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Posts tagged ‘dance’

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.


Your Creative Intentions: The Monday Post ~ October 20, 2014

Anne Lamott quote

A regular creative practice — a daily practice, if possible — is key to staying in touch with how you make meaning. Key to living, not postponing. (Let’s all agree to give up on “someday.”)

What are your plans for creative practice this week? Given the specifics of your schedule, decide on a realistic intention or practice plan — and ink that time in your calendar. The scheduling part is important, because as you know, if you try to “fit it in” around the edges, it generally won’t happen. An intention as simple as “I will write for 20 minutes every morning after breakfast” or “I will sketch a new still life on Wednesday evening” is what it’s all about. If appropriate, use time estimates to containerize your task, which can make a daunting project feel more accessible.

Share your intentions or goals as a comment to this post, and let us know how things went with your creative plans for last week, if you posted to last week’s Monday Post. We use a broad brush in defining creativity, so don’t be shy. We also often include well-being practices that support creativity, such as exercise and journaling.

Putting your intentions on “paper” helps you get clear on what you want to do — and sharing those intentions with this community leverages the motivation of an accountability group. Join us!


If you’re an artist or writer with little ones, The Creative Mother’s Guide: Six Creative Practices for the Early Years is the essential survival guide written just for you. Concrete strategies for becoming more creative without adding stress and guilt. Filled with the wisdom of 13 insightful creative mothers; written by a certified creativity coach and mother of five. “Highly recommended.” ~Eric Maisel. 35 pages/$11.98. Available for download here.

Meme of the Week


Happy Friday.


3/11 Weekly creativity contest winner & new prompt

Care to dance? A lovely array of submissions for this week’s creativity contest. Our winner is Cynthia Platt, for a beautiful poem. Cynthia sent in this lovely note: “Here’s an entry for you for the ‘Dance’ category. Dancing has always been a big — and joyful — part of my life. Now it’s joyful part of my nearly-three-year-old daughter’s life, too. Thanks for taking a read, and for hosting the blog, which I read, and take inspiration from, regularly!” Congratulations, Cynthia. Your $10 gift certificate has been issued.

Dance Party

Last night we had a dance party.
A dance party
used to mean something
concrete to me.
Late nights,
flashing lights,
speakers pumping out
bass at outrageous decibels.
I am older now, though,
and she is so young.
Early nights have replaced late,
a brightly lit living room has displaced
the dark, pulsing club.
Last night, her music played
sweet and low and lovely.
I am older now,
and she is so young.
The three of us danced
around the living room,
“It’s a dance party, Mummy!” she trilled,
joy suffusing her voice.
And it was.
Last night we had a dance party.
A dance party means something concrete to me.


From Jen Johnson, a fabulous sonnet: “Submitting an oldie-but-goodie this week, something that came immediately to mind with the ‘dance’ prompt. It was written back when I was in my sonnet phase and really fascinated with poetic form and structure. (A fascination that I still have, though these days I have less of the required focus to put it into practice!) The idea originally sparked when I realized that the nursery rhyme for which it is named has fourteen words — so I wanted to see how it would work as an ‘acrostic sonnet.’ The term refers to the fact that this can be read two ways: top to bottom, like an acrostic, by reading the first words of each line ‘down’ the poem; and also left to right, like a typical poem.”

Ashes, Ashes — We All Fall Down

Ring me round with laughing children, dancing
around and around in the pale daffodils,
the yellow, nodding flowers chancing spring.
Rosy sky wipes wet hands down her skirts, spills
pockets brimming with sultry, heavy air.
Full puddles standing in the glossy street
of gravel-gilded pavement call for bare
posies of children’s toes — pink, tiny, sweet.

Ashes of memory, now — bitter, gray.
Ashes only, no longer the burning.
We slog through this muddy field on May Day,
all alone, sodden socks blistering, yearning.

Fall just once to your naked knees. Stumble
down and stop. Now rise, kindled and humble.


From Cathy Coley: “So, when I saw ‘dance’ was the prompt, I knew I could take this in a 1,000 different directions. However, very quickly the idea of dancing on my father’s feet as a little girl, and Baby C dancing on her Daddy’s feet popped up strongly and quickly from the bottom of that full pool. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get good light, dh and baby together all at once since last Wednesday. This is the result of the photos, which I had hoped would inspire a generational poem or something. Alas, bad photos don’t make for good inspiration, especially on Tuesday morning staring at the day’s deadline. But it was great to remember how I felt as a little girl dancing on my father’s feet. And I got a nice shot in of Daddy kissing his girl.”



From me (Miranda): When I was in high school, I won a competition for designing the T-shirts and sweatshirts for an annual dance event. (The win was one of about two happy moments related to my high school years.) I loved drawing in pen and ink, an interest that I inherited from my mother, who supplied me with a homemade light box. The final design is packed in a box somewhere in my attic, but I do have some similar sketches around somewhere — alas I spent nearly an hour tearing apart my just-unpacked house in search of the scrap of paper I was looking for, to no avail.

danceI have a weakness for images of dancers. I’ve always admired the beauty of a high arch. Many dancers have exquisite feet — and many non-dancers have exquisite feet, too. Whenever I notice a person with exceptional arches, I can’t help but ask if she’s a dancer. Unless someone is willing to intentionally point her feet for you (which is a bit awkward to ask of a stranger), the only way to really assess her arches is to casually observe her foot when it’s extended — say, if she’s sitting on the floor with her legs out straight, one crossed over the other, which tends to force a gentle pointing of the foot. Or, if someone is sitting in a chair cross-legged and has a natural turnout, you might be able to observe her arch when she absently points her foot during conversation. Not that I am utterly obsessed with feet or anything, really! Despite many years of ballet, and dancerly aspirations, I do not have beautiful arches — as you can tell from this photo of me en pointe. Just not that impressive. (Good thing that “arch augmentation” isn’t something that most plastic surgeons offer, or I’d have done it by now.)

I still remember the smell of new toeshoes with fondness — that intoxicating perfume of glue, leather, and satin. While I don’t consider myself a stage mother, I admit that I did drag my daughter to ballet lessons at the age of 5. Ballet just wasn’t her thing, however. She never cared for it, so I let it go after a few weeks. Now, I peruse my old copy of Allegra Kent’s The Dancer’s Body Book and Suzanne Farrell’s autobiography, hoping to manifest a little grace in my life, even with my regular old, Plain Jane arches. (Photo credit Jack Foley.)


This week’s prompt: “Map”
Use the prompt however you like — literally, or a tangential theme. All media are welcome. Please e-mail your entries to by 10:00 p.m. eastern time (GMT -5) on Tuesday, March 17, 2009. The winning entry receives a $10 gift certificate to Writers should include their submission directly in the body text of their e-mail. Visual artists and photographers should attach an image of their work as a jpeg. Enter as often as you like; multiple submissions for a single prompt are welcome. There is no limit to how many times you can win the weekly contest, either. (You do not have to be a contributor to this blog in order to enter. All are invited to participate.) All submissions are acknowledged when received; if you do not receive e-mail confirmation of receipt within 24 hours, please post a comment here. Remember, the point is to stimulate your output, not to create a masterpiece. Keep the bar low and see what happens. Dusting off work you created previously is OK too. For more info, read the original contest blog post.

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