Posts Tagged ‘writing life’


June 29, 2020

Symbols are powerful tools for artists. In my writing and fiber art I make use of symbols that I hope will at least entertain the reader or viewer. However, not all symbols are mine to use. I try to remember that in my writing, which is why any social equality messages in the Chenille series come through the aliens. Although we have quilters of color in our cast, Ann Anastasio and I decided with our first book that the most important aspect of any of our human characters’ personalities would be that they were quilters. We didn’t want to appropriate symbols from another culture. That isn’t always the case with my fiber art. I use commercially produced fabrics and embellishments. Some of the symbols used in those materials may not mean what I think they mean, much less what I want them to mean. I discovered that the week I posted a picture of Nightmare Catcher for 2020, then read about some of the deeper meaning behind Native American dreamcatchers. I’ve decided the dreamcatcher isn’t my symbol to use, so I’ll make another version of that quilt. It’s a little harder to unwrite an appropriated symbol from a published story, so I’ll probably have some regrets about my work as I discover more about our wonderfully complex world. That’s not the worst thing that could happen to me. Life is about learning from our mistakes, right?

Luck and wisdom!

My Message

June 22, 2020

Jill Lublin spoke at the latest virtual Tri-Valley Writers program with a discussion of publicity – how to use it, how to get it, how to create it. She emphasized that we need to focus on our message a little more than our book(s), because the message will generate interest in people most likely to become our readers.

Like most wonderful advice, there is a huge catch. You first have to identify your message. Sad to say, “My invisible friends yakked at me until I wrote their stories” is not sufficient for your message. Nor is “I had this idea for a cool title and wrote a story to fit it.” Ditto for “Why can’t we have a world where prairie dogs tap dance wearing top hats?”

I guess I’ll spend this summer thinking about who I am and how that can become a message. Perhaps that will encourage me to get back to editing, in hopes I can find something useful in the pages of my novel.

Luck and wisdom!

Color Lives

June 15, 2020

Over a year ago I learned about the book The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St. Clair. “Self,” I said, “this sounds interesting. You should get it.” Then life got in the way. I didn’t order the book until recently.

Oh, what a treat I have been missing.

The book is delightful, and I know would have informed a lot of my writing if I had bought it earlier. Kassia St. Clair tells stories about colors – their history, their myths and legends, their technical journeys. She also tells about our changing perception of color. She wonders what future readers will imagine when they see the words “avocado green” in a story written by, in, or about mid-century modern times. As one who lived in many an apartment that desperately needed updating, I see a battered stove with matching refrigerator (not always working properly) when I think of avocado green. The color also evokes the smell of an old Army blanket in the back of a station wagon after a family picnic.

If you need to add more sensory detail to your stories, get yourself a copy of The Secret Lives of Color. Read it as you would a treasured anthology, savoring each color described. Within a few pages, you might just find new inspiration.

Luck and wisdom!

Lessons for Novelists from COVID-19: Character Development

June 1, 2020

Every day I read the the charts of how coronavirus is spreading. The numbers go up, down, and sideways, and I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever get a good idea of what is happening. This morning I realized I can take this as a lesson for my characters. No matter what I think they ought to do, until I put them in a scene I won’t know what they actually will do. A novelist can learn a lot from scientists, who carefully plan experiments, then evaluate the results not to prove what they already think but to get an idea of how far off base they might be. The joy is in connecting the dots from what they see to what they thought to what they can demonstrate might be a good representation of reality. The next time my critique buddies tell me they don’t think my heroine is acting in character, I’ll try writing a few more scenes and see for myself. After all, isn’t it wonderful to read your story and finally exclaim, “Aha! That’s who she is.”

Luck and wisdom!

Thanks to the Helpers and Heroes

May 25, 2020

My computer crashed yesterday. It’s not the Cuban Missile Crisis, but as I was waiting for my husband to fix things, I was reminded that on this Memorial Day I owe a lot to many people. To those who put on uniforms to protect us here and abroad – thank you. To the families of those who mourn the ones who never came back – I’m sorry, and also grateful. To those who keep the electricity running, the water flowing, the grocery stores stocked and open, the food chain intact – bless you. To those who take my recycling, green waste, and trash so my city stays livable – thank you. To everyone who has ever given me the benefit of the doubt, a eye roll instead of an eye punch – I’m sorry, and also grateful. To those who have by their words and deeds been an inspiration for good – bless you.

Luck and wisdom!

Spider Road Press Flash Fiction Contest

May 18, 2020

To say I let my writing routine go would be a gross understatement. That routine died and went to heaven, where it is sitting on a cloud, sighing over all the stories I have not committed to paper. That is why the latest Spider Road Press Flash Fiction Contest may be my last, best hope. In 750 words or less, I can create the strong female character who is supposed to be me, the one who actually writes her stories. The deadline is June 1. If you have a character itching to be written, consider entering the contest yourself. Perhaps we could form our own support group?

Luck and wisdom!

Are Clipboards The New Tote Bag?

May 11, 2020

I’ve been involved in several virtual meetings now, and I’ve discovered a few things. First, even for a technophobe virtual meetings are a reasonable solution when you can’t meet face to face. Second, good agendas are more important in virtual meetings than physical ones. If possible, write a script. Let the professionals wing it if they dare. Third, there is as much stuff to bring to virtual meetings as there is to physical ones.

Which brings me to clipboards. In the past I have prepared for meetings by cramming papers, notes, and other items into a designated tote bag. These days, I arrange the papers and notes in the order they appear on the agenda before I join my meeting and snap everything together on a clipboard. If I need any other items, I arrange them next to me on the floor.

I’ve been making do with the two clipboards I own, but there’s a little voice inside my head that’s telling me life would be much better if I had a dedicated clipboard for each committee. This is a dangerous and expensive voice. It sings too sweetly, and online shopping is almost as much fun as real shopping. Maybe if I flatten some of the tote bags I’m not using now and squish them as much as I can, there’s room on the shelf for one or two more clipboards . . .

Luck and wisdom!

Serenity R Not Us

May 4, 2020

One thing the pandemic has taught me is that I am not cut out for meditation. We’re talking epic fail here. I’ve read all the advice about quieting the monkey brain, and all I can say is monkeys wish they had my brain. It’s like spending the day with a three year-old. “How many breaths did I take? Did I exhale as long as I inhaled? Can I exhale longer? How gold is the golden thread of energy reaching down for me? Is the earth energy brown or green? Look, a squirrel! No, wait, I’m the squirrel!” You don’t even want to know what it sounds like when my characters join in, begging me to write down that last thought because they want it, then arguing about who will get the line. I thought my tinnitus would be the main obstacle to achieving a state of serenity, but it’s not even close. The voices of my characters, my inner critic, my inner muse, and my inner toddler totally drown out the ringing in my ears – and just about everything else as well.

May the 4th be with you!

When Life Changes

April 27, 2020

These magazines went into production about the same time that COVID-19 was noticed in the U.S. There are some fabulous articles in all of them (including one in Smithsonian about George Harrison visiting his sister in southern Illinois before anyone here had heard about the Beatles – who knew?!), but reading them felt like visiting another world. I have been so consumed with news of the pandemic that I can persuade myself life was always like this. Of course it wasn’t, and I hope I can remember this feeling when I finally get back to my novel. Even the gentlest of stories has to put the protagonist in a situation unlike any other the character has faced. Bringing the story arc to the new normal let’s the reader see how the protagonist changes, learns, and grows. Having a happy ending may be satisfying, but acknowledging what was lost when life changes can add wonderful depth to your story. P.D. James did this in her mysteries, because even if the murderer goes to jail, someone is dead and the rest of the characters have to adapt. If I’m very careful, I will be able to use this understanding of how quickly the world can be upended to make my characters more nuanced, more real.

Luck and wisdom!

Impulse Buy = Camera Stand = Vindication

April 20, 2020

The laptop in the room I use for videoconferencing doesn’t have a camera, so we bought one. It has a little clip that can attach to the top of the screen, which is supposed to be sufficient. It isn’t. No matter where I clip it or how I angle the lid the little monster is always looking straight up my nose. Six weeks ago I would have dashed off to the computer or office supply store for a camera stand. Today, I rummaged through my many collections and found this miniature tree with bendable branches. I bought it to display Easter Eggs, but it works just fine for the camera. I can easily adjust the angle, and move it to keep my background view uncluttered while still having the laptop near enough to use. And I feel vindicated for one more impulse buy lo these many years ago.

Luck and wisdom!