Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Start the Day with a Mini-Project

I'm a big fan of morning pages, but there are definitely times when I need a break. It's not that I don't find the pages useful, but every now and then I need to shake up my routine and make life more . . . exciting.  

One of the ways I thought of doing that was to start my day with a "mini-project" instead of the usual three handwritten pages Julia Cameron recommends in The Artist's Way. I got the idea from a gardening book that mentioned how Renoir painted a single rose every day before tackling his main work-in-progress. I don't know if I could stick to a regimen that centered on a single subject, but I can certainly appreciate the need for a warm-up exercise. With that in mind I sat down and brainstormed what might work for me--and for you, too! 
  • Write a structured poem such as a sonnet, pantoum, or ghazal. Base the poem on last night's dream.
  • Cut three pictures with a similar theme or subject from a magazine. For example, 3 pictures featuring purple. Or three pictures of dogs, or children, recipes, etc.
  • Collage a three-page character bio--for either an existing character or a new one.
  • Play with watercolor brushstrokes: random colors, patterns, feelings.
  • Sketch one item only, e.g. a cup, an apple, a toy--using a single medium.
  • Write three pages of dialogue.
  • Place an artist's mannikin in a fresh pose every day. Record the poses in a single sketchbook used only for this purpose.
  • A quick sketch of where you are right now. Try a different color of pencil or ink for each day.
  • Write a stacked journal entry in three colors of ink.
  • Clay: make a small pinch pot, egg cup, votive, bead, dipping bowl, soap dish, or incense holder.
  • Three pages of flash fiction.
  • Mini-collage on a piece of junk mail.
  • Set a timer and create a new Polyvore set or Pinterest Board in twenty minutes or less.
Tip of the Day: At the end of the month, collect all these mini-projects and use them to create a larger piece, or to inspire you in some fresh way. For instance, a sketchbook of mannikin poses could be the basis for a new children's book. The stacked journal entries could be part of a framed collage. At the same time, examine what you enjoyed writing or drawing the most. Did you have a favorite theme, color, or medium? Take note and keep exploring.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Holly Schindler Update: Cover Reveal for Feral

Earlier this month, guest author Holly Schindler stopped by with some excellent advice on writing for the middle grades. For everyone who enjoyed that post, here's some more exciting news from Holly: her next YA, FERAL, will be out this August and published by HarperCollins.

The blurb alone will give you chills:

It’s too late for you. You’re dead.

Those words float through Claire Cain’s head as she lies broken and barely alive after a brutal beating. And the words continue to haunt her months later, in the relentless, terrifying nightmares that plague her sleep. So when her father is offered a teaching sabbatical in another state, Claire is hopeful that getting out of Chicago, away from the things that remind her of what she went through, will offer a way to start anew.

But when she arrives in Peculiar, Missouri, Claire quickly realizes something is wrong—the town is brimming with hidden dangers and overrun by feral cats. And her fears are confirmed when a popular high school girl, Serena Sims, is suddenly found dead in the icy woods behind the school. While everyone is quick to say Serena died in an accident, Claire knows there’s more to it—for she was the one who found Serena, battered and most certainly dead, surrounded by the town’s feral cats.

Now Claire vows to learn the truth about what happened, but the closer she gets to uncovering the mystery, the closer she also gets to discovering a frightening reality about herself and the damage she truly sustained in that Chicago alley. . . .

With an eerie setting and heart-stopping twists and turns, Holly Schindler weaves a gripping story that will make you question everything you think you know.

Sounds great, doesn't it? Congratulations, Holly! Now all we need is the patience to wait until August, LOL! 

Tip of the Day: I truly admire Holly's work ethic and output, it's been a pleasure following her publishing career. One of the things that has made it especially inspiring to me has been Holly's willingness to share--whether it's been through guest blogging, or with one of her many videos, all well worth watching. Just type "Holly Schindler" in the YouTube search box and the entire range will appear. The videos are fun, informative, and offer a great example of how to make the writing path a great place for all of us.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Art and Writing: Two Sides of the Creative Coin

"Sunday Lunch"

I've never been the sort of writer (or artist, for that matter) who likes to stick with one genre, style, or way of doing anything. It's why I can never follow a recipe--I prefer to explore, experiment, and run with my latest concoction to make it my own. Admittedly, the running sometimes takes a wrong turn and I can fall flat on my face, but believe me, I've learned how to turn that into a creative project, too!

And therein lies what I feel is the real secret to creative success:  use everything you can to enrich and enliven your world--everything. Avoid the trap of thinking you don't have enough time, talent, or energy to try more than one discipline. Here's why:
  • Variety is the spice of life, and "art" covers a vast range of flavors:  photography, textiles, collage, jewelry, ceramics, painting, and, of course, writing. Each one feeds the other, making for a delicious meal.
  • It's good to take a vacation away from "words only." A change is a good as a rest, an excellent cure for any kind of perceived creative blockage.
  • Trying out new creative avenues forces you to go outside your comfort zone--the place where some of your best and most interesting ideas and instincts reside. Go get 'em!
  • Working with your hands is meditative, a relaxing way to turn off what the Buddhists call "monkey mind," that incessant chatter inside our heads distracting us from what really matters. That said, however, you might also find that working without words clears the way for new ideas to appear just when you least expected them. Be sure to keep a notebook beside your easel or work table to jot down sudden inspirations.
  • Sketching and painting are great ways to create your own story and plot prompts. The acrylic and oil pastel piece I posted above always makes me wonder about the people who aren't in the picture--a world of possibilities!
  • Illustrating one of your existing stories or WIP's is a way to go more deeply into your work--what will you discover that you can add to the text?
  • Playing with color can set the tone and mood for your writing, helping you to learn more about yourself as well as your manuscript.
  • Although many publishing houses prefer to work with their own illustrators, there's nothing wrong with making some of your own suggestions for cover or interior art once a manuscript has been accepted. If you already have a selection of artwork for referral, you can offer your ideas with more confidence and knowledge.
  • And who knows? You might get good at this! Editors are always breaking "the rules." Your artwork may be the very thing they're looking for. Practice makes perfect, so don't use the excuse of "nobody buys unknown artwork" as a reason to not go after a dream.
  • There's always self-publishing, too! Be bold, take a risk. Thanks to technology, it's never been easier or cheaper.
  • Even if your artwork doesn't make it into the pages of your published book, there's always room for promotional tie-in's to your story; for instance: tote bags, jewelry, and T-shirts each featuring your characters, settings, unique vision and style. 
Tip of the Day: For me, art and writing go together for me like tea and cake, or movies and popcorn--the combination is irresistible. If you're a writer, make a list of art projects you'd like to try, regardless of your skill level or experience. Choose one, and make a start. It might be just a visit to an art supply store, or signing up for a continuing ed. class. If you're already a visual artist but never tried writing, take out a few of your drawings and paintings. Can you see any story ideas? Make a list, choose your favorite, and start small with a poem, short essay, or a one-page piece of "flash fiction."