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Aimee: Messyville

[Editor's note: Aimee Dolich of Artsyville is an irresistible artist and a lovely person. Aimee has agreed to have several posts from her archives re-posted here. Enjoy! I look forward to sharing more of Aimee on these pages in future.]

Crossposted from Artsyville

there is a danger in daring to doodle during the day when a toddler is on the prowl, as you can see in this five minute wrath of a two year old. and i don’t even have the heart to show you the toothpaste wrath of a six year old. imagine an entire tube of sculptures on the light fixtures, the wall, the bathtub, the floor; bathroom shelves adorned with crisp stripes, sink knobs thoughtfully painted, the basin a sea of blue. what’s that you say? this and this? OK… i’ll try… but alas, i think daylight creating is out of the question for the moment. back to moonlighting for a while ;)

Brittany: Unkeeping a Journal

Crossposted from my personal blog.

I’m the sort of writer whose ideas are in a constant state of percolation. I’ll be driving my mini-van, listening to the Wiggles, answering a constant stream of “whys” from the backseat, and all of a sudden a snippet of conversation will pop into my head, where it will sit until I’m in the grocery store, and I imagine a dialogue around that snippet of conversation, where it will sit until I’m in the middle of a debate with Tom about what to have for dinner, when the setting for the dialogue with the snippet of conversation will pop into my head. Then I’ll let it percolate some more while I work out all the sensory details and plot points. And then, when everything finally starts to come together in my own mind, I *try* to write it all down.

It’s not the most effective means of novel writing. Invariably, I lose my momentum halfway through and end up wracking my brain trying to remember what I’d been stewing over.

In this month’s Writer’s Digest, there’s an article that caught my attention about “unkeeping” a journal, and using it as a repository for all those snippets that fall into your head and end up lost to time. Since there are no rules, because technically, you aren’t *keeping* a journal, you can use it to play around with your writing, brainstorm out loud, and amuse yourself by transcribing the conversations around you, funny things children say, and any interesting stories that interest you. All excellent ideas.

Some of the suggestions didn’t really appeal to me. I’m not going to interview myself, pretending I’m a bestselling author, for example. And I don’t see the point in brainstorming titles for a children’s book about two dogs. But a couple of pages into the article, one of the suggestions really caught my eye.

It’s an exercise called Outrunning the Critic. What you’re supposed to do is write 100 short sentences about a character, central concept, or scene in a story, and write those sentences without lifting your pen from the paper. I read that and went, “Huh. I should try that.”

I had a scene percolating in my head — a very pivotal, very long scene that I didn’t want to start yet. It was just too daunting. It takes place at a square dance and it had already taken three hours of watching square dance and clogging videos on You Tube to get the first page of the scene started. But the boys were playing trains in the playroom, and they wanted me in there with them, so I grabbed my new journal, numbered the lines from 1 to 100 and jotted down thoughts as they came to me.

Even though there were times that John was leaping on me and literally swinging off my pen-wielding arm (in danger of getting his little eyes stabbed out, by the way, which I suppose is an occupational hazard when your mother is a novelist) I got my 100 short sentences written in pretty short order. It was surprising to see how truly fleshed out that portion of the chapter already was in my head, and how little I really needed to fill in.

Since I don’t like to “write” until the scene is complete in my head, but 100 sentences feels like a substantial amount of ideas for getting started, I was able to subvert that part of myself that says “Sorry. Not enough here to write it down.” The best part is, in transcribing those 100 sentences into the body of my text, I see it is a hugely substantial piece of writing after all. It didn’t feel like I was making progress because it was too easy, but even so, I was.

This is definitely a technique I’ll try again (there’s a lot of scene left to write, and I still dread writing it).

[Photo courtesy the8rgrl]

Debra Bellon: Star

Debra Bellon’s ongoing poetry blog, No Haikus, is a treat. Excellent way to re-fill your own well. Here is a recent gem:

Star

Another long mile. You breathe;
the air is full of dust, the moon
achingly round.
All the words that once seemed important
are now gone, like the bitter
November leaves.
You yearn for the faraway light
of the nameless star
flickering in the dark sky,
both inviting
and devastatingly vast

Thanks for permission to re-post at Studio Mothers, Debra. More, more, more!

Creative Haven: Purple Cottage Retreats

If you’ve been hanging around at Studio Mothers for a while, you’re already familiar with Kelly Warren. Kelly is an inspiration, living life to the fullest with her twin daughters and husband, a fulltime job, and a busy creative life as a jewelery designer, photographer, collage artist, guitarist, singer, and active blogger. Read the Studio Mothers Breakfast interview with Kelly for details — and a guaranteed smile.

As further evidence that Kelly’s creative mojo just can’t be contained, she recently took a big step toward realizing another creative dream and launched a new venture, The Purple Cottage. The Purple Cottage offers unique creative retreats in Jacksonville, FL. The first retreat will take place May 21-23, 2010, featuring the talented Carmen Torbus — who joined us for a memorable Breakfast interview of her own. Carmen is a empowering and inspiring teacher, in addition to being a talented artist. Have a peek at Carmen’s work for yourself.

From The Purple Cottage website:

Spend the weekend constructing your personal Dream Book. Explore a mixed assortment of techniques, exercises, prompts and methods to uniquely express your thoughts, emotions and individual artistic style. Cultivate your wildest creative dreams and tuck them neatly into your Dream Book to cherish, reflect upon and nourish your soul.

Enjoy a supportive atmosphere where you can give your muse the complete freedom to play and experiment with many techniques. My demos will use paint, papers, photos, ink, collage and other media. I will toss some exercises your way to challenge you to dream bigger and expand your vision. We’ll explore words and text to create personal affirmations and find creative ways to incorporate them in our Dream Books.

At this retreat you are free to make a mess, play and let go of the need for perfection. I will gently and playfully encourage you to let loose and fully engage in the moment — creating simply for the joy of the process. Enjoy sheer artful indulgence!

Throughout the weekend, we’ll use brushes, pencils, our fingers, stamps, crayons and other tools to create texture and add color to the pages that will fill your Dream Books. We will work on several pages simultaneously, giving you complete freedom to work intuitively. Savor absolute creative abandon!

Art and Dreams ButtonIt’s hard to overestimate just how much creative excitement, learning, sharing, growing, bonding, and exploring will happen at this retreat. It sounds like a dream come true, doesn’t it? I’m still trying to figure out if I can attend this retreat myself. If I lived within a 6-hour drive of Jacksonville, it would be a no-brainer. I’m not sure my husband is still reading my blog these days, but Honey, if you are……

Brittany: What Did You Do Today?

Crossposted from my personal blog.

“What did you do today?” It’s never a good idea to ask this of a stay-at-home mom and expect to be told anything exciting as a result.

One of my single (and childless) friends asked me this very question today, and I was embarrassed to admit that so far, my morning had consisted of getting Sam to preschool, then taking John with me to Target to buy him some training pants.

I left out the part about waking up to Ice Age: The Meltdown, making toaster waffles for breakfast, negotiating with Sam about which shoes to wear to school, and refereeing a squabble over how many Froot Loops Sam should share with John and who would get to hold the cup of Froot Loops after Sam exited the car.

That was my morning in a nutshell. Heady stuff there…

And yet, when I got home, and after I put John to bed and dumped his new training pants in the wash (to hopefully shrink them — Baby Boy is only in the 6th percentile for weight), my life got interesting because once again, I felt a compulsion to write and my brain was almost instantly transported up to Bear Wallow.

Now I’m a novelist, with interesting things to talk about.

Like, for example, this new method of writing. I haven’t even once sat down at the computer and tried to bang out a chronological story. In fact, I rarely sit down at the computer at all. Mostly, scenes have been popping into my head and I’ll write down whatever comes to mind in my notebook while I sit with the boys in the playroom.

Then, during their naps, I’ll slip downstairs to the computer and type out what I’ve already written freehand. I had so many snippets that I began to put them in chronological order. Then, out of nowhere, I had a fully fleshed out beginning, middle, and end. So whenever I get a new scene, I stick it in the appropriate chronology, and move on.

Yesterday during the boys’ afternoon nap, I typed out my ending. Then after they woke up, while they were playing, I wrote a scene that became the catalyst for the ending.

And when I want to write, and I’m stuck, I just number my page from 1-100 and jot ideas down. Sometimes they go together (they usually do), but sometimes it’s a thought pertaining to something I’ve already written. And then I go add all of that to the body of the novel. And the book is slowly coming together.

This is quite possibly the craziest writing experience I’ve ever had. This is not what writing is supposed to feel like. This is not how writing is supposed to me done. I don’t feel like I’m in the driver’s seat with this one at all. And now I’ve got this niggling voice in the back of my head (my Muse, most likely) saying absolutely insane things like “When you’re done writing this one, you’ll have to go back and re-write Home Improvement the same way.”

The Soul’s Re-education – Whose writing do you love?

I will never be a literary critic. I say Wow. I say Yes. I feel a resonance inside, a plucked guitar string, light shifting, I find myself holding my breath. I feel a flicker of an idea, consciousness swirling, a pulse of feeling, a glimpse of memory that sets me ready to try to say…..something, something that might in turn touch and inspire others or provide them with a reflection of their emotions, or show them a new way of looking at the world.

Who are the writers that refill the well for you?

The last decade for me has been a decade of what I call ‘mud’. Not in a negative sense but in a hands-on, practical, prosaic, down in the thick of things kind of way. I have given birth to and raised four children with all the nappies and puree and wiping down and tidying up and cajoling and physical helping and emotional steering that that entailed. Something has to give, sometimes its ‘air’, what’s up there, the things that take us out of ourselves, music, words, exercise, theatre, new places, silence. The children are older now, the tiny baby stage has passed. I am about to start a new decade in age too. I want to begin to refuel in all the other things that I haven’t been able to get to. I still have the physical, the hugs, the squeaky noses, the lifting, the holding, the toddler insisting he can only be happy lying cheek to cheek with me but I want the breath as well, a little bit more than before.

This means catching up on old music videos I have never seen, bands that I hear fleetingly in the car between pickups but never hear the name of. It means, perhaps DVD box sets or catching re-runs of shows I missed like Madmen, The Mighty Boosh, The West Wing. It means getting to more music shows, more theatre, more galleries. (Even if its only 1 more!). And it means books and authors.

These are the books currently on my bedside table or in a tall pile beside it.

They are by writers who were recommended to me by others or are people that I have enjoyed in the past and want to continue to become more familiar with their work. In particular since I have begun to write so many short stories I have also become a voracious reader of short story collections.

  • Hanif Kureshami: The Body (Already in awe!)
  • J.G. Ballard: Kingdom Come
  • A.S Byatt: Possession
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Love in the Time of Cholera
  • Nabokov: Collected stories (His work is a wonderful revelation!)
  • Jeannette Winterson: The Stone Gods
  • Annie Proulx: Brokeback Mountain and Other Stories
  • Adam Foulds The Quickening Maze
  • Virginia Woolf: The Waves, To the Lighthouse
  • John Steinbeck: The Pearl, Sweet Thursday, The Wayward Bus
  • Ivy Bannister: The Magician (short stories)
  • Paul Durkan: Life is a Dream: 40 Years Reading Poems 1967-2007
  • Sylvia Plath’s: Collected Poems

These are books I have enjoyed most in the past few years and highly recommend.

  • What was Lost: Catherine O’Flynn
  • The Accidental and Hotel World: Ali Smith
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude: Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • To a God Unknown, Grapes of Wrath: John Steinbeck
  • The Gathering: Anne Enright
  • Postcards, The Shipping News: Annie Proulx
  • Map of Glass: Jane Urquart
  • The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen (An event of a book, great illustrations, notes in the margins. Beautiful to hold.)

Short Stories

  • How to Breathe Underwater: Julie Orringer
  • Constitutional: Helen Simpson
  • Lorrie Moore: The Collected Stories
  • A.S. Byatt: Little Black Book of Stories

I also hope to become acquainted with the stories of Raymond Carver and to read the first two available stories from The Chaos Walking Trilogy (teen fiction) by Patrick Ness The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and the Answer.

Help me with my re-education, my filling up of the soul and the well of inspiration.

Who are your favourite authors? What are your favourite books? Do you have any recommendations for us of authors we should become acquainted with? Are you an author we should become acquainted with? Add in your favourite band and TV show too. Please leave your comments and hopefully we can share some gems.

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