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Posts from the ‘Miranda’ Category

Poetry in Pandemia: Liz Pike

Approximately 84 years ago—back in January 2018—we introduced you to writer Elisabeth Pike. Since then, Liz welcomed a fourth child and launched a new creative initiative, Voice at the Window: 100 Gratitude Poems Written During Lockdown, which we’re glad to share with you today!

Liz Pike lives in Shropshire with her husband and four young children. She writes short stories, fiction, and poetry. Her work has been published in the GuardianThird Way, and Fractured West, among others. She creates hand-lettered giclee prints of her poems as well as commissioned work. Liz also teaches creative writing to children. She previously worked as a bookseller and librarian and earned a master’s in creative writing from Goldsmiths University, London. She likes long train journeys, old photographs, and earl grey tea.

“These are all common miracles, moments of the extraordinary within the everyday”

Tell us about your new project!

In February, while we were still in the dregs of winter, I was feeling low and decided to post one gratitude poem each day instead of scrolling on social media. I found that it really helped me to look for the good in each day even when it had been hard. The project was originally intended to be for lent, but as I received such a good response to my poems, I kept going until I reached 100. I am now launching a Kickstarter campaign to get the collection of 100 gratitude poems into print.

Where did the title come from?

I played around a bit with it, but in the end, I just felt that every time I stood at my window looking out, I was with everyone else in the country and they were all with me at the same time. There we were, the entire country, isolated, and shut away in our tiny boxes. Some were lonely, some were crammed in with no garden. Some were full of anxiety, some grieving. But that image of being at the window, looking out, seemed to sum up the whole of lockdown for me. So, the voice at the window is me, but it is also all of us.

What was your experience of lockdown?

Well, it was busy! I have three primary school aged children and a one-year-old. Thankfully my husband was working from home too so we were able to tag team with home schooling and getting on with our own work. We also moved house right at the beginning of lockdown. So, although we were isolated, we were certainly never bored!

What are your hopes for this collection?

I hope that people will consider supporting my Kickstarter, and I hope that as this project goes a little more public, that people will read the poems and see them as representative of themselves too. And maybe the book will inspire a few people to notice and be thankful for those small moments of joy; a cup of tea in peace, listening to the birds sing, watching the sky melt into an inky blue. These are all common miracles, moments of the extraordinary within the every day. As I wrote the poems, I was aware that they were extremely personal, but also, somehow universal, as we have all journeyed through this strange time, alone but together.

You can connect with Liz at facebook, instagram, and tumblr, and support her Kickstarter here.

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Superheroes at Home

LiseQuintanaLise Quintana, a rather fabulous and erudite friend of this blog, created a series of homeschooling prompts for movie-loving students that are compelling additions to your quarantine arsenal. Admittedly, reading these delicious morsels will make you wish you were friends with Lise too, but we can’t have everything.

Language Arts
Explore the concept of the Mary Sue in Captain Marvel, and contrast with the Larry Stu of Iron Man.

Social Studies
Discuss Iron Man 3‘s commentary on the notion that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Contrast it with any of the Captain America films.

Physics
Calculate the amount of thrust the Hulk needs to employ in order to push himself 250 feet into the air to pound Thor into a paste. The Hulk weighs 1200 pounds, and Sakar’s gravity is assumed to be equal to Earth’s.

Geography
Outline on a map of Africa a possible location for Wakanda. It must be in eastern Africa, contain mountains, one major river, and plains. It cannot contain a major city of any existing African country, and must be 185,000 square miles in size.

P.E.
Follow the training scenes in Captain America before Steve Rogers becomes Captain America. It just include running with a loaded pack, pushups, army crawl under obstacles, wall climbing, and climbing a flagpole.

Math
If each major character (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Star Lord) has 3 films, 1 spinoff film, and 3 films with a group of at least 3 other characters, how many possible Marvel films could be made?

Want to know more about the brains behind these prompts? Lise is pretty much all over the interwebs, but here’s a good place to start

 

For your parenting survival toolkit

kids + quarantine = omg

Of the many creative responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, the collective efforts of the children’s literature world are rising to the top. Wondermore, a Boston-based literacy organization, is curating an ongoing list of reading and book-related resources for parents, educators, and students across the country. Check it out. You can also find Wondermore at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

wondermore

How She Writes: Caroline Topperman

I’m delighted for you to meet Caroline Topperman, a member of my fiction-writing peer group. Caroline is a European-Canadian writer, entrepreneur, dancer and world traveler. Born in Sweden, Caroline has travelled extensively. She speaks fluent English, Polish, and French.

As the founder of Style on the Side, Caroline has infused her professional background in fitness and beauty with her worldly upbringing to share her personal experiences, insights, and ultimately give others permission to step outside of their boxes and discover their own unique style/voice.

Currently living in Waterloo, Canada, earlier this year Caroline’s book Tell Me What You See, an inspiring collection of visual writing prompts, was published by One Idea Press. I’d heartily recommend Caroline’s book even if I didn’t know her personally. But since I do know her personally, I am really jumping up and down about her accomplishment. Caroline has kindly allowed me to share with you one of her prompts as a PDF. And if you’re interested in a structured exploration, Caroline just launched an online class based on her book. Enjoy!

Caroline! Introduce yourself.
I am a European-Canadian writer, entrepreneur, dancer who has never really said no to trying a job. I’ve owned a Pilates studio frequented by A-list celebrities and professional athletes; I’ve sold cosmetics; worked in fashion, the automotive industry, insurance, and had a stint in real estate. Several years ago, I founded my blog, Style on the Side where I share personal experiences and provide actionable advice in the style and fitness fields. Most recently, I wrote a visual prompt journal, Tell Me What You See, which helps people see the world through a new lens (along with a companion online class). Currently, I’m working on my next book, which is a family memoir.

Tell us about your book, your photography, your writing, and other creative endeavors.
I have always loved all the creative fields, but writing, whether through screenplays, scripts or stories, dance, or photography, has always been my favourite. I learned to take photographs on an old Rolleiflex camera and I wrote and performed in plays for as long as I can remember. I believe that creativity breeds creativity and participating in all these fields made me better at all of them. Dance and my film degree have allowed me to understand the composition for photography and writing has enabled me to fill in all the in between spaces and to communicate what I see when I close my eyes.

My book came about because of a bad case of writer’s block. I had just moved to a small town without an arts community and lacking in many services. I naturally fell back on my old love and started taking Polaroid photos; then I simply wrote what I saw. It dawned on me that there are probably lots of people who need to rely on visual stimulation to get them past creative blocks.

What prompted you to start a blog?
I’ve been blogging steadily for over 6 years now. I started because I really missed writing and being creative. At that time, I had stopped dancing and had no other creative outlet, so I decided to take a social media course and fell in love with the idea of blogging. It’s the online community and the human interaction that keep me motivated to continue. I’ve also had the opportunity to meet many amazing people all over the world.

What goals do you have for your creative pursuits? How do you define your “life’s work”?
One of the projects I’ve recently started is an online course based on my book and visual writing in general. I’m hoping to expand on that and get it up and running soon. I’d also like to publish the family memoir I’ve been working on for the past year. Past that, I’m working on several other writing projects that I want to bring to fruition and hopefully have published as well. As for defining my “life’s work,” I don’t know. I’m too curious and restless to do just one thing and while writing is here to stay and will always be a huge part of my life, I don’t think I could give up trying something new if given the opportunity. It’s not 100% serious for now, but I’ve been toying with the idea of selling everything and moving to the South of France…..

Where do you do your creative work?
Mostly at home. I’ve tried writing in coffee shops and while I do find the idea romantic, they are distracting and the seating is always uncomfortable. Any room with a view gets lots of bonus points. I crave open spaces.

Do you have a schedule for your writing and other creative activities?
At the moment I don’t because I’m very lucky that it’s what I do most of the day.

What do you struggle with most?
The lack of urgency. Since I’m only accountable to myself right now it’s easy to fill my days with other “things.” I’ll add that not having a mentor is tough. It would be great to have someone who could help me get my thoughts together, which would make it easier to move forward.

What inspires you?
I’m a very visual person and I love the bustling life of a big city that is filled with people, museums, galleries, plays, the ballet, and even window shopping. Travel, as well. I couldn’t live without visiting new places. All those things “feed my soul”

When are you at your happiest?
When I’m doing any of the above.

What are your top 5 favorite blogs/online resources?
The Paris Review: love all the articles. The Writer Magazine: I actually enjoy getting their emails. Almost an Author: great interviews and tips. The Write Life, they are a great general resource. Writer’s Digest, because it has pretty much everything. I’m also addicted to Brain Pickings by Maria Popova; I think she’s a genius.

What are you reading right now? My grandfather’s memoir for research, The French Girl by Lexie Elliot (just finished it, great beach read), The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler (loving it), Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami (I love everything he writes), Hunting the Truth by Beate and Serge Klarsfeld (random find) and another random find, Little Boy by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. For anyone looking for bits of inspiration, his book of poetry is fantastic. I carry it around with me.

What advice would you offer to other women struggling to find the time and means to be more creative? With regards to means, there are lots of ways to be creative that are free so that is one problem solved. Even time isn’t that hard. Sure, you may not be able to dedicate hours upon hours to something specific, but as little as 15 minutes is enough to yield the stress-relieving benefits of creativity. This can include dancing around your living room, daydreaming (highly recommend it) or even doodling. The key is doing it consistently. If you are a writer, then keep a notebook by your bedside table or in the shower (there are special ones that exist for this purpose) and every time you have an idea write it down. Before you know it, you’ll have a beautiful book of your thoughts. Another option is to take photos with your phone (which we all do anyway) and then spend 5-10 minutes writing down what you see. I guarantee this will get those creative juices flowing.

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Makes Me Laugh

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Brittany Writes a Book

britmirandacropEditor’s note: Brittany and I have been friends for more than a decade. Our friendship started through this very blog and then transitioned to the holy grail of IRL. I’ve read enough of Brittany’s writing over the years to know that I love her work. So when I saw that she’d self-published a narrative chapbook of poetry, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy. Brittany graciously fulfilled my request for a signed edition and mailed it to me post-haste.

It’s always an interesting experience, reading the work of a friend. I’m a writer and editor by trade and have worked in the professional world of words for nearly 30 years. As a creativity coach, I enthusiastically applaud every passionate, whole-hearted foray into creative work—but that doesn’t mean I admire the work itself. As many of my creative friends will attest, I’m unable to say, “Wow, this is brilliant,” when I’m not of that opinion. I’m preternaturally allergic to even little white lies of artful affirmation. I don’t want to give or receive disingenuous compliments about creative work. With that nugget of context, here’s what I wrote to Brittany after receiving Courtesan

Courtesan

“Brittany, your book arrived on Monday (or was it Tuesday?) and after a ridiculous work day that capped off a 55-client-hour work week, I crawled into bed with it. Granted, I was a little punchy on account of chronic fatigue, but in the dozen pages I read that night, I laughed out loud and—I know this is going to sound like I’m blowing smoke up your poopchute but it’s the truth—I wept with happiness. Some of these poems are So. Damn. Good. At one point I had to explain to Liam (11 years old, who still sleeps with me when he’s home and my man isn’t) why I was making such a racket (‘persnickety douchebaggery’ set me off). I’m bursting with pride for you, Brittany. I truly am.”

Courtesan is an anthem to the contemplative divorcée. This slim volume will delight you, hit you in all the right spots, and leave you wanting a bit more—just as an experienced courtesan should do. These poems confront you with the pain and loneliness of being married to a person who (you are ultimately forced to concede) will never be able to love you in the ways you most want to be loved, even if one day he does stop screaming and throwing shit and raving like the asshole he is. (Apparently you’ll also find a dose of catharsis between the lines.) Despite what hurts, Courtesan is also a tale of hope—and finding oneself, and love, again. Highly recommended.


Brittany

It’s amazing how much can change in 11 years. In the spring of 2008, Miranda discovered my blog Re-Writing Motherhood and plucked me from total obscurity to ask me to become a Studio Mothers contributor. The Studio Mothers blog was still in its infancy, as was my life as a (theoretically) stay-at-home-mom and full-time novelist. That time marks one of the most prolific creative periods of my life. But considering that I’m *still* working on the novel I started that year, it’s clear that creativity waxes and wanes, too. Now in 2019, I’m in another creative period. In addition to the 900 craft projects I have going on, I recently self-published a poetry chapbook titled Courtesan.

Courtesan is a diary told through poetry. It’s an eye-opening, no-holds-barred exploration of social and sexual re-awakening post-divorce. This is the book I never had any intention of writing. Generally speaking, I’m fun-loving, free-spirited, and unabashedly whimsical. Dark, brooding, erotic stories that would cause my southern Baptist relatives to have a collective pearl-clutching stroke were never part of my repertoire. But as I state in the book, there comes a point when the last thread of I-would-nevers snaps, and you become someone who would.

I became someone who would when I got divorced in 2015, after 13 years of marriage, eight of which I’d spent as a stay-at-home mom. There is a reason stay-at-home moms don’t just up and get divorced and abruptly go from full-time mom, to full-time working/part-time mom. It is traumatic on every level, and something I don’t think you can ever be prepared for. I was completely unprepared for the cold, hard smack of reality that awaited me.

And I did this alone. I was in Upstate New York, which was a 14-hour drive from my family in North Carolina, and across the country from my mom in Idaho. Not that my family was supportive. No one could understand why I was willing to give up such a seemingly comfortable life to go back to work and become a part-time parent. They acted like I had selfishly decided on a whim that getting divorced, re-entering the workforce after a 10-year absence, and parenting my children only half time would be a fun thing to do.

Brittany_bouquetI sunk into a horrible depression, a depression deeper and more pervasive than the depression I had already felt in the last year of my marriage, a nasty black pit I couldn’t seem to dig myself out of. For the first time in my life, I experienced panic attacks and constant anxiety. I’d always been an introverted loner, and suddenly, I couldn’t be alone anymore. I would beg my friends to let me come over and sit huddled on their couches, just to hear the noise in their households and feel like I belonged somewhere again. I cried constantly. My relationship with my children suffered. They were angry that I’d left them. My relationship with my ex further deteriorated. My family was as unsympathetic and unsupportive as it was possible to be. And overnight I became a third wheel among my married friends. Suddenly, I had not very much in common with them anymore.

I liken it to throwing a grenade on my entire life and watching it blow up around me. And into this stew of existentialist crisis, I thought it was a good idea to jump headlong into dating again.

Fresh from a bad marriage, I lived in a fantasy land where post-divorce dating was like an island of misfit toys. Divorcées would arrive broken and battered, having seen better days as a result of living with the wrong partners, and there they would magically find a more suitable person and live happily ever after. But my little fantasy couldn’t have been further from reality. Dating post-divorce is an, as yet, unexplored layer of Dantean hell and I realized that for most men, I was merely a commodity. Interchangeable with every woman out there. The transactional aspect of these relationships left me feeling very much like a courtesan, or more colloquially, a whore.

Brittany_mermaidI wasn’t sure how to process any of this, but I started a diary and wrote down snippets, dialogue, things people said to me that angered or inspired me, and all the observations I made, to process it, make sense of it, and ultimately learn from it. I pulled the diary out periodically to add to it, but was mostly preoccupied with other things, like paying the bills and buying groceries.

The worst part of that period was the complete lack of creative spark inside me. For the longest time, I was barely functioning. And when my creativity started to trickle back, it only came in fits and starts. I knew for my own sanity, I needed a creative outlet, so I took a painting class. And a jewelry-making class. I started to dabble at doll-making and embroidery again in my spare time. My friends knew I was their go-to girl if they saw something on pinterest they wanted to try and we started having semi-regular craft nights. I felt better when I was crafting, so I crafted. I felt better when I was painting, so I painted. I wasn’t able to write anything for the longest time, but eventually, poems started forming in my head again. I wrote them down on whatever piece of paper was handy. If they were good, I stashed them away and saved them. They were shoved inside books and drawers, and sometimes fished out of the dryer lint tray.

Fast-forward three years. My life was entirely altered. In the past, I’d thought of myself as a writer, and only a writer. But during my post-divorce journey, I became an artist, too. And after three years, I was more artist than writer.

Brittany_carI bought myself a little green bungalow and painted the walls bold turquoise and coral and purple. I painted the furniture and decorated the walls with my artwork. The dining room table was always covered in hot glue, paint smears, and glitter from the numerous projects I had in progress. I was always creating something, and as a result, I was happier than I had ever been at any other time in my life. My happiness changed the trajectory of my relationships and three years post-divorce, I was living with the man who would become my husband. In clearing away my clutter to make space for him in my house, I started to rediscover the writing and poetry I had been stashing in all manner of strange spots for three years. He encouraged me to do something with them, rather than re-stashing them somewhere new. But what was I going to do with a bunch of mostly unhappy autobiographical poems about my days as a single divorcée?

Brittany_bouquet2One day as I was driving (a time when great ideas seem to arise), and it occurred to me that if I collected all those poems and added the love poems I’d started writing more recently, I had a story there. I imagined calling it Courtesan, as a nod to my former single life and the way dating had made me feel. I mulled the idea in the back of my mind for some time. It continued to grow on me.

This winter I put it all together and self-published my chapbook. People ask me why I didn’t go the traditional publishing route. I self-published because I figured my “weird little book” didn’t have mass appeal. I wasn’t really sure how you’d market a diary that was poetry. And I thought it would only appeal to women of a certain age who’d experienced a traumatic mid-life divorce. Plus, to be brutally honest, I wasn’t particularly confident in my writing. I liked my writing. I had written it for myself, but I wasn’t sure at all if it would resonate with anyone else and I didn’t want to alter it in any way.

Since I published Courtesan, I have been shocked to my core by the feedback I’ve received. Women who are single, and never been married, have written to tell me how much they related to and enjoyed it. I don’t know whether to feel pleased or saddened that so many women can relate to so much darkness and despair.

Brittany_wandsI think that in most stories, and Courtesan is no exception, the main narrative is that a woman’s life turns around when she experiences true love. But the story functions on two levels. While on the surface, Courtesan is the story of the darkest time of my life and how I fell in love with my husband, there’s also the secret story hidden in the pages, about my love of the creative process, how it brought me back to life, gave me purpose, and fueled the creation of the diary in the first place. Ultimately, I rediscovered myself through the act of creation. And I continue to be amazed at what I can do, and how much joy I get from the doing.

 


See more of Brittany’s artistic projects at her current blog.
Order Courtesan at amazon

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Busy? How Technology Can Save Your Creative Life

Marion Dooling is a real-life friend who creates enchanting digital art. After admiring her pieces on Instagram, I asked Marion to share her thoughts on the creative life, along with her wisdom as an empty-nester who has been through the trenches of raising children and has revived her creative life. Enjoy!


2013-02-26 11.48.14I’m sitting at home in the midst of a blizzard in an area that hardly gets snow. The weather forced me to cancel my workout plans. While we still have power, we have no WIFI because of a corporate mishap. I can’t access my art files in the cloud. I’m bored. And I can’t even watch Netflix to assuage my boredom. My laundry is half done, the kitty litter needs changing, and the bills are unpaid—but I’m unmotivated. I get stressed out when I feel like I can’t control my life or am off my routine.

I spent much of my active parenting days feeling this way. Like a blizzard of parenting had buried me and my creativity. How do you get back to creativity when the flow of life carries you through a blizzard of endless chores, appointments, obligations, meals, chauffeuring, and such?

The fact is, you can’t. Any creative life you may have had previous to children is gone. At least gone in the form you may remember. But not gone for good, just changed. It might be in moments, now, as opposed to in hours or days. But don’t despair: In this era, technology can help you fit creativity into those spare moments. A moment may come at 5:53 am, 9:28 pm, or midday naptime, or waiting for an oil change. These moments do exist—we just have to look for them and take advantage when they arrive.

SHADOWSMH

If you’re a parent, you’re inevitably already creative with your kids on a variety of levels. Don’t forget your own creativity in the mix. As a mother, I learned the hard way that it’s all too easy to forget ourselves and just become “Mom.” But we are more than that. I’m sure that if I had made the time for myself when my kids were young, I wouldn’t have become as depressed and isolated as I did.

Moments of Opportunity

When you find a pocket of time, do what you love. As active parents, we often want to take those free moments to eat popcorn and watch another episode of our latest binge. Especially if the kids are napping and you find a rare moment of solitude. But don’t. Instead, look outside: See the view. There are apps to help you write about it, draw it, edit it, film it, transform it, and then to share it. You will have a much better time doing that than holding the remote in one hand and a handful of popcorn in the other.

headopenMH

I’m a digital artist, collager, and recent empty nester still trying to find my routine after the advent of some major life changes. I’m coming to realize that as much as I want it, routine is not all it’s cracked up to be. It can become monotonous, dull, and in a word….routine. Creativity is a lot of things for me, but it’s never been routine. Over the years I’ve had to learn to squeeze my creativity into the pockets of my life that remain unclaimed by partner, kids, pets, and life in general.

Technology Is Your Friend

I’m a lifelong photographer, paper and ephemera lover, and inveterate collector of everything from buttons to feathers to boxes to Pokémon. Today, technology allows me to create anywhere and in many different ways.

More and more I use my iPhone for pictures, along with a plethora of photo apps that enable me to do whatever I want to my photos. I have a flatbed scanner at home to digitize my paper collection and I splurged and subscribed to Adobe Suite, which allows me to access Photoshop on my phone and iPad—and more importantly, allows me to access Lightroom and ALL my digital resources stored in the cloud. It’s like having my laptop anywhere I go. I can create in bed, on an airplane, or in a vet’s office waiting for the doctor. It’s all there as long as I have an internet connection.

MATHMOUNTAINSMHSomeday Is Today

I started on this path many years ago as a scrapbooker, well before scrapbooking became what it is today. And if you think I’m going to tell you I scrapbooked my kids’ lives from birth to 18, you would be correct. I did. However, they were 16 and 22 when I started. So don’t be impressed or feel bad. It took determination and commitment and waiting for my kids to be grown.

Back when they were young, I didn’t think I had the time, the resources, or the energy to make good use of my time. I didn’t have today’s game-changing technology. Instead, I saved every scrap of paper from their early years through graduation (remember what I said about collecting?) with the idea that someday, I would have the time to create scrapbooks. Finally, about four years ago, someday arrived. In a way I was glad I’d waited. Scrapbooking had transformed into the magic of stickers, papers, and all sorts of delightful things. I spent a small fortune on these supplies, on top of the considerable cost of photo development.

And it was very slow going. After slogging through 7 months of daily work and effort the old-fashioned way, I discovered digital scrapbooking. I made my oldest daughter’s high school yearbook as a digital scrapbook and had it printed. I loved the process and the outcome.

daydreamMHMy discovery of digital scrapbooking set me on the path of digital collage, photo compositing, and figuring out what to do with all those photos of clouds, trees, and interesting patterns and light and pattern I’d taken over the years.

Digital Tools

Take advantage of the resources available online. Find your people, live in those pockets of time, and relish that nothing goes as planned. Today there are even more there are apps to record our children’s lives in the moment. There are apps to create montages, scrapbooks, days in the life, etc. It’s really only limited by what you want to create: Ali Edwards’s amazing One Little Word, Tangie Baxter’s amazing Art Journal Emporium, and many other great artists out there on YouTube and Vimeo all there to teach you a craft.

As a photographer, I rely primarily on Snapseed to edit my photos. When I create collages, I use Photoshop Mix and Photoshop Fix. To transform pictures into digital paintings, sketches, or distort them into something new, I use Glaze, Decim8, and iColorama. When I draw, I use Procreate.

timestopsMH

During the course of my daily life I keep an ongoing bullet journal (I call it that, but it’s really a Moleskine with to-do lists, ideas, reminders, and thoughts). I also keep pen and paper handy. I also use notes on my iPhone for everything from passwords to prices paid when I’m out thrifting for the Pokémon who have escaped my grips so far. Dropbox and Evernote sync across multiple apps. If you’re are a Mac person, Airdrop is your ally.

Pockets of time are your friend in a busy life full of obligations. Use them to develop or rediscover your innate creativity, whatever that may be, and you’ll find that those pockets of time become universes in and of themselves, opening new realities and discoveries.

Find Marion at Instagram.

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Introvert Insights

I was thrilled to have The Power of Quiet reviewed by Introvert Insights, a well-produced, thoughtful publication for introverts. If you’re a fellow introvert, check out how to subscribe below (it’s free, even in hard copy, no matter where you live)!

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From Peter Vogt, publisher of Introvert Insights: “I am finding — because my approach to the newsletter is atypical (i.e., it’s printed and mailed, for free) — that I need to come right out and tell potential subscribers the following (so you may want to do the same if you decide to tell your readers/followers about Introvert Insights):

“A) Yes, the newsletter really is mailed to them (no matter what country they live in, by the way — in or outside of the U.S.) in print form.

“B) Yes, it really is free.

“C) No, there is no ‘catch.’ (Some people seem to be waiting for the other shoe to drop, but there is no other shoe.)”

Enjoy, introvert friends! www.IntrovertInsights.com

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2018 Book List

Screen Shot 2018-12-28 at 12.21.57 PMSo many books, so little time! Reading is one of the greatest pleasures in my life—and one of the few things I can do indefinitely without feeling like I “ought” to be doing something else. Reading supports many of my personal values and is one of the few forms of recreation I embrace wholeheartedly. I read widely, as I like to know what’s happening in various genres, and I listen to audiobooks daily—while walking, driving, folding laundry, exercising—while doing most anything physical that doesn’t require concentration or conversation.

Each year I set a target number of books to read and track my titles on Goodreads. Typically my target is 50 books. This year I hit 53, although the year isn’t over yet (I hope to finish Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness before 2019; thus far I’m not liking it nearly as much as The God of Small Things, which is one of my all-time favorites).

I read a lot of books pertaining to racial justice this year, which is a primary area of interest. I also did some catching up on often-taught classics (such as I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Wuthering Heights) that I’ve long wanted to read or wanted to read more closely.

What_to_Remember_When_WakingOne of my favorite discoveries of 2018 is the poet David Whyte, who writes what I would call poetry-based self-development. Whyte lives in Washington State, and I had the opportunity to attend one of his live events last month. Believe it or not, poetry can actually be a seriously inspiring shot in the arm.

As a category, the very best books I read this year were memoir. I highly recommend all six of the titles in the category below. Below, I’ve segmented my 53 reads into categories and marked all of my favorites with an asterisk; books by friends or in-person teachers are marked with (RL) for real life, meaning that these books have an extra layer of personal relevance. I added a few “meh” tags to the books I struggled to get through.

If you’re a book freak like I am, please leave a comment with a few of your personal favorites of the year and any thoughts on the titles below!

HeavyMemoir

  • Educated, Tara Westover*
  • Heavy: An American Memoir, Kiese Laymon*
  • The Only Girl in the World, Maude Julien*
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou*
  • A Second Chance: For You, For Me, And For The Rest Of Us, Catherine Hoke*
  • Open, Andre Agassi*

Nonfiction

  • The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump, Michiko Kakutani*
  • Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, Jack Weatherford
  • Me and My House: James Baldwin’s Last Decade in France, Magdalena J. Zaborowska
  • The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, Steven Pinker

Self-DevelopmentAtomic_Habits

  • Atomic Habits, James Clear*
  • What to Remember When Waking: The Disciplines of an Everyday Life, David Whyte*
  • Midlife and the Great Unknown: Finding Courage and Clarity Through Poetry, David Whyte*
  • Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity, David Whyte*
  • The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are, Alan Watts*
  • Your Best Year Ever, Michael Hyatt*
  • Living Forward, Michael Hyatt*
  • A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy, William B. Irvine
  • Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, Jaron Lanier
  • The 10X Rule, Grant Cardone
  • You Are a Badass Every Day, Jen Sincero
  • How to Stop Feeling Like Sh*t, Andrea Owen
  • Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion, Sam Harris
  • The Introvert’s Way, Sophia Dembling
  • The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down, Haemin Sunim
  • Quiet, Susan Cain*
  • Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality, Henry Cloud (meh)

BarracoonRacial Justice

  • What Truth Sounds Like: Robert F. Kennedy, James Baldwin, and Our Unfinished Conversation About Race in America, Michael Eric Dyson*
  • Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”, Zora Neale Hurston*
  • I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, Austin Channing Brown
  • So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo
  • The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin*
  • James Baldwin: The Last Interview and Other Conversations, James Baldwin

Books on Writing

  • Story Genius, Lisa Cron*
  • Writing to Change the World, Mary Pipher*
  • Lifelong Writing Habit: The Secret to Writing Every Day, Chris Fox (RL)

Eleanor_OliphantFiction

  • Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman*
  • Self-Help: Short Stories, Lorrie Moore*
  • Germinal, Émile Zola*
  • Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin*
  • Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone, James Baldwin*
  • If Beale Street Could Talk, James Baldwin*
  • The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, Robert Dugoni (RL)
  • The Nest, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney (RL)
  • Hot Head, Damon Suede (RL)
  • Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
  • The Great Gatsby, F. Scott FitzgeraldSam_Hell
  • The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah
  • The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas
  • Still Me, Jojo Moyes
  • The Hating Game, Sally Thorne
  • Less, Andrew Sean Greer (meh)
  • The Summer Before the War, Helen Simonson (meh)

I look forward to learning your faves!

 

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Getting Real About Real Estate

Isiah_Connor_familyGuys! Over the past few months I’ve been collaborating on a special project that I’m thrilled to share with you.

When my friends Shannon Morgan and Terri Kaminski decided to reinvent real-estate marketing, they went all in. The result is not a yawner of promotion but rather the in-depth sharing of our community: Bainbridge Island, Washington.

Now brokers at Charter Real Estate, the Mo-Minski Team at Charter Real Estate publishes meaningful stories of those who live and work on Bainbridge Island and surrounding communities, and I’m proud to be one of our storytellers. We’re writing authentic stories that include struggle and sometimes heartbreak, with an eye on promoting diversity and inclusion. Woven among these inspiring profiles are useful posts (and gorgeous, original photography) on bringing more beauty into your life through design, food, art, music, health — you name it — all written by local practitioners.

Our website content is growing daily and the response thus far has been overwhelmingly positive. To introduce you to the project, I’m sharing the piece I wrote on Isiah Connor, an icon in the making. Coincidentally, although I met Isiah here on the West Coast, he grew up in Ayer, MA (right next door to my former home town of Groton, MA), and is the same age as my oldest son (28), which means that we probably crossed paths once or twice a decade or so ago. I love synergies like that.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Submit, Submit, Submit

Writers, you know how it goes. You submit to journals and contests, learning to ignore the rejections as they pile up. With a Zen-like mastery, you learn to frame rejection as a positive thing. If you weren’t submitting, you wouldn’t be rejected. And if you weren’t writing, you wouldn’t be submitting. And if you weren’t writing, you wouldn’t be a writer. Hence, using this somewhat reductionist — and albeit recursive — logic, rejection is a good thing. It means you’re a writer.

And every now and then, something like this arrives in your in-box, and the affirmation feels very, very good.

Cutthroat.finalist

Soldier on, dear ones!

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How She Does It: Ifrah Shahid Khurram

IMG-20181026-WA0009Today I’m delighted to introduce you to Pakistani mother artist and amazing jewelry designer Ifrah Shahid Khurram, currently residing in Canada. Ifrah has been featured in She Canada as a she-preneur of the month. Lets have a chat with the designer and explore the ebb and flow of her success story!

Hi Ifrah! Please tell us about yourself, your work, and your family.
Hello dear moms! I’m a busy mom of two beautiful girls, ages 9 and 5. I’m a home economics graduate and run the jewelry design business American Diamonds in Ontario, Canada. I love to play with colors and shapes to create and customize pieces. Today we are one of the best jewelry brands serving the Pakistani and Indian communities in Canada, featuring formal and bespoke bridal jewelry.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I belong to a typical Pakistani family, where dad wants you to be a doctor and mom wants you to learn cooking. So naturally I imagined myself as a doctor. But in my spare time I would find myself painting or hunched over some craft project I had either picked up from kids time on TV or created on my own. I even used to split my earrings into pieces to create more originative ornaments.

diamondsWhen did you explore yourself as an artist?
While I was super crafty throughout my childhood, I viewed at my creativity as a hobby and never thought of it as a career. Just after I moved to Canada, three years into my marriage and after my first child was born, I went into a career in the retail sector. To be honest I enjoyed in retail. I excelled and was content.

But life took a small turn after we had our second daughter. Initially, I took maternity leave, thinking I’d go back to work after things settled down. But with each passing day, my confusion about whether to leave my kids behind for work on days when my husband was home or drop them at day care when we were both at work — or quitting work and staying at home — multiplied. Eventually, I chose to stay at home and give my daughters the best early years.

Honestly, it wasn’t easy. I had been quite ambitious and focused throughout my career. While living far from my family of origin and not having any sort of domestic help, raising kids and fulfilling household responsibilities was a tough row to hoe.

IMG-20181026-WA0000-COLLAGEI found some time to myself when our older daughter started school. During those hours I explored various ways to stay busy other than housework. I was in search of a career that would allow me to look after my kids at the same time. My love for creativity and crafting jewelry returned when I helped a friend market her jewelry. It was challenging. With Almighty Allah’s help and my husband’s constant support and encouragement, we faced deadlocks and losses but persevered.

How has being a mom affected you as an artist?
I often found myself at sixes and sevens when I had both kids and work to take care of. Time and again I felt guilt-ridden and frustrated by work pressure and household responsibilities. I thought of quitting multiple times. During the transition my husband supported me to the fullest, showing me the brighter side of every negative thought that popped into my head. Gradually, the kids and I settled into a routine. I dedicated my unclaimed hours to work, which were mostly after putting kids to bed. I learned to manage time, home, and kids together.

My little one has seen me working since the day she started recognizing me as her mom, so she’s pretty comfortable with my work schedule, and I’m happy with it. With the grace of Almighty Allah, our perseverance has helped achieve some of our goals, but there is still a long way to go, InshaAllah!

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What keeps you inspired to create every day?
Being a designer, I’m inspired about the stuff around me. The weather, a flower, a piece of cloth, an animal, or even food can click an idea. I’m also in love with Pakistani fashion and look for inspiration in the latest trends and designs.

aa05dbbf2391a5d5bb5344f91cfd6be3d2f0af8f_111Which part of the day makes you feel most energetic and creatively driven?
I love it when I see a customer proudly wearing a piece of our jewelry with a smile on her face. The unique sense of achievement and satisfaction that comes with being an entrepreneur greatly surpasses all the challenges that come with it.

How do you think your struggle and success as a mom would influence your kids?
I haven’t gone to a single exhibition without taking my kids along. I believe parents’ hardships and success make an everlasting impression on kids. Watching their parents struggle and ultimately succeed help them follow their own dreams. They learn to cope with disappointments and hardships. At present, my daughters want to be jewelry designers like their mom, and the feeling is absolutely out-of-this-world.

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What is one strength that helped you make your mark?
One strength I always count on is my ability to get along well with others. My easy-going temperament and service orientation have helped me succeed.

What is your key to staying positive in challenging situations?
Challenges are inevitable. We have to face them no matter which field we work in. I’ve learned that while facing a challenge, remember to take a deep breath, roll up your sleeves, dream big, believe in yourself, and put forth your best efforts into achieving your desired goals.

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Tell us about your latest project.
Currently I am working on our SS19 bridal collection. My inspiration behind it is a “perfect bride.” To me, the perfect bride is someone who carries herself with a positive self-image. I want to design sparkling jewels that celebrate not only the big day, but the bride herself.

Who are your favorite artists/designers?
Some of the designers I’m highly inspired by are Art by Misbah, Shafaq Habib, and Deeya.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
I envision having a storefront in Canada and expanding our delivery services worldwide, as currently we cater only to clients in Canada and the US.

Any advice for aspiring mom artists who might be on the verge of giving up?
The key to being who you want to be is consistency. While you’re busy working on your dream, stumbling blocks may delay what you’ve given your blood, sweat, and tears to. This phenomenon is natural. Be determined. Consistency will turn the tide in your favor.

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