Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How to Climb a Tree

Ginger Carlson, MA Ed, is a speaker, education consultant, and the author of Child of Wonder: Nurturing Creative and Naturally Curious Children (Common Ground Press 2008). She leads creativity-building workshops throughout the US for parents and educators. Please visit her at http://www.gingercarlson.com to learn more, see her blogs about living creatively and cooking with children, or sign up for Wonderwise, her free newsletter.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

MAD about Movies

The Best Movie You Never Heard About
Mary Ann de Stefano

One of my personal rules about the movies: the greater the hype, the bigger the flop.

When the movie’s stars appear ubiquitously on TV talk shows (gabbing about how much “fun” they had making the movie, rather than how good it is) you can be sure the buildup is intended to draw box office business that can’t be sustained once reviews appear.

While the hype-the-flop rule can help you avoid some painful movie experiences, it’s just as easy for quiet treasures to go unnoticed. The Fall is a jewel that almost slipped past me. It may be the best movie you never heard about.

Imagined for 17 years and filmed in 18 locations around the world over four years, this stunning visual treat is the result of director Tarsem Singh’s obsession. He even paid for the production out of his own pocket.

Search this film out, and be amazed by sights you’ve never seen before -- soldiers zigzagging on Escher-like staircases, an elephant swimming underwater, a blue city -- all real. No matte drawings. No computer graphics. Merely Tarsem's vision, some great location scouting, and the magic that happens when a shot is framed just so.

The colors in this movie are as extravagant as the settings. Watch to see how carefully Tarsem places bursts of color in a frame.

The story takes place in a Los Angeles hospital where Alexandria, recovering from a broken arm, meets Roy, a silent movie era stuntman with broken legs and a broken heart.

"I'll tell you a story," he says to her. "Close your eyes. There were five of them. The Indian..." Injured while making a cowboy movie, Roy intends "Native American." But the little girl is Romanian and doesn't understand the word as he does. She imagines a man in a turban.

As the fantasy story within a story unfolds, we hear Roy's words, but we see it through Alexandria's eyes. She understands something very different from what he's saying. We witness the story through the lens of her experiences, and we see how the images and people she's familiar with feed her imagination. Alexandria even takes herself into the story when she thinks Roy has lost control of it.

The Fall is much more than a delicious visual spectacle, it's about the relationship between the story teller and the one who hears it. It's about any art and the eye, mind, and heart of the beholder. It's an ode to imagination.

I wasn't quite sure about what happened at the end, and I think Tarsem meant the film to be subtly ambiguous, leaving the moviegoer to tie up a loose end herself. After all, the teller isn't the only who creates the tale.

Mary Ann de Stefano blogs about film’s life lessons and other pleasures of the cinema. Her childhood fascination with classic movies on a flickering TV screen delivered glimpses into adult life that led her to believe the answers to all life’s questions could be found in movies. When she’s not at a multiplex theater, an alternative cinema, or home watching movies, Mary Ann is a writer, editor and writing coach doing business as MAD about Words. Named for a play on her initials and passion for writing, her company also nurtures creativity through workshops and the Lounge -- a free networking website for writers. She writes short fiction and personal essays and lives in Winter Park, Florida.
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Sculpting a Life

Susan Gallacher-Turner’s turn in the Pacific Northwest

When I envisioned my 'new' life, I thought that it would be me, my studio, and my work. I think I was figuring that my children would be off on their own and not really needing Mom anymore. Well, things have a way of working out differently, don't they?

That's not to say that it's bad. But it's definitely different than I thought it would be. How so? Well, for starters, my children who are in their twenties, still need me. That's nice. Don't get me wrong. I still love being a Mom. I just expected that they'd tolerate my company not seek it out.

Last week, my son was going on a 10 day vacation with his girlfriend's family. The day he left, he came into the studio and asked me to go out to lunch with him. Confused, I told him there was pizza in the fridge, if he was hungry. But it wasn't about physical hunger. He said, "Mom, I'm gonna be gone till late next week. Let me take you out to lunch." How could I say no, when he was really saying he wanted to spend time with me. So, yes, I walked out of the studio and spent the rest of the afternoon with my son.

I also didn't expect they'd want my advice. But then, I don't give advice unless they ask. The funny thing is, they ask. Like today, I had this blog to write plus another one, a house to clean and studio time as well, but when the phone rang and my daughter wanted to ask me what I thought about a weird dream she'd had last night. I told her. Then, I suggested that she take some time to journal about it. She said, "Good idea, Mom. I'll do that."

Also last week, I worked at the Portland Museum of Contemporary Craft's summer art camp making masks with children ages 7-12. With clay, we rolled, pinched, and pulled out ears, noses, lips and whiskers. Then, after the clay was fired, we painted layers of colors and glued on yarn, feathers and beads. It was fun and creative. I had a great time and so, I think, did the kids.

So kids, both my own and my students, seem to still be a big part of my life. I know my mothering side comes out to advise and guide them. But when I'm doing any kind of creative problem solving, my imagination comes out too. I think that's a good thing and maybe it's helping me as much as it helps them. Perhaps, as I help sculpt their lives, I'm sculpting mine as well.

You can see some more pictures of the mask making workshop on my blog at http://sculpturepdx.blogspot.com/. And to see my artwork, visit my website at susangt.com

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Intuition, Creativity, and the FDIC

Andrea Lee Avari

Money is just energy. Energy flows, cycles, changes form. We have all kinds of attachments to the meaning of money and its value in our lives but in the end it is a physical manifestation of our creative energy. My savings account reflects a good part of my previous years of creativity.....designing programs, giving workshops, my books, writings, teaching, counseling, coaching. The bank holds in reserve in my name a pulsating pile of my creativity.

Ignoring my intuition........ which popped up to warn me several times, I plopped my pile of energetic creativity into a bank that was offering higher than normal interest rates.
Oh, I have excuses.....I was tired from moving, I was in a hurry, the furniture looked stylish and brand new, the bank teller was very nice, they offered me tea.........yes, who wouldn't have just lifted their life savings into their open hands? My intuition kept trying to butt into my thoughts......look out....there is something cloudy in this financial institution's energy even though the tea is excellent.....pay attention.

"But the location is convenient," I replied. "Ask about the mortgage loan situation at this bank," intuition retorted. "Oh, that makes my mind tired to think of all that trouble," I said. "Oh, all right." I asked the very nice teller about the real estate loans and she averted her eyes and put on a brighter smile. "You know we shut that part of our bank down and now things are going well." My stomach tightens from her energy change. I continue to sip on my tea. I don't really want to ask any questions......and I am not certain exactly what to ask.

So I write the check and get in my car. My intuition is exhausted from trying to be heard. I turn on the radio and turn my thoughts elsewhere. Over the coming months whenever I think of the account I don't feel well in my body. I feel anxious and then I stop thinking about it. One Friday afternoon out of the blue I feel the need to go to the phone and call the bank teller. I don't know why but my attention is focused on speaking with her. She answers the phone and assures me that all is well. I have a strong sense that she is telling me what she knows.

That same evening I was drawn to the computer before bedtime. Immediately a picture flashed on the screen from a TV camera looking at the front door of my bank holding my creativity savings account. There is an armed guard locking the front door and posting a sign that says FDIC is in charge starting at 6pm on a Friday evening.

There is no one I can talk to at the bank. Big surprise, they don't answer. Throwing up is an option and I consider it. But I decide there is no time. I rush to the bank's website and scour the FDIC postings. I don't know what this really means. What do I do, who would know? My friends are astonished and clueless.

After a while of pacing and a depth of angst I haven’t felt in a long while, I remember that I cannot approach this situation with fear. I need to bring calmness and light to my imprisoned creativity. In a meditation I can feel and hear that it will be all right. I begin to breath again.

My pulsating pile of creative energy is safe. I don’t know how it will work out to be so, but I feel the soothing words of the calm inner voice. The next day I see that it is so. The FDIC has found another bank who agrees to step in. By Monday I speak with the teller, who had no idea either and we speak of the positive lessons of this experience. My intuition is so kind to not say......I told you so. It always loves me anyway. I vow to take more responsibility for the gift of an inner voice that we all have.

Andrea Avari, Ph.D. is an intuitive spiritual coach working with clients to balance and integrate wellness, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. She is the author of “A Hit of Heaven: a soul’s journey through illusion.” Her next book, “Letters from a Lunatic in Love: creating soulful relationships” will be available at the end of the year. Her blog is available at NatteringNabobofPositivity.blogger.com. Her website is andreaavari.com. Email contact is andrea@andreaavari.com.
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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Southwest Ramblings

Thoughts on Making and Living Art
Losing Your Art

I worked on a two-year-old piece of fiber yesterday and today...and it was WONDERFUL!! When things aren't going well, when life gets in the way, we can forget just how fantastic the "art zone" can be. But when we finally get back - we've found everything we need, we've found the old settings on the machines, there's nothing to stop us any longer....

I sat at the machine, Josh Groban blaring in the studio, and became one with the machine. Oh my, how I have missed that feeling! The creative juices were flowing, the brain was in gear, and I hummed along with the machine.

I wen through two years of not being able to actually marble fabric any more - paint formulas had changed, our designs were washing off the fabric, the chemistry of the water was different...if it could go wrong, it did. There were two advantages: the first was the realization that my husband and I really missed this art form. We had considered ourselves fiber artists, and all of a sudden we thought we wouldn't be able to make another piece of fabric. This was really devastating, because after sixteen years, we couldn't imagine not marbling anymore.

We asked another marbler, and after many tries, we discovered we were making new problems while we tried to fix original ones. Finally we settled on fabric that worked, particular paints, a pre-treating process, and we were back making fabric. But it was lonesome without that marbling tray set up each weekend. I despaired of ever creating another large piece of marbled fabric, so the ones we kept became even more precious.

The second advantage was the move in another direction to use the existing pieces of fabric we had, so we moved to digital marbling. This is taking a piece of marbled fabric and working with Photoshop to create something entirely different. There are some great new pieces of art coming out of my head now, but I still missed the sewing machine and the manipulation of the fabric.

Thus the success yesterday and today - sewing along to great music, realizing how calm and wonderful the process is, finishing some strips, and getting ready for the beading. This piece that has been in my head for over two years is now nearly complete. I attached some of the embellishment, and then I headed to the drawer that holds other pieces ready to go - it should be a great week - 'cause it's good to be back!

Linda Moran is a fiber artist working with hand-created marbled fabrics. This centuries-old art form originally limited to paper takes on new life when used on fabric. Join her for musings on the fiber field, art in the Southwest, and the challenges of creating fiber art. See her work and contact her at The Art of Fabric, http://www.marbledfab.com, or reading her art musings on her blog, http://marbledmusings.blogspot.com.
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Musings Among Valley Vineyards

Messy Beginnings
By Kelly Pollard

After endless months of rewriting and fine-tuning my young adult novel BLUSH to prepare it for agent submissions, I find myself back to square one: forging a new journey with a new set of characters, different time period (hello 1971!) and a fresh, emotional landscape. It's a messy, murky idea for a story and the only thing that keeps me tethered to some semblance of structure is a fire-orange workbook titled Book in A Month.

I am guilty of spending more time reading about the craft of writing than actually practicing the tidbits I'm learning. It kind of reminds me of those months of new motherhood I spent pouring over any self-help parenting book instead of just parenting. So I vowed to stop losing myself in books that tell me how to do a certain something, instead striking out and actually doing.

Well, I broke my self imposed ban on these handy self-help books during a browsing session at my local bookstore after a caffeinated rant with my writer friend about our mutual blocks on our projects.

My block played out as follows:

Kernal of an idea planted over ten years ago when I lost a friend as a result of his bipolar depression and four suicide attempts and one attempt that did the job.

Sat to write a story about what happens to those left behind after losing someone in a horrific, violent fashion. But couldn't do it, so started another story which took me through almost three years of drafting, rewriting, critiquing and submitting.

This summer, picked up that story kernal once again and began to write.

Executed an extremely schizophrenic relationship with the would-be novel's point of view.

First person, past tense, one narrator.

Then three separate narrators in varying combinations of first and third person viewpoints.

You name the combination and I wrote it. And stopped. Then opened a new file on the computer for yet another draft.

That day in the bookstore, a flashy orange workbook caught my eye in the writing reference section. Victoria Lynn Schmidt's Book in a Month found it's way into my arms and has been my gentle friend these past two weeks. With a set deadline, I charged through pages, finally settling on the viewpoint that works with the plot. Two weeks of falling in love with my characters and the surprises they have thrown my way. Schmidt has been my invisible teacher, holding my hand every day and guiding me through pointed worksheets about character motivations, plot snapshots and my own personal reason for writing this book. And this is an intensely personal book for me, no matter that the beings that inhabit it are pure fiction.

It won't be done in a month, but possibly the first draft will be punched into my laptop by the time my oldest starts kindergarten at the end of August.

As of today, I'm on Day 12 and up to page 67 in the new manuscript.

Status today:
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Creative Circle Recovery Minnsota USA

10,000 lakes, 12 steps, 2 worlds

The Art of Gentleness
by Pamela Yates

So how can sensitive creative people handle criticism? I like this sign which hangs at a local cafe: If you can't be kind, at least be vague. I think it's a plea for gentleness but I vote that we should be more proactive!

Creative people must be gentle(ness) warriors on their own behalf. Ask any artist and she or he will tell you they hear and expect some criticism directed at their creative work, their ideas and even the very notion of being a "creative person" or an "artist." Many of us have learned to invite criticism, the good kind, because fair and meaningful criticism is a valuable gift. Creative people who want to grow and develop their work can hope for and work towards reaching a level of wellness, maturity and self confidence where we can listen to and learn from genuine, authentic, helpful criticism. Toxic criticism on the other hand is harmful, unhealthy and soul-destroying - even deadly to a creative spirit. So we must each learn to be our own gentle gatekeeper, alert to the quality of criticism we allow through our emotional filtering system. In my opinion it's worth remembering that toxic criticism speaks volumes about unfulfilled hopes and dreams, jealousies, fears, pain and sadness of the person doing the criticizing. Creatives must learn to tell the difference between wise criticism and toxic criticism, welcome the one and spurn the other.

Seasoned and beginning creatives have a two-fold delicate task whether we paint, write, weave, chisel, bead, sing, dance, make music or whatever: to learn to be honest and courageous in evaluating our own work; and to be honest and courageous about receiving feedback from meaningful non-toxic sources (for example, other artists, gallery owners, museum curators). It's advisable to keep a healthy, humorous sense of elasticity and curiosity towards all opinions. An opinion is a fickle thing. The insider's secret: be gentle with yourself and treat outside opinions with great suspicion. That way you'll stay an artist long enough to become more discerning about the quality of criticism from which you choose to learn.

The art of gentleness as it pertains to creatives is this: be a gentle warrior in support of your creative work; believe in and defend its honor at every opportunity.

Nurture your dreams, and happy creating!



Pamela Yates is a painter, creativity coach and transplanted Australian writing about the adventures of a creative person in recovery living in Minnesota USA. Her insights about life in recovery come from indigenous and western perspectives on healing our creative spirit: recovery and creativity seamlessly nurtured by tribal values. Her journey of healing includes 20-years as a sober contemporary artist supported by multi-cultural extended family including recovery from alcoholism, anxiety and sexual trauma. Her storytelling has roots in 12-step programs, the Red Road and teachings from the restorative Circle process. Her clients and paintings are in communities across the USA and abroad. To learn more about recovery and creativity visit Pamela's web site at http://www.circlepathways.com/ and her online portfolio at http://www.pamelayates.com/ or contact her via email at pamela@pamelayates.com.
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To Read My Last Post

If you get the version that has little tiny unreadable writing after the first three lines, just click on the title and the full text will appear. Magic! Read more!

Meaningful Aging and Creativity

Nineteen years ago, when I first started working as a psychiatric social worker for the New York State Office of Mental Health, the longest I had held a job was for three years. Imagine my shock and chagrine, when I found that so many of my new co-workers were lifers. Many had been there since barely out of their teens and would spend their entire adult lives there. It was these workers, whether they had been there twenty eight years or eight, who seemed to be living for when they would retire. And there I was, just settling into my new career at the ripe old age of thirty eight, having decided that I needed to earn my living in a "meaningful" way. Spending my days writing, and earning my money in a meaningless way, seemed like too much time going to nowhere and nothing. I needed at least some guarantee that something I would do during the day would have a positive impact on the world around me. Certainly, there was nothing like that happening with writing. Sure, I felt gratified while writing, but then the fact that little of it was seeing the light of day left me feeling empty and without purpose.

Thus, began my career as a social worker and gadfly: I was appalled witnessing the workings of the quintessential bureaucracy, as well as the effect said bureaucracy had on its employees. No matter what age they were, they were all looking forward to one thing: Retirement. "But you are wishing your life away," I would argue. "Don't you see? When you are able to retire, you'll be old."

"Uh, yeah," they said. but ultimately, who cared about getting old. What mattered was not having to work anymore at that damn job. They even crossed days off the calendar. How can you do that!? I exclaimed. It's like wishing your life away.

Now, it's nineteen years later, and I am one of those counting the years, months and days until I can retire. Among my co-workers, many of whom are in a similar position of having anywhere from one to ten years until that blessed day, it is the most frequently discussed topic. Like prisoners getting paroled: how long do you have? And then, what will you do? Last week, I must have heard from at least three different people, "Oh, I imagine you'll do something more creative, Denise. You've got that artistic leaning." I just nod my head and say, "Oh, yes, definitely."

But in my head I'm thinking it's much more complicated than that. For example, they don't know the daily struggle I've gone through every day of every year I've been there, with regard to writing. At least at this stage of the game I've learned how to write creatively every day and go to work too. But in terms of retiring, when I no longer have to dedicate eight plus hours every day to the job, what does doing something more creative mean exactly? Assuming I'll still have to earn some money, even if on a part time basis, I tend to think I'd like to work in an aesthetically pleasing environment, if only just to counteract the many years of the opposite. Selling jewelry or clothing, bookstores, antique shops, botanical gardens: these are the environments I think of. For in addition to meaning, I crave beauty.

I actually think I've got the meaning thing licked. Writing and serving needy people: together it's the magic formula. Perhaps I'll continue that formula when I retire from my job, and just not have to deal with the trappings of the bureaucracy and the nasty aesthetics. Whatever I decide, I have to admit, all those state workers over the years were right: thinking about retiring does make aging a whole lot better. But I promise you one thing, I will never, I mean NEVER, cross days off a calendar. Uh, maybe I'd better not promise.
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Want to start your day off right? Help hundreds, maybe even thousands of others? And do it all for FREE???
Start your morning with a few Karma Clicks. These are websites that use your click to generate funds to donate books, food, health care and more to those in need.
Here are a few to get you started. Bookmark them and click every day. In ten seconds or less, you’ll be starting your morning off right–helping others!
http://www.theanimalrescuesite.com And here is the rest of it. Read more!

Don't Quit Your Day Job

Creating While on Vacation

I recently returned from vacation feeling exhausted, frazzled and depressed. I had so many creative plans and goals during what I thought would be quiet down-time during my week in Carmel, California.
Prior to the trip, I was probably on the best writing roll of my life. My kids are currently on summer vacation and being able to sleep an extra hour feels like sheer heaven! I took the opportunity to implement one of Eric Maisel’s creating tips: write the first thing each morning. It was going well with constant minor tweaks, (no e-mailing, stop loading the dishwasher) but overall I’ve been able to write on a regular basis.

The Carmel vacation is an annual trip. The company I work for owns a beautiful, spacious house in a gated community. All the employees have the privilege of booking the house for up to a week at a time. For my family, vacations are the last thing on the budget list and do you ever get to the last thing on your list? Thus, our annual trek to Carmel is a godsend.

The beauty of staying in a house is that you can pack pretty light. I’m grateful for a washing machine, even though I’d prefer not to do laundry on vacation. Regardless, it makes for effortless packing for a week away. Carmel is a pretty laid back town and we usually spend the week sleeping in and coming back to the house early. I added my notebook, pens of various colors, the book I was currently reading and the one I wanted to read next, knowing I’d be sure to finish the first one. Oh wait, how about my sketchpad? Sure it’s been years since I’ve drawn, but it will help to unlock my creativity even further. My current knitting project will keep my hands busy while I’m in deep thought conjuring masterpieces in my head.

Before I know it, my suitcase is crammed full of creativity! Well, really it’s my gym bag but now I can’t zip it closed. So I’m forced to move on to a brown paper bag. Maybe I can pilfer some of my son’s colored pencils in case I get the urge to be colorful! Sadly, all the best plans and things that would be accomplished were quashed like a lightening bug!

First of all, this was the first time my Mom and sister were able to join us. I felt like I had to be a great host for them. I felt “on” like I had to move along the conversations, tell funny stories and make sure everyone was happy and comfortable. If I sat in a corner, silent, creating, I felt like I would be viewed as rude. Wasn’t I supposed to be spending time with my family? Each day, I did have a great time, but I could feel myself slipping into a deeper depression. Ironically, I felt guilty for wanting to be alone and guilty for having fun instead of doing the work I had promised to complete.

Needless to say, I came home feeling confused about the commitments to myself and the people I love. How much can I give and how much can I keep for myself without feeling so guilty? This is an ongoing challenge that I don’t expect to have the answers to anytime soon. What I did take away from my failed vacation of creativity is that I am at a point in my artistic life where creating is beyond a hobby. It’s a necessity. For now I’ll take solace in that. If I’m this troubled, I am truly becoming a writer!

More next week!

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Writing New York

A Writer Takes on Grad School and New York City… and Lives To Tell About It

Deonne Kahler


Is it possible to be strategic about creativity? Grad school starts in a month, so I’m starting to ponder the book length manuscript that’s required for my degree. I realize I’m probably one of the few right-brainers that thinks this far in advance, but I can’t help it. I need a blueprint to feel relatively sane, even if it changes fourteen times. It’s either that or I comfort myself with jumbo bags of Skittles, and my grad school budget can’t afford the insulin treatments.

I’ve got four potential book projects, but the two that feel most solid are a novel, which I’ve had encouraging feedback on but feels a bit stale to me, and a memoir, which seems more interesting but way more emotionally difficult. Then there’s the fact that I’m enrolled as a fiction student – novels are fiction, memoirs are not – and in fact Queens College doesn’t even offer a nonfiction track, but no matter, I’ll figure that out later. (Said like a real Not Worried About the Future Right-Brainer.)

I’m wondering if there’s a strategy here. Is one idea better than the other in terms of literary value? Should I be worried about which type of book I publish first? What about what the market wants? Should I chuck it all and write any old book with the words Sex, Money, and Free in the title to ensure a fat publishing contract?

After doing a few fruitless mental laps with my quandary, I decided to take a breather and ask an expert. Ericka Lutz is an author, avid blogger, performance artist, teacher and all around Kick Ass Human. (Check out her website here, which is chock full of helpful info and terrific writing.) Here’s what she said:

“While I do understand the need for strategy, I also think the strategy will emerge from the work itself. I think just start... but start with the one that has to be written FIRST. Which one presses? I decide on a project based on the juice. You can't think about the market and choose, because if you choose based on the market rather than on how the project resonates for you, it won't work. You won't do it, or you'll do it reluctantly and without passion... if you're lucky, the juicy project will also work with the market.”

The expert says Go for the Juicy, which seems like sound advice, and for me right this second that means the memoir. Emotionally difficult, here I come! Maybe I’d better stock up on Skittles after all.

Deonne Kahler has been a freelance writer for seven years, and decided it was time to move to New York and get her MFA. And really, why not? Contact her at deonne [at] deonnekahler [dot] com, or check out her blog at www.lifeonthehighwire.com.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Wild Woman of Queens: Notes on Urban Creativity from across the East River.

Sandra Lee Schubert

Title: A Good Cigar

“Oh, yeah I love a good cigar,” Gary said sitting on my balcony on cool fall night in Flushing. My cigar had long gone out but I was pretending to still smoke. We had just created a fan club in honor of Debbie Rowe who had recently married Michael Jackson. We assumed she had to be a cigar smoking, Harley riding, hard drinking kind of gal to marry MJ. Once Gary had discovered my ruse in smoking the night was over and we had to pack up the fan club for the night. That was my first and last cigar but my participation in the Debbie Rowe club lasted for a little bit longer. After all who wouldn’t want to hang out with the wife of Michael Jackson?

Last week when buying some mental food- chips and ice cream, I watched the customer before me negotiate the purchase of a cigar and a lottery ticket. She had her change spread out on the counter. The coins went back and forth between the clerk and the woman depending on the choice of cigar. I couldn’t imagine the quality of cigar bought in a fruit market would be any different by fifty cents. The woman reminded me of the gypsies that used to live in the storefront downstairs. Her dark hair was pulled up in a headscarf and heavy brows framed her dark eyes. She looked through me as she leaned on the counter focusing on the exchange of change and cigars. Finally making her decision she left with her purchases. Was the cigar for a husband at home and the lottery ticket for luck? Or, was she like me- taking a chance on one cigar and the hope no one would notice the light had gone out?

Sandra Lee Schubert is a creative vagabond, a poet, writer and dabbler in the arts and online entrepreneur. She co-facilitates the Wild Angels Poets and Writers Group at the historic Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine. She is also the creator of the e-course Writing for Life: Creating a Story of Your Own. Visit her blog: http://www.writing4life.com. Email her info@writing4life.com or
@writing4life via twitter.
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The Game of Writing: Literary-Mystical Puzzles for Writers

Letter Meditation Number Two: Beit.

Is Home a Place?

The home row of the keyboard is the most important to the touch-typist. When at rest the typist's fingers are positioned, lightly, on the A-S-D-F keys for the left hand, and the J-K-L-; keys for the right hand. For writers in the modern world this skill is essential, But what if, like me, and so many users of the Mac iBookG4, the home letters on your keyboard have rubbed off? (Though mercifully my beloved semicolon refuses to disappear). That, dear scribes, is a rabbit hole I shan't go down! However, I think we all know the feeling of being right with the world when we are poised to write. Everything is possible as are fingers rest upon those keys; it must be similar to what a competitive runner feels as he steadies himself against the blocks before the shot of the starter pistol.

In the Hebrew alphabet, the second letter, Beit, contains within it (as all the letters do), a primordial meaning. Beit's meaning? Home. Constructed of three "vav"s (the sixth letter of the Hebrew Alphabet, meaning connection) with the north side open, Beit explores the idea of finding not just a physical home but a spiritual one. For me, I can't help but connect that open wall to the North with the concept of finding one's North Star, one's home in the world. But what does that mean for a writer?

As writers we are very much like performers. If an actor shows up and plays his part on the stage, and no one comes to see him, did he really perform? Did the performance take place? Beit seems to ask that question as well, with its open "fourth wall", like the fourth wall in the theater, or on film.

We all know what it feels like when our writing, our art, kicks into gear, when we enter "the zone." Are we home then? No one is watching us "perform", we are simply channeling some part of ourselves, something greater than ourselves and we feel grounded yet liberated. (JD Salinger induces us to believe that he somehow understands this. He published works pure and true and then turned his back on publishing, though legend has it he continues to write) We may dreamily fantasize about an imaginary reader, for whom we are writing, the way a child talks aloud to an imaginary playmate (after all, within Beit's home three vavs, symbolic of emotional connection to others, are embedded), but we are ultimately alone and we are all right with that. We are at home within ourselves, at least in those moments.

Certain works of literature, film, music and art make me feel at home. There are probably (definitely!) too many to name, and like Hilary Swank at the Oscars (did she really need to win that second time?) I fear I may forget someone I hold close to my heart, but at the risk of offending the many I love, I commit now in the moment to these few:

For Further Reading, Listening and Looking and in No Particular Order:

An American Tragedy (novel) by Theodore Dreiser
The Talented Mr. Ripley (novel) by Patricia Highsmith
"The Lovely Leave" (short story) by Dorothy Parker
"In Dreams Begin Responsibilities" (short story collection) by Delmore Schwartz
"Nine Stories" (short story collection) by JD Salinger
"Fever" (short story by Raymond Carver)

Eyes Wide Shut (film) by Stanley Kubrick
The 400 Blows (film) by Francois Truffaut
Manhattan Murder Mystery (film) by Woody Allen
Double Indemnity (film) by Billy Wilder
Vertigo (film) by Alfred Hitchcock
Night of the Hunter (film) by Charles Laughton
Silence of the Lambs (film) by Jonathan Demme
Akira Kurasawa's Dreams (film) by Akira Kurasawa

"The Shadow" (painting) by Pablo Picasso
A painting I cannot remember the title of, but which I suspected is one of his Untitled, by Willem De Kooning (it's full of bold yellow, somewhat cubist, and full of negative space. anyone know?)

Juno Soundtrack (album by various artists)
Hounds of Love (album by Kate Bush)
52nd Street (album by Billy Joel)
Born to Run (album by Bruce Springsteen)
Making Movies (album by Dire Straits)
The Boy With the Arab Strap (album by Belle and Sebastian)
"Taking the Long Way Around" and "Voice Inside My Head" (songs by the Dixie Chicks)
"Satellite of Love" by Lou Reed
Fantasie in F Minor (composed by Franz Schubert)
Waltz 2 from Jazz Suite Royal ConcertGebouw Orchestra (composed by Dmitri Shostakovich)
A swirl of Burt Bacharach, Chet Baker and Cole Porter …

And the world of Yael Kanarek:

And now dear writer/reader I ask you to attempt the following

Letter Exercise #1 "Beit": Write one page in which you follow a character on a journey home. Try to capture the physical experience and details as well as the feeling of the journey. Inspired? Keep writing!

Puzzle of the Moment #1: Conjure up a few works of art (book, film, music, painting, sculpture, etc.) that make you feel at home. Use a character from one piece, an image from another and a sound from another to write a one page story about home.

AND …please write in with illuminating comments on your writing experience; the works of art cited, etc.

Jill Dearman, the "BLOCKS-Busting Writing Coach" is the author of the forthcoming book for writers, Bang the Keys. Her short stories, essays and journalism have been published widely in books, magazines and newspapers. Jill is a writing coach and editor as well as a part-time Professor of Journalism at New York University. Please visit her at www.jilldearman.com and write to her at JillDearman@gmail.com for more.

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An Artist Empowered: you can't outsource your soul work

Eden Maxwell


There is no more important or powerful a ‘substance’ than intuition, which is the conscious tool each artist can use to cultivate his gift in the garden of culture.

Intuition seems abstract when you can’t hold it in your hand. But this makes perfect sense as we are engaging the metaphysical. Remember, intuition is first experienced as a sensation, a feeling, or a vision, not as thinking in words.

Somehow, intuition, which is potential but not yet inevitable, opens a direct pathway into the fabric of consciousness that is otherwise unavailable. This live and healthy connection is a behind the scenes look into the raw data, the cosmic mosaic and language of information as it is—in the quantum mechanics model of primordial matter—without the selective but necessary filters for survival of our subconscious mind; in the realm of intuition, both perceptions and thoughts are purified of nonsense to reveal and manifest themselves as shape and form, design and color—art and poetry, or the double helix.

Painter, writer, and kiteflier of some note, Eden Maxwell grew up on the mean streets of the inner city and fought his way out of the projects to find his walking shoes. He has contributed to many publications--from Popular Science to the Encyclopedia Britannica, and his art is in private collection here and abroad. Eden's the bestselling author of Kiteworks and The Magnificent Book of Kites, Sterling Publishing; he's also ghostwritten books for HarperCollins and Kensington publishers.

Eden blogs regularly about purpose, meaning, and persevering as an artist on his website--where you can also find out more about his exciting new book An Artist Empowered: Define and Establish Your Value as an Artist—Now (2008), you may email him at artist@edensart.com

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Muse Quest PDX

Romancing the Creative Life in Portland, Oregon

Kim Switzer

Inspiration, Aisle 5

I’ve had an especially inspiring, creatively stimulating week. First, after several years and a couple of false starts, I have a writers’ group again! We had our first meeting Wednesday night, five of us in a little back room in Anna Banana’s coffee shop. I’m so excited by this! But I’m writing at length about that in my writing blog, so I won’t go on here.
Instead, I’ll mention the time of year. It’s late July. Nearly August. Do you know what that means? If you’ve been in a store lately, and you’re anything like me, you’ve probably guessed what I’m talking about—school supplies!

I love school supplies. Pens. Notebooks. Folders and binders, calendars and planners, index cards, rulers…These make my writerly heart go pitter pat.
Why? I don’t know for sure. I know that I’ve always been excited by all of the new school supplies at back-to-school time. My mother loves school supplies, too. Maybe it’s genetic.
I think one of the reasons I get so excited by school supplies is the seemingly limitless creative possibilities in them. Imagine all the stories that can fill those notebooks! All the notes and ideas and new bits of knowledge. Picture all the drawings and doodles that can fill the blank books! It’s a blank slate, a wide open invitation to create as much as you can, to fill all the pages with your ideas.
The other wildly attractive part of new school supplies is all of the organizational possibilities. I always imagine having just the right folders and calendars and things and being very organized, having everything where I want it, knowing not only what I’m going to do with my stories and pictures now but also what I’m going to do next. I think I somehow believe that with enough index cards and calendar pages, even I can be organized. It never quite works out that way for me—I don’t think my brain quite works like that—but the chance that it might happen never ceases to inspire me.
I’m off now to add a few notebooks, maybe a little 18-month calendar/planner I have my eye on, and another stack of index cards to my stash. If you’re looking for me, I’ll be rearranging files and folders, labeling new index tabs, and generally preparing for the most creative time of the year.

Kim Switzer is an aspiring novelist and avid dabbler in various visual and fiber arts, especially embroidery, beaded embroidery, oil painting, and her new-found love--art quilting. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her boyfriend, her cat, and various incarnations of her muse. For more information or to contact Kim, you can use the
following links:

Website: http://www.mythicwriters.org
Blog: http://www.wordcolors.blogspot.com
E-mail: kimswitzer@mythicwriters.org
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Garden Views: Our Gardens, Ourselves

Recently, I was talking to a friend about cleaning up in the garden and the conversation meandered to the subject of aging; namely that we just didn’t seem to be able to work continuously from 7:00am to 7:00pm anymore, or to lift bags of soil or tubs of stones with ease, as we once could. Our gardens, and our gardening styles, must change to accommodate our abilities as well as our tastes.

She and her husband have been gardening their plot for more than 30 years. Most of our garden was destroyed when we added onto the house about six years ago, so it is relatively new. We have about the same size lots, but each of us has a very different gardening style and philosophy. What we do share in common, however, is that we want to do all of the gardening ourselves.

Not everyone does.
I recall a cardiologist I visited who was already a grandma several times over. She wanted a mature garden before she was too old to enjoy it. So she hired a local landscape architect, a petite, middle-aged, wiry woman who looked as if she ran marathons three or four times a week. Their collaboration produced an exquisite garden that seemed as if it had always been there. Small trees and mature shrubs were moved from the front yard to the back; an old, awkwardly-placed garage morphed into a three-season garden house with a working fireplace; and a side porch became a secret garden of Victorian antique wicker furniture and flowering plants, where one could observe the entire garden without being observed. Now the landscaper is still called in to do the heavy work, but the doctor putters on weekends and days off, planting her own annuals and perennials.
Other gardeners I’ve met have hired a landscape architect to design the garden and produce the plans and plant list, but then did all of the planting themselves in phases, over a period of years.
This year, I’ve gone back to my roots, so to speak, and planted seeds --- for the first time in about 35 years --- a sport of wild columbine that blooms purple, in full sun, and grew three feet wide; a few morning glories for the new rose arbor; lettuce and cherry tomatoes; etc. I’m also planning to get seeds of some heirloom tomatoes that I discovered at a tomato tasting last year. And I want to air-layer some un-labeled rhodies we bought on sale 15 years ago, and to try my hand at rooting a delphinium and a few other perennials that have gone out of style.
Whether you are staring at blank front and back yards of topsoil in a new development, or just feel the need for a change in a mature garden, make sure to put yourself into the picture, even if you hire professionals to do most of the work. Fashions in gardening come and go, but our gardens are one of the most intimate expressions of ourselves that we will ever have the opportunity to create.

Lois de Vries' thoughts on gardening and environmental issues run the gamut from gardening in her own back yard to promoting land management practices that reconnect people to the Earth. Lois is seeking a publisher for her book, The Transformational Power of Gardening. Visit her blog at http://loisdevries.blogspot.com.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Funny in Vegas- The Power of Tanyalee Davis

It's Las Vegas. Sin City. The land where prostitutes converse with Mormons on bicycles, and sometimes they're one and the same. Women here work twice as hard, horizontally, vertically, and even on poles. They work twice as hard for a third of the pay, and when they hit stages- they take on super powers to keep the tourists coming back. Over the next few weeks I'll introduce you to several of these women. Some have names you are probably familiar with- like Roseanne, or Rita Rudner. Others, you really need to know about because when the women come into YOUR town, you want to be the first in line to see them.

If you look over the horizon, then direct your attention lower, towards maybe the hip bone of your best friend...you will be eye to eye with Tanyalee Davis. At three feet, six inches tall, the woman is sexy, sassy, and will fill a room with laughter for hours. Not polite to laugh at Little People? Not P. C.? If you're worried about that, you probably have no sense of humor, anyhow. But, if you get past the fact that she's wrapped up in a small package, and most people do within moments, then you can get one of the funniest women on the planet happens to be a dwarf.

It takes a few moments for Tanyalee to get onto a stage. Usually working that fact to her advantage, she uses that time that the audience is discovering a comfort zone to play with the mic stand, bounce up from a bar chair, or even remark at the skills of the emcee. Without missing a beat, she will pounce on that discomfort and tear it to shreds. Whether it be by pulling the stockings she is wearing up over her head, proclaiming, "One size fits all? My ass!", or attempting to create a mic stand that is workable for her- the crowd shakes off concerns in roaring laughs.

For years her humor dallied with issues relating to her love life, or the plain fact that people ARE uncomfortable with her height. Her marriage to a man literally twice her size brought her to the attention of Murray Povitch, who has her on as a frequent guest. And, the marriage makes for great material- for obvious visual reasons. Marty is almost twenty years older.

Earlier this decade, whilst making her way across a street in her pint-sized scooter, a car pummeled into her. The driver told the policeman writing the report, "I don't know where she came from- she fell from the sky!" This was the beginning of an onset of medical issues, which exacerbated the genetic spinal stenosis. It was also the start of a new form of writing. Her focus is on a one woman show that has garnished rave reviews in the UK, significantly so in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Starting with that very same accident, audiences and critics are left in tears from the hysterical presentation, and the poignancy of this woman's life.

Born in Canada, now living in Las Vegas, Davis appears to be finding greater success overseas where the stigma of size, and the annoyance of Political Correctness isn't a barrier. The people who see comedy in the United Kingdom are transfixed by her humor. Tanyalee even worked with Liz Carr, a Britain based comedienne who is wheelchair bound, in a show called "Abnormally Funny People" and again in "The Brave Tarts of Comedy". The British audiences love her so much that a BBC crew followed her around as she toured there, then came here to the States to shoot the surgery for correction of part of her spinal stenosis.

At Saint John's Medical Center in Santa Monica, the cameras whir around as she underwent two critical spinal surgeries. The crew focused on the impact of certain illnesses which seem to affect only those of small stature. There are at least two hours of television to air in the fall, with a possible run in this country. For several weeks following, Davis relearned how to walk, and taught doctors, nurses, and other medical staff, just how resilient and determined she is. When she makes up her mind to do something- whether it be appear before hundreds of people on a stage in Scotland, or walk 40 yards in order to leave a rehabilitation hospital- she makes it happen.

Now Tanyalee is healing quite well, and ready to take on a showroom of her own in the town known for entertainment. With Rita Rudner and Roseanne Barr each headlining major casinos, the time is prime for the woman with eighteen years of stage experience to show the corporate moguls that this comic is a force worthy of any theater. Although she doesn't have the household name factor, this seems to be just an inconvenience. Crowds flock to her shows again and again, partly for the curiosity, and mostly because she keeps the laughter going.

Recently, Dat Phan, a winner of NBC's Last Comic Standing, invited Tanyalee to open for him at the Palace Station Casino and the crowds were so eager to know her, she ended up with many of the audience members attending the second show- which is almost unheard of in a town that lures audiences into the casino floor to gamble after any event. At this very show, The Discovery Channel taped Little People, Big World, as her friend program's star, Matt Roloff visited Las Vegas for a conference. These producers were greatly impressed by her performance, spending less time chatting with NBC's find, and more time talking business with her.

Her MySpace page boasts dozens of photos with family, friends, and well-known stars of comedy, stage, TV, and screen. There are listings of her upcoming shows- all booked during and prior to her recovery from life changing surgery. But most importantly, there are clips of her shows that will leave you in stitches. You can visit her at page, comment, or add her as a friend. http://www.myspace.com/tanyaleedavis

Once you find a reflection of yourself in Tanyalee's work, and words, it becomes very difficult to see her as a small person. Her heart is huge, her talent is gigantic, and her charisma is awe inspiring. Nothing will ever stop her from being anything other than a household name. And, whether it be on stage in Sin City, or in a festival in the United Kingdom, no one forgets her performances.

Cathe Jones is the author of "I'm Just As Screwed Up as You Are- the Anti-Dr. Phil book", and "Godless Grief". She was a regular at Los Angeles Second City, the Comedy Store, and currently is a Short Bus Comic, while her husband, jazz pianist Mike Jones, opens and is musical director for the Penn & Teller show. They reside in Las Vegas with their 50 rats, 5 chinchillas and 3 cats. Kids not included. Read more!

Career Inklings from Columbia

Work and Play Fusion

The first day that I entered the grownup world of work, I wondered when I could go back to being a kid again. That was many years ago, before I learned that work and play could actually be two sides of the same coin. It was a matter of attitude and perspective. Thirty years and some (much?) grey hair later, I feel like the words from a song by Bob Dylan: “But I was so much older then; I’m younger than that now.”

Everything about working seemed difficult to me back then: adult clothes, long hours, getting there, getting home, what to eat for lunch, who to eat lunch with, and on and on. I truly felt my spirits sag as my freedom floated away. Perhaps I had the wrong idea of what work was supposed to be. Maybe I didn’t know how to connect with my work. But, gradually, over the years I discovered that the secret to my success, happiness, passion resided in me.

How did I discover this? Well, jumping from job to job, boss to boss, year after year was exhilarating at first. You know, the novelty of new things. But, then it became exhausting, as in. “Hey, wait a minute! Why am I doing this again?” Finally, the moment of truth arrived and my discontent became elucidating. I realized that my problem was mine alone to grapple with and solve.

I can’t say that my discontent miraculously dissipated with that realization. I didn’t suddenly reach career nirvana or magically achieve that elusive workplace bliss. But gradually I saw that the one common denominator in all of my jobs was me. I became better prepared to shift the responsibility for my happiness and fulfillment from “out there” to “in here”.

Figuring out what I wanted, who I was and what my talents were began the slow process of awareness. In many ways I’d taken the opinions of others as gospel of my career choice. I’d continued on a path developed, designed and dictated by others, rather than listened to my own intuition. By shifting my emphasis from the external world of expectation, to the internal world of desire, the “little voice” of dissension became a barometer of the change only I could make. Gradually I mustered the courage and the skill to move toward the direction I felt suited me better rather than always running away from my current circumstances.

I’m not in career nirvana yet, but workplace bliss is becoming more attainable.

As Picasso said: “It takes a long time to become young”. Why wait? Let your “young-ness” begin today, by fusing play with your work!

Next time I’ll discuss some ways to recognize the voice that’s your own as you brave the journey that honors you, your talents and what you bring to the world.

Janet Ruck is as an escapee from the world of full-time work. As a career consultant and writer, she is consumed with helping people identify their passions, uniqueness, interests and talents to keep them from slipping into the faceless abyss of the workplace. Janet encourages herself and her clients through the use of journaling and creative self-expression as means of gaining perspective and insight into their authentic selves. She helps clients create and sustain satisfying careers by recognizing their own personal magic. Contact her at janetruck@yahoo.com.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Failing with Style

Creative Connections
from Lauri Griffin

Have you seen the "Meet the Robinsons" movie? What struck me most was how failure was celebrated. In the movie, Lewis is a young orphaned boy. He's also an inventor, albeit a relatively unsuccessful and discouraged one. (People tend to cower and run when he turns his machines on). When he time travels into the future he spends time with a wonderful, eccentric, and creative family. He tries to fix their automatic peanut butter and jelly spreader, but instead of repairing it, he makes it explode. Think blobs of peanut butter and globs of jelly covering the dining room and everyone in it. Lewis starts to apologize, but is interrupted by cheers. People raise their glasses and toast his failure with comments about how completely and messily he failed. They saw failure as a step, not something to apologize for, or be ashamed about.

And failure can be a step to success, or maybe to revision, or maybe to something we can't see or imagine until we go through that mess. We don't usually applaud our failures though. We brush them under something, hide them away, hope no one noticed or saw. I think it's part of our instant culture that we expect instant results, instant success. So here's to failure, to effort, to another try, and to wherever it takes you.

Lauri Griffin is a published short story writer who is currently revising some longer works. She holds degrees in educational psychology and gifted education. She writes for a parenting website and is the instructional coordinator for a a literacy program. Lauri is fascinated by the many different ways our brains learn, and by the creative process. Visit Lauri's Reflections, for more thoughts on creativity, writing, lifelong learning, and parenting. Read more!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


A writer's daily struggle for focus, authenticity, and joy

Jeanne Ainslie

Graffiti from the ladies washroom at the Cuban Cafe on Commercial Drive, Vancouver BC:
"Unnerved by you, I fall endlessly, recklessly, colliding with stars, planets & old dreams hung in the sky I like a meteor I die every black night G.S."

These are gems--the unexpected voice of a stranger compelled to announce her passion to the world. Isn't this what we writers, artists, musicians, and yes, scientists do everyday? But first one has to fall in love--fall in love with the discovery of ideas and their expression, which can be paint, words, objects, sounds. Creativity of the artist is a ritual enactment of birth. First you see the scene, hear the voice and have a compelling desire to express this to the world. And to give birth, we struggle, go broke, fall into despair, start again and again because for some reason that we don't understand, this is what we want to do, must do, and nothing else will satisfy. Read more!

Macho Creativity

Harry’s Delusion

Harry sat dejected in the cold artic landscape. “Forget it,” he thought to himself. Polar bears are meant to hunt and kill. They need to be aggressive and tough…it’s expected of them. He scrubbed out any trace of his previous creative endeavor from the snow and resumed his practice of doing push-ups to occupy his time…and mind.

He finished his first set of 2400 and then started on his sit-up routine. He hated doing this stuff but knew it to be a necessary component of the macho life. Even though his muscles were covered by thick white hair, it gave Harry confidence to know he was carrying six-pack-abs below. He could swagger. He had the equipment for it. He practiced walking around the ice hole. He was trying to perfect the John Wayne style that was proving very successful for him.

“Chicks love this,” he thought ignoring how silly he looked prancing around the ice hole. It would all be worth it…he hoped.

On the next ridge a group of three female bears watched Harry from behind an ice shelf. They chattered excitedly among themselves knowing they were having a rare opportunity to watch a young macho stud perform, uninhibited by the knowledge he was being watched.

“Oh..ahmawyee god!” Shelia exclaimed breathlessly. She was a cheerleader and appreciated athletic movement. Rhonda nodded in agreement. Eloise stood and stared in rapt appreciation.

“That’s Harry. He’s so cute. Look at him strut. Why is he going around in circles? Should we talk to him?” The giggling continued as they worked up their confidence to show themselves.

Meanwhile, Harry continued his swagger around the ice hole, unaware that he was being observed.

“Man, am I bored.” Harry thought with frustration. Sadly, he remembered the momentary joy he felt at the thought of drawing in the snow. He shut his eyes tightly trying to block out these creative and unmanly thoughts. He felt his abs again and felt slightly better…but still bored.

Suddenly, Harry saw the three females walking down the hill towards him. “Oh, shit! They must have seen me working out and practicing.” This was not good. Harry had to create the illusion that his strength and swagger came naturally.

“Hi Harry!” Eloise blinked her eyes seductively. “What are you doing?”

Harry stammered briefly. Then roared. He always did that when he was flustered. It was a defense mechanism that never failed him. The girls stepped back quickly.

“Catching seals, of course.” He replied. He struck his hunter pose. They all loved it.

“How many have you caught?” Rhonda asked.

“Several.” Harry lied. “What brings you ladies out here?”

Shelia replied. “Why, we’re just out for a walk…checking out the neighborhood…you know what I mean?” She was the aggressive one. Harry could all tell they were interested in getting to know him better. Mating season was starting soon; he knew he was on a lot of lists.

Sensing their interest in him, Harry relaxed. He observed them critically: all not bad looking. Anyone would be proud to be seen with them…particularly Shelia. She was hot. Harry winked at her…she smiled back seductively. It was so easy. Thank god for those sit-ups.

But Harry felt no connection with any of them. It was more like a game than a mating ritual. As they stood together conversing as young polar bears do, Harry felt the boredom, the futility of all that he was. They just wanted to be seen with him…like some status symbol. They didn’t care about who he was inside…just what he looked like and what he could do for them. His interest waned further. Intuitively, the females retreated. Harry excused himself.

“Have to get back to my hunting.” He said without conviction.

The females nodded and moved on. Harry watched them move away slowly. He was sadder than ever. Unconsciously, he began doodling again in the snow, breathing quietly, waiting for the signs of bubbles from below.

Lost in thought, alone on the frozen tundra, Harry let his imagination roam. Quickly the doodle took form and shape. Again, Harry felt the enormous joy and satisfaction of the creative spirit that was in him. It was his dark secret. One he would protect forever but one he could chose to exercise whenever he was alone.

“What’s that, Harry?” a quiet female voice from behind startled him. She had come out of nowhere. What would he do now…now that he had been discovered…and exposed?

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Television Musings

Television Musings
Rants and Raves of a Romance Writers

Big Brother 10

What happened to the days of television seasons? New shows in the Fall, a winter break, new shows January thru April, and then reruns thru the summer. I loved those days. The only thing I watched in the summer was Padres games.

Now we have seasons of six weeks. Then we may not see that particular show for six months. They may or may not rerun. After, that show ends they immediately start something new. We have mini - seasons. And they use hooks each week to keep us returning. Also, thread through pieces to ongoing stories. Television writers are clever these days.

We have new shows beginning and ending every week. A person like me can barely keep up. But you can find ideas. If you a stuck on a story idea or plot problem turn on the television something will jell with you and give you inspiration. But be careful if you have an addictive personally like me you may become stuck on something else.

This past week we had the start of Big Brother 10 and already there has been major drama. Big Brother is about 12 (I think this time) strangers (this summer) who all live together in a big house without being able to leave. No television, radio, internet, phones, or newspapers. Nothing from the outside world.

All they have is each other. They have no privacy. And then they vote each other off. Survivor . But I think living in a house together is tougher than surviving out in the wild, in some ways. And they do it for a lot less.

The killer is the show is on three times a week. And if that' s not enough it's on every night from midnight to three am on showtime two. Plus, there's always the 24 hr live feed you can subscribe to on the internet. Yes, I could get addicted to that, But yes I do have a life.

With Big Brother I have watching since maybe the third season.

But alas I did find another new show by accident last week. My sister fell asleep and left the TV rolling after we had finished watching something else. I was working on a jigsaw puzzle and did not get up immediately to turn the set off. A reality show came on called The Gentleman's Club. They are taking what I call street thugs (they called themselves G's) and turning them into gentleman. I do see where this show could help a few guys change their lives for the better.

New episodes of the Closer, Saving Grace, Monk, and Pysch aired this week.

If you want to reach me email:

Kathy Carpenter Read more!

microBusiness: Doing Your Own Good Work

Lloyd Lemons

Entrepreneurship offers endless creative lessons...

About three years ago, Michael Hopkins wrote a piece in Inc. Magazine about entrepreneurship. I kept the hard copy, because I enjoyed it so much. It’s a long article, but I thought it hit the mark then, and it still does today. If you want to read the whole article the link below still works. One of Michael's 75 Reasons to Be Glad You’re an American Entrepreneur... is number 40, and probably the one closest to my heart. He says, “...entrepreneurship is a way out, a way through...”. He notes that in the New York City Family Court system, kids still choose entrepreneurship as their second favorite dream for the future. (Becoming an NBA basketball player is the first.)

Entrepreneurship, which includes microBusinesses of all types, is one area of our economic system that has open arms for virtually anyone regardless of class distinction, race, education, financial wherewithal, social values, political affiliation, size and appearance, or even the ability to speak the English Language. Entrepreneurs, even ones with minimal resources, create their own welfare. They have an idea, they set an intention, and they move forward at their own risk. They establish their own set of management rules, accept 100% of the responsibility, motivate themselves, and win or lose in the marketplace. They don’t need to be “acceptable” according to a firm’s corporate culture. They work at something of their own creation, generally something they enjoy, and according to the dictates of their own heart. They create a space in the world that, for the most part, they control, and of which, they take ownership. (Sound familiar?)

I’ve seen a recovering addict start a business with a bucket, a brush, and a squeegee. Today, he has a thriving window cleaning business. I know of a handicap woman who designs and creates beaded jewelry at her kitchen table; a business that feeds her two children. I’ve seen a college kid build computers in his dorm room, and turn it into a multi-million company. And I’ve worked with a high school dropout who turned a hammer and saw into a growing construction company. It wasn’t easy for these people, and there were plenty of naysayers, but they would not let anyone steal their dream.

Entrepreneurship, just like creativity, doesn’t require a pedigree, a handsome face, a pile of money, or an unusual level of intelligence. It doesn’t require extraordinary talent, a polished speaking voice, or connections to important people. It simply requires the overwhelming desire to improve your situation. A healthy measure of independence and a determined character will carry you a long way; and more important than formal training is a belief in yourself, a moral compass, and the desire to contribute something of value to the world. Entrepreneurship isn’t an elitist club designed to usher a select few into uncountable riches. For millions "...entrepreneurship is a way out, a way through...” a life that is not always fair, not always just. It’s an opportunity available to anyone to make his or her own mark in the world, to do an honorable work, to be self-sufficient, and to build a better life.

NOTE: I know that this blog has an international readership, and it is not my intention to focus on America exclusively. I also know that microBusinesses are "a way out, a way through" for many people around the world. Please comment on how entrepreneurship, microBusiness, and creativity have impacted your life, no matter where you live.


Lloyd Lemons lives in Jacksonville, Florida with his wife of 32 years, Diane. He’s had many jobs in his life ranging from corporate marketing director to lemonade stand proprietor. Today he is a writer, copywriter, photographer, marketing consultant, and creative collaborator. He’s been a soloist for 25-years. He’s currently writing a book on the art of the microBusiness. To keep his head clear, and to germinate new ideas, he spends his free time as an endurance cyclist. Please visit his website “A Lifetime of microBusiness” at www.lloydlemons.com/mBiz, or contact him personally at: Lloyd@lloydlemons.com Read more!

Whisperings of the Creative Soul

Andrea Lee Avari
Healing My Procrastination

I may have stumbled upon a cure for my tendency to procrastinate……..that insidious ability to keep myself from having to venture out into the unknown of my being and to discover more of who I really am. And can’t we all create stunning roadblocks to delay us on our path to expressing ourselves?

Neil Young was interviewed on PBS the other day and talked about his gift as a singer/songwriter. It is the same gift but with different wrappings that we all have. He spoke with a deep reverence for the giver of our creativity, the Source of our inner being. His call to creativity springs from this Source whenever it is ready, not when he is ready. Never knowing when the call may come, his intention to respect that call and to answer it immediately is the driving force of his life.

Speaking of his deep desire to be available to the call of inspiration whenever it spoke to him, I heard how mindfully aware he was of the preciousness of the relationship and connection he has with the Source. Whenever he feels something moving through him, he makes the choice to honor it greatly by making himself available to its flowing process by being present.

So if the call came knocking at dinner time, he would get up and excuse himself from the table and go to his place of creativity to devote his energies entirely to the creation of his lyrics and music. (A supporting partner is very helpful here!) Whenever the call came, he answered. The only exception he could imagine would be if a family member or someone else needed him.

This conversation invited me to observe myself without judgment as to my response to my calling. I noticed that more times than I realized that I told the call to wait—wait until I finished something, wait until I was ready, wait until I felt like it…..just wait. I thought about how often I put myself last so as not to upset others or their routines.

I am like you, a wellspring of ideas about which I can get very excited. I think…..I need to write that down or at least make a note……because I can feel the resonance of the idea and the words that go with it……the concept births lateral thinking and I am brimming with possibilities of the idea and how to express it. And then I don’t get up or I don’t sit down, or something else seems much more important than a call from the Source. And I lose the impetus…..how did the idea and sequence build, what exactly was I trying to say……..? The idea is great but the means to touch into its depth has become a transitory path without the necessary grounding….the energy dissipates and I am disconnected.

I notice my head is full and my body doesn’t move to manifest what is in it in a reverent response to the Source of creativity. I take it for granted like an old boyfriend and then it’s gone.

I heard Neil Young’s intense love for his Source. He honors it by answering the call as a first priority. When it calls to dance, he gets up to dance with it immediately. In my heart I know that love and my intention is to live in reverence with it now. In the past I would look to put on my dancing shoes first…..now I run barefooted to answer the precious Call.

Andrea Avari, Ph.D. is an intuitive spiritual coach working with clients to balance and integrate wellness, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. She is the author of “A Hit of Heaven: a soul’s journey through illusion.” Her next book, “Letters from a Lunatic in Love: creating soulful relationships” will be available at the end of the year. Her blog is available at NatteringNabobsofPositivity/blogger.com. Her website is andreaavari.com.

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Musings in the Shadow of Georgia's Mountain
Barbara Heming.

Stepping Off the Highway

Welcome to an exploration of creative living out of the mainstream.
After four decades of urban living in world capitals and smaller cities, three years ago I stepped off the highway. Although I had never visited New Mexico, it had been calling me over a period of two years. Unable to continue to ignore its voice, I quit my job in Ohio, packed up and headed west.

The artists’ Mecca Santa Fe was my tentative destination. Less than twenty-four hours after my arrival, I knew it was a mistake. Despite the museums, the architecture, and the plaza, the energy wasn’t right.

Confused, almost in despair, I decided to visit Ghost Ranch northwest of Santa Fe. Beyond Abiquiu I drove up the hill to a mesa. On my right red rock cliffs towered in stately columns. The land dropped off to the left opening to a narrow valley through which the Chama River flowed. Hills of red, yellow and white rock glistening from flecks of mica rose from the valley floor. Pinions and junipers dotted the hillsides. My heart shouted, “I have to live here.” Although I had never lived in a high desert place and didn’t know anyone, I knew I had finally come home. Through serendipitous conversations and events, I found a cabin to rent in an old Hispanic village in a box canyon three miles off the highway.

Our hearts know the home where our creative wellsprings dwell. At times the resonances are strong; other times they are the merest stirrings of recognition. If we listen to them, we can follow the thread through the maze of our daily routines to the center where our lives wait to speak to us. What places or moments in your life have spoken to you? Have they led you to the creative stirrings in your heart? As you remember them, what do they tell you about how to live your creative life wherever you are planted today?

Stepping off the highway does not have to mean making a huge life change as I did, rather it can be as simple as taking a different route to work or trying a food you’ve never tasted or not turning on the TV as usual. Then listen. How does it feel? What does it tell you? A small change in routine can be a step off the highway to a new direction.

In this blog I will reflect on aspects of living the creative life close to nature in the high desert suggesting how those lessons might apply to artists wherever they might find themselves at this particular moment. Hope you will join me to muse in the shadow of the mountain Georgia O’Keefe made her own.

After four decades of urban living, Barbara Heming, a former college professor and fiber artist, stepped off the highway into the high desert of northern New Mexico in Georgia O’Keefe territory, where she has devoted herself to writing and creativity coaching. She will reflect on the many facets of living the creative life close to nature. Her first novel is in revision. In addition, she continues to write poetry, take photographs and work with fiber. You can contact Barbara at http://www.creativefootsteps.com/
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Notes on Urban Creativity from across the East River

Sandra Lee Schubert

Title: Out of the Box: Finding Words Anywhere.

"You will find poetry nowhere unless you bring some with you."

- Joseph Joubert, French essayist and moralist

Where do you find your inspiration? Some people pull it deep from inside them. Others glean it from life experience. Or you can find it on the side of the road. When you are ready to express your creativity how do you do it? Do you write for two hours everyday or grab your time on the bank line? Do rules govern your creativity? In a writing workshop a participant refused to do one of the exercises because she didn’t create that way. She couldn’t write unless she did it just her way, thus missing the opportunity for exploration. A schedule can provide you with a successful framework for a writing life or it can make writing dull and ordinary. Keep to your schedule but shake the tree every now and then and see what kind of fruit hits you on the head.

Creative Writing Prompts:

Found Poetry
Found poetry
is the rearrangment of words or phrases taken randomly from other sources (example: clipped newspaper headlines, bits of advertising copy, handwritten cards pulled from a hat) in a manner that gives the rearranged words a completely new meaning. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Found_poetry

Use Junk Mail to your advantage

Be creative and read your own Spam mail subject lines (please don’t open them – an adventure in virus-dom is not the one I would like you to take). See if any of the words or lines interests you. Or using my Spam email subject lines see if you can create some poetry or even a tiny story out of them.

A swinish
Guys, feel eighteen again!
Stop fruit down
Small cap promo mover alert
Saleslady knee hole
Finally there’s a way
Culprit erodible
Hot women doing crazy things
Sad dependent spoon
Authority relieve your strongest pain light
Spumoni taxi
Muscle bound guys become the biggest bottoms
while pole in wall is glory whole
Aching reckon apollonian declarator workplace civic

Here are my sample poems

Muscle bound guys become the biggest bottoms
Underbooked and underwitholding
Take spumoni taxi

Sad dependent spoon
Culprit erodible
Guys feel eighteen again
Finally, there’s a way!

Saleslady knee hole
A swinish
Stop fruit down
Lane of careful sliding
Depends on the knee

Are these brilliant poems? No they aren’t. The point is to look for inspiration in unexpected ways and be willing to experiment and fail. Be willing to create bad writing, on the other side could be something brilliant.

Sandra Lee Schubert is a creative vagabond, a poet, writer and dabbler in the arts and online entrepreneur. She co-facilitates the Wild Angels Poets and Writers Group at the historic Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine. She is also the creator of the e-course Writing for Life: Creating a Story of Your Own. Visit her blog: http://www.writing4life.com. Email her info@writing4life.com or @writing4life via twitter.

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Funny Things in Las Vegas

Hello my name is Cathe, and I'm a comedian. (Hi Cathe). I've played around the country, and I've specifically played the western half of the US over the last 24 years. Some people see me and think, "OH yeah, I know you!" probably because I've dated most of the men in five of those western states, and odd parts of Canada. But, for the last nine years or so, I've lived in Las Vegas- Sin City- the land that the IRS won't forget. My show, "Women in Comedy" ran here for about four years, and featured some of the smartest, quickest acts in the world, including Tanyalee Davis, and Gulden... each will be household names, just you mark my words.

I write comedy. I breathe comedy. I have been on terrible television, and I've been on memorable television. The one seriously consistent thing I do as a stand-up is to assist others in accomplishing that dream. The Las Vegas life isn't friendly to women on stage, unless a pole is in front of you, perky breasts are paid for, or you happen to be Frank Marino. We're expected to talk about our private parts, our sexual exploits- and lack there of- and we're expected to be a size 3 hip with a size Playboy chest. It's very hard to walk that without some recommended stilletos, which are also required and often physician prescribed.

One way I try to push people towards that microphone is by attending just about any comedy show in town at least once- and perform in them if there is a small chance that I can do so. You see, before I moved to town, I was VERY able bodied. I could be that size 3, whom all women hate, and I could get dinner, lunch, breakfast and sometimes cars bought for me, simply because I was on stage. Just before arriving here, my body decided "That's no way to live", and promptly fell into disrepair, like the car you bought the day after the warranty expires. It's not Lupus, but it's like that. It's not arthritis, but it's like that. It's not really anything extraordinary, although most women in Cirque shows have profited greatly from this. My bones simply twist in multidirections, lock, and sometimes pop out of joint. Some people call this a gift in town, but there are only so many times when I am on stage, saying "I've fallen and I can't get up" that it really is funny. As a result, the act I had, which predominantly gave me the appearance of Gilda Radner on speed, had to die a painful death. I had to become a non-physical comic- and that means, I have to write everything I see all the time in a manner that recreates a stage personna and builds an audience, too.

Last night, for sake of description, I joined Tanyalee Davis, (tanyaleedavis.com), and some friends to see Rob Little at a fairly new club in the Fremont Street area, of the Fitzgerald Casino. When I first met Rob, he was newly moved to Los Angeles from Detroit. He had done a few open mic nights, in the hope that somehow someone would see him as funny. The guy has more energy in his eyebrow hair than I have after five cappuccinos and a jolt cola. His writing is clean- which means he uses maybe three "dirty words" per set. This is rare on comedy stages at the moment, and I blame the game, Grand Theft Auto entirely for dumbing down our language, and Texting for making it unusable. U no wat I mene?

You'll see Rob on TV, and think, uhm, there's a large weird kid who can't sit down, up there. He's similar to Chris Farley that way. But you'll hear an almost "Is he from San Francisco?" sweetness to his voice because he is a throwback to the little kid in school who always had either a goo-goo-cluster on his chin, or some snot running just under his nose. He comes across as innocent, and nearly Cowardly Lion-like on stage. Over the last fifteen years, his writing has developed well, maturing from just doing jokes about mom, to doing life-long routines. And, he makes everyone laugh- hard. Yet, the only sexual references he makes come from the chat about caring for Seniors, or reliving a song by Carrie Underwood. Just doesn't make that his focus, which makes him so much better than most who attempt Vegas stages.

I will post more about what comedy is, how it works, and why people write well or not-so -great. You'll have new names to check into at your local clubs or colleges, and perhaps if all goes well, you may even see your friendly gimpy gal from Las Vegas waddle on up to do a set. I'll finish with a true story about George Carlin who died just days after I saw his show here. I don't think the two events are related, and George said as much in his act that night.

He show goes: "Two guys met each other in the street and one says, 'Joe died.' And the part that pisses me off, and the part that makes me crazy is hearing the other guy say, 'Joe died? But I just saw him yesterday!' Well, I guess it didn't help then, did it. {pause} Just saw him yesterday? That's the most useless description ever."

That writing and timing was so perfect when I learned of his death not 72 hours later. All I could think was "I guess it didn't help then, did it?" The line of the is the line of his life. See the comedy you can now. Because tomorrow, there may not be that chance. Be the comedian you want to be now because tomorrow, if someone says you died, wouldn't it be better to do it at an open mic than in reality? More on Vegas comedians and stages soon!

Cathe Jones is the author of "I'm Just As Screwed Up as You Are- the Anti-Dr. Phil book", and "Godless Grief". She was a regular at Los Angeles Second City, the Comedy Store, and currently drives from Vegas to LA to perform, while her husband, jazz pianist Mike Jones, opens and is musical director for the Penn & Teller show. They reside in Las Vegas with their 50 rats, 5 chinchillas and 3 cats. Kids not included. Read more!