Thursday, June 25, 2009

I Love Polyvore!

Okay, I admit it. I’m addicted to Polyvore., that is, the combined on-line collage, social networking, and shopping site that has changed my life, my creativity, and my whole approach to using the computer and Internet. Here are my top five reasons for never giving up:

1. I can base stories on my "sets" (collages you make on your “create page"). Often I’m inspired to write a blog post after making a set.

2. Where else can I belong to a group that addresses everyone as “Girls!”? “Girls! Contest ends in three days.” “Girls! Remember to use pink!” “Girls! We have contest winners!”

3. Everyone is so NICE. Not just ho-hum-nice, I mean, super-sweet, super-kind, super-appreciative nice. Because Polyvore allows users to comment on each others’ sets, you get instant feedback and praise; something writers rarely get enough of.

4. Polyvore boosts flagging creativity. While I was editing my last manuscript, I needed scheduled breaks. It was a reward to go on-line (“five pages and then I can go look for shoes to go with that Paris set…”). I could clear out my clogged left brain and the mini-vacation gave me new ideas for future work.

5. Polyvore brings the world together through art. Because of our sets, I am in touch with both aspiring and professional artists in Croatia, Lithuania, Germany, Serbia, Australia, Ireland…the list goes on and on. They are students, Christians, Muslims, dreamers, mothers, factory workers. They are incredible and I can’t imagine what my life would be like without them.

Although I have only been on Polyvore for a year now, anyone who has been in one of my groups or classes knows that an important part of my writing process has always been to collect and collage various magazine cut-outs to illustrate my scenes and character bios. My clippings, culled from magazines as diverse as Architectural Digest to National Geographic and Ceramics Monthly, not to mention Gourmet and Cat Fancy, have gone so far as to inspire entire stories, novels, and poems. I have used my cut-outs to describe a villain’s bedroom; fill up my heroine’s wardrobe; symbolize an important event from my hero’s childhood; or simply be the launching point for when I can’t think of “what happens next.”

I especially like to match a random phrase or word, also cut out from magazine pages, to the picture(s) and then use the combination as a writing prompt to get the whole piece started. I find this to be one of the best and most imaginative ways there is to begin and continue a work in progress. The technique has helped me design cover art, envision potential book trailers, and create other marketing tools such as bookmarks and tote bags. Perhaps the greatest beneficiaries of my “playing with pictures” have been the participants in my workshops where collaging has encouraged new writers to take risks and explore the possibilities of connecting two or more seemingly unrelated ideas or concepts.

Exactly one year ago a member of my writer’s group emailed me the link to with only the message that I “would love it.” Ten minutes later I was on the site, signed up with a user name and a profile, and happily engaged making a virtual collage that beat scissors and glue hands down. Later I learned I could join various “groups” such as those where you must use a bracelet in every set, or illustrate a favorite book or author; plus I could enter contests displaying my sets. (Contests are REALLY fun!)

Polyvore is a community. I know that is an overworked term these days, but I can’t think of any other description. This may sound silly, but it’s like attending a secret and artistic boarding school somewhere in the Swiss Alps that can only exist in one of those wonderful YA novels full of midnight feasts, shopping sprees, and dances held at the neighboring boys’ school. I think the great success of the site is its unabashed girliness. Polyvore is a place of evening gowns, rock’n’roll, Twilight, Audrey Hepburn, haute couture, "High School Musical", vintage fashion, BoHo Chic, film noir, country kitchen, kittens, Klimt, motorcycles, resort travel, and cool leather boots. Whatever you can dream, you can make happen on Polyvore.

Democratic and much safer than running with scissors, Polyvore has improved my entire confidence level regarding art making and the skills required. At the moment I'm using my sets to illustrate my blog postings. (Please click on the link to the side of the page to see the credits for all the items I’ve used in my sets. The individual items are even for sale if you just happen to be in the mood to purchase a $4000 pair of earrings from Barney's...)

If it is true that a picture speaks a thousand words, the sets shared on Polyvore are at least to me a universal language of the soul, and the souls of these lovely Polyvore artists are more than beautiful. They inspire me, they entertain me, they make me think. And I'm not quitting. So if anyone thinks it’s time to set up an intervention to get me away from my Polyvore, well, do so at your own peril. I won’t be responsible for the consequences!

Tip of the Day: No, you don’t have to rush over and join Polyvore. But if you do, my user name is "Davabooks." Make a set, let me know, and I'll "fave it" for sure. In the meantime, try this: collect magazines and other ephemera. Start files of people, places, animals, words, and other neat “stuff.” Mix them up, put a few together, and see what happens. I have a feeling it will be pure magic.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Premios Dardo Award, Part II

This week I'd like to share five more blogs I feel are deserving of the Premios Dardo (Top Dart) award:

Winners: to collect your award, please copy and paste the award onto your blog and follow the rules as stated in my 5/31/09 posting.

Blog readers: Please check out these wonderful blogs! I have been delighted to discover such heartfelt sites and it's my hope that you will be just as inspired as I have been reading them.

Tip of the day: Take the time to check out and bookmark a few new blogs every week on a variety of topics. There is some amazing information out there just waiting to be read and passed on. Best of all, blogs are great resources for researching story ideas; character professions, hobbies, and backgrounds; and getting to know some fascinating writers!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Write in France!

In my 5/23/09 posting on "revisions" I mentioned that I had invited friends to travel to France. Today I’m extending that invitation to my blog readers.

During the week of September 26 to October 3, 2009, my friend Nita Hughes, author of two acclaimed historical novels, Past Recall and The Cathar Legacy (see is leading a workshop and tour to an area in the south of France known as the Pays de Cathare. In her brochure about the trip, Nita describes the Pays de Cathare as: “a mystical and magical land full of ancient castles and bastide towns which 800 years ago were home to a fascinating people knows as the bonshommes (the “good men”). These enlightened Christians were later called Cathars, and were tragically massacred during the Albigensian Crusades in the 13th century. In the records of the Inquisition it is written that the Cathars possessed a treasure described as ‘…so powerful as to transform the world.’

As your guide, Nita shares her years of research writing her books about the Cathars. On the trip you will have the opportunity to explore the Cathar connection to the Templars, Rennes le Chateau, and the legends regarding Jesus and Mary Magdalene. At the same time, bring along your journal, sketchbook, WIP--this is also a chance to write, dream, and create in an atmosphere like no other.

To download the full brochure and to learn more about cost and deposit details (yes, there is still time to register!), please visit: and follow the “Montfaucon” link.

I met Nita through my writer’s group back in Carrollton, Georgia. Since then we’ve both moved to completely different parts of the country, but staying in touch with Nita’s exciting life and writing has always been inspiring. Altogether she has three books in print; the most recent, Safe Haven, is a romantic thriller set in the Philippines. Nita is a wonderful writer, with a special gift for bringing her characters and settings to life. Her high-tension storytelling combined with fascinating metaphysical and historical information is particularly impressive.

The other day I asked Nita a few questions:
Q. When did you first decide to become a writer?
A. I always loved to write since age 4, holding a pencil. And to speak-- communicating, stirring passions and prompting thought via words seemed miraculous.

Q. How did you become interested in the Cathars?
A. Cathar interest hit me out of the blue, literally, as I sat in the corner on a stool in a Melbourne bookstore, perusing books to buy. A book fell above me, landing in my lap, and opened to Cathars. Never heard of them and from that moment felt duty bound to bring them back to life.

Q. Do you have a writing schedule and if so, what is it?
A. 3 hours-between breakfast and lunch.

Q. What is your favorite book?
A. Many, but loved Anna Karenina by Tolstoy, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera (heavy on passions and magic realism).

Q. Any writing advice to share?
A. Write from your passion(s) –whether fiction or non-fiction.

Tip of the Day: Nita’s advice is invaluable. Are you writing from your passion? Quite often the real source of writer’s block is apathy toward your subject matter—trying too hard to fit into a genre or writing style you think is “popular” or “salable,” but not you. Sit down and brainstorm all the things that excite you—then choose one to write about.