string of teachers slapping Fs on your papers stop you from opening secret doors or sharing your ideas."

A deep truth--we are all hopelessly flawed.  Everyone has glitches in their software.  We are having to deal with "work arounds."  If you are full of stories, do your best work and know that is enough regardless of the challenges you face.

For fun check out my Chickens video.  If you would like the book, CHICKENS DO NOT TAKE OVER HALLOWEEN, check it out here.
And now a doodle:

Here is a quote for your pocket.

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved. Helen Keller


Saturday, October 17, 2015

Chicken by Chicken: Panic Attacks a Life

Hi folks, I'm writing my series called Chicken by Chicken. I spend this month writing the real, especially my challenges. This is a difficult post to write. My life hasn't been normal. It has been defined by panic.  Panic attacks. I don't remember my first attack, maybe I was 5 or 6. I estimate I have had more than a thousand panic attacks in my life. It is strange, even writing about panic attacks makes a nervous feeling in my chest, but I'm going to press on.

For years I didn't know what was going on. It was clear to me early on that a few specific thing send me into panic. I 'd lose my glasses, or go to the dentist, or be picked on at school. I also had panic attacks about lost keys, missed school assignments, and bank errors. Sometimes I have had random attacks about speaking in public and entering new situations. Some of my panic triggers make sense to me. Some do not. 

In my worst seasons, I had panic attacks that happened once or twice a day for months.  I have multiple panic attacks in a day. The first mega attack day was in the third grade. I had 10 panic attacks in a row. I lost my glasses and I started a new school. I still remember the waves of panic crashing over me.  I sat at my desk and struggled with attack after attack for the whole school day. I was moved into a special ed classroom. These mega attacks have hit me through the years.  It's always if I'm hit with many triggers.

I've seen things turn into panic triggers. Here is my worst: I sought help in my early twenties, but unfortunately, my mental health provider did something human and stupid by having an affair with a guy 25 years younger than her.  The guy was being torn apart by the relationship. The guy was also a very close friend of mine.  My mental health provider stopped my sessions, informing me that she was having the affair with my friend.  I was dropped and left without care. Yeah, and then speaking to a mental health provider became one of my triggers. Dang. 

Here is reality of my panic attacks. They hit like a tornado. The shortness of breath. Hyperventilation. My heart races. Trembles shake my body. Cold sweats and goosebumps follow.  I often throw up. Uncontrollable sobbing. Dizziness. Wailing. It doesn't make sense. It's terrifying to those around me. It's terrifying to me. 

To know me is to know my panic. Most of my attacks last about 20 to 30 minutes. It's taken years to build strategies to survive and to find drugs that actually help.  I sometimes think it is beyond ridiculous to think I'm going to be a writer. What if a panic attack blindsides me?  People who love me understand. Everyone else is not so forgiving. 
    
I wish I could say I got the health care I needed for this right off and it has been all good. That is not my story. It took time to get help because mental health workers cause me to panic. This is the first time in life I've ever had the moxie to even speak of this. I do have healthcare now. I do have good medication. I can still have a panic attack now and then, but it is down to maybe two a year and never multiple attacks. 

I have solid ways to deal with panic. When it comes, I recognize I'm having attack. I speak my mantra: "This is a panic attack. It is a problem that is not the problem. It cannot hurt me. It cannot stop me. It just chemicals poured into my body. My fight of flight system is messed up. The chemicals will dissipate and then I can deal with the real problem."  I breathe slowly, repeating the mantra, until the panic ends. 

I am a person with a rare gift for words, but I'm also this broken person, who has been broken for most of my life by panic.  I hope that my struggle helps you to be brave and face whatever you are facing. I hope that you say what you need to.   

I will be back next week with more of Chicken by Chicken.  

Here is a doodle. Girl in the Moon. 


Here is a quote for your pocket. 

Listen to God with a broken heart. He is not only the doctor who mends it, but also the father who wipes away the tears. Crissi Jami

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Chicken by Chicken: Life in the Blur

Hi, folks. Just a little peek at my life and times first: I had the pleasure of attending the SCBWI conference in College Station, Texas. I met the brilliant Kimberly Willis Holt, who was as wonderful as I hoped she would be. I was so grateful to have the chance to meet such a fine writer, and she spoke to my soul, which is a thing so beyond words. I also had the chance to meet the Balzer and Bray editor, Kelsey Murphy, who shared great stuff about creating authentic characters, and was full of energy and the love of children's books. Feeling pretty blessed.

And now on to my Chicken by Chicken, where I talk about the real. We all face challenges. I am like everyone, I have challenges too. This week I'm going to talk about life in the blur. I was born with anisometropia amblyopia. Also known as lazy eye.  There is nothing wrong with my eye. The brain doesn't work. Currently there is a rosy outlook for this condition. For folks my age, not so much. I am legally blind in one eye. My other eye is corrected to 20/40.

I am extremely lucky that my good eye meets the threshold for driving without restriction. If I lose any more vision, I will no longer be able to drive at night or over the speed of 45 miles an hour. Having only one eye means I do not have stereoscopic vision. This makes me clumsy and I trip over things a lot  and bang into curbs with my car. I wish all curbs were painted a color. I also suck at sports that require you to hit a ball with a stick. I also sort of run into things randomly in a way that makes people roll their eyes.

I am posting two pictures so you can see what I see without my glasses.  The first one is what I can see with my bad eye. This is all it can ever see. The second one is what I can see with my good eye without correction.   As soon as my glasses are off I am blind.



This condition has shaped my life in a million ways. I trip on steps, fall off curbs, and run into pesky poles. I hate crowds because I bump into people and get scolded: "Are you blind?" This happens to me 3 or 4 times a week  and has happened for my whole life. Did the math. That is well over a hundred thousand times. If my glasses get knocked off for any reason,  I am blind. It annoys many people when I ask them to help me find my glasses. See pictures above. Could you find your glasses? Only if there is really, really good contrast, which there rarely is.

How we perceive the world defines us.  Anything that requires depth perception is just not in my wheel house. That means no diving, no flying planes, no playing video games, no driving motorboats, blah, blah, blah. I don't see things the way others do. The end. I am kind to myself. I accept my limitations and live on in the blur. We are all making do. A good thing to remember.
I will be back next week with more Chicken by Chicken.

Here is a doodle.
Finally a quote for your pocket. 

The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it. ― Moliere


Saturday, October 03, 2015

Chicken by Chicken: The End of the Long Dark Night.

It's October and time for Chicken by Chicken. This is going to a long post. I will also post about my fun Halloween chicken project at the end. I've been doodling chickens for years. They cheer me up. This past year has needed a lot of cheer.

I joined the Presbyterian church recently, and have been reading The Book of Confessions. It's a book that affirms basic Christian truths. It's the response of this denomination of Christians when it has been blindsided with confusing and destructive ideas.

So here is my history. For the past year my poor noggin' failed me. It's connected to my work. Here is the deal: you fail much as a writer. It is part of the gig. But a dark cloud came over me last year and just would not budge. I never thought my work would fail. Church, yes. Friends and family, yes. Body, yes. Circumstances, yes. But never my work. A friend told me once that my work is what keeps me floating above it all. Well, my work sank, and I sank like a stone in a deep ocean.  I headed to the doctor and, yes, learned I was suffering from straight out major depression.

My thoughts were not about taking my life or even dying. This was all about failing at my life's work. Here's the deal, good writers get paid for their hard work. Their books sell. I put out a book as dear to me and with as much of my soul as I could on a page, PLUMB CRAZY, and the result was no one cared. I sold less than a hundred copies.The publishing house cancelled my contract. Then, I began submitting a book called PROFIT that I believed was the best thing I'd ever put to a page. I had one partial request, and the agent never got back to me. Everyone else ignored my submissions.

Here's the painful litany: Fool. Idiot. Stupid. These words branded me. All those people who said you were full of it for wanting to be a writer, they were right. No one cares. You can't write a single word that anyone cares about. All the people who have passed on you, they just didn't want you to know that your work is substandard and will not rise. You are irrelevant. The success of reaching others and making a difference in this world. The dream you would be able to make a modest living at this, over. You could have worked for real all these years and your kids wouldn't be pulling out loans to get college educations. You messed up your whole life and there are no do overs.  You chased a dream, and nada. You are a freaking failure. (It's okay, folks, these words don't burn into me like hot coals any more.)

This has been hard on so many levels. My mother suffered major depression when I was a teen. She didn't really get over it until I went to college.We had no healthcare when I was kid, so mom just suffered. Thankfully, that is not my story, but even good doctors can't wave a magic wand to make me better. It's been a long road this past year. It has been terrifying.

Depression feels like a band is tied around my waist, tight and painful. It's like being plated with metal armor that you can't take off. It like living in darkness. My art has suffered. I've thought about giving it up. Another choice mom made. Man, this has been a mess. Still, I continued to move forward, but my arms were heavy like led weights, my stomach ached, and my poor brain just sank into a pit. I cried more tears last year than I ever have in my life. I'd be standing in line at the grocery store and realize my face was wet with tears. Oh, why am I at the grocery story when every movement is agony?  I refused to stop functioning through this pain. I wiped the tears and moved to the next thing on the list. I wrote a lot of lists last year.

So here is the journey. I got clinical help, and I worked on seeking goodness. I had to let some things go. I cut down on the writing events. I shoved aside the novels for almost six months and worked on picture books. It was a struggle to write one word and that is the whole picture book game. I left the church I was attending. I'd been going there for almost five years and didn't really know anyone. This was no longer acceptable. I found a church that was more open to ideas and people with differences. I planted a tree.  I hugged the cats. I wrote my lists and drew my chickens.  Silly chickens make me laugh, and I love to laugh. I taught teens who to write through a summer program TEENS Publish at the library (no pay). Gosh, I loved those young writers, so full of passion and dreams. BTW, this was a totally unprofessional act, I know, but it brought some happiness to my heart and mind, and this year happiness has been worth more than all the gold in California.

I am coming out of the long dark night. I'm working again. The dips aren't as deep. Positive thoughts are back.  I still have a ways to go, but I am hopeful. Finally my  book  CHICKENS DO NOT TAKE OVER HALLOWEEN  http://ow.ly/SVYcB  is for sale. I was so blessed by the silliness of this book. I hope that it blesses a few of you. I will be back next week with more confessions, chicken by chicken.

Here is a doodle for you.  It's a picture from the Chicken book.

A quote for your pocket: There may be a great fire in our hearts, yet no one ever comes to warm himself at it, and the passers-by see only a wisp of smoke. Vincent Van Gogh





Saturday, September 26, 2015

Plenty of Margins

Hi folks, fall is upon us. My husband Tim is going on an scientific expedition with JOIDES Resolution for the next two months. This is the link to his blog.  He is flying to Darwin, Australia today. I will hold down the home front for the next two months. I have all kinds of mayhem planned for this time period. I just released THE CHICKENS DO NOT TAKE OVER HALLOWEEN with Caney Creek Books.  I hope that you give this a peep.

This week I will chat about the fab-ness of creating this book. Doodling Chickens is all about play for me. It's also about the love of the imperfect.  I have grown weary of machined edges of all children's art in these days.  There is a choking perfection in children's book making these days that leaves me cold. I am still thinking about the good times with Mr. Rodgers when he would dig a hole in sand, pour water in, and then watch the water disappear. You know, for kids.

Return to your inner child this week. Take some time to play. If you have some children, all the better. Blow bubbles, play cars, pretend to be dinosaurs...whatever floats your boat. Staying close to your early years opens up your work. Believe the impossible things. Don't listen to the voices that say no. Reconnect with the wonder of days. Reconnect with silly. We grown-ups do tend toward the deep waters of serious. Come with me and splash in the shallows for a while.

Don't orchestrate everything. Leave plenty of margins in your life. Be kind to yourself. The child-self forgives easily,is up for new things, and is open to new friends. May your days be filled with laughter. May you find surprising twists and turns in your plots. May your life be filled with sweetness, health, and peace.

THE CHICKENS DO NOT TAKE OVER HALLOWEEN is all about homemade childhood. I had fun making this book, and I hope that fun spills into your life.

Buy the THE CHICKENS DO NOT TAKE OVER HALLOWEEN written and illustrated by Molly Blaisdell on Amazon for $7.99. (Way more awesome than a Halloween card.)

Follow The Chickens on Facebook. I will be posting a new chicken doodle every day in October.

Here is a doodle for you. Spanish Girl


Here is a quote for you.

Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood. Mr. Rogers

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Unexplored Country

Hi, folks. This has been my unfortunate refrain for a while: my heart aches. I've worked hard as a creative person and believe I have little to show for it. It's tough when the lowliest worker makes more than me. For sure, I've made mistakes on my creative journey, and those mistakes have cost me, but I have always believed my gift would make a place for me. Instead, I've found shut doors. This has led to more than a few nights, sitting in my rocking chair and staring off into the dark night.

Here is a mystery that is greater than me. Once there was man named Micah--he was my kind of person, against unjust leaders, a defender of the rights of the poor, and a believer in social justice. He lived over 500 years B.C.E. ago, and yet his words connect to my experience.  Here is his thought, "Though I sit in darkness the Lord will be light." I'm an American, so "Lord" isn't one my favorite words, we are not the Lord and King crowd. I recognize this Lord as the "Everlasting Intelligence" or "The Maker of the Immovable Rules" or the Heart of the Universe. When I don't know, the Heart of the Universe knows. 

It's strange how light will slip into your soul in the dark night. In the midst of tough times, hope finds me. I find myself dusting myself off, and, as if I'm some mythical creature, I feel myself rising. This season has been a place of darkness for me, and yet I look up in the night and see the infinity of stars. Light always finds its way into the dark corners. There are no words to how this comforts me. I feel drawn into the light. 

What is my response to this light? Light illuminates the terrain. It frees me to move forward. As an artist, I want to build new walls and pour histories into them. I can see the ground now and can see the best places to put the walls. For me, writing is an imagined history that is as real as any history. My imaginary wings are spreading. I see far off seas and the hint of unknown mountains. I have held myself back but now I must extend my boundaries. What will I find in the unexplored country? 

I hope that you are comforted by this. The light will find you where ever you are. I am sure of this.  I will be back next week with more reflections. 

Here is a doodle for you. Waterlilies.


Good news if this is you:

Micah 4:6 ...I will gather the lame; I will assemble the exiles and those I have brought to grief. I will make the lame my remnant,...

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Many Waters

Hi folks, storytelling is a courageous act. All art is courageous. This makes me think of all the waters we face in life. It takes a lot of courage to live. We experience droughts, floods, storms, and more. It takes vast courage to translate those experiences into art that will lend courage to others. Shock value. Sentimentality. Satire. Succor. Self. Our response to many waters shows up in our art.

We have all been in deep waters. There are days when life is just over our heads. We can't breathe or find ground. We sink or swim. These places are where everything we want is just beyond our reach. The deep waters test our mettle. It's also the place we learn to float. The deep waters are where friendships are forged. This is where we learn. Is your work shallow?  Bring in your deep water experiences.

At other times, we wander into in stagnant waters. In these brackish places time seems to slow. Will anything ever change? Will we ever find our way?  Oh, if we could be someone else. Oh, if we only we could be in the middle of it all. How does anything great come out of this unchanging suburbia? Stagnant waters are full of questions and doubt. They birth tenacity in us and bring us gifts of patience, reinvention, and courageousness. Ask your questions and dig deeper. See what happens to your art.

Sometimes, the waters rage and we must bail the boat. We are tossed around and have no idea if we will survive. We can't see clearly. We can't hear anything but the roar. We don't have control in the raging storm. We are helpless,often injured within and without. Raging waters brings us to new places against our wills. These storms stay very present with us long after they are gone. Our survival after theses storms is our story. Don't be frightened by upheaval. Raging waters bring evolution. Evolve.

Here is a quote from the Song of Solomon in the Bible: Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. I think great writing is about giving words to the many waters that have not quenched the love in our hearts. Think about the waters you have gone through. Let those experiences guide your work.

Here is a doodle.


Water is the driving force of all nature. Leonardo Di Vinci

Saturday, September 05, 2015

A Private Journey

Hi folks,  We all have our loads of baggage. It's rare for someone to reach the lofty age of 50 without some extra baggage piled on. Most people have baggage by age 10. It is painful to me when people act like their life has not happened. The idea that we must jump around and quote positive thinking statements, refusing to feel anything but good vibrations makes me cringe. Though I love good vibrations, I want to feel everything. Whatever I can feel, I want to feel.

I do not fear the depths of sorrow. This feeling is part of me. Sadness. Yep. Anger. Yep. Agony. Yep. Striated in with all that, is pain and then happiness. Silliness. Peace. Joy. Love. A myriad of shades and colors of feeling are out there. My emotional story is just as complex as any rich soil. When you refuse your feelings, you are making yourself an arid or, even worse, sterile dirt. Embracing all of who you will help you share a better story. Don't expect anyone to exactly understand this need to experience your full range of emotions. This will be a private journey.  

It is important to feel as an artist. Every time you shove something under the rug, you shove some of your story under that rug too. Live your life this way. Air things.  Scribble in your journal. Record yourself. Play that music. Head over to your psychologist. Try confessing to a minister. Whatever gets the stuff hidden out, do it. The best artists have to keep in touch with their white hot centers with all the contradictions and confusion. They also have to think deeply, So stick your head in those clouds and see what dreams may come.  Our thoughts and our emotions are intertwined like the chemicals in DNA. Let them mix together.

Dig into your emotional story. Search out the shades of your emotions. Feel them, and they will bleed into your work. Feelings just do that. 

I will be back next week with more of the "Stuff" that makes good art happen.   


Here is a doodle.



Quote for your pocket. 

What your heart thinks great is great. The soul's response is always right. Ralph Waldo Emerson


Saturday, August 29, 2015

The End of the Tunnel

Hi folks,

I've traveled through a dark tunnel creatively, but I'm standing here now blinking at the bright light at the end of the tunnel. The best part of my life is that I am surrounded by tremendous people. It's insane to me how many wonderful people have blessed me with their friendship. I received a 10 page hand-written letter from an old friend this week (one of the treasures). The first two pages were quotes from letters over the decades. I wrote this many years ago.  It reminded me of what I am about. 

"I had a perfect mommy moment today. I was reading a book. I had rolled over on my side and had my legs bent. Slowly I realized I wasn't alone. A sweet child had tucked himself and his book in the crook of my legs. He didn't say anything. He just curled up and looked at the pictures in his book. I felt warm and glowing inside. I felt like I was fulfilling my life. I never have to do anything more."

I am a cozy sort of person.  I like cups of hot tea with lemon cookies. I love a ramble in the morning. I love watching stars of a frosty night with warm blanket. I love curling up with a book and being transported to other worlds, other times, and other minds. I love to scribble stories. That is enough. 

Our friends find us when we can't find ourselves. They keep us when we are lost. They make us remember when we have forgotten. They name us. I am so thankful that I have found friendship is the light at the end of the tunnel.  Making moments for others is a deep part of why I write.  I hope you light the world with your creative gifts this week. Art is truth beyond the words. 

I will be back next week with a new series. 

Here is a doodle: SHARD. 


Here is a quote for your pocket. 

"Why did you do all this for me?" he asked. "I don't deserve it. I've never done anything for you."
"You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what's a life, anyway? We're born, we live a little while, we die. A spider's life can't help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone's life can stand a little of that."

—E.B. White, Charlotte's Web

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Sink Overflowed

Hi folks, the sink overflowed this week. My son came home for lunch and found the mess. He didn't say a word to me and just cleaned up the water. I found a soaked roll of paper towels on the counter. Nice to have a family that supports creative endeavor.

What is this all about? Translated, my writing is popping. I'm back in the mode when I mean to sit down for thirty minutes of writing, and I end up writing for over an two hours even though I think thirty minutes. I know, I wish writing could always be this way. My story is Profit, a sci-fi epic. As usual, I so believe in this story. I'm leaving bits of my heart and soul on the page. I am inside a vast fictive dream that is so beyond me that it makes me tremble.

Here's the ramble. Chase after your creative dreams, folks. Don't worry. I know this can be tough, but always remember that the freedom is in the work. Every time you turn to the work you will find energy. I love to create. I love to see the work emerging, to experience it, and to bring it forth. I write words, but the important messages seem to be beyond the words. There is a hidden unseen part of creating. A great story builds something in the heart. It transfers true experience. It expands the world of the reader. It opens the reader to new ideas. It is bigger than me.

All creative work seems to do this. It connects us with the beauty of the universe. Consider this. Instinctively, we know that the chasing after money hurts. Our factories chug out greenhouse grasses, people fight for a buck on Wall Street, our green-less cities of steel are surrounded by isolated people in their ant-like cars, or worse bombs fall from our streaking jets, sending a message of --what? The best of us is in quiet souls toiling in corners often without pay or praise.  Every building that is more than square block of steel, every car with energy efficiency, every act that brings peace, and every creative endeavor opens the soul of human experience. Be in the business of making us more.

Do what you can with your life. Bloom in the pot you are planted in. Find ways to express yourself creatively.  Live mindfully. Live well.

I will be back next week with more meandering creative thoughts. This doodle comes from my husband Tim.  Yes, we all doodle at my house.

 


A quote for your pocket.

Perfection of character is this: to live each day as if it were your last, without frenzy, without apathy, without pretense. Marcus Aurelius

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Not Type A

Hi folks, this month there is no series.  These topics all stand alone.  It's my birthday month and I want to dig deep and be more. Here's one thing I've been thinking about. Welcome to my meandering.

I cringe every time I hear the dreaded words: I'm a Type A personality -- high achiever, driven, worker, leader, competitive. Man, if you need the most cookies, take them.  On my worst days, I'm a type D and on my better days I am a Type C.  I lack assertiveness.  Type As are always apologizing for being Type As even though they are thrilled by their achievements and are determined to achieve more. Uh, this is not humility.  Here's the deal Type As, every personality type has a downside.

Don't think this a Type A bashing post. Type As are getting the most cookies, so chill.  Type Bs don't care if they have any cookies or not. Type Cs would like cookies but are too shy to ask. And Type D, those folks needs therapy, drugs and understanding.  But I digress, back to Type As. They are missing out some good stuff.  I was with a friend at a yogurt shop nodding knowingly about not being a type A.  We both have felt that "odd person out" feeling about not being Type A. 

We were laughing about typical Type A stuff. They think that everyone wants to be them and are sold are on the idea that you must be positive and have it all together 24/7. The rest of us types cringe, continue to play Candy Crush,  enjoy the frozen yogurt, and wander off topic by discussing the hotness of actor Robert Vaughn from the old TV show Man from U.N.C.L.E. vs hotness of David McCallum, who is now a nice old man on a show call NCIS. This would drive type As crazy...but we were happy as clams. That's right, not stressed, not organized, and totally chill. YAY!

So how does personality play into my life: I would like a writing cookie, but if it means I can't smell the roses, do my own thing, and daydream days away, no cookies for me. I also need lots of time to read books, enjoy good conversations, and afternoons poolside. In kindergarten, Mrs. Crabtree impressed on me the importance of being yourself. She believed that every child would shine and made sure that every student in her class had a moment to do so. Overall she taught me that life is about our relationships and nothing else. 

You are needed. We are all needed.  So "Not Type As" take a deep breath. It is okay. 

I will be back next week with more. 


Here is a doodle. 

And finally

A quote for your pocket.
Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it. Bruce Lee


Saturday, August 08, 2015

Cutting the Strings of Success

I've traveled a rough rough creative year. I found out pouring out my soul is not enough for success. That left me leaning against the walls, sobbing (I know, embarrassing but nevertheless true). I ache inside to write something that actually means something to a multitude of people. I still ache for this, but at to this point I don't really know what words will do that.

Publishing work is a tough thing. A writer scrapes down to the bone, and then goes even further, like stripping pieces of your soul and then handing it out. This is a difficult thing to face: a monumental creative effort of mine was like passing out flyers on the corner of some nameless city and, while a few people went into the show, most just tossed the flyers on the ground and moved on.

Very few care. Not an easy answer for an artist. My first reaction was childish. How dare the folks not love my work. How dare they!  There are no gimmicks or tricks in my bag.  I have no pile of money to lean on, no celebrity to tap into. I have to rise up on the merits of my words alone. Blue collar girl here, and few of us really get a chance to say anything. 

There is more to my story. I have integrity. I didn't just slap some stupid and uncomfortable sex on a page. I didn't try to titillate, seduce or toss on some bondage. I went with the stuff that means a lot to me: honesty, humanity, and small town values -- the golden rule, love your neighbors, and be yourself.  Surely this will rise. Surely!

I am really embarrassed right now. Have you ever boasted? I have. I thought for sure I was going to be a player in the writing world. Do you know how painful it is to rejected by an agent because you are just "a midlist author and never are going to be more than that."  To be told by really successful editors that your writing is fantastic but it's not likely to connect. I blindly believed  they were crazy. Then I put the work out there and find out that those voices were not messing with me. They were trying to be helpful. Why did humility have to be such a hard lesson? 

I am pretty sure there must be more truth that no one wants to tell me. They probably think I can't take it, and they are probably right.  I read Charlotte's Web, A Wrinkle in Time, and The Book of Three as a kid and thought surely I will find this magic too. People are going to read my books just like those. Now I am beyond 50 years old, and, guess what? Yet, I am still writing, but I have taken a paring knife and cut the strings to success--this kind of success: the attainment of popularity, profit or both. 

And here I am living the Blue Bird of happiness story. I found the magic of the stories. What I need is the golden rule, to love my neighbor, and to be myself.  I am some pig. I am terrific. I am radiant. I am humble. Love really does take the day and save those I love. And assistant pig farmers find out that that is really what they are and that isn't something to be ashamed of.  Everything shines.

Neighbors, because if you are reading this, you are my neighbors. I hope you find the magic in stories too.  If you want, my book PLUMB CRAZY is on sale on Kindle for 99 cents for my birthday week. I will be back next week with more musing about the creative life.

Here is a doodle for you.



A quote for your pocket.

When I was very young, most of my childhood heroes wore capes, flew through the air, or picked up buildings with one arm. They were spectacular and got a lot of attention. But as I grew, my heroes changed, so that now I can honestly say that anyone who does anything to help a child is a hero to me. Fred Rogers

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Publish: Optimism and other lessons

Hi folks, I am writing a summer long series. It's called Publish and is in conjunction with my TEENS Publish workshop at the Ringer Library in College Station, Texas. The tribe is almost finished with their masterworks. The title of our anthology is A New Generation: TEENS Publish 2015 Anthology. Our revision letters are in and our last meeting is over. It was hard to say goodbye.

I learned so many things over the eight weeks we met. The first thing was the power of optimism. Your dreams can come true, ask anyone in the tribe.  It's just that easy. If you dream a thing and seek it, you will find it.

I loved that the writing tribe faced every bit of the writing process with an upbeat attitude. They expected to find the story they were trying to carve out. Failure wasn't an option. Critique was just a way to do better. Take a lesson from the tribe.  Assume your story will float. How can you do this? Buoyancy comes from your upbeat spirit. Here the deal: if you are writing, a place for that writing will form. That's just the way the universe is put together. 

Another thing I've learned from the tribe is if you are not excited about the next amazing thing you are about to do, you have missed the creative boat. The mind is flexible. Let it bend the way it wants to. Not knowing the "rules" is a major big blessing. Don't worry about what has come before. Don't worry about the next big thing. Trust your big old imagination. It is going to surprise you again and again. Yes, it may sound crazy. Go there. The tribe reopened me to the possibilities. 

Finally, not understanding what to do is okay. Asking questions is okay. Not knowing where you are going is okay. Trying all kinds of things is okay. Creativity is about the willingness to make mistakes, lots of them. It's fine to be where you are on your journey. Be glad that you have a journey. Embrace it. You never know what your mistakes will teach you. The writing tribe embraced the mysterious, the unknown, the uncharted country. 

Personally, I feel I will never face a writing project the same. I have a blank page in front of me. Is there any greater writing magic than that?  I hope you have enjoyed the series. Usually in August, I dig deep into my soul and explores some of my burning questions. I hope you drop in for some of the fire in my bones. 


Here is my doodle:Tree




Finally a quote for your pocket.

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. Helen  Keller

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Publish: Revision is not sexy.

Hi folks, I am writing a summer long series. It's called Publish and is in conjunction with my TEENSPublish workshop at the Ringer Library in College Station, Texas. The tribe is working hard. The title of our anthology is A New Generation: TEENSPublish 2015 Anthology. We have moved into the last phase of our project: revision.

Yep, revision.  It's where you take your precious pages and hack at them with machete.  Fun. Fun. Fun. And NOT sexy. It's about "we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better, stronger, faster." If you saw The Six Million Dollar Man back in the day you know what I'm talking about. 

So what is the blessed technology that will help you on this journey? The first technology is language. I bet you didn't even know written language was a technology. It is. So time to tighten up the writing. Yes, this is just like going to the gym every day and working a circuit. 

This circuit goes like this. Ditch the "to be" verbs. Rip out adjectives and choose stronger nouns. Toss the adverbs and choose stronger verbs. Look for repeats and remove the "peats". Stop feeling things and just cut to the chase. Find white space. Make it all pretty. By the way this activity is like building a spiderweb. takes a while. Not so interesting laying out each little strand, but when it is done, it is a masterpiece. 

Oh, you get double extra charged writing if you vary sentence lengths. 

Now a second technology.  Grammar. Yes, grammar is a thing and getting it will help you create stories that sing. Go to OWL. Try Grammarly. Grammar Girl. The Blue BookBuilding Great Sentences. Add in some AutoCrit. Don't wing this stuff. Grammar, you will thank me. I liken grammar improvement to beating the dust out of rugs with broom. Hard work but eventually it is all cool  Here is a secret. It's not about making everything "correct."

Revision is hard work. It's tedious at times. It's not fast. It does lead to what you meant to say. And that is everything,isn't it.

I will be back next week with more revision stuff. The last in this series!

Here is a doodle. My son Jesse at age 3.



A quote for your pocket:

Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar. E.B. White

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Publish: Revise the Big Picture

Hi folks, I am writing a summer long series. It's called Publish and is in conjunction with my TEENSPublish workshop at the Ringer Library in College Station, Texas. The tribe is working hard. The title of our anthology is A New Generation: TEENSPublish 2015 Anthology. We have moved into the next phase of our project: revision.

Revision starts with the big picture. I have written a rough draft. It's time to consider the big picture. I have written a terrible manuscript as it should be. This thing is worthy of being printed out and being used as a doorstop. That is all.  Now the work of revising begins. I squint my eyes and dive in. Why is my story boring? Does my story make sense? Does it have a beginning, middle, and end? I gotta fix that stuff.  This might take days. I will cut some of the boring bits.  I will rewrite some of the boring bits. I will add some bits so the story is less boring. I think I will buy a cupcake. Stress. Stress.

Cupcake is eaten, it is time to play my favorite game: Does this chapter really need to be a part of my book? I start out with assumption the chapter needs to be axed and then try to find 5 reasons that that shouldn't happen. Here are 5 sample reasons to keep a chapter.  The hero meets the villain. Check. The hero realizes he is just a sham and must find a way to change. Check. The hero hurts someone really close to him.  Check. The hero finds out a secret that changes everything.  Check. The hero snogs with a girl he never expected to snog with. Check. Gosh, I love this chapter. I am genius.

Here is the chapter I cut. The hero gets out of bed. (I didn't write that, did I?) The hero thinks about the scenery on the way to school for two pages. (I suck.) The hero does exactly what I expect him to do when he gets to school. (I really suck.)  The hero spends a long time at the water fountain and I don't know why. (Maybe I should take up a hobby like needlepoint.) The hero falls asleep at the end of the chapter. (Yikes. I mean Yikes!) Salvage not possible.

Some chapters are good. Some chapters are bad. Easy decisions. Many are in the middle. I put these on the organ donation pile or the fix later pile. Organ donation chapters are getting axed but there is some stuff in there I will use somewhere else. For example, one chapter was totally stupid, except for the part where the hero gets into that massive fight with his best friend. That I will keep. Organ donation, it's like recycling but better. Some chapters are not so bad but they do need tweaking. There is enough happening to keep them in the book, but it's not pretty. I will make them pretty later. These chapters go in the fix later pile. This revision is about the big picture.

I have just cut 10 chapters, and put 20 scenes on the organ donation pile, and have eaten another cupcake (they came two in a box). I will make a healthy smoothie now and think about going for a walk or watching endless Netflix episodes. Here is important news: PROCRASTINATION is part of the process.

Have fun revising the big picture.  I will be back next week with more on revision.   More fun ahead.

Here is a doodle.



And now a quote for your pocket. Praying we all unarm the truth and love unconditionally. 

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. Martin Luther KIng

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Publish: Theme

Hi folks, I am writing a summer long series. It's called Publish and is in conjunction with my TEENSPublish workshop at the Ringer Library in College Station, Texas. The tribe is working hard. We had a committee meeting this week about the title of our book and here it is:  A New Generation: TEENSPublish 2015 Anthology. We also picked a trim size for our book.  Now on to the topic.

This week we dove into theme. I think some of this will relate to any creative life. We created word clouds through Wordle.net.  First we wrote a list of topics. These topics were used to create our cloud.  The word cloud image has to be posted somewhere and stared at on a regular basis as you create your work.  In other words, don't mess with theme while you are writing. Be aware of it but don't touch it.  You will end up on the road of didactic and moralistic.  Avoid at all cost.

We talked about how theme works.  You take a topic and then you say what the author is trying to say about that topic.  Here are two examples.  In Star Wars, a topic is destiny.  The road to destiny will show up when your pining for it, it won't be what you expected, it will rip you away from everything you have ever known, it will be harder than you ever dreamed, and it will be better than you ever expected. In Finding Nemo, a topic is fatherhood.  A father will go to the ends of the earth to save a beloved son; nothing will stand in his way.

Finally I mentioned some of my theme tricks. I drop quotes around to inspire me as I work on a book. I put them in junk drawers, tape them to the bottom of lamps, and tuck them between the pages of my favorite books, and when I stumble on them, I think about them. I also pick out a list of inspirational songs and play them before or while I am working. I also chose inspirational images and then stare at them when I get stuck.  These activities feed my theme. I don't know how and I don't want to know. The journey of writing a book is saying what you want to say and it something of a mystery, just like you.

I hope you enjoyed this little trip into theme.  I hope you never think about and create it anyway. Dig into your soul and you will share what your theme. I will be back next week with revision.

Here is doodle for you:
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A quote for your pocket. This is some inspiration for one of my books.

“The past is never dead. It's not even past.” William Faulkner.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Sprout Wings

Hi folks, I struggled with this blog. So many pressures from every side. Writing is not in a vacuum. It is in the real world, and this world is full of troubles, big and small.  I began to think about an idea I have always held this weekend.  If you fall in a pit, get up on the side closest to where you to want go, crawl out, and keep on going. A new idea came to me. 

Why don’t you just sprout wings and fly away?

How? I mean sprouting wings would be a pretty big miracle and this is the age of information and reason. We don’t live in a world that is NOT clinging to the mysterious. I wondered about the idea of sprouting wings. It felt very evolutionary to me.  You know, life adapts, and a lifetime of crawling out of pits made me long for something more. An evolutionary step seemed better than the same old reaction to stupidity.

Perhaps this is the heart of what makes us human -- three dimensional thinking. Your stories will pop if you think about making your characters evolve.  We tend to the ordinary, consider the extraordinary.  I think the best writers don’t wrap it all up. They deal in imagery and theme.  The unseen world is how they live their days.  Writing is to akin to dreaming, except you are awake. Our dreams can be chaotic and meaningless, but they can also help us make sense of the chaotic meaningless world.  Those words you are putting on the page, you are bringing light into darkness.  Keep going!

Finally, I considered my idea of sprouting wings. There is nothing new under the sun. An old scripture whispered within me: They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They shall soar on wings like the eagles. It is strange how the words of the Prophet Isaiah from around 720  BCE  resonate within me today. I love writers. They are thinking ahead. They are reaching to the ages ahead.  They see into the murky darkness of the future and they see you.

As you write, think about shining into the darkness of the future. You have the potential to transform the world. 

I will be back next week with more of TEENSPublish. I hope that you keep writing. Someone needs those stories. 

A sneak peek at an illustration for my soon to be indie published picture book: CHICKENS DON'T TAKE OVER HALLOWEEN!


Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint 

Isaiah 40; 28-31.   Write this on your heart, folks.  

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Publish: Setting

Hi folks, I'm starting a series that will last for the summer. It's called Publish and is in conjunction with my TEENSPublish workshop at the Ringer Library in College Station, Texas. This is the fourth week and I'm covering setting. I think some of this will relate to any creative life.

One piece of the publishing puzzle is an authentic setting. The tribe attacked setting this week with fever.  Setting is about perception. It is the creation of the exterior world within a novel or short story. Setting is the sensory experience of a story. The best stories understand the importance of sensory experience. 

The first exercise we tackled this week was the bird's eye view.  Crayons and pencils were passed out; and the students were happy to take flight in their imagination and draw the bird's eye view of the setting in the first scene of their stories. This exercise is important because it forces the creator to go beyond the four walls. Is a nightingale singing outside the room of the house?  Is the wind picking up outside and whistling in the cracks?  Is there a rose arbor outside the window? Are ninjas hiding outside the window? The bird's eye perspective can enrich a scene.

Next we explored how language truly affects our setting.  Word choice is important when creating the mood of a scene.  We described our scenes with hard consonants with long vowels and then with soft consonants and short vowels.  The meanings of the words were similar but the scene changed with careful word choice. The upshot of this exercise? There is a poetic element to setting that must be addressed. 

Last we watched a video on world building.  Some of the tribe must invent partial or whole worlds to write inventive stories. This video is a good place to get started with is here.   To me what is important about world building is limiting what is different from the real world. What we love about other worlds is how they remind of us home.  You may travel to the far reaches but what resonates is when you meet someone from your hometown or you find out the banana pudding is just like home.  It's what brings us together that is important, not what separates us.  Good advice for world building and life, too, I think. 

I hope that you think about setting this week as you create master works. I research the settings of my books. Here is a public board on Pinterest for the setting of my book PLUMB CRAZY.  You might find this informative.  Click on the link in the side bar if you want to know more about the book.

Hope you create master works this week.  Next week we will take a break from the nuts and bolts and sneak in a contemplative blog about the universe, creativeness, and such. See you then.


Here is a art.

And finally a quote for your pocket. 
Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm. Abraham Lincoln.