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1. The Australian Graphic Supply Collective: Tuts and Type

In my journey towards becoming somewhat of a graphic designer, I’ve gone through many bouts of chocolate-fueled rage, cursing when I can’t figure out how to line up my beziers correctly, or how exactly to create a seamless repeat pattern. Although there are loads of tutorials online, the Australia Graphic Supply Company is set to become the “square one” learning source for budding designers and typographers of all types (pun not intended).

Self-described “pixel-wranglers,” Dave and Laura Coleman are a husband-and-wife team working out of Sydney, Australia, focusing on a wide range of visual services from photography and branding to illustration and tattoo design. While Laura mostly manages operations & finances, Dave handles the creative side of their shared business–and both of them share a serious passion for design, photography and lettering.

They host a selection of their own client work on their website, but the primary focus is on their community and growing tutorial section. What’s neat to see is that their tutorial aesthetic matches up perfectly with that of their professional projects–the aim is clearly to give the viewer proper insight into the process of creating high-quality design and typography while simplifying the process down to layman’s terms.

One of my favorite tutorials was Creating a Hand-Lettered Logotype from Beginning to End–I’ve included some screenshots and a video below.

Dave and Laura were briefly living and working abroad in Oviedo, Spain, but are now in the process of returning to their home base in Sydney. To follow along with their adventures, check out their travel blog.

I’ve also included a couple links to my other favorite tutorials below:

No Pain, No Grain (How to Create a Seamless Vector Wood Grain Pattern)

So What’s the Big Deal with Horizontal & Vertical Bezier Handles Anyway?

I can’t wait for more exciting tutorials and developments from the AGSC. Thanks so much to Dave and Laura for sharing their knowledge with us! Follow along with them on theirwebsiteTwitter, and Pinterest.

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2. My office featured in Andrea Skyberg's Tuesday Studio Tours today!

Thanks to Andrea Skyberg for featuring my Office Cave in her Tuesday Studio Tours today.

Find out why my office looks NOTHING like the rest of the house, how my hero husband Jeff helped enhance my office, my envy of those who have appealing-sounding creative rituals, music I'm listening to (including Ookla the Mok) and a sampling of my new OfficeCrazyDanceBreak playlist, the most useful tool in my studio, and advice for those who want to make a personal space where they can be creative. Plus LOTS of photos!

Thank you, Andrea!

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3. Frailty and creativity

By Cretien van Campen


Frail older people are more oftentimes considered a burden for society, than not. They are perceived to require intensive care that can be expensive while producing nothing contributory to society. The collective image is that frail older people are ‘useless’. In my opinion, we do not endeavor to ‘use’ them or know how to release productivity in them.

Around the age of 70, the extremely frail wheelchair bound musician Johnny Cash made the music video ‘Hurt’ with the help of film director Mark Romanek and producer Rick Rubin. The video was a tremendous success, receiving abundant critical acclaim and becoming a favorite with many for all time. The song was taken from a series of albums, the ‘American Recordings’, Cash created in his frailest period, selling millions of copies. The albums have been regarded as outstanding contributions to American culture and many people have found strength, joy and solace in his recordings.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Cash was no exception. He was not the only frail older person who flourished in his last years. The painter Henri Matisse, the music conductor Herbert von Karajan, and others reached creative summits in the last seasons of their lives. Also non-artists like sawmill worker Lester Potts became a creative painter in his later years when he was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. In other types of dementia, such as frontotemporal dementia, creativity can be released as well.

The case of Cash also is an example of what is needed to release creative productivity in a frail older person — and what has to be avoided. In his last years Cash suffered from several complex diseases and physical limitations, a long and sad process which biographer Robert Hilburn has described with compassion and in detail. Cash was successively diagnosed among others with Parkinson’s disease, Shy-Drager syndrome, and double pneumonia. These contributed to hospital admissions several times a year and receiving prescriptions in quantities that greatly impacted the long time Dexedrine (speed) addict. (Cash had been addicted during his career as a touring artist.)

JohnnyCash1969

By the end of the twentieth century Cash was in forlorn condition, exhausting himself in a mixture of drugs and over-extended tours. Of deeper emotional consequence, his records did not sell the numbers they once had. His musical career was considered by many to be over by the time he was approached by producer Rick Rubin. In retrospect Rubin gave Cash two ingredients that supported his creative productivity: mental reminiscences and physical exercises.

In elongated sessions at home Rubin and Cash played old and new music, evoking reminiscences with musical roots and connecting them with the music of younger generations, which created new flourish and renewed hunger for music in Cash. He transformed from an older musician playing golden oldies into an interpreter of contemporary songs with vision, re-honing his craft. Mentally, he returned from living in the past to living in the present and creating new interpretations, which revived a sense of direction to his life. He connected to younger generations and inspired them with his interpretations as he mutually was inspired by their music.

Not only in the mental and spiritual domains did he regain strength, but also in the physical domain. Rubin engaged a befriended physiotherapist. Physical exercises got Cash out of his wheelchair and walking independently again, while simultaneously bringing back feeling in his fingers to play the guitar with agility. By exercising his body, energy returned and he was able to sustain longer recording sessions, his most valued passion.

Rubin is an artist, not a doctor. He did not cure Cash. Instead he gave a man whose health was rapidly declining renewed opportunities and stimuli to thrive and find meaning in his life. Cash often said that all he wanted was to make music. The music gave him the will to survive, and to fight the diseases.

Although the medical records of Cash are confidential, reports from his family share indications that he was overmedicated. According to his son, his father would have lived longer and produced more songs and recordings if the medication had been decreased – something his physiotherapist pleaded for several times after another hospital admission.

Returning home after this hospital stay, every inch of his body appeared unduly medicated. As well meaning of his professional caregivers were in prescribing such pill-induced treatments, he actually lived in a medical cage, and his brilliant mind suffered. Fortunately some of his family members and friends understood he needed physical, mental, and spiritual space to flourish. They helped in opening that cage with recovered mental and physical strength and he eloquently delivered to us some of the most heart-provoking songs in the history of music.

Cretien van Campen is a Dutch author, scientific researcher and lecturer in social science and fine arts. He is the founder of Synesthetics Netherlands and is affiliated with the Netherlands Institute for Social Research and Windesheim University of Applied Sciences. He is best known for his work on synesthesia in art, including historical reviews of how artists have used synesthetic perceptions to produce art, and studies of perceived quality of life, in particular of how older people with health problems perceive their living conditions in the context of health and social care services. He is the author of The Proust Effect: The Senses as Doorways to Lost Memories.

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Image credit: Johnny Cash 1969, Photograph by Joe Baldwin. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The post Frailty and creativity appeared first on OUPblog.

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4. Dealing with your inner creative expectations

Stephanie Ryan  |  *I Believe in Me*, Mixed Media Watercolor Illustration of Bird with Flowers (Print).

 

Following the creative path to live a creative life isn’t always an easy instant road to success.  You’re going to put in the effort and hard work so you’ll no doubt get there but like any journey there will be challenges to face and obstacles to overcome to become who you want to be.  Whether you’re a current art student at college, just graduated from university or are bettering your creative practice in your own time with the aspiration of running your own business there’s one teeny tiny obstacle we all have niggling away inside called “expectations”.

Expectations can be anything from aims you set to accomplishments and standards you may put on yourself or those that people around you may have of you themselves but today I’m going to cover self expectations.  Having expectations in general isn’t a bad thing as they give you points to work on and creative insight into ways you’d like to grow.

However sometimes when we set such high aims to reach and aspiring results to follow, when we fall short it can really knock us down and sometimes make you second guess what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. You may find yourself questioning whether you did something right, whether your skills are at their best , if you met the brief you were set and whether you can be as good as the next guy the list goes on and you’re not alone in thinking so.

 However amongst all this expectation you also need to be your biggest motivator and you need to brush yourself off and tell yourselfBelieve you can and you will achieve all you set out to”.  I believe you can achieve anything if you put the effort and the hard work into all that you do, although one thing you must truly believe in is yourself.  Remember these few things when you feel your inner expectations are clouding your creative motivation;

1. Your work is surely to be at its best when you are as well. 

2. Everyone’s story and journey is different don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.

3.  A success is to be perceived through your own eyes, however if you don’t try you’ll never know how far you could have gone. 

Featured image created by designer Stephanie Ryan and you can find out more about her and her beautiful designs “here” .

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5. The Weekend Writer: Some Reading For You

37 Books Every Creative Person Should Be Reading from BuzzFeed.  Among them:

Manage Your Day-to-Day

Bossypants

The Power of Habit

I think there are a couple of others on that list I read back before I started blogging.

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6. Tip for aspiring writers & illustrators: find a different way to tell or show your story, avoid the obvious.

2014 07 02 WilliamKass

When I especially enjoy reading a book or fall in love with a particular illustration, it’s usually because the author or illustrator manages to convey an emotion, scene or story in an unusual way, that spurs me to look at the world a little differently.

I try to remember this when writing and illustrating. It's one of my goals when I create found object art, trying to avoid the obvious.

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7. What Do You Do With An Idea? By Kobi Yamada | Book Review

What Do You Do With An Idea? is about a boy who has an idea, illustrated as a golden crowned egg with legs. The boy wonders about the peculiar golden biped; its origins, its purpose, its place in the world.

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8. Dogs and Cats and Patterns and Moving and . . .

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Moving day approaches--just a couple of weeks to go! I am having a terrible time settling down to anything that doesn't involve going to Lowe's or Home Depot (hence my recent lack of blog posts). Right now it seems every minute of my life is geared toward making the new house habitable, or worrying endlessly about having nowhere to live if it isn't.


Amidst all the angst, though, I have had a little respite--somehow I've managed to fit in a new art class on "Illustrating Cats and Dogs." Each of the six weekly sessions is three hours long and may very well be saving my sanity. Not only is the subject super-fun, but our instructor, Debra Klecan, is an excellent teacher, full of great ideas that a) are diverting me from non-stop moving-day nerves, and b) are helping me organize my nonfiction WIP, A Pet Owner's Book of Days, as well as a new (yes!) picture book WIP I began in March--the two reasons I signed up for the class.

I particularly like our main assignment to create a portfolio that is also a scrapbook/journal/notebook of everything dog- and cat-related we can find. Debra recommended we use a three-ring binder and plastic sleeves for storing our reference materials, including magazine cut-outs, greeting cards, and samples of our own artwork.

I've always kept visual reference binders for my novels, full of  character wardrobes and writing prompts, but this is the first time I've tried doing something similar for an art project. For this particular exercise I chose a fabric-covered binder that zips closed and has a large sewn-in zippered pouch for pens and pencils (lots of pens and pencils). The binder itself is also big enough to include two 9" x 12" drawing pads I can tuck into the back (one is newsprint, the other is a medium-quality sketching paper). Finally, in the spirit of Serious Organization, I placed heavy, reinforced card stock dividers between my various categories:
  • Cat Photos
  • Dog Photos
  • Cat and Dog Fine Art
  • Abstract Designs and Patterns
  • Color Combinations and Palettes
  • How-to Info (including our class hand-outs)
  • Notes and Extra Sketch Paper (gray card stock I punched holes in--works really well).
So far I've got a pretty good collection of magazine and calendar photos for the "Cat and Dog" sections, but my favorite category of the moment is "Abstract Designs and Patterns." Copying designs from tiles and decorative architectural borders is meditative and calming, and good for hand-eye coordination. It's also giving me some interesting ideas I can use as borders for the pages of my picture-book-in-progress, as well as any future art journal pages. 

Some of my other reference materials for patterns and borders include:
  • Wallpaper.
  • Concrete, stone, and brickwork. 
  • Fabric.
  • The natural world: insect wings, wood grain, seed pods, leaves, petals, etc. 
  • Embroidery and knitting stitches.
  • Sewing notions, trims, and ribbons
  • Junk mail and print advertising.
  • Decorative packaging, e.g. cardboard boxes, chocolate wrap, luxury bath products.
  • Gift wrap.
  • Door keys (especially vintage/antique models).
  • Piano keys, too!
  • Shelf liner: rubber, plastic, paper, stick-on (been buying a lot of that lately).
  • Book covers.
  • Jewelry.
And that's just the beginning. I'm sure there's plenty more inspiration waiting for me at the hardware store. Today you'll find me in the aisle marked "Closets."
    Tip of the Day: Drawing patterns is an excellent way to spend some downtime away from your manuscript, especially when you're feeling stuck or uninspired. Add the designs right to your journal pages, or start a fresh notebook based on pure design work. It's amazing how easily you can problem-solve once you've switched gears from writing to drawing and back again. Happy doodling!

    0 Comments on Dogs and Cats and Patterns and Moving and . . . as of 6/13/2014 2:37:00 PM
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    9. I v. We


    So Amy wrote this. I agree with it wholeheartedly.

    Then I wrote this.

    Then Amy extended the conversation with this. Again, I agree with her wholeheartedly.

    My post was chewing around the edges of something else that isn't quite as linear but is a huge piece of crediting people who create and citing them.

    When I wrote about management perspective I was not referring to "management privilege". I detest anyone who poaches and claims credit or by omission leaves out the people who do the true heavy lifting. It's not how I try to run my shop or thankfully been managed by others - or most importantly  -been treated by all my many colleagues around the state and country.

    And I think that there is a great deal of professional pain that youth librarians feel from work they have not been credited for, celebrated for and appreciated for. I am definitely not arguing the great teamwork-kumbaya (we're all in this together, la-la).

    I am coming at the discussion from one place as a long-time manager, a long-time active association member and a long-time consultant/presenter. And from the other place, I am coming as a newly energized researcher and teacher who demands citations and digging down to the original roots of work - most especially from myself! It is this perspective that I want to pursue.

    As I have been studying the history of children's programming in public libraries, it is increasingly clear that youth librarians have been pushing the envelope of service since the beginning of the profession. Over the last century, children's librarians were at the forefront of developing SLPs, outreach, use of technology (radio, TV, films, filmstrips, record players), programming to parents (my mom was in the parent group while I was in storytime!), and many many of the practices that some in the profession are currently "inventing." Everything old IS new again.

    There is a huge scaffold of practice upon which each and every one of us builds our own scaffold of service and innovative ideas. My concern is for some in the profession that don't want to recognize that foundation. Our foremothers and current colleagues have done work that we all build on - whether its oppositional building or complementary. When we don't acknowledge that debt - and appreciate where our own work is coming from, we do a huge disservice.

    My point in my original post about how collaborative we are comes from that place. It is the "we" I am trying to get at.

    So how do we acknowledge the "I" while being true to the "we" - and visa versa?

    As Amy writes: cite!
    Seek permission from those whose work your work is based on to share.
    Communicate and don't steal.
    Never false claim.
    Know that your support of someone else's work enhances your own.
    Acknowledge that the brainstorming power of coworkers, tweeps, Facebookers, a conference hallway conversation informed that idea that you brought to full fruition.

    You cannot be harmed by acknowledging and citing. Rather you can be the power that raises up those around you. And that is a powerful "I" and a powerful "we".


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    10. Avoiding Additional Asshat-tery


    Slide from a solo Unprogramming presentation
    that acknowledges my co-conspirator
    I laughed aloud when I saw AmyKoester's title on the  Storytime Underground post with guidelines on avoiding assholery when giving credit where credit is due.  I also was happy to see such a strong statement about the importance of knowing and stating where stuff comes from.

    I've blogged about this before - especially in relation to the our penchant to be good sharing  - and taking - people.  You can't ever forget where something comes from and it is a beautiful thing when you can do that acknowledgement - most especially in a professional atmosphere (blogging, presentations, workshops, Twitter and Tumblr and etc). We all stand on the shoulders of those before us. We may tweak and we may tinker but somebody got that ball rolling.

    I want to add another thought to the conversation - or throwdown from a management perspective: thinking about taking the "I" to "we."

    I have always worked in a strong team environment. From the smallest library to larger libraries, many people - not just youth services staff - from director to Circ clerks to custodial staff have had a hand in contributing to conversation and idea-building. They have put in an oar, a thought, a suggestion, a brilliant solution that has made each and every project and program far better than it began.

    I can count on one hand, ONE HAND, the actual stuff that I, me, myself, *I*, created, invented or totally birthed ON MY OWN in my 38 year career.

    Uh-uh. Didn't happen. Dozens of things I am known for were the result of collaboration - free, wild, plunge-into-"what-if, what-if, what-if", brainstorming, tornadic, mosh pit, scrum-filled collaboration. When I've changed something, I am still building on something that went before that provided the ignition spark to push my own practice. Same goes for all of you, my friends and colleagues, out on the internet - you have shared and changed so many ideas that have helped me grow an idea and make it better. It's ours!

    When you look at my blog posts as I am sharing a program, idea or innovation, you seldom see it written in the first person. Far more often, it is written as "we" and "our" because the progress or change or light bulb moment was built by many hands in the department and the library and out in my ULN/PLN land..

    While it is vital to credit your colleagues when you are sharing ideas that are clearly theirs and give them "mad props", it is also important to move away from the "I" and acknowledge the true "we-ness" of what is created through every-day and every-way collaboration.

    I believe we are stronger together in everything we create. What do you think?

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    11. It Got Me Thinking…

    State of MindI want to share three blog posts that I can’t stop thinking about. These are posts that (like a good book) I kept mulling over days after I read them. They’ve planted seeds in my mind that keep growing and growing.

    There’s a theme to these posts and it’s:

    Perseverance.

    How do we write when we don’t feel like we have the time or the heart? How do we keep writing with all the fear and uncertainty? How do we find the strength to be vulnerable and put the pen to the page? I’ve been struggling with my WIP lately, and I needed to hear all of these posts. Maybe you do to.

    Writing Truth and Authenticity Amidst the Noise

    by Jessica Denhart

    My truth today is that I am afraid. From the white-hot center of myself, I am afraid that I don’t have what it takes to make my writing good enough. I am afraid, and when I am afraid, I close my eyes to my manuscript, my words, my expression of self, my creativity, and effectively cut myself off from the one thing that I know is my authentic self. All I hear is the noise of fear and self-doubt.”

    Read More…photo-of-jess1

    Jessica Denhart received her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in January 2013. She writes YA and middle grade fiction, contemporary with a magical-realism twist. She is also a member of the SCBWI. She currently lives in the Midwest, with longings for the taste of the salt-air, the sound of the ocean waves, and the feel of sand between her toes. Read more by Jessica on her blog Between the Shadow and the Soul.  She can be found on twitter as @jessdenhart.

    Creative Input and Creative Output

    by Heather Strickland

    I’ve come to think of creativity as a factory. Our brains are motors: if we stop fueling them, they won’t run. Or, more truthfully, if we fuel them with crap and nonsense, they’ll run like crap and nonsense. We have to feed them something delicious, something healthy, or they won’t run the way they’re supposed to.”

    Read More…

    Heather StricklandHeather Strickland started writing for children when she realized she was probably never going to be an adult. She moved to Brooklyn after graduating from Vermont College of Fine Arts because she heard there was a shortage of writers in Brooklyn. Now, she likes going for walks past brownstones and peering through open windows to make up stories about the people who live in fancy apartments. Follow Heather on Twitter: @StrictlyHeather

    Thoughts on Being Professional

    by Amy Sundberg

    “I ran across an excellent article on an economics blog I follow called “Amateurs versus Professionals.” It very much applies to what I’ve observed about writing, and I imagine it holds true for many other pursuits and professions as well … After reading this list, it occurs to me that much of the difference between an amateur and a professional is a state of mind.”

    Read More…

     Amy SundbergAmy Sundberg is a SF/F and YA writer. Her short fiction has appeared in Redstone Science Fiction, Daily Science Fiction, and Buzzy Magazine, among others. She lives in California, and when not writing, she’s either buried in a good book, singing musical theater songs, or trying to add more pins to locations visited on her world map. She is an avid blogger at practicalfreespirit.com and can be found on Twitter as @amysundberg

     


    1 Comments on It Got Me Thinking…, last added: 5/27/2014
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    12. It Got Me Thinking…

    State of MindI want to share three blog posts that I can’t stop thinking about. These are posts that (like a good book) I kept mulling over days after I read them. They’ve planted seeds in my mind that keep growing and growing.

    There’s a theme to these posts and it’s:

    Perseverance.

    How do we write when we don’t feel like we have the time or the heart? How do we keep writing with all the fear and uncertainty? How do we find the strength to be vulnerable and put the pen to the page? I’ve been struggling with my WIP lately, and I needed to hear all of these posts. Maybe you do to.

    Writing Truth and Authenticity Amidst the Noise

    by Jessica Denhart

    My truth today is that I am afraid. From the white-hot center of myself, I am afraid that I don’t have what it takes to make my writing good enough. I am afraid, and when I am afraid, I close my eyes to my manuscript, my words, my expression of self, my creativity, and effectively cut myself off from the one thing that I know is my authentic self. All I hear is the noise of fear and self-doubt.”

    Read More…photo-of-jess1

    Jessica Denhart received her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in January 2013. She writes YA and middle grade fiction, contemporary with a magical-realism twist. She is also a member of the SCBWI. She currently lives in the Midwest, with longings for the taste of the salt-air, the sound of the ocean waves, and the feel of sand between her toes. Read more by Jessica on her blog Between the Shadow and the Soul.  She can be found on twitter as @jessdenhart.

    Creative Input and Creative Output

    by Heather Strickland

    I’ve come to think of creativity as a factory. Our brains are motors: if we stop fueling them, they won’t run. Or, more truthfully, if we fuel them with crap and nonsense, they’ll run like crap and nonsense. We have to feed them something delicious, something healthy, or they won’t run the way they’re supposed to.”

    Read More…

    Heather StricklandHeather Strickland started writing for children when she realized she was probably never going to be an adult. She moved to Brooklyn after graduating from Vermont College of Fine Arts because she heard there was a shortage of writers in Brooklyn. Now, she likes going for walks past brownstones and peering through open windows to make up stories about the people who live in fancy apartments. Follow Heather on Twitter: @StrictlyHeather

    Thoughts on Being Professional

    by Amy Sundberg

    “I ran across an excellent article on an economics blog I follow called “Amateurs versus Professionals.” It very much applies to what I’ve observed about writing, and I imagine it holds true for many other pursuits and professions as well … After reading this list, it occurs to me that much of the difference between an amateur and a professional is a state of mind.”

    Read More…

     Amy SundbergAmy Sundberg is a SF/F and YA writer. Her short fiction has appeared in Redstone Science Fiction, Daily Science Fiction, and Buzzy Magazine, among others. She lives in California, and when not writing, she’s either buried in a good book, singing musical theater songs, or trying to add more pins to locations visited on her world map. She is an avid blogger at practicalfreespirit.com and can be found on Twitter as @amysundberg

     


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    13. It's Not a Box! No, Really!!

     

    We offer monthly meetings for day care providers during the school year to boost their early literacy might, introduce them to great books and methods to share books and to highlight our collections and services. We have been certified as registered CE instructors to help our daycare teachers keep up their learning and credentials in our state-level Registry.

    In April, our training was all based on Antoinette Portis' multi-dimensional book Not a Box. We asked attendees to each bring a box of whatever size. Just in case anyone forgot, I gathered empty book boxes for a week or so prior to the training. Why did I worry?  Everyone brought one!!!

    I put out a selection of our finest stuff: scrapbook paper, tissue paper, stampers, markers, foamies, felt pieces, feathers, glue sticks, eyeballs, yarn and any other doo-dad I could lay my hands on.  Tables to stand and work at were put out.

    When everyone arrived, I read the Portis' book and talked about the importance of imagination, play and creativity. I gave a few examples of stories that you could extend with a cardboard box to accompany them (a car box for Sutherland's Dad's Car Wash; a train car box for Crews Freight Train). 

    Then the challenge. Create something out of their box using materials at hand and then work with me to find a picture book in the collection to match their box design. Read the book quickly. At the conclusion of the workshop, each provider then shares the box and booktalks the book with rest of the attendees. If someone had a particular book in mind that was checked out, they could, in addition to talking about a book on their box's theme, tell about the other book they use that works great.

    The results were amazing. People took special care with their boxes, with their reading, with their booktalking and with their additional recommendations. As a children's literature expert, I also added title ideas as well depending on what each person made.

    It was a perect blend of creativity and matching books to object! Below please see their wonderful creations!
    
    Rabbit, horse, robot

    
    Space, VH Caterpillar, penguin, birthday cake
    Garden, car wash, ladybug, monster, suitcase
    Surprise box, box to leave your shouts in, garden


    fun box, garden, playhouse, ?, ocean

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    14. Game Theory - Heather Dyer


    Copyright Levente Fulop
     
    Game theory must be the epitome of Western faith in logic. We think that if we plug in some variables and press a button we can predict the future. Apparently, we apply it to all sorts of things: economics, war… It’s founded on our belief that if we know enough facts we’ll be in control. But do we really think that we can ever come close to factoring everything in? Isn’t it a bit like trying to predict exactly how the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Tokyo will affect the time that Mrs Morgan arrives at work in Sheffield?

    And yet, perhaps those game theorists have a point. If, as quantum physicists now seem to believe, "we are one", the flap of a butterfly’s wings will affect the time that Mrs Morgan gets to work. Nothing acts in isolation. Every event, every movement, every action, every thought is affected by everything that has come before it and in turn affects everything that comes afterwards. So there is, in fact, a formula connecting Tokyo and Sheffield – and if we could plug in every variable we could calculate the outcome.

    In order to predict such complex causality with any certainty, however, our equation would have to take everything into account. The result would be that it wouldn’t just predict one outcome, it would predict every outcome. It would be huge. It would be a mathematical equation that would incorporate the entire world. No - the universe! Wait a minute – this equation would be the universe. Our primitive little left brains, which like to quantify and categorize, simply aren’t sophisticated enough for this sort of maths.

    Our right brains, however, would seem to be designed to compute exactly this sort of all-encompassing complexity. Not logically – but intuitively. In the creative and scientific disciplines, tiny portions of the Great Equation tend to reveal themselves in brief, bright flashes of insight, during which we shout ‘eureka!’ In fact, David Bohm, quantum physicist and author of On Creativity, believes that the intrinsic appeal of all artistic or creative endeavour is this moment of satisfaction, in which we perceive what he describes as ‘a certain oneness and totality or wholeness, constituting a kind of harmony that is felt to be beautiful’.

    The truth, in other words.



    Writing fiction involves exactly these sorts of flashes of insight. They’re like lightning strikes, illuminating the way. Flash by flash we find our way through the forest, and step by step the narrative unfolds. Every step must link logically – truthfully – to the one before it and the one that comes after it. One false note and the chain is broken and the mathematics goes awry.

    If we try and predict a plot logically, using a pre-arranged formula – the way that game theory seems to – it tends to feel ‘wrong’. It never quite rings true in a way that makes you want to shout ‘eureka!’ What a novelist wants is for the causality of events to be so sophisticated and yet so flawlessly logical that afterwards the reader thinks, “I didn’t see that coming – but in retrospect, of-course it was inevitable.” This sort of integrity is rarely achieved by the logical mind; it has to be intuited.

    So, step by step we intuit the way. We draw on all the powers of our unconscious to intuit exactly what a certain character will do and what will happen as a consequence. Intuition is about widening our perspective, holding the whole world of our novel in the periphery of our vision in order to feel the pattern.

    The end result is a plot: a linked sequence of cause and effect that has an almost scientific integrity to it. The plot reveals the underlying pattern, the mathematical formula that underpins our novel’s ‘reality’. How do we know if we’ve got it right? Because it feels right. It clicks.


    Sometimes people assume that writing fiction must be easier than non-fiction. They assume that because you can make it up as you go along, you can write whatever you want. But nothing could be further from the truth. You can’t just write whatever you want. You have to write exactly what would happen. No wonder writing fiction is so difficult. We are trying to predict the future.

    www.heatherdyer.co.uk

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    15. Embracing the Incomplete

    Back when I was practicing law, I had a sign hanging in my office that said: Perfectionism is an elegant defense against real life.

    I kept a separate note inside my desk that read:  If I don’t win your case, I’ll eat a bug. I leave it to you to decide how those two things matched up.

    (And for more adventures of being a law student and lawyer, you can read my lawyer romance LOVE PROOF. It’s lots of fun.)

    The issue of perfectionism haunts a lot of us. We’re never quite there. Wherever “there” is. And sometimes that feels like a moving target.

    It’s why I was interested in this TED talk by Sarah Lewis about success versus the “near win.” About success versus mastery. I loved her stories of artists and writers who knew their work was never complete, but who put it out there anyway. (Or who ordered their friends to burn everything after the artist died, but too bad–friends hardly ever obey those crazy wishes.)

    It’s why even though I know some of my novels aren’t perfect, I still let you read them. Because I like the stories and want to share them with you, even though sometimes when I look back at them I might wince at this line of dialogue, that awkward scene, some weird way of putting something that at the time I thought was cool. Oh well. I did my best. And I’m going to keep moving forward and write the next one, rather than constantly mess around with one I’ve already “finished.”

    Which is my way of saying that if you don’t love every single word I write, that’s okay–I probably don’t, either. But overall I’m happy with the idea that you and I sat around a campfire one night and I told you this story from start to finish. And we had fun. There were marshmallows. And then the next night we moved on to some new story instead of me saying, “You know last night when I told you the girl in the story’s name is Rose? It’s Giselle instead. And that part about her hating her mother? Forget it–her mom died.” Etc. Etc. BORING. Move on. We already got to The End on that one–give me something new.

    With that, I give you Sarah Lewis and her talk “Embracing the Near Win”:

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    16. This Is What Is Possible (Part 2)

    I found this through Upworthy.com–a great site I highly recommend.

    Last week it was what was possible as an 80-year-old. Today we’re going quite a bit younger:

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    17. Creating a Creative Movement in Education

    I love any and all TED talks given by Sir Ken Robinson. Take a look at his latest one about education and creativity and I think you’ll understand why:

    And if you liked that one, check out this earlier talk that’s still my favorite, on how to nurture creativity.

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    18. Creative Writing- can it be taught? - Linda Strachan

    There has been a lot of debate about whether creative writing can be taught and whether it should be taught.  
    I do believe that you can teach certain aspects of creative writing - but then I would say that, having written a book about it!   
    Some say writers should be free to find their own way, to experiment. That is fine, but why reinvent the wheel?
    I think it is akin to someone who wants to draw buildings or street scenes being told that no one should teach them about perspective, they should find out by trial and error.

    There are aspects of any skill, including writing, that can be taught, there is always something new to learn and I think the best teachers in any field will encourage students to go out and experiment, but they give them some kind of board to dive from.
    It is important that the people who are teaching have some kind of credibility and publishing credentials. There are so many universities and colleges offering creative writing courses and I often wonder how many of them give their students any insight into the realities of what it takes to survive as a writer in this day and age. Do they tell them how uncertain a career path it is, that even if the book they write on the course gets published (with lots of time, help and support when writing it), that is no guarantee for the future?

    I get a real buzz from working with emerging writers of any age. I love encouraging people to explore their creativity, and watching as they discover they have written something that surprises them; seeing ideas blossom into stories and their characters growing into fully fleshed out people.
    We all know that writing can be scary, and sharing it with others is sometimes the most difficult thing, which is why creating a sense of trust within a group of students is so important. They should feel safe, and confident that any comments though honest, will not be destructive.  Whether a novice writing in secret, or an experienced writer waiting to hear what people think of your new book, we all feel wary when putting our latest creation out there. People may not like it!  But we keep on writing, because we love it, and hate it, and we just have to do it.
    Moniack Mhor



    I recently spent a weekend at Scotland's Creative Writing Centre, Moniack Mhor.  I've been there a few times before, tutoring Arvon courses much like those discussed in the post last Sunday The Arvon Habit by Sheena Wilkinson.   

    This time I was working with a group of adults both at Moniack Mhor and at the Abriachan Forest Trust, on a short course called Words in the Landscape, and what a landscape it is!
    View from my window at Moniack Mhor

    We spent one day at Abriachan walking in the forest, being inspired by our surroundings. 

    It was wonderful to stand quietly in the middle of the forest and -

    LISTEN to the quiet, and the noises we often miss because we are talking or making noise ourselves -
    Abriachan Forest Trust cabin classroom





    LOOK at everything around us from the great majesty of trees to the smallest insect walking on the water - 

    FEEL the wind against your skin, the warmth of the early spring sunshine -

    IMAGINE what creatures might have inhabited these woods thousands of years ago, or in an imaginary world far away.  



    Artist's Impression of Straw Bale Studio




    On the second afternoon at Moniack Mhor some of us were lucky enough to be the first to try out the newly finished Straw Bale Studio, an 'eco friendly tutorial space. It was really exciting to see it finished.

    I had watched some of the early stages of the build when I was there in August last year.

    The group created some great stories and ideas for further writing.


    I always come away inspired and ready to get back to my own writing. 

    Running courses in creative writing reminds me to make sure my readers will care about my characters; to make the plot layered, the characters flawed and fascinating; to work harder on dialogue, and at making the plot grab the reader and pull them through the story.  It sharpens my critical senses and reminds me of all the things I have been working on with my students.  

    Teaching creative writing is hard work but rewarding in so many ways.


    -----------------------------------


    Linda Strachan is the author of over 60 books for all ages from picture books to teenage novels and the writing handbook Writing For Children  

    Her latest YA novel is Don't Judge Me  


    Linda  is  Patron of Reading to Liberton High School, Edinburgh 


    website:  www.lindastrachan.com
    blog:  Bookwords



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    19. Time Management Tuesday: When To Do What

    The Best Time to Write and Get Ideas, According to Science by Kevan Lee at Buffer suggests that when considering managing time we might want to keep in mind when we do things. Some times are better than others for particular activities.

    Creative vs. Analytical Work

     

    We've discussed here that willpower can be depleted. Our biggest store of self-discipline is early in the day. We try to duplicate that morning boost of willpower experience by breaking our day into units, so that we keep starting over again. The Unit System! Lee suggests that that early period of the day is best for creative work because that's when the prefrontal cortex of the brain is most active. A "study looked at morning and evening MRI scans and observed that mornings showed more connections in the brain—a key element to the creative process." He says this study also indicated that "analytical parts of the brain (the editing and proofreading parts) become more active as the day goes on."

    Conclusion? Writers who have a number of projects underway may want to work on the ones that involve generating new material earlier in the day and the ones that require revision-like activities later.

    Don't Care For Mornings? Try A Routine During Another Part Of The Day.

     

    What about those of us who don't see ourselves as morning people? Set your time and stick with it. "Routine," Lee says, "reinforces neural circuitry, and the more you work at the same routine, the stronger those connections become." So you can compensate for not using what scientists consider the best creative time by maintaining a routine.

    As For Me

     

    I like to do a sprint in the morning before I actually get started working. Stopping after a short, intense burst of work gives my mind something to dwell on while I'm doing the less challenging activities involved with getting ready for the day. After reading The Best Time to Write and Get Ideas, According to Science, I'm going to be sure that that sprint involves new writing and not editing, research, or formatting manuscripts. I can do that much later in the day.

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    20. The Good, the Bad and the Quirky.

    For the last five years I’ve been writing and rewriting a book in which twin sisters, taking alternate chapters, tell their life story.  They are child prodigies, musical geniuses, but rather than virtuosos, their instruments are the enigmatic black boxes and warm circuits of the recording studio.
     
    There is a third voice, their bitter old brother.  He is the main protagonist, but he’s almost a ghost.

    I created playlists of music to listen to as I constructed each character: one sister always seeking out new sounds, forever stretching the possible, the other twin crafting these experiments into something intricate and more beautiful. One is an experimenter, the other is obsessed with craft.

    Creativity, it seems to me, is the constant smashing of the old and familiar, and then remaking something new with these fragments.  I wanted my book to be about creative children, and about creativity.  How we battle against our own instincts to make something worthwhile.

    Authors are forever compromising, trying to do things differently, yet always holding back, aware that something too idiosyncratic will frighten publishers and audiences away. My new book may be a little eccentric, but I hope it's not that quirky. 

    I’ve spent five years nurturing this trio of siblings, taking them from their father’s recording studio in Frankfurt, via their grandparents’ loft in the west of England to the improbable denouementin the deserts of Kazakhstan. Their musical odyssey is a search for authenticity, theirs and mine. It’s the book I’ve always wanted to write, I just hope I can find a publisher who believes in it too.

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    21. Choosing Your Own Adventures

    Writing Life Banner

    by

    E.C. Myers

    EC MyersOne of my favorite parts of writing happens when I’m not writing. You know, those moments during the day when you’re thinking about, maybe even dreaming about, the story or the characters in your work in progress. I love brainstorming, whether it’s my own book or someone else’s work, because there’s a sense of play to it; you aren’t committing anything to paper yet, so it doesn’t take much work. (It also may not feel like work, so you might worry you’re just procrastinating, but trust me, it’s useful.) You can feel free to be as goofy or wild as you want–you’re just throwing things against the wall to see what sticks. And it’s cool because you’re working on your book anywhere and everywhere: in the shower, walking your dog, on line at the bank, riding the train, reading other books, watching TV, in meetings at work. A little part of my brain never stops thinking about my novel.

    20140324_224646

    I can’t speak to every writer’s experience, but this is how my imagination works. The more I think about the story, the more ideas I have. Often, my subconscious mind makes connections that needed days, weeks, or months to develop. Initially, I avoided outlining because I wanted to give myself as much of that flexibility as possible to discover the story and let it develop organically, but I’ve since realized that outlining can also get you thinking about the whole thing much earlier, and there’s nothing limiting about it–it’s just one path, and you can take the story in different directions any time a better idea presents itself. I like research for the same reason; all that reading feeds me more ideas and opens up new possibilities.

    So this book I’m working on… It started with a lot of brainstorming and outlining, then I started drafting it and inevitably veered off from the outline a bit. I got some great notes from my editors, and I just completed the first major revision—a few hours ago. As I tried to re-imagine the plot and characters and come up with a better ending, the whole process reminded me of something very old, something from my childhood: Choose Your Own Adventure.

    20140324_221124You’ve probably seen a Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) book at some point, or one of the many similar series borrowing the concept. They’re basically stories that present many decisions for the reader, allowing you to have some control over the story. “If you decide to start back home, turn to page 4. If you decide to wait, turn to page 5.” There are usually only a few “good” endings and many bad, boring, or mediocre ones. When I read them as a kid, I always wanted to make sure I had taken every choice, explored every path, seen every ending. And I realized recently that all those CYOA books had been training me from early on to be a creative writer.

    The way I plot out a book is really similar to how these books are set up. At each major plot point, I have to decide what the characters are going to do next, and what impact that will have on the story farther down the line. I’m constantly coming up with various scenarios and playing them out, discarding them, picking up another thread, trying something else. Working with Scrivener makes it even easier, and more fluid, because I can rewrite a scene several different ways, then revert to a previous version if none of them fit. I can move the scene or cut it entirely. I’m trying to see every path, and test every ending—all in search of the one “good” ending for the book. Of course, it’s preferable if I don’t have to actually write every alternative first.

    20140324_224453It’s probably no wonder that I like stories about parallel universes so much. In some ways, each draft of my book is an alternate version of itself. (Sometimes I can’t even keep them straight anymore. Was that in the final draft, or did I cut it?) Fun fact: In the original ending of Fair Coin, Ephraim stops Nate from using the coin to facilitate a shooting spree at their high school. What?! Yeah. It was super dark, and very wrong for the book, and I knew it while I was writing it. (On the other hand, it was also my first novel, so.) But I often have to take some of those wrong turns and try out the “bad” endings — sometimes just to get to the end — before I can figure out what the real ending is supposed to be. Making mistakes doesn’t make you a bad writer, it just means you have to turn to a new page and try again. Revision is like getting to erase those unsuccessful outcomes and make a better decision.

    Did you read Choose Your Own Adventure? Which was your favorite? And how do you plot out your endings?

    The End

    E.C. Myers was assembled in the U.S. from Korean and German parts and raised by a single mother and a public library in Yonkers, New York. He is the author of the Andre Norton Award–winning young adult novel FAIR COIN and its sequel, QUANTUM COIN, as well as numerous short stories in anthologies and magazines. You can find traces of him all over the internet, but especially at his blogTwitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.

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    22. Rabbleboy causes trouble with The Beige Planet Podcast

    In a rare moment in time, I was able to chat with the guys from The Beige Planet Podcast.

    A while back, I had the opportunity to chat with Paul Pate regarding his graphic novel Detective Perez Welcome To Rust City. His tenacity and perseverance in completing the book really inspired me.

    Since that time, Paul and his long time friend Alfred Laurence has started a fresh new podcast and I was lucky enough to be a guest. We talked about the trials and tribulations of being an artist, a little bit about my film making experience, creating comics and what I’m currently working on. Hopefully, you’ll have fun listening to our wacky conversation and find a little bit of inspiration for your own journey.

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    23. The "NOT THE THREE PAGES AGAIN" Report. By Penny Dolan



    (I know it’s the first of April, but this isn’t a Fools Day post. )

    Silence. It’s a horrid thing to have happen. The words in the head gone, or never hanging around long enough to be useful. The shameful feeling of no longer being able to be the writer I've thought I was,.

    The silence crept up on me, bit by bit, started by several petty reasons. A sudden family incident that it doesn't help to go on about. A smattering of nagging anxieties, boring and best suppressed. A while with scaffolding rattling outside my workroom window, and similar. A longish Arts Project ,and a worthy commitment that both ate up too much administration time. (Oh, why didn’t I weigh up the time involved at the start?) As well as all the good stuff of life that still needs planning and attention and enjoyment. Way too much on your mind? Best keep your mouth shut, and just get on with it all.

    The silence grew, added to by the shadow of a “big book” not doing as it should, and one single minor review that hurt badly. Beware too thin a skin. Then there was that guard-down, coming-out-of-the-loo moment slap into the face of a slightly sneery librarian’s harsh remark. (Just who did I think I was, pretending to be a writer, I thought.) Then that one twisted school visit – out of many good ones, I know, I know - that didn’t go quite right. (Curse you, Powerpoint facilities!)  Gradually the book that should be being written, is half-written, has paused for far too long a time.

    Don't worry. I don't need a large red-spotted hanky or sympathy to wallow in. 

    This is just my explanation of why, slowly, the words had stopped, and that some kind of action was urgently required. 

    What action? I decided to try the “Artist’s Way” again, again. So the rest of this post is about is the famous Three Pages -  or my version of how I did, and how I DO do them.



    A quick aside, if you haven't yet heard  that expression yet. The Three Pages writing exercise comes from the American writer and creative renewal guru, Julia Cameron. Her first book (1994) had the title “THE ARTIST'S WAY: A COURSE IN DISCOVERING YOUR CREATIVE SELF", and took the model of the AA 12-step programme. Julia continued with more books on this theme and a strong on-line presence. Her books do offer good and wise suggestions and I respect her enormously, especially for fighting her personal demons.

    HOWEVER

    Julia writes very American, and I am not. When she lyrically describes breakfasting on her sunlit porch, or riding her horse through the desert, or spending money on sparkly pencils in stores, or walking the streets of Manhattan, or meeting up with this or that creative film or theatre person in her cafe, or suddenly having a dream about putting on a musical and that happens . . .


    Oh dear. Apologies. Julia. The crabby bit of me makes me shrug my shoulders and go “meh”. I'm sure it is all true, but that life is not my life. Never has been my life. These events may be a movie or life elsewhere, but not here. (Peers out at the grey drizzle outside)





    FURTHERMORE
    Julia’s main demand, echoing Dorothea Brande’s original and earlier book Becoming A Writer, is this. Every morning, as you wake up, you write three pages. I tried this often, as my family grew from babbling to teen-sulking around me. Sorry, Julia, but I failed too soon each time I tried. ( Back then, I was a working, work-worn mum. Somehow my role was to get everyone out there each morning or we starved. Time management wasn’t my thing - and I was doing diplomas and degrees around that time too, studying in the evenings. Not a good mix.)

    BUT YET
    Last November, with that cold grey dog Silence crouched by my ankles, I decided to try the Three Pages method again. (Not Page Three, please note.) However this time I would do it MY way. I would scribble those Three Pages down whenever I could. If I couldn’t, I wouldn’t grieve. Or feel bad. Or all that other negative stuff that cascaded down. Agreed? Yes.

    AND SO
    I did -  and have now been doing - the Three Pages. I've done them for (counts on fingers . . .) about five months now, and the good news is that - even in my revised, occasionally feeble and now-guiltless version - the Three Pages have worked. I miss it when I don;t do them. Words and ideas have started whispering in my head - and something’s begun ticking again on my big project.

    BUT WHAT DO YOU DO FOR THE THREE PAGES?
    I use a large A4 yellow-paged notebook. Yellow because it isn’t white work paper, and the colour cheers me. Size is important too. Three large pages gives a generous space for you to listen to your muttering mind, and let all the low-level, hidden frets to rise up to the surface, to spill out somewhere around mid-second page. Aha, you think. So that’s what’s really making me so cross and fidgety!

    I use a beautiful old green art-deco fountain pen, inherited from my father, which makes for comfortable writing. I keep away from the scary computer screen, the scene of my failure. The physical act of writing by hand seems to feed the task.



    I use green ink, because this is not work, right? (Blue ink: school. Black ink: for depression or drawing Red ink : corrections and being marked. ) Green ink? Yes! Interesting and inspiring. Even if my fingers are always covered in green stains.

    I note the day, date and year at the start, keeping a light watch on when I last made time for myself. If I have missed any days, I let myself wonder why, then start again. I even note where I’m scribbling. “Writing this in bed  . . .” or “At my desk. 4.30am”.



    I note the time I start, out of curiosity, and when I end. Dawn, morning, afternoon, late night, before I sleep. All sorts of times, whenever I can. The aim is to do it, not to be perfect. (Sometimes my three pages take 50 minutes. I note that I lose focus, get distracted. Small must-be-done’s arrive, start yapping and too soon I give in, but I try better next time. Yet, thinking about this blog, I got three pages covered in 20 minutes.

    I use the Three Pages for . . what? Not for “writing on a given theme” at all, nor as a diary, although some entries do sound a bit like that. Nor are they reflective odes to all that is lovely around me, ever searching for the precise, right , perfect word. The Three Pages work by getting the hand and head moving, and even if angry thoughts flicker on some pages, somehow the yellow paper isn’t greyed over with gloom.

    The Three Pages are just me writing,however the writing turns out, whatever the words think: a sort of low-level meditation. The pages are private: what’s in three pages stays in three pages, or they did until I used one set to consider my thoughts for this blogpost. Maybe the pages are changing? Maybe they are becoming about what I write about? Who knows?

    For me, the Three Pages have become a place to rest and be alone. No readers, no editors, no revisions, a space where inspiration is not demanded, where my writing doesn’t matter - although in a way, it does, very much. And day after day - or almost - the pages have helped the other, the “Real Writing” begin again, too.
     
    I’m sure that, to some of you, this wittering about silence will sound self-indulgent and weak. "Lives are different" is all I can say, and I have worked on some briefs that ended up in print and cheered me immensely. It was the big writing thing I'm wanting to finish that scared me. Onwards - and this post makes sense to anyone, thank you for reading.

     Penny Dolan
    www.pennydolan.com

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    24. Taking the Risk of Trying Something New

    I recently discovered this wonderful website by artist and writer Stephen McCranie. You could spend hours clicking on every one of his comics/lessons. Here’s a good place to start, with his lesson on why we should be happy to make friends with failure.

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    25. Do You Want Writers (Including Me) To Show Our Work?

    I read this really intriguing book last night and this morning: Show Your Work by Austin Kleon.

    Here’s his premise: Artists would do well to talk about their work as they work. It helps get their audience more involved and is basically just a friendly thing to do. Which sounds right to me–especially the second part.

    I’d be interested in hearing your opinions on this: Do you want to look behind the curtain of a writer’s process? Some of the time, at least? Or would you rather just see the finished product and never really know how a book and all its characters and plot came to be?

    For me, if someone like JK Rowling wanted to tell me every week what she did to write that current volume of Harry Potter, I’d be ALL OVER IT. But she’s JK Rowling. There might be other writers whose process wouldn’t thrill me at all. Hard to say.

    It’s also hard for me to say whether any of you would be interested in hearing about that process from me. My creative mind sucks up all sorts of influences from all over the place, including a lot of non-fiction sources that I enjoy bringing to new readers via my fiction. Would you be interested in seeing that trail of breadcrumbs from initial idea, through research and writing, to final production? Or would you, honestly, not?

    I’d really love to hear your thoughts on this! Thanks!

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