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One of Louise's favorite writing books

For today’s Tuesday 12 x 12, please welcome Louise Nottingham. ¬†I love that one of Louise’s blogs focuses on poetry, as I am working on writing more poetry myself this year. I have no doubt you will one day be published and acclaimed! ūüôā

The Adrenalin Of The Challenge!

Unpublished writer, unrecognized artist, wife, mother, grandmother, and woman of extreme silly imagination! I wonder if I can get that on the label of my urn? ūüėȬ† of course I will want to change ‚Äėunpublished‚Äô and ‚Äėunrecognized‚Äô to published and acclaimed! Fingers crossed everyone!

I have to say I don‚Äôt know how I stumbled onto the PiBoIdMo Challenge, but I think it must have been some chatter on my Facebook Wall.¬† I have over 300 ‚ÄėFacebook friends‚Äô who are near and dear to me as well as being totally unknown and unmet! Most are writers and authors.¬† I do so love the book chatter that the authors share. When Tara Lazar started chatting about her past success with a Picture Book IDEA Month I was intrigued. Then when someone compared it to National Novel Writing Month, which I have started often but ‚Äėwon‚Äô never (!), I thought ‚Äúthis is something I can do and win!‚ÄĚ ¬†I was right! I did it! Throughout the month I found that what I liked most was the accountability and encouragement of the other participants.

Years ago, a library coworker and I had poetry challenges every April (National Poetry Month) We did a poem a day challenge with each other via email each April. ¬†After a couple of years, we expanded that challenge to a full year.¬† At the end of that year I was so pleased with myself and so grateful to her.¬† That‚Äôs how I feel today when I think of November. No longer is November the month of writing frustration, but the month of ‚Äėidea‚Äô success! I can hardly wait for next November.

Late into the November PiBoIdMo challenge, someone said that they challenged themselves, the year before, to complete one story a month to draft, I thought to myself, ‚ÄúI wish we had a similar support group for that!‚ÄĚ THANKFULLY Julie Hedlund stepped up to be our facilitator and leader!

Because of the 12 x 12 in 2012 Challenge I have written daily.  I have been challenged with a marathon in February.  And in March I am going to flex my writing muscles to do a chapter a day (challenge) as well as writing at least one picture book!

Best of all I feel like I am making wonderful friends who have been so encouraging to me! I have been lucky enough to connect with someone in my area who invited me to her critique group, something I have missed after moving from my previous home in Florida.

Before I end I want to share what I have on my bookshelves. I own a large collection of picture books, and juvenile chapter books and a couple of young adult chapter books.  I also have many books on writing. I have books on writing plots. I have books on writing flash fiction. I have books on writing character. I have book on writing for children. I have books on illustrating the story. I have books on marketing your books. I have books on publishing and self-publishing books. And yes, all of these are plural: books!

If I have to pick three books specifically for children’s writing I would pick:

Children’s Writer’s Word Book.

Most of this book is just a children’s level thesaurus but in the first few pages it talks about how children read. It also suggests what words work best for what reading grade level.  I really like this feature. Although I used this more a few years ago than recently, it’s still one I would recommend be on all children’s writer shelves.

Writing With Pictures by Uri Shulevitz

This is on every illustrator‚Äôs shelf, but it should be on every picture book writer‚Äôs shelf. Especially if you are NOT an illustrator! On Facebook there is often dialog on what words to cut and how to ‚Äėwrite for the illustrator‚Äô. Read this book and check out some of the books Uri uses as examples.¬† You will begin to get a feel for what is the writer‚Äôs job vs the illustrator‚Äôs job.

Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine

Ok, Gail wrote this book for young writers my granddaughter’s age, but I love how she is able to talk about gathering your ideas and writing about them.  Many books for children are total fantasy with fairies and elves and dragons and she taps into that magic fantasy.

In closing, I hope you have enjoyed your time with me as much as I have enjoyed the past unpublished author Tuesdays.¬† I want to thank each of you for your encouragement! I wish each of ‚Äėus‚Äô luck in our writing pursuits!

And I have a couple of blogs I invite you to visit:

http://poeticlouise.blogspot.com/ Remember when I said I used to write a poem a day? Now it’s a haiku a week!

http://louisesblogtoday.blogspot.com/ Did I mention I was a children’s librarian for 5 or 6 years? During that time I started reviewing books on our shelves, which I liked, for our patrons.  This year I started wanting to keep track of what I read this year.  I am already behind on that, but I do post a few now and then, so stop by every once and awhile to see what I am reading.

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Guacamole made tableside

When I sat down to write this post, I was happy to discover I had a full list of things to be grateful for despite having a horrible cough and cold this week. ¬†Here’s to better health this coming week!

Quotes on Gratitude

“I am¬†grateful¬†for what I am and have.¬†
My thanksgiving is perpetual…¬†
O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. 
No run on my bank can drain it 
for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.” — Henry David Thoreau

“Learn how to carry a friendship greatly, whether or not it is returned. Why should one regret if the receiver is not equally generous? It never troubles the sun that some of his rays fall wide and vain into ungrateful¬†space, and only a small part on the reflecting planet. Let your greatness educate the crude and cold companion. If he is unequal, he will presently pass away; but thou art enlarged by thy own shining.” —¬†Ralph Waldo Emerson

“You cannot be¬†grateful¬†and bitter.
You cannot be grateful and unhappy.
You cannot be grateful and without hope.
You cannot be grateful and unloving.
So just be¬†grateful.”

— Author Unknown

Gratitude list for the week ending February 25

  1. We ate at Mi Casa Mexican Restaurant in Breckenridge, where I drank the best margarita I’ve had in years!
  2. Likewise, the food (I had elk mole enchiladas) was the best Mexican food I’ve had outside of Austin or San Diego (and that says a LOT!).
  3. And let’s not forget guacamole made tableside. Yum!
  4. Last weekend was a long one due to the President’s Day holiday, which gave us extra time to ski with the kids.
  5. My new segment on Katie Davis’ Brain Burps About Books podcast debuted this week. ¬†It’s called, “Julie Hedlund Gets All Grateful on Your A**!” :-)
  6. I am in the process of developing my professional author website, and I made great progress this week.
  7. I read and finished ROOM, by Emma Donahue.  An unbelievable book that has kept me thinking about it all week.  Those are the best kinds of books.
  8. I had my second school visit with a class of 5th graders.
  9. Both kids got great report cards.
  10. I got caught up on my blog reading.  Take THAT Google Reader!!

What are you grateful for this week?

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Today, please welcome guest blogger and fellow 12 x 12 in 2012 participant Carter Higgins. ¬†Because we’ve all heard so much about book trailers lately, I asked Carter, who creates them, to come on the blog to give us the quick and dirty on what makes a good one. ¬†She’s also generously giving away a free book trailer. Welcome Carter!

I love the odd raised eyebrow I get when I tell folks I went from elementary school¬†librarian to motion graphics designer. Sometimes the confusion is as simple as what the¬†heck is motion graphics? {Answer: animated graphic design} Sometimes it’s more along¬†the lines of an incredulous, ‚Äúyou used to put books in the hands of kids and now you¬†animate useless content for TV, movies, or iWhatevers?‚ÄĚ Well, kinda.

Teaching was rewarding and so very special. Creating something from nothing is also extremely satisfying. Sure, designing film titles for an Emmy-winning designer is a huge accomplishment. And of course there is a bubble of pride in my gut each time I see one of my commercials broadcast nationwide.

But. I still had this gnawing question in my gut…how in the world can I smoosh my love¬†of kidlit with my love of motion graphics?

The answer: book trailers.

Just to set the mood, may I show you a couple of favorites?

My latest, for Dianne de Las Casas‘ ¬†Dinosaur Mardi Gras, illustrated by Marita Gentry:

Julian Hector created this one for C.R. Mudgeon, which he illustrated for Leslie Muir.

I think the best book trailers function in a similar manner to title sequences of movies.¬†Title sequences should set the mood for what’s to come and prepare room in your heart¬†for the story. A horror movie will never have a cutesy, cartoony title sequence, and a rip-roaring comedy won’t have a dramatic, serious tone to its opener.

Your story is what is most important. Your trailer should be intentional and support that story. You have worked tirelessly to assemble the most perfect words to write your snappy picture book. You have slaved over your illustrations, paying attention to the direction in which her hair curls to help us get to know her better. Your physical book has been designed with extreme attention to the page turn, the typeface, and even to the shape and size of your book.

It is a masterpiece.

Because of that, treat your trailer as an extension of your masterpiece. Your story¬†should drive your trailer. Don’t do anything at the expense of your art and your words.¬†Be intentional.

For Dinosaur Mardi Gras, I wanted to bring that jazzy parade to life. The illustrations are so vibrant, free, and easy, and the story is one giant celebration. I wanted to mimic the excitement of that parade, and plunge the reader right into the action.

When I saw Julian’s C.R. Mudgeon trailer, I think I watched it nine times in a row.¬†He establishes the tension between a ho-hum hedgehog and a sparkly squirrel just¬†brilliantly. And the music! Such life! Julian didn’t stick to the style of his book illustrations¬†for the trailer, and it won’t matter one bit once I finally get my claws on it. I already¬†dearly love C.R. Mudgeon and Paprika. I’m hooked. I asked Julian for some thoughts¬†on book trailers and he said, ‚ÄúPicture book trailers allow for the main character(s) to be¬†brought to life, and ignoring that seems like a wasted opportunity.‚ÄĚ Truth, right?

But now here’s where I get slightly emphatic. If the only available option for you is¬†to do a simple slideshow, then certainly it has value. Having your book searchable on¬†YouTube will reach people. Just be intentional. Keep it to a minute or less. Do you¬†always have the attention span for a three-minute long video? I sure don’t. Will your kid¬†reader? Probably not. You told your story in 500 words or less; you can certainly stick to¬†60 seconds. Choose music that supports your story and sets the pace for your readers’ experience. Don’t compromise your art and your words. You worked way too hard for
that. And your reader, though young, is sly and will find where there is heart and where there is none.

Here’s one more that gets this quick format absolutely right:

We all have different skills, interests, and abilities, but we all have the same goal: to¬†nurture readers and give them amazing stories. This community is supportive and¬†encouraging to a degree that is almost unreal! To honor that and to be a part of that,¬†I would LOVE to create a book trailer for you, for free. Whether you are a pre-pubbed¬†12x-er or have picture books on the shelves already, this offer is for you. Just leave¬†a comment on the book trailer page on my blog before February 20th at midnight PST. I’ll randomly draw a winner and¬†whenever you are ready….next month or next decade, IOU a book trailer.

When she is not creating motion graphics or writing picture books, Carter teaches design courses in color, layout, and composition, as well as Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and After Effects. All of these interests combine in her blog at http://designofthepicturebook.com/, or you can find her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/carterhiggins.

Do you have questions for Carter about book trailers? ¬†Leave them in the comments and she’ll answer as many as she can.

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For the record, I did NOT put that much cheese on mine. ūüôā

This week I offer one quote from Charles Dickens in honor of his 200th birthday and because it tied so nicely into August McLaughlin’s Beauty of a Woman Blogfest¬†which I participated in.

Quotes on Gratitude

‚Äé“Cheerfulness and contentment are great beautifiers and are famous preservers of youthful looks.” -Charles Dickens

‚ÄúThe source of love is deep in us and we can help others realize a lot of happiness. One word, one action, one thought can reduce another person‚Äôs suffering and bring that person joy.‚ÄĚ ~¬†Thich Nhat Hanh

‚ÄúBe like the sun for grace and mercy. Be like the night to cover others’ faults. Be like running water for generosity. Be like death for rage and anger. Be like the Earth for modesty. Appear as you are. Be as you appear.‚ÄĚ — Rumi

Gratitude List for the week ending February 11

  1. My application to the Highlights Foundation Poetry for All Workshop was accepted! So I’ll be heading to Honesdale in May.
  2. In the light of less than a half moon, the stars in Breckenridge are brilliant.
  3. Fresh snow for skiing!
  4. Homemade 3-way Cincinnati chili – YUM!
  5. Another Margareaders meeting, and everyone enjoyed the book I chose – One Thousand White Women.
  6. Julie B.  She knows why.
  7. Meeting with my in-person critique group. Go Boulder Picture Book Writers!
  8. Rocky laying at my feet under the desk while I work
  9. Watching Em have fun selling Girl Scout cookies – AND the fact that the sale is over! (We still have three boxes of Thin Mints left if anyone is interested)
  10. Reading easy readers with Jay. He never tires of it and is getting better and better.  Soon he will read on his own!

What are you grateful for this week? 

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Snow sculpture illuminated by colored spotlights

Much to be grateful for this week!

Quotes on Gratitude

“Happiness is the settling of the soul into its most appropriate spot.” — Aristotle

“Deficiency motivation doesn’t work. It will lead to a life-long pursuit of try to fix me. Learn to appreciate what you have and where and who you are.” — Wayne Dyer

“Many times a day I realize how much my own life is built on the labours of my fellowmen, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received.” — Albert Einstein

Gratitude list for the week ending February 4

  1. Getting to ski and hang out with great friends, including my bestest girlfriend!
  2. Witnessing more than one beautiful sunrise reflecting on the mountains
  3. Completing my January picture book draft for the 12 x 12 challenge
  4. The incredible community of writers that have come together for the 12 x 12.  They inspire me daily.
  5. Finishing one good book and starting another
  6. Reading THE LAST OF THE REALLY GREAT WHANGDOODLES with the kids
  7. Skype
  8. Writing the last page of a lovely journal (was a gift from the friend above). Great way to end Week 9 of The Artist’s Way.
  9. Snow sculptures in Breckenridge
  10. A long nap on a day I felt under the weather

What are you grateful for this week?

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2011 turned out to be a light reading year. I didn’t even average a book a week, which is unheard of for me. It’s not surprising, however, when I consider that I spent the summer abroad and, once the kids started school in the fall, started treating my writing and other work as a full-time job. And that’s not even including the reading fast I was forced into as part of The Artist’s Way.

As I look over my list for the year, I must admit this hasn’t been a banner one for life-changing reading experiences. I read some good books, even some great ones, but none that made me fall so deeply in love that I wanted to shout about it from the mountaintops. Luckily, there are many more books to be read in 2012!

There were two primary themes to my reading in 2011: Italy and nonfiction. The first is obvious. I wanted to read as much as I could about the places (both in history and in the present) we were going to visit. The second is a bit surprising, as I’m way more of a fiction reader. Some of them were book club choices and some were related to the Italy trip. Still, a high percentage for me. Now, for the list of books, in the order (more or less) that I read them.

  1. The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver – Kingsolver is one of my favorite authors, and while this isn’t my favorite of her books, it is still stunning.
  2. Three Junes, by Julia Glass РGorgeously written, this was a Margareaders selection and the 2002 National Book Award winner.  Not for you if you are into plot-driven books.
  3. Vampire Academy, by Richelle Mead РThis series was my guilty pleasure last winter.  We shared a ski condo in Keystone, and I was often going to bed with the kids in the same room.  I started reading these on my Kindle app so as not to go to sleep at 8:00.  Very fun!
  4. The Same Kind of Different as Me, by Ron Hall and Denver Moore РMargareaders selection.  Not my typical book but thought-provoking.
  5. Frostbite, by Richelle Mead
  6. Shadow Kiss, by Richelle Mead
  7. Half-Broke Horses, by Jeannette Walls – Very good, but lacked the immediacy and poignancy of The Glass Castle (which is one of my favorite books)
  8. Blood Promise, by Richelle Mead
  9. Spirit Bound, by Richelle Mead
  10. The Last Will of Moira Leahy, by Therese Walsh РLOVED this book.  Dreamy, suspenseful, romantic.  Stayed up until 3:00 in the morning to finish.
  11. The Last Sacrifice, by Richelle Mead
  12. Miss Garnet’s Angel, by Sally Vickers – Vickers does it again with psychological profiles being front and center in a story where Venice becomes a character.¬† The first of my Italy books for the year.
  13. The Food of Love, by Anthony Capella – Delightful Cyrano de Bergerac-esque tale of food and love (two of my favorite topics) in Rome
  14. La Bella Lingua, by Dianne Hales – Engaging and entertaining history of the Italian language, which should be known as the language of love.
  15. Venice is a Fish, by Tiziano Scarpa – Gorgeous and sensual “guide” to Venice.
  16. When in Rome, by Robert Hutchinson – The title is a bit misleading, since it’s the memoir of a journalist’s year writing about the Vatican (which is NOT Rome).¬† Fascinating nonetheless
  17. The Glassblower of Murano, by Marina Fiorato – Historical fiction alternating between the stories of a Murano glassblower in the 1500s and his descendent in the present day
  18. The Wedding Officer, by Anthony Capella РHalf love story, half harrowing account of WWII as it played out in Naples.  Very different from The Food of Love, but equally as good.
  19. The Borgia Bride, by Jeanne Kalogrides – Steamy, fast-paced and with enough history thrown in to make it respectable
  20. Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins – Lovely girl meets boy YA novel that takes place in Paris
  21. Extra Virgin, by Annie Hawkes РMemoir of a woman who bought a house in Liguria (Italian Riviera) with her sister.  I enjoyed learning the history, culture and lifestyle of this region, particularly the art of making olive oil.  Given that it was a memoir, however, it was oddly distant and impersonal.
  22. Leonardo’s Swans, by Karen Essex – My favorite kind of historical fiction – compelling characters in compelling times.¬† Add to that the obsession over being immortalized by one of the world’s greatest artists and you have a recipe for a great book.
  23. The Enchanted April, by Elizabeth von Arnim РFour English women, strangers to one another, rent a villa for a month on the Italian Riviera near Portofino.  Since I started reading this book while I was in the Riviera, I found it even more enchanting.  A comedy of manners and errors, and oh so very British, it deserves its place among the classics.
  24. Same as it Never Was, by Claire Scovell LaZebnik – Light chicklit that was fun to read but not all that believable of a plot
  25. Pompeii, by Robert Harris- I read this whole book on my flight home from Italy this summer. It was both fascinating and gripping. I finished the last ten pages at the baggage claim because I just couldn’t wait to finish it. Yes, I realize that we already know the ending. However, having just been to the ruins of Pompeii and the crater of Vesuvius, I felt the suspense of the novel keenly, and it brought the ruins alive for me.
  26. The Messenger of Athens, by Anne Zouroudi РLiterary mystery?  Good book and a good writer who was able to make a Greek island believably dreary and desolate
  27. The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield – Gothic literary tome, complete with moors and rattling windows
  28. The Art of Non-Conformity, by Chris Guillebeau – Who hasn’t heard of this book?¬† Easy to read and with good points of departure for planning a life you want to lead rather than one that is accepted by others.
  29. Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall – Very close to the best book I read this year.¬† The perfect combination of science, memoir and travelogue.¬† The book is mind-boggling, funny and intense.¬† It’s a book about the¬† human spirit disguised as a running book.
  30. My Stroke of Insight, by Jill Bolte Taylor РA brain scientist evaluates her own stroke as it is happening.  When she loses the language/logic center in the left hemisphere, she discovers a peace she never knew existed.  A must read
  31. Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand – Another Margareaders selection. So many people I know raved about and loved this book, including some of the Margareaders.¬† No doubt it is a brilliant book, and I learned more than I ever wanted to know about the Pacific side of the WWII conflict.¬† Overall I couldn’t get past the horrors the main character endured, especially since this is a biography.¬† It didn’t help that I read it in September, which is a tough month for me anyway.¬† The subject of the book – Louie Zamparelli – was treated with too much emotional distance.¬† Since I couldn’t understand his feelings, all that was left for me was the treachery of what was done to him.
  32. A Week in October, by Elisabeth Subercaseaux – This book’s chapters alternated between a sick woman’s journal recounting an affair she (supposedly) had for a week a few months before her death and that of her husband reading the journal, supposedly without his wife’s knowledge. It was beautifully written and quite cerebral – two characteristics I ordinarily love in a book. However, when you have both an unreliable narrator (the wife’s story in the journal) and an ending that is left too ambiguous, it no longer works for me.
  33. Stories I Only Tell My Friends, by Rob Lowe – Before you laugh, I’ll have you know Rob Lowe is a decent writer and this book was NOT ghost written.¬† If you “came of age” in the eighties in the U.S. you should read this book.¬† It is juicy without being petty, and I enjoyed being taken back to all of those movies I loved and grew up with.¬† And yes, I did have Rob plastered all over my wall when I was in the 8th grade.¬† He had me at Pony Boy.
  34. The Agony and the Ecstasy, by Irving Stone – The winner for my best book of 2011.¬† This fictional biography of Michelangelo is beautiful, epic, inspiring and unforgettable.¬† I don’t think further description could do it justice.¬† I marked so many passages in the book I might as well re-read it.
  35. Perfect Chemistry, by Simone Elkeles – Highly addictive YA romance
  36. The Cellist of Sarajevo, by Steven Galloway РGorgeous book.  More of a psychological examination of the way war changes people rather than specifically about the siege of Sarajevo
  37. Eragon, by Christopher Paolini – When your 8 year-old daughter reads a 600 page book, you need to read it too.¬† I was so proud of her and she loved it so much.¬† I liked it, and I can’t believe Paolini was only 15 when he wrote it.¬† It wasn’t a love-affair however, perhaps because I am a Lord of the Rings and Narnia snob.

Books I read aloud to the kids – not including the hundreds of picture books we read, and I do mean hundreds

  1. See You Later, Gladiator – Time Warp Trio series, by Jon Scieszka – The Time Warp Trio series is historical fiction/time travel similar to The Magic Tree House series but with lots of boy (read: bathroom) humor.¬† I was laughing just as hard as my kids reading these.¬† Added bonus: when we met Jon at a book signing at the Boulder Bookstore, Jay was able to recall every potty reference in all of the books we read.¬† So much so that Jon signed one of his books to him as “Stinker.”¬† TRUE story!
  2. Da Wild, Da Crazy, Da Vinci – Time Warp Trio series – For example, in this book we not only learn about da Vinci’s military engineering and mechanical inventions, but also that Thomas Crapper invented the modern flush toilet.
  3. Tut, Tut РTime Warp Trio series РThis book has an evil character named Hatsnat (pronounced Hotsnot).  Imagine trying to read that name out loud throughout the whole book without laughing.
  4. It’s All Greek to Me – Time Warp Trio series – In this book, our trio is plunged into Hades where they confront Zeus, who believes they’ve stolen his lightning-bolt.
  5. Tales from the Odyssey, Part 1, by Mary Pope Osborne РI wondered how any author could render a version of The Odyssey that removes some of the wilder *ahem* escapades Odysseus has in his long journey home while still retaining the core and heart of the story.  Leave it to Mary Pope Osborne Рshe did it.
  6. Tales from the Odyssey, Part 2, by Mary Pope Osborne

Thoughts? Any highlights from your own reading year you want to share?

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Even Wile E. Coyote gets to read!!!

Sorry I am a day late with the check-in this week.¬† A bomb went off in my day yesterday and I just couldn’t get it finished, but here goes…

I don’t even know where to start with this week’s check-in.¬† If you read my earlier post, you know that one of the assignments for this week was a reading fast – no reading at all for a whole week.¬† The rationale is to get out of other people‚Äôs thoughts and creations and into your own.¬† What I can say for certain is that while it was pretty miserable, I learned a LOT about myself.

  • Week 4 Theme: ‚ÄúRecovering a Sense of Identity.‚Ä̬† This week is all about dealing with your real self and your realfeelings, as opposed to the ones that are on public display.¬† Mission accomplished.¬† Painfully so.Morning Pages: Yup.¬† I even powered through a couple of times when I wanted to stop after two pages.¬† Sure enough, something significant would come out in that third page.Artist Date:¬† Tuesday night, at 9:00, I found myself too tired to do any more work and DYING to read.¬† I was so angry that I couldn’t and found myself thinking, “FINE!¬† You want self-exploration, inner peace, silence, solitude?¬† I’ll give it to you!!”¬† So I did a 30-minute meditation with no music, no guidance from a recording – nothing.¬† I almost always use some sort of music or mantra when I meditate, and I have never sat for that long of a time in one block.¬† I’d love to say it changed my life, but it didn’t.¬† It did, however, calm me down and get me through the evening. I slept better that night than I had all week.

Any ‚ÄúAha‚ÄĚ Moments? Uh, yeah. Brace yourselves.

  • First, I knew I loved reading, but despite the fact that my house is loaded to the rafters with books (which should have been a clue), I didn’t realize how integral reading is to my life and well-being.¬† At different times during this exercise I felt anguish, longing, anger… Not dissimilar to the range of emotions you feel when after a break-up, actually.¬† Sometimes, not being able to pick up a book felt physically unbearable.¬† I’m not even kidding.
  • Second, I learned that I DO use reading as a way to escape from unpleasant feelings and self-examination.¬† Not all the time, but definitely sometimes.¬† Over this past week, whenever I felt upset, my hands just itched to pick up a book.¬† Not being able to forced me to confront what was bothering me.
  • Third, I learned that I DO use reading as a way to avoid creating.¬† I amazed myself with my productivity this week.¬† I even finished a brand new story!¬† I’ve been promoting the MeeGenius children’s author contest, writing on my own blog and still, I didn’t feel totally out-of-control like I sometimes do.¬† Although I missed reading my favorite blogs and hanging out on Facebook and Twitter (I did a teensy bit, but FAR less than usual), it was a blessing to have an excuse to skip all that reading.¬† I will, however, be glad to get back to them.¬† Kind of like greeting a friend after an absence.¬† ūüôā

So, what did I do while I wasn’t reading?¬† Well, I decorated my house for Christmas.¬† I cooked several meals on Sunday so as to be prepared for the week ahead.¬† I listened to Christmas music.¬† I took the dog for long walks.¬† I watched a movie and The Grinch with my kids.¬† I reflected (even when I didn’t want to).¬† And I wrote.¬† I learned that you really do need the silence spaces in order to let creativity bubble up to the surface.

What will I do with these lessons?¬† One thing is for sure, and that is I will NOT do a reading fast EVER. AGAIN.¬† HOWEVER, I do commit to bringing more awareness to my reading – just checking in mentally to see if I am reading for pleasure, for purpose, or to escape myself or my writing.¬† If it’s the latter, I will attempt to explore those feelings further before running away with a book (or Google Reader).

I also realize that I need to put more structure around my social media time.¬† I’ve known this for a long while, actually, but it took this week for me to admit that it’s getting in the way of my writing.¬† I LOVE blogging, reading blogs, Tweeting, Facebooking.¬† I’ve made some amazing friends this way!¬† *Here’s me looking at YOU.*¬† I will keep doing these things, but I am going to have to prioritize and set time limits.¬† For example, reading the blogs of my regular followers will always come first.¬† Next will be the ones that provide professional benefit to me.¬† If I have time left after that, I can read the ones that are just for fun.¬† And no matter what, I have to actually STOP when the time is up.

For one thing, I’ll never take reading for granted again!¬† While I certainly do not think that reading is an enemy to creativity or self-exploration, I do think bringing awareness to when, how, and why I choose to read when I do will be a good practice going forward.¬† I don’t think I’ll have any choice but to be honest with myself if I’m picking up a book, a magazine or scrolling through my Google reader as a way to escape difficult feelings or to shove my creative self away under the guise of “other work” I need to do.

A few favorite quotes from the Week 4 chapter:

“People frequently believe the creative life is grounded in fantasy.¬† The more difficult truth is that creativity is grounded in reality, in the particular, the focused, the well observed or specifically imagined.”

“Until we experience the freedom of solitude, we cannot connect authentically.¬† We may be enmeshed, but we are not encountered.”

“Reading deprivation is a very powerful tool–and a very frightening one.¬† Even thinking about it can bring up enormous rage (Uh, yeah!)¬† For most blocked creatives, reading is an addiction.¬† We gobble the words of others rather than digest our own thoughts and feelings, rather than cook up something of our own.”

The only other thing I have to say is — THANK GOD THAT’S OVER!

Have you ever examined hobbies or habits to see if you use them to escape?  Not only reading, but watching T.V., listening to music, surfing the Internet, etc.?

Week 3 Check-In

Week 2 Check-In

Week 1 Check-In

The Artist’s Way

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Oh the HORROR! The HORROR!¬† I just finished reading Chapter 4 of The Artist’s Way (which, if you are a regular blog reader, you know I am working through), and found out that one of the week’s assignments is TO GIVE UP READING FOR A WEEK!!!

The rationale behind this exercise is sound.¬† Cameron says that blocked creatives often use reading as an escape from their own creativity, as a “tranquilizer” of sorts.¬† The idea is to get out of other people’s thoughts and creations and into your own. Maybe, if I don’t read for a week, I might even *gasp* WRITE!

So, after a good bout of keening on the floor in great likeness to Rain Man in the “Hot Water Burn Baby” scene, I managed to pull myself together in order to write this post.

This will be the longest I’ve gone, in living memory, without picking up a book.¬† It’s like cutting off a limb.¬† Reading is like breathing to me.¬† How many more melodramatic statements can I make?

What does this have to do with you?¬† Not much unless you live within screaming distance, except that this reading deprivation exercise has to include blogs.¬† So if I normally read and comment on your blogs, I want you to know why I will be AWOL for a week.¬† It’s not because I don’t love you; it’s because I’m being subjected to something far worse than Chinese water torture.

I will still be checking my own blog comments, email and Facebook in order to manage administration for the 12 x 12 in 2012 writing challenge, so please feel free to continue signing up for that!¬† I will also post on my blog, because I figure that’s writing, not reading.¬† Right?¬† Right.

Okay.¬† I’m going to stop feeling sorry for myself right…. NOW.

Sniff!

Have you ever had to go for an extended amount of time without reading?  How did that work out for you?

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From now on, these check-in posts will be on Wednesdays, but since I was guest blogging yesterday, I postponed this first one to today.

Week 1 Theme: “Recovering a Sense of Safety.”¬† The idea is that artists need support, especially from ourselves.¬† We need to learn how to nurture our inner artist, to make her feel safe and to avoid self-sabotage from ourselves and from others.¬† One way to do this is to write out every negative thought we think about our art and then write a positive affirmation next to it.¬† I didn’t do this or the other exercises in this chapter this week because I’ve done it twice before.¬† I am well aware of which personal demons haunt me the most.¬† I know that if I don’t write or start talking negative smack to myself it’s because I am afraid.¬† In fact, I know I have a lot of fear.¬† I’m hoping later chapters will address how to overcome (or at least work with) the fear.

Morning Pages: Yes, I did them.¬† Every day.¬† I even did them enthusiastically for the first few days.¬† It was only yesterday that I started feeling the temptation to sleep rather than get up and write them, but that is because I don’t like waking up period.¬† I tell myself the truth – that 15 minutes of extra sleep is not going to make a difference in how I feel that day, but skipping the morning pages most definitely will.¬† So far that pep talk is working.

Artist Date:  I spent an hour in antique/flea market that I love.  I love looking at the huge variety of objects there and imagining the stories behind them.  The simplest things are the ones that intrigue me the most Рa jar of old buttons, a dough bowl and a biscuit tin, a milk-glass cake stand, porcelain tea cups.  Who owned these little treasures and what were their lives like?  When and why did they give them up?  How did they land in this store?  Stories, stories.  Then of course, there are the books.  On this visit, I scored a 1968 hardcover copy of The Complete Poems of Robert Frost and a hardcover copy, in excellent condition, of The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran.

Any “Aha” Moments?¬† I’m not sure this counts, but one of my children’s book manuscripts had a prologue of sorts that was way too long, but I could not figure out how to cut it down.¬† It came to me suddenly in the car today, and it’s so simple I can’t believe I didn’t think of it before.¬† Coincidence?¬† Perhaps.¬† But it could also be that the course is greasing my creative wheels.¬† Time will tell.

A few favorite quotes from the Week 1 chapter:

“In a twisted version of Darwinian determinism, we tell ourselves that real artists can survive the most hostile environments and yet find their true calling like homing pigeons.¬† That’s hogwash.”

In recovering from our creative blocks, it is necessary to go gently and slowly… No high jumping, please!¬† Mistakes are necessary! Stumbles are normal.¬† These are baby steps.¬† Progress, not perfection, is what we should be asking of ourselves.”

“By being willing to be a bad artist, you have a chance to be an artist, and perhaps, over time, a very good one.”

Any others have experience to share, either from The Artist’s Way or other creativity-building practices?

The Artist’s Way

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What's on YOUR list?

ETA: As soon as I published this post, I immediately thought of more things I want to do and places I want to see. Rather than keeping track of them elsewhere, I will add them to the lists here.¬† I will also cross them off when I’ve completed them (except for the last list, because most of those things are ongoing rather than one-time).

For my 300th post, I decided to write a Bucket List Рthings I want to do before I die.  I divided the list into three (loose) categories of 100 each:  1) Places I Want to Visit, 2) Things I Want to Do (many of which include specific places), and 3) Ways I Want to Make a Difference in the World.

Making the first list was a snap.¬† I did not allow myself to include places I’ve already visited but want to see again, and even so, I had no trouble choosing 100 places.¬† I could never travel enough or see enough of the world.¬† I would go to every last corner of the earth of I could.¬† So I guess it’s good that I now have priorities!

The second list was more difficult.¬† I really had to stretch myself and give myself permission to dream big without allowing the censor to whisper, “Oh that’s not possible!”

The third list was by far the most difficult.¬† I always think in the nebulous terms of, “I want to make a difference,” but I never specify HOW exactly.¬† Now that I’ve reached 40, I realize it’s time I start not only thinking about it but doing some things.¬† For that reason, this was a very good exercise for me.¬† I think we should all think about not just what we want to do for ourselves but what mark we want to leave on the world.

One final comment: I did not include things that would require others to make specific choices.¬† For instance, I could easily have put, ‘See my kids get married’ or ‘Watch Michigan win a National Championship Game live’, but that would require outcomes I have no control over.¬† So I kept the list tightly focused on things that I would be capable (theoretically) of doing without being dependent on the decisions or actions of others.

Places to Visit

‚ÄúThe world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.‚ÄĚ ‚Äď St. Augustine

  1. Kenya – Masai Mara
  2. Egypt – Cairo, Pyramids, Red Sea, Nile
  3. Morocco – Marrakech, Fez, Tangier, Sahara
  4. South Africa
  5. Tanzania/Mt. Kilamanjaro
  6. Mauritius
  7. Namibia – Etosha National Park, Skeleton Coast
  8. Zimbabwe
  9. Bwindi National Park, Uganda
  10. Seychelles
  11. Australia

    Sydney Harbor

  12. New Zealand
  13. Madagascar
  14. Japan – Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara
  15. Thailand
  16. Vietnam
  17. Indonesia/Bali
  18. China – Shanghai, Beijing, Great Wall
  19. Tibet
  20. Nepal
  21. Bhutan
  22. The Taj Mahal, India
  23. Mumbai, India
  24. The ghats of Varanasi, India
  25. Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur
  26. Windsor Castle, England
  27. Cornwall, England
  28. The Lake District, England
  29. Scottish Highlands
  30. Ireland
  31. Crete, Greece
  32. Santorini, Greece
  33. Zakinthos, Greece

    Zakynthos, Greece

  34. Rhodes, Greece
  35. Symi, Greece
  36. Barcelona, Spain
  37. Sevilla, Spain
  38. Valencia, Spain
  39. Cordoba & Granada, Spain
  40. Provence, France
  41. Carcassone, France
  42. Normandy, France
  43. Amalfi Coast, Italy
  44. Bologna, Italy, March 2012
  45. Siena, Italy
  46. Tuscan countryside, Italy
  47. Sicily, Italy
  48. Lake Garda, Italy
  49. Salzburg, Austria
  50. Vienna, Austria
  51. Berlin, Germany
  52. Black Forest, Germany
  53. Swiss Alps
  54. Lucerne, Switzerland
  55. Amsterdam, Netherlands
  56. Croatia
  57. Budapest, Hungary
  58. St. Petersburg, Russia
  59. Sweden
  60. Norway

    Norway Fjord

  61. Iceland
  62. Hebrides Islands
  63. Rio de Janeiro
  64. Amazon Rainforest
  65. Argentina – Buenos Aires
  66. Chile
  67. Peru
  68. Macchu Picchu
  69. Patagonia – Argentina and Chile
  70. Alaska
  71. Many Glacier Lodge – Glacier National Park
  72. Charleston, South Carolina
  73. Savannah, Georgia
  74. Cape Cod, Massachussets
  75. New Hampshire in the autumn
  76. Moab, Utah
  77. Monument Valley, Utah
  78. Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
  79. Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
  80. Florida Everglades
  81. Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
  82. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
  83. Hawaii – Big Island, Maui, Kauai
  84. Santa Fe, New Mexico
  85. Albuquerque, New Mexico
  86. Finger Lakes Region, New York
  87. Badlands, South Dakota

    South Dakota Badlands

  88. Yosemite National Park, California
  89. Santa Barbara, California
  90. Quebec City, Canada
  91. Niagara Falls, Canada
  92. Banff National Park, Canada
  93. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
  94. Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
  95. Baja California, Mexico
  96. Chiapas, Mexico
  97. Nicaragua
  98. Belize
  99. St. Lucia
  100. St. Vincent & the Grenadines
  101. Basque Region of Spain
  102. Cuba

Things I Want to Do

‚ÄúLife is either a great adventure or nothing.” — Helen Keller

  1. Publish many books for children
  2. Write and publish travel articles
  3. Write and publish personal essays
  4. Make The New York Times Bestseller list
  5. Write a novel (at least one). I almost don’t even care if I ever publish one.¬† I just want to write one.
  6. Write down my father’s “Greatest Hits” (i.e. his best stories)
  7. Dive the Great Barrier Reef, Australia
  8. Dive in the Red Sea, Egypt
  9. Dive in Palau, Micronesia
  10. Camel-trek in the Sinai desert
  11. Go cage diving to see Great White Sharks
  12. Dive in a kelp forest
  13. Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu during a full moon
  14. Ride in a hot air balloon
  15. Take my kids to Disney World
  16. See a wolf in the wild
  17. Go to the Rose Bowl when Michigan is playing
  18. Ski Jackson Hole
  19. Ski at every resort in Colorado
  20. Ski the Dolomites in Italy
  21. Ski the Alps
  22. Learn to ski moguls like an expert
  23. Learn to ski in powder like an expert
  24. Go heli-skiing
  25. Take a photography course
  26. Stand on the field at The Big House
  27. Perfect Adho Mukha Vrksasana (handstand) pose in yoga
  28. Take an Italian language immersion class in Italy
  29. Take a flamenco dancing class in Spain
  30. Learn to speak fluent Italian
  31. Read The Divine Comedy in Italian
  32. Take surfing lessons
  33. Touch an elephant

    Photo from my brother

  34. Swim with dolphins
  35. Attend an Eckhart Tolle retreat
  36. Meet the Dalai Lama
  37. Attend an Olympic Games
  38. Spend Hogmanay in Edinburgh
  39. Spend a few nights on The Royal Scotsman
  40. Compete in a “mini” triathlon
  41. Run another half marathon
  42. Oktoberfest in Munich
  43. Take cooking classes in Italy and France
  44. Do wine-tasting tours in Italy and France
  45. Wine-tasting tour in South Africa
  46. See the Northern Lights
  47. Successfully grow broccoli in my garden
  48. Learn how to build an Excel spreadsheet
  49. Perform in a play
  50. Become a writing coach/teacher
  51. Attend at least one World Cup game
  52. Earn a living from writing and writing-related work
  53. See a whale in the wild
  54. Take my daughter to Rancho la Puerta
  55. Attend the Yoga Journal conference in Estes Park
  56. Do yoga in India
  57. Make meditation a regular practice in my life
  58. Write and e-publish a travel memoir
  59. Finally read David Copperfield to the end
  60. Learn Colorado history
  61. Polar Bear safari in Cape Churchill, Canada
  62. Bake a cake at altitude that doesn’t sink in the middle
  63. Go Deep Sea fishing
  64. See an opera at La Scala in Milan
  65. Carnavale in Venice
  66. Carnival in Rio de Janeiro
  67. Stand on the North Pole

    Absolut bar at the Ice Hotel

  68. Stay at the Ice Hotel in Sweden
  69. Take my kids to see Les Mis
  70. Sleep under the stars in the Sahara desert
  71. Take a helicopter ride to see a live volcano
  72. Walk on the Great Wall of China
  73. Bush-walking in Seven Spirit Bay, Australia
  74. Hike in Tasmania, Australia
  75. Hike The Grand Traverse and Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
  76. Stay in an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora
  77. See the Iditarod – Anchorage, Alaska
  78. Kayak in The Inside Passage and Glacier Bay, Alaska
  79. Ride the Durango and Silverton steam train
  80. Swim with Manatees in Florida
  81. Attend the Highlights Foundation Writer’s Workshop at Chautauqua
  82. Go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras
  83. Go to the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, NM
  84. Go back to Camogli, Italy for the Sagra del Pesce
  85. Cruise the Antarctic Peninsula
  86. Learn to play poker
  87. Ride a zipline in the jungle
  88. Put all of our home movies together so we can watch them on TV
  89. Digitize all of my “paper” photos
  90. Organize all photos into digital albums
  91. Complete all twelve weeks of The Artist’s Way
  92. Go on a yoga/meditation retreat
  93. Bag one of Colorado’s “Fourteeners.” Preferably Long’s Peak, which I can see from my front window
  94. Write poetry more often – not for publication, just for myself
  95. Climb a 50 ft. indoor rock wall (which my daughter can do!)

    la Tomatina - Bunol Spain

  96. Ride the Trans-Siberian Railway
  97. See a meteor shower
  98. See every Michelangelo sculpture
  99. Participate in la Tomatina – Tomato fight!
  100. Learn more about my family history/geneology
  101. Attend a local “festa” in rural Italy
  102. See a Harp Seal in the wild

Ways I Want to Make a Difference

‚ÄúIf you can‚Äôt feed a hundred people, then feed just one.‚ÄĚ ‚Äď Mother Teresa

  1. Raise responsible, independent, compassionate children. If I fail at this, nothing else will matter.
  2. Ensure my children receive a good education so they can contribute to the world.
  3. Love my children boundlessly
  4. Teach my kids to be appreciative
  5. Encourage the kids in their natural sense of wonder
  6. Expose my kids to as many experiences in the natural world as possible
  7. Expose my kids to as many cultures as possible
  8. Read as many books to my kids as possible
  9. Look my kids in the eyes when I speak with them
  10. Be as good of a mother to my kids as my mother was to me
  11. Donate a portion of my personal proceeds from the sales of my (future) books to benefit related charities
  12. Make an annual donation of food and blankets to the Humane Society
  13. Adopt another dog or two (eventually – Rocky is enough for now!)
  14. Continue teaching critical thinking skills via the Junior Great Books program
  15. Help bring healthy, whole food to all school cafeterias by supporting the School Food Project and Food, Family, Farming foundation
  16. Donate annually to National Public Radio and PBS
  17. Donate annually to National Resources Defense Council and Defenders of Wildlife
  18. Donate annually to The Sierra Club
  19. Shop for gifts through organizations such as Unicef and National Wildlife Federation
  20. Advocate sexual and reproductive health education and rights for women around the world – through donations and Kiva lending
  21. Continue making micro-loans through Kiva
  22. Vote in every election
  23. Take Volunteer Vacations
  24. Teach creative writing to children
  25. Teach writing workshops for adults
  26. Mentor new writers
  27. Lead writing retreats that inspire women to give time to their creativity
  28. Create a scholarship for these retreats
  29. Help others live creative lives with passion
  30. Support small, family-run businesses as much as possible
  31. Grow vegetables in my garden every year
  32. Plant trees in my yard and in the community
  33. Each time I shop, buy one item for donation and put it in a box.  When the box is full, take it in to the food bank.
  34. Buy organic food as much as possible
  35. Shop at farmer’s markets more often
  36. Continue serving on the PTO at my kids’ school
  37. Support fellow writers by buying their books
  38. Be “responsible for the energy I bring” – from Jill Bolte Taylor – more info here
  39. Be a better listener
  40. Practice patience
  41. Do a better job of keeping in touch with people who are important to me
  42. Volunteer to spend time with an elderly person
  43. Practice living in the present moment so I can bring my full attention to the people I am with/what I am doing.
  44. Participate in a Polar Bear Plunge for charity
  45. Complete A Course in Miracles
  46. Continue my Gratitude Sunday posts
  47. Consistently donate clothing, toys and other items that we no longer use
  48. Sponsor families in need at Thanksgiving and Christmas every year
  49. Find ways to volunteer with my kids
  50. Write letters to authorities advocating my views on issues that are important to me
  51. Help Em sell Girl Scout cookies
  52. Pick up litter at every opportunity
  53. Participate in 5K, 10K and other runs that benefit charity
  54. Donate my talents (writing critiques, editing, etc.) to online auctions to benefit charity
  55. Make eye contact with people and smile
  56. Whenever possible, say people’s names out loud to them
  57. Remember to say “thank you” for each and every kindness and courtesy
  58. Use my blog to create awareness of important issues
  59. Read banned books and make sure my kids read banned books
  60. Support the arts by providing funding for Kickstarter projects
  61. Use my public speaking skills to motivate people
  62. Recycle and compost as much as we can
  63. Solar power our home
  64. Use only non-toxic cleaning products
  65. Always take re-usable bags when I go shopping
  66. Tip well for good service
  67. Give compliments often
  68. Do nice things for strangers for no reason
  69. Promote the good work of others
  70. Don’t ignore people who are suffering – instead reach out to them
  71. Conserve energy – turn off unused lights, unplug appliances, etc.
  72. Write more Thank You notes
  73. Get my Christmas cards out every year
  74. Participate in Crayons to Calculators each year
  75. Participate in Turn Off the T.V. Week each year
  76. Start collecting Box Tops for education
  77. Write notes to authors of books I love letting them know
  78. Volunteer in a disaster recovery effort
  79. Keep the computer turned off from the time my kids come home from school until they go to bed
  80. Once a month, have a family game night
  81. Read out loud to the kids as a family activity more often
  82. Treat my family with respect
  83. Do not buy meat from factory farms
  84. Give without expecting anything in return
  85. Observe the beauty in the world aloud to others
  86. Practice forgiveness – work on forgiving those who have hurt me
  87. Invite a neighbor over for a cocktail
  88. Talk to my aunts and uncle so I can record stories of their childhood
  89. Cook meals for friends more often
  90. Teach the kids how to cook traditional family recipes
  91. Volunteer in a women’s shelter
  92. Volunteer, at least once, among the very poor
  93. Volunteer to promote literacy among both children and adults
  94. Read, with an open mind, articles and books written by people whose views are very different from my own
  95. Value experiences over stuff and teach my kids to do the same
  96. Help educate others about the importance of wild predators in the food chain
  97. Write more book reviews to support books (and authors) I love
  98. Learn about Feng Shui so I can apply some of it to my house
  99. Do a better job of remembering the birthdays of friends and family members and to actually send cards
  100. Advocate for art and physical education in public schools

Do you have a Bucket List?  If not, do you want to make one?  Here are some additional resources to get you started:

43 Things

Barefoot List

Creating a Bucket List

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