Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Filling the Well; Filling the Joplin School Libraries

Another weekend creative session--this time firing up my (very small) electric kiln for a Cone 6 stoneware coil-built pot I started about six months ago.  Plenty of time for the clay to dry, especially here in New Mexico, but for a variety of reasons I was reluctant to submit the piece to the kiln.

To start with, the pot measures 12" high, which is the entire height of my kiln--I was worried I wouldn't be able to close the kiln lid.  To make the pot fit, I wouldn't be able to use a kiln shelf; all I could do was place the piece on the kiln floor.  The glaze I chose is manufactured locally, and the clay store wasn't very enthusiastic about it.  They warned me it would drip, and I certainly didn't want glaze destroying the floor of my kiln.  And then Cone 6 is such a long, hot firing.  Most of my work with this kiln has been low fire earthenware, 8-9 firing hours max; the only time I tried Cone 6 it was a disaster.  Would this one be the same?   Worry, worry; fuss, fuss.  Finally I got so sick of my concerns I decided to just jump off the deep end and get that pot finished!  Results = one happily fired pot, no kiln damage, and a good lesson learned:  Stop fussing!  Stop worrying!  There are bigger things in life than potentially messy glazes.

Which brings me to the real subject of today's post:  REQUEST FOR JOPLIN, MISSOURI LIBRARY RELIEF.

Yesterday I received an e-mail newsletter from my Albuquerque chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.  Included was a message from Joyce Ragland, RA, SCBWI-Missouri.  Joyce wrote:

"Five Joplin school libraries were damaged or destroyed in the Joplin tornado. Beyond that, many teachers had many personal libraries damaged or destroyed. Some teachers, I'm told, had years of books they had purchased to share with their students and are now rebuilding. So far, they have put together 7,800 backpacks for kids in summer school, thanks to many volunteers from all over the world who've donated cash and/or books. Still much to do. I can imagine the wonderful escapes into books that kiddos of all ages are getting."

Yes, I can certainly imagine the solace and escape books have to offer the young people of Joplin, and for that reason Dava Books will be sending several cartons of books early next week.  With that, I'd like to extend an invitation to my blog readers.  If you'd like to join with us and send some books of your own,  please address your packages to:

Attn: Debbie Heim
Library Memorial Education Center
310 West 8th Street
Joplin, MO 64801

I think this is a wonderful project and I wish the center much success in reaching their goals and more.

So, how does this tie in to pots?  Well, one of the things I enjoy about making pots is wondering how they will be filled.  Sometimes I fill them with plants and river stones, other times I turn them into holders for candles or pot pourri.  But usually I like to just leave them as they are, letting them be reminders to stay open to receiving the goodness of the universe.  So with that intention, I'm dedicating my new pot to the Joplin Library Project.  The pot may be small, but the project is big.  Let's help fill it to overflowing.

Tip of the Day:  I'm sure the library center will be open to all kinds of books, gently used from your shelves, or brand new copies straight from the bookstore.  If you can, please take some time to choose a special book to send to Joplin, maybe one of your childhood favorites or perhaps a book filled with inspiration and hope.  Whatever you can do, I know your efforts will be much appreciated.  Thank you!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Lessons From a Bead Class

Last Saturday I took a bead stringing class, something I've wanted to try for years.  It was super fun--and super exhausting.  I don't think I've ever been quite so focused on such a (deceptively) simple task in my life; after I got home I fell asleep for three hours straight. 

Up above you can see the results of my efforts after 7 1/2 hours of class instruction:  1 wire-strung bracelet; 1 "floater" necklace using knotted silk cord; and 1 wire-strung necklace.

Unfortunately the class was too successful and I now have a new obsession:  beads in all shapes, forms, sizes...  Like I really needed one more creative outlet.  But now that it's too late and the damage is done, here are some of the great things I learned:
  • Don't point the awl (a sharp and scary little tool) toward your eye or the person sitting next to you.  Of course with my typical inability to follow instructions, as soon as the teacher said, "Be careful!" I dropped the pointed end right onto my leg.  And continued to do this for the rest of the day.
  • On a more positive note:  Keep a bead journal.  I liked this tip very much.  The goal is to create a sketch/scrapbook of ideas, colors, photos of your various creations, sales, and anything else you want to put in there.  I thought this was a lovely idea, and I plan to buy a special journal just for this purpose.
  • Find beads at yard sales and thrift stores.  I never thought of this, and it's an excellent suggestion.  Even the most unattractive piece of old jewelry might have one or two interesting beads well worth the price of the entire necklace.
  • Use a bead board template.  A wonderful tool for measuring, laying out, and rearranging pieces until you get them just the way you want.
  • And finally--just do it!  By the end of the day I had learned to use my awl correctly (small miracles), make a variety of knots (intentional ones), "crimp" beads onto the end my wires, bend "clam shell" end-holders together, and feel confident enough to continue bead stringing on my own.
Perhaps the most interesting lesson for me was how I chose my beads.  The pre-class material list said to "bring lots of beads."  I wasn't sure what "lots" meant as I had no idea what we would be making, or how much of any one type of jewelry item.  Going to the bead store didn't make the task any easier.  Seeing walls and walls and cases and cabinets filled with glowing, sparkling, amazing beads in every shape and color had me stumped; where to start?  In the end I gave up and purchased two "grab bags" of random, mismatched beads; one in green and the other in purple.  It turned out to be the best decision I could have made.

Stringing necklaces from random beads is exactly, I discovered, how I write, especially when I use writing prompts or magazine cut-outs.  One of my favorite things about writing is making connections between apparently unrelated events.  I like quirky, unusual, and different approaches to story problem-solving, and this is how I had to tackle my beads, especially when I didn't have enough of any one color or style of bead to make a perfectly matched set.  But as they say on Project Runway, who wants "matchy-match" anyway?

At the start of the class the teacher warned that bead stringing could become compulsive--but it could also be an excellent way to relax, dream, and zone out for awhile.  She was right; in spite of my initial tension (don't drop the awl...don't drop the beads...) I found that by the end of the day I was stringing my beads and also thinking of characters, scenes, and plots for future stories.  Using my brain in a way that was both methodical and creative seemed to put me in a space that looked forward to my next writing session.  As soon as I woke up from my after-class nap, I wrote five brand new pages I then had to collage right away.  Best of all, I got to reward myself with a bunch of new bling!   

Tip of the Day:  Summer school:  What kind of creative class is calling to you?  Take it!  In the meantime, what if you thought of your various scenes as beads?  What is the most pleasing, and most original, way you can string your story together?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Monday Congratulations!

Just a quick post to share some good news with you all, starting with the winners for the Holly Schindler Giveaway.  First place went to Erika of One A Day Y.A., and our second place winner is Claudsy of Claudsy's Calliope.  Congratulations, winners!  And thank you, everyone, for participating in my very first book giveaway.  We'll have to hold another one soon.

Next, I wanted to let readers know that one of my blog followers, Man Martin, has a new book released tomorrow that you can order today: Paradise Dogs.  Published by Thomas Dunne Books, the novel sounds absolutely hilarious and has already received great reviews from such prestigious reviewers as Publisher's Weekly, Kirkus, and Atlanta Magazine.  Congratulations, Man!  And what a super cover:

Last of all, I just heard from the organizer of the 2011 New Mexico Women Authors Book Festival in Santa Fe, and I've been invited back to present another workshop.  This year I'm scheduled for October 9th at 11.30 AM, and my topic will be "Book Trailers:  How and Why You Need One."  Right now I have two trailers you can view on my sidebar here, but by the time of the festival I will have released two more.  I'm very excited because not only is Santa Fe a wonderful place to visit, but the book festival is so much fun to attend.  And I'll be signing copies of my next novel, Overtaken, so in essence the festival will mark that book's big debut.

In the meantime, wishing you all a happy and productive week.  Congratulations again to our giveaway winners and to Man Martin.  Good job!

Tip of the Day:  Put those pens and paintbrushes down for a couple of hours.  It's summer, time to read and fill up the creative well with a good book (or several).  So everybody get to the bookstore, the library, your best friend's book shelf.  Run, don't walk!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Awards, Prizes: Today is a Good Day!

Happy Thursday, and Happy Blog Giveaway Day!  First off, I'd like to thank everyone who took the time to leave a comment on Holly Schindler's guest post.  It was great to hear from you and I'm only sorry that I had to pick just two winners. 

Speaking of which, a few minutes ago I ran the list of commenters (that's a word, right?) through a great selection service: and got back a new list putting the names in winning order.  The first two names will be contacted this afternoon and will have 48 hours to let me know their mailing addresses.  If I don't hear back in time, I'll go down to the next names on my list.  So until then, the names will still be kept a secret.  Stay tuned!  With any luck winners will be announced over the weekend.

In the meantime, I also wanted to let you know that I received a new blog award:  The Versatile Blogger, from Nomar Knight at  It's a fun award and here are the rules: 

1.  Thank and link to the person who nominated you.
2.  Share 7 random facts about yourself.
3.  Pass the award on to 5 new-found blogging buddies.
4.  Contact the winners to congratulate them.

So from the top:  Thank You, Nomar!  It was great to hear from you; much appreciated!  (Nomar's link is posted just above the "rules.")

7 Random Facts About Me (not selected by

1.  I write morning pages, but I don't keep them.  After I've made note of any "instructions" I might have written to myself, I toss them out.
2.  I took violin lessons in junior high school and loved them.  Loved them!
3.  When I lived in Georgia it took me two hours to mow my lawn with a rider mower.  It was fun and meditative, and I used the time mowing to plot out my stories or think about my characters.
4.  I sweep my kitchen floor every night before I go to bed.  I do this in memory of one of my sweet little cats who loved to watch me sweep, then try to catch the broom.  (He's now gone to cat heaven along with his two senior citizen kitty pals.)
5.  I miss my cats terribly, but I've decided to remain pet-free.  Now my pet nurturing instincts go into supporting shelters and humane societies.  (Please take a minute to click on my sidebar link that helps feed homeless pets.  Thanks!) 
6.  I'm taking a new art class next week:  Experimental Drawing.  Can't wait.
7.  I don't like camping.  No, no, no.  Hotels and hot water and clean towels are my idea of a vacation.  Dirt in my toothbrush just makes me cry.

So that's me, randomly.

5 great blogs I've discovered in the last few months:


Note:  wouldn't you know, with perfect irony, the lovely Kathryn Eastman of Blog #5, The Nut Press, has just posted about-- going camping.  But I'm sure camping in the UK is an entirely different experience than here in the Southwestern desert--I might even like it! 

So thank you, Bloggers, for inspiring me, and thanks again to Nomar Knight for giving me the award in the first place.

Tip of the Day:  Reading new blogs is always fun--and educational.  Please take the time to check out the six blogs mentioned in today's post.  I'm sure you'll enjoy your visit and will find plenty to inspire, motivate, and keep you on the creative path.  Enjoy!