Sunday, November 30, 2008

London Calling

Remembrance Sunday has gone and now we are deep into Autumn. The trees in London’s forests and parks have turned red and the air is crisp as I trot across the Common to the gym. I am deep in thought as I struggle across frost-encrusted grass and prickly gorse, for I am struggling with my novel at present. Everything in me wants to stay at home and sit by the laptop, battling. Yet, this is the worst thing I could do. Sometimes you have to walk away from your writing to walk deep into the heart of what you’re trying to say. As I come out from behind a tree I startle a deer – a magnificent stag. Because I am thinking about my hero Thomas and his battle to find himself, I’m not really looking where I’m going. I just blundered into his territory, a great, flat-footed human, not looking, not thinking. I must have come between the stag and his ladies, for he stands his ground and barks at me. This is dangerous stuff, potentially, but I don’t even notice because I am deep in the untamed, the wild mind. We look at each other. I see something in him, something that can never be broken. He bounds away. I run the last ten minutes to the gym.

Jennifer Pittam writes on the creative spirit and the ancient, magical forest that is her inspiration. Follow her column on Read more!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

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

Hal cropped by Sandra Lee Schubert 2008

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

Sandra Lee Schubert

Creating New

What do you do when life does not go as expected? How about when your favorite art project looks like hell? Creating can be a big pain. You have a vision. The vision and current reality does not fit. Paint goes bad, your brain dries up and not a word pours out. Can you keep creating despite the capricious nature of life?

Claim your right to create despite distractions, layoffs, no money and the bad news hitting you from all over the place. Let go of your force of will to demand art behave like you want and let creation happen.

I have just hired a new instructor for the writers group I facilitate. She shared her ideas about the class would be taught. But there I was judging it. I know these people they will never go for it. But who am I hiring? Has she done this before? Does it matter? Despite my opinions, I am willing to be surprised by what may happen. The group may hate it. OK. All of us have to break out of our set ways and shake things up a bit.

Think of some different ways to create. You could try to write standing up or in a different location. If you paint in the morning, try painting in the afternoon life. Claim your write to create no matter what happens. Let's see what can happen.

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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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Creative Connections - Messy Writing

Oct 2007 Rocky Mountains 4

My fingertips are stained purple and red from experimenting with alcohol inks. Turquoise paint from redoing the hall bath rims my fingernails. My dining table is covered with newspapers, the inks and paint, brushes, and the glass bowl that I've ink painted a glowing transparent plum color. Creativity is messy.

Writing used to be messy. Think of wastebaskets overflowing with balled-up papers, the ink-stained fingers of authors, the splurts of fountain pens on manuscripts and desks. Now writing is cleaner, no correction fluid to drip white dots on my hands,no flowing ink, not even typewriter ribbons to change. I can type and backspace, delete, change wording, correct spelling, play with fonts and colors. My hands and desk stay clean.

I wonder though if these tidy words marching across the page between clean margins are not misleading. The words are not actually perfect. They may not look it, but they are smeared, misshapen, blemished. They need polishing, crossing out, moved around. And I realize that writing is still a messy process - even if my hands aren't usually ink stained.

Lauri Griffin is a published short story writer who is currently revising some longer works. She holds degrees in educational psychology and gifted education, 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!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sculpting a Life:
Susan Gallacher-Turner’s turn in the Pacific Northwest.
(Raven copper mask)
Life is like sculpting in so many ways. Some obvious and some not. What’s obvious to me right now relates to the process called subtractive sculpting.

What is subtractive sculpting? It’s starting with a block of stone, chunk of clay, piece of wood then chipping, pinching or carving bits of it away.

This is very different from additive sculpting. Additive sculpting is adding material or elements to form the sculpture.

My life seems to be mirroring the process of subtractive sculpture. Now, I realize that sounds bad. It isn’t.

Let’s say that I’m doing relief sculpture of a bird in clay. In this process, I’d start with a slab of clay. I would then carve away the parts of the clay that are not needed to form the bird. By taking away, subtracting the clay that is not part of the bird, I am leaving the clay that forms the bird. Get it?

I’m taking away, subtracting what I don’t need, I’m leaving what I do need and want. Hmm. Sounds like a good idea, don’t you think? Especially, considering the strained economic times we are riding through right now, this just might be a solution.

What I see is very simple. I am the sculptor of my life. All I have to do is see that life is good.

Carve away what I don’t need. Pinch out what is in my way. Chip out and around my life to sculpt the picture I want.
Then I keep what works. What’s good. What creates the life that I picture.

I am sculpting a life. Mine.

You can do it, too. You don’t have to be a sculptor to do it. All you have to do is take a good look at your life. See what’s good in your life. Decide you want to keep it. Then, start carving away those things, people, places and activities that you don’t want, need or that get in the way of the life you envision.

You can sculpt your life, too.
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Sunday, November 23, 2008

London Calling

Well! I've come joint first in a writing Competition - 'Coast to Coast' October 2008. It was a great surprise, and a tremendous boost to my writing spirit. My short story was called 'I Remember Very Well' and it was written especially for Armistice Day, when here in London we remember the servicemen and women lost in every war since 1914.This year the ceremony was exceptionally poignant, and beautiful. There are whole new generations, of course - those mourning loved ones lost in Iraq or Afghanistan, and those who came to march past the Cenotaph in honour of a grandfather or great-uncle. The journey of bereavement is a long one indeed, and like the journey of a writing soul, you have to take it step by step. Read more!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Garden Views: Things Are Not Always What They Seem

This week on my personal blog,, I talk about our experience in moving our propane tank. I have lived on this property for most of my adult life, as well as for a large part of my childhood. I thought I understood it. I thought I knew where everything was. But when I wanted to move the propane tank, I discovered that what I had thought was a solid rock ledge (after all there is rock ledge on either side of it) turned out to be a respectable layer of topsoil. So too, with writing. Breathes there a writer anywhere who hasn’t attempted to read the editorial tea leaves? The meaning behind, “You have a lovely book, but ……?” I was sure that an editor who seemed enthusiastic about an article on native plants had changed his mind, only to have him assign it to me 14 months later. He had not responded to any of my follow-up e-mails, but things were not as they seemed.

I was certain my book would sell when the proposal made it all the way into the weekly editorial meeting of a huge publishing house. It didn’t. Two years later, I’ve recast it in a different format, based on the comments of editors who turned it down. One who declined it two years ago now “can’t wait to read it.” She revealed that she is an avid gardener. Another responded immediately with a request to see the proposal. Things are not always as they seem.

What does it all mean? It means I’ve made some progress. Because, in those intervening two years, I poked around. Just like I had my husband poke around the rock ledge with a crowbar to help us decide whether moving the propane tank was even a possibility. I poked around on gardening blogs, academic web sites, illustrator’s blogs, Publishers Weekly, Media Bistro, Publisher’s Lunch, and various gardening trade sites. I wasted a lot of time, but I also learned some things that are important to both writing and marketing my book (and myself). It looked as if I wasn’t doing anything, but things are not always as they seem.

Sometimes, things DO turn out to be the way they seem, and just in case THIS is that time, we’ve broken out champagne twice in the past week. Cheap champagne. We’re saving the Dom Perignon for the contract.

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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Grieving Through Art

by Lisa A. Riley

There might come a time when the safe cushion of our routine lives is suddenly jolted by a loss. It could be an unexpected loss of a job, an ending to a relationship, a death of a loved one or a dream we watched slip out of our reach. In either situation, grief can result and often consume our lives during such times. This can disrupt the flow of our routine especially in our artistic life. Startled and paralyzed, we are unable to tap into what was once a river of creativity. Although, grief is a natural remedy to move us towards healing and recovery, it can often put a suddenly halt to our creative process.

Grief may require us to shut down both physically and mentally in order to cope. The very same energy that once cultivated inspiration is now forced to focus on recuperating. This can often leave us feeling creatively dried up and dull. Yet, in the midst of suffering also lies an opportunity to heal from it and what better avenue then to try to express it through our art.

During grief, our creativity pulls from a different source, our own emotional suffering. Sometimes emotional pain and trials can force us to become more introspective, present and sensitive to our internal world, allowing feelings to be closer to the surface making it much easier to tap into. We can clearly see this occurring in the pieces of some of our old masters.

For example, Picasso’s well-known “Blue Period,” was prompted by the sudden suicide death of his friend Carlos Casadgemas. His grief can be felt through the blues and greens that dominated his paintings during this period. Picasso also painted multiple portraits of Casadgemas as an avenue to express the deep loss and yearning for his friend. Another example is a writer telling the story of his own trauma over and over again as a reoccurring theme in his writings. For instance, Shakespeare’s repeated theme of death that shows up in his plays can be attributed to witnessing multiple fatalities in his family. Because of the high mortality rate during his time, many of his brothers and sisters died at an early age.

The intense feelings of loss and grief can be overwhelming. Being able to process some of these feelings through our art can help lesson the intensity as well as bring some relief. Creatively expressing our grief can help us work through the pain and bring more meaning and depth to our experience.

Just as Picasso began his Rose Period soon after his Blue Period, we too can have hope that there is a light at the end of the dark tunnel.

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

Build Your Foundation photo by Sandra Lee Schubert 2008

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

Sandra Lee Schubert

Building a Foundation

I don't know how to build a building. When I saw the walls of one going up without a foundation I thought it didn't seem right. What would hold the walls in place? It would seem even with a one story place you would want it anchored into something more solid then dirt. The walls looked unsettled. Am I wrong?
Maybe I don't know anything about construction but I do know about living on shaky ground. When last week I ended up 90 miles away from home at the right place at the wrong time I was shaken for a moment. But I was able to bounce back and laugh at myself. This week I lost my job. Wow. I must admit to a bit of a headache.

Things happen. Challenges and successes move through your life. What do you do with them? How do you keep to creating in spite of circumstances.

The people I admire most are the ones who can work no matter what. I would like to say I got up and began to write, write, write. I didn't. But I will write. There is a space of time open before me with new possibilities. Build your foundation, then build your walls, giving your life and creativity someplace to thrive.

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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Friday, November 21, 2008

Television Musings - Rants and Raves of a Romance Writer

By Kathy Carpenter


I’m back. Sorry I know it’s been a few weeks, but it’s just been a crazy busy time for me. I have a lot of those by the way. Anyway, yes, since I’ve been busy I’m still reading “Hex Appeal” So, this weeks comment is on a show I watched this week.

If anybody saw this weeks episode of Privileged I thought one of the writers wrote something very creative. Personally I feel television writers are becoming more and more creative these days.

As for Privileged for you who have not watched the show. It’s about a college graduate who had a writing job in New York and I believe got fired. Somehow she got the opportunity to tutor a set a super rich twins in Florida ( where she grew up ). The twins do not look alike. Anyway she was hired to see they have grades which will get them into the best collages. The twin who could care less about grades, naturally has the ability to learn easily. The one who wants to go to collage with or without her sister struggles with grades. In this episode the twin who struggles received a D on a final. She knew she needed to pass all her other exams. (She is also the most moral of the two) Anyway, she bought the next exam she needed to pass. Her sister is not happy with this. But (and her is where the creative part comes in) decideed to help her out. She stole the test (which is a fifty question multiple choice questions) from her sister and had the answers made into a purse.

The purse had randem colored letters all over in a trendy design. Of course the letters could not be laid in order. So the design was a secret code. Something like every third letter starting at the bullseye. I thought this very clever. Does it work? Well we did not see what happens yet. But I do think something like this could be pulled off. That’s what makes it creative.

Who says there are no new ideas?

Feel free to comment anytime.

I can also be reached at
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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Iowa Writing Coach: For Creative Energy, Get Moving

I’m guessing I’m not the only one right now who struggles this time of year with shorter days, lack of sunlight, and the impending cold. Every year I have to remind myself that to keep my creative spirit alive in November, I have to face the bogeyman. I’m talking about literally facing the monster by getting out into the cold, rain, and slush.

I’m talking about getting outside and moving around – vigorously, as in a half-hour jog or fast hike. And not just once in awhile. I’m talking six days a week. Getting outdoors, year round but especially in the winter, is my best protection against creative doldrums and the self-doubt that can accompany them.

For me, it’s not if I’ll exercise today; it’s when. Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, MD, argue in Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy – Until You’re 80 and Beyond that as we hit middle age, our bodies will start to decay. Basically, our bodies start to go into hibernation unless we signal to them to keep growing. The signal? Vigorous exercise, six days a week. Exercising tells our bodies to keep repairing and renewing. It also releases chemicals that bathe our brains in positive feelings.

“Being sedentary is the most important signal for decay,” say Crowley and Lodge. Thus, “Decay is optional.” And since aging is largely about decaying, we can slow our aging process by being physically active. That’s why, as they say, “Exercise is magic.”

And as I have discovered, going outdoors for exercise is part of the magic – even in the cold, rain, slush, and snow. Getting out into the elements causes nature’s beauty to trump the cold, taming the face of the winter monster and minimizing self-doubt about creativity in the process. Plus there’s all that Vitamin D to soak up during the daylight.

“Exercise is the opposite of crazy. It is the thing you use to drive craziness away,” write Crowley and Lodge. I agree. And for extra protection from the creativity crazies, bundle up and get outside while you move your beautiful body.

Need extra motivation to get moving outdoors? Try listening to music on an Ipod. And check out my essay, "Running through Life," about the joys of jogging to music.

As a writing coach, writer, editor, and visual artist from Eastern Iowa, Suzanne Kelsey tries to inspire people to live their passions and find miracles even in the mundane. She blogs about the freelancing life, Midwest Bohemia, nature, creativity, visual journaling, and living large in a small town. Check out her web site at Visit her blog at Email her at
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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Funny Thing in Vegas- Graphic Novels

The Vegas Valley Book Fair featured imagery that bounced off the pages this year in words illustrated by color, texture, and panels rather than paragraphs. In the last twenty years, comic books have become far more than a trip to Krypton and a laugh with Archie. They are hand held films, with rich plots, scintillating sub-plots, and a surreal walk away from the literary page. Characters aren't just sculpted idealistic visions of what the human form must be. They are well-spoken, deeply intelligent, and highly emotional personalities that take on the world with the intricacies of the most well-written Dickens novel, and the drama of a Shakespearean archetype.

Neil Gaiman, known for his motion picture scripts, young adult novels, novels, and innumerable other projects spoke at the Festival this year, about the work he has a passion for- the graphic novel. He spoke of the world being too focused on passing by us for anyone to absorb words for any length of time. But he also spoke to the idea that vision is beyond the written word for many writers, and his decision to be involved in theater, film, and children's books are as a large part of his life as his best selling novels. Sometimes showing someone what you are talking about gives the imagination a larger canvas to run amuck, play, and the opportunities for creativity are vast and ever-changing.

Storyboard novels are not a new medium. Egyptian tombs are filled with stories and legends told in pictures. Cave drawings give viewers the stories of large hunts, horrible weather fiascoes, and daily life. Most motion picture studios have storyboard artists on staff who help directors map out the vision for the feature- with museums carrying this artwork throughout the world. But over the last twenty years, the idea that writers could use illustrations in a format that was different that standard children's book art has taken on enormous financial potential with the success of Hell Boy, Sin City, and dozens of other shows, plays, music, and movies.

Why create a visual version of written words? Our society has transformed greatly from one that would absorb hours of storytelling, radio, and even movies, to one which has a passion for the remote control, a fascination for Japanese Anime, and the desire to have things microwaved, downloaded, and delivered in moments. We have lost our love for simply sitting and enjoying, and have gained a need for the NOW. Graphic novels offer fast reading for some. Others devour images for days at a time, transforming the stories past the imagery and short paragraphs into full mind-movies. They also offer a taste of art, and all that art encompasses.

Not all graphics are dark, nor are they always about super-heroes or super-humans. Some are written as Alternative Role Playing Games, (ARG's), and are interactive. The reader only learns the answer to a mystery, for example, by playing a part in the story. Some are playful, and mirror the lives we lead. There are graphic novels that are historically based, and feature such characters as Benjamin Franklin and Marie Antoinette. Still more feature serials of tales, following a time line of a character or even a location. A large growing market is that of Romance, and sexually based stories.

Another form of graphic novel is Manga. This is a style of drawing developed in Japan, that is a 4.4 Billion Dollar business. The market includes horror stories, as well as fantasy, historical, and science fiction. This form of imagery has inundated Western markets. Large eyed, rounded characters appear on sparsely decorated backgrounds which is in contrast to the finely detailed, crisp lined images which appear in books published by companies like DC and Marvel. Like any book, the market is dependent upon the stories told, and some are definitely not the g-rated images you would find in some comic books.

In Las Vegas, there are nearly a dozen specialty graphic novel stores. This is in contrast to the dwindling number of mom and pop book stores, and smaller used book shops. While standard literary options seem to be disappearing from the Valley, great numbers of art based stores are moving in. On the First Friday event, which takes place in the Charleston District near Downtown, more art galleries are featuring Graphic Novel imagery in their regular scheduling. Even spoken word shows are now showcases for those who are drawing stories rather than telling them. The artform is so popular that the Clark County Library System now features graphic novelists in their authors panels.

The future for writing in Southern Nevada may be not just in the craft of using adjectives and verbs. There is a great, visually starved reading public here. It's part of what's funny about Vegas- we're becoming the graphic novel center for the Southwestern United States, with small publishing houses popping up every day. We may have lost our Star Trek Experience, but we are fast becoming the sci-fi mecca beyond the desert. Next time- The Interloper!
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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Artists Entrepreneurs Unite!

Another step in the Artist Entrepreneurship Adventure is reaching out to my fellow adventurers. This post is a quick shout out to them. Check out their sites. Comment on their blogs.
That's it for now. For those of you wondering, connecting with our brethren is part of Stage 4: It Takes a Community. I'm doing the 12 Stages of the Artist Entrepreneurship Adventure out of order. In fact we really don't travel our adventurous route in any logical manner. Though it can look that way in hindsight when we try to explain it.

Beth Barany is a Certified Creativity Coach for Writers and Book Consultant. She combines the intuitive, empathic approach, with her analytical, systematic mind to offer structure, support and accountability to writers at all stages of their writing adventure. Creator of the Writer's Adventure Guide, and author of Overcome Writer's Block, Beth strives to find better ways to make writing fun and adventurous. Check out her blog, Writer's Fun Zone on tips and musings. She loves to hear from you!
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Monday, November 17, 2008

Monday Morning Motivators to Slay Your Creative Dragons

By CJ Lyons and Margie Lawson

Healthy Eating: from CJ

Okay, I know we’re all writers and always talking about ways to make our writing lives better, but one thing we often forget is how to eat right to give our minds the energy they need.

So, with the holidays coming, I thought it would be a good time to discuss simple rules to healthy eating.

Here in the US, we’re plagued by an epidemic of obesity and overweight, so here’s a primer on healthy eating for your mind and body.

A portion size = the palm of your hand. No, the fingers do not count!

Each meal should have one portion of protein (meat, fish, chicken, etc), two portions of colored stuff (fruits and veggies with color), and one portion of the white, starchy stuff (rice, corn, potatoes, bread, pasta, etc)

An easy way to remember this is to mentally divide your plate into quarters:

–1 protein

–2 colored veggies and fruit

–1 starch

It’s that simple. Start with that and next time I’ll throw out some other easy and healthy tips.

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, November 16, 2008

Don't Quit Your Day Job

Creating and the Economy

Even though there are many levels, I think everyone can say that they have been in some way affected by our recent tough economy. My situation is not as bad as others. I do have a job, but it has been more of a challenge to make ends meet. I remember hearing my mother use that term back in the 1970’s when I was very young. That was another tumultuous economic time. The funny thing though was I heard the phrase as make ends meat. It still made sense. I figured these were the least desirable parts of meat, which would therefore make them the cheapest. If you couldn’t earn enough money to buy ends meat, times must truly be bad! In the past few months, I’ve tried applying for seasonal retail work. I’ve also looked into work I could do on the side at home. Soon, the title of my blog may be, “Don’t Quit Your Day Job Or Your Night Job”! When I’m already finding it a challenge to create after putting in a forty-hour week, how will I ever fit in my writing if I’m working sixty hours a week?

Hours aside, there’s also the question of how economic stress can stifle the creative process. I’ve worked hard over the past year to bring my writing to the forefront of my life. Although I’m far from my personal goals, writing is more prevalent in my life than ever. Yet I can’t help feeling frivolous, banging away on my keyboard when I should be scouring Craigslist.

Maybe I’ll be one of those stories, “the chips were down, she persevered and now you’re reading her profile in Writer’s Digest.” Hey, if fantasy keeps me going then I say do what works.

The reality is, I yet again have to re-prioritize and find a way to work more and pair down my writing. Emotionally, it’s difficult to accept because I already don’t have as much time to write as I would like. The best case scenario is that sometimes when you have so many responsibilities to juggle, you can end up being more productive than ever. I certainly hope this is one of those times.

As to the constant guilt and frivolity I feel in indulging my writing endeavors…that’s probably going to be a tougher task. Not only is there so much stress involved in trying to keep your family life and finances all together, how can you block all that out when you come to writing? I can write about my feelings or use my writing to problem solve. The challenge comes in the works I have in progress. I like to think I can use my writing to whisk me away from my daily problems. The unfortunate reality is that I’m not quite there yet. I use to think my only obstacle was time. As I peel away the layers of living a creative life, I see that there are as many unique combinations of making ends meet as their creative thoughts. If I keep trying, I find what works for me. There will be successes and failures, but hopefully along the way I will find that balance and maybe pick up a few recipes for ends meat!
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Saturday, November 15, 2008

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

Long road home by Sandra Lee Schubert c 2008
Retreat! Retreat!

By Sandra Lee Schubert

I was looking forward to the retreat. It is my annual weekend of rejuvenation. The retreat house is a monastery nestled in West Park, NY, right off the Hudson river. The view is spectacular, the monks are nice, and the food is just the best. There are several daily services that you can attend or not. The services are very meditative and calming. The retreat is sponsored by my congregation in NYC. We all like each other and enjoy the time together. It is the highlight of my year. I am sustained by each visit.

I had asked for some time off so I could get up there before dinner. I packed Thursday night and on Friday I wheeled my duffel through the subway system, Times Square, and up the stairs to the office. The clergy had gone to convention so I was basically alone trying to get things done so I could leave early. I had this nagging feeling something was not right but just attributed it to feeling tired and overwhelmed.

When the time came I happily left work, lugged the duffel down into the subway, took a train one stop, lugged the duffel to the shuttle, and headed into Grand Central. I bought my ticket, a muffin and water. The train was packed but I finally found a seat. If a woman ever needed a retreat it was me. I was now officially exhausted but on my way.

The ride was long but I had my iPod and a book. It was dark when I got to the train station. I looked around to see if any of my fellow retreatants were there. The cab ride cost $23 but it was worth it, I was so ready and excited to get there.

It was time for Vespers so the monastery was empty when I got there. I saw a couple of people who were not part of my group but that was not unusual. A sign on the door said I could find our room placements on the welcome book. I scanned the list and had the most horrible feeling ever. There was not one person I knew on the list. I looked up at the welcome board and my heart sank into a deep and dark horrifying place. I realized right then that I was there on the wrong weekend!

The bell rang for service. So I dragged my duffel and went to the chapel and sat in the back and looked around at people I didn't know and was very close to an all out sob fest. After the service the monk who schedules the retreat was very kind to a very embarrassed, exhausted traveler who had lost her way. I stayed for dinner and a very nice woman took pity on me and drove me back to the train station. I left work at 2 PM and got home at 10 PM. I had traveled over 180 miles in one day and spent over $50 to go to a retreat I clearly needed but on the wrong weekend.

We don't always know when we are in trouble. Or when exhaustion has taken hold of our faculties. We think we are doing OK, tired, but holding our own. I have been burning the proverbial candle at both ends. Up and writing before work, 8 hours there, then back to the computer at home trying, trying, trying... to get ahead, make some money, to carve out a place in the world that would provide me enough security so that I could just stay home and write.

I have also been failing, slipping down some slippery slope to a dark place.Trying to just make ends meet when all I want to do is feel inspired, be creative, feel like I have accomplished something.

What do you do when you have lost your way ? The book we are reading in preparation for the retreat is, The Return of the Prodigal Son, by Henri J.M Nouwen. The prodigal son returns home after he realizes he has gone astray, traveled in the wrong direction from his roots. I am giving the story short shrift here but the son comes to his fathers house and is received happily back into his home. When wandering off course just return home. It took me 180 miles to get back home, a short journey for a wayward traveler.

What do you do? I know that I have to refocus on more important things. The first is my physical well-being, the second is honoring my creative life, the third is making certain I keep my datebook up to date.

Next week I will be back at the monastery at the right retreat, humbled, but knowing more about the hurt I carry. I traveled far to realize I needed to be home. Tonight I sleep early and tomorrow I begin again.

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, November 13, 2008

Career Inklings from Columbia

Get Out of Your Shell to Find a New Career!

By Janet M. Ruck

Are you afraid to talk about yourself? Do interviews make you squirm? It can be difficult to speak positively about yourself and your accomplishments, especially if you’ve been taught that it’s “not nice to boast.” But to be a competitive, viable candidate for a new job or career during these difficult economic times, it is important that you get over your fear of bragging and develop some techniques for “tooting your own horn”.

In my work as a career counselor, I find that many of my clients shy away from applying for jobs because of their fear of interviewing. But, with some preparation, a few techniques to get over their shyness (which I call “fear of I-ness”) and practice, they are prepared to get out there and compete.

If you find yourself suffering from “fear of I-ness”, try this the next time you are called for an interview:

Before the Interview
- Research the employer
- Identify your talents and skills and relate them to the job
- Know your career-related interests and values
- List some accomplishments to answer the question: "Why should we hire you?"
- Develop a response to the statement: "Tell me about yourself"
- Anticipate and write out the answers to possible interview questions
- Practice interviewing (out loud) with someone who can coach you

During the Interview
- Get to the interview on time and with a positive attitude
- Dress appropriately, shake hands, smile, be yourself!
- Know what is in your resume, and bring an extra copy
- Be interested and confident
- Be able to articulate your skills

After the Interview
- Send a thank you note
- “Grade” yourself on your performance so you can learn for the next interview

Interviewing is a skill itself, and the more you practice, the better you’ll be. Don’t let your fear of I-ness keep you from coming out of your shell!
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Monday, November 10, 2008

Funny Thing in Vegas- Sin City Roller Girls

Not sure what to do on a Thursday night because you're switching from the weekday special hotel to the weekend special hotel and casino? Las Vegas offers a form of entertainment that is now becoming a cult experience. This isn't your skate at the beach, or the roller rink partners dance you may have had in high school. This is down dirty, slap backing, high speed, and downright demonic displays of powerful women wearing tight, high skirts, and wheels of steel. The Sin City Roller Girls are the powerhouse of all women sports in the Southern Nevada Area.

It's not like a comedy event. But it's very amusing. It's not like a circus, but you will find women who can fly. If you think you remember an episode of Laverne and Shirley which had Pinky Tuscadero rounding a small track, or you find a flash back to Rollerball during your visit- you have some inkling of what to expect from the festivities involved in the life of the Sin City Roller Girls.

The members come from all walks, (rolls), of life, including my friend Celestia Ward Sundini, who is a mom to pre-teen kids, a newlywed, and a full time artist. With a history as a copy editor and caricature artist, the creativity blossoms as she dons her new persona- SheBacca. The naming of the players takes on as much skill as the movements around the rink. Some team members include Bruce Killis, Athena Barbital, Pearly Gates, and Seemore Butts. They use make-up to play on their character developments, and some are so well known, (Ivana Spankin, for instance), that they're legends in the Roller Derby World.

The derby phenomenon seems to have popped up around the time when Reality TV shows were lulled away by karaoke singers, and sports that used to be about playing a game, such as basketball that has been transformed into multimedia events, with pre-shows and rock video shoots mid games. Over the last ten years, the resurgence of the sport has grown strong in Detroit, New York, Los Angeles, and of course, Las Vegas. It makes for a night of entertainment and an unforgettable night of "WHAT IS GOING ON?"

Any woman willing to brave the try-outs and pass through must pay for an insurance policy, her gear, and help develop an original fear inspiring name. The events occur several times per month, with practices happening at least once a week. Practice can be as severe as a regular bout. The idea that the little petite flowers in sports - rhythmic gymnastics, or volleyball- can make regular events on ESPN is a nice one. Pretty is always fun to watch. But, seeing ten women slamming in and out of each other in a full on war between wheels, floor, speed, and a crowd screaming for more is FAR better in person, and would be a terrific night out for anyone visiting the land of neon lights and Elvis impersonators.

The Sin City Roller Girls hosted the New York Dolls at a recent event. The crowd was awestruck by the power of the women, and the magic of the music. The event was FREE to the public, as many of them are. You could spend upwards of $150 for really lousy seats at an arena to see some team from the B leagues, or you can spend less than $10 to checkout some of the greatest sportsmen in the country. Check out the practices between the scheduled bouts, and you will understand why this sport has fast become one of the most popular events in the last few years. The calendar is on their website, and I hope to see you there!

Celestia started to watch those same rehearsals. Her large frame was an impetus and catalyst to take an audition with the team. Within weeks, she was a working skater, learning all of the lingo and discovering her strengths were as great with her body as she was creative using her mind. It's now part of who she is, and when you meet her, tell her you appreciate the work she's done. It will make her day.
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Saturday, November 08, 2008

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

Election Plaza, Rockefeller Center, 11/04/08
Wide Awake!

I was happy to finally vote on Tuesday. It took five minutes and it felt like a large weight had been lifted from my very being.Times Square was full on election coverage. On my lunch break I walked around and first visited the CNN set-up in Father Duffy Square. Big screen TV, pretzels, coffee and hot chocolate. tourists actively involved in our election too.CNN gave out terry cloth towels. There must have been a point to that one.

I then headed east to Fox news. They had nothing set up yet so I walked over to NBC election plaza in Rockefeller Center.No food, but I got a plastic mug for my co-worker.There was a fuzzy dog that had on an Obama T-shirt and was quite popular.

When work was over I went back out to visit the same spots.
The energy had increased. At CNN the space was tight so I headed over to Fox. The crowd there was slim and the energy was considerably less. It was back to NBC Election plaza. I had picked up a pretzel and hot chocolate from Fox and was well fortified to stand for two and half hours.

I have been to lots of big events in NYC but this one was the most exciting and interesting. I was sorry my knees gave out at 9:30 PM. I wanted to stay there all night it was just so much fun.

What can I learn from all this? It felt like something had shook loose in my being that day. I realized I had been in a prison of my own making, turning my head from possibilities and just focusing on the negative. Despite the negativity I still managed to create. My writing is getting out there. I have ventured into fiction. My e-course is showing new life. Finally I bought a new digital camera, taking photos with abandon. Creation happens. The choice is having it happen well or continue to have it be a struggle. Can I capitalize on this energy? It would be a waste to do anything less.

And here is the rest of it.

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Friday, November 07, 2008

Garden Views: Manure as Art

Because no one else has our life experience (real, dreamed, or imagined), knowledge base, and interests, we are our own endless source of material. We have only to look inside ourselves to find it. Take, for example, manure. Garden writers write all sorts of things about manure and compost: How to make it; how to use it; how to store it. But when I found out about seedling pots made of cow manure, it struck an inner cord. It called out to all my interests --- gardening in general, growing plants from seeds, sustainable systems, reducing the use of fossil fuels, the survival of small-scale farming, and the concept of how we can make waste material of any kind into something useful.

I could write from childhood experience about my love of cows, the thrill of talking with the inventor of CowPots,™ the green aspects of the farm’s self-contained system, the gardening benefits of using the pots, and, because I wrote this as a blog post, I could inject a note of my own peculiar sense of humor. To see the story, click

650 fellow garden writers were exposed to this same product at the Garden Writers Symposium, so I’m sure that some of them will write about it. But not in the same way I did.

Next time you’re having a conversation about something that really resonates with you, think about why. What parts of it connected to something else inside of you? Figure out how you can put those parts together to make something new. VoilĂ ! A unique piece of art.

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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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Sculpting a Life:
Susan Gallacher-Turner’s turn in the Pacific Northwest

Sculpting a life can be scary. Whether or not the economy is up or down, the art process itself is a roller coaster ride of hills and valleys. In the past two weeks, I’ve had a few of my own.

The hills are easy to talk about, aren’t they? I sold some of my art work at a mask show and my own open studio event. I picked up a kiln that a kindred art supporter gave me. As a result of owning a kiln, I can work in clay again and I dreamed up new ideas for clay figures. I made some new sculptural vessels, worked on a new screening piece and my copper repousse’. I taught a new class through the Museum of Contemporary Craft. And met a lot of wonderful, kind art supporters.

The valleys are not so easy to face. I had a show and nothing sold. I heard other artists sold much more at their open studios than I did. I don’t have any other classes or openings scheduled for the next two months. I had doubts about my work, my direction, my creative ideas. I spent more time cleaning my home and studio than working in it. I sweated about my finances, and wondered if I should get another job.

But then, this weekend, teaching a class, I saw the students go through similar hills and valleys. Excitement and fear. Creative visions and expectations. Inspiration and resistance.

I guess I’m not alone. It helps to know that. I know valleys are a chance to face my fears and use my creative dreams, talents and work to climb up and out. I know that hills give me a chance to show my work, see my progress, share my skills with others.

Even knowing all this, I'd like the ride to be easier, smoother and less scary. But that’s not the way it works, is it? What can I do? I can acknowledge my fear and let it be. Then I can ride the roller coaster instead of letting it roll over me.

Read Susan’s blog at or visit her website at

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Don't Quit Your Day Job

Creating and My New Bulletin Board

What does a writer want for their birthday? I tried to keep my wishes within the means of my family’s current budget. A laptop sure would make life easier, but I can live without it. Some of that fancy writing software always looks attractive. However, the time to sit and figure it all out is something I don’t have. So what’s a simple gift that would make my writing life easier? A giant bulletin board! I’m quickly outgrowing my little corner in the living room. I’m constantly scribbling notes, clipping articles and jotting down web addresses. On more than several occasions, I’ve wasted time trying to find a slip of paper or the last draft of something I wrote that has notes in the margins and comments jotted at the end. Currently, there’s a large mirror above my desk and it would be quite a chore to move it. The traditional idea of having that idea board positioned directly above your work space wasn’t going to work for me. It took me awhile to realize the wall behind my desk was perfect. The previous owners of our home used the living room as a game room. They had a pool table, a corner mounted TV and a dart board. We reestablished it as a living room yet kept the dartboard. Why not? It was something for the kids to do and with the cork glued to the wall, would be a lot more work to take it off then to live with it.

At first I thought I could be extremely economical and use the cork that was already behind the dart board, but this is protection cork, not note tacking cork. The best idea would be to have a board large enough to cover the cork behind it. This also allows the bulletin board to be removed and the dart board to go back up. After all, a quick game of darts has become popular during our Christmas gatherings.

So I found a large, beautiful board. Big enough to not be outgrown after a few business cards, post-its and the inevitable Peanuts cartoon strips! My husband was kind enough to hang it up for me (he’s a lot better at measuring than I am) and I’m quickly filling it up. First, I put the drawing I haven’t completed, then my list of things to do this weekend (post to Eric Maisel’s Creativity Central Blog), next the essay I’m working on to submit for anthology consideration by November 16th and lastly, a cute Peanuts strip where Snoopy is atop his dog house, writing on his typewriter. It helps to have everything at my eye level. Because of my short stature, it’s actually easier to use the bulletin board behind me instead of over the desk. I’d be stretching across to reach things all the time. This way, everything is easy for me to reach and view. I think this will be very useful in keeping my writing organized and my writing life slightly more manageable. Next year, maybe I can hint for that laptop!
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Monday Morning Motivators to Slay Your Creative Dragons

By CJ Lyons and Margie Lawson

Time A-Wasting from CJ:

Ever find yourself sucked into a time vortex when you should be working? You know, “I’ll just spend ten minutes checking email before I tackle this next scene” only to turn away, blurry-eyed from the computer an hour later…

Take control of your time wasters! How? Simple. Use time to your advantage by using a timer.

Set your microwave or a kitchen timer to the amount of time you really want to spend on your writing break. This keeps you grounded and gives you a reminder of where your priorities lie: with your writing.

Try it and you’ll find there really are more hours in the day!

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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Saturday, November 01, 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

On the Edge

Facing NYC, photo by Sandra Lee Schubert

No matter what I do I can't escape the feeling of tension. It is on the TV, on the Internet. I hear in conversations. There is tension around the elections. Tension about the economy. There is a strange hyper energy in NYC. I know that seems odd, the energy is Times Square on New Year's Eve. It feels weird all over.

Or is it just me? Last week I bought a new camera. I couldn't really afford it, even though it was on sale. But it was red, it took double A batteries and it was so light and so small it slips right into my pocket. You can see one of my photos on this blog. That is the view from my train station. A view like that can make you feel a bit better about going to work.

This camera created a tension but it took another a way. I love taking photos. When I walk around NYC I always want to take a photo... there is a texture, a color an image that resonates with me. So I resolved a bit of creative tension but increased another. Was it a fair trade off?

I have this tension about being a creative being. There is this whole creating a platform, marketing myself, making sure I have a presence in the world.

What I really want to do is take photos and write. That is it. At the core is this deep urge to create. That urge has no particular agenda to be famous, rich or well-known.

My tension is the desire to create and the need to make a living of some sort. I would prefer my job be more creative and aligned with my desires. After all I spend an enormous time doing it.

What about you? What keeps you on the edge? Do your tensions make you crazy or make you creative? Standing at the edge I must decide what to do.

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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