Elizabeth: Ch-ch-changes

Apologies for the delay in today’s post, but the Girls in the Basement made a rare appearance last evening and I didn’t have the heart to tell them to go away because I was too busy.

The reason for the arrival of the Girls requires a little background.

Years ago, when my son was just a toddler, I saw a picture in some magazine of a child-sized gazebo.  I thought it was adorable and would provide the perfect amount of shade for a backyard sandbox or maybe a wading pool.

In the typical way of things, however, I lost the magazine.  A Google search did not turn up any simple building instructions, so I reached out to a guaranteed source for help – my dad, who I grew up believing could build anything (he could).

He said he’d look through his woodworking books for some plans.  Life went on and I didn’t hear anything for a while, but then one day he turned up with a piece of wood, which turned out to be a carved finial for the top of my yet-non-existent gazebo.  Over the following weeks, additional pieces arrived until one Saturday afternoon, with the “help” of my son and his little Fisher-Price tools, a child-sized gazebo came to life in the backyard.

It was, indeed, adorable. Continue reading

Nancy: Creativity Is Hard Work

Me, every writing day. Often, I am pushing the same damn boulder I’ve been pushing for weeks or months.

Last week, I had a conversation with a very creative person in a field other than writing. (Yes, it turns out there are creatives in the world who are not writers! I, too, was surprised.) We were discussing “living the dream.” Which is, apparently, what I, as a full-time writer, am doing. My creative friend, still working the day job, is not. And he had thoughts about that.

Actually, he has dreams of his own, which are wonderful things! He also has some misconceptions about what my day-to-day life of dream-living entails.

For those of you who have not met me IRL, I should explain that I have no poker face. Ergo, I could not hide my shock, dismay, and perhaps even amusement at his idea of my life. And while I have my own dreams of spending my writing days frolicking with unicorns and sliding down rainbows while the Best Story Ever Written magically appears on my computer screen, I’ve only had two, maybe three days tops, when unicorns have appeared. And those might or might not have involved whisky. That is to say, this dream gig is hard. Continue reading

Nancy: On Book Clubs, Best-Selling Fiction, and Career Advice You Might Need to Ignore

Over the past 10 or so years, I’ve tried to get on the book club train three different times. Each time, I left the group after only one meeting. That choice wasn’t because I took issue with the people (they are readers, and therefore inherently lovely😊), their passion for the books, or even the wine. It was because I, as a writer, read so differently than non-writers that I was looking for things in a book discussion that the other members wouldn’t find interesting. Ergo, I had nothing to bring to the book club party (other than the wine, which is important! but not really the point).

The real problem I and many other writers have in joining book clubs is that we’re not looking for book discussions at all. We’re looking for book dissections. Writing craft deep-dives. Story geek deconstructions.

That’s why I’m so glad I agreed to join an online book club with one of my writing tribes. We are all long-time writers, with multiple years and manuscripts-worth of experience. Most of us either are or are in training to become book coaches who work with other writers on a regular and ongoing basis. That training has given us a common language and shared tools we use to evaluate writing. Last week, we had a one-hour online video chat to discuss our first group book, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Our discussion was wonky and geeky and made my little writer heart sing with joy.

Interestingly, though, when I found myself thinking about the book and our discussion in the days that followed, it was usually in the context of current writing career advice and “truths”, how Delia Owens ignored (intentionally or otherwise) much of it, and how none of it is applicable if it isn’t relevant to you and your process. Continue reading

Kay: Altered Books, Altered State of Mind

Most of us who come to this site are readers. We get a lot from books, starting with pleasure and comfort and ranging to education and creative stimulation.

I recently went with an artist friend to a juried exhibit of altered books. The artists had taken books as a starting point and cut them apart! Glued them down! Stitched them up! They created a whole different set of artistic variables with the texts and covers to view the book elements in new ways, and I think, to investigate reading and the value of books.

I loved some of the pieces. One of my favorites was a wholly new creation—a wooden, hinged “book cover” encasing pages showing a series of graphics all done in the same color scheme, of a figure leaping a mountain in joy. There was a tree made with the fanned, sculpted pages of a book. Also a giant bug made of sculpted book pages with human legs. There was a rather unimaginative (in my view) framed sequence of Harlequin covers, one from each decade. There was a way-too-large stack of annotated titles, an homage to banned books, and another about piece about resistance that had thorned rods running through the pages. There were one or two pieces that I thought were a waste of a perfectly good book.

(I apologize for the quality of these images: they’re enlarged screen grabs from YouTube, because I forgot my camera.)

It was fun to see the exhibit with an artist and to get her take on the objects. And it was fun for me to see how an artist had interpreted, and altered, books like Mother Goose and Naked Lunch. (Here’s a link to a one-minute video showcasing the exhibit.)

Did it stimulate my thinking? Absolutely. Did it stimulate my creativity? Well, better ask me later, when I get that WIP finished.

What about you? Have you guys seen any exhibits lately that made you think about your writing life?

Jeanne: Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

On Friday, after 46+ years working in the same building (two different employers, multiple different jobs and all three shifts) my husband retired.

I’m excited for him. When I quit my job two years ago, I discovered that I LOVE it. Although I’ve always been a fairly achievement-oriented person, it turns out I’m happy as a clam having my days to call my own. Hubs is much more mellow to start with, so I predict he will luxuriate in not having to get up at five a.m. to go into work.

On the other hand, it will mean some changes. Less income, of course, and new health insurance, courtesy of the U.S. government (in return for a reasonable monthly payment). Continue reading

Nancy: Book Festivals

 

The writer, when allowed out of her cave for short periods of time, will tend to congregate with other writers.

As summer approaches, even I–hardcore, sun-avoidant introvert that I am–will venture out on occasional weekend forays. On Sunday, I attended a fabulous gathering of a small group of Women’s Fiction writers. A few of the ladies had attended the Gaithersburg Book Festival on Saturday, which was on my to-do wishlist. Alas, I had scheduling conflicts so had to give up on attending this year, but I hope to plan better next year.

So what did I miss? Turns out, quite a bit. Book signing. Author panels. Writing workshops. Chances to meet readers, other writers, and book lovers of all stripes. A chance to wander around in the sunshine and soak up all things literary. And it’s all free, even the workshops. Really, the only experience I can think of that’s nearly as good as sitting in the stacks of a gorgeous library on a rainy day is wandering around in a park full of books on a sunny afternoon. Continue reading

Nancy: Post-Book Blues

A few weeks ago, I finished the complete draft of my Victorian romance that will come out this fall. It’s a bit more than a first draft, having already been through first-round revisions along the way, but it was “the end for now,” and my coach asked me what I was doing to celebrate. Around the same time, I was answering a series of interview questions, and one of them was, “How do you celebrate when you finish writing a book?”

I didn’t have an answer for either of them.

The truth is, I don’t celebrate the end of a stage of the creative process so much as mourn it. And curling up in a blanket on the sofa, rewatching episodes of Dead to Me and Santa Clarita Diet, staring at the pile of TBR books I’ve been so anxious to read but now don’t have the energy to tackle, probably isn’t the answer they want to hear.

Taking Comfort in Community

As it turns out, the post-creativity slump isn’t all that unusual. When interviewed for an article on the Fast Company website, film writer/director Jeffery Lando talked about having post-movie depression. He captured one of the elements of my own creative journey. Continue reading