Monthly Archives: September 2013

At The Beach

Working at "The Beach"

Working at “The Beach”

(Figuratively speaking, that is. I haven’t really traveled anywhere, except in my imagination.)

Welcome to Puckett’s Beach. On warm sunny days I can work on my tan and enjoy a good beach-read. On cool fall nights, I can turn on the hot tub, watch the airplanes in their flight plan and count a few stars. And in the winter it’s fun to run through the snow to get into the water.

There’s a song called “Up On The Roof” in which the performer says : “When this old world starts getting me down” and then goes on to comment about how being up on the roof refreshes and recharges their spirits. In a children’s book by Faith Ringgold entitled TAR BEACH, a small child can fly over a bridge and her city. Her special place is the roof on top of her apartment building. I LOVE that book!

I know why my Creative Muse Levels have dropped this week, so I’ll be spending some time at Puckett’s Beach. “Stuff happens” out here on the farm.

I’ll be fine, really. I’m just not ready to talk about it. Maybe later.

Please collect my regular mail. I’ll be back in a few days.
Thx.

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“Foolin’ Around”

Jinx and Teego watching me work.

Jinx and Teego watching me work.

Some days are better than others.

I set a goal and make step-by-step plans on how to accomplish that goal. I make and stick to a list. I check off items on that list as things get accomplished. I set deadlines for myself and work to meet those deadlines.

And then….

there are some days in which no matter WHAT I do, I just can’t seem to get it all TOGETHER. Nothing appears to get done. The projects are waiting. I’ve got what I need. I can find the supplies, have the time, look around and then WHAM! I get blindsided by what might appear to be procrastination, but it’s really not. (At least I don’t think so.)

I’ll call it “Spinning Circles” for lack of a better term. I can’t seem to get anything accomplished, so I’ll go out in the barn, sit down at the wheel and begin to treadle. On the wheel I can feel the fiber passing through my fingers and my thoughts begin to flow with the movement of the wheel. I keep a notebook handy for when/if the solution to a problem, inspiration or idea strikes. I’ll write it down because I KNOW I won’t remember it later.

Another technique I use is called “Foolin’ Around.” I’ll take my camera with me and go for a walk in the back yard. I never know for sure what I might find, but it gets me up and moving. My imagination begins to look at things from a different point of view and that’s always a good beginning.

Jinx and Teego were a little curious when I came into the pasture with my camera. Soon I had some handspun yarns out for a photo shoot and it was more than they could bear. They came over to look. Did I have food? After spending almost two hours with a camera and the alpacas, I could begin again. Maybe I was working all along.

What do you do when you get “stuck” with thoughts or ideas in your creative projects? Although I might be spinning circles and fooling around, I’ll be making forward progress.

Today’s a good day for “Foolin’ Around.”

Happy Creating!

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Old Dogs, New Tricks

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Yes, I’ve heard that old saying too. “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Supposedly to be an explanation of how it’s easier to teach something new to someone younger. That expression has been around since the 1500s, and quite possibly just as inaccurate then as it is now.

To my way of thinking: it depends on the dog.

From time to time, I try to teach myself a few new tricks. I like to think I can knit and am mostly self-taught when it comes to that. There’s something oddly self-satisfying about the repetitive hand motions which accompany knitting, crocheting or hand spinning. While researching hand spinning, I came across a general statement about how Gandhi used spinning as a form of meditation and if he did, I understand how that works. My mind is clear, yet focused, and I can use that time to allow the most amazing creative thoughts to develop. Multiple points of view(s) are explored, plot points developed, dialogue planned, characters fleshed out: when I use that time as a technique for writing, it frees my creative consciousness to go to a whole other place. I’m not just spinning or knitting. I’m WORKing my brain! If I knit while riding a recumbent bicycle, I’m working my body as well. (Before you ask, the answer is yes.)

My friends who knit socks are encouraging me to give socks a try. So I’ve watched them, watched videos, knit and UNknit the same sock multiple times. The sock has to fit my foot and calf, right? (Yes) But it will go in a shoe, so does it matter if the toe is all the way closed? (Yes) Turning the heel part of the sock is a whole-other-matter. And you need two socks that sort-of match to have a pair of them.

My creative path to making socks is evolving. I can make two fairly good “tube” socks, with no heel. I am learning to knit from the toe-up and I enjoy having made my own double pointed knitting needles out of wooden dowel sticks. Granted, my work looks like a tiny porcupine with all those needles sticking out of it but that’s not what’s important. Just like those messy first drafts, I am working it out. Even if I have to unknit later, even that will have taught me something about the process. I will learn to knit a heel; short rows seem to be the way to go. There are SO many ways to knit a sock.

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Looks like a toe has begun to form, doesn’t it? As I keep going, maybe the rest of the sock will appear.

As I keep writing or drawing, I’m fairly certain the ideas will come together, too.

I’d show you a photograph of one of my dogs, but she’s not in the mood to pose for a photograph. The offer of extra kibble-bits just won’t do it.

The dogs suggest I come back later. They’re wise to me.

I think I’ll go knit. Or write. Or draw.
Happy Creating!

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WIK Blog Tour: Interview with Jennifer Echols

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) has within its membership our local Southern Breeze region, which includes Georgia, Alabama and part of Florida. A conference is coming this October 12th to Birmingham, AL. What a great group of speakers are coming!

I had the opportunity to ask Jennifer Echols, one of the members of the faculty for the 2013 Writing and Illustrating for Kids Conference (WIK) a few questions about her work. Jennifer writes Y/A Romances and her workshop at WIK will be on the topic: “How Hot CAN it get in Y/A Romance?” And by the way folks, her YA romance DIRTY LITTLE SECRET is available now and her romantic comedy PLAYING DIRTY will be coming Oct 29th.

Jennifer Echols

Me: Jennifer, why do you write for Y/A?

Jennifer: I always try to write the book I want to read, and I truly love YA romances.

Me: What is your writing process?

Jennifer: Wow, what a mess! If left to my own devices, I just get an idea and start writing. That isn’t possible nowadays because my agent and my editors want me to write a proposal first. For me, that is like icing a cake and then baking it. I beat my head against the wall trying to do that for several months.

Then, when it’s time to write in earnest, I jot down whatever scenes come to me. Dialogue is easiest, and that tells me about the characters. Usually I’ll write some scenes at the end of the book, then the middle. I skip around like this until I have 150 pages or so and can’t find anything anymore. I make a calendar of the events in the book, then read through what I’ve got and put everything in chapters. Now I can start writing at the beginning and fill holes until I reach the end.

Do not try this at home. Believe me, I have attempted to streamline this process or just de-crazy-fy it a bit. By now I have resigned myself to the fact that it works for me.

Me: What life experiences have you had that might have influenced you in your writing?

Jennifer: I grew up in Alexander City, AL, on beautiful Lake Martin. You can see my experiences growing up there in my books: the lake itself, the small town I was dying to get out of but really wasn’t so bad, and all the fun I had as drum major of the marching band.

One nice thing about Alex City that made it very different from a lot of other small towns in the South is that all the kids in town went to the same public school. That is, there was one school for first and second grades, one for third and fourth grades, and so on. The school you attended wasn’t determined by your neighborhood. If you were in fifth grade in Alex City, you went to Radney, period. And during integration (which, astoundingly, happened only six years before I started school), the town elders asked people to keep their children in the public schools and not send them to the private schools that were popping up. People complied, and the private schools never got a foothold. As a result, I think folks I graduated with have an unusually deep understanding of what it means to get along with kids literally from the other side of the tracks. I explore those sorts of relationships in my books.

Me: What are you working on right now?

Jennifer: I’m writing a proposal. See the question above, the one where I’m banging my head against the wall. After that, I’ll resume work on my Superlatives series of YA romantic comedies for Simon Pulse, a division of Simon & Schuster. The series is about three friends at a Florida high school who are selected to represent “who’s who” categories for their senior class, and how those labels change the way they see themselves. The first novel, BIGGEST FLIRTS, will be published on May 20. You can check out the adorable cover on my web site: http://www.jennifer-echols.com/biggestflirts.html.

Me: Give us a hint about your upcoming session: How Hot CAN it get in Y/A Romance?

Jennifer: It can get EXTREMELY HOT, but it doesn’t have to! Everyone can write (and sell!) the heat level they’re comfortable with and enjoy reading. During my talk, I’ll explain why all heat levels are still okay in the current marketplace and why it’s so important to write the book you want to read, especially in romance. I look forward to seeing everyone there!

Me: Thanks, Jennifer! I appreciate the opportunity for Breezers to get to know you a little bit better. Can’t wait for this WIK conference this year, folks.

Check out her website: http://www.jennifer-echols.com

Dirty Little Secret(cover)

WIK is a great place to get inspired, get tips on your craft, and learn about the business of children’s publishing. It’s also an opportunity to meet editors, agents, and a wonderful network of working writers and artists.
To find out more or to register, visit https://southern-breeze.net

You can meet other members of the conference faculty by following the WIK blog tour:

Aug. 28 Author Matt de la Peña at Stephanie Moody’s Moodyviews:
http://moodyviews.com

(Look under heading: Rants, Raves and Kid Lit Bits)

Editor Lou Anders at F.T. Bradley’s YA Sleuth:
http://yasleuth.blogspot.com/

Aug. 29 Author Doraine Bennett at Jodi Wheeler-Toppen’s Once Upon
a Science Book: http://onceuponasciencebook.com/news/

Author Robyn Hood Black at Donny Seagraves’ blog:
http://donnyseagraves.com/donny-bailey-seagraves-blog/

Aug. 30 MFA program director Amanda Cockrell at Elizabeth Dulemba’s:
http://dulemba.blogspot.com/

Illustrator Prescott Hill at Gregory Christie’s
G.A.S. : http://www.gas-art.com/

Aug. 31 Author Heather Montgomery at Claire Datnow’s Media Mint
Publishing: http://www.mediamint.net/page7/page7.html

Editor Michelle Poploff at Laura Golden’s Just Write:
http://authorlauragolden.blogspot.com/

Sept. 3 Author Nancy Raines Day at Laurel Snyder’s blog:
http://laurelsnyder.com/?page_id=4

Author Jennifer Echols at Paula Puckett’s blog Random
Thoughts from the Creative Path: https://paulabpuckett.wordpress.com/

Sept. 4 Editor Dianne Hamilton at Ramey Channell’s The Painted
Possum: http://rameychannell.blogspot.com/

Author Janice Hardy at Tracey M. Cox’s A Writer’s Blog:
http://traceymcox.wordpress.com/

Sept. 5 Author / illustrator Sarah Frances Hardy at Stephanie
Moody’s Moodyviews:
http://moodyviews.com

(Look under heading: Rants, Raves and Kid Lit Bits)

Agent Sally Apokedak at Cheryl Sloan Wray’s Writing
with Cheryl: http://writingwithcheryl.wordpress.com/

Sept. 6 Agent Jennifer Rofe at Cathy Hall’s Blog: http://c-c-hall.com/

Author / illustrator Chris Rumble at Cyrus Webb
Presents: http://cyruswebbpresents.blogspot.com/

(If these links aren’t working, please try to hold the Control key and click at the same time. Thanks!)

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