Sunday, August 31, 2008

Don't Quit Your Day Job

Creating and a Pain in the Neck

Lately, it’s been more of a challenge for me to write. Not because I have writer’s block or because I’ve been working overtime at my day job. No, my problem has been physical.

Five years ago I wretched my neck when the toilet overflowed in our new house. I was in the bathroom for several hours lifting water drenched towels, wringing them out and replacing them on the floor to soak up more water. I did successfully keep the water from seeping out of the bathroom and on to the hallway carpet, but my great efforts were met with waking up the next morning and not being able to move my neck…at all. I went through physical therapy, but my neck has never been quite the same. My day job has me in front of a computer all day. I try to move and get up from my desk often. I pay attention to ergonomic teachings. I have the right kind of keyboard and my screen positioned where it should be. In the end, however, I clock in a lot of hours at the computer and now I want to come home nightly and spend several additional hours doing more of the same. Really, something’s got to give.

As my neck pain has increased over the years, I’m now faced with pain I can know longer tolerate. This affects my daily life and frankly, some days, keeps me from writing.

Ironically, I’m writing more than ever and I’m loving it. Why is this roadblock coming at me now? I worried so much about other obstacles getting in way that I never thought that choosing to write could be like a professional athlete who becomes injured and can no longer play the game.

Well, I’m not going to take it lying down. Last week I began acupuncture and I’ve been doing yoga stretches and Feldenkrais. It’s a pain in the butt to have to do all of these stretches and exercises every night before bed. Even sleeping can be disruptive, as certain positions cramp up my neck. Yet, like the athlete who overcomes their challenges to hear the cheering crowds at their victory, I will find whatever works for me to manage my pain. I’m not giving up. I believe sometimes, these challenges show and guide us towards our true self. If this was merely a hobby, I’d be sad but I could walk away. Instead, despite the days when I come home from work, only to be useless and unproductive because of the pain I’m in, there’s a part of me that’s elated to have proof that this is what I truly want to do and that writing is a genuinely essential part of my life.

If any of you reading this have any suggestions, bring em’ on!
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Southwest Ramblings: Thoughts on Making and Living Art

The Joy of Sunday Drives

My husband and I have always taken Sunday drives, even if it isn't always Sunday. Back east we had our favorite routes, green byways around the bays of Lake Champlain. Here the desert Sunday drives are different: no water, no back roads (that aren't four-wheel or covered in water from monsoon rains. Yet we have a few routes that have become our regular haunts: Tucson to second exit at Benson, down through St. David along the San Pedro River (with actual water in it), through Tombstone and angled off to Bisbee. The road back can go through historic Fort Huachuca to Sonoita through mountainous ranges back to the Interstate and home to Tucson. Bisbee is a treat - the early capital of the Arizona territory.

The terrain changes as you leave the desert valley and head through a tunnel into the mountain range that contains Bisbee - and "contain" is the word. Bisbee hugs the mountain sides, surrounded by remains of old and working mines. We decided to explore some of the side roads - and found ourselves headed UP, on a one-way very narrow road, with stairs UP to homes perched precariously on hillsides. The road is one-way, so we knew we couldn't go back down that way....until at the top, at the end, there was a left turn looked to be straight down! But it was the only way down - through rushing water from the night's rains, past blooming gardens tucked into a TINY patch of grass before stairs leading to another home.
Incredibly quaint!

But that is Bisbee, and other re-invented mining and ghost towns of Arizona. We headed to lunch at the Copper Queen Hotel, kept much the same as it was in its mining heyday, complete with its own ghost. Lunch on the porch, watching cars hug the curbs, joggers puffing along the edges of the roads, and the greenery sprouting through the original old brick of the patio floor. Bisbee has reinvented itself as an artists' mecca - lots of little galleries, closed until the fall business picks up, antique stores, southwestern tourista stores, fudge, the One-Book Bookstore, and quaint eating places. Take the mine tour, or visit the Historical Museum, one of the best small museums I have ever been to, with its partnership with the Smithsonian. Check out their site for a trip into the past.

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, or reading her musings on her blog.
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Iowa Writing Coach: Sometimes Getting Published Works Like It Should

"New Lives" is a recently published essay of mine that has kind of a sweet little history to it. For one thing, writing it was cathartic as I came to terms with the empty-nest sadness I experienced after our sons left home for college. For another, it was relatively easy to find a publishing home for the essay. Just a couple of days after I submitted it, the editor emailed a warm note of acceptance and appreciation. Once in awhile, getting published seems almost effortless.

As a freelance writer I'm becoming more savvy about where to submit my article ideas and finished essays. In the beginning I was unrealistic, submitting my material to magazines without scrutinizing their pieces for styles, content, and intended audience. Like many beginning writers I thought that if I could just get one break in a well-regarded publication, I'd be on my way. But it doesn't work that way for most of us.

After some painful rejections I started submitting from the ground up -- from local and state newspapers, to regional publications, to specialized national publications, to more widely distributed publications. Now, before I submit anywhere, I do a careful analysis of the publication's content. Are the articles and essays personal or more journalistic? How much research seems to be required? How long are the pieces? What writing styles seem most prevalent?

I've also begun to acknowledge that some pieces belong in literary journals and magazines rather than commercial magazines. This can be a tough thing to admit to yourself as a freelancer. When you're trying to make your living this way, it's the commercial market that pays the bills; you can have a hundred essays published in that many literary journals and not make a cent on any of them. However, if you look at your published pieces as part of a portfolio that shows the range of your skills, the published-but-unpaid essays can play an important part in snagging future writing work, including book contracts.

After I finished "New Lives" several years ago, I promised it out loud that I would find a home for it. I knew this might be tough because the essay was long and didn't exactly fit the mission of most women's magazines, whose articles tend to me more factual or how-to oriented. When I read about Mom Writer's Literary Magazine, I knew that could be the perfect venue for my piece.

Luckily, the editor agreed. My mission is accomplished: the piece is out, my empty-nest sadness is gone, and I have another published piece in my portfolio.
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Scenes from a Floating Life: An Artist’s View of Shanghai

Christina Shmigel

Tasking & Musing

Trust me to start blogging in Shanghai about Shanghai and immediately afterward leave town for six weeks. And then write a post from NYC all about place and how maybe all cities have, like Shanghai, that layering of the city-that-is over the city-that-was, and then not get around to posting it. To arrive, then, back in Shanghai ready to post, only to find the blog file lost from the face of the computer. And then, finally ready to post, to discover that Blogger opens here in Chinese and it’s going to take a proxy server to do this, etc etc. And maybe there in lies the rub of my creative life: all curiosity and dreaming and not much structure or discipline or what my Ukrainian parents refer to, in German, as though it were characteristic of Germans rather than Ukrainians, sitzfleisch, by which they meant, “stick-to-it-ness.”

Reading over Patrick’s shoulder, in Elliott Jacques’ Requisite Organizations, I receive a shock of clarity: “Human behavior can be divided into two different and all encompassing activities: work or goal-directed behavior and musing, or reverie or dreaming, which has no articulated goal to bound or direct it.” I immediately recognize something central to my way of being: that I live for musing, that I love to sit in the soup of possibility but that the getting-things-done part seems to elude me, especially these days when I am working without the pressure of an external deadline. That external deadline - the looming threat of public humiliation if I don’t produce the scheduled show & a show that I can stand behind - is a great motivator for me but it also creates a kind of frightful stress that these past few years I haven’t been able to muster the enthusiasm for. Even as I sit here determined to get this entry written, I wander off to other small tasks, that prompt dreams of possibility. And it’s really the dreams, the reverie, that sustain me, give me my reason to live: just now, airing out some Burmese marionettes the cats have peed on, conjuring steel stands that would let them stand in their postures on a shelf, how great that would be to live with, a tableau of dancing alchemists and princes, I might even get as far as drawing something up…and there, my need to make the magic that transforms the ordinary into something aesthetically heightened has nearly been satiated & I never will get those things made…or I might think the whole process through several more times over several more months & eventually, actually get that tableau made a few years from now… Read more!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

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

Sandra Lee Schubert

Michelle Obama Rocks Her Story
“. . . he urged us to believe in ourselves - to find the strength within ourselves to strive for the world as it should be. And isn't that the great American story?”
Stories are everywhere aren’t they? What is your story? What do you tell the world about yourself? What does the world say about you?

The Democratic Convention was a great opportunity to see stories unfold before us. There were stories of success, failures and the ability to rise above adversity and how to gracefully accept defeat.

The media conveniently puts us into nice little boxes; voting, shopping, and living a life they have neatly laid out for us. If this election year has taught us anything- people have their own mind about who they are.

I created my course based on the idea that we should be the ones to tell our own stories. We are unique creatures who know the intimacies of our own life.

Michelle Obama’s challenge at the convention was to tell her unique story. She had to weed through the stream of distortions that laid out a version of who she was created to be. No one can tell your story, not really. Even the best biographer can never get to the essence of who we are. Michelle had to tell her story her way. It may have been a speech but it was her speech and she delivered it. Michelle Obama rocked her own story. She took back her own life and the power to tell it.

What are people saying about you? Are you telling their version of your own life?
Take back you life now. Tell your own story. Write it a million times. It is your story to tell.
Be the owner of your own life and creativity.

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 writing for life blog: .
Email her or via @twitter.
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Friday, August 29, 2008

Garden Views: Garden Writing - 1

The Garden Writers of America conference is coming up soon and it got me to thinking about all of the different kinds of garden writing that there are. Of course, there are garden journals, records of the successes and failures in an individual’s garden. They help jog the memory of what to do when, why certain plants are chosen over others, and the thinking process behind a garden’s design. These rarely see the light of public scrutiny, unless the garden or the gardener becomes prominent in that field.

Garden writers may focus on books, blogs, magazine, web, and newspaper articles, radio and television scripts, catalog and seed packet copy, research papers, newsletters, educational materials, plant culture, photography, or a myriad of other special niches.

One of the most common types of garden writing is what I refer to as documentary. It documents what the writer saw in a garden setting. It describes the colors, shapes, types of plants, etc., the size of the garden, whether it is sunny or shady, and some details about why the homeowner gardens in this particular way.

Another conventional way of writing about gardens is a how-to approach that tells readers what the gardener did and explains how they can reproduce that look in their own gardens.
Some blog and newspaper columnists present a chronicle of what is developing in their own space during the growing season, offering readers inspiration, or a vicarious experience.

There are also biographies of famous plant collectors, breeders, landscape architects, artists who specialized in plants or gardens, founders of arboreta and public gardens, etc.

At first glance, it might seem as if these types of writing offer little in the way of creative expression, but creativity is where you find it. There are few synonyms for the words “garden,” and “plant” for example, so it’s always a challenge to craft an article or book that offers sufficient variety of language. For those who enjoy research, learning about unfamiliar plants in order to write about them can be a pleasure in itself. And for those who enjoy a sense of adventure, garden writing offers the perk that you actually have to go to a garden to write about it. Exploring OPG (Other People’s Gardens) is the most fun I’ve had in decades.

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

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Burn After Reading. Think After Viewing.

I've been writing about the Coen Brothers, Joel and Ethan, today because their latest movie, Burn After Reading, opened the Venice Film Festival last night. These Award-winning screenwriters/directors intrigue me.

Their last film, No Country For Old Men, was, for me, a masterclass in screenwriting of originality and cinematic power. But the brilliant double-act are notoriously wary of wanting to seem serious about their work. The latest, stuffed with glamorous A-celebrities, whooping it up as near-parodies of their screen personas, must have been quite a relief after the majestic solemnity of No Country.

It's ostensibly a spy thriller, but as usual with the Coens, they've exploded the movie genre's rules, and turned the whole escapade into a story that's much more about how human beings get things wrong.

And that's what's interesting about their films. They can take a genre and do whatever they like with it. For all its humour, Burn After Reading has a pretty dark underbelly. A spoof spy thriller made to say something that's meaningful about marital infidelity, the cult of appearance and so on.

The improbable, convoluted plot involves a failed CIA analyst who's a neurotic alcoholic (John Malkovich), a sports trainer airhead who loves inflicting pain on his clients (Brad Pitt), a no-longer-young unmarried woman who's dream in life is to have a surgeon's knife slice off fat from her stomach and buttocks and inject her breasts with chemical polymers (Frances McDormand, wife of Joel Coen), a hypochrondiac who's a serial philanderer with a serious commitment problem (George Clooney), and a stuck-up Englishwoman (Tilda Swinton).

You can see, even from these brief descriptions of the characters, that the film's plot hardly matters. Tell that to the screenwriting gurus with their iron-clad '3-Act-Structure' and pre-set 'Plot Points' and 'Make it Plot-Driven!' commandments.

All the most exciting screenwriters and directors are blowing up the rule books - and winning awards not just in Europe but in Hollywood.

It's an invigorating time for movies because we're seeing how screenwriters are making their own rules -being inventive, original and genuinely ground-breaking. They're certainly inspiring me to keep going with my own voice, and making it drown out those hesitant doubts that so-called experts on creative writing try to crush me with.

After Reading is fast and funny, but satire doesn't come better than this.
Of course, the Coens just say it's a fun ride, but I think that's a little disengenuous of them. They seem to achieve something that I imagine most creative individuals would like to achieve. Sending the audience away with their minds stretched, and feeling a little less secure in their comfort-zone.

There's more about Burn After Reading with pictures and the movie trailer at Unique Screenwriting.
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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Silver Rose

Television Musings
Rants and Raves of a Romance Writer

By Kathy Carpenter

This weeks book is The Silver Rose by Jane Feather. A historical romance from 1997. In the book the Silver Rose is a charm on a bracelet. But to tie in the book for my purposes, I think of the silver rose as a reward. Going for the gold as many did the past week in the Olympics.However all show have their rewards. Of course in the reality shows these are competitions and the reward is to be the winner. Outlast everyone else and generally a big amount of cash. Two silver roses so to speak. In a drama such as Saving Grace silver rose comes when they achieve the goal, solve the crime. All shows have some kind of goal thus a silver rose is found in most television programs.

Hey this tying the title into my blog is a breeze so far.

I brought up Saving Grace earlier because I just watched it before I wrote this blog. A show I’m not quite sure of why I watch. I dislike Grace ( the main character) as a person. Her morals are very questionable. Of course, a lot of characters on Tv are. But she sees this angel and talks to him. I think he’s supposed to be helping her to change her ways. Save her. But I don’t see it. The show has been on two seasons. Mini seasons is what I call it. Anyway the new “season” for a lot of shows these days is six weeks.

But I can’t see where Grace has improved her ways. Can anyone out there help me on this?

Kathy Carpenter
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Monday, August 25, 2008

Monday Morning Motivators to Slay Your Creative Dragons

By CJ Lyons and Margie Lawson

Cube Breathing from CJ:

Sometimes our bodies need a little help to get in that writing mood. Next time you’re having a hard time shedding the demands of the real world and escaping into your fictional universe, try Cube Breathing.

First, sit in your writing chair. Close your eyes. Rest one hand palm down just below your belly button.

Now, counting to four, take in a deep breath. Concentrate on breathing so deeply that you push that hand on your belly away. Hold your breath for a count of four. Exhale slowly, in a count of four, feeling your hand collapsing in. Hold your breath for a count of four. Repeat.

Visualize each count of four as one side of a square. Repeat six complete cycles until you’ve completed the cube in your mind.

Open your eyes and start writing!

This type of deep breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, is something we can use at any time, any place. If you feel anxious, feel as if you’re taking short, shallow breaths, try a few cycles of cube breathing and you’ll be amazed at how relaxed and energized you are!

As a pediatric ER doctor, CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge suspense novels. Her debut, LIFELINES (Berkley, March 2008), became a national bestseller and Publishers Weekly proclaimed it a "breathtakingly fast-paced medical thriller." The second in the series, WARNING SIGNS, is due out January, 2009. Contact her at

Margie Lawson -- presenter, psychotherapist, writer -- lives at the top of a Colorado mountain west of Denver. Margie merged her two worlds, psychology and writing, to develop psychologically anchored editing systems and techniques that teach writers how to write page turners. A former college professor, Margie works as a psychotherapist, writes fiction and nonfiction, and presents full day master classes for writers internationally. Go to for more information.

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Publication Day

Publication day is a thrilling day for any author, second only to seeing your book on the shelf in a bookstore. August 14, 2008 was that special day for me when my out-of-print novel A Country Girl was republished by Xlibris. My bestselling erotic novel has a long history (Dell, Blue Moon), which I wrote about in my article "The Autobiography of Writing an Erotic Novel," that will appear in September at Erotica Readers & Writers Association. See the Erotica Readers & Writers Association.

My experience with publication reflects the changes in the publication industry when in the early 70s I could send my unsolicited manuscript to Grove Press and receive a positive response from the literary editor. When the editor moved to another house and Grove lost my manuscript (fortunately I had made a copy), I found a home at Dell three weeks after my agent contacted them. My agent, and this is 1972, came as easily as the Dell contract.

How times have changed! I was again fortunate to be published by Blue Moon, but with a limited printing, and once sold out, even with back orders, they refused to reprint. At the time, I didn't know that Blue Moon was on the way out and so was Avalon.

I find it ironic that today when the Internet is a multi-million, or is it billion, dollar source of explicit sex, a print resource for literary erotica no longer exists. And there is a difference between porn and erotica. Mitzi Szereto, who pioneered the erotic writing workshop in the UK and Europe, believes that "erotica is literature, and therefore it should be written as literature. There's a tremendous difference between erotica and porn. One need only measure whether the work has lasting value and artistic integrity." See Mitzi Szereto. I agree completely.

As a writer of erotica, who found herself without a sympathetic publisher, I turned to self-publishing, which solved the in-print issue, but not the distribution. No longer enjoying worldwide distribution and the luxury of walking into a bookstore and seeing my book on the shelf, I turned to the internet--that great equal opportunity provider.

The internet connects the writer to a universal audience. And new technology brings new opportunity with websites, articles, blogs, and social networks. But I have to confess, I'll only feel that delicious pride and satisfaction when I can convince a bookseller to order my book (I wisely purchased a two-year returnability policy), and I can once again go to the shelf and turn my book face out and secretly take a picture.

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Don't Quit Your Day Job

Creating and Back to School

My kids went back to school this week, which means a major upheaval for my writing schedule. My goal for the summer was to incorporate daily writing into my already busy life. I feel like just when I was getting a great groove going, summer ended.
Now I’m faced with the craziness of homework, school volunteer hours, basketball games, drama performances, and of course, my full-time job. I worry that all my efforts will fall by the wayside as soon as I need to quiz my son nightly on his vocab! There is something in me, though, that believes this school year will be different. I changed this summer. I accomplished things I always said I would do but never previously came to fruition. I joined a writing group where we meet once a month and I’ve already written the first three chapters of my book… not quite my summer goal but more than I ever written. I’ve also been posting weekly to this blog like I promised myself and I’ve been working on launching two other blogs. Whew! When I see it all laid out, I have been working hard!
Energy is a big challenge for me. I’ve never been a mom with a high powered job, who makes cookies from scratch for the bake sale and has an immaculate house. I’m the mom that buys the store-bought cookies and has to do marathon cleaning sessions before having people over. It’s inevitable that I will need to reprioritize my daily activities if I’m to incorporate writing time.
I like to tell myself that I can write two hours a night. Deep down, however, I know this is unrealistic. I also like to think I can “catch up” on the weekends and write for an extended period of time. This too isn’t going to happen as often as I would like.
Basically, I need to seize the opportunities that I waste in front of the TV, or mull away on some unnecessary project, like sorting my plastic kitchen containers. Those things can be set aside. It’s important for me to admit who I am and look at my track record. I need to stop wasting time trying to make myself something I can never be (besides who really likes those perfect moms anyway) and focus on what drives me and where my passions lie. Often in life, when we really want something, we find a way. This school year, unlike the others, I feel I’m ready to take that giant step and incorporate writing into my daily schedule. I finally want it enough that I know this time it will become part of my daily life, just like brushing my teeth.
So we might eat a few more frozen pizzas and I may never find the lid to that one round, blue, sparkly container, but I will find a way to meet my self-imposed writing deadlines…no matter what!
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Saturday, August 23, 2008

How do you manifest your creative vision?

Andrea Lee Avari
Are you having one of those days when you feel like you are spinning your wheels? Maybe you have a lot of ideas floating through your head but somehow they don't manifest into actual substance. Here is a simple and empowering exercise to strenghten your intention in manifesting your creative purpose. It begins with the first step.......
1. Write a short statement that is presented in the positive nature of what describes your personal vision, what is important to you, what you truly want for yourself. Practice makes it better when working with refining the statement. The words need to drop from your head into your heart so that you can feel the resonance. Of the few choices Gass suggested, I chose "In everthing I do, I am guided by love." That is the vision I want to live.

2. This second statement required patience and practice as I tend to rush into things and forget to center. After taking several deep, relaxing breaths, say your phrase quietly or out-loud at least three times. Take a few moments and really feel this relaxing energy moving through your body. Slow your roll and just allow the energy to vibrate through all your cells. Gass says to "remember what is most important to you, why you do what you do." Just stay with that reflection as the words settle into you.

3. Now you are ready to translate the feeling of your vision and deeper purpose into a specific action you want to take. Perhaps you are considering a significant communication with a face-to-face meeting with another or others, an important phone call, a writing that you considerable valuable to your process. Taking the action step consciously. Your relaxed body and focused heart and mind are accompanying you in moving forward.

4. Gass suggests journaling daily about how this practice is affecting how you experience your day. Thoughts and feelings which might lurk beneath the surface of consciousness, may appear on your page of writing and assist you in growing from the daily practice.

5. As with any practice, we tend to fall asleep at times. Gass reiterates the importance of not criticizing yourself or allowing analysis of your lack of focus to become a distraction. Acknowledge and release. Surround yourself with compassion and return to your practice with a relaxed breath and a re-envisioning of what is most important to your purpose.

This process can be a simple loving practice and a gift to ourselves in the present moment that empowers us to live our creative purpose at a deeper level. What is your vision statement?

This exercise comes from a Robert Gass article in Utne magazine, Jan-Feb 2006.

Andrea is the author of "A Hit of Heaven: a soul's journey through illusion". She is currently writing a book on soul relationships. Her website is and she may be contacted at

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

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

Sandra Lee Schubert

Treasure Mapping Your Creativity

My friend Laurie Sue Brockway is a Creative Vagabond. Like me she has had many careers; from journalist,Interfaith minister and now a wonderful feng shui consultant. In between she married, given birth to a wonderful child and has a good partnership with her wonderful husband Vic. Laurie has been successful in all that she has done. Her skill as a creative being is demonstrated in her accomplishments and her ability to focus and organize her creativity for maximum results.

Unlike Laurie I have been more unfocused in my creative path, by just following my whims. After all isn't that what a creative person does? You follow your urges and see where they lead. I guess that will work if you are structured or have a plan. If making lists feels less then creative then try making a treasure map.

Create a visual image of what you want and where you would like to go/be/so.Create a treasure map(s) of your goals and dreams.

Write a little blurb about this treasure(s) include why it is special to you. Be as creative and large in creating your ideal treasure.

Now where do you mine for gold or find a hidden treasure? A good map is a great place to start.

~ Creating Your Treasure Map ~

Begin with yourself... draw your home. Is that you standing next to your house? Are you waving? Okay, that rest is up to you.

Use your imagination to create a map to your treasure. If your treasure is a dream or goal, draw the steps to reach that goal. For example, if you want to be a lawyer, draw the law school, the bank that gives you the loan... Draw your graduation... What does your office look like? Get the idea? You can use your entire wall to layout your map to your treasure.

Taking the time to structure your creative life will give you more flexibility to be wild and free when those whims strike and you feel the urge for some adventure.

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:
Email her or @writing4life via twitter.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Career Inklings from Columbia

Janet M. Ruck

Unleash Your Personal Power to Create Your Career

When we encounter the beauty of nature in all its splendor and glory, we have the opportunity to experience nature's awesome power. As an eagle dives into the glistening water, with talons poised to strike, and emerges with a shimmering, wriggling fish, we are enthralled by the strength of the instinct that drives the eagle. As the ocean waves roll and crest and thunder on the sand, we are amazed by the force that drives the tides and the energy of the water that churns from the force. Our appetite for the beauty, the power and the sheer might that drive the forces of nature is insatiable.

Operating by sheer instinct, Nature does not question, but acts on its power to unfurl its glory and might.

Perhaps we can take a lesson from nature, and employ our own power to energize our careers. If knowledge is power, self knowledge can create personal power. Yet, we often don't allow ourselves sufficient self knowledge to release our own power. We thwart our efforts and our natural ability by inhibiting our vision of who we are and what may be our potential.

Over the years, as a career consultant, I have followed a mindset and a strategy which I think of as my "4 C's of Personal Power". By implementing these techniques, and sharing them with clients, we have experienced and maintained passion for our work so that our careers have flourished and thrived.

The 4 C's of Personal Power

Competency: what skills do you have that you enjoy using? Invest the time to learn what you like to do and what you are good at.

Confidence: are you comfortable telling others what is unique about you? Believe in yourself and exude self-assurance so that others will have confidence in you.

Clarity: are you clear about your vision? Know where you are headed, dream big and stay focused on your aspirations.

Choice: have you set goals in a direction that expresses who you are, what you want, and where you want to go? Continue to follow a path that leads you on the course that follows your vision.

Maintain a connection to yourself and what energizes you, to give yourself the chance to experience your own personal power. By acknowledging, owning and honoring your own power, you can create a career that emanates from your own uniqueness.

Next time I’ll discuss how to maintain your personal vision to create your own purposeful career.

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
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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mixing It Up Down Under

James Gleeson - Australia's foremost Surrealist an exhibition at Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery. I caught this exhibition on its final day which might give some indication of how much I was looking forward to seeing it. Gleeson is one of my daughters favourite artists and she had timed a visit home so she could see his paintings and mixed media drawings. I couldn't go with her that day and when she came home raving about the eloquence his work and how I would love the way he combined printed images with drawings I listened politely. I knew there would be intestines, and worse, and there was. And lots of them.

There was also other familiar Gleeson themes like the gentle waves on a calm secluded strangely familiar beach, the shells from that beach grown large and bursting with, well, maybe not intestines but something ominously internal. Naked men provide a realistic counterpoint to the wrenching disemboweled images, often sharing the same frame. Surprisingly their full frontal nudity provide the only images of genitalia. These are not latent sexual images from a sick mind.

There is beauty (somehow!) here too. It is the light and the colours the light illuminates, soft emerald greens, rosy pinks and deep magenta (where I feared there would be venous blue, membrane grey and blood red). The wrenching and tearing fails to extinguish hope, but instead seems to open the picture plane to allow entry of hope through the exquisite light. How is that possible?

At this time when I am planning to push my creative boundaries, and have actually allowed play to replace the seriousness I had allowed to creep in, the glow of Gleeson's light reminds me that the creative journey is always individual and that it really is OK to be me, warts, intestines and all. And really if it has served me no other purpose than to remind me to get back to drawing my deck of cards with alternate suits, one of which is body parts, it has served me well. I do believe I was up to the Ace of intestines...

Jan Allsopp is a visual artist living in Coffs Harbour, Australia. Jan will be keeping us in touch with the art scene in coastal New South Wales as well sharing her exploits, as mid-career and mid-life, she decides to change art forms. View Jan's art, read her blog and browse her shop at
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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Helping to Grasp Wonder through The Art of Questioning

The Art of Questioning by Ginger Carlson

“What do you notice about that dinosaur’s mouth?” Sharon asks her son Alex, who like many four year olds has a penchant for any creature prehistoric. He responds enthusiastically, “Look at his sharp teef, Mom! I think that long one was for tearing the meat off his prey!” He leaps to the floor pretending to be a meat eater. His confidence in his own ability to draw conclusions soars, something that may not have happened had he been posed the question in a less open way.

What’s in a question?
We often ask them to get our children to prove what they know or have just done or to spit out ‘the facts’. If words alone have so much power, forming them into the right question can move mountains, the kind that make for more creative and confident thinkers.

Sharon knew that Alex would easily be able to rattle off which dinosaurs were meat eaters and which were not. But instead of just drilling him with “Do you think that dinosaur is a meat eater?” she decided to take the conversation (and the thinking) further. With a good question, we have the power to focus our children’s attention, help them observe and compare their surroundings, to pose problems, investigate relationships and
stimulate their reasoning. At the same time, we can also establish an atmosphere of trust and provide intriguing experiences that guide their curiosity.

A loaded question.
At the heart of asking good questions is a true exploration of our children’s wonderings about life. Through our use of questions we can help them tap into their creativity by allowing them to have a truly inquiry based learning experience, driven by their own interests, observations and predictions. Instead of asking yes or no questions or ones that require them to simply state the obvious, offering questions like “What happens if…?” , “Can you find a way to…?,” or “I wonder what would happen if…” can open conversations that may lead to exciting places.

“When children are asked questions in an inquiry based way, it affects how they approach future problems,” says Dr. Mark Hertle, Senior Program Office for Precollege Science Education at Howard Hughes Medical Institute. “They look at things and search for how best to pry out the answer. They become the adults who are experimenting with new recipes and constantly learning new things.”

Beyond the ‘right’ answer.
While we may ask the right question, equally important for our children’s development is accepting their answers. Giving your child a chance to explain herself more fully without judgment or constant correction will be a key component in gaining confidence in her own learning and exploration.

As parents, it’s sometimes hard to be able to accept that the ‘right’ answer isn’t always the one we were looking for. When questions are truly spontaneous and natural and have elicited a thoughtful conclusion (even if it wasn’t what we would consider ‘right’), instead of correcting their observation, we can respond with “That’s really interesting; I hadn’t thought of that.” or “Thank you. I understand.” A simple acknowledgment can be all they really need to further their thinking.

The balancing act.
As a parent looking to ‘seize teachable moments’, it’s easy to go overboard in the question asking department. We want our kids to be thoughtful but may end up overloading them with “What did you build?”, “What are you cooking?” or “Can you tell me about your drawing?” So as not to overwhelm your learners or put words in their mouths, try varying your questions with statements about what you observe them doing, allowing space for them to elaborate where they feel comfortable. Say things like “What an interesting structure you have constructed”, “I see you have been working in your kitchen,” or “What a wonderful use of color!”

Learning to ask questions is in fact an art. Bringing thoughtfulness to this neglected art, we can help nurture our children’s creativity and allow critical thinking to bubble to the surface. After all, in the words of the poet E.E. Cummings, “Always the more beautiful answer who asks the more beautiful question.”

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 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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Television Musings

Rants and Raves of Romance Writer

By Kathy Carpenter

Coming Undone

This week I decided to try something new. With this blog being an evolving process. Since I’m a Romance Writer and a reader I’m going to use book titles as my blog titles instead of the Television shows I’ve been using.

I often talk about more than one show anyway. And this will be sort of a creative exercise for me. To tie in the book title with the show or shows I talk about that week.

Coming Undone
by Susan Anderson is the current book I’m reading. However, I won’t always use the book I’m reading because it often takes me more than a week to finish a book and my blogs are weekly, so we will see how this goes.
To tie in the book for this week I will use Big Brother. Watching last nights episode which is also when I came up with this title idea - I realized that not only does practically every player in the house come undone, lose it or whatever you want to call it. Sometimes it’s even used as a strategy. One girl is on the block (which means in danger of being voted out) said she would purposely try to make the other player on the block to come undone ( blow up) so the other players would think him volatile and vote for him instead of her.

Is this awful? Maybe but this is what other players when it comes down to voting for a winner admire. I dislike just about everyone in the house. You may start out liking certain players but before the show is finished they will do something that shows a side of them you just plain can’t morally understand. By the end there is no one left for you to like. They even hate each other. And yet they usually vote for the person they hate the most to win. It’s just a game and they do what they have to “coming undone” in the process.

This particular week (last week was a slow TV week for me. I even went out one night and did not tape anything. I go out most nights and believe me I have a heck of a time keeping up with the taping. But not last week. Due to the Olympics and shows that have ended. I know the Olympics is the big thing. The thing everyone talks about and is watching. But although I watch a little ( gymnastics) I can’t really get into most of it.

You would think it’s the ultimate reality show. Behind every athlete is story and they tell them all. But not all of them can win . Some try a lifetime and the event they are in lasts only a couple minutes or in any case not long. After all the build up the dream realized or not is over in the blink of an eye. For me I need more of a payoff.To tie in the book for this week I will use Big Brother. Watching last nights episode which is also when I came up with this title idea - I realized that not only does practically every player in the house come undone, lose it or whatever you want to call it. Sometimes it’s even used as a strategy. One girl is on the block (which means in danger of being voted out) said she would purposely try to make the other player on the block to come undone ( blow up) so the other players would think him volatile and vote for him instead of her.

Is this awful? Maybe but this is what other players when it comes down to voting for a winner admire. I dislike just about everyone in the house. You may start out liking certain players but before the show is finished they will do something that shows a side of them you just plain can’t morally understand. By the end there is no one left for you to like. They even hate each other. And yet they usually vote for the person they hate the most to win. It’s just a game and they do what they have to “coming undone” in the process.

This particular week (last week was a slow TV week for me. I even went out one night and did not tape anything. I go out most nights and believe me I have a heck of a time keeping up with the taping. But not last week. Due to the Olympics and shows that have ended. I know the Olympics is the big thing. The thing everyone talks about and is watching. But although I watch a little ( gymnastics) I can’t really get into most of it.

You would think it’s the ultimate reality show. Behind every athlete is story and they tell them all. But not all of them can win . Some try a lifetime and the event they are in lasts only a couple minutes or in any case not long. After all the build up the dream realized or not is over in the blink of an eye. For me I need more of a payoff.
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Monday, August 18, 2008

Musings Among Valley Vineyards

Creativity and The Question of Audience
By Kelly Pollard

As an aspiring young adult novelist, I have been following the break out success of Stephenie Meyer since her Twilight series propelled her to an almost cult-like popularity with teen and adult readers. Though vampires and paranormal romance has never been something I've been interested in, I'm more interested in the workings of how a book or series rises about the hundreds of thousands of books pumped out by publishing companies this year.

Her final book, Breaking Dawn, was released earlier this month. Passionate fans gathered for midnight release parties across the country,with fans wearing costumes and t-shirts declaring their loyalty to Bella's two love interests. The books sold over 800,000 copies opening day....and then, backlash almost as fast as readers could plow through the 700 plus pages.

Being a struggling writer and living only on my husband's steady income, I vowed to wait for Breaking Dawn to be available at our library. Over fifty eager readers with the same idea as me managed to put in requests ahead of my own. After seeing the mysterious looking book on a display at the store for a reasonable hardcover rate, I buckled. I just couldn't help myself.

I just finished Meyer's 'last' book in the series yesterday. I admit to pure bafflement at some of her plot twists and how she wraps up the underlying vampire-werewolf-mortal conflict in the very end. But I had no idea how passionate some of Meyer's 'fans' have gotten on the internet, especially on the Amazon comment boards. I read an article by Publisher's Weekly highlighting the fierce movement of readers demanding their money back from Meyer's publisher Little, Brown claiming that the book was over-hyped, poorly edited and plotted and that the author was somehow rushed to pump out a book before she could decide the way the story should end.

As a writer, I totally sympathize with Ms. Meyer. She allows her fans inside her writing and home life on her website, she weaves together stories she is passionate about. Then a small group of fans comes together and tries to take it away from her. Though I won't claim the last book of her hit series was up to par with the other books, I will say that she had me turning the pages long into the midnight hours this past week. And isn't that why we buy books? And why I want to sell them too, without fear of backlash?

Kelly Pollard is a freelance writer and aspiring young adult novelist, actively searching for an agent for her first novel BLUSH about one teen's journey through a swirl of rumors posted on a social networking website about her. Kelly has written for local newspapers and parenting magazines and is the proud mother of two energetic sons.
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Funny Things In Vegas- Rita and Roseanne

Two women have billboards touting their command for comedy on the Las Vegas Strip. Both have decades of experience. Both have television, film, and writing credits that anyone would envy. Yet, both are filling rooms for entirely different reasons, and entirely different shows. It isn't likely that anyone will confuse Roseanne Barr's take on menopause, celibacy, and divorce the same way the petite counterpart, Rita Rudner explores marriage, motherhood, and shopping. Fans for one don't often appear in audiences for the other. And both are paving the way for women comedians throughout the world because of this.

Rudner started her career dancing on Broadway, not entering a comedy club until she was 25 years old. Her sing-song delivery hearkens to the comedy acts of the early 50's and 60's, with an undercurrent of clean material, surprised innocence, and a profound grasp for timing. When she arrived in Las Vegas, signing a deal with New York, New York, the room echoed the sounds of the roller coaster soaring through the building just over the stage. It wasn't the best location, but it was a constant flow of a demographic of people in their fifties and older, who remember her appearances on the Tonight Show, Comic Relief, and specials.

She enrolled her daughter in school, spent time working on designs for her sky-rise condo, and continued working on projects and scripts with peers that included Steve Martin, a bevy of Brits. The diminutive woman, who doesn't really seem to be a Vegas performer in any sense of the word, proved herself as a wise business woman. She became the star in a city where the men of the business have overwhelmed stages and women seemed relegated to huge hats and bikinis, poles, or lounges. Her show did well, despite the small room and noise, and continued to do well there until Harrah's offered her the opportunity to take over the room vacated by singer Clint Holmes.

It was in this central part of the Strip that George Wallace became a staple just a year before her move. The Comedy Festival moved into Ceasers, just across the street. Local staple, Vinnie Favorito hosted his own show, and that location seemed ready for a feminine touch. In a theater reminiscent of the Brat Pack days, she fills houses with busloads of tourists, who are ready to laugh with her on her verbal journey. Rita Rudner became a gentle Duchess of Humor, holding court nightly.

A little less than a year ago, Roseanne found herself in some local rooms, testing the casino crowds for her brand of Domestic Godess, brash, and bold humor. Taking apart the health care system, The White House, or talking about her utter disillusionment with sexuality, she is able to carry a crowd ably. Unlike the elegant appearance of her contemporary just a few blocks away, Barr settled in The Sahara, a showcase of Nascar, just a bus stop from Trump Tower. Being on a bus line has been great for business.

Her blue collar patter endears her to the tourists who have followed her marriages via gossip magazines, and her television show, which lasted longer than most of those unions. She is the grandma at the end of the bar, whereas Rita is the lady at the end of the dining table. When Roseanne enters a room, people don't wonder if she's a a size zero or a two. They wonder if she is going to be manic depressive, or bitchy, or even nosy. Barr always seems to give a better show each night. You can hear her writing, and hear her crafting the act that brought her to the public in the first place. She may bring a notepad up on stage, and ramble inchorently as she determines which scribble will play best to the people visiting from Walla-Walla.

Although Moms Mabely and Phyllis Diller each held court in Sin City, neither had a long-running show. Rudner and Barr may be here for years to come. Casinos once shied away from putting women on their marquees, except for songstresses, and the change has also changed the manner in which women are now hired by venues. Comedy clubs which once said, "we already had a woman in here this month", are now putting us in the line-ups every show. With Last Comic Standing doing their taping here, far more of us are getting recognized for the ability to make people laugh, gender-be-damned. We are now getting put on the bill with OTHER women- almost unheard of still in New York, Los Angeles, and Boston.

Without doubt, Roseanne and Rita have opened doors for comedy writers, and stand-up performers in Vegas, and throughout the world. We aren't always considered as male bashers, and menstrually obsessed. Whether we follow the choreographed steps of Rudner, or the clog shuffling stomp of Barr, we are definitely on the path they helped pave- in casino gold.

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.
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Iowa Writing Coach: What Makes a Good Writing Group?

Sitting with my writing group in the Iowa City ped mall last month at an outdoor cafe under a locust tree, watching the sky turn pink at the gloaming, I was thinking that the craic was good, to use a line from Van Morrison's song, "Coney Island." ("Craic as in the Irish term for "fun or abandonment, often in the context of drinking or music.")

After we discussed the piece for the night, we branched off into a more general discussion of why we write (to make order out of chaos, for catharsis, for understanding), why we blog (to reach out and connect from our writers’ solitude; to write something more focused for an audience than journal entries; to build a platform for the eyes of agents and editors; and maybe above all, to build/assert/confirm our identities as writers), why My Space appeals to some and blogs to others (MySpace for extroverts, blogs for introverts?) and, finally, how to live (Hope: move to England to write and house-sit for B&B owners; Jennifer: manage her way through a separation and single-parenting; Marji: watch her nest partially empty; Kate: indulge in her love of herding-dog tournaments; me: make the freelancing life work at least another year, to retain flexibility for the arrival of our first grandchild).

The conversation ebbed, the sun receded, the sky turned indigo, and I kept thinking of another Van Morrison line from the same song: “Wouldn’t be great if life was like this all the time?”

What makes a good writing group? Maybe it’s about strong, opinionated people who occasionally get touchy with each other (we’re all sensitive writers, after all) but know how to make it right. Maybe it’s about time – we’re seven years and counting. Maybe it’s about the glass of wine we enjoy when we’re together, or the great cafĂ© food or the dishes we bring when we meet in one of our homes. Maybe it’s about meeting in Iowa City and walking the same streets as Flannery O’Connor once did, or Kurt Vonnegut, or Jane Smiley. Maybe it’s about honesty in criticism, generosity in praise, celebration in publication.

Whatever the reason, the craic is good with my writing tribe.
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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Don't Quit Your Day Job

Creating and A Day Off

Several weeks ago I scheduled a vacation day. I thought my daughter may have extended performances in her summer drama program, but when I found out that wasn’t going to be the case, I decided to keep the day off and play full-time writer.

One of my most common errors is thinking there’s fifty hours in one day as apposed to just twenty-four. The goals I have for myself are often unrealistic. I’m still working on finding believable ways to manage my writing time, but until then I try to appreciate days when I am productive. So with that in mind, my writing vacation day was productive…
First, I encouraged my children to stay up as late as possible the night before my day off. They tend to be night owls like me, so this was a pretty easy task. School starts this week and then everything will become more regimented than I prefer. “Watch another TV show? Sure! Read endlessly in you room? Okay!” I don’t know when they conked out because I went to bed at my regular time.

I woke up with my husband, who didn’t have the day off. I made coffee, let the dog out and puttered around until he left, slightly after 7am. I fired up my computer and went to it. The night before I had mapped out block hours of how I would accomplish my goals. Two straight hours of solid, non-stop writing sounded great on paper, but now stuck after only twenty minutes, maybe I needed to revamp. I went and put a load of laundry in the machine, snuggled with the dog a bit, and voila! I broke through my block. I rushed back over to my computer and feverishly typed away. I continued in this manner until early afternoon and I managed to write five whole pages (single spaced by the way)! Of course my mind began to wander, See, if I was writing full time, I would be so productive! Words would flow onto the page and I’d have so much time to keep up with every aspect of my life!

Much like the fifty hour days I dream of, I must remember that this is extremely unrealistic. Just like any other job, there would be good days and bad days. Some days, the regular world would intrude and I’d accomplish nothing! I’m grateful for my vacation day and it is fun to fantasize about writing full-time, kind of like the winning the Lottery fantasy. Now that my children are getting older and I’ve earned more vacation days at work, I’ll probably be able to have more of these types of days. For now, I need to get my head out of the clouds and find a realistic writing schedule that I can live with. With the kids going back to school, I worry that all of my writing will be on permanent hold. I must go back to the drawing board and figure out how many real hours I have and what’s the best way to use them.

Wish me luck!
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Saturday, August 16, 2008

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

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

Problems, Problem, Problems Everywhere

I have mastered the art of problem solving. Sort of. The problem with problems is that they don’t ever stop. Solve one and another one shows up. They become like an infestation- taking over your life in unexpected places.
When I think about the nature of problems in my life I think of a particular arcade game played at fairs. The ducks come out in a row and you have to shoot them down one by one. You can do easily enough to start but then the game kicks in and those ducks come out faster. At some point all your attention is focused on solving the problem. That has been my life. They are these challenges I most figure out. I feel a certain pride and satisfaction in figuring them out. I have become enamored of my problems.

In his book, Your Life as Art Robert Fritz tells me to try a different approach. He says, "Instead of letting your life be dominated by problems, begin to focus your attention, energy, creativity, and spirit on creating."
There are a couple of problems I must tackle right now. I can’t avoid them. They actually don’t require much figuring out, I just have to take action each day toward getting the problem alleviated. It is like moving- it is a big job. Each day you must purge junk, pack non-essential items, buy more boxes and tape. The goal is to move- it is not a problem. The process of moving is not necessarily pleasant but the end result is the fun part.

While I work out issues I also engage in my creativity. I am creating goals that are larger, better and more fun then problems. I take Robert Fritz’s advice to heart, “Shift the topic from what want to avoid, eradicate, or eliminate, to what you want to create, build, and produce. And let your mind help you in the process.” I’ll let my mind work out my problems. In the meantime I have some creating to do.

What do you really want? Think about it. What do you deeply desire?

Take a blank piece of paper and draw a box along the top. The top box will be your goal. At the bottom of the page will be the box for your current reality. All the space in-between will be your action steps. See the sample below.

Goal: A successful e-book on the senses. The e-book produces great sales for the e-book, my course and other products I develop.

  • Add edits to e-book
  • Check layout of text
  • Research places to promote e-book
  • Fix blog site and add link for e-book

Current Reality: E-book is mostly done. Peer review has been done. Edits needed to be added, graphics, personal references into individual chapters.

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: Writing for life.
Email her or @writing4life via twitter
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Friday, August 15, 2008

Muse Quest PDX

Romancing the Creative Life in Portland, Oregon

Kim Switzer

Living In Inspiration

I have so much going on in my writing life right now—a new writers’ group, a chance to interview Maureen McQuerry for a blog tour in September, submissions for the writing workshop at OryCon…I’m feeling kind of overwhelmed.
I am a little worried that my story ideas aren’t good enough or that they’ll dry up. I’m worried that I won’t think of good questions for the upcoming interview. I’m scared that I won’t get anything together to submit for the workshop. I’m just feeling a little fretful overall (but I have that wonderful tingle of butterflies in my stomach letting me know I’m on the right track, so it’s okay).
I know that all artists have all of this sort of stuff going on all the time. We all get frazzled by it. I’m lucky, though . Right now, I’m sitting in my grungy, dumpy, day-job office, feeling tense and anxious. But if I turn my chair toward the window, I can look across the street and see the river twinkling in the sunlight. I watch the little, golden wavelets going by, the constant flow of water, and somehow I can remember to breathe. I watch the water, and I can feel the calm settling into me. And later, when I’m heading home, I will have my driving companion, Mt. Hood, to remind me to stay steady, stay cool. It’s an incredible stroke of luck to be surrounded by this sort of beauty.
I think Portland is just made for writers and artists and any creative sorts—just look at the scores of musicians and writers and artists all around Portland and the Pacific Northwest for proof. There’s something about this place that just draws out your creativity, pours ideas one after the other into your brain so you can barely keep up, barely manage to write them all down. Maybe it’s the scenery. Twenty minutes out of the city and I can be in the Columbia River Gorge, walking under waterfalls. Not so much further, and I can actually be at the base of Mt. Hood, dwarfed by its size, stirred by the grandness. Or I can go just over an hour in the other direction and be standing on the Pacific coast, watching the breakers roll in, feeling the wind with its salty tang. You can just tell there are hundreds of stories at the coast, in and amongst all the crags and rocks and inlets. And this part of the world is so generous with the stories and inspiration. If you will only take a few minutes to look around and appreciate, you’ll always be rewarded.
Could I have these sorts of inspirations somewhere else? Of course. Most of it is inside me already; the landscape just helps me let it out. But there’s something magical about being reminded of the constant flow of creativity when I look at the river coursing past, something powerful about remembering the strength of my own creativity as I take in the steady, powerful presence of the mountains. If you look around, you will find that creativity is written everywhere in this place. You just have to take the time to look and remember that you know how to read it.
And I do know. And I know I have to take what I’ve drawn to me from this place I live in and put it into my work. But I know I can do that, too.

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:

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Sculpting a Life
Susan Gallacher’s turn in the Pacific Northwest.

A few weeks ago, an artist and mom-to-be asked me how I managed my studio time. It’s a good question. And one that I wished someone had answered for me when I started out, so I gave it some thought. I wanted to give her something that no one had really given me back then, the truth rather than the myth.

Here’s the myth. That all artists work in their lofty studio spaces alone at least 8-10 hours a day struggling to make their work meet their highest standards of excellence.

Here’s the truth. My work has been done in a variety of settings over the years. I started out with a drafting table in the corner of my bedroom because it was above the reach of my pre-school son. Later, when we moved to a larger house, I put the drafting table in the corner of the den. And gradually the den moved out and my studio moved in. As far as hours a day, I don’t count them. Oh, I spent some time whipping myself into a frenzy trying to uphold the myth of long studio hours, but I kept getting interrupted by life. My life.

Here’s another truth. I work best in 45 minute segments, about the length of one of my favorite CD’s. If I work on one piece any longer than that, I start undoing my own good work. I call it ‘fuzting’. It’s very frustrating. So, what I’ve found works for me is to have about 3 pieces going at once which I work on for 45 minutes each about five days a week. Some days I work longer. Some days I work less. Some days I write. Some days I go out and have fun. Well, ok, I’ll admit, I have a hard time getting myself out for fun, but I’m working on that.

The point is, small segments of time add up to finished work. Think of it this way, Michelangelo carved his masterpieces one chip at a time. So can you. Studio time can work with you, around your life, your kids and walking your dog. It may not happen in one month or one year, but in time, you will have a portfolio of work to show for it and, if you’re lucky, a couple of healthy kids and loving relationships, too.

Just one more thing…don’t forget to play. Go out and have some fun on a regular basis. It feeds the soul. Speaking of which, I’ll talk to you later, I’m going to a movie.

Read Susan’s posts every other Friday in the Joy of Living Creatively. Visit her website at or blog at
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Creating a Garden That Makes You Happy

I spend each summer running around and looking at 30 – 50 gardens in hopes of finding the one, two, or three that might be suitable for publication. Of the remaining 47, perhaps five to ten are for show --- to impress the neighbors. The majority simply make their gardeners happy. In today’s world, that’s no small accomplishment!

My garden is not likely to ever appear in a magazine. While I am working on a long-term plan to stretch the succession of bloom, the big, splashy blossoms (rhodies, bleeding heart, iris, and roses) have finished exploding by early summer. I’m hoping for some flowers on those field-trial hydrangeas that are one and two years old. And then there are the native plants I bought last fall. But they all have a long way to go before they can present the masses of color produced by the 15-year old rhodie wall. Living in the middle of the woods means that the garden’s primary summer color is green. It’s very soothing and the varied textures keep it interesting. But this kind of garden just does not photograph well.

My friend Diane said the other day, “I’m not into all that blue garden, white garden, and lavender garden stuff like what you do,” she said. She and Fred are enthusiastic nature lovers and spend a great deal of time working in their garden. They have an abundance of frogs, birds and, sometimes, bears. It isn’t easy for Diane, who is highly allergic to bee stings and poison ivy, but I’m pretty sure gardening is her favorite thing. I’m not into all that pruning, manicuring, and pond maintenance that she and Fred do to keep their place ship-shape. Our two gardens couldn’t be more different, but they do make their respective owners very happy.

Gardening is one of the few things in life we can do where our “mistakes” don’t matter. If we realize we’ve put a plant in the wrong place, we can move it. If our soil isn’t all that great, we can amend it. If we want more sun, we can limb up the trees; if we want more shade, we can plant more trees. We can emphasize color, collect particular kinds of plants, or create a fantasy land where we can escape from the world for a few hours.

So, as you flip through those glossy garden magazines, or gorgeous garden books, don’t get intimidated. Instead, zero in on those photos that excite you and figure out what it is about the colors, shapes, design, or atmospherics in it that is speaking to your soul. That’s the beginning of creating a garden that makes you happy.

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 Read more!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Harry's Discovery

Harry lay down, his head swimming with the realization that he had something to offer the world besides a growl and a John Wayne swagger. He lay down on his back with his head resting on an ice pilow. He stared quietly ahead while Gretchen stood patiently at his side.

His right paw scratched at the snow absently as his mind tried to comprehend the enormity of what Gretchen was saying. Could she be right? Do I have other gifts to offer? If so, why am I so afraid of them?

Harry sighed deeply forming a hugh vapor cloud above them. It quickly crystalized in the cold air and fell as a twinkling cloud of white dust. Gretchen watched the millions of ice crystals settle over them knowing that Harry was releasing a belief that had been hammered into his young head practally from the day he was born. She remained quiet so that Harry could think. Softly she gazed toward the frozen horizen.

Harry thought about his emense popularity. He was envied by all the males and sought after by all the females…well, most of them. He had everything a young polar bear could want: looks, physical size, a dynamic personality. He thought he had it all, at least all the important things. Now this Gretchen comes out of nowhere and tells him none of that is important. She says he has a gift – an ability to express beauty – and that others might feel the same joy from his expressions that he feels in creating them.

Wow! How radical.

Gretchen continued to watch Harry struggle with this new concept of himself. She was careful not to push too hard. It was a concept Harry would have to discover on his own. She could only suggest from her perspective. He had to do the rest.

After a very long time Harry finally broke the silence. “Tell me about yourself, Gretchen. What makes you so smart? How do you really know that I have a gift?”

Gretchen smiled back warmly. “I saw what you were making. I watched you for several minutes as you were working. I saw the expression of joy on you face as your creation took shape.”

“You were spying on me?” Harry was aghast.

“No. You just happened to be where I was going. I didn’t sneak up on you – you just couldn’t hear me. You were so engrossed in what you were doing that a caribou stampede wouldn’t have distracted you!”

“So, what makes you an expert?”

“I’m not. I just know what I like.”

“And what would that be?”

“I like honesty, sincerity and sensitivity for starters.” Gretchen shot back.

“I’m honest,” Harry responded with a defensive whine.

“Are you? Why are you always strutting around like you’ve been sitting on the ice too long…with that silly expression to boot.”

Wait just a damn minute, Harry thought to himself. I’m Harry, the Polar Bear. Women love me. Who is this Gretchen to imply that I’m not honest and…that I might even look foolish?

“People tell me I walk like a movie star.”

“How does Harry walk?”

“The point is, Harry” Gretchen continued, “that your attractiveness comes from within – not from some phony movie star.”

“But I have a following. They all want to be around me. What do you think of that?” Harry was being just a little defensive.

“They just want your power. Is that all you have to give?”

“Isn’t that enough? Not too many have this, you know.”

“No, Harry. It’s not enough. And it will never sustain you in the long run. No one but me knows who you really are…and you want to hide that for fear others will think you’re not macho enough.”

Harry lapsed into silence again. He really liked her. What was it about her that he found so appealing? She talked back to him for one. No one ever did that. It’s, like, she saw right through him…wasn’t impressed. Damn!

Harry saw that honesty and integrity in Gretchen and found it very appealing. He liked the way she spoke directly and openly. There was a strange type of courage present in her demeanor – one that Harry found unfamiliar and puzzling.

“Okay, smartass,” he quipped playfully. “Tell me some more about what you like.”

“I like artistic expression – visual or otherwise. I like those who are not afraid to show those abilities in spite of what they might think others would say. I like bears who know themselves for what they are and are confident in there own fur.”

“What else?”

“Here’s what I don’t like: bears that come on strong because they think it’s sexy and appealing.” Gretchen made a retching motion with her paw. “You, Harry have all the potential to be really attractive to me…you just have to drop that macho bullshit.”

Well, she is direct, Harry thought.

“And how do you propose I do that?”

Gretchen stepped towards Harry with a mischievous look in her eye. “Let’s get started!”


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Artist Entrepreneurship: Call to Adventure -- Stage 2

Artist Entrepreneurship: Call to Adventure
Stage 2 of 12 of my Artist Entrepreneurship Adventure TM

I am called to embrace my artist self and be an entrepreneur. This means I am called to marry my right-brain, and all its creative meanderings, with my left-brained organized, list-making, step-by-step self.

In my previous post, I addressed Stage 1: Start From Where You Are. Today, I sit in the place of knowing that I am an Artist Entrepreneur but, yes, there is a BUT. You know what I mean. We want something, but we don't know how to get there. So what do we do? I start with my artist self. She writes, and loves writing, and has written countless articles, blog posts, reports, academic papers, and now novels. I know, my artist-writer self, knows, how to sit down and produce. So I KNOW, I can do this entrepreneurship thing.

But what the hay is it, being an entrepreueur? Ah, this is where my knees get wobbly, and I feel like a complete babe in the woods, deer in the headlights, you know the drill. So, I breathe, and smile, and change the chemical cascade through my body. "It's going to be okay," I tell myself. "I can do this!"

"I am an Artist Entrepreneur. I will create it as I go, just like my fiction. I can do this!"

Try that on for size -- use "I am... I will... I can..." . Just replace fiction with your art of choice. Let's create a whole league of Artist Entrepreneurs, who marry, each in our own unique way, our art and our drive to make a stamp in the world, as business people. We can do this!

What this channel for more on my Artist Entrepreneurship Adventures!

Beth Barany, a CCA certified creativity coach, helps creative individuals go on their own Writer's Adventure™, and become the hero of their book writing adventure. A fiction and nonfiction writer, Beth has worked in the book industry for over 20 years: in libraries and bookstores, as a book publicist, book reviewer, journalist, editor, book project manager, and book layout artist. As a sole proprietor and entrepreneur, she has channeled her passion for writing, books, and the creative process into a business, balancing the demands of her writing career with that of her coaching and consulting business. Blog: Site:
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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dressing for Creative Intentions

Andrea Avari

I love the art of unique clothing and I love remembering to set intentions. Today I combined them both. A couple of months ago I bought a shirt with the embroidered words: “be in gratitude.” I just felt good buying it. And then I wore it and I felt even better. I could watch the faces of the people who were interacting with me as they read the words. Their eyes softened as the message resonated with them as well. It was like wearing a gift that gives twice.
I appreciate that there are creative companies who create healthy organic cottons with centering messages. There are times that I wish that I had had the idea and had manifested that idea into a business.

Setting intentions and focusing our thoughts on those concepts that empower our creative energies is actually an energy-saving process. At first it is a practice that takes a great deal of practice to keep us from falling asleep at the well of conscious thought. We tend to let our thoughts run unaware and lose energy. Becoming conscious of intentional thoughts helps us to attract to us that which serves us well.

When I am thinking “be in gratitude” I feel myself grounding into that place of acceptance and appreciating all that is. I am thankful for the lessons in my life that come in the form of living the creative process in relationships, life events, and art. I move out of any victim mode that might linger about me and take responsibility for my own learning.

In that way I am more available for my imagination to inspire me. I can better hear my intuition, and feel the energies of higher vibration. I love my shirt.

Andrea Avari is the author of “A Hit of Heaven: a soul’s journey through illusion.” Her second book on creating soulful relationships is due to be published later this year. Her website is
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Signs of Creativity

My “job” takes me to learning environments of all shapes and sizes. Usually the signs I see resemble rules to be followed and a series of don’ts or other things to avoid.
Last week, I was delighted to turn a corner and see a sign posted on a door that read “Are you a Dreamer? Come in, come in!”

Signs are ever prevalent in the lives of human beings. They tell us what to do, what rules to follow, what direction to go, what brand of detergent to buy, and even how we should act as parents. For young children they are great outlets for learning print concepts, letter recognition, and making connections. But beyond all that, can they also be an avenue for creative development?

Inviting creativity into our homes and our lives, is in many ways a symbolic action. We may not be as explicit as posting an actual invitation stating, “Please Come to My Creativity Party” but the words we surround our selves and our children with, will certainly encourage creativity to emerge.

Signs can also be used as affirmations in your home. Guide your children in creating their own affirmations for their own creativity. Try signs such as “I am creative”, or “I create”. Make a special magnet to hold creative works that says, “ Look what Sally Made!”

Leave notes and “signs” around the house
A packet of post-it notes can be among the simplest, yet most fulfilling signage tools in your creative home. Leave little notes for one another like “Kisses 4 U” or “Happy Day!” Use stickers or pictures for your pre and early readers to create a Rebus sign. Tuck them in books, lunch boxes, on mirrors, or on the top step of the bunk bed to keep the creative surprise going. And take it even further, by leaving notes for others who may stumble across them: the fairies, dragons, or other magical and mythical creatures your children may have formed a special relationship with.

Communication systems
Open and closed signs around the house and affiliated with certain activities can be a valuable tool if you want to put limits on what can be done when. Flipping over a sign on the computer, TV, or other high frequency and stimulating areas can be a good form of silent-non-arguable communication. Color-code your signs for early or pre readers so everyone in the house can be in on the communication system! One mother of two young boys, has a running rule that after a certain time in the evening, the “kitchen is closed”. Her boys were often asking, “Is the kitchen open yet?” They found it exciting and novel to make an open and closed sign for Mom to turn over when the kitchen entered each stage in the day. Make labels for household items, or your own open and closed signs for specific rooms. But don’t stop there. Signs can be unique part of your child’s creative play.

Incorporate Play
As children engage in different types of play, such as simulations, encourage them to add signs to their make-believe restaurants, banks, train stations and lemonade stands. Consider also labeling items such as refrigerator, door, chair, and other items around your home in order to increase the opportunities for seeing print. This is also a good opportunity to introduce print in a second or third language.

Play with Signs
As you make your own signs around your own home, in your own environment, your children will likely begin to notice them more outside of the home. As you drive around and encounter billboards and other signage in your town, get talking about what else could be happening in the picture. Play I wonder… games and use signs and pictures to tell stories. Often ads/billboards play on words and their meanings. Explore puns and make up new ones.

As children use words, write them themselves, and express their creativity through using labels and making signs, accept their own unique spellings that emerge. Encourage risk taking in spelling by reserving judgment about the way words are written. Be aware of development appropriateness in varied spellings. But also be aware that some children will thrive more and take more risks when they have you modeling. as children need to consistently hear language that is above their reading level, so do they need to be able to record stories and other means of language that is above their writing level. So if your child asks you to write the sign for them, encourage the independence to do it themselves, but don’t be afraid to take dictation for a while. Like all things, find the balance when you can.

As you ponder the question, “Are you a dreamer?” Don’t just cross the threshold of your creative home with your feet. Spread your wings, and fly in, fly in!


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 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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