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Viewing Blog: Seize the Day, Most Recent at Top
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Herein, children's writer Molly Blaisdell raves, rants, and rambles about her craft. She also muses about juggling a job, motherhood and writing books, and there is a good dose of rallying, psyching up and inspiring for anyone who needs to seize the day.
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1. Creativity: Get Out of the Rut

Hi folks:

I'm out of town this week. Uh, I've crossed the urban sprawl of Houston to hear Chuck Sambuchino speak. I think it might have been easier to go to the moon.  Anyways, this is a publishing workshop, and I'm pretty jazzed.  So here is my first creativity lesson.  On a regular basis do something that is off the beaten track for you.

Get out of that rut and head off into the field.  Yes, you might get chiggers. You might step in a fire ant bed. You might get lost. You might waste your time. Stop listening to Robbie the Robot telling you, "Danger, Will Robinson!"  Creativity will spring out activity you can't predict.

Creative souls know the power of a good shake. It's about being uncomfortable in a good way.  If you want to form new and valuable stuff, if you want to make leaps to new ideas, new inventions, new art, consider trying something new this week, something you wouldn't normally do. Just do it.

This creativity series is conjunction with a talk that I will be offering at Covenant Presbyterian Church on Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at 6:15. It's a weekly program they offer called Onederful Wednesday. I will lead a workshop called Divining Creativity. Here are a few of the things I will dig into -- What is holding you back? What will push you forward? What will make you leap? This should shake down the cobwebs and open all the windows. Come out if you are interested. It's free.  P.S. There is a meal at 5:15 p.m. and it costs $5.00 person and $20 for families. Call this number to RSVP if you are interested: 979-694-7700.

Here is a doodle for you. We had a rainstorm last night.

Here is a quote for your pocket.

It is in the compelling zest of high adventure and of victory, and in creative action, that man finds his supreme joys. Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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2. Novel Craft: Floundering

Hi folks, this is the last in my series of Novel Craft.  This week I'm going to address floundering. For me, there is a time in every project when things sort of stall. It sucks. BIG TIME. I lose  my mojo for a project and find myself ready to move on before it is time to move on.

I had an interesting conversation with my friend and writer Avery White (Check out his sight www.thirdpersoncreative.com if you need some fire.)  My WIP is almost done, but not quite. I should be all jazzed but instead I feel wrung out and empty.  I need to pull together the last five chapters. The notes are written. The pages are critiqued. I've said my prayers. And yet, instead of just being on fire right now, I'm searching for excuses. Even my sock drawer is organized at this point.

The way of floundering is always the same for me. I think it is partly self-doubt. When I wrap this up, I will send it out and if you are a write you know that means boatloads of rejection and people writing you notes, "This is a really good first draft." Floundering is partly separation anxiety. I have lived in the book world for years. It is tough to move on to a new world. It's time to let go. How am I going to do that?

Here's my RX. Chat with someone on the creative journey. Avery reminded me that everything is done and now it is time to trust. So here I am, letting go of my floundering and instead embracing my little list of things to-do to finish up. I may have to rip this manuscript apart in the future. It may never be read by more than a handful of people. But I have written those words. I have contributed my verse.

All the good people who invested themselves in my life are with me now. All their energy is surrounding me. The good of the universe is lifting me up above the shambles. What a lovely thing.

Hope this resonates.

Next week I'll start a series about creativity. This is conjunction with a talk that I will be offering at Covenant Presbyterian Church on Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at 6:15. It's a weekly program they offer called Onederful Wednesday.  I will lead a workshop called Divining Creativity. Here are a few of the things I will dig into -- What is holding you back? What will push you forward? What will make you leap? This should shake down the cobwebs and open all the windows.  Come out if you are interested.  It's free.

P.S. Still cancer-free. Whew!

Here is a doodle.

Finally, here is a quote for your pocket.

A man said to the universe:
“Sir, I exist!”
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.”
Stephen Crane

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3. Novel Craft: Feels

Hi folks, I am spending the month of January chatting about Novel Craft. This week I'm digging into feels. Every books needs shivery moments, feels. The journey of mining your character's emotional core is tough. It takes days. It takes deep thought. If you are feeling sick at your stomach and have almost a migraine headache, chances are you are in your character's feel zone or you need to take a Tylenol.

Seriously, this emotional goop is essential to your storytelling. Let it flow through you.

Where do you get the goop? This week I went in for my yearly mammogram and before I reached home, I already had a call back for more tests. Feels came quick. Anger. I wanted to sit in my car and bang my steering wheel. Next up, hopefulness, this may be this is nothing, just a routine, let's-make-the-baseline-better call. Then despair slammed me. I just don't want to have cancer...again.  Cancer sucks. Your hair falls out. You feel so listless. Ah, my thoughts are turning to jello, a globby emotional smog monster. Not my favorite thing. As much as I don't want it, I'm in an emotional maelstrom. As much as I hate having to deal, I know that dealing is what makes me the best person.

In real life, emotions come in weird ripples. They make no sense. They are disorderly and inconsistent. It takes days to sort through all of it. In novels, emotions need to controlled, even the out of control ones. The best books reveal the essence of the emotional story. You get maybe a paragraph. Move past the surface and uncover the bones and bedrock of your characters.

Here is a little section from the emotional journey of my WIP Profit.

This was Sarai's story. She was going to die here. The cold curling around her was drawing her into its abyss. Her thoughts slowed.  She'd been so focused on her dream, she’d missed every moment and the truth nipping at her—you don’t get to choose your life. Life chooses you. If she hadn’t been so focused on herself, her dream, what she wanted, she might have seen another path and followed it. She might have found meaning in something else, but instead she’d embraced one vision and heard what she wanted to hear. 

Be present in what life chooses for you. Embrace that it is your journey. Embrace what you must feel. Don't try to get out of it. Go through it with as much meaning and dignity that you can. Then take the gold and sprinkle it your stories. Dealing makes you the best person. It makes for the best story.

Hope this connects with you. I will be back next week with more lessons.

A doodle for your heart.

A quote for your pocket.

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart. Helen Keller

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4. Novel Craft: A Better Ending

Hi folks, I'm continuing my series called Novel Craft. I'm uncovering what has worked for me in the last year as I have moved forward with my novel writing. This is a way to make a stronger ending to your book. I found it very effective. It helped me untangle some weakness in my plot and gave me new energy toward a project I had grown frustrated with.

I asked myself  a simple question, what is a better ending to this story?

Yes, that is it. I'm not great with complicated solutions. This is the absolute truth. I love to make complicated plans, but I rarely enact them. Embarrassing but true. I have to find elegant, simple solutions to succeed, and my writer-sense (not be confused with Spidy-sense) let me know that my question was going to work.

My method to answer this question may seem weird, I talked to myself about while driving my umpteen errands. I suppose people looked at me and thought that is one crazy gal. Oh, well.
I chattered on bout the tried and true ending, poking at my ideas. I started by asking myself questions. How can I make this character suffer more? How can her darkest moment be darker? What would bring this character bigger change?

There was a little drama--like I don't know if this is going to work, and then, yay, ideas popped up. I continued to chatter on about the how these new ideas might be better than my old one.  I chattered for about a half hour. I'm pretty sure I'm not the first author who uses the the professional "chatterer" technique.

Finally in midst of my chattering, eureka, a better ending to the story popped in my head.  A way better end. I wrote that ending, and, yeah, I started chanting (while writing), "I've got this!"

Hint, hint, a simple questions, a conversation with yourself may help you improve your existence. Try it. Thanks for dropping by. I will return next week with more on this series.

Here is a doodle for you:

Here is a quote that spoke to me this week. 

The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. David Foster Wallace

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5. Novel Craft: Transitions

Hi folks, I'm spending the month of January chewing on novel craft. This week I'm going to talk about transitions. Transitions are about leaving one chapter behind and picking up the thread of the story in the next chapter. Chapters are a convention for ease of reading, but they are more for the novelist. Chapters help you present your story. It's a huge piece of how you keep your reader hooked and longing for more. The way writers keep readers engaged is by devising provocative transitions between chapters. These transitions grab readers attention, plunge them into new action, and ensure complete satisfaction during the reading experience. You might find that some of this transition talk helps you in transitions in your life.

Transitions are about how one chapter ends and the next one begins. Instead of trying to tie everything up in a chapter. You must think of a chapter transitions as a dynamic phase, smack dab in the middle of the action, the epiphany, and/or the relationships.  Transitions are not neat things all wrapped up in bows. A good end transition launches you toward the next chapter. Be prepare to leap in the middle of the mystery. Raise a big question and then just cut off the chapter. Journey toward something audacious but don't arrive, cut off just before that. Stop trying to end things in easy way, Complication, surprise, and turmoil? This is the true stuff of transition.

Now that you have ended the last chapter in a compelling way, it's time to turn the page to the next chapter. You have primed your reader if they had to put the book away until tomorrow. They will be thinking about the chapter all day. They must see that next page. So how do you get that next chapter going. Some transitions are easier than others. If the next chapter is in the same time frame. The next step is logical. It's usually about dialogue and a twist. It's the the transitions that require a jump that are harder, mainly because it causes the writer to leap. My recommendation, don't get bogged down with time, but launch immediately into the heart of what is important in your story. It might be musing from your main character. It might be at the next point in time that stuff is going down. The important thing is not being trapped in the minutia of time change, setting change, and interior thoughts. Cut to what is most interesting, upsetting, or exciting.

Last, it's important transitions build satisfaction, but that does not mean complacency. It's important that readers feel like they are on a journey. Transitions keep your story from being a series of episodes. They are glue for the overreaching arc. How? Stories need to going somewhere just like our lives need to be going somewhere. We are all looking for a point, even if the point is there is no point. Powerful transitions illuminate.They make the reader feel that this journey is worthwhile. Readers inhabit stories that are nimble, like a mountain goat leaping from one peak to the next--a glorious and amazing sight. Good transitions are fearless, seamless, thoughtful, and thrilling. They make for one satisfying read.

That's a teaspoon of transition chat. I hope something resonates with you. I will continue my novel craft series next week.

Here is a doodle. Veg.

Now for the quote for your pocket:

A lot of people resist transition and therefore never allow themselves to enjoy who they are. Embrace the change, no matter what it is; once you do, you can learn about the new world you're in and take advantage of it. Nikki Giovanni

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6. Novel Craft: Beginnings

Hi, folks! Welcome to a brand new year! This year I'm starting out with a series on novel craft. This week I hope I offer you some good advice about how to start your book. That's right, your book is like no other. Your start is like no other. A good novelist has come to trust her mojo. Books start in a myriad of ways: some with dialogue, some with backstory, some jump into the action, some blather on inside the main character's head, some start with character waking up, some begin with the sunrise.  Regardless, a good beginning will spill some of that writer magic on the page--the I've-got-this-attitude.

Where does this attitude come from? There is no magic formula but here are three practices that will infuse your beginnings with your mojo. First, write and write and write. Next learn how to take charge and be your own boss. Finally give yourself pep talks. I will chat about these three hallmarks of a great beginning. (A hallmark is an invisible stamp that shouts this is one authentic book.)

First, you must write, not think about, not talk about, not plan about writing, but actually write.  This involves at least a million words before you reach minimally competent. So whatever it takes begin to write. Type page after page. Fill journal after journal. Write failed story after failed story. You have found the road to a good beginning!  Kudos!

Next you must own your writing. If you are a writer, you should be receiving regular critiques of your work. That is awesome. Now you must learn to learn what to listen to and what to toss. This will take hundreds of critiques and hundreds of misses.  Take the big risks. Go to that craft workshop you've been thinking about. Read the competition and then compete. Own failure and define it is a stepping stone to success. The thing you must realize -- you are the Boss. Expose yourself on the page, take the risk. You may fail. You may go broke. Regardless, exercise your exclusive rights, own your writing. Ownership will infuse your beginnings with you.  Good stuff.

Finally, learn how to pep talk yourself.  Here's the deal, the awesomeness must come from within. This is where your voice is. The self talk needs to work like this: I can do something awesome. Why not? I will write something that will shake the foundations. This beginning will blow my own mind, and it will totally transform everyone's universe. I will make this better, faster, stronger. I'm going to totally six-million dollar man this! (Note: if you are not doing 1 and 2, and doing 3, you are not looking like a genius...)

Take a few minutes every day and give yourself the pep talk. Do not neglect this step. Don't try to get this juice from others. If you are like me, call on the grace of I AM. No, no, you don't deserve unmerited favor, but ask for it (somebody out there really loves you), and then give the glory to the Architect of all things.

I just dropped a teacup of useful stuff in your brain: Work hard, be the BOSS, and finally pep talk yourself. All this will build beginning inertia for you. Inertia is all about getting you in a tendency of writing AWESOME beginnings. If you tend to write awesome beginnings, you will continue to write awesome beginnings.  This is something you can trust.

I hope you come back next week for more Novel Craft.  If your resolution is to finally write your novel, follow the steps.  (P.S. this advice works for every creative endeavor.)  Good luck!

Here is a doodle.

Finally, here is a quote for your pocket.

Writing is wretched, discouraging, physically unhealthy, infinitely frustrating work. And when it all comes together it’s utterly glorious. ― Ralph Peters

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7. Gifts: Empathy

I'm continuing my creative gifts series. This is all about writerly gifts that I've received from others on my journey. I'm extremely wealthy when it comes to receiving these gifts. This week I'm going to talk about Holly Cupala. Holly is someone who has been generous to me in so many ways I cannot count.  She is one of the most deeply empathetic people I know. She aware of the feelings of a wide range of people; she feels deeply what they are going through. She is a gift to us all.

I tend to be socially awkward. I do care about other people, but I end up seeming really callous sometimes. One reason is I don't always feel what others feel. I recognize they are feeling something, but inside me I don't feel it. I have deep sympathy for them, but that is not the same as empathy. Everything I write has to relate somehow directly to my experiences, what I have felt. This limits my creative spectrum, but there it is. Exposure to the empathetic has helped me become a better writer and a better person. 

Here is how this thing works: I've been bullied so I can write authentically about that. I wasn't at 9:11 and did not personally watch anyone die that day so I cannot write authentically about that. Empathetic people feel what others feel. The clueless part of me is I forget that people are feeling what others are feeling, because I don't. When I see someone writing about something outside his or her experience, I struggle with: "Is this authentic? Some rare individuals really do connect with experiences that are not their own. I'm blessed to know one of these people.

Holly has helped me learn to respect how others feel even if I can't feel it. She has taught me how empathy expands your world. When I am hurting, my first thought is to get away from everyone, wrap myself in blanket and deal with feeling pain.  Empathetic people feel something and realize there are people all over feeling that and reach out to others that feeling the same thing they are feeling. Empathetic people surround me. I think they get it more than most that I need some help. 

Holly's writing really shows off  her empathy for others. Her characters have greatly varied experiences. Even when she is working out of what she knows, she's injecting what she has felt from others too. Her influence has forced me into the shoes of my antagonists. No character should be flat, but each one should be full of life. Exploring the intersection of characters has greatly expanded under exposure to Holly's empathy.  

I hope something about empathy helps you march toward authenticity. I will begin a new series in the new year! Happy New Year!

Here is the cover of one  of Holly's books. 

And finally a quote for you pocket.

Good fiction creates empathy. A novel takes you somewhere and asks you to look through the eyes of another person, to live another life.
 Barbara Kingsolver

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8. Writing Gifts: Tapestry

I'm continuing my creative gifts series. This is all about writerly gifts that I've received from others on my journey. I'm extremely wealthy when it comes to receiving these gifts. This week I'm going to talk about Janet Lee Carey.She is a friend and a writing mentor, critique partner. She is also one of the best living fantasy writers. Through critiques, conversations, and reading her books. This week's gift is tapestry, everything is interconnected.

I've read many of Janet's books and love that her characters. They are always part in of this world and part of one another. Janet understands we are not just flesh and bone, there is an immaterial part of being human. STEALING DEATH. I still feel the weight of Kwaja, the sack of souls, main character Kipp has stolen. His family has died in a terrible fire and he stole Kwaja from a grim reaper type to stop death. He will never see another person die. Death disconnects us from whom we love. It must be stopped and yet death cannot be stopped. Pull one thread and the fabric unravels.

We all have these moments in life that transcend the drudgery of day to day living. The warp threads of tapestry are hidden, the stuff that backs everything up. The weft threads create the colorful picture. Janet's characters are not blinded by cold intellect but are lit with light of love. Her series The Wilde Island Chronicles: Dragron's Keep, Dragonswood, and  In the Time of Dragon Moon reveals her skill at broad canvas. Janet recreates the Pendragon myth with this series. Tapestry is especially important in the last book, where two hard to weave in threads find their place.

This is vast storytelling at it's best, but what is so important about it, is every thread is given attention. There are no blank spots on this tapestry.  Read her books reveal the value of tapestry in writing. You are welcome.

Finally, Janet was one of the precious people who put together their pennies and brought me to Washington State for a writing retreat earlier this year. I had a tough year. My poor noggin' let me down, and I spiraled into Depression. I am much much better now. But just like her characters in her books, she is interconnected to those around her.  When I was struggling to swim in the life's ocean with it's seasonal storms. She reached out and put my feet on the ground. She made sure my little warp thread continued to be a part of the tapestry of writing. (Yes, I was a hairbreadth away from never writing another word.) All of are co-creators together. No one is an island. We need all the voices.

I hope you continue your creative work. Weave your threads. I know it is hard work. Don't stop. Our life is so much richer if we create our tapestries of story.

Here are the covers of the Wilde Chronicles!.

Finally a quote for you pocket.

We don't accomplish anything in this world alone... and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one's life and all the weavings of individual threads form one to another that creates something.
Sandra Day O'Conner

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9. Gifts: Audacity

I'm continuing my creative gifts series. This is all about writerly gifts that I've received from others on my journey. I'm extremely wealthy when it comes to receiving these gifts. This week I'm going to talk about Chris Eboch. I have had the opportunity to hear Chris speak many times. She is a friend and a writing mentor, and through critiques, conversations, and reading her books I've learned the importance of being audacious. This week's gift: audacity.

One of her books (that is not published) has had a huge effect on me as a writer. In this book, she offs the main character several times and then follows a new main character.  I can't tell you the shock I felt the first time I read her story, and the first main character died. It was an audacious move that has kicked at me for years. She did something I've never seen done in a book before. She was fearless. Her story demanded the death of her main character and she did not hesitate. This is the lesson, if you are hesitating you are not really sure of your story yet. Dig deeper.

So what exactly is audacity in writing. It's a very good thing for your plot. It's about going there in an original way. I think it has to do with the author getting out of all the muck of writing advice and serving the story. Can you march to your own beat? You are not going to make folks turn the page unless you are fearless. I mean moxie is where it is at. Chris is a soft-spoken person who climbs sheer rock faces for fun. A fast hike across the Grand Canyon, OK! She translates her own gutsiness into her characters, and readers are happy about that. Translating your daring spirit into your story will give it a mega-boost.  

 Be audacious. Scoop out the best of yourself and thread it into your work. Plots must turn with sharp, clean moves.  Don't be muddy or wishy-washy -- good advice for life too. Excellent writing should force the reader to test his or her own mettle. Yes, characters need to be dimensional to get a reader  that involved. Great stories need to get under a reader's skin. They need to demand the reader not just sit there but become involved; in the end the reader needs to changed--forever.  

Sounds hard? You bet, but totally worth it.  

This week be audacious. Write something irresistible. If you want help. I suggest you look at some of Chris's work. She writes as Chris Eboch for children and Kris Bock for adults (romantic suspense). Her books will shake you up.   You may also want to check out her writing books: ADVANCED PLOTTING too and YOU CAN WRITE FOR CHILDREN.   You are welcome!

More gifts next week. 

Here is the cover of one of Chris's (as Kris Bock)  romantic suspense books. It's so beautiful. 

You want to turn the world upside down?  
Here is a quote for your pocket.

Audacity, more audacity, always audacity. Georges Jacques Danton

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10. Gifts: Tenderness

Hi folks, I'm starting a new series. I'm sharing creative gifts that I've received from others in my journey. I'm extremely wealthy when it comes to receiving these gifts. This week I'm going to talk about Bonny Becker. I had the opportunity to hear Bonny speak many times when I lived in Washington State. I also took the time to really study her books and think about her writing.

I received a bag of creative gifts from her but one stands out. Bonny taught me the importance of  a light touch--tenderness--in storytelling.  (It works for life too, believe me.)  Tenderness is about making vulnerable characters. They may be armored up top, but turn them over and they are squishy and soft. The story journey really is about turning that prickly character over and letting them get a little sun on his or her belly.

As a storyteller, I want to pack in stuff, get the plot going. Bonny has shown me it's about not rushing forward, but instead being patient and letting things work out. It's about heart with flaws. It's about tiny and mighty against huge and timid. Tenderness is found in the intersection of these opposites. Bonny has taught me about the absolute power of awareness. Tucking the truth about one character into the pocket of another transforms a flat story into something amazing.

Finally,I learned this from Bonny: how tenderness brings the beauty of the lilies of the field to story. She offers not just vulnerable but fragile characters. Beauty springs up like Texas bluebonnets when you thread in devotion and affection. Tenderness brings gravitas to storytelling. If you write quiet stories, tenderness will infuse them with  the sunrise. It is so quiet before dawn, but the sun rises and glory!  The birds' cacophony amazes. The clouds burn. The sky eats the darkness. This is the power of tenderness. Add it to your work.

Bonny teaches at The Northwest Institute of Literary Arts.  Her newest picture books is just out: Cloud Country. This was done in collaboration with Noah Klocek. It is amazing.  Don't just take my word for it. Give this and all her books a peek. You are welcome.

No doodle this week. Here is the cover of Bonny's new book in collaboration with Noah Klocek:

I will be back next week with more gifts.

A mother's arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them. Victor Hugo

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11. Uplift: Focus

Hi folks, this is the last in my Uplift series wherein I try to write words that will lift you up. We are at the end of a month, so this will be short, but overwhelming useful (hopefully).

My dad taught me this. Where you come from isn't important. Know who you are. Figure it out. Dad is an interesting person. As a young child he was totally cut off from his past, and set adrift without parents, family, anyone but himself.  He had to rely on the charity of strangers and carve a life for himself as a person with no past.

You might have a lion inside that is roaring at you!  You might be tied up with the stupid decisions of your past and the past of your family and friends.  You might be tied up with the stupid decisions of entire nations and races. Or you might be like my dad, a person with no past, no story, nothing. Where do you go from here?

The degradation you have suffered isn't important. The gaping holes in your past aren't important. What others think about you isn't important. What you think about yourself is the important thing. The next step is the future. If you are reading my blog, it is likely you are a creative soul. The things you create are always for the future. You focus on what count by adding value to future of others. Seriously, be the biggest investor you can possibly be.

Next week, a new series. Gifts.

A doodle for you!

He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened. Lao Tzu

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12. Uplift: Be Thankful

Hi folks, I'm continuing my Uplift series. A short one this week but full of riches!

One way to cause your work to soar is to be thankful. We choke on our successes when we don't take the time to thank others for their helpfulness. Acknowledging others is a way of sharing your success; it's a trans-formative process. It acknowledges you did not create work in a vacuum. You are interconnected with all around you;  without the spokes to your wheel, you never go far.

Some keep a gratitude journal to remember all the great things that they wants to give thanks about. Others take time every day to be thankful. There is no best way. Thankfulness helps lift me from a depressed state and gives me hope. It helps me avoid stifling my imagination, choking my growth, and losing my joy. Being thankful makes the ties that bind to be much stronger.

Thankfulness is getting above the waves of life and surfing over a turbulent ocean. You will find your way, day by day. Complexity does not equal better. Thankfulness simplifies you and puts you in touch with the better parts of yourself. It sweetens hard work. It helps you approach work in a way is not "crazy making."

Giving thanks makes you strong, so difficult to knock over. It makes you a better person. The act of thankfulness leads you to right choices and will move you closer to wherever you want to be. A thankful heart is better than a pain reliever;  it can cure what ails you.

Finally, if you want your work to sing? Sing the praises of others. Giving honor and acknowledgement to those people who have helped you along the way. Enrich your life.
We live in troubled times; it's comforting to know that one simple act can do so much for everyone.

I will be back next week with more Uplift.

Here is the week's doodle, The Peace Monument, Bamako, Mali.

A quote for your pocket. 

Keep your eyes open to your mercies. The man who forgets to be thankful has fallen asleep in life. Robert Louis Stevenson

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13. Uplift: Be Revolutionary

Hi folks, I'm continuing my series Uplift. Something I think we can all use right now. It is difficult to turn to a news site and see the troubles of our world. What can an artist do to alleviate any of it? How can an artist work in the midst of it? Is it possible to find uplift in this morass of suffering?

Here is a truth that has come to me. I write because I must. Words flood into me. My artistic endeavor is a gift to me first and to all after. It is something like I'm an artesian aquifer. Deep in us all is the ground water of human existence and it is seeking a place of release. We are animate matter: self-replicating, chemical factories, and electrical maps. We are fragile. I have a short span of days in light of the ancient universe, to share what the spark of life has revealed to me. Use you time wisely.

So much flows from human existence and not all is good. There is terror, murder, mayhem, profane, a list so long, but just the first few on the list places weight in my heart. Thankfully, there is good--mercy, hope, help, kindness. I am one voice among the many, but my voice counts. My choice how to use my voice counts. Like all artists, there is so much pushing up under me. I must allow this art a place, and hopefully, like a fine poet who was called to throw a stone at a giant, I will take down the enemies of my age.

Artists are outliers. I like to do the math. We have about 318 million people in our country. 2.5 million work in all the arts (I'm including the part-timers and unemployed). 7 in 1000 are artists. I'm a writer, and we are really rare birds: 4 in 10000 or so are writers. This is why you have friends all over the world, and you have a difficult time finding folks in the neighborhood who are working on their craft. Even if we are rare, we are mighty.

Art is mightier than any sword because it changes the minds of others without having to lift the sword. We keep hurling our bombs at each other in hopes that the other side will see our point of view. Really?  As a mother, I can tell you hurling rocks will never change the heart. You may defeat your enemies, causing them to hang their heads with bitterness but you will not change them. Non-violent change is true road for everyone, not just the oppressed.

Not everyone producing art is trying to pull the good water out of the human groundwater. Art can be full of good or not. It can laced with terror or laced with kindness. Don't be a con-artist. Regardless though, it's better to put your ideas on a page and think about them, than to force them down the throat of your neighbors at the point of a gun, sword, etc. Don't worry about stopping the foul wells. They don't bring life and people will leave them. We need water to live.

So here it is artist: Use your words. Use your pictures. Use your song. Use you dance. Use every way you can communicate an idea, but if you use your fists, your shouts, your better ways to throw rocks and fire, you will fail. You will always fail.  If you are a well-spring of art, know that you are the only one who is working in a way that will bring forth true change. We are the revolutionary who bring forth sudden, complete, and marked change! Yay!

Change the world for the better, folks. I will be back with more Uplift next week.

Here is a doodle for you: Open Door.

A quote for your pocket:
I am more convinced than ever before that the method of nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity. Martin Luther King

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14. Uplift: Be Bold

Hi folks, I am starting my new series about what gets me off the ground and in to the creative flow. I call this series UPLIFT. I hope this blog  helps you reach your stratosphere.

Boldness is about moving past fear, and you will need it to find success in your creative endeavors. The first step on your journey to boldness is to win some small battles. What will lead to a high rate of success? Follow that path. Once you win that small battle, don't put yourself down for winning a small battle. The day of small battles is important. You aren't going to win the big battle if you don't win some small ones.           

Identify your weaknesses, really own them and then create workarounds. You may need to build a team and you may not fall on you can't afford that. You will spend where things are important to you. Try barter. Trade your skills. Also identify your strengths. This is simple but you need to think about how those strength will help you. Take some time and explore that strength. What will help you do?  Are you focusing on what you can't do or what you can do?  Your focus will make all the difference. Be a can-do person. If that makes you cringe, it may be time to reinvent yourself. 

What does boldness look like in your work? First, trust your vision. You are the gal who driving the creative bus. Don't allow anyone  take that from you. Cling to your point of view. Boldness means letting people see your work and incorporating their feedback in ways that moves you toward your goals. Boldness means accepting that you may fail, but choosing not dwell on that. Boldness is about healthy, encouraging self-talk. Boldness is all about taking the hits but dwelling on what you learned from them. Boldness is about choosing action over fear. Do it.

I hope you are bold this week.  I will be back next week with more uplift.

Here is a doodle for your pocket. Primary and Secondary

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

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15. Chicken by Chicken: Soul Wrapped in Cake and Doughnuts

Hi folks. I'm finishing my Chicken by Chicken series for the month of October.  I write about my real challenges in the series. This week: Soul Wrapped in Cake and Doughnuts. On top of depression, anxiety, partial, and dylexia, I suffer from obesity. It is a daily battle. I hope my journey helps you find your way.

Yes, my soul is wrapped in cake and doughnuts. I have suffered from obesity since the birth of my third child. Gosh, you have no idea how difficult this is for me to write about.  It's just a piece of cake. It's just a doughnut. Don't eat it. Ah, but that cake and doughnut is about that moment of pleasure in a life that has not had so many pleasures.  Yes, I struggle with eating for emotional comfort. Like any addict, I hope to drown my sorrows in momentary pleasure. Obesity is a treatable disease and I'm working on it.

I don't have my obesity under control right now, but I haven't given up hope. I long to be well from this need to eat sugar. I live in a world that values the young and so called "beautiful." Thankfully, I have this fantastic understanding of beauty that keeps my chin up. My understanding was a gift. A photographer called Emerald England opened my eyes to the beauty of everything.  I was at my highest weight of my life when I met her. I will tell you right now. I am the kind of person that everyone calls a beautiful heart.

I'd hired Emerald to take a headshot of me for my website. I apologized to her for asking her to use her incredible skills on someone like me.  She looked at me in surprise and asked why.  I told her my truth. I'm fat, dumpy,and gnome-like, and she takes pictures of beautiful people. She looked stunned and told me without hesitation, you are going to find out today that you are beautiful. I laughed and said OK. She took the shots and I went my way. When I received the pictures, I couldn't breathe.

Indeed, Emerald was right. I was beautiful, not just my heart, but the outside of me. Ever since that photography session, everyday, I stand in front of a mirror and speak the real truth to myself. You are beautiful, Molly.  You have a health problem with food. It's complicated, but it doesn't lessen your beauty. I have an illness that has to be treated.  This illness does not make less of a human being.  That is someone else's problem.

So my soul is wrapped in cake and doughnuts.  I'm working on it.  Obesity is a tough disease to live with, but it is not an ugly-maker. You have value, whoever you are. Your flaws are part of your beauty. (My contemporary romance, Plumb Crazy, is really inspired by my journey with obesity. The main character, beautiful Elva, was another gift to me.) Here s a secret. Your so-called flaws will inspire your work if you let them.

I will back next week with my November series, Uplift.

Here is a doodle for you!

A quote for your pocket too!

The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mode but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives the passion that she shows. The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years. Audrey Hepburn

I'm adding one of Emerald' England's pics, so you can see for yourself:

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16. Chicken by Chicken: A Glitch in the Software.

I'm continuing my Chicken by Chicken series. I am writing about my real challenges in hopes that my story will help you find your way.

This week I will chat about a glitch in the software of my brain. Along with the whole blind-in-one-eye thing, the anxiety thing, the depression thing, daily, I face dyslexia.

What is that like?

I have a hard time distinguishing left from right. I leave articles out of sentences.  I repeat letters in words. I leave letters out of words. I skip words. I don't put words in the right order. I flip bs, ds, ps, and qs. I love lists, but I really hate numbered lists. I thank God that we don't have to look up stuff in dictionaries manually any more! Also, I'm am freaking brilliant with math as long as calculation is not necessary.

I think you get it--glitch in that brain. .

I have hundreds of "work arounds" for this problem. I read my writing backwards. (Ah, yes, reading backwards or forward, right side up or upside down makes little difference to me.) I change fonts. I change the size of fonts. I change the color of fonts.  I only copy edit 5 or 6 words at a time. For math, I'm horrible at calculation but amazing at estimation. I solve every problem until I get the same answer three times.

ADVICE: If you are older, be sure to find some expert on dyslexia to offer you new ideas to deal with your glitches.

Dyslexia makes some easy things very difficult to me.  I have found it is useful to work with the problem and not against it. I am full of stories. Here are some facts. My stories have to be stronger than the average story because I have to get readers to look past the fact this writing needs "more editing than most." So be it. I'd pit my imagination against, the best grammar any day. I also am one tenacious soul.

In the end, dylexia has brought me some wonderful gifts. The best one is empathy. I love chatting to kids with reading and writing problems. Reading is not about the AR points you can rack up. Writing isn't about the grammar.  Reading is about finding a secret door into new worlds. And writing is about expressing ideas that only you can express.  I can seriously say, "Don't let a string of teachers slapping Fs on your papers stop you from opening secret doors or sharing your ideas."

A deep truth--we are all hopelessly flawed.  Everyone has glitches in their software.  We are having to deal with "work arounds."  If you are full of stories, do your best work and know that is enough regardless of the challenges you face.

For fun check out my Chickens video.  If you would like the book, CHICKENS DO NOT TAKE OVER HALLOWEEN, check it out here.
And now a doodle:

Here is a quote for your pocket.

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved. Helen Keller

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17. Chicken by Chicken: Panic Attacks a Life

Hi folks, I'm writing my series called Chicken by Chicken. I spend this month writing the real, especially my challenges. This is a difficult post to write. My life hasn't been normal. It has been defined by panic.  Panic attacks. I don't remember my first attack, maybe I was 5 or 6. I estimate I have had more than a thousand panic attacks in my life. It is strange, even writing about panic attacks makes a nervous feeling in my chest, but I'm going to press on.

For years I didn't know what was going on. It was clear to me early on that a few specific thing send me into panic. I 'd lose my glasses, or go to the dentist, or be picked on at school. I also had panic attacks about lost keys, missed school assignments, and bank errors. Sometimes I have had random attacks about speaking in public and entering new situations. Some of my panic triggers make sense to me. Some do not. 

In my worst seasons, I had panic attacks that happened once or twice a day for months.  I have multiple panic attacks in a day. The first mega attack day was in the third grade. I had 10 panic attacks in a row. I lost my glasses and I started a new school. I still remember the waves of panic crashing over me.  I sat at my desk and struggled with attack after attack for the whole school day. I was moved into a special ed classroom. These mega attacks have hit me through the years.  It's always if I'm hit with many triggers.

I've seen things turn into panic triggers. Here is my worst: I sought help in my early twenties, but unfortunately, my mental health provider did something human and stupid by having an affair with a guy 25 years younger than her.  The guy was being torn apart by the relationship. The guy was also a very close friend of mine.  My mental health provider stopped my sessions, informing me that she was having the affair with my friend.  I was dropped and left without care. Yeah, and then speaking to a mental health provider became one of my triggers. Dang. 

Here is reality of my panic attacks. They hit like a tornado. The shortness of breath. Hyperventilation. My heart races. Trembles shake my body. Cold sweats and goosebumps follow.  I often throw up. Uncontrollable sobbing. Dizziness. Wailing. It doesn't make sense. It's terrifying to those around me. It's terrifying to me. 

To know me is to know my panic. Most of my attacks last about 20 to 30 minutes. It's taken years to build strategies to survive and to find drugs that actually help.  I sometimes think it is beyond ridiculous to think I'm going to be a writer. What if a panic attack blindsides me?  People who love me understand. Everyone else is not so forgiving. 
I wish I could say I got the health care I needed for this right off and it has been all good. That is not my story. It took time to get help because mental health workers cause me to panic. This is the first time in life I've ever had the moxie to even speak of this. I do have healthcare now. I do have good medication. I can still have a panic attack now and then, but it is down to maybe two a year and never multiple attacks. 

I have solid ways to deal with panic. When it comes, I recognize I'm having attack. I speak my mantra: "This is a panic attack. It is a problem that is not the problem. It cannot hurt me. It cannot stop me. It just chemicals poured into my body. My fight of flight system is messed up. The chemicals will dissipate and then I can deal with the real problem."  I breathe slowly, repeating the mantra, until the panic ends. 

I am a person with a rare gift for words, but I'm also this broken person, who has been broken for most of my life by panic.  I hope that my struggle helps you to be brave and face whatever you are facing. I hope that you say what you need to.   

I will be back next week with more of Chicken by Chicken.  

Here is a doodle. Girl in the Moon. 

Here is a quote for your pocket. 

Listen to God with a broken heart. He is not only the doctor who mends it, but also the father who wipes away the tears. Crissi Jami

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18. Chicken by Chicken: Life in the Blur

Hi, folks. Just a little peek at my life and times first: I had the pleasure of attending the SCBWI conference in College Station, Texas. I met the brilliant Kimberly Willis Holt, who was as wonderful as I hoped she would be. I was so grateful to have the chance to meet such a fine writer, and she spoke to my soul, which is a thing so beyond words. I also had the chance to meet the Balzer and Bray editor, Kelsey Murphy, who shared great stuff about creating authentic characters, and was full of energy and the love of children's books. Feeling pretty blessed.

And now on to my Chicken by Chicken, where I talk about the real. We all face challenges. I am like everyone, I have challenges too. This week I'm going to talk about life in the blur. I was born with anisometropia amblyopia. Also known as lazy eye.  There is nothing wrong with my eye. The brain doesn't work. Currently there is a rosy outlook for this condition. For folks my age, not so much. I am legally blind in one eye. My other eye is corrected to 20/40.

I am extremely lucky that my good eye meets the threshold for driving without restriction. If I lose any more vision, I will no longer be able to drive at night or over the speed of 45 miles an hour. Having only one eye means I do not have stereoscopic vision. This makes me clumsy and I trip over things a lot  and bang into curbs with my car. I wish all curbs were painted a color. I also suck at sports that require you to hit a ball with a stick. I also sort of run into things randomly in a way that makes people roll their eyes.

I am posting two pictures so you can see what I see without my glasses.  The first one is what I can see with my bad eye. This is all it can ever see. The second one is what I can see with my good eye without correction.   As soon as my glasses are off I am blind.

This condition has shaped my life in a million ways. I trip on steps, fall off curbs, and run into pesky poles. I hate crowds because I bump into people and get scolded: "Are you blind?" This happens to me 3 or 4 times a week  and has happened for my whole life. Did the math. That is well over a hundred thousand times. If my glasses get knocked off for any reason,  I am blind. It annoys many people when I ask them to help me find my glasses. See pictures above. Could you find your glasses? Only if there is really, really good contrast, which there rarely is.

How we perceive the world defines us.  Anything that requires depth perception is just not in my wheel house. That means no diving, no flying planes, no playing video games, no driving motorboats, blah, blah, blah. I don't see things the way others do. The end. I am kind to myself. I accept my limitations and live on in the blur. We are all making do. A good thing to remember.
I will be back next week with more Chicken by Chicken.

Here is a doodle.
Finally a quote for your pocket. 

The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it. ― Moliere

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19. The Sink Overflowed

Hi folks, the sink overflowed this week. My son came home for lunch and found the mess. He didn't say a word to me and just cleaned up the water. I found a soaked roll of paper towels on the counter. Nice to have a family that supports creative endeavor.

What is this all about? Translated, my writing is popping. I'm back in the mode when I mean to sit down for thirty minutes of writing, and I end up writing for over an two hours even though I think thirty minutes. I know, I wish writing could always be this way. My story is Profit, a sci-fi epic. As usual, I so believe in this story. I'm leaving bits of my heart and soul on the page. I am inside a vast fictive dream that is so beyond me that it makes me tremble.

Here's the ramble. Chase after your creative dreams, folks. Don't worry. I know this can be tough, but always remember that the freedom is in the work. Every time you turn to the work you will find energy. I love to create. I love to see the work emerging, to experience it, and to bring it forth. I write words, but the important messages seem to be beyond the words. There is a hidden unseen part of creating. A great story builds something in the heart. It transfers true experience. It expands the world of the reader. It opens the reader to new ideas. It is bigger than me.

All creative work seems to do this. It connects us with the beauty of the universe. Consider this. Instinctively, we know that the chasing after money hurts. Our factories chug out greenhouse grasses, people fight for a buck on Wall Street, our green-less cities of steel are surrounded by isolated people in their ant-like cars, or worse bombs fall from our streaking jets, sending a message of --what? The best of us is in quiet souls toiling in corners often without pay or praise.  Every building that is more than square block of steel, every car with energy efficiency, every act that brings peace, and every creative endeavor opens the soul of human experience. Be in the business of making us more.

Do what you can with your life. Bloom in the pot you are planted in. Find ways to express yourself creatively.  Live mindfully. Live well.

I will be back next week with more meandering creative thoughts. This doodle comes from my husband Tim.  Yes, we all doodle at my house.


A quote for your pocket.

Perfection of character is this: to live each day as if it were your last, without frenzy, without apathy, without pretense. Marcus Aurelius

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20. The End of the Tunnel

Hi folks,

I've traveled through a dark tunnel creatively, but I'm standing here now blinking at the bright light at the end of the tunnel. The best part of my life is that I am surrounded by tremendous people. It's insane to me how many wonderful people have blessed me with their friendship. I received a 10 page hand-written letter from an old friend this week (one of the treasures). The first two pages were quotes from letters over the decades. I wrote this many years ago.  It reminded me of what I am about. 

"I had a perfect mommy moment today. I was reading a book. I had rolled over on my side and had my legs bent. Slowly I realized I wasn't alone. A sweet child had tucked himself and his book in the crook of my legs. He didn't say anything. He just curled up and looked at the pictures in his book. I felt warm and glowing inside. I felt like I was fulfilling my life. I never have to do anything more."

I am a cozy sort of person.  I like cups of hot tea with lemon cookies. I love a ramble in the morning. I love watching stars of a frosty night with warm blanket. I love curling up with a book and being transported to other worlds, other times, and other minds. I love to scribble stories. That is enough. 

Our friends find us when we can't find ourselves. They keep us when we are lost. They make us remember when we have forgotten. They name us. I am so thankful that I have found friendship is the light at the end of the tunnel.  Making moments for others is a deep part of why I write.  I hope you light the world with your creative gifts this weeks. Art is truth beyond the words. 

I will be back next week with a new series. 

Here is a doodle: SHARD. 

Here is a quote for your pocket. 

"Why did you do all this for me?" he asked. "I don't deserve it. I've never done anything for you."
"You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what's a life, anyway? We're born, we live a little while, we die. A spider's life can't help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone's life can stand a little of that."

—E.B. White, Charlotte's Web

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21. A Private Journey

Hi folks,  We all have our loads of baggage. It's rare for someone to reach the lofty age of 50 without some extra baggage for the load. Most people have baggage by age 10. It is painful to me when people act like their life has not happened. The idea that we must jump around and quote positive thinking statements, refusing to feel anything but good vibrations makes me cringe. Though I love good vibrations, I want to feel everything. Whatever I can feel, I want to feel.

I do not fear the depths of sorrow. This feeling is part of me. Sadness. Yep. Anger. Yep. Agony. Yep. Striated in with all that is pain and then happiness. Silliness. Peace. Joy. Love. A myriad of shades and colors of feeling are out there. My emotional story is just as complex as any rich soil. When you refuse your feelings, you are making yourself and arid or even worse sterile dirt. Embracing all of who you will help you share a better story. Don't expect anyone to exactly understand this need to experience your full range of emotions. This will be a private journey.  

It is important to feel as an artist. Every time you shove something under the rug, you shove some of your story under that rug too. Live your life this way. Air things  Scribble in your journal. Talk on tapes. Play that music. Head over to your psychologist. Try confessing to a minister. Whatever gets the stuff hidden out, do it. The best artists have to keep in touch with their white hot centers with all the contradictions and confusion. They also have to think deeply, So stick your head in those clouds and see what dreams may come.  Our thoughts and our emotions are intertwined like the chemicals in DNA. Mix them them together.

Dig into your emotional story. Search out the shades of your emotions. Feel them, and they will bleed into your work.. Feelings just do that. 

I will be back next week with more of the "Stuff" that makes good art happen.   

Here is a doodle.

Quote for your pocket. 

What your heart thinks great is great. The soul's response is always right. Ralph Waldo Emerson

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22. Many Waters

Hi folks, storytelling is a courageous act. All art is courageous. This makes me think of all the waters we face in life. It takes a lot of courage to live. We experience droughts, floods, storms, and more. It takes vast courage to translate those experiences into art that will lend courage to others. Shock value. Sentimentality. Satire. Succor. Self. Our response to many waters shows up in our art.

We have all been in deep waters. There are days when life is just over our heads. We can't breathe or find ground. We sink or swim. These places are where everything we want is just beyond our reach. The deep waters test our mettle. It's also the place we learn to float. The deep waters are where friendships are forged. This is where we learn. Is your work shallow?  Bring in your deep water experiences.

At other times, we wander into in stagnant waters. In these brackish places time seems to slow. Will anything ever change? Will we ever find our way?  Oh, if we could be someone else. Oh, if we only we could be in the middle of it all. How does anything great come out of this unchanging suburbia? Stagnant waters are full of questions and doubt. They birth tenacity in us and bring us gifts of patience, reinvention, and courageousness. Ask your questions and dig deeper. See what happens to your art.

Sometimes, the waters rage and we must bail the boat. We are tossed around and have no idea if we will survive. We can't see clearly. We can't hear anything but the roar. We don't have control in the raging storm. We are helpless,often injured within and without. Raging waters brings us to new places against our wills. These storms stay very present with us long after they are gone. Our survival after theses storms is our story. Don't be frightened by upheaval. Raging waters bring evolution. Evolve.

Here is a quote from the Song of Solomon in the Bible: Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. I think great writing is about giving words to the many waters that have not quenched the love in our hearts. Think about the waters you have gone through. Let those experiences guide your work.

Here is a doodle.

Water is the driving force of all nature. Leonardo Di Vinci

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23. The Unexplored Country

Hi, folks. This has been my unfortunate refrain for a while: my heart aches. I've worked hard as a creative person and believe I have little to show for it. It's tough when the lowliest worker makes more than me. For sure, I've made mistakes on my creative journey, and those mistakes have cost me, but I have always believed my gift would make a place for me. Instead, I've found shut doors. This has led to more than a few nights, sitting in my rocking chair and staring of into the dark night.

Here is a mystery that is greater than me. Once there was man named Micah--he was my kind of person, against unjust leaders,defender of the rights of the poor, and believer in social justice. He lived over 500 years B.C.E. and yet his words connect to my experience.  Here is his thought, "Though I sit in darkness the Lord will be light." I'm an American, so "Lord" isn't one my favorite words, we are not the Lord and King crowd. I recognize this Lord as the "Everlasting Intelligence" or "The Maker of the Immovable Rules" or the Heart of the Universe. When I don't know, the Heart of the Universe knows. 

It's strange how light will slip into your soul in the dark night. In the midst of tough times, hope finds me. I find myself dusting myself off, and, as if I'm some mythical creature, I feel myself rising. This season has been a place of darkness for me, and yet I look up in the night and see the infinity of stars. Light always finds its way into the dark corners. There are no words to how this comforts me. I feel drawn into the light. 

What is my response to this light? Light illuminates the terrain. It frees me to move forward. As an artist, I want to build new walls and pour histories into them. I can see the ground now and can see the best places to put the walls. For me, writing is an imagined history that is as real as any history. My imaginary wings are spreading. I see far off seas and the hint of unknown mountains. I have held myself back but now I must extend my boundaries. What will I find in the unexplored country? 

I hope that you are comforted by this. The light will find you where ever you are. I am sure of this.  I will be back next week with more reflections. 

Here is a doodle for you. Waterlilies.

Good news if this is you:

Micah 4:6 ...I will gather the lame; I will assemble the exiles and those I have brought to grief. I will make the lame my remnant,...

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24. Plenty of Margins

Hi folks, fall is upon us. My husband Tim is going on an scientific expedition with JOIDES Resolution for the next two months. This is the link to his blog.  He is flying to Darwin, Australia today. I will hold down the home front for the next two months. I have all kinds of mayhem planned for this time period. I just released THE CHICKENS DO NOT TAKE OVER HALLOWEEN with Caney Creek Books.  I hope that you give this a peep.

This week I will chat about the fab-ness of creating this book. Doodling Chickens is all about play for me. It's also about the love of the imperfect.  I have grown weary of machined edges of all children's art in these days.  There is a choking perfection in children's book making these days that leaves me cold. I am still thinking about the good times with Mr. Rodgers when he would dig a hole in sand, pour water in, and then watch the water disappear. You know, for kids.

Return to your inner child this week. Take some time to play. If you have some children, all the better. Blow bubbles, play cars, pretend to be dinosaurs...whatever floats your boat. Staying close to your early years opens up your work. Believe the impossible things. Don't listen to the voices that say no. Reconnect with the wonder of days. Reconnect with silly. We grown-ups do tend toward the deep waters of serious. Come with me and splash in the shallows for a while.

Don't orchestrate everything. Leave plenty of margins in your life. Be kind to yourself. The child-self forgives easily,is up for new things, and is open to new friends. May your days be filled with laughter. May you find surprising twists and turns in your plots. May your life be filled with sweetness, health, and peace.

THE CHICKENS DO NOT TAKE OVER HALLOWEEN is all about homemade childhood. I had fun making this book. It's not the Mona Lisa but it is the

Buy the THE CHICKENS DO NOT TAKE OVER HALLOWEEN written and illustrated by Molly Blaisdell on Amazon for $7.99. (Way more awesome than a Halloween card.)

Follow The Chickens on Facebook. I will be posting a new chicken doodle every day in October.

Here is a doodle for you. Spanish Girl

Here is a quote for you.

Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood. Mr. Rogers

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25. Chicken by Chicken: The End of the Long Dark Night.

It's October and time for Chicken by Chicken. This is going to a long post. I will also post about my fun Halloween chicken project at the end. I've been doodling chickens for years. They cheer me up. This past year has needed a lot of cheer.

I joined the Presbyterian church recently, and have been reading The Book of Confessions. It's a book that affirms basic Christian truths. It's the response of this denomination of Christians when it has been blindsided with confusing and destructive ideas.

So here is my history. For the past year my poor noggin' failed me. It's connected to my work. Here is the deal: you fail much as a writer. It is part of the gig. But a dark cloud came over me last year and just would not budge. I never thought my work would fail. Church, yes. Friends and family, yes. Body, yes. Circumstances, yes. But never my work. A friend told me once that my work is what keeps me floating above it all. Well, my work sank, and I sank like a stone in a deep ocean.  I headed to the doctor and, yes, learned I was suffering from straight out major depression.

My thoughts were not about taking my life or even dying. This was all about failing at my life's work. Here's the deal, good writers get paid for their hard work. Their books sell. I put out a book as dear to me and with as much of my soul as I could on a page, PLUMB CRAZY, and the result was no one cared. I sold less than a hundred copies.The publishing house cancelled my contract. Then, I began submitting a book called PROFIT that I believed was the best thing I'd ever put to a page. I had one partial request, and the agent never got back to me. Everyone else ignored my submissions.

Here's the painful litany: Fool. Idiot. Stupid. These words branded me. All those people who said you were full of it for wanting to be a writer, they were right. No one cares. You can't write a single word that anyone cares about. All the people who have passed on you, they just didn't want you to know that your work is substandard and will not rise. You are irrelevant. The success of reaching others and making a difference in this world. The dream you would be able to make a modest living at this, over. You could have worked for real all these years and your kids wouldn't be pulling out loans to get college educations. You messed up your whole life and there are no do overs.  You chased a dream, and nada. You are a freaking failure. (It's okay, folks, these words don't burn into me like hot coals any more.)

This has been hard on so many levels. My mother suffered major depression when I was a teen. She didn't really get over it until I went to college.We had no healthcare when I was kid, so mom just suffered. Thankfully, that is not my story, but even good doctors can't wave a magic wand to make me better. It's been a long road this past year. It has been terrifying.

Depression feels like a band is tied around my waist, tight and painful. It's like being plated with metal armor that you can't take off. It like living in darkness. My art has suffered. I've thought about giving it up. Another choice mom made. Man, this has been a mess. Still, I continued to move forward, but my arms were heavy like led weights, my stomach ached, and my poor brain just sank into a pit. I cried more tears last year than I ever have in my life. I'd be standing in line at the grocery store and realize my face was wet with tears. Oh, why am I at the grocery story when every movement is agony?  I refused to stop functioning through this pain. I wiped the tears and moved to the next thing on the list. I wrote a lot of lists last year.

So here is the journey. I got clinical help, and I worked on seeking goodness. I had to let some things go. I cut down on the writing events. I shoved aside the novels for almost six months and worked on picture books. It was a struggle to write one word and that is the whole picture book game. I left the church I was attending. I'd been going there for almost five years and didn't really know anyone. This was no longer acceptable. I found a church that was more open to ideas and people with differences. I planted a tree.  I hugged the cats. I wrote my lists and drew my chickens.  Silly chickens make me laugh, and I love to laugh. I taught teens who to write through a summer program TEENS Publish at the library (no pay). Gosh, I loved those young writers, so full of passion and dreams. BTW, this was a totally unprofessional act, I know, but it brought some happiness to my heart and mind, and this year happiness has been worth more than all the gold in California.

I am coming out of the long dark night. I'm working again. The dips aren't as deep. Positive thoughts are back.  I still have a ways to go, but I am hopeful. Finally my  book  CHICKENS DO NOT TAKE OVER HALLOWEEN  http://ow.ly/SVYcB  is for sale. I was so blessed by the silliness of this book. I hope that it blesses a few of you. I will be back next week with more confessions, chicken by chicken.

Here is a doodle for you.  It's a picture from the Chicken book.

A quote for your pocket: There may be a great fire in our hearts, yet no one ever comes to warm himself at it, and the passers-by see only a wisp of smoke. Vincent Van Gogh

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