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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. Bloom: Evolve

Hi folks, welcome to the blog. I'm writing a continuing series called BLOOM this month. It's all about how to make your work bloom. Not always an easy task. This week I'm going to chat about how blooming is really evolutionary process. Writing a book definitely starts a  with a spark of an idea and slowly over time a complex book appears.


Be confident in this process, my creative friends. Keep working and the work will get better. This is the most honest truth that I can tell you.  You are a unique creature on this planet. Your major adaptation is that you thrive in change. Don't allow yourself to stagnate in any way.  It's when you apply the pressure of change to yourself that you will find your work blooming. 

One way you can stagnate is by sitting on one project too long.  If you have been working on that first chapter for 10 years, it is time to put the project away and move to the next one.  I'm not saying you can never go back, but this particular project has drawn you away from your need to change. You must push yourself into dynamic work. It's messy. It's painful. It's exhilarating. It's unsure. Yes, you will bloom in the midst of chaos. Have you ever thought about about how that winter ends and spring bursts forth with life? Let the winter of your work end and allow everything to change. Today. 

Another place that will keep you from evolving as a creative person is to be stuck in a rut. You may have ended up writing romances but you always wanted to write gritty thrillers. You keep churning out those romances. The work has lost the gloss of the early times.  It is not blooming at all. It is not evolving into something better.  This state of affairs has you down.  Clear off the desk and take a new path.  Oh, now you are terrified. Good. You will evolve. You will bloom. 

Here is a third way to stir up the creative pot. You want to bloom.  Are you hiding in the shadows? Keeping yourself safe from critique, safe from rejection, safe from failure? That works for a while. When the work is young, it needs to be kept safe, but when your work is ready to bloom it needs conditions that force it to bloom.  The nutrients of critique, the water of experience, and sunlight. Exposure. Are you lurking in the shadows? Seeking that connection with others is important. You must be brave now,

I hope this helps you on your journey!  Come back next week for one more in this series,  Also remember that my book PLUMB CRAZY is out.  Please consider adding it to your shelves or the shelves of your local library. Here is a link.

Here is a doodle. Oregon Plains

Finally a quote for your pocket.

It is paradoxical, yet true, to say, that the more we know, the more ignorant we become in the absolute sense, for it is only through enlightenment that we become conscious of our limitations. Precisely one of the most gratifying results of intellectual evolution is the continuous opening up of new and greater prospects.
Nikola Tesla

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2. Bloom: The Happy Mirror

Hi folks, I am continuing my series called BLOOM this week. This month my series is about how to make your work bloom. Not always an easy task. For the artist, the story isn't really always so pretty. This year has been tough for me. My stupid brain has been letting me down. I've stumbled into a period of anxious depression. I've always been this internal optimist at heart, but gray clouds have rolled in.

Here's what it feels like. I sit at down to work. I've put the time aside. I focus but the feeling of jazz is gone. Bitter feeling have replaced it, and it's really choking my soaring spirit. It feels  like my window to bloom has passed me by. The winter is here and I'm just screwed. There is no money for a hothouse to force a bloom in this cold winter's walk in my life. Has my opportunity passed me by?  I don't know but I keep working.

To tell the truth, the only thing keeping me afloat right now is the work itself. I can see the years of crafting on the page. It's a happy mirror to me. I've never written better. How weird is that? Even if the brain is sort of messed up, the work is not. I'm bleeding onto the page.right now. This blood is rich stuff. This work is  the best of me. It  dodges all the feelings and the life is on the page. More than a few tears end up on those pages too.  I am so grateful for the work. So grateful.

I refuse to pause even on these cloudy inside days. Life feels too short to pause for them, and I plan to bloom. I believe that for me and you. I know that time and life isn't always on our side. And yet, dream for tomorrow. Dream another dream. Don't let the chance to create slip away from you. I know how scary it is to feel no one is ever going to see your work. Work anyway.

I have heard a saying. "April showers bring May flowers." I'm counting on the truth of this.  Showers are here. Flowers should be coming. I hope you come back next week for more of my bloom series.

One last thing, a request.  I hope that you check out my book PLUMB CRAZY.  Please read it, share it with a friend or a library, post a review somewhere.  I put a lot my heart unto this book. It will lift you up in unexpected ways.

Here is a doodle.



Here is a quote for your pocket.

Your coffee's warm, but your milk is sour
Life is short, but you're here to flower
Dream yourself along another day
Never miss opportunity    
Pete Murray


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3. BLOOM: Plumb Crazy is Up!

Hi folks, My novel Plumb Crazy has been released under my pen name Cece Barlow! Here are the links. Here is the Amazon link for paperback Here is the link of the ebook.


This is a day of blooming, but blooming does always work out the way you think it will.  Did you ever listen to Paul Harvey. He had these little radio segments called 'The Rest of the Story." He'd share little vignettes about real folks with an unusual twist in their lives. This story is one like that. 

I will tell you sometimes it may feel like it is not working out for your creative soul. Whenever I think this, I remind myself of an alcoholic and bi-polar sufferer. This guy wrote and sang songs. He had a small and devoted fanbase but success did not just jump his way. He didn't have a successful album or single and he had a tough time keeping his records in print. (A feeling I am sort of aware of.) His main stages were dive bars, backwoods cabins, or friends' couches. One of songs was performed by some friends and did pretty well. 

So here is the rest of the story, The song that did pretty well was called "Pancho and Lefty" and was a number one hit for Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. Townes Van Zandt's music has been performed by a galaxy of country music stars. The journey of art is worth it. Success can be strange. And finally, every little thing is going to shine.

Here is a link to Townes Van Zandt singing "To Live is To Fly."  I think you will treasure this song as much as I do. I hope that you Bloom anyway!  Just do your art. Don't worry about the rest. I will be back next week with more on the series Bloom.  

The doodle this week is fanart -- Exploding TARDIS. 



Here is a quote for your pocket

Well to live is to fly, all low and high
So shake the dust off of your wings
And the sleep out of your eyes
Shake the dust off of your wings
And the tears out of your eyes

-- Townes Van Zandt

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4. BLOOM: Addicted to Change

Hi, folks, yay for all the blooming flowers in my yard!  I feel like blooming too. Next Saturday is the release of Plumb Crazy by Cece Barlow aka me. :) If you have wanted a copy to tuck away in your backpack, purse or the floorboard of your car, that day is about to come for you.

This month my series is about how to make your work bloom. You have all seen it. Those roses by the back fence didn't bloom this year or those bearded irises just didn't show any color,or the dailies that languished with nary a bloom. What is going on?  Conditions just aren't right yet.

Blooming doesn't just happen.  Books don't happen either. If your works in progress keep on fizzling, you need to consider what you are cultivating. The soil of you just isn't allowing whatever you want.

Dang.

What is the creative soul to do?  Hint, the solution requires you be addicted to change.

Here is an idea. Change what you are cultivating. You might not be literary heavy that you have sought to be and instead are really a genre mystery writer. This kind of change takes chutzpah. I mean it is tough to dig out a flowerbed and replant. It is hard to rip out all your grass and shrubbery and put something else in. And it is excruciating to toss all your WIPs out and take a new direction, but this may be the only way you will bloom.

Here is an idea. Listen to what  your counselors are telling you. If they love your work keep with it. If there is no critique love, it may be time to change to something else. This takes humility to adhere to. I mean it is tough to follow someone's advice.  We all have feet of clay and more than one person has steered you wrong before. I have some news for you, creative endeavors involve high risk. Try engineering or something like that if you want a sure thing.

Here is one last idea. You might have to transplant.  The nutrients flowing into your life.  The support, the love, the encouragement, might not be there. You may need less feedback or much more. You may need to rent a cabin in the woods and work as hard as you can for a few days. You may have to start working in a local coffee shop instead of at your house where you keep getting caught up in stuff.

Want to bloom?  Get real about your work to find good success. Let me know how it is going! I will be back next week with more blooming.


Here is a quote for your pocket.

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself. Leo Tolstoy

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5. PLUMB CRAZY Journey -- The Transcendent

Hi, folks, this month I'm focusing the blog on the writing journey of PLUMB CRAZY. I'm calling this series: PLUMB CRAZY Journey -- The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and The Transcendent. I'm going to dig deep into the generation of my novel and dynamics of that creative journey. Be aware that I write as Cece Barlow for this work. It will be released in the beginning of May. :)


Oh, I have been waiting to write this post.  PLUMB CRAZY was a unparalleled experience for me. The things I learned are difficult to describe and that's why I call this part of the journey transcendent. These things are mystical, divine, and beyond all of my human experience. 

The first thing is about knowing your main character.Yes, I did the charts, the character surveys, the letters from the character, the picture studies, the personality tests, all kinds of stuff. All of it was necessary but not the most needful thing. The most needful thing was to give Elva Presley leeway. I let go of what I expected her to do, and you know what, she surprised me. She fought with me me. She told me things about life that astounded me. She was her own person. The process of giving her the lead was a little like pulling bricks out of a wall until the whole thing tumbled down. I found out what it means to follow a free spirit while writing this book. I think my spirit is freer because of it. 

The next thing has to do with pacing. Me, I want to write chapters about how to set a plumbing fixture and how much it makes your shoulders hurt when you work so hard. Pages and pages of that. I wanted to weave a plumbing manual into my book.  Yes, I had to cut a few chapters. I might post one on the Cece Barlow blog so you can groan with me. What a waste of writing time. "The devil is in the details, but so is salvation." Admiral Hyman Rickover said this and had something there. I found my best book by clinging to the details that move the story forward and letting go of the rest of it. 

The last thing that came to me because of PLUMB CRAZY has no name. It's something about the great meaning in friendships, the quirkiness of love, and the unusual gifts that life presents us with when we are not expecting them. Perhaps we find the best things off the beaten path. Do you know what it feels like when you end up lost somewhere and then stumble onto something that you would not have sought in a million years, but it is just the thing you need? PLUMB CRAZY gave me that. It was unexpected. It was out of mainstream. It was transcendent. This thing wrapped around my heart, my mind, my soul, I am so blessed because of it. I hope PLUMB CRAZY does the same for you. 

Well that is the end of this PLUMB CRAZY Journey series. I hope it spoke to you. Next week, I will beginning my blooming series. All about how to make your stories bloom. I am excited.

Here is a doodle: "Flowers"



My quote for today is followed by a rare and short political rant from me. Something has been bothering me. 

I suggest that this is a good time to think soberly about our responsibilities to our descendants - those who will ring out the Fossil Fuel Age. Our greatest responsibility, as parents and as citizens, is to give America's youngsters the best possible education. We need the best teachers and enough of them to prepare our young people for a future immeasurably more complex than the present, and calling for ever larger numbers of competent and highly trained men and women.  Admiral Hyman Rickover

My RANT: We don't need standardized testing. We will encourage teachers to be accountable by giving them generous pay and favorable working conditions. Burying them in regulations and paper work is offering a future of mediocrity to our kids. Not one test has ever made a difference in my kids' lives. Teachers make differences in my kids lives -- Mr. Chapman, Mrs. Sherman, Mrs. Westberg, Mr. D. Mrs. Palmer...to name a few. The culture of the negative needs to stopped. Let's offer kids glorious, eye-opening knowledge, opportunities to apply that knowledge, and finally an instilled habit of  decisions made on VERIFIED facts and logical thinking. Let's give teachers the reins of the future and not bureaucrats. We are the captains of our fate. We are masters of our destiny. Will we stop this educational madness and pave the way for a future with a sure foundation? 

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6. PLUMB CRAZY Journey -- The Ugly

Hi, folks, this month I'm focusing the blog on the writing journey of PLUMB CRAZY. I'm calling this series: PLUMB CRAZY Journey -- The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and The Transcendent. I'm going to dig deep into the generation of my novel and dynamics of that creative journey. Be aware that I write as Cece Barlow for this work. It will be released at the end of this month.


I chatted last week about the BAD of writing PLUMB CRAZY, this week I'm going touch on the UGLY. No one want unpleasantness. No one. First I want to admit, writing PLUMB CRAZY was no chore. I loved it. I laughed so hard while writing it, I fell off the couch a few times. It was a joyous journey for me, but there were a few ugly moments.

First up, I love to prose on about the joys of plumbing. You may thank my critique group partners that my book is not  weighed downed with LENGTHY descriptions of how to bust out concrete with a jack hammer and the minute details of measuring lengths of pipe. Cutting my darlings was UNPLEASANT! Like any pruning experience in writing it hurts at first but then it is all good.  

Next, never start a story with a sunrise, unless that sun is about to go supernova.  You must be a seasoned writer with many awards to start with a sunrise (cough, Noman by William Nicholson) or a dark and stormy night (cough, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle). Believe me these writers got away with it; they didn't improve their stories with their choices. So, yes, PLUMB CRAZY began with a sunrise until I so got over it. Too many readers snoozing for the first five minutes. Start as close to something happen as you can.  Avoid the so-so, mundane, average start.  

Last of all, did you know readers like to know what your character is thinking? I am so close to my character Elva Presley Hicks that I feel like she may be one of my kids. So, this turned out to be some ugly stuff in early drafts of my book. Readers wanted to know what she was thinking. Um, did you know readers are NOT mind readers? It turned out that I wanted to protect Elva.  This is a human reaction but it is ugly in fiction. Making Elva vulnerable was an UNCOMFORTABLE experience.  I could NOT keep her safe. Remember that when you write: Don't do the safe thing. 

Next week I will dip into the transcendent of writing PLUMB CRAZY. I hope that you will come back. 

Here is a doodle: 


Here is a quote for your pocket: 

Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone.
― Dorothy Parker

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7. PLUMB CRAZY Journey -- The Bad

Hi, folks, this month I'm focusing the blog on the writing journey of PLUMB CRAZY. I'm calling this series: PLUMB CRAZY Journey -- The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and The Transcendent.  I'm going to dig deep into the generation of my novel and dynamics of that creative journey. Be aware that I write as Cece Barlow for this work. It will be released at the end of this month.

This week I'm focusing on the the bad. That right! THE BAD! Every third person you meet ( not a scientifically proven fact but a personal observation) wants to write a novel.  They also want to spend between fifteen minutes to an hour explaining that novel to you at every event you attend.  Then they may suggest that you write it for them, for free of course, since you are a writer and basically have nothing to do. Writing a novel comes with the bad bonus that very few people respect your work. Anyone can write a book. If you are a children's writer, you work for peanuts, and that's if your lucky. Don't expect applause.

Writing a novel is no fun. Bad, bad, stuff. You sit in a chair. My sciatica is terrible. You stare at a blank page, then you write entire chapters that are totally worthless. The next day you repeat this experience. For me, I will repeat this experience 5 days a week for at least 8 months to reach Draft Number One! That draft has more holes than pumice. There will be many many drafts. I work hard. I spend months refining my work. Hours at critique group, hours reading support books, hours rewriting scenes and upping the stakes in anyway I can.  There is monotony in this work. No one  tells you when you are done. No one tells you when you should just drop this novel and work on something else. There is no way to know if anyone will ever read what you writing. And yet you write anyway.

I don't write novels in a vacuum. Novels are written in the real world. It can be very bad. I wish it were all about drinking cups of tea. I wish it were all about sitting in a beautiful spot and considering my imaginary world. It is not about that. It is about writing in a corner of a hospital waiting room. It's in the middle of a day job that is about a mindless as it gets. It's not just exterior stuff that will get you down. It's about writing yourself into a corner that there is no way out of and you have to scrap the whole draft and work on something else. It't about receiving tons of rejections and still pushing forward. It's about hoping against hope.  No easy road, folks..

I hope that you are kind to yourself this week. I get it. We all are facing battles. No work comes easy to any of us. We have to pour our our souls sometimes to find our way.

I hope this doodle makes you smile.  Yes, good work comes out of a lovely blobby brown mess.



Because sometimes you have to do something bad to do something good. Oscar Wilde

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8. PLUMB CRAZY Journey -- The Good

Hi, folks, this month I'm focusing the blog on the writing journey of PLUMB CRAZY. I'm calling this series: PLUMB CRAZY Journey -- The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and The Transcendent.  I'm going to dig deep into the generation of my novel and dynamics of that creative journey. Be aware that I write as Cece Barlow for this work. It will be released at the end of this month.

This week I'm focusing on the good of writing my book PLUMB CRAZY. It was the fifth novel I've written (the other 4 are unpublished) and it is the closest to my real, every day life. There is much good that wraps into a book like this. Here are some of the layers.

One layer of good comes from basing a book in a world close to my own. The setting was easy to visualize. You really know the space you are working in. I know what it feels like to drag in after a seventeen hour day, my hands bleeding and back aching, even though I'm just a girl of seventeen. I know the heat of Texas and understand it is actually a character on the stage in this part of the world. I know how a drill feels when it jams and then beats against my fingers. This knowledge of setting saved some research hours, added authenticity, and gave this writer needed confidence.

Another layer of good that comes from basing a book on a world close to my own is all about mining memories.  I mean we all have gold in our hilly pasts or even mountainous pasts. It was good to reexamine my younger days from the perspective of adulthood. I see things differently now than I did then. The Dragons that roared at me as teen seem like puny lizards now. My drama feels bland.  I also see strengths in myself that I didn't realize at the time. I found myself celebrating who I am. Any journey that causes that is a good one.

The last layer of good that I'm going discuss (but by no means the only good I found) is all about the redo. Fiction is not exactly life. Life isn't always interesting. It doesn't always make sense.  Good doesn't always triumph in real life. Writing a story gives you the freedom of what if.  I found that writing PLUMB CRAZY reopened a few old wounds but then allowed them to really heal. Writing from the heart of my life helped me appreciate who I am. This is such a good thing. You might try it.

I hope you come back next week for more of the PLUMB CRAZY journey. I'm glad you dropped by. Happy creating.

It's Easter. Here's a whimsy doodle for you: Superhero egg designs.




Put this in your back pocket and bring it often.

CELEBRATE myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.


Walt Whitman

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9. Lucky March: The essentials of luck

Hi, folks, this is the last in my Lucky March series. I'm a novelist as well as a picture book author. I am especially fortunate that way, lucky, if you will. I am half a century old and over the course of my journey, the nature of luck has been made clear to me. I'm exploring the wonder of luck in our lives.

Today I'm going to talk about the essentials of luck. Ah, who doesn't want to be lucky. Keep that four leaf clover, that lucky baseball card, and that favorite number, but be aware that there is no magic amulet, no handy spell or any lucky charm that will work.

 However, there are four essentials that will help luck find you. Here they are:

Discover Opportunities -- This is about finding favorable circumstances. It's tough to find alligators in the desert.  To discover opportunities you have to find or create an environment that is favorable for them. Think about where your opportunities thrive then head over or terraform where you are.

Heed Intuition -- Intuition is the ability to know something with out conscious reasoning. This ability comes from making many tries.  This repetition imbues you with knowledge that will support you in future event. Follow your feeling, Luke.

Foster Expectations -- This is all about belief.  In spite of what you have seen, keep believing. This is the pathway to success. Reach out to people who cherish your dreams, Let go of the rest. Those lucky charms? Put them in your pocket. Whatever gives you  expectation, cling to that.

Nurture Resilience. -- The journey to intuition is fraught with missteps and failure. Flexibility in dreams, hopes, plans is a big piece of the resilience pie. Dusting yourself off when you fall is a huge part of moving forward. Durability and elasticity are gained  by being willing to try again and again.

I hope you seek the essentials of luck. I hope loads of luck finds you! Next week, I will begin a series about my PLUMB CRAZY writing journey. Maybe my steps will encourage yours!

Here is a doodle! Make a wish!



A quote for your pocket

Diligence is the mother of good luck.  Benjamin Franklin

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10. Lucky March: Write Your Verse

Hi folks, I'm a novelist as well as a picture book author. I am especially fortunate that way, lucky, if you will. I am half a century old and over the course of my journey, the nature of luck has been made clear to me. This month my series is Lucky March, where I'm exploring the wonder of luck in our lives.


Oh, March has brought waves of luck to my life. My book Plumb Crazy is almost ready to be released again as an ebook and in paper for the first time.  It will be under my alter ego name: Cece Barlow! I'm traveling to Washington state to visit with dear friends in April for a writing retreat marathon. I feel grateful and happy.  I am just glad to  be part of the verse.

This week I will respond to Walt Whitman's poem, "Oh, me! Oh, life!"  Go here to read his genius words. 

Here is truth to me. I don't really understand myself, and life is so far beyond me--like the stars to a speck of dirt. And yet I'm caught up with the mundane of my species. I see multitudes people gossiping, slandering, and back-stabbing. I live with folks who share knowledge to ends of the Earth and wonder: has it helped? Art has lost value, faith is fading except for the worst of it, and foolishness flows over the edges of every vision, in this  ad-driven, branded, socialized bumper sticker world. The sideshow prophets declare that written words are dying.

Don't think I'm not caught up in it all. I am in that multitude, my head turning toward the visual nonsense, the profane silliness, and the unholy devaluation, when I could spend this moment being so much more. Yes, I am just as faithless as the rest.

Here's the thing. I want light. I want meaning, I want purpose, but I am mired in empty useless years that I wasted for no good reason.  I did not open my eyes earlier, so I must open them now. I am woven in the fabric of my times. I am asking, shouting really at the great universe, struggling to not let the waves of sadness overcome me.

What good can I do?  I look out but those words fall on my beating heart. Life! What good can I do? My hands curl into fists,  and I shake like a leaf being ripped by a storm wind.

The answer comes to me, whispering, still, soft. A voice!  You are here, dear one.. You were born. You breathe. You are are. This is the great poem, and you are allowed to contribute one verse to it all. Write your verse. This is the gift of life.

Lucky me! Lucky you! I hope you think about the verse you are writing. I pray that you do the most with what you have to offer.  We all need you to do that. I will be back next week with more Lucky March.

NO doodle this week! But here is a sneak peek at my book cover for PLUMB CRAZY! I am so excited to share this with you!  I hope that you share it too!



Here is a an excerpt from PLUMB CRAZY for you to tuck in your pocket.

"The basic hidden thing that every Loser Girl knows—she has value, like every person, star, whale, rock, and slug. The whole universe has its share of risks. Slugs get stepped on, whales are hunted, stars explode, and people, well, people are fragile, easy to break. She was a secret unseen commodity, like di-lithium crystals found on planets that few would visit and even fewer could endure. Riches hid inside of her. No one had found them yet. But they would. It was just how the universe was put together."

                                

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11. Lucky March: Life is full of surprises

Hi folks, I'm a novelist as well as a picture book author. I am especially fortunate that way, lucky, if you will. I am half a century old and over the course of my journey, the nature of luck has been made clear to me. This month my series is Lucky March, where I'm exploring the wonder of luck in our lives.


First, some lucky stuff coming up. Today is PI day, and this very morning at 26 minutes and 53 seconds after 9 a.m., we passed a date and time represented by the first 10 digits of π. How lucky is that? And how about this, on March 20 there will be a total eclipse by the vernal equinox sun. That happens about once every 19 years! So lucky. 

If you go searching through the books on my shelves you will find quite a collection (not just books). I tuck four leaf clovers, owlet feathers, interesting seeds, fortunes, weird money, leaves, flowers, candy wrappers, drawings by my kids, and whatever other little bits I find in the pages of my books. When I reread my books, I always laugh when I come across one of  my lucky treasures. These bits remind me life is full of surprises. 

What is all this about? One thing my parents instilled in me is to never lose your childlike wonder of the world. My 80-year-old dad still gets down on the floor and plays make-believe with his 5-year-old grandson. My grandmother taught me to knock on wood to help good things along.  I still wish on bales of hay. I will never be too old to play. I keep my eyes open  to the world around and embrace the lucky gifts it has to offer me.  I believe this practice enriches me and enriches my writing.  I am ready to believe  many impossible things before breakfast. I hope you are too. 

Don't listen to those who scoff at the salt over your shoulder, your love for the number seven, your Maneki-neko collection, your bamboo plant on your desk, or that huge helping of black-eyed peas on the first day of the year. Luck is about our lack of control, our need for meaningful coincidence, our hunger for Divine providence. Like the three brothers of Serendip, forge a path that mixes sound judgement with the lucky happenings of your lives.

I hope you stumble upon many lucky things this week and that your life is filled with wonder. I hope you try and find ways to express this wonder to others. I will be back next week with more Lucky March.  

Here is a doodle for you. 

Finally here is a poem for you pocket from Ella Higginson(1861-1940), a poet from Washington state.  

Four-leaf Clover by Ella Higginson

I know a place where the sun is like gold,
And the cherry blooms burst with snow,
And down underneath is the loveliest nook,
Where the four-leaf clovers grow.

One leaf is for hope, and one is for faith,
And one is for love, you know,
And God put another in for luck—
If you search, you will find where they grow.

But you must have hope, and you must have faith,
You must love and be strong – and so—
If you work, if you wait, you will find the place
Where the four-leaf clovers grow.



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12. Lucky March: I do what I love

Hi, folks. I'm a novelist as well as a picture book author. I am especially fortunate that way, lucky, if you will.  I am half a century old and over the course of my journey, the nature of luck has been made clear to me.

Some lucky people are born into wealth and privilege giving the freedom to follow whatever whim the wish. Some lucky people win the genetic lottery and just have more brain power than the rest of us. Another group of lucky people stumble into the right circumstances: winning a big prize or getting that big break. One more group of lucky people just have excellent connections. Then there are the people like me.

How do I tap into luck? I mean I live in suburbia. I drive a decade old minivan that needs some work. I live in a college town that has a university in it that is all about engineering and business. Artist don't flock here. There isn't an independent bookstore for almost a hundred miles. I did not attend an exclusive high school or college. I was a below average student. No prizes. No big breaks. And did I mention that I live in a place "scourged by fire ant and choked with bull nettle." People find me odd here. Many say "I'm so strange." My lucky secret: I do what I love and I basically do it for free.

Doing what you love for free is complicated. I volunteer some.  If you are not being paid, folks doubt  your professionalism and don't respect your work.  Once upon a time anyone could write, but now people have MFAs have a real edge. There are other downsides: someone is always pressuring me to give up this low pay madness and get a real job. I hide at parties when people rave about the luck that has led them to overwhelming financial success. My year end balance sheet is beyond dismal, in spite of my high hopes and hard work.

And yet I feel oh, so, lucky. I write stories every day. I have joined a journey that mankind has been on since before our fledgling species could write words. I create provocative beginnings, middles, and ends. I've gotten better when I thought I couldn't. I have had the opportunity to work with awesome writers and love it. I feel so lucky to live a creative life. So throw away the bank statement and define your life however you want to.

In closing, I'm going to update my current work. At the end of March I'm going to rerelease PLUMB CRAZY. It will be available in paperback and as an ebook. It will no longer be written by me but by my alter ego, Cece Barlow.  I hope that if you had not a chance that you will give my book a read.

You might also want to check out cecebarlow.blogspot.com, the new home from my work for young adults and the young at heart. It's still in the prelaunch phase but it is getting there. Please come back next week for more my Lucky March series.

Here is the doodle:  Happy.



A quote for your pocket.

Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get.  Ray Kroc

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13. Golden Advice: Musings on Aldous Huxley's Essay "Sermons in Cats"

Hi folks, this is my February series on Golden Advice. I like to spend the month of February digging into the wisdom that has come my way, and that guides my art, my craft and my life. I find having some wise stuff in the soul helps me write stories with purpose. This week's thoughts are my musings on Aldous Huxley's essay: "Sermons in Cats."

I've had author crush on Aldous Huxley since my teens. He wrote books like Brave New World. I read it, and we became best friends. He wrote screenplays: Pride and Prejudice (1940)and Jane Eyre (1944). He wrote essays, poems, travel journals, and even (gasp) a children's book. (You are making me look lame, bestie.)

This week I'm musing about his essay "Sermons in Cats." A young author once asked Huxley how to become a novelist. Huxley encouraged the young author to buy lots of paper, a pen, ink, and write. The young author was not satisfied with this answer and begged Huxley for his writing formula. Huxley then urged the young writer to go to a fancy university and study writing. The young author was still unsatisfied and asked Huxley "did he keep a notebook or a journal," did he jot things on napkins or did use cross indexed cards, did he read novels exclusively or be well read across all subjects, and more questions.

Finally Huxley had enough and he offered this: "My young friend," I said, "if you want to be a psychological novelist and write about human beings, the best thing you can do is to keep a pair of cats."

The young writer left disconsolate. He wanted some magic formula, but Huxley put some heavy truth on the table instead. What makes stories interesting is when we look under the veneer of "manners, conventions, traditions of thought and feeling." Cats are malcontents. Imagine the marriage of two Siamese cats. They are at each other throats and fur flies. It's no fairy tale. Watching the behavior of cats will keep you from banality and untruths that parade as true relationships.

I have two cats and they are true characters. They are friends one minute and sinking in fangs in the next. Those twitching tails indicate perverse plans in the future. They are also affectionate, nuzzling and rubbing, and then out of nowhere, biting. My cats will moan like the world is coming to an end at night outside my door, and then purr like motorboats when I let them in, and then scratch me a few seconds later. Yes, Huxley has something here. Some big sermons for writers are hidden in the lives of cats.
I hope that this series helps you no your journey. I will be back next week with my Lucky March series.

Here is a doodle for you:






A quote for your pocket: 

The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which mean never losing your enthusiasm. Aldous Huxley

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14. Golden Advice: Musing on Francis Bacon's Essay "Of Boldness"

Hi folks, this is my February series on Golden Advice. I like to spend the month of February digging into the wisdom that has come my way, and that guides my art, my craft and my life. I find having some wise stuff in the soul helps me write stories with purpose. This week's thoughts are my musings on Francis Bacon's essay "Of Boldness."

Francis Bacon was a philosopher and scientist who lived from the late 1500s to early 1600s.  He's the guy that came up with the scientific method. His thoughts of methodology came onto my radar when I was college. I was so moved by his thinking that I read all of his essays and bits and pieces of his thoughts wove into the fabric of my life. One of his essays, "Of Boldness," resonated. And now for my musing.

Here I put some of his thoughts into the plain English. The heart of boldness is action. The only downside of boldness, humans are generally part genius and part stoopid. This makes boldness a tricky thing. If you are standing on a foundation of ignorance and/or "never going to happen," boldness is worthless. It will get you in trouble. You boldly make a promise and then, heck, you can not really pull it together. Then you end up reneging on that promise after failing shamefully. What artist hasn't had this day?

One true thing is that perfectly bold people refuse to admit they have bitten off something bigger than they can chew and instead brush over their failure and then turn in a different direction. It's a wonder to behold such bold people. Boldness is often ridiculous. Here is the plain truth: great boldness always comes with some extreme absurdity.


Boldness doesn't see danger or inconveniences. It's probably not a good idea for bold people to serve as commander in chief. They need to be seconds under the direction of others.  At the end of the day, it's a good thing to see dangers, but when getting art done, it's good not to see those dangers unless the commander in chief taps him or her on the shoulder and says stop now!

As an artistic person, you may chafe because of all the bean counters, market gurus, editors and fans that direct your art. You are a person of ACTION. You have boldness in your soul.  Yep, and now you have a clear idea of what that is all about. Trust the process, trust the gate keepers, trust the critique group members, trust your fans, trust them all.  

Hope this strikes a chord with you. I will be back next week with the last of this series. 

Here is a doodle for you. "Flowers"


Knowledge is power. Francis Bacon

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15. Golden Advice: Inspired by I Corinthians, Chapter 13 -- Love

Hi folks, this is my February series on Golden Advice. I like to spend the month of February digging into the wisdom that has come my way, and that guides my art, my craft and my life. I find having some wise stuff in the soul helps me write stories with purpose. This week's thoughts are inspired by I Corinthians, Chapter 13, The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis, The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, and a vast number of other books.


 I can barely touch a teacup of this topic in one blog. I hope that this little cup helps.

I think a lot about love. I think we live in a love-starved culture. People consume and consume trying to fill the love void in their lives. The McDonald's culture prevails. We are a throwaway, instantaneous, junk food society with a huge bucket of voyeurism and gossiping thrown in. Ugh.

Love does not thrive in this society; I am talking real love. Love is not safe; it's about risking all of yourself for nothing in return. It demands many things of you, but on the love journey, you gain your true self. I think of every story I write as a love journey. I think of my life that way too.

My definition of love flows right out of I Corinthians, Chapter 13.  Here's a verse: Love is patient. When was the last time you saw patience lifted up as a good thing. Patience often means spending mega time waiting for someone to change and suffering some wrong while waiting. It may also mean you wait and the other person never changes. Dang this tough. 

Here is the  big deal. Love is kind. It's about not digging into someone else even when you are are in pain. Kindness is about listening. It's about hearing. It's about admitting you are wrong.
Love does not boast. I come short in this one because I feel inadequate. It's not about tooting my own horn -- cough, avoid Facebook. I hope everyone who knows me feels more connected to me than my possessions, my achievements and my abilities. You know, I want to keep it real.

Love does not dishonor others. Ack. I struggle with this one too. I look at the mega success of others and feel like the smallest potato in the bag.  I have found myself saying ill favored stuff about others, because I feel lame and he or she has what I want. Dang, I don't deserve any cake. Taking time to offer kudos instead of degrading: note to self, get with the program. Creating characters who cling to honor, really is what I want to be all about. 

And at the end of the day, love never fails, even if you are shattered into a million pieces. Drag them all together and love through those pieces. You might nick others with  the shards inside of you, but don't let that keep you from loving. 

So that is the teacup of love for the day. 

As you create you artistic works, let each stroke be lit by love. Let each word be lit by love. Love is the light in darkness. Let it shine. Let it shine. Every little thing is going to shine. 

Here is a doodle for you: Tangled Hearts



You still fascinate and inspire me. You influence me for the better. You’re the object of my desire, the #1 Earthly reason for my existence. I love you very much. Johnny Cash to June Carter Cash

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16. Golden Advice: Inspired by Emerson's essay-- ART

Hi, folks, this is my February series on Golden Advice. I like to spend the month of February digging into the wisdom that has come my way, and that guides my art, my craft and my life. I find having some wise stuff in the soul helps me write stories with purpose.


Today I'm going to reflect on Ralph Waldo Emerson's Essay XII: ART. You may read this essay here if you wish. 

Emerson always stirs me up. He shares that the soul is on a journey. It's not a static thing.  Artists look out on this would and see the unseen. We see the light in this moment that will be lost forever if we do not capture it. We don't see the surface of the world but also the character of the world, especially when we turn the vision on ourselves and try to reveal ourselves through art.  No mechanical device can capture what the human mind perceives -- we are attempting to interpret that spark of life we sense and place it on our canvases, in our songs, our dances, our stories, in our every form of expression. We are capturing our moment in time. 

The art of every age is a reflection of more that just what is seen but the unseen times of the artists. If you want to know what is going on in your culture, what are the signs of the times, look at what artists are producing. They can't but help but let what is going on in their world seep in and shape what they are creating. That said, there is an inherent understanding in artists that we are an expression of this vast Universe -- an imperfect picture of the glory that we perceive.  There is no other creature on Earth that is so desiring to interpret what they perceive. We feel the invisible undercurrents and bring the invisible to the forefront. When we create our art and then consider it, we always find things that we didn't intend and that takes our breath away. 

Art has a big purpose in the course of human history. It's is our record of things unseen. It is also the thread that reveals who we are and what we want. We are not unconnected with the art that has gone before us. I think about the explosion of superhero, fantasy, and science fiction stories in our days as a good example of this. These stories are extensions of the human  journey of myth. I feel an undercurrent in them that we very much all looking beyond our times, staring into the void and wanting to be much more than we are now. We are also wrestling with "villains" so great that they boggle the mind. Also a perception is evident: a desire to do good will triumph, it will overcome the darkness. 

Does this seem like our world? 

So what does all this mean to me personally. When art is making me uncomfortable, making me squirm in my seat, I must take note, especially when art slips away from a pursuit of beauty. I consider our larger world and reflect about what darkness looms. I cannot help but respond. For me I am searching for the good and lovely of my times and seasons. I hunger for every voice to be heard. I want to find beauty and holiness in new ways. I want to be brave and earnest and see what springs up from my heart. This is my prayer. My heart's cry. My deep hope. I hope that you join me on this journey. 

I will be back next week with more golden advice. 

Here is a quote for your pocket:

Faith is what makes life bearable, with all its tragedies and ambiguities and sudden, startling joys.
Madeleine L'Engle

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17. Golden Advice: My Fellow Worms!

Hi folks, this is my February series on Golden Advice. I like to spend the month of February digging into the wisdom that has come my way, and that guides my art, my craft and my life. I find having some wise stuff in the soul helps me write stories with purpose.

I like to start with American poet Carl Sandburg. I always have this feeling that Carl is with me on my writing journey. His words whisper in the back of my heart. Something about his homespun writing gives me hope that I can be so much more. This week I'm going to respond to Carl Sandburg's broadcast in the 1950s called "My Fellow Worms."

Here's the first thing up. You grow older and you start getting a sense of what you really believe. This is the stuff that is tried and true. If you ask the question, "What do I believe?" and then answer it -- you end up writing a book or making a cute poster with a smart saying on it. Carl believed in "getting up in the morning with a serene mind and a heart holding many hopes." I am one the fellow worms. This little thought makes me want to put on some music and dance. Life is all about the small, tried and true things. I hope that you are waking up to this truth.

We are small in this universe. Tiny, tiny, tiny. Like Carl said about us: insignificant speck of animate star dust each of us is amid cotillions of billion-year constellations. When you realize this, it helps put perspective on all those hills you are trying to climb. In view of the universe, the towers of achievement that men proclaim just don't make a lot of sense. Note: I wrote a poem to bless my friends or I wrote a book that reached the planet -- not much difference in the scheme of things. Always keep things in perspective.


Next up, stop being so freaked out by pride. Pride is a good thing though it has a bad rap as a deadly sin. Be proud of your achievements but stay out of the sticky glue of  arrogance.  You know, don't lose your perspective and jump into vanity -- look at me!  Not so easy in this life -- we live in the look-at-me generation -- selfies, social media, online life.  Keep out of  the mirror gazing. Your personality is sacred. It's a holy thing.  Keep that in mind every time you share a bit of yourself. If you cut off enough, you will lose who you are. 

Finally, I share a love of platitudes like Carl. Occasionally I here someone disparage my love platitudes but old well used thoughts are hard won.  Moral content and thoughtfulness is much more than banal. You won't convince me otherwise. We should hold old sayings dear and not use them as lip service. 
Share the platitudes that you have earned the right to share. 

I especially like Carl thoughts about preserving our freedoms.  We live in a world that seems to forgotten that "eternal vigilance is price of liberty."  We are all in the struggle of freedom. You must get up today and fight. You will do it again tomorrow. Every life will find some "fiery trial and agony." Don't forget that as you share those tried and true words and suffer degradation because you have trusted others. 

We are small but wondrous. Every little thing is going to shine, shine. Every little thing is going to shine. I hope my response to Carl's wisdom helps you find your way. Let it guide your creative journey.  I will be back next week with more Golden Advice.   

Here is a doodle:  Spring is around the corner.
Here is a quote for your pocket. 

Time is the coin of your life. You spend it. Do not allow others to spend it for you. Carl Sandburg

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18. Novel Craft: Pottery Lessons

Hi folks, I'm writing a series about how certain artistic skills enhance other artistic skills. I am an artistic and crafty person. I buzz around art. I will dip my toe into most forms of expression. There are a few that I've focused on and have found that those experiences have informed my novel craft. This week I'm going to talk about pottery lessons.


Once upon a time back in my college days, I had the time learn how to throw pots. I have found that those long ago pottery lessons have always been with me as a writer.  At first, you need much support to even begin to throw a pot.  Someone else chooses your clay. She walks you through how to prepare it. You are give many hints on how condition the clay to make it suitable for throwing. Beginning writers need this same kind of support. I needed others to help me recognize my viable ideas versus my dead-in-the water ideas. I needed advice on how to approach ideas so that I could even get on the road to producing something that would engage readers. Seek out help in the beginning. 

Throwing a pot is about finding the center of the clay, and getting all the other clay to revolve around that center. At first it feels impossible. The clay bulges in weird ways. It will even go flying off the wheel. My hands and elbows would be scraped.  I practiced again and again.  Experience is everything. Finally the day came. I slapped the clay on the wheel and pressed it with my hands, and the clay instantly centered.  I had to have confidence and a steady hand. The first important step to writing is finding that story center.  Stories revolve around their centers.  It took much practice to throw the clay of an idea onto the wheel of my imagination and then center it with the force of my will.  I always feel that sense of knowing when I center a pot or center of a story. It is unimaginably satisfying. 

One more pottery lesson, once a pot is formed and hardened, it's time to fire it. A glaze is applied to the exterior of the greenware.  This glaze will harden into shiny coating when extreme temperature is applied.  All stories must go through a refiner's fire to come to elegant completion. This is a dangerous time for a pot and a story. I have worked hard to get it to this place, but the refiner's fire can destroy my work.   Pots crack, Glazes wonk. You may end up with something very different from your initial vision. You may end up with a muddy mess that has to be thrown into the scrap pile. Stories are the same. In writing, the fire is revision. Revision may lead to a new novel or it may lead to a worthless disaster. Regardless, it is the only way to success.  You may feel fear during revision time. You are right to be afraid. You will have to apply your hottest thought force to make your finished story emerge, and there is a good chance you will fail. Writing is not for the faint of heart. 

I hope these pottery lessons help you on your journey. One more week of lessons is ahead. Drop back by for it. 

Here is the doodle.



Here is a quote for your pocket: 

Beautiful forms and compositions are not made by chance, nor can they ever, in any material, be made at small expense. A composition for cheapness and not excellence of workmanship is the most frequent and certain cause of the rapid decay and entire destruction of arts and manufactures. Josiah Wedgwood.

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19. Gifts: The Grace of Kindness

Hi folks, I'm ending the year with Gifts. This has been one of my most challenging years as a writer. I've struggled more professionally than at any other time in my life. My book PLUMB CRAZY is soon to go out of eprint. The paperback is cancelled. The book after it is cancelled. The small publisher has decided to go in a different direction. I put a lot of myself in that book and this wasn't the news I wanted. I turned 50 this year. I have the most mundane part-time job on the planet. I've slipped into depression, the real kind that takes some support. This week, to add insult injury, I came down with a skin infection that has left me soo tired. A bumpy part of this road of life, but I'm determined to find the silver lining.

So what gift do I have for you? Here goes. The Grace of Kindness.

I'm a person people tell secrets to. Some are small. Some are mighty. Some people I know, some I don't know. Sometimes in the grocery store or when I'm buying gas. Sometimes over coffee or on a walk.  I try to do little things every day that will help somebody. I build some margins into my life so that I can have time to listen and help whoever gets in my path .I'm nothing spectacular. I'm a small time kindness operator, but small kindnesses are as natural to me as breathing.

Kindness has been a part of me since I was very young child. Just like my flaws of a hot temper and my whining tendency (Hope I didn't whine too much above! Working on it.), I've had the grace of kindness. It's hardwired. I'm not perfect. My faults have spectacularly let some down when then really needed my grace. Still, in spite of me, the grace of kindness has generally reached out to others. And like all good grace has lifted me up in process and given me a sense of meaning when almost everything else has failed me.

I believe every person has some grace.  Some sing like angels. Some are the most long suffering folks that have ever lived. Some have the gift of gab and can say a perfect word at a perfect time. To me, grace means unmerited favor. Something in you that is just in you. It's hardwired like breathing. Sometimes in our life the things we've worked for get stripped from us. We lose our job. A relationship doesn't work out. Our dignity is taken away. We suffer great injustice. What should we do?

For me, I lean into grace in my life during these times. I'm a storyteller. I forge on.  I'm an organizer. I find something to organize. I'm kind. I find a place to pour that kindness.

Be aware of the grace in your life. For me all grace is a bit of the light of the divine, tucked away in the most flawed earthen vessel, I continue my journey to let it shine.

I will be back next week with more gifts.

Here is the doodle: The sun, moon, and the stars.


And a quote for your pocket.

You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

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20. Gifts: Prophesy to these dry bones

Hi folks, ah, the holidays, and of course, I'm running a little behind. This month I'm offering a little series I called Gifts. This will be short and sweet. There is a story in the Bible in the book of Ezekiel. This my retelling. Here how it starts. The Lord takes Ezekiel to valley of dry bones and asks him if the bones can live.

Ezekiel answers, "Lord only knows."

The Lord tells Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones.

(We don't prophesy in these days, and I sure do feel left out. The idea of a prophesy is to let someone know what is coming in the future. If you are a writer, you might understand this more than most.)

Back to the story. Ezekiel shouted to those bones."You dead bones, this is the Lord talking and not me -- I'm sending breath in you. And you will come alive. I'll put tendons, and flesh, and skin on you. I'll say it again, I'm putting breath in you, and will be alive. And the whole world will know I am the Lord!"

After that there was a noise. Bones rattled! They snapped together. Then came the tendons, and flesh and the skin. But instead of folks, there was a pile of dead bodies.

The Lord told Ezekiel to prophesy again. "Wind from the four corner of the Earth come into these dead bodies and make them live." And the wind came and a mighty army sprung up, rearing for a fight.

Then the Lord told Ezekiel what it all meant. "Those bones are my people.They have lost hope. They think they are dead.  I'm going to make them alive and I'm going to give them the little corner they are hankering for. Let them know I'm doing this because that's the way I am."

To wrap this up, if you feel like an old pile of dead bones, and you are wondering if you will ever get a chance to snap together and march out there and take your corner.  Remember this story. Wait for the wind.

I will be back next week with another of the Gifts series.

Here is a doodle.  "The sun, Moon, and the stars"




Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less. Marie Curie

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21. Gifts: Hope and a Future

Hi folks,

I'm continuing my series called Gifts.  In the Bible, in the book of Jeremiah, there is a startling prophesy that so resonates with me. A holy people have been sent into exile for seventy years, and they really need to know what is coming to put up with this long exile.

The Lord spoke to his people through Jeremiah.  He sent encouragement. I don't know if you have ever read something that you felt was speaking to your situation and your life.  I feel that about these words in Jeremiah.  This is what I hear.

Your writing life isn't where you want it to be right now, but I am the one who brought you to this place. Don't despair. I want you to keep writing and keep helping other writers. Enjoy any small success that comes your way. And also, the things you learned back you were in the thick of it, I want you to think about those things. Let your creative self prosper and don't complain that you don't have a place to share a voice, that you don't even know how to get there. That's a waste of your time.

Don't keep on taking on projects that aren't your vision. Those things are just wasting your time. You have to keep waiting and that might be for a very long time.  But I've got a plan and I'm going to put your writing life back together. I have plans for you, plans to help you write brilliant stories, plans to give you a hope and a future. Be patient. Wait for it. The good days are ahead. 

Hope this stirs you up like it does me. I hope that here words that speak to your situation and your life. I hope those words help you stay on the path. I am so glad we are journeying together. 


Here is the doodle. 


Here is a quote for your pocket. 

It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves. William Shakespeare. 

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22. Gifts: Good News

Hi folks!  This is the last post on my series called Gifts. This is also my last post of the year. This week I'm celebrating the idea of good news. I've always been moved by a prophesy in the book of Isaiah that declares good news to the poor. The people are longing for for good news and the prophet tells them that is coming. 

Writers for children are really about sharing the uplift of good news. Stories for children tend to be uplifting -- good news.  It's something inherent in our work.  

Here's a word to creative folk inspired by the words of Isaiah.  

Good news is for everyone!  Proclaim it whenever and wherever you can!   

Do you see the brokenhearted? Bandage their wounds. Stop the bleeding. Do you see someone in prison? Throw open the doors. No more bars for you. No more dark cells. Anyone in darkness? Bring them into the light. 

Listen. If you do this, everyone will throw a party. Every broken down house will be fixed up. Every forgotten town will be remembered. 

Things will stop sucking.  Forever. 

If you spent this year creating books, thank you!  I hope that you will find a place for that story! I will be back next year with a new series. 

Here is a doodle. Blue Boy




The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, Isaiah 61:1

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23. Novel Craft: Picture Book Lessons

Hi folks, a brand new shiny year! Love it! I hope that you are making goals and opening up to new possibilities. Fold up all those disappointments and failures. Take anything you learned from these experiences and move on. Look forward. Huzzah!

In January, I always explore one of my great passions and that is novel craft. I'm a novelist at heart. My first published book was PLUMB CRAZY.  It was out from Swoon Romance in June 2014, but is going away soon. Cancellation--just like so many fantastic TV shows that get cancelled (cough, Firefly), so goes my book. C'est la vie.

Don't despair, you who hunger for a paperback of PLUMB CRAZY to hold. I am going to self-publish the book for anyone who is interested. It's going to take a little time to put that together, but the book should be ready to be a summer read again. :) Thanks to all the people who have supported this first novel publishing effort of mine!  Galaxies of stories are ahead!

Anyway, onto to novel craft. I am an extremely visual person. I see three dimensional landscapes in my head. I also write in many genres and find that the skills I use in one genre inform me as I approach a different genre. These skills serve me well.  Writing picture books helps me write novels.

When I write a picture book, I write the text and then I write what is going on in the picture. From an absolute telling perspective, I write what is going on in the scene before I actually write the text for the picture book.  I do this for every page. It turned out that this is an effective technique to write novel scenes, especially ones I'm stuck on.  I just tell what is going down in the scene in a fat paragraph. When I'm finished I write the scene with that word picture I created in the back of my mind. Writing the scene rolls out a lot more smoothly.

Picture book structure helps me plan the structure of my novels. Picture books have the same beats as a novel but they come much faster. I make sure that my novel has clear beats that echo picture book structure.  What is a beat?  Plot points, turning points, plot twists. If you are having a tough time figuring out if your novel has a decent story arc. Study a few picture books. What launches the action? How does the mc react? What happens at the midpoint? How does the action rise? What is the climax? How long does it take the story to resolve? All these questions and a picture book in hand should send you on your way while writing a novel.

Well, there is a tea cup of usefulness for your creative journey. I hope you come back next week for more Novel Craft.

Here is a doodle. :)  PINK



Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly. Robert F. Kennedy






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24. Novel Craft: Screenplay Lessons

Hi, folks! I am an artistic person, and I buzz around art. I will dip my toe into most forms of expression. There are a few that I've focused on and have found that those experiences have informed my novel craft.  This week I'm going to talk about screenplay lessons.

I've written a few screenplays. This experience has helped me with novel craft.  A screenplay is a working document, it is not the finished product: the film.  I've learned about writing novels by writing screenplays. Here are three useful bits that I've learned:

First, screenplays force you to think about scenes and pacing.  A screenplay has a tight structure. It is much more compact than a novel and rarely has any room for internal thoughts. Becoming more aware of scenes has made me more aware of what to cut in my novels. Every scene in my novel must argue for its right to be there.  Novelists tend to be in love with the beauty of the words, and sometimes that is at the expense of storytelling. Each scene in my novel must move the plot forward, develop the journey of the main character, offer serious conflict, offer a glimpse of the internal working of the main character, have laser focus on the goal of the story, and offer some beautiful language and deep internal thought. If I can't achieve this with a scene, I toss it on reject pile.

Second, screenplays can help you move forward when you are stuck.  Like picture books, screenplays are a visual medium. Sometimes, I reach a place in the novel that I'm not sure how to proceed forward. I break open Final Draft or Celtx and move forward with my novel in a screenplay format.  My first drafts are now always a mix of screenplay sections and narrative. Writing a screenplay is analogous to sketching. A rough draft is a sketch of the novel. All the needed scene pieces are broken apart: opening with setting, dividing the dialogue, dropping in an emotional tag, and then describing the action can keeps me from bogging down in a first draft.  Next time your draft grinds to a halt, try writing the next scene in screenplay format.

Finally, screenplays can help you beat the static parts out of your novel. Screenplays do not welcome big chunks of dialogue, must keep action swirling on screen to entice the film goer, and must be aware that the person who plays the character in the screenplay is paramount in making that character come to life. I avoid prosy dialogue. Screenplays have made me aware of this. No one wants to read about nothing happening. It's surprising how easy it is to write about a character watching the sunrise or swimming in the lake, or reading a book.  Blow up that sun, fill that lake with piranhas, and have the heroine  toss that book into that arrogant so-n-so's face.  Also characters must be nuanced. I really cast my characters now when I write. I learned this from screenplays. Character on a great journey is still a working document, the character in the screenplay vs the character in a film. It's the little things that set characters apart and make them spring from the page. You have to know if your character loves chocolate, scream when she is angry, or bite her fingernails.

Novels need to breath with life. Screenplays have helped me achieve that.

Hope something here is helpful. :) I will be back next week with more novel crafty lessons.

Here is a doodle: Clown


Finally a quote for your pocket:

When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing. George Orwell

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25. Novel Craft: Sewing Lessons

Hi folks, I'm writing a series about how certain artistic skills enhance other artistic skills. I am an artistic and crafty person. I buzz around art. I will dip my toe into most forms of expression. There are a few that I've focused on and have found that those experiences have informed my novel craft. This week I'm going to talk about sewing lessons.

I love textiles. I always have. I know how to knit, embroider, and crochet. I can even do some tatting. I know how to dress a loom and weave fabric. I also sew. I learned how to sew in junior high. I've made over a hundreds of shorts, jackets, Halloween costumes, dresses, pants, toys, and quilts. I know how to use a pattern. I know how to create my own.

When I write, my sewing skills always come to me. Sewing starts with a provocative idea. Making a well made garment takes time and work. I fully envision the garment I plan to make. I fully envision the book I plan to write too. This is something in my head. Yes, I draw sketches and doodle on paper, but the big work is a complete internal vision. I see the thing I want, then I proceed to bring it into the light of life. Writing a book follows the same process. Just like a physical garment, I must envision a physical book at the beginning of the process.

To sew something I need a pattern. I have to decide do I want to use a pattern off the shelf or do I want to try and go it alone. I start by looking through books of patterns. For writing I look at books in the genre. I gather together patterns that are close to my vision. I always tweak patterns for sewing and writing. I feel a need to put my stamp on my sewing work and my writing. I have certain sleeves that I love, and often those sleeves go into the WIP garment , even if the pattern calls for something else. I don't like the way certain collars look so I will modify to put on a collar that is more of my thing. In writing, I have certain scene structures that I use often. There are some sorts of pacing that I will never use. The list goes on.

After I've got my pattern, chosen my fabrics, picked out my notions, gathered my tools, I'm ready to sew. In writing, I gather scrap art, pick characters, research subjects, gather thematic elements, and gather my tools. I cut out the pattern, and it's time time to sew. I write an outline and it's time to write. Sewing is painstaking work just like writing. You have to pin each piece just so. You must also fit in each scene just so. I have sewn in pieces backwards, upside down, and on the wrong side. It hurts to pick out all those stitches. No matter how slow you work, there are always necessary adjustments. It's the same with writing. I put scenes in the wrong place. I have to reorder events, sometimes I have to edit out huge swaths of my planned plot. I've got too much going on.


Sewing helps me write.

I often find myself working through writing problems by comparing them to sewing problems. The comparison helps me find my way. Perhaps you have some artistic skill that will help guide you, Will help you out of tight spots, Will help you complete your WIP. Good luck on your journey. I will be back next week with more lessons.

Here is a doodle for your week: This was a doodle I did when envisioning a dress.





Here is quote for your pocket"
Sewing mends the soul. ~Author Unknown

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