Friday, December 21, 2018

Holiday Greetings 2018, A Year in Review

'Tis the season for all good things: delicious treats, wonderful visits with friends and family, cozy sweaters, sparkling lights and sparkling wines . . . the list of holiday pleasures could go on and on. It's also a good time of year for reflection: how did the past year go" What worked, what didn't? Did we reach our goals?  

For me it was an interesting year, with new goals and new challenges appearing as unexpectedly as reindeer down the chimney. On the whole, though, I'd say everything turned out better than I could have ever imagined:
  • I got an agent! Yes, I did. I'm happy and excited to announce that I have signed with Laura Strachan of the Strachan Literary Agency to represent my novel, The Abyssal Plain.
  • Which led to a revised manuscript. It was hard work, but in the end I couldn't have been more grateful to Ms. Strachan for her discerning and very perceptive evaluation of The Abyssal Plain. For several weeks she worked tirelessly to show me where I needed to make the book stronger and more cohesive. She also encouraged me to come up with a much better book description than anything I'd ever written before.
  • I took an illustration class. To celebrate my progress with The Abyssal Plain, I treated myself to a week-long illustration class with author/artist Neecy Twinem. For my class project I chose to work on my picture book, The White Pony, and I've made a ton of progress toward developing my ideas (and skills) further.
  •  Sold my house. And quickly too! Five weeks on the market and we were done.
  • Bought and renovated a mid-century downtown condo. I never knew I was capable of sanding so much paint off the walls without a single complaint, LOL! But I was dedicated to making our new little home the perfect base for this current stage of my life which is going to center far more around creativity rather than housework. Two and half months after moving in, the plan is working great.
  • Finished my Taiwan art journal. This might not sound as dramatic as some of my other year's events, but this journal has been a labor of love for over a year, and I'm glad to close the covers at last. More the equivalent of a multi-page "mood board" than a typical journal, I can now use the pages as an excellent resource for subject matter, color palettes, and writing prompts.
  • Read some amazing books. My favorite amongst these was Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch. I read it at nights after days spent renovating my condo, and I couldn't have made a better choice. The story-line took me far away from the world of paint chips and drywall. Highly recommended.
  • NaNoWriMo. I didn't win, but at least I showed up! And Had a Wonderful Time!
  • New Mexico SCBWI Enchantment Show. I'd never tackled anything remotely like this before, but somehow between book revision and condo renovation I organized a small art show for my local chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Eight illustrators and eight writers were paired together to create a collaborative piece of art and writing based on the theme of "Lost and Found." When all sixteen pieces of work were complete, everything was then put on display at the Erna Fergusson Library here in Albuquerque for the month of September. Part of the show included a reception where the authors read their stories aloud and the illustrations were digitally displayed on a wall-size screen. The whole event was just delightful, and I'm looking forward to working with the show again next year.
  • Ink drawing (almost) every day in my Moleskine. Besides reading whenever I had some downtime, one of the things I tried to do every day was create at least one ink drawing in my Moleskine sketchbook. I learned a lot working with ink (no erasers allowed!) for a solid year, especially how to embrace and cultivate "happy accidents."
  • Bought a sewing machine. When I couldn't find the bedroom curtains i wanted, I had to end up making them. Which was great: I bought a sewing machine, something I haven't owned in nearly ten years when I gave my old one away to a friend's mother. Back then I thought I was finished with stitching, bobbins, and seam rippers for good, but my new machine, a very simple and basic Singer, has me re-thinking all that. I may even start sewing a whole new summer wardrobe next spring. Project Runway, anyone?
  • Discovered I want to make metal clay beads and pendants. This was a rather late discovery, only occurring about a week ago. But I was curious as to why my beading had slowed down to almost nothing during the second half of the year. That's when I realized my whole problem revolved around not having the beads and focal pieces I wanted. Like my curtains, I would have to make my own. After all, I have a kiln, I love to work with clay, and I love to design things to make with clay. There's a studio just a few blocks away from where I now live that will be offering a class on the entire process in April. How lucky is that? Roll on 2019!

Tip of the Day: The end of the year is the perfect time to start imagining and writing down goals and plans for 2019. What will you do to create the year you want? I'd love to hear what you come up with. Thanks for visiting--see you next year!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Happy Holidays: Stay Creative Every Day!

Image © creativeommonsstockphotos
Happy Holidays! How's your creative life going? If you're anything like me, you may be finding it a struggle to fit writing and/or drawing into a season that makes the day job extra-busy, fills up the social calendar with parties galore, and keeps you standing in line at the mall for what seems like eternity

Unfortunately, unless you decide to make your own holiday cards or gifts (a mistake I'll never try again, , ,) you might feel as if your muse has flown to Bermuda for the month, leaving you far behind. But don't give up: there's still plenty you can do to revive and restore flagging holiday creativity--cocoa and warm blankets included!
  1.  Too tired to pick up a pencil? Read! Escapist; comfort; genre; literary; poetry; nonfiction--whatever attracts your attention, go for it. On the surface, reading might seem like a creative cop-out, but it's one of the most important activities anyone can do to top up the "idea bank" while taking a much-needed rest. It also can lay the foundation for future creative work once the holidays are over.
  2. Play with Color. A sketchbook doesn't have to be used solely for sketches of actual objects or landscapes. Sometimes just arranging swatches of color into interesting designs and patterns can be enough to stimulate your imagination for more structured work. Something I love to do is paint page after page of watercolor washes using every color in my paint box. It's amazing how once the paint is dry you can see dozens of potential images within the wash to outline for later painting (or writing.) I also like to do this with cut-outs from magazines, concentrating on the colors rather than the subjects of the photos.
  3. Go to the craft or discount store with a $20 bill just for you. Buy yourself some stocking stuffers that will please nobody but yourself: stickers, washi tape, crazy pencils: items you won't be able to resist playing with once you get home.
  4. Go for a walk in a place you've never been before. This has been a little easier for me now that I've moved downtown, but seeing new settings, people, and tiny nooks and corners I've previously missed has given me fresh ideas for future work. I'm also making a list of places to revisit once the weather improves and I can sit outside to sketch or journal.
  5. Journal your feelings and ideas solely with inspirational, or unusual, photos and illustrations. No writing, just visuals. The finished journal can provide you with a wealth of ideas, prompts, and story lines well into the New Year. It's also a lovely item to just sit with, turning the pages and meditating on the individual elements.
  6. Watch old movies, particularly the ones you loved as a child. Write about why they're so special to you, and about the first time you watched them. How have your feelings and impressions changed with the passage of time in-between viewings?
  7. Plan a "vision quest" nap. Not only is this a great way to catch up on sleep, but it gives you a positive intention and a plan for creativity once you wake up. My personal method is to take a page from my visual journal, study it for a few minutes, and then tell myself to dream about it. This really works! Make sure you have a pen and paper next to your bed or couch so you can start writing the minute you open your eyes. 
One of the reasons we love the holidays is that they're supposed to be a chance to re-charge our lives with good will, good food, good company, and an atmosphere of magical wonder. Creative breaks, even if they're only spent in 20-minute segments throughout the day can be the perfect opportunity to engage and fully enjoy the spirit of this miraculous season. 
    Tip of the Day: During the holidays (or any time of the year, for that matter) indulge in a timed social media vacation. Social media is a wonderful tool for sharing and friendship, but it can also steal away time and energy that could be spent adding pages to your novel or improving your drawing skills. Whether it's for a few days or a few hours, give yourself the gift of creative time. Be brave--cut the cord!

    Tuesday, December 4, 2018

    I Didn't Win NaNoWriMo and That's OK--Really!

    Image © Commonsstockphotos
    Nope, didn't win. And I'm just fine with that, especially as my true goal this year was to write. Now if I had reached my goal of 50K, that would have been wonderful too, but more than anything I just wanted to get back into a daily writing schedule. 

    I may not have been a winner this year (and huge congratulations to all of you who did win), but neither do I feel that I came home empty-handed. Not only did I have the fun of once again being part of an international month-long community of writers, but I also feel as if I won an entire basketful of door prizes, starting with:
    • A cast of interesting characters and a strong story outline for a YA mystery set in a remote mountain boarding school. Prior to sitting down and writing the words "Chapter One" I had no idea these people were even in my head!
    • I learned I still could do it. After what has been nearly a year of condo renovations, and then all of the discombobulation of selling my home and moving into said condo, I wondered if I would ever be able to write again. Fortunately the answer is "Yes, of course I can!" making me feel a lot more confident about heading into 2019.
    • I discovered some new places to write, my favorites being the downtown Albuquerque library and the Albuquerque museum. Very inspiring.
    • I returned to writing by hand and absolutely loved going "old school."
    • I discovered a fun set of exercises I used as writing prompts that I can use with my writer's group.
    • After each writing session, I went back to my also-neglected drawing and painting. Sketching out my NaNoWriMo settings helped re-orient me back into my creativity on many levels.
    • I bought some lovely new writing tools: a new notebook from Spain decorated with flower-laden llamas, and several varieties of smooth-writing pens such as Marvy's  Le Pen, and Pentel Energel (both in violet ink, of course!).
    •  I found I could most easily write in 300-word sprints, something I can continue to fit in anywhere, anytime, any place e.g., at my desk eating lunch, before work, waiting for my laundry to dry.
    Best of all, I'm now recharged to return to my revisions on my novel, Ghazal, which was the whole point of joining the challenge in the first place. My NaNoWriMo story will have to go onto a back-burner for a while, and that's another thing that's okay with me. Before you know it, July's Camp NaNoWriMo will be here and I'll have a head-start on characters, plot, and setting. See you there! 

    Tip of the Day: National Novel Writing Month doesn't end in November. No matter what time of year it is, you can always visit to explore a wealth of tips, advice, inspiration, and motivational prompts.

    Tuesday, October 30, 2018

    The Big Move to Small Condo Life

    Photo by ©creativecommonsstockphotos
    We did it! Sold our house, finished renovating (most of) the condo, moved into said condo, and are now tackling the last of the to-do list, e.g., buying curtains and installing a new glass shower door. But other than that, we've got our keys, downstairs storage locker and parking space, and can actually find where (most of) our belongings are without too much confusion. We've even started taking the long-dreamed-of downtown walks I had so very much wanted to be an integral part of moving in the first place. It's all better than good; 845-square-feet have never felt more spacious, comfortable, and easy to clean. (Low maintenance being high priority for sure.) So. Here we are, settled, unpacked, down-sized, and happier than clams. (Why clams are happy, I have no idea, but maybe it has something to do with being cozy in their shells, an apt metaphor for our tiny but far-from-cramped new urban lifestyle .)

    To celebrate getting everything into place after several months of constant anxiety, uncertainty, sore muscles, and a complete absence from the Internet, neither blogging nor tweeting or even writing a fraction of the emails I'm dreadfully behind on, I decided to go completely wild and crazy and sign up for . . . drum roll, please . . . NANOWRIMO! IT'S TRUE! Yes, I've gone completely mad, but I can't think of a more invigorating way to jump-start my sorely-neglected creativity than with a brand new manuscript, especially the one I said I would never, ever write. Ever.

    One of the things that pushed me to go for NaNo this year was the wonderful opportunity I now have to write in not only downtown cafes and parks, but the local museums too, all of which are just a few minutes away by foot. And don't even get me started on all the great gathering spaces I have both indoors and out within the condo complex (including our very own library). I'm well aware that I have several other manuscripts I should be revising, editing, and preparing for publication now that I'm not focused on bubble wrap and paint chips, but I don't seriously think the literary world is going to implode if I take an extra 30 days for myself to freewrite, explore, and go for that always-exciting 50K goal. Besides, what else do I have to do now that I only have one bathroom to clean and a small balcony to sweep? Other than the day job and  collecting quarters for the laundry room, my time is pretty much my own once again. And that, dear reader, is better than all the clams you can shake a stick at, or whatever it is one does with clams besides make soup. 

    Tip of the Day:  This one's easy: get on over to National Novel Writing Month, sharpen your pencils, and start your engines. Your novel awaits, as do all your potential writing buddies. In the meantime, Happy Halloween!