I took a stand yesterday. It wasn’t comfortable but it was necessary. Patty Perfect — that would be my very lively inner critic — was harping in my mind’s ear, but instead of giving in, I ignored her. In a single bold move to rescue my gasping-for-breath creativity, I barred myself from logging in to work-related email and gave myself the gift of time. What to do? Play with the oh-so-fun online bookmaking application, blurb, and my collection of Nantucket Island photos.
I love writing, drawing or doodling on graph paper, so this was my paper of choice for the notebook’s blank pages. Eighteen summertime captures of favorite island nooks and krannies are staggered throughout 104 pages.
Time evaporated as eight hours flew by. Bliss reigned; I reviewed dozens of photo files, cropped, and tested selections. Utterly joyful.
The learning curve for Blurb’s bookmaking software is fairly easy to overcome. There are lots of formatting choices: ebook, softcover, hardcover, hardcover with wrapped image book jacket. The menu of sizes has something for everyone. Curious? Click the graphic above and browse the results of my day.
I realized I was in trouble when the folks who run craftgawker.com and foodgawker.com rejected my first photo submissions. Somehow that ‘professional opinion’ knocked me to my creative knees, in spite of all of the lovely compliments and encouragement during the lifetime of this blog. As painful as it was to have my composition criticized and deemed unacceptable for craft- and foodgawker’s reader base, the experience has also launched my thoughts about the why’s and what for’s of my little handmade corner of the world and catapulted me into new territory. I am now convinced that I needed this shake-up, that I was drifting in complacency, not to mention low productivity.
Do you know that in-between state, somewhere before you are fully awake but still tethered to your dreams? This morning, as I was slipping into consciousness, a voice said, “You’re not spending (enough) time with your own crafting/making/creating — stop browsing (and admiring, to be honest) everyone else’s work and focus on your own!” Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. (Could the amazing Elsita do what she does while frittering away time on the ‘net? Don’t think so.)
Once again I was reminded of Julia Cameron‘s advice to suspend recreational reading (for at least a week) so as to facilitate focus on one’s own work. (Not so different than suspending access to electronic devices in the classroom, which was a discussion topic at school this week.) Now, I love to browse the web sites and flickr photostreams of other artists and crafters. I love connecting with creative types all over the world, commenting on their blogs and photos, cheering them on and feeling a zing! of inspiration and the thrill of conversation when they respond in kind. But I have to wonder if this pattern of mine has become like starting and finishing a meal with dessert, and has left scant room for the basics, that is, time with me-myself-and-I.
Finding a balance between feeding my curiosity about what everyone else is up to and tending to my own endeavors is my new priority. Funny how ‘balance’ seems to pop back up, time and again. I wrote about it four years ago, and here I am again.
Do you find your own creative juices compromised by too much time web surfing? Does your inner artist ever feel soggy, saturated, and overwhelmed? Have you considered a social media detox? I’m putting myself on a social media diet. No time constraints, but until I make progress on that list of unfinished projects.
Wishing you peace and clarity in your creative pursuits this week.
Posted in 2011, Artist's Way, Crafts, Creativity, Detoxing, Inspiration, Joy, Life Balance, Origami, Photography, Publishing
Tagged Margaret Lobenstine, Renaissance Soul
Wide awake and it’s 3:00 a.m. So I pull my fancy night light out of the drawer in my bedside table and read magazine articles that might otherwise never see the light of day. I always enjoy Martha Beck’s perspective; she jogs my imagination. Her column in the May issue of “O” magazine on vision boards pokes at my curiosity, although I admit to a twinge of resistance, too. Do I still have confidence in such things? It’s been a while since exuberantly assembling images in pleasing arrangements on poster board, all while focusing positive energy on life changes and big dreams.
One phrase in her vision board how-to tickles my curiosity. “Forget about it,” Martha advises the reader. Success seems to include setting aside the collage, not hyperfocused vigilance. Interesting. This starts me thinking about my “get published” vision board from 2008, a collage that has been stashed away for months. At the time that I made it, I had committed to telling everyone — and I mean everyone — that I was looking for a literary agent for my historical young adult manuscript, “Safe Harbor.” No matter how out-of-context such a declaration might be.
This soon led to a fortuitous introduction to Diane Les Becquets, author of young adult fiction and recipient of a PEN American Fellowship. Looking back now, the events that followed seem so natural. But I am convinced that none of them would have come about had I not been willing to step out of my comfort zone. The person who introduced me to Diane is the husband of a woman I met at a craft fair. Yes, that’s right. I told a virtual stranger that I was looking for a literary agent! Just so happens, her husband is an English professor and colleague of Diane’s. He agreed to read my manuscript (talk about risk!) and if he liked it, he would speak to Diane about /for me.
Now here’s the part where you have to have faith. Diane wasn’t gaga over my manuscript. She thinks the voice is too antique for today’s young reader. But she did think my writing showed talent and promise. She offered to write a letter of recommendation to the MFA program at SNHU. The English prof wrote another. Two months later I was officially accepted into the program and arrived on campus for the summer residency. A year later I was awarded the Graduate Assistant position. And today I have in hand a strong manuscript draft of a teen-age memoir. Not bad for a high school drop-out.
But getting back to the vision board … I don’t have a literary agent and as of yet, there’s no publisher for my historical manuscript on the horizon. However, the MFA program comes with an advisory board of publishing professionals who are genuinely interested in helping fledgling writers. So I am closer than ever before, within conversational proximity. Now that I have spent the past two years honing my writing skills, perhaps it’s time to return to the manuscript that led to the MFA. Who knows what revisions and improvements are now possible. But first, I’m going to take my chances and test the waters with a submission to the Salem Literary Festival writing contest.
What do I know for sure? The story is not yet finished. My story, that is. The one told in images and phrases and captured on the poster board. The good news? Vision boards don’t come with an expiration date. I sure can’t wait to see what the next chapter brings!
Do you have a story about a vision board? I’d love to hear about it.
Your warm and encouraging comments about my photography have sparked a new idea: JOY CARDS — pocket-sized editions of my home & garden, craft, pet, food, and dance photography. Each image is enhanced with a custom motivational phrase on the back side. Now available in my new etsy shop. Come take a look!
I’m working on an online slide show of the 30 images in this inaugural Joy Card set. Stay tuned for the link.
December marks my 3rd blogaversary. Thank you for stepping into My Artful Life!
Posted in 2009, Art, Business, Crafts, Creativity, Inspiration, Life Balance, Photography, Publishing
Tagged entrepreneur, etsy, Joy Card, motivation
It was an action- and inspiration-packed week. And there was even another author event at Portsmouth’s Music Hall with Tracy Kidder, but I didn’t have the presence of mind to snap a photo.
Ann Hood is the visiting author this year at Southern New Hampshire University. I totally loved her novel, The Knitting Circle and am looking forward to her 2010 release, The Red Thread. On top of that, she is a totally fun person with great gusto for laughter. She is also a terrifically prolific writer — fiction, nonfiction and a zillion magazine publications. So this weekend, as I was reading about a blogger-become-book author in “More” mag, I was pleasantly surprised to see her now-familiar name at the byline. But then again, she’s the kind of woman with her keystrokes on a pulse-point. Welcome to SNHU, Ann!
It took two years of planning and committee meetings, but when Sunday, Oct. 25th arrived, the Friends of the Nashua Public Library were ready to host an afternoon with Chris Bohjalian. For those who wanted to chat with the author up-close-and-personal, we offered tickets to a private reception. It was a smashing success, as Chris graciously circulated among clusters of book club members and avid fans, many of whom were clutching copies of his most recent success, Skeletons at the Feast. Personally, I had a difficult time accompanying the characters as they survived the harsh conditions and cruel human acts of the winter of 1945. But Chris is a consummate story teller, both orally and on paper, and he did not disappoint us last Sunday. I was so transfixed during his 45-minute presentation that I barely bothered to adjust myself on the folding chair. Fantastic!
Every third-semester student in the SNHU MFA program is required to write a critical essay. The subject of the essay is to be on one aspect of the writing craft of an author (living or not) who writes in the same genre as the student is working in for their graduate manuscript project. The memoir author I have chosen for my essay is Augusten Burroughs. I am intrigued with his use of humor that has the reader laughing while at the same time choking or crying at the horror of the narrator’s circumstance. My email request for an interview went unanswered. But fortunately, his publicist has put together a tour for his latest book, You Better Not Cry. How lucky for me his tour included Boston! Tickets for his reading and Q&A were only $5, so if I couldn’t get an interview, at least I’d get to see him in action in the flesh. I was not disappointed — the reading was terrific and right in line with my thesis statement. As Augusten was leaving the stage, I mustered up the courage to approach him as he passed my seat. It was a brief but enlightening exchange. “No, I do not give interviews any longer,” he told me. That’s alright. I think I just had one.
And then this weekend it was time to get back to the keyboard and my own story. In the words of both Ann Hood and Augusten, the yellow post-it note now stuck to my desk reminds me: emotional truth. That’s what will resonate with the reader. Thanks, guys.
Posted in 2009, Art, Artist's Way, Books, Creativity, Inspiration, Life Balance, Publishing, Writing
Tagged "New Hampshire", back-to-school, graduate school, Inspiration, SNHU-MFA, Writing
I’ve discovered a wonderful vehicle that brings together my love for books and offers a way to showcase some of my photography. Making this book for my friend’s birthday was so much fun I cannot even describe! Now that it’s been delivered, I’m eagerly on to to the next one!!! (The photo on the right is the back cover.)
size: 7″ x 7″
format: hardcover with paper dust jacket
Go here to download your own copy of the software and get going with your own book! Pricing, size and formats are all there, too.
Several months ago I received a call from a Girl Scout leader who’d gotten my name from the local library. She was looking for a published author to come speak to her troop, some of whom are aspiring writers. Simply getting the referral is the result of what I call my very minimal version of grassroots marketing. Every time there’s been a Local Author event at the library, I’ve said, “Yes!” to the invitation to participate. Not great for sales but a low-budget publicity opportunity.
I love a chance to share my knowledge and experience, and if it serves to help others get their work published, all the better.
So on Friday evening I stood before a small group of up-and-coming writers and artists and shared my story. I brought along the original notebook for organizing the very beginnings of “Eating Clean”, color transparencies from the cover shoot, press releases, newspaper articles, favorite resource books from my office shelf, the vision board for my “Safe Harbor” manuscript, and lots of lessons learned the hard way.
The girls shared a bit about their own creative pursuits and seemed eager to see their work in print. I told them about my new favorite internet place, Blurb.com, where it is possible to create your own book and order just a single copy or put the title up for POD (print on demand) sale in the Blurb Bookstore.
Giving the talk was great fun and I look forward to sharing again next month, when I’ll be showing my power point presentation, “My Online Adventure of Marketing Eating Clean”, to the Nashua chapter of BPW.