Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Stacked Journaling and the Sketchbook Challenge

Over the weekend I discovered two new ways to work in both my journal and my sketchbook: The Sketchbook Challenge, and Stacked Journaling as taught by artist Judi Hurwitt on her blog, Approachable Art.

I found these great sites simply by entering the search terms "how to use a sketchbook." Admittedly that sounds like a really basic search, but I was looking for creative ways to get re-inspired for those times when I sit down to journal and/or sketch and suddenly get a bad case of the blahs.

As soon as I came across The Sketchbook Challenge however, I knew I'd struck gold. Not only was this a place to share and study sketching with an online community of productive artists, the site provides a theme every month for filling up those sketchbooks. No more excuses and I don't know what to draw. . . Right now the August 2012 theme is "Shelter," and so for my first attempt I did a quick sketch with Derwent Inktense pencils of the patio off my new condo's bedroom, a very sheltering place, indeed.

Later that day back on the computer, I discovered the term "stacked journal." As soon as I realized it had nothing to do with turning old journals into furniture or door-stoppers, but instead was a way of writing decoratively into your journal, the idea appealed to me. Basically, the technique is to write a paragraph at one angle, turn your pages to another angle and write over the previous paragraph, and so on until you feel ready to finish. For my first attempt it seemed appropriate to continue using the theme of "shelter," which I added to my drawing of the patio.

Here's a closer look at the journal entry on its own:

The results were extremely pleasing to me, and I know this is something I want to continue using in the future:
  • It's a way to turn emotional (and overly-emotional) content into art, with the emphasis on the word "transformation."
  • I love line and drawing. Using my handwriting as a line in itself truly expresses my style and direction.
  • I can see that it will be an interesting way to match and complement the subject I'm drawing, eventually creating an outline or shape that I can fill in with color or collage.
  • It could also be a unique way to deal with "negative space," the area around an object.
  • Writing into a gessoed background with a tool such as a paintbrush handle or a twig could create a very special texture for oil pastel, watercolor, and even collage.
  • Best of all, it seems an excellent way to write my heart out and then not feel I have to hide or throw away whatever I've put on the page. Instead of wondering "what do I do with this?" it can now be a work of art!
  • On top of everything else, it's just so surprisingly enjoyable and attractive at the same time. I'm excited about  the way it combines journaling, art journaling, and my sketchbook all under one umbrella. Very efficient, if you ask me.
Tip of the Day: Okay, start stacking those journal entries! Have fun, let go, and if you need more direction, please go visit Approachable Art. Let me know how it works for you.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Overtaken: Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

Before I get started with today's topic of "ideas," here's a good one to mention first: Overtaken is now on Kindle, and for the great price of just $4.99. I'd like to invite all you e-book fans to take advantage of this new opportunity to indulge in the lush, gothic, and romantic world of my heroine, Sara Bergsen. And of course, if you're still like me and not quite ready for virtual reading, you can always order a paperback copy direct from me or any other bookseller.

Which leads me back to ideas in general. While I was submitting my e-files for this new edition of Overtaken, I was reminded of my original inspiration and motivation for writing the story in the first place. So often I am asked (as are most other authors, I'm sure): Where do you get your ideas? On the surface it sometimes seems like a standard question, one that's easy to gloss over. After all, ideas are everywhere, the hard part is winnowing through the crop to finally settle on just one. But when I really thought about it, there were definite instances, experiences, and prompts I could point to throughout my creative life that have each influenced my work and given me my ideas.

One of the main sources to thank for much of Overtaken is The International Women's Writing Guild. At one of the IWWG Skidmore College summer conferences where I was teaching a workshop on self-publishing, I had the great privilege of attending classes with authors Emily Hanlon and Marylou Streznewski. The very last page of Overtaken was written before any other part of the book in Emily's class, and one of my dream sequences I eventually assigned to Sara was written under the guidance of Marylou. So thank you, ladies!

After returning home from the conference I continued to work on the book, mainly in the form of journal entries, morning pages, and other writing exercises from both how-to books and my writing groups. Within these writing sessions I would find myself wanting to write about different times and experiences from my own life, for instance:
  • London. Oh, how I love London. And just like Sara, for a while it was my home. Fortunately I've been able to go back a few times, but I still can't get enough of the place, so any excuse to set a story in London takes me back to my favorite shops, streets, museums, and galleries.
  • Sara is an artist--and I try my best to follow in her footsteps. Of course she is much more highly skilled than I am (she makes her living as a professional portrait artist), but it was fun to imagine the kind of paintings and style she preferred.
  • The Theosophical Society. For many years I've been intrigued and interested in the work of Helena Blavatsky and the society she founded. Even if you're inclined to regard (or dismiss) her writing as sheer myth and storytelling, it's mythology on a grand scale. The language of metaphor, symbolism, and "what if" helped me imagine the possibility of Sara and my other characters inhabiting parallel universes and realities.
  • From the TS, I was introduced to the work of Russian artist Nicholas Roerich, especially his costume and set designs for the Diaghilev Ballet, which then worked its way into my plot line as well.
  • Editor Ellen Datlow and her great anthologies of speculative fiction. Whenever I've come across these books I've devoured them. After several volumes I was inspired to write my own paranormal tale. The result was Overtaken.
  • My favorite pieces in the Datlow anthologies seemed to stem from fairy tales, and my favorite fairy tale of all time was, and is, Lona by Dare Wright. So it was natural that I asked myself the question: What if the Princess has to rescue the Prince? Hence the disappearance of Sara's new husband, Miles, and the primary story problem.
  • Greece. Okay, I've never been to Greece, but I've always wanted to go and I wanted Sara to go there too. The best way I found to start my research was with magazine cut-outs and collage. Collage helped me to "feel" where Sara was once she arrived there, and how she would react to her environment. It also provided me with some specific details I would never have found just by reading about the country.
  • Color; and the year my mother made hats. This is probably my most obscure motivation for writing Overtaken, but all of my life I've loved color, the more unusual the shade the better, and I think it stems from the time when I was in the first grade and my mother studied hat-making from a Hollywood dress maker. Every day after school we would go to the woman's house which was filled with the most fabulous fabrics, trims, and furbelows I have ever seen then or since. While my mother learned the intricacies of wiring Gainsborough-style brims, I got to play in the walk-in closet and try on the seemingly endless array of netted petticoats and gowns in every color imaginable: peacock blues; poison apple greens; Jezebel scarlets. I was in heaven! Now, as an author, I was able to relive that wonderful time by giving my heroine a similar immersion into her wardrobe, environment, and artistic palette.
Tip of the Day: Now it's my turn to ask you: Where do you get your ideas? Writing down your answers is a great way to prepare your marketing material for editors, publishers, and readers alike. This is an exercise that can work for artists and all creative-types, too. Don't hold back; enquiring minds really do want to know what makes your work personal and unique.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My Blog Interview with Marilee Brothers

I'd like to send a big thank you to Marilee Brothers at bookblatherblog.blogspot.com for her kind offer to not only interview me, but to post it too! Marilee's blog is great place to visit at any time, but if you pop on over to read the interview now, there's an extra bonus of a special book offer exclusive to her readers. So what are you waiting for?

Tip of the Day: Interviews are a fun way to get to know each other better, and they are an especially helpful way to learn more about our fictional characters. Take a cue from magazines, blogs, and even television shows for the best questions you can ask your story people to find out who they really are.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Blog Award Time

Excited to announce I've just received a new blog award--and with sincere thanks to LadyD Books. Great to hear from you my friend; truly appreciated! It's fun to add another award to my list, and it's even more fun to pass the award on.

For some background on the award, LadyD has written that Liebster is a German word which means sweetest, kindest, dearest, nicest. . . .  Okay, I'm starting to get embarrassed here! The award is also making me smile for quite another reason: years ago a good friend in California had a German houseguest with a small son stay for the summer. Every day my friend would hear the woman call her son what she thought was, "Liverwurst." One day my friend told me that she didn't think it was very nice of the woman to refer to her son as sandwich filling. Finally she had to speak up, and to her horror she found the woman wasn't saying "liverwurst" at all, she was calling the little boy, "Liebchen," or, "darling, little love." But by now "Liverwurst" was firmly lodged in my vocabulary, hysterically so, so I must say I'm grateful that I didn't receive the Liverwurst Blog Award!

Sandwiches aside, here are the Liebster rules:

1. The selected bloggers must post 11 facts about themselves.
2. They must also answer 11 questions the tagger has asked, and then ask 11 questions of 11 other bloggers with less than 200 followers. Be sure to tell them they've been tagged.
3. Remember, no tag backs.

And because I know it's not always easy to find the time to play along, I suggest we all go slow. In this blog I'm only going to name 4 bloggers, with plans to find the others during the coming months. The bloggers that I choose can either find their 11 now, or sometime in the future, if ever. The main point is to have fun and get to know each other a little better.

I'll start with my questions from LadyD:

1. Q: Where is your favorite place to read and write?  A: Curled up on the couch--any couch!
2. Q: What is the one book you loved and why? A: Lona, by Dare Wright. I felt so much like Lona as a child, that I was living in an enchanted castle, and waiting for the "spell" to break. And I adored the photography. I could look at that book for hours.
3. Q: If you could go anywhere in time, when and where would you go? A: Paris in the 1920s. Just like Midnight in Paris!
4. What are the two things for which you are most grateful that your parents provided for you? A: A good education and the freedom to read whatever I wanted.
5. Q: For one reason or another, you must go away to a deserted island. You can take one item with you. What do you choose? A: The Body Shop Vitamin E Eye Cream. Serious good stuff.
6. Q: If you could only eat one type of food for the rest of your life, what would you eat? A: Salad. I'm a dedicated salad fanatic.
7. Q: What is the one book you hated and can't stand? A: Oh, no--this is difficult--but I really do not like Who Moved My Cheese? I had to read it in grad school and I just wanted to throw it at the professor. I thought it was SO annoying.
8. Q: If you could be any magical creature, which one would you be? A: An elf like the ones in Lord of the Rings or the darker fairy tales. Elves always seemed romantic to me. Don't ask why.
9. Q: Name one book you could re-read over and over again A: This is a bit of a cheat because it's actually four books in one, but my answer is The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell. My copy is a single volume, and I've read it many times already; I just love that book.
10. Q: Which animated character best matches your personality? A: Well, I've always felt a close affinity to Boo-Boo Bear.
11. Q: List one word that describes you the best. A: Eclectic.

11 Facts About Me:

1. I’ve just sold my house and am now renting a condo—a whole new life and experience for me to have my front yard watered and weeded and a pool right outside my front door.
2. I adore Polyvore.com and find it relaxing, intriguing, and one of the best ways to “write” when I’m feeling stuck or uninspired.
3. I love teaching writing almost more than I love writing.
4. I’m a big Natalie Goldberg fan and have a signed copy of her book of art and poetry: Top of My Lungs.
5. I hate to paint “plein air.” Bugs, heat, wind, flapping paper, lost pencils. Ugh! If I sketch outside, I stay in my car!
6. I’m a vegetarian and love inventing gourmet vegetarian recipes.
7. I just went camping in an RV for the first time and loved it.
8. My favorite season is autumn and all that goes with it: sweaters, wood smoke, falling leaves.
9. I’m not an early riser by nature—I’d do anything to stay in bed till noon.
10. Museums and libraries are my favorite places on earth.
11. If I could live anywhere in the whole world I’d live in London.

My 11 Questions for my Blogger Friends:

1. Where was the last place you went on vacation?
2. What is your favorite board game?
3. If you could travel anywhere in the world—money no object—where would it be?
4. Which three literary characters would you like to invite for dinner?
5. What would the menu be?
6. What’s the next book to read in your TBR pile?
7. What’s your favorite piece of clothing and why?
8. What made you start blogging?
9. Do you have a ritual before you start writing or creating? If so, what is it?
10. Who is your favorite artist, and why?
11. What’s your guilty pleasure TV show?

And my selection of blogs to receive the Liebster Award are:
Diane Grolnick at Abbakiss and the Artist
Virginia Lee, author of Dagon's Blood
Suzanne Blazier, author of Family Reunion Keepsake Book
Charlotte Fairchild author of Murder on the Silver Comet Trail
Tip of the Day: Read the fine blogs mentioned here! And thanks for visiting.