I went to a museum in Charleston, SC. I started off with the historic paintings in gilt frames protected under low lighting and I felt somewhat neutral. In my twenties, I’d studied at the Louvre in Paris for a year. I’d stood in front of a Courbet and Caravaggio and Delacroix while a French teacher lectured about each painting and I took notes. It was amazing to have studied those old masters. But as I’ve aged, I don’t have as much patience for 17 – 19th century art.
Had I seen too many of them over the years?FINISH READING >>
At a women’s outdoor adventure weekend, I held a compass in my palm. I stared down at the arrow ready to make things right.
When I was seventeen, I went on a twenty-one day Outward Bound course in the North Carolina mountains, because my father thought it would be good preparation for college. At the time, I wasn’t so sure.
Looking back, I’m glad I did it. The experience prepared me well for college and beyond. After staying in a tent in the woods for three days by myself, a single dorm room turned out to be a cinch.FINISH READING >>
August 2018 was our official initiation into empty-nesthood. But two months after our youngest child went to college, our oldest son moved back in. We both admitted we were relieved. We weren’t yet ready to be set free, our identities still attached to parenthood. Plus, it was just nice to have him home. Our son moved out last June. Our youngest arrived home for the summer. We loved (most) every minute of her being with us. And then a few days ago, she left again for college, and finally, it seemed we were ready. We came to the beach. We read.FINISH READING >>
For years, I complained about my local post office. The lines! The long wait. But as I started putting together a business selling my art prints, I needed mailing advice. I had no idea about package weights, labels and First Class or Priority, so I kept going in to my post office and asking questions. The same woman was always behind the counter. Her name is Judith. She happily looked up weights. She pointed out when I put the wrong zip code. She basically seemed amused at my bumbling along in a new business. I’ve now changed my tune on the Post Office.FINISH READING >>
I attended a photography retreat in Burgundy. I took lots of notes but I noticed compared to others, I didn’t take a ton of photos. I was thinking ahead to me back home scrolling through hundreds of photos. It felt complicated. So I kept it simple. Just enough to practice my new skills in letting in or keeping out the light. An idea that could be transferred to one’s life. Be the light, we hear. And the reverse, connect with your shadow. That taut line between darkness and light on which we balance. It can be confusing at times. The camera lens has a shutter inside.FINISH READING >>
I went to the beach in June to make a decision. The question, Should I start a business selling my art prints? was simple. But it felt overwhelming because I’d never run a business. Packaging, shipping, staying organized, these thoughts floated like UPS trucks through my brain. I sat on the porch and rocked and contemplated. The rhythmic waves soothed. The breeze calmed my mind. I did research online. I went for a swim. I sat in a beach chair, my tongue tasting the salt on my lips. I wrote down my thoughts. Then one night, I came across a quote.FINISH READING >>
Pay attention—two simple words essential to creative writing.
One definition of “pay” is to “give or bestow.”
The word “attention” derives from the Middle English word “attend” or to apply one’s mind—one’s energies to someone or something.
To me, paying attention means being present with a purpose. It’s active and focused. By paying attention, we engage our five senses and absorb our surroundings. We take from life to create fiction.
As you go through your day, zoom in on small details then write them down (as you in your own individual and unique way) see them.FINISH READING >>
My favorite Coen brothers’ film is Raising Arizona. It’s the story of a soft-hearted, ex-con husband H.I. McDunnough and his infertile wife, Ed, who decide to kidnap a quintuplet in Tempe, Arizona because his real parents already “have more than they can handle.”
It’s full of frantic fun and makes me laugh out loud and the dialogue is the best.
The Coens’ use of eccentric “high hick” diction first starts in Raising Arizona and later becomes a staple in consequent films. It’s an oddball dialect—simple direct language mixed with old fashioned and articulate phrasing.FINISH READING >>
The way Georgia O’Keeffe lived her life inspires me—from her art to her clothing to her home design.
O’Keeffe was born in Wisconsin in 1887. Her family then moved to Virginia. She went on to study art at various schools, but it happened to be one particular art professor at Columbia University in New York who greatly influenced her.
Arthur Wesley Dow had a system of art education, based on frequent themes in Japanese art. He advocated simplifying forms as a means of capturing their essence and developing a personal style.
For creating art,FINISH READING >>
In 1987, I was studying art history at the École du Louvre when I met an older German man named Peter.
Peter was stern, didactic, exacting, prickly and super intellectual. He relished arguing loudly at dinner for the fun of it. Something a young twenty-three-year-old Southern woman wasn’t used to.
He was also a perfect gentleman, and I had zero attraction to him. Thus, the friendship rolled along seamlessly. Even though I don’t remember exactly how we met, I do remember everything we did.
Peter took me to the opera at the Bastille. He gave me a historical book about Rome.FINISH READING >>
The opening line. That ever important first impression. The way to draw the reader into your story. Those previous words were easy to write. But the real thing is not.
Every writer struggles with the first line of his or her novel, because they know that if that first sentence is killer, the reader will most likely read the second one.
Stephen King spends “months and even years” (see this article) writing his opening sentences. When reading other writers’ first lines, King says, “It’s a voice, and an invitation, that’s very difficult for me to refuse.FINISH READING >>
In a few weeks, I want to contact literary agents with my young adult novel. I wrote this post to wrap my mind around how to go about it, and maybe, help other people in the process.
Literary agents help navigate the business side of publishing a novel.
They will negotiate a stronger contract with the publisher than you could manage by yourself. Agents usually take around a 15% commission on the sale of your book.
Start with five or so agents who might be a good fit. Make sure they’ve represented authors with books similar to yours.FINISH READING >>
Some say there are only two plots in the world—a stranger comes to town and someone goes on a journey.
My novel’s plot definitely falls into the latter journey category. So I decided to find out a little more about the Hero’s Journey.
I was familiar with Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero with a Thousand Faces concerning the journey of the archetypal hero in world mythologies and that Campbell made famous the term “monomyth.”
Interestingly enough, I learned that Campbell borrowed the term “monomyth” from James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake.
I then found out that Christopher Vogler had distilled Campbell’s ideas into a book titled The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers.