Michaeline: DIY Art

A baby looking into the mirror, much like a famous picture of Alice kneeling on the mantlepiece looking into Wonderland.

Everyone is an artist of some kind. Art is definitely something you should try at home, kids! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

All of us blogging here are DIY artists. We write, therefore we are. I suspect a great many of our readers also recognize themselves as creators. Last week, I talked a little bit about how all of us are creating art in our daily lives – whether it be expanding bread and water into herbal iced tea and pretty crackers with cheese and cucumber slices, or taking sackcloth and sandals up a notch to a sundress with really cute sandals. Or maybe you are taking some basic fictional elements, adding a few nuggets from the news or history, and coming up with your very own, do-it-yourself story, specially tailored to fit your tastes.

Jeanne in the comments last week linked to a very interesting piece from The Atlantic about bucket list art exhibits.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/07/yayoi-kusamas-existential-circus/528669/

The biggest thing that struck me after reading the article was how so many of these experiences sound like something we could re-create ourselves, should we wish to go through the time and effort. The article talks about an art installation where Rirkrit Tiravanija made Thai curry at a Chelsea gallery . . . and the Museum of Modern Art. (From the MoMA blog.) https://www.moma.org/explore/inside_out/2012/02/03/rirkrit-tiravanija-cooking-up-an-art-experience/ I once missed the chance to watch a man make curry for Lois McMaster Bujold. This man does this in different venues, and while I don’t think he’d call it art, it sounds like it could be.

Yayoi Kusama’s mirrors remind me of childhood dressing rooms with three mirrors providing a glimpse into infinity. An infinity of grey carpet and slightly soiled beige walls, but there I was, right in the middle, multiplied over and over again. It wasn’t as beautiful as Kusama’s work, but it left a vivid memory.

A woodcut from 1857 showing Tanabata willows covered with wishing strips and summer decorations. A light wind is blowing and making them flutter above the rooftops.

The wishing trees of Tanabata are a very old tradition in Japan, and as you can see, they make striking art that also is suitable for other artists to recreate. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Yoko Ono’s Wish Trees are very much like the Tanabata wishing trees of the summer season in Japan. The difference is that people don’t fold up their papers like they might for Ono’s Wish Tree, but write their wish on a piece of thick paper, and hang it up on the bamboo or willow branch for the world to see. I’ve done this many times, and it’s so interesting to see the elementary scrawl of school children wishing for games and toys, or sometimes good grades and once in a while, something even more poignant. Peace for the soul of a family dog, or Continue reading

Michaeline: Imposter

A countess in a cape hiding behind a piece of cardboard that only shows her eye.

Worried about others seeing the faker? Be too fast to take that test, and just do what makes you happy. Trust in the creative process, not the outside censors and judgers. (Image via Wikimedia Commons, some words by David Bowie)

I am a writer who isn’t writing.

Does this make me an imposter? Well, yes. A writer writes.

But on the other hand, is writing a little bit like being a genius? As Lois McMaster Bujold has her character Professor Vorthys say, “All the geniuses I ever met were so just part of the time. To qualify, you only have to be great once, you know. Once when it matters.” Having written, I’m a writer.

That’s not a very satisfying answer, though. It smacks of self-justification and resting on my laurels (which are rather small and unpublished). What am I doing in my free time that prevents me from being a writer on a more regular basis?

I’m a YouTube viewer and a ukulele player.

I have to admit, being a YouTube viewer is highly unsatisfying. It’s often very fun in the moment, but I don’t retain much. And it is such a lottery – for every five minutes of information and education, I get at least five minutes of utter pointlessness that looks like it is going somewhere, but winds up nowhere. I like YouTube, and I’m going to keep watching it. But do I want it down there in my obituary: “She watched a lot of YouTube”? No. I do not.

Being a ukulele player, on the other hand, feeds my heart. I’m going to admit to you that on a shallow level, it’s the kind of geeky cool that I’ve always aspired to be. I practice several times a week, and I can see my progression as a player. This week, my call to practice is, “Hey, I’m getting better at that Bb chord!” I like the challenge of getting to a goal – and I can see the goalposts. I can envision Continue reading

Michaeline: Crazy stories

Now here’s an example of structure combined with crazy — leading to an incredible body in motion. Strandbeest by Michael Frey, image via Wikimedia

We love structure and craft here on Eight Ladies – combined, we’ve spent thousands of hours on classes, and maybe tens of thousands reading about how to write, and listening to podcasts. Structure is important, and it makes a book great.

But . . . it’s not the only tool in the toolbox. There’s that big, blasted sword of Crazy that only shows up in this dimension when it wants to, and can disappear nearly as fast. It’s also only visible to certain readers, so whoever wishes to wield the sword of Crazy had better have a thick skin or numb ears: a lot of people are going to be telling the wielder that s/he is . . . well, crazy.

Crazy sometimes carries the day, though. I love Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series – adored them as a teen and imprinted on them, and even read them as an adult and still loved them!

Adams had a gift for funny ideas, and was skilled at winding them up and letting them run into each other at full speed. Structure was more hit and miss – he was more like a jerry-rigger than an architect of literature. The Hitchhiker’s Guide has not just one, but multiple prologues. The climaxes seem to come regularly, but not in any particular order. And the dangling threads? Well, apparently that’s why this trilogy needed four sequels instead of the usual two.

Still – look at Adams’ impact on culture. Anyone in the English-speaking world who has Continue reading

Jilly: The Joy of Podcasts

Are you a fan of podcasts? I’m a recent convert, and I’m wondering what took me so long.

Some of my friends are dedicated podcast followers, though with interests very different to mine. I enjoy chatting with them about their favorites, but I never thought to seek out shows that might align with my own interests, because I couldn’t think of a natural place in my routine to listen to them.

The obvious time would be during a regular journey such as a school run or commute, but I don’t have either of those. My commute is from my bed to the sofa, with a detour to the kitchen for coffee 🙂 . I have my groceries delivered and though I have a car, I rarely drive it more than once or twice per month. I’m not a gym bunny either. If the weather is nice I like to walk around my neighborhood or to the local shops, but I use that time to listen to my playlist and think about my WIP.

I don’t Continue reading

Jilly: Which Story Would You Tell?

“Where do you get your ideas?” is supposedly the question most asked of successful authors.

I collect and hoard story starters from here, there and everywhere (Alexis grew from the juxtaposition of two fascinating anecdotes shared by my hairdresser), but my all-time favorite source is the BBC website.

Most weeks I stumble across something weird or wonderful that makes my brain fizz. I bookmark them in a folder called ‘story stuff’ and forget about them until I’m looking for ideas or inspiration or just something a little different to get the wheels turning.

I had one of those days today, so I took a stroll through my story stuff file. There are more than a hundred nuggets in there, but here are a trio of good ones.

A sci-fi classic: Continue reading

Jilly: Powerful Shots of Story

Michaeline’s post yesterday (Story Bites for When You Just Can’t) was exactly what I needed. I’m tantalizingly close to the end of my draft, and I know what I need to do, but this last handful of scenes is driving me bananas.

I’m not the fastest writer, but once I’ve figured out what’s supposed to happen in a scene, I can normally nail a decent draft in a day or two. Right now, each one is taking me a week or more: write, delete, rinse and repeat.

My problem is that all the key players are coming together and the stakes are high. In my head the scenes are great, but capturing that intensity on the page is hard. My lack of progress has been making me very cranky indeed, so I thought I’d take Micki’s advice and see if approaching the problem from a different angle would boost my spirits and improve my productivity.

I already have a playlist and a collage for Alexis, so I decided to try something different and write a haiku for each main character at this critical stage of the story.

I’m no expert on haiku, but what I know is this: they should be three lines long, comprising seventeen syllables in a five-seven-five pattern. And ideally they should provide an insight by juxtaposing two contrasting—or conflicting—ideas.

That sounds like the perfect structure for a brief story shot that aims to capture the essence of the character and their conflict.

I’m pleased to report that Continue reading

Michaeline: Story Bites for When You Just Can’t

There are a lot of excuses and reasons for not writing, and let’s face it: they are boring, often similar, and people will try and talk you out of them. You know your own business best, and if you say you can’t write today, I believe you. Some days are like that. Hell, some years are like that.

But, if you have a story that you are feeling guilty about, there are little things you can do that don’t take up much time at all – things that will help you feel better, and may even provide some of that spark and energy you need to find the time to write the rest.

If you’ve got five minutes . . . . (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

If you have five minutes:
Find a song, listen to it, and decide to add it to your playlist (or not). Either way, you are thinking about your story and the basic building blocks that define it. We’ve talked about playlists on this blog before. Nancy: A Little Mood Music (March 16, 2015) and Jilly: Building a Playlist (March 6, 2016)
Find a picture for your picture file. You may want to set a timer for this so you don’t drop down some Google Image Rabbit Hole. My heroine, Bunny Blavatsky, mostly sprang from a picture search, and you can find some sketches and flash fiction about her and her world right here on this blog. Michaeline: Bunny Blavatsky Arrives in New York (December 26, 2015)

Continue reading