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1. finishing touches....

©the enchanted easel 2015
on these two commissioned cuties.
that's what's going on tonight!

©the enchanted easel 2015

{will be selling PRINTS of this painting SOON! :)}

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2. Why do they do what they do?

Sometimes I think a very large part of writing is figuring out my characters' motivations. Why do my characters do what they do? Yes, it has to do with what they want and who and what stops them from getting what they want. And it also has to do with how they see themselves and how that changes when they get involved in the plot.

Being true to the motivation for all characters--even villains who, naturally, see themselves as the hero of their story-- can take you a long way down the narrative path.

But this motivation question  is not just about the big events.  Every scene, every gesture, every conversation and silence, has motivation in it and can, if done right, reveal character. Every little thing done by every character has to be accounted for. And when you have main characters who are on stage in a scene and act in ways that feel inauthentic, it is usually the unfortunate failure of motivation that is behind their inauthenticity.

Why do my characters do what they do in both small and large ways? I try to keep coming back to this question. A lot of discovering and revealing the secrets of character lies in motivation.

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3. Stories Can Conquer Fear




“Stories can conquer fear, you know.

They can make the heart bigger.”

— Ben Okri, Nigerian poet and novelist

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4. CPSA 23rd International + other stuff

I'm happy. Just found out my "Fried Egg on Sourdough Toast" drawing has been accepted into the Colored Pencil Society of America's 23rd International Exhibition! Here's a list of everyone who got in. I am in some esteemed company, for sure.

I also just signed up (like, minutes ago) for some new website builder thingy, so my old sad site will be down for a while until I get this one up and running. Wish me luck. I actually don't have all the art I want to use ready to go - I thought that signing up would just let me sit here until I was ready, but nooooo, (has to do with switching hosting plans and technical stuff). So I have my week cut out for me. Thankfully my email will still work though, so that's good. Also, the thing I signed up for has the new 'mobile - friendly' stuff included, so I should be all set. It will be nice to be a little more up to date with things!

Oh, and I guess I have to go get this piece framed now! Details, details . . .

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5. Chiming In With Humility and Grace

Chiming in with humility and grace
After several days of cold and rainy weather, a sunny afternoon enticed me to sit on the back porch. Enveloped in the warm rays of sunlight, I closed my eyes. A faint, peaceful ting-ting stirred from the metal, wind chimes.

Burdened for a Christian family struggling to find peace, I began to pray. I did not know all the details, but apparently years ago, their miscommunication hurt some friends' feelings. The family has sought forgiveness but the offended friends will not give it.

The most troubling part is the miffed ones are professing Christians as well, yet they will not let go of their grievances towards the family who upset them.

Oh, Lord, please give both families peace and restore the broken relationships. How can Your people harbor anger and resentment towards one another for years?  Help us to see this does not glorify your Son and the sacrifice He made for us all.

Lord, no matter what the situation, remind us that through Your power and strength we can forgive others. Protect us from Satan convincing us otherwise.
A gust of wind suddenly caused the ting-a-ling of the chimes to crescendo. I opened my eyes to see the metal tubes bumping crazily into one another. Yet, no matter how forceful the wind, each chime continued to produce pleasing sounds.

I sat listening, pondering how the chimes never ring a sour note. High, middle, and low tones work in unison to produce beautiful harmonies.
Oh, dear friends, God can do that. He created each of us with unique characteristics and yet the abilities to complement one another. Just as the metal chimes are bound together, so also we Christians are united by the love of Christ.

Trials will come as surely as the wind blows. Let us bear with one another and work together to produce a beautiful offering to our heavenly Father.
As soon as trouble begins to brew, address it with prayer and wisdom. Pray for a heart of patience, humility, and grace. As the storms press hard against us, only through love and forgiveness will we be able to orchestrate a magnificent concert of praise.

Imagine the songs of a multitude!
(The Singing Ringing Tree)

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”   Colossians 3:12-17

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6. Adventure down the road less traveled

I have had the pleasure over the years of creating special pieces of both art and pottery for various customers. Creating custom artwork can be really fun, challenging and rewarding.  I like taking on custom work, because it often takes me out of my comfort zone or challenges me to do things that I didn't know I could do or to find a new way of looking at something.

 I remember doing special projects for people as far back as high school and feeling so proud that someone would not only trust me with their vision for the thing that they wanted to be created, but that they would give me money to do it.

Most of my artistic life has been spent as a painter using oils and more recently acrylics. Three years ago I became a potter which has been a never ending journey into various techniques for making and glazing. In addition to these areas of experience, I have often been called up to expand my repertoire and create pieces in media that I have little experience with which is especially fun.

My "People on the Couch" series of paintings is always a unique adventure as I create them from a customers candid snapshots  of themselves and/or loved ones on the couch.

I love this painting from a 1960's family snapshot

This one was created without any people in it from a series of snapshots of family pets and favorite items for a special  Graduation couch picture.

See more couch paintings here

A wooden blue hen painted as a fundraiser for the Newark Arts Alliance in Newark, De.

A large hand thrown bowl glazed with my well known colorful cows

A whimsical cat painting featuring a "cat in the beanstalk"

A really neat project. A lineage of piano teachers from Beethoven to my clients husband painted to look like parchment.

A custom  yarn bowl for an Irish shop in Delaware

A little acrylic guitar  and keyboard painting for a teen
Donut shaped Salt and peppers

A door sign for a bake shop

a spoon rest

A whole set of large, colorful cappuccino mugs
      Have an idea for custom art that you would like to see brought to fruition? Feel free to contact me!

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7. Don’t Believe Me Just Read

I finished Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything over the weekend and was going to write about it today but I need a little more time to sit with it and think about it and it might actually end up being two posts instead of one. Maybe. To be determined.

So because of that and because it is Monday, and who doesn’t need a little pick-me-up on Monday, and because librarians are so awesome — maybe I’m a little biased but I loved librarians before I began working as one — and because Uptown Funk seems to be latest hit that everyone wants to parody, I give you Unread Book:

Filed under: Books

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8. Write, Share, Give

Reminder: Our TWT family is expanding. If you are interested in sharing your love for writing workshop, working with kids and inspiring others through your teaching we hope to hear from you. Here… Continue reading

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9. Binc Seeks Donors to Help Support Booksellers

The Book Industry Charitable (Binc) Foundation is looking for 50 new sustaining donors to give ongoing support to bookseller assistance programs which help provide a safety net to booksellers.

The program help booksellers that suffer medical expenses, domestic violence, homelessness or other issues in their time of need. The Campaign to Sustain is encouraging donors to commit to $40 a month in celebration of SIBA’s 40th Anniversary. In 2014, the organization saw an increase in grant requests with requests coming about once a week, which is the main driver behind the campaign.

To donate, follow this link.

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10. No Parking at the End Times by Bryan Bliss {Review}

"Review My Books" Review by Tamara No Parking at the End Times by Bryan Bliss Hardcover: 272 pagesPublisher: Greenwillow Books (February 24, 2015)Language: EnglishGoodreads | Amazon Abigail's parents believed the world was going to end. And—of course—it didn't. But they've lost everything anyway. And she must decide: does she still believe in them? Or is it time to believe in herself? Fans

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11. Les Super-Héros à la Française !

I REALLY have to try to get a copy of this!

Bonjour !
A la une de ce numéro de mai, les Super-Héros à la française !

Une riche enquête signée Philippe Peter. 

Au sommaire également : Jano, Edith, Mathieu Sapin, Dominique Rousseau (Vasco), Carole Martinez, Patrick Marty, des travaux inédits d'Albert Uderzo pour l'armée de l'air, les studios Aardman... et l'histoire de Zig & Puce.

Vous découvrirez aussi que François Morel est un passionné de BD et de belles images.
Sans oublier nos actualités, critiques, intégrales et notre sélection jeunesse !

Bonne lecture à tous !

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12. Leg over Leg as/is a novel ?

       At her Arabic Literature (in English) weblog M. Lynx Qualey reports on a recent Library of Arabic Literature workshop in Oxford where they discussed What Does it Matter if Leg Over Leg is the 'First Arabic Novel' ?
       That would be Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq's Leg Over Leg, in the wonderful Library of Arabic Literature edition of Humphrey Davies' translation -- now available in paperback ! -- the first two volumes of which are under review at the complete review, here and here.
       An interesting discussion -- but I too don't know that it's particularly important to consider/hail any particular book as 'first' in its category -- though, of course, literary scholars enjoy that sort of thing.
       Whatever you want to consider it, it's a hell of a book -- and a hell of an historically important one, too.

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13. Conductor Paul Phillips

Yesterday we heard a performance by the Brown University Orchestra, led by Conductor and Music Director, Paul Phillips.

I drew the overall silhouette with two brush pens, one filled with clear water and the other with black ink. While that was still wet, I used a black water-soluble colored pencil to define some of the smaller forms.

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14. Strange Skies Is Here!!!!

It’s finally here!!!! You can grab a copy of STRANGE SKIES today! Where, you ask? Well, how Amazon or your fave local bookstore? Plus, if you get it today, I’m mailing you a signed bookmark…just send your addy to my contact page or email me at kristi (at) kristihelvig.com. I hope you have as much fun reading it as I had writing it, and feel free to email your thoughts when you finish—I love hearing from readers. Thanks so much for all your support! :)

strange skies

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15. Monday Review: The SHADOWFELL Trilogy by Juliet Marillier

Summary: I want my epic fantasy to sweep me away but, at the same time, tantalize me with hints that this is a world that COULD be, a world that is tangible and believable and recognizable even if it isn't quite our own. Juliet Marillier does an... Read the rest of this post

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16. NPM Project: Jumping Into Form - Interview with Kristine O'Connell George

In preparation for sharing forms this month, I wrote to a number of poets and asked if they would respond to a short list of questions on poetry, writing, and form. I'm thrilled every time one responds positively and find they have all been extremely generous with their time.

Today I'm sharing the thoughts of Kristine O'Connell George, author of numerous books of poetry for children including Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems (2011), Fold Me a Poem (2005), Hummingbird Nest: A Journal of Poems (2004), Swimming Upstream: Middle School Poems (2002), Little Dog and Duncan (2002), Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems (2001), Little Dog Poems (1999), and Old Elm Speaks: Tree Poems (1998). Her first book of poetry, The Great Frog Race and Other Poems (1997), was awarded the Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award from the International Reading Association.
How does a poem begin for you — with an idea, a form, an image, or something else? 
Kristine: All of the above. Poems—and fledgling ideas—flit into my mental inbox in many different ways. Although it’s sometimes difficult to pinpoint why or how a particular idea will snag my attention, it’s most often because I have a personal connection with the topic. Perhaps it’s something I’ve seen, heard, experienced, or even dreamed.

Many of my poems (and rhymed picture books) were sparked by observation: The crows hassling a young hawk in our cedrus deodora tree; wind rustling aspen leaves; a puppy curling up in a splash of sunlight. Book! (Clarion Books) was the result of spending time with a toddler who was beyond delighted when she suddenly realized she could ‘operate’ the pages of a board book all by herself. The poems in Little Dog and Duncan (Clarion Books) were based on my observations of two rascally dogs while serving as hostess of doggie sleepovers.

While working on this interview, I decided to see to take a walk to see how many ‘poem ideas’ I could discover. Here’s a photo of one of them:
What’s interesting to me are not only the paw prints of a long-gone dog in old, cracked concrete, but also the position of the prints. I imagine a child—seeing that tempting swatch of wet cement—held the dog’s two front feet in one hand and pressed down firmly.

Sound also inspires poems: “Owl” in Old Elm Speaks: Tree Poems (Clarion Books) was the result of hearing an owl calling late at night from our native oak tree. At 2 a.m.—with the lines of the poem were still circling in my head—I got up and wrote a draft. Sound also inspired “River Messages” and “Chipmunk” from Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems. In both cases I tried to choose language that echoed the sound of a mountain river and a chipmunk’s chatter.

The poems in both Swimming Upstream: Middle School Poems (Clarion Books) and Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems (Clarion Books) were inspired by personal experiences. [Listen to poems from Swimming Upstream: Middle School Poems and other titles at Kristine O'Connell George: Poetry Aloud.]  Camping and fishing trips in Colorado and family expeditions exploring ghost towns served as rich resource material for Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems.

Dreams, and those muzzly moments of half-consciousness when one is drifting off to sleep or just waking up, are another wellspring of ideas and images for poems. A dream about flying in a windstorm—using a jacket as a sail—resulted in my first published poem, ‘Skating in the Wind.’ [Here is a young boy reading the poem at Homemade Mama.] (While I often hope to discover good ideas in the notebook I keep by my bedside along with my handy-dandy flashlight pen, I rarely can decipher my scrawl.)

How do you choose the form of your poems?
Kristine: If I’m lucky, the poem will give me hints. Perhaps it’s tidy and polite and best tucked into cozy couplets. Maybe it’s a ‘free-range’ poem that longs to stretch its free verse legs into boundless white space. (Most of the poems in Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems (Clarion Books) and Swimming Upstream: Middle School Poems (Clarion Books) are primarily free verse. In both cases, I ‘heard’ my narrator’s voices in my head as conversational.)

Sometimes I deliberately choose a ‘non-form’ that hints at a more formal structure. An example of this would be Little Dog Poems and Little Dog and Duncan (Clarion Books). Because the ideas for the poems captured discrete moments in the lives of two dogs, they could easily have been haikus. However, after much deliberation, I chose to create ‘looser’ poems (someone described them as haiku-ish) in the hopes that they might serve as easily-mastered templates for very young writers. (Based on the bushels of ‘Little Pet’ poems I have had the pleasure of reading, I think it worked out.)

Last, when I encounter a stubborn poem, I will rewrite (endlessly) in as many forms as possible until a form shouts:  Me! Pick me! During school visits, I often share all (All!) of the revisions I wrote for ‘Polliwogs’ from The Great Frog Race (Clarion Books). Students are astonished (and horrified) as I have them count the number of revisions. Forty seven!

What surprising things have you learned by accepting the challenge of fitting meaning into a structured form? What are the benefits of accepting these disciplined restrictions?
Kristine: In our poetry writing classes, Myra Cohn Livingston often had us rewrite poems in a variety of forms (and voices). This invaluable training forced me to think deeply about my topic and not merely skim the surface. As a result, I often write poems in strict metered and rhymed forms and then ‘deconstruct’ as I play with ideas, layout, and readability. What often remains is the sense of a form and, rather than rigid rhymed lines, there are internal/slant rhymes.

Sometimes, while writing in a structured, rhymed form, I discover that while it’s fun to read aloud, I’ve added so much padding that it distracts from and dilutes the main idea. Increasingly, I lean toward ‘less is more’ and often distill or condense longer poems into short, tight poems such as haikus. The four haiku about a flashlight in Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems (Clarion Books) are an example of my ‘get on and off the page quickly’ approach

What tools (rhyming dictionary, book of forms, etc.) do you use in writing poetry (if any)?
Kristine: All! I have yards of how-to poetry books of all flavors. While I do read and study these books, I don’t often refer to them when I am working on a poem. I may, however, dip into a rhyming dictionary if I am really, really stuck.

What would you like students or children to know about poetry?
Kristine: I keep thinking about Kate DiCamillo’s reply to a young reading asking why there are words in a book: "Words are a special way for me to tell you a story and I don’t have to be there. It’s like magic.” [A Conversation with Kate DiCamillo facilitated by Lisa Von Drasek of the Kerlan Collection can be viewed on YouTube.]

I think poetry is magic as well. It is nearly unimaginable to me how words—mere marks on paper—have this surprising power to make an intimate connection with a reader across centuries, continents, or cultures. I hope—at least once in a lifetime—that every student might experience that elusive, breath-catching moment when they realize that another human feels as they do. One of my favorite memories is of a 4th grader curled up in the corner of the library reading one of Myra Cohn Livingston’s collections. I’ve forgotten which collection it was, but not what the student told me as she hugged the book: “This lady is just like me.” I have also not forgotten what a very shy 3rd grader whispered to me after an assembly: “I feel like you wrote your poems just for me.” These experiences that connect us are what I’d like students to know about poetry. I’d also like students to know that—through poetry—they can send their own unique voices out in to the world.

Finally, one of your esteemed colleagues suggested I ask for a poem in a foreign verse form. Would you be willing to share a poem for this project?
Joan: Happily! Will you be naming said esteemed colleague? ;)
When asked to contribute a poem for Jan Greenberg’s Heart to Heart: New Poems Inspired by Twentieth Century American Art, I chose a pantoum to try to capture the repetition and sense of an echo in Kiki Smith’s ‘These Eyes.’ Here is the poem along with some interesting responses from students at PoetryRed5-7.
Poem ©Kristine O'Connell George. All rights reserved.

A million thanks to Kristine for participating in my Jumping Into Form project this month.

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17. Book Review: Homemakers by Brit Morin

From Goodreads:
Over the past three generations, the rules of homemaking and our very notions of what a homemaker is and does have radically changed. We are still a nation of makers, but we are crafting and creating beyond the home, in both the analog and digital worlds. And in the next ten years, "making" and "homemaking" will evolve further. Tomorrow's women will find themselves actually manufacturing everything from decor to clothing, from right inside their homes.

In Homemakers, Brit Morin, founder of the wildly popular lifestyle brand and website Brit + Co., reimagines homemaking for the twenty-first century. While today's generation thrives in the virtual world, they like to work and create in the physical world. Morin inspires you to combine the best of analog and digital, to help you reconnect with your inner creative child-the one who used to love to draw, to build, and to play-to make your home a more creative, functional, and beautiful place.
The writing here is fine, although, to be honest, there's not that much of it.  Or at least that much of it to judge as far as quality goes.  That's not a criticism, because it's exactly what you'd expect from this kind of book - heavy on pictures, how-tos, and infographics.  Pretty to look at and fun to experience, but not a lot of text, with the exception of captions and lists.

Entertainment Value
This has a lot of valuable information on the basics of homemaking and is presented beautifully with lots of images and graphics, rather than blocks of text.  I especially the list of recommended apps included with each chapter and the look at upcoming technology that will change how we live, work, and play.  If there's a downside, it's that most of this information can honestly be found online without the purchase of the book.  It's nice to have and I'm still debating whether or not to keep my copy as a reference or pass it on to the library.  It's super pretty and I love all of the information, but it's a chunky book and, like I said, doesn't have anything in it that I couldn't easily find on Pintrest.

I thoroughly enjoyed the read, but I think this may be one that I'd recommend you check out from the library rather than buy - unless you have a particular spot in your heart for pretty Pintrest-like style images.  It would make a nice coffee table book, or if you collect home-decor/fashion books.  While I'm not sure it's a must-own, it did inspire me to follow Brit + Co online and gave me some great ideas for my house.

Thanks to Harper Collins for providing me with a copy to review!

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18. New Adult Fiction Genre - Contemporary Romance - #WriteTip

There is a new genre emerging..."New Adult" fiction for older teens aka college-aged readers. You never stop growing up, but little in the market seems to address the coming-of-age that also happens between the ages of Nineteen to Twenty-six. Life changes drastically once high school is over, you have college, first jobs, first internships, first adult relationships…

Part of the appeal of NA is that the storylines are about characters who are taking on adult responsibilities for the first time without guidance from their parents. And the storylines generally have a heavy romance element. 

Keep this in mind as you revise your wonderful story, New Adult books are mostly about that specific time in every person's life—the time when the apron strings are cut from your parents, you no longer have a curfew, you're experiencing the world for the very first time, in most cases, with innocent eyes. New Adult is this section of your life where you discover who you want to be, what you want to be, and what type of person you will become. This time defines you. This is the time of firsts, the time where you can't blame your parents for your own bad choices. 

An NA character has to take responsibility for their own choices and live with the consequences. Most storylines are about twenty-something (18 to 26) characters living their own lives without any parents breathing down their necks, and learning to solve things on their own as they would in real life. New Adult fiction focuses on switching gears, from depending on our parents to becoming full-fledged, independent adults.

I am a firm believer that if you’re going to write a certain genre that you should read it, too. So I’m going to recommend that you start devouring NA novels to get a real sense and understanding of the genre before you write one.

Here are some great recommendations: https://www.goodreads.com/genres/new-adult-romance and http://www.goodreads.com/genres/new-adult and https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/new-adult-romance

Just as YA is fiction about teens discovering who they are as a person, New Adult (NA) is fiction about building your own life as an actual adult. As older teen readers discover the joy of the Young Adult genres, the New Adult—demand may increase. This, in turn, would give writers the chance to explore the freedom of a slightly older protagonist (over the age of 18 and out of high school, like the brilliant novel, "BEAUTIFUL DISASTER" by the amazing talents of author, Jamie McGuire) while addressing more adult issues that early 20-year-olds must face.

Older protagonists (basically, college students) are surprisingly rare; in a panel on YA literature at Harvard’s 2008 Vericon, City of Bones author talked about pitching her novel, then about twenty-somethings, as adult fiction. After several conversations, Clare realized she had to choose between adults and teens. She went with teens.

Quote from the publisher, St. Martin’s Press: We are actively looking for great, new, cutting edge fiction with protagonists who are slightly older than YA and can appeal to an adult audience. Since twenty-somethings are devouring YA, St. Martin’s Press is seeking fiction similar to YA that can be published and marketed as adult—a sort of an “older YA” or “new adult.” In this category, they are looking for spunky but not stupid, serious but not dull, cutting-edge, supernatural stories.

Quote from Georgia McBride, author (Praefatio) and founder of #YALitChat and publisher at Month9Books: "New Adult is a fabulous idea in theory, and authors seem to be excited about it. But in a world where bookstores shelf by category, to them, it is either  Adult or Young Adult. Some booksellers even call their YA section “teen.” And when you have a character who is over a certain age (19 seems to be the age most consider the start of New Adult), it is received as Adult. In some cases, the designation by publishers causes more confusion than not.
Let’s face it, YA is associated with teens, and at 19, most no longer consider themselves teens. So, it would support the theory of placing these “New Adult” titles in the Adult section. However, with the prevalence of eBook content, it would seem that the powers that be could easily create a New Adult category if they really wanted to...."

There’s also a list on goodreads of New Adult book titles. These books focus on college age characters, late teens to early twenties, transitioning into the adult world.

Some popular authors of the NA category include:
  • Jamie McGuire
  • Jessica Park
  • Tammara Webber
  • Steph Campbell
  • Liz Reinhardt
  • Abbi Glines
  • Colleen Hoover 
  • Sherry Soule

Would you buy New Adult books? 
Does the genre appeal to you? 

Does it sound better than YA (teen novels)? 
Or are you happy with YA as it stands?

Do you consider YA to include characters that are over the age of eighteen? 

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19. Taiwan Trip Diary: Days 1 and 2

Taipei from the bus.
<!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 <![endif]-->Today I start my "Taiwan Diary" posts, outlining as best I can our 12 days of non-stop fun. 

Day 1 of the trip, a full travel day, might not sound like a thrill-a-minute, but I actually enjoyed it. Starting here at home in Albuquerque: up at 5.00 AM to shower, breakfast, and get to the airport (thankfully just a 20 minute drive away) in time for my flight to San Francisco where I would catch the plane to Taipei.

From Albuquerque to San Francisco I got the surprise of my life: several crates of puppies were packed behind me in the cargo area—aarf, aarf, aarf for the next two hours! At first I thought it was the guy sitting next to me--I was terrified he was making barking noises and I would have to call security.

When I realized he couldn't possibly be barking in three different languages (i.e., chihuahua, poodle, and mutt), I finally arrived in San Francisco: collecting luggage, checking in to EVA Airlines, and meeting up with the rest of the tour group. After a several hour wait, we then boarded our plane for a long (14 hours?) trip made bearable by movies, a much better system than the days when I used to fly back and forth to New Zealand. 

I watched The Theory of Everything (the recent film about Stephen Hawking); Someone to Love (Scandinavian tear-jerker about a selfish rock star who has to raise his grandson when the child's drug addict mother--the mean superstar's daughter--overdoses. It might have been a bit heavy for in-flight entertainment, but I felt I got to see a side of Scandinavian life I would otherwise have missed); and Gemma Bovary, a rather strange and dark French comedy (I think it was a comedy) about a woman whose life mimicked that of Madame Bovary. Which anyone familiar with the story would know is not very comedic!

By the time we arrived in Taipei it was a couple of hours before midnight, but we had yet to get through immigration, a seemingly endless line of night-arriving travelers. Once that was over, we were next into a shuttle van and off to the City Suites Hotel, a clean and comfortable stay perfect for when you have absolutely no idea where you are, what time of night or day it really is, and just need to crawl into bed. 

At first my roommate (who turned out to be the best roommate anyone could ever ask for!!) and I couldn't get the lights to work until we figured out we had to place our room key card in the light switch. And then we couldn’t figure out how to turn them off--I think we slept with the lights on. Until dawn, at least, when I got up and unplugged all the lamps without telling her so that she thought there were no lights at all. Not my smartest moment.

What I do think was a pretty smart move, though, was my idea to throw away my entire airplane outfit! Yep, this had been my plan all along. For traveling I wore my very worst yard clothes and during the rest of the trip I managed to throw out 1 pair of jeans, 4 tops, 2 cardigan sweaters, a pair of shoes, and ALL of my underwear and socks. Talk about traveling light. My "Throw and Go" system was the best travel brainstorm I’ve ever had: months ago I started collecting things that would normally go in the rag bag or trash and decided to wear them one last time on the trip. I will never travel any other way again. "Throw and Go" not only solved the laundry problem, it left plenty of room in my suitcase for shopping.

Day 2 found me getting up at 5.00 AM again—I felt completely rested and ready to see the sights. This pattern seemed to follow me the rest of the trip—I didn’t want to miss a thing! 

The day turned out to be cold and overcast, making me grateful to have brought a raincoat with a removable liner and hood. Coming from Albuquerque, I found the light drizzle something of a novelty, providing a mysterious dreamlike atmosphere that only added to my sense of adventure. Our tour guide also informed us that water brings good luck, a statement that proved itself just about every day.

After breakfast (with some of the best coffee I've ever had in my life--another great thing that continued throughout the entire trip) and waiting for everyone to gather for the bus, I took a few minutes to sketch the back view from the hotel lobby where a small canal or stream was flowing past:

My chosen medium was watercolor pencils, and everything was going fine until I went to fill my water brush with water and it broke in two. For anyone not familiar with a water brush, it's a brush that holds water in the tubular barrel and is (usually) great for travel. Except for when it breaks, which had never happened to me before. During the flight it must have developed some kind of airlock from the pressure, finally snapping in two. At first I was totally devastated; my whole "art plan" depended on my water brush. I consoled myself with the fact that we were going to an art supply store in the afternoon where I could buy a new one and I could always add the water at any time, but I wanted to paint now.

Painting woes aside, it was time to get on the bus, and our first tour stop of the day was the residence, now a museum, of Chang Dai-Chien, Taiwan’s most famous splash ink artist. 

The entrance to the neighborhood housing the residence.

The Master's carp pond.

The Master's inner courtyard.

The back of the residence. Bonsai trees, rushing water, mountains, and white butterflies.

The Master's pickle jars!

The residence was definitely well worth the visit, an experience made even more interesting when our guide explained that the reason for all the water (ponds, waterfalls, river) was not only for the visual beauty, but for the sound. Chinese art strives to use, and be inspired by, all the senses, something I want to keep in mind for future artwork.

From the Master's House our next stop was the National Palace Museum—one of the largest collections of Chinese antiquities in the world.

I have no idea who these people are or how they got in my photo.

Before we started exploring the museum though, it was time for lunch. With chopsticks. Here is the sad story of me and chopsticks: despite having watched 3 Youtube videos prior to my departure on the correct usage of these darn little sticks, and practicing at home with knitting needles, I still made a big mess. Everyone else at my table seemed to be genius chopstick users. The thought occurred to me that I  was going to have to solve the problem soon or I might soon be banned from the table. I couldn't eat with my fingers forever!

From the museum steps. (And an exciting view of the backs of people's heads. Sorry!)

Once I was finished throwing my food around the room we were given several free hours on our own to wander and absorb the magnificence of the actual museum. Again I noted in some of the displays that same theme of Chinese art using all the senses, particularly those that help to find  the "chi" of whatever subject is being portrayed. For instance, if the artist was painting an animal, that chi might be found in the way the little creature lifted its paw or angled its head--an excellent starting point for any work of art.

Although the museum was far too big to cover in a single afternoon, I managed to see more floors and exhibitions then I thought I would, but it was tiring work. To recover I decided to get another cup of wonderful Taiwanese coffee and go outside for some more sketching. Another piece of advice I recalled from The Tao of Sketching was to cultivate "visual memory," so I tried to reproduce a Ming vase I saw in one of the exhibitions. I don't think I captured its "chi" exactly, but it makes a nice memory all the same.

My sketch and coffee finished, the chilly weather drove me back inside and surprise, surprise, into the museum gift store. I had wanted some cat art and sure enough, there it were two prints just waiting for me:

Lots of chi here, don't you think?
I'll be framing these soon for my office.

At last it was time to go to the art supply store, an old-world traditional shop up a steep flight of stairs and next to a street vendor making and selling delicious-smelling steamed pork buns (and that's from a vegetarian!). While the others in our group ordered authentic carved name seals (I opted out because I wasn't sure I really had a need for one) I started searching in vain for my water brush. Not only were they nonexistent, no one had a clue what I was talking about (neither in English nor with the help of Chinese translation.) 

Which leads me to this important travel tip: keep the various parts of your brush separated while flying. Better still, take at least two brushes—this was one case where “traveling light” was too light.

However, all was not lost. I ended up purchasing something much, much better: a little Chinese watercolor brush I will treasure forever. The only downside of this brush was having to use a bottle of drinking water for dipping and cleaning it, and then having to constantly remind myself not to drink my paint water . . .  

Such a sweet little brush. Excellent quality. I love it.

Last stop of the day was dinner and bed, all at the spectacular Grand Hotel where we turned into royalty. Sheer heaven. What a way to travel.

I reveled in the abundance of soaps, shampoos and lotions all smelling better than Chanel No. 5. Chinese artistry celebrates the senses for sure.

Highlight of the Day: Rubber stamps! Starting at the National Palace Museum I discovered that most tourist sites and even some hotels provide rubber stamps and ink pads to commemorate your visit with a mini work of art. It was so much fun collecting the various images throughout the country and I think they really enhanced my journal/sketchbook. The one I added to my museum sketch (and after I was able to use my paint brush) was one I found several days later at a Buddhist monastery. I have no idea what it says, or if I have the characters facing the right direction, but I'm glad I found it.

0 Comments on Taiwan Trip Diary: Days 1 and 2 as of 4/27/2015 6:37:00 PM
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20. Peter Stamm Q & A

       At the PEN Atlas Tasja Dorkofikis has a Q & A with All Days are Night-author Peter Stamm
       Among the points of interest: with Michael Hofmann (not 'Michael Hoffman', as the post has it ...) having translated all his available-in-English titles, Stamm notes: "Michael asks very few questions. (...) Other translators ask me more questions."

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21. Squirrels

Tourists gathered ‘round a tree,
With cell phone cameras out,
Are not impressed by daffodils
Or tulips soon to sprout.

They’re focused on a squirrel
Which, to jaded local eyes,
Wouldn’t rate a second glance
But somehow seems to tantalize.

For in many other places,
Squirrels simply don’t exist;
With their bushy tails and antics,
How could visitors resist?

Back when I was just a child,
An acquaintance pulled one’s tail
And was bitten rather badly;
Now a scar he could unveil.

Squirrels also raid the feeders
And deprive the birds of seed.
They’ll outsmart all the deterrents
With their cleverness and greed.

So let tourists take their photos
Of these rodents oh, so cute.
To New Yorkers, their attraction
Is a subject of dispute.

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22. Social Media Etiquette

What not to do when using social media.

0 Comments on Social Media Etiquette as of 3/17/2015 5:21:00 PM
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23. Cougar Bay Osprey

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24. PEN World Voices Festival countdown

       The PEN World Voices Festival runs 4 to 10 May in New York.
       Lots of worthwhile events -- and note that reservations are advised for even the free ones, so you might want to get on that .....
       Hard to pick and choose from the offerings -- but consider:

       But there's a lot more, too -- check out the full schedule ..... Read the rest of this post

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25. Cover Revealed For New V.E. Schwab Book

A Gathering of Shadows Final

The cover for the U.S. edition of V. E. Schwab’s forthcoming science-fiction book, A Gathering of Shadows, has been unveiled. We’ve embedded the full image above—what do you think?

According to the Tor.com blog, illustrator Will Staehle designed this jacket. This novel, a sequel to A Darker Shade of Magic, will be published in February 2016.

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