A Supernatural Weekend in DC

Wow, it’s been a long time for me since posting. What have I been doing? Writing. Yup, I’ve been running a local memoir writing group and that means I have to do a bit of writing myself in order to keep face. I love it, and it’s been fun. But it does mean that I have less time to do what I also like to do, which is cook, watch TV and remember to blog. But that’s all changed since I’ve reworked my schedule. I’m sure you’re happy to hear that (all three of you!)

But last week I had to take a writing break to accompany my daughter to the Supernatural DC Con in Washington D.C. Yup, an entire convention for the TV show, Supernatural. If you haven’t seen the show, let me fill you in. Two hunky guys, brothers on the show, fight demons, vampires, ghoulish creatures, and even a few angels gone bad, as they travel all over the back roads of the United States. They have some angels on their side, but mainly they are in mortal danger every week. But man, do they look good doing it. The fans are rabid, and I mean that. The convention was filled with people cosplaying most of the characters, and loving every minute. My daughter cosplayed two out of three days and she looked amazing. It was a three-day show filled with karaoke, cabaret, photo ops, autographs, and lots of laughter and good times. I was quite excited for a photo op with Mark Sheppard, also known as Crowley on Supernatural, Jim Sterling on Leverage, Canton Delaware on Doctor Who, Romo Lampkin on Battlestar Galactica, and one of my favorites-Badger on Firefly. Turns out, he was having a bit of a bad day and wasn’t as friendly as I’d hoped. I saw him as I stepped out of the elevator and said Hello, only to get a grunt as he kept walking. Ok, maybe he’s in a hurry. Then he had a Q&A panel and seemed a bit touchy, but Ok, maybe he’s tired. Then, during the photo ops I heard a young girl ask him something when it was her turn for the photo. His response was simply, “That’s not gonna happen.” This was said in a gruff, quick tone and I saw her face fall. I don’t even know what she asked, but his answer pretty much punctured the fangirl bubble around her. He put his arm around her and smiled for the photo. Then it was our turn. Hmmm, we smiled, he smirked, photo over, move on. But, I’m going to tell myself that he was having a rough day and I won’t hold it against him. I’ve had bad days, but I guess I don’t have to deal with 500 people who adore me every day.

The phenomenon of these shows building such reputations is amazing. The power of social media keeps this show going with Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter pages dedicated just to the show, and each character and actor. When characters are killed off or hurt, fans rally. And speculation over whether Chuck is God (yes, that actual God) or not is still up in the air. My daughter and I are still debating it. Each brother has died and come back to life a few times and each time they grow closer to each other. I can only imagine after nine years how close the actors must be. Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki sure seem to have a great rapport with each other, but why not after all that time?

The highlight for me was the chance to spend time with a dear friend who drove down from Long Island to spend the weekend and hang out. Martinis, hugs, and even a few tears-that’s what friendship is all about! We sat in the lobby bar watching the cosplayers mingle. We waited while my daughter attended the actors’ cabaret in the ballroom and we had a few more martinis while we waited. (Just doing what a good mother would do…wait for her kid.)

So, I’m back and ready to dive into the memoir essays, writing, and editing. Watch for more blog posts and keep commenting. I love hearing from you!

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Blogs I follow and why

I don’t follow a lot of blogs, I just don’t have the time to read them all and sometimes blogs can be a bit narcissistic (ok, maybe that’s what blogging is all about, but why read even more?) But in case you were looking for some great blogs to keep track of, here are just a few of my favorites these days:

1. Saving for Someday. On top of some great tips on saving money, bargains, and deals in stores, Sara also shares some insights into her life and daily living as a giving, caring person trying to raise a daughter in this crazy world. Follow her, you won’t be sorry.

2. Pirates and Fireflies. Vicariously travel through Europe and other parts exotic, with photos that make me say AHHHHHH so many times it may be annoying to anyone around me. The posts are short enough not to be tedious, but interesting and bucolic. You won’t regret this one, unless the jealousy eats away at you. (What? I can’t help it.)

3. Nail Your Novel. Roz Morris, author and editor, shells out some great advice and quick tips to do just what she says…Nail Your Novel.

4. TIPPR Blog. An aspiring writer/editor who blogs a bit of poetry. I’m not a huge fan of poetry, but I do enjoy it sometimes, and I like getting just a bit every so often in my inbox and these are quite nice. Give a look.

OK, that’s four. I’ll put a few more up for you soon. What blogs are you following? Let me know.

 

Stretching your creative legs

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How do you stay inspired and creative? I seem to be on an inspiration rollercoaster lately. On the days I’m heading up the ramp slowly, it seems like I’ll never get to the end of this book, or ever get published. On the days when I’m heading down at breakneck speed and can’t stop writing, I feel there is no possible way I will fail. I’ve been to conferences, I’ve read the how-to books, I’ve talked to authors, etc. Now the only thing left to do is actually write the damn thing and get it published. No excuses…

But there are those days I’m heading up the slow ramp and I just don’t have anything in me to write, or I’ve written enough for the day. Sometimes I still feel the need to create and clear my head, so I break out the colored pencils and coloring books. A dear friend of mine taught me that coloring books are not just for kids. She came out for a visit and brought her coloring books and colored pencils and we sat drinking wine and coloring in our books. And I’ve discovered some of the most amazing coloring books out there are sophisticated and fun, as well as complicated and challenging. Some are based on famous paintings, history, intricate pictures of birds, waterfalls, flowers, abstracts, animals, etc. It takes concentration to color them in, and that means focus. And when focusing on my coloring project, everything else become clear. It’s almost a zen feeling to clear my head and create something colorful and fun.

So I’m coloring these days in between catching up on reading for book club, editing, writing, researching, and all the other things I feel I need to do. But this is something I do totally for myself and I love it. I’m renewed and ready to go after a page is finished.

What keeps you inspired and creative? Any new ideas?

 

 

 

 

 

The best kept secret in writing conferences

Comicon. The name makes people think of Superman, Anime, Manga, Zombies, Paranormal, video games, cosplay and more. But one of the best kept secrets of Comicon,  the Phoenix Comicon in particular, is the wonderful array of writing workshops offered during the convention. Regardless of what kind of writing you do, there are classes and workshops that will help you, I guarantee it. The authors are top-notch and the insights and advice are heart-felt and true.

What I love most about the presenters and speakers at Comicon is the willingness in all of them to answer questions, give advice and information, and help authors along on their journey. They all know what it’s like to wish to be published and work on that all-important novel. Whether it’s mystery, paranormal, sci-fi, steampunk or a cross of any of these, they are there to help. I took an entire notebook full of notes while in the 12 sessions I attended and I’ll be throwing some info out as I go, but just a few of them stick out without even looking at my notes.

1. Tom Leveen is the author of Party, a wonderful book with 11 chapters and 11 POVs, and Sick, which is his newest book featuring zombies and comes out Oct. 1st. He is an author with a genuine passion for writing and showing others how to be successful. In each panel discussion or solo presentation, he gives a grand performance and offers not only advice but has an infectious enthusiasm for writing that is hard not to catch. I left the convention newly determined to write the best MS I can, thanks to this guy. See him if he’s in your area giving any kind of presentation and go, and read his books. He lives in the Phx area so check out Changing Hands, a local bookstore with great writers visiting all the time.

2. Define your purpose. Just about all the authors at the convention made sure to mention that you must know who your audience is, what kind of book you are writing, and why you are writing. Sounds pretty basic, but if you don’t know who your audience really is (and “anyone who wants to read it” is not good enough) or where your book will be shelved, then you are short-changing yourself. Best quote (can’t remember who said it though, I think it was Tom)–There is a difference between wanting to have written and wanting to write. In other words, some people are happy just sitting behind the keyboard and writing away. But others are not satisfied until they get published. This takes another courageous step entirely.

3. Going along with the message above, if you write fan fiction, it’s time to branch out and write your own work. Fan fiction is safe fiction, right? You don’t have to create characters, someone has already done that for you. Break out of that and be brave-create your own characters and situations. For some people, fan fiction is a great way to begin writing and stretch (and for just a few, you can get it published if you change the names). But in the real world, you need to create your own universe.

Ok, these are the top three I remember right now. More to come soon. I’ve got some editing to catch up on and some writing to tackle.

Oh, and if you’re thinking all I did was sit in a chair and listen to authors, I did spend a little time nerding out in the convention hall, having fun with the cosplayers and even kissing a few TV stars. Now you’re really jealous. The photo below is one of my favorites of the convention, where my daughter and I showed our love for Michael Rooker, also known as Merle Dixon from The Walking Dead. He’s a sweetie and we had fun talking with him.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Zombie Walk kicks off the Convention and the street is closed off for hundreds of people dressed as zombies shuffling down the road. It’s fantastic and so much fun. Grab a seat on the outside patio at Majerle’s restaurant and watch them walk by, even kids get into the fun.

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Finally, although I walked and sat and wrote, I did take time to sit and observe, which is one of my favorite activities. Even a few of the authors I talked with said that eavesdropping and observing others is a great way to build characters. So, I guess I was working as I watched everyone, right?

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Take it easy. See you next time…

Why creatives need each other, or, another lesson from Papa Hemingway

Perhaps I need to open a Restaurant and Social Club for Writers and Artists

Being a writer/artist can be a lonely life. Many of us end up sitting for long hours in quiet rooms writing/painting/creating. (I am tucked away in my tiny studio neatly hidden in my backyard as I write this). Now don’t get me wrong, this is not a complaint, it is certainly something we choose to do. I write better when I am alone and I lose track of time. For some writers, the coffee shop becomes a refuge from the solitude. I know people who write all day in a coffee shop, blocking out the chatter and kicking out chapter after chapter. Then others work at home and end up hanging out in public with fellow writers when they have the chance.

I return to A Moveable Feast often, and I find that I do that when I’m feeling isolated or I start to get into a self-defeating mindset. Even Earnest Hemingway understood the importance of surrounding himself with creative people, including T.S. Eliot, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Picasso, etc. He liked to be alone and write, but he kept acquaintances and friendships with many creatives. I realize that this glamorous era in Paris when all of these creatives were drinking and socializing and sharing their work makes more sense every day. Yes, they had arguments and it wasn’t all rosy, but the bottom line was that they all encouraged each other. (OK, maybe Fitzgerald and Hemingway stopped encouraging and started bickering, but that’s later. Follow me here for a moment.)

Surrounding yourself with creative people fuels your creative juices. It has to. Being around that kind of energy and enthusiasm and angst can’t do anything else. We are all in the same boat, trying to create and share our work. We all understand the depression and elation that comes with being creative. Why do you think that writer meet-ups are so popular, or that writing groups meet all over the country in bookstores and cafes?

Who do you surround yourself with? Do you have a circle of people who knit with you, scrapbook, etc? If you’re a writer/artist, do you have a core group that “gets you?”

I realize that although I have a few friends who are writers, I don’t frequently hang out with other writers or artists. I had the chance to meet a lovely, encouraging writer recently and what a great feeling it was. Just hearing that someone else had doubts about her success or talent, or that someone else felt the need to create and didn’t know why. It’s a grand and fabulous feeling to talk about your work and be validated, and that’s what all those lucky people in Paris were doing. And that’s what all those lucky people in writing retreats do, and writing meet-ups in cafes. And yes, I know that the cyber world enables us to have relationships with other creatives from the comfort of the back studio, but there is nothing like being face to face with another writer and nodding your head as they express feelings you’ve had so many times.

So, my goal is now to add to my creative circle of people to share my journey. I know it can only be beneficial to me and to everyone else who has a chance to grow from it. Thanks to Shannon for adding me to your circle!

 

Recharging Your Life

I spent the past week in New York with a dear friend and I feel marvelous. Why? Part of the trip was to celebrate her birthday (Happy Birthday, Dawn) and it was wonderful to be with someone I truly love. Old friends just get you and that is so comforting. And like a warm cup of tea held gently in your hands, a friendship like that is soothing, peaceful and restoring in its simplicity and beauty.

The other part of the trip was meant to recharge my life. I’ve been feeling doubtful and hesitant about making changes in my life lately. Ever get into a slump where you feel as if life is charging past you and all you can do is watch? Yeah, that’s where I’ve been lately.

Some of those changes are happening whether I like them or not. My daughter is just a few years away from flying the coop and joining the world on her own and I’m so excited for her. But that means eventually I’ll be here alone (OK, Husband will be here, but you know what I mean.) Of course, that’s a change I’m coming to terms with slowly, but not something I can alter too much.

I was lucky enough to spend a few days in New York City with my daughter and I will cherish those few days forever. We ate pizza, rode the subway, strolled through Central Park and wandered the streets of the East Village. We shopped for used books and ate mac & cheese till be could have barfed. And then we ate a little more.

We found the perfect studio apartment in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, (that’s ours on the second floor right with the flowers) just one block from Central Park and a few blocks from the Dakota Building and Strawberry Fields. We awoke to the sounds of the city and felt a little like New Yorkers for just a few days.

The apartment was on a Bed & Breakfast registry and a last-minute decision, which always seem to be the best kind of decisions in my life.

Having this time away also gave me a chance to reevaluate my writing life, and my writing ambitions. I realize that I’m secluded in my studio, writing and editing day after day without input from other writers. Why? I’m a typical artist who doesn’t want anyone to criticize my work so I keep it to myself. Yes, I realize how foolish that is. All artists need input, right? Who wants to die with a computer full of stories that nobody has ever read?

I am recharged and ready to write, edit and get serious. And I love blogging and I’ll be jumping in her more frequently. I love connecting to other writers through this medium and I cherish the friendships I’ve made here. Plus, I feel just a little like Carrie Bradshaw as I write about my life, only with less shoes and a bigger ass.

Creating art, no matter who likes it

“The arts are not a way of making a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”

This quote by Kurt Vonnegut has been making the rounds on Facebook and it really spoke to me. I love the line, “Write a poem, even a lousy poem.” Writers/artists are always so worried about what others think about their work. But the reward should not be who likes it, but the amount of joy we got out of creating it. There will always be someone who does not like it, and there will always be someone who does (even if that’s just you). Do it anyway.

I sent out a short story to a contest yesterday and I was sweating while I did it. I imagined the judges reading it with scowls and grimaces. “She thinks she’s a writer?” “What the hell is this?” Nightmares. Then I tell myself I’m supposed to be positive and that brings good things, right? At least that’s what all those cute sayings and photos tell me on Facebook. So I picture them saying, “Wow, brilliant writing. Check this out,” as they hand it around the table. (Yes, they are all sitting around a big conference table sipping martinis and reading short stories. It’s my dream, shut up.)

I’ve created all kinds of crappy art while trying to copy Pinterest. Who the hell does all that stuff anyway? But I had fun doing it and it’s all over my office where I can see it, but  everyone else doesn’t have to look at it. It might be brilliant, but more than likely it’s mediocre at best.

We’ll see what happens with the story, but I felt great while writing it. I felt great editing it. I felt uneasy sending it, but once it was gone it was out of my hands. And if, by chance, they don’t like it, that doesn’t take away any of the joy I got while writing it.