Why click Publish?

In October, a person I lived with hit me. On purpose. It was an event that was both the climax of one narrative, and, perhaps, the precipitating action of another.

Ever since, I have been struggling not only with living this narrative, but also with knowing how or whether to tell the story, to put it into words to share with others.

Like Joan Didion, I’ve long thought that the primary reason I write has been fairly simple and very personal:

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”

Publishing–the act of putting our writing out into the world–is an entirely different thing.

When one writes primarily for personal reasons, as I do, whether or not to write is a simple question with a simple answer:

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When one publishes, when one has at one’s hands the means for easy publication (as we all do now), the question is much trickier.

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And even this doesn’t really capture it. Far more often than the chart would indicate, the question needs the word “possible” and my answer is actually “maybe.” The idea of my own gain is always mostly abstract because for me, both writing and publishing are entirely optional. I made choices early in my life to make it so. Though there was much I didn’t understand (about everything), I somehow knew (fiercely, without doubt) that I did not want to tie my writing to my livelihood. Not “real” writing, anyway–the words I cared most about, the ones I set down in order to find out what my experiences mean.

I’ve experienced traditional publishing, but probably because I did not care much about influence or money (and subsequently didn’t get much of either from it), my experiences with traditional publication felt a little hollow, a little flat. (Not unlike losing my virginity, which mostly caused me to wonder what all the fuss had been about.)

Blogging has been a different thing entirely.

To carry my questionable metaphor further, writing and (traditional) publishing are, it seems to me, fairly masturbatory acts, at least for the writer.

Yes, yes, yes, I know:  Published words can have profound effects on readers. But in the traditional model of word sharing, those effects are rarely known by writers in any but the most abstract of ways.

Blogging–the small, old-school blogging of the type I do here–is much more a two-person affair with the potential for intimacy. The answer to the question of Why publish? is different here. I’m under no illusion that publishing isn’t still very much about my own desires and gratification, but the notion that putting words out there will do something for someone other than just me is more than an abstraction. And what we create here is just that:  what we create. Whatever happens in this space is as much about readers as it is me. My words are the opening of a conversation, not a lecture.

So, the question of whether or not to publish is a quite different one when the venue is a space such as this. To answer it, I must consider what value my words might have to others, what benefits my partners–my community–might get from them. I have to weigh those potential benefits against possible costs to myself and others, which are so often those I know (sometimes intimately) IRL. It’s rarely an easy equation to balance when the topic and the truths are hard.

So. Do I tell the story of being hit? I’m down in that last big bubble on the chart, where my words are hanging out in a drafts folder. There are things I want to say about mental health care. I know that shared experience is always valuable, but I don’t know how much value my words on this might create. I don’t know how much sharing those words–even in a space as small as this one is (but which could blow up in size at any time)–might cause more harm than good, particularly to some I love. Though I boldly claimed voice as my word for the coming year just days ago, I have more questions than answers about how to use it. That’s why I’m doing here what I always do when I write:  I’m writing entirely to find out what I’m thinking. And by publishing here, I’m letting you know that I’d like to know what  you think, too.

Hope we can talk in the comments.

Word

2015 was the hardest year of my life.

So many things shattered this year.

So much shattering.

When you’ve lived 51 years, that’s saying something, as there’s some good competition for the title of “hardest year.” Was 2015 harder than the year that straddled the nearly-constant misery of 7th and 8th grade? Harder than the year I got divorced (the first time)? How about the year I became an instant, full-time parent to my step-children when their mother suddenly died? The year IVF failed 3 times, including one miscarriage? Or the one when pregnancy finally stuck but was swiftly followed by bedrest, life-threatening birth, NICU, and caring for preemie twins? How about the year of calamities (school strike, surgery, terminal illness, break-in, death), in which we discovered our home was riddled with mold that was making us all sick, and I came to realize it was a metaphor for my marriage? Closely followed by the year in which my husband and I lived together while negotiating divorce because he threatened to sue for full custody of our children, and then I adjusted to living half my life without them.

Yes, 2015 was harder than all of those years, in spite of my best efforts to manage and make it not-as-hard. I did all the things I know to do:

  • Stay in the day, hour, moment I was in
  • Surrender to the truth/pain and find the lessons within it
  • See a therapist
  • Exercise and eat right
  • Practice self-care
  • Set clear boundaries
  • Practice gratitude
  • Reach out to friends and accept help
  • Be gentle with myself and others
  • Breathe
Focusing on small moments of pleasure.

Grateful to breathe with the bee in this single lovely moment. More grateful he didn’t sting me.

Although there were days of light and ease and comfort and hope, most days of the last year mostly sucked, pretty much from the first one up until the very last. And some were just knock-me-to-the-ground devastating. 2015 followed a really hard 2014, which had followed a fairly crappy 2013, years I’d ended with a firm belief that the next one must surely be better than the last because they couldn’t be worse–so the whole idea of joining in with all of those choosing a word or setting an intention for 2016 seemed laughable to me, something for innocents who don’t understand how truly uncontrollable life is and how, sometimes, it is nearly unbearable despite all the things our culture tells us we can do to be OK with whatever it throws at us.

And then–for reasons I don’t clearly understand–I decided to do it anyway.

I signed up for Susannah Conway’s mini-course on choosing a word for the year, despite my skepticism and my feeling that such things are, in the words of my good friend Kate, “silly and twee and a bit woo-woo.” At least, a bit too much of all those things for me.

But, I had a notebook, and I thought, What the hell? Can’t hurt, right? (And, because of one of those hard 2015 things, I now have time on my hands that I look to fill in positive ways.)

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I was working pretty hard in the last days of this year on surrender and practicing gratitude and staying in the moment, and I thought writing in my journal to explore words would be fun, if nothing else. And you know what? It was.

I love words, and I loved exploring words. I liked the questions Susannah posed. By the end of Day 3, I was down to three possible words:  Flow, Power, and Voice. By Day 4, I knew my word:

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As I wrote on Day 5:

My word is Voice. If I use my voice, I will have power. When I make time for flow experiences, I find and express my voice. After a year of allowing myself to be silenced, I need to claim my voice. I need to speak for myself and for others I care about. I want to use it to speak truth, to connect, to heal, to do good work.

The truth is, I’ve allowed myself to be silenced in many ways for many, many years. Perhaps I needed the pain of 365 hard days–in which I became literally silenced in my own home–to wake me up to this. I wish it could be a year for me to focus on the kinds of words I found myself writing over and over again on Day 1, when describing an ideal day:  light, warm, soft, ease. These are things I want in my life. But I think I am only going to find them when I find my voice and use it.

And, I think that finding and using a strong, true voice is going to help me get through whatever 2016 wants to throw at me in much better shape than I got through 2015.

So:  bring it on, 2016. Give me whatever you’re going to give. But if it’s more crap, don’t expect me to put up with it quietly or dress it up with pretty words.

I’m done with that shit.

 

Photo Credit: Voice image modified from original by bek15 via Compfight cc

Everywhere you look

I see so many cool things in the course of my days–potential projects are everywhere! Most come into my viewfinder and pass right out, but some I feel compelled to capture with my phone’s camera, always sure that I will make something just like that cool something I’m seeing.

Guess how many of these dream projects I’ve actually tackled?

Actually, it’s kind of hard to say. It depends on how you define “tackled.” To make me feel like there might be some purpose in all these near-hits that are pretty-much misses (so far), I thought I’d like to put them in one place here and share them with you. Maybe they’ll inspire you to make some great something? And then I can feel better about it the next time I take a picture “for later.” 🙂

Mappy Easter Eggs

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Aren’t these super-cute/cool looking? I’ve never come close to making anything like these. I’ve gotten stumped on what to use for eggs. I know I could blow out the insides of some raw eggs and then mod podge some kind of ephemera to them, but blowing out the inside of eggs would likely make me dizzy. Or get a migraine. And I hardly decorate for Easter, and don’t really like the idea of decorating for holidays or seasons…Still, I really like these. Maybe next spring…

Garden Screen

IMG_0264This one we actually kinda did. Sorta. We wanted to build a screen to hide our garbage cans, and we wanted the screen to contain plants. We found these outside a restaurant somewhere, and I thought they were pretty ingenious. Our version was pretty similar. I’m going to call this one an inspiration-turned-action victory!

Except, sadly, that screen is no more. It got pulverized in a bad windstorm last winter. How quickly one can fall from the thrill of victory to the agony of defeat!

Fairy Chair Garden

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OK, so I was never gonna make a garden for fairies. But something about this was just so stinkin’ cute. And it’s made in an old chair, which I have a well-documented soft spot for.

Because I went cold turkey on chairs that need rehab, I don’t have any likely candidates for this project. But I have jumped on the succulent bandwagon and have several in our house. Nothing as twee as the little vignette above, though.

mod Peg Board

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Um, yeah:  This was taken at Chipotle. I no longer remember why I thought we needed pegboard with giant holes or where I thought we’d put it or how I thought we’d make it, but I do remember thinking this looked cool. Still do. Never going to to this, however (all those pesky why/where/how questions I can’t answer).

Chunky Picnic Tables

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I’m not really sure why I thought these tables were something snap-worthy. What they look like to me now is expensive. Maybe it was that they looked easy to build? We still don’t have a well-functioning picnic table, but we talk about building one every once in a while.

Lattice Pillow

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Gotta like the finger in this one! There was something about this pillow I thought was way-groovy. Still do, and this is one project I actually started. Got stymied by the very thin strips of fabric. Several burned fingers (from the iron) later, I abandoned it. Should have known fingers would be my downfall with this venture.

Big Embroidery

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We did some renovation work on our bedroom this summer, and I tried to convince Cane that this could make a super-cool headboard. He didn’t share my vision. 🙂 But there’s something about this super-sized embroidery that’s really appealing to me. Makes me want to embroider something with big, chunky fibers of some sort. It could happen.

Vertical Planter

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I liked this take on a vertical planter–maybe because it doesn’t have to be attached to the side of the house. Something about this design appealed to me. I can’t really remember what it was now, but I still like the planter all the same!

Burlap Sack Planters

IMG_0572Speaking of planters…I just thought these were clever. Burlap is so inexpensive, and making these would be a lot easier than building a box. For me, at least. But this is another one on the list of projects not done.

Salvaged Christmas Tree

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Add this to the list of projects Killed-by-Cane. Probably a mercy killing. I’m pretty sure I snapped this one during the holidays, and I’m pretty sure I said something like this:

“Just think! We’d never have to wrestle a real tree into the house again! No more needles to sweep and vacuum! And it’s recycling instead of killing a tree! It’s UP-cycling, actually. With house parts. And we’re all about houses and re-use and all that junk!”

And I’m pretty sure he said something like:

“But we’d have to store it. And it’s ugly.”

This right here captures everything about why we are generally a good team.

Book Page Snowballs

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I am not a big holiday decorator. (I’ll spare you all the reasons why.) But I have loved and longed for these ever since I first saw them 3 or 4 years ago at Powell’s bookstore, where they are hung for the holidays. Thanks to a bountiful source of discarded book pages, I have the paper. Last year I even went so far as to research how to sew a thick stack of paper, and I bought a special needle for my sewing machine. I also bought a cool gizmo to cut the paper into circles. Still haven’t made them. Maybe this will be the year…and I’ll make the mappy eggs right after I make these.

How about you?

Am I the only one who sees inspiration everywhere? You want to tackle any of the projects I’m not going to get to? (So many projects, so little time…) If you do, I would love to see your results. 🙂

It’s just not fair…

…of me to keep you on “The Edge” of your seats. I know, especially when it’s taking me so long to get posts written these days. But I just have to share the awesomeness that is the Clackamas County Fair before it gets any further away from me. Although we technically have a few weeks of summer left, it’s pretty much done. I need one last gasp celebration of all that is the rural county fair before the summer is really and truly over.

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If you’d like to see a lovely depiction of the fair, full of artfully-shot photos and adorable little-kid goodness, I encourage you to visit Alicia Paulsen’s post about her day at the fair. She is the writer of Posie Gets Cozy, a blog that makes me want to sit and sew and knit and cook good food and snuggle up in sweet, old-fashioned quilts.

But then come right back so you can see the view from our sometimes twisted lens.

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Fruit/vegetable sculpture. Of…something?

There was, of course, the standard fair fare–rides, games, high-fat food.

cow

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There were also the things that make me wonder about some people. And sigh a lot.

redneck signs

demolition derby

I’d never been to a demolition derby. Destruction just for the fun of it isn’t really my kind of fun.

I didn’t get many photos of the standard fare because that’s not what really draws me to the fair. What gets me are the things that make my heart feel so tender about us humans and what we do with our brief time on this planet.

llama judging

cowboy boots

The llama judging may have been my favorite part of the day, watching kids decked out in their best jeans and their boots, so serious and earnest as they brought their animals forward to be inspected.

It brought back such vivid memories of Fern at the fair in Charlotte’s Web that I went home and read some of those passages aloud to Cane. (We roared at how her parents sent her and her brother off with 50 cents to last the whole day. Some things have certainly changed!)

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There is so much creative energy and work on display at the fair, and something about seeing so much of it gathered in one place touches me like few other things do.

I love thinking about the origins of county fairs, how they were ways to celebrate the skills so essential to rural life.

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This gorgeous coat was sewn by a 13-year-old. Wish I had such mad skills!

This gorgeous coat was sewn by a 13-year-old. Wish I had such mad skills!

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Look at this amazing dress!

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And this, which is amazing in a totally different way. A modern take on feed sack reuse. Love it.

What gets me even more than displays of useful, utilitarian skills are the ones that show how deep our need to create is, in ways that go beyond the purely practical.

The tiniest little succulents you ever did see.

The tiniest little succulents you ever did see.

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Welcome to Sherwood Forest. Lego-style.

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So many paintings, of such a wide range of subjects.

A Wizard of Oz-themed table setting.

The table-setting event is one of our favorites. This was a Wizard of Oz-themed one.

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A sweet little flower arrangement.

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An “I Spy” quilt. How I would have loved this for my kids when they were small.

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A dress embellished with paint. Each button had a unique design.

And, finally, I also loved the displays of collections. It seems Marie Kondo has all kinds of us thinking about whether or not objects “spark joy” in us, but the creators of these displays have clearly been tuned into their sources of joy for some time:

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I have a collection of teacups from my grandmothers and great-grandmothers much like this one.

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"Barbie's Wide Variety of Shoes" was definitely our favorite collection!

“Barbie’s Wide Variety of Shoes” was definitely our favorite collection!

When I began my month-long August photo project (which I pretty much abandoned mid-way), I wondered about photography and how it impacts my relationship with experience. What I realized carrying my camera around the fair is this:  I like photography when I’m focused on exploring a topic or idea–but not so much when I’m trying to make good photos.

As I’m sure you can tell, I didn’t do much more than point and shoot while at the fair. I didn’t want to fuss much with framing my shots, and I wanted even less to fuss with camera settings. What I wanted to do was capture images to help me remember what I was loving about the fair, and I liked how capturing images was getting me to think about what I love and why I love it. It was OK because I was experiencing it with someone else who was taking photos for the same reasons; the photo-taking was integral to our experience, not something to capture it.

I guess this means I won’t ever be a great photographer, and photography isn’t really one of my creative outlets. But that’s OK. Sometimes I’ll still get lucky and take some great photos.

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We stopped at a dahlia farm on our way to the fair. I kinda like this one.

I promise to finish the Edge story asap. We did go back to work this week, so it might be a few days before I get to it. 🙂

 

In praise of the hobbyist

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Last week I wrote a long brain-dump on the notion of following our passion and making creative passion the center of our livelihoods. While I was working on it, this came across my Facebook feed:

If you don’t want to watch the whole thing, at least go to just after the 3:30 mark, just so you can hear his voice and see his face. If you want to know what the expression of creative passion looks like, this is it.

What this video helped me see is what a lesser place this world would be if only those who made  creative passion the center of their life’s work were the practitioners of it.

According to the BBC, this priest, Father Ray Kelly of Oldcastle, County Meath, Ireland, is a trained singer with 3 albums to his name, but singing is (obviously) not his primary calling. He sings “to make a few bob for local charities.” He says, “I enjoy singing but I wouldn’t want to do it full-time–I love what I’m doing as a priest. The way I look at it is, it’s a gift one has, and if you have a gift you use it.”

Ever since seeing him, I have been acutely aware of all the gifts being used in large and small ways around me every day. This weekend Cane and I went to small, free music performance at a local eatery. There were about 15 of us there, lining a small hallway

The singers had great voices, great stage presence. I closed my eyes to listen, and I could hear no significant difference between their voices and the ones I might hear coming through Pandora.

“Talent is a key ingredient, for sure,” I said to Cane, “but really there’s so much more to becoming a star, that particular kind of big success. Because there are so many people who have the same kind of talent who never get rich or famous from it. It’s also luck, and connections, and resources, and a drive to achieve at that level, in that way. It requires a set of skills and qualities that have little to do with the creative talent.”

As we listened, I became so deeply grateful for all the “small” musicians who’ve entertained me throughout my life–the ones who play at bars and restaurants and weddings and parks. I’m not a concert-goer because I don’t like music in large venues with big crowds, and the price of tickets to such events are so often more than I’d like to spend. I like to take music in with other things–food, friends, scenery. Without musicians willing to play in small places for small audiences for little (or no) pay, I’d likely never hear live music, and that would be a loss.

local music

I have been wanting, since I started working on that other post, to see the new documentary about Amy Winehouse (sadly, every attempt to do so has met with misfortune). Though I haven’t yet seen it, she keeps coming to mind as I consider these questions about gifts and passion and what we do with them.

I keep wondering how her life–and the lives of so many others whose talents were so large when they were so young–might have been different if we broadened our ideas of what it means to live our passions, to use our gifts, to be “successful.”

At the end of the trailer, we hear her voice: “I’m not a girl trying to be a star. I’m just a girl who sings.” How might her story have ended differently if she hadn’t become a star, if she had remained “just a girl who sings,” if we honored and celebrated all the small kinds of creative work as much as we do the work that garners a huge audience and prestigious awards?

Early this summer Cane wrote a blog post of his own that elicited a strong reaction in his jiu jitsu community, “Confessions of a hobbyist black belt.” In it, he doesn’t just defend the hobbyist, he makes a case for the importance of the hobbyist:

What is often missing is the voice of the hobbyist. The student who has a full time job, maybe a family or other demands and chooses to not dedicate the bulk of their life to the art. This is where the vast majority of people who study Jiu Jitsu live. Either by choice, circumstance, or necessity we are part time grapplers. We enjoy the art as much as anyone and aspire to be the best grapplers that we can be but we are realistic that we don’t choose to train in a way that will make us the next world champion. This is the realm of the hobbyist.

It’s okay to be a hobbyist. There is no shame in it and it doesn’t make you any less of a Jiu Jitsu student. Everyone has their own role to play in the art. …We need people who are successful parents, professionals, educators, tradesmen, students, doctors etc. These people give the school a wonderful diversity and richness that it wouldn’t have if everyone was full time athlete. … Each has an important role to play in creating a rich tribe that nurtures everyone’s aspirations and respects everyone’s path through Jiu Jitsu.

I couldn’t agree more with him. Each of us who practices any kind of creative art has a role to play, and we all make a contribution to the lives of others when we do it. My challenge to you today is to notice all the small creative gifts that you encounter in the next 24 hours, things crafted by those who’ve earned no fame or fortune or even a small paycheck from their work, and to think of what your world would be like without our creative hobbyists.

clay pot

Both the pot and the plate are hand-made thrift store finds.

For me, I wouldn’t have the blankets on my sofa, the art on my walls, or the words in my blog reader. I wouldn’t have the table I’m sitting at to write these words, or the food I’ve eaten while gathering them. My world would be colder, bleaker, quieter, and I’d be hungry for so many things beyond food.

What would be missing from yours?

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The empty minutes

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I am still here. Just not here.

Which is why I really needed to read these words today from The Art of Simple.

Here’s a snippet:

“I wouldn’t do more, I would simply learn to see. I would see the creative nourishment and mindfulness waiting in the empty minutes of the day. And I would pick up the needles and knit, if only but a few stitches (this morning it was only 4 or 5). I would color slowly across the linen with embroidery floss, just one stem of a flower. I would open the journal, pick up the pencil, and sketch – what did that cloud look like today?”

Yesterday I stitched a line on the Valentine card that is still not done. I did it while helping with homework, providing parenting support, watching an episode of Call the Midwife. I did it in fits and starts. Sometimes, that is the only way we can do anything. But anything is something, isn’t it?

6 Reasons I want to be Lois Ehlert when I grow up

1. I would create books that are childhood favorites.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom page

Some people read Goodnight, Moon until they think they will go batty.* Chicka Chicka Boom Boom** (by Bill Martin, Jr.) was that kind of book for us. My kids LOVED it when the letters all came crashing down. (Don’t worry; although some got injured in the making of the book [see D, E, and F above], it’s all good in the end.)

2. I would be a maker of fun, creative, playful books for children.

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A few years back, I attended a conference for writers and illustrators of children’s books. Here’s what I loved about that conference: Unlike many such events for the writers of literary, adult fare, this talk of this conference seemed focus on the audience. It wasn’t so much about personal expression as it was about connecting with kids.

I don’t know if that is why the attendees of that conference were such a different crowd than the writers I’d encountered at literary events, but they were. I felt a comfort there like I’ve never felt in any other group of creatives. They were unpretentious and warm and generous. I felt as if I’d found my people.

Although I create for selfish reasons (I think we all do), I’ve found I can’t stick with it unless I’m doing it for someone else. And can I tell you, I’ve never met any adult who relishes and delights in story the way children do. Watching story time is the absolute favorite part of my job.*** I would so love to write a book for children and be the person who creates the kind of excitement in story I’ve only ever seen in children.

3. I would have a deeper relationship with my world.

Lois Ehlert Scraps

This post was inspired by this book, my latest book indulgence. (You can find it here.***) In it, Ehlert talks about how everything in the world is potential material for her work. When she goes for a walk, she’s looking at the world with an eye to all the visual possibilities inherent in the things that cross her path–leaves, spent pea pods, a cherry tomato.

Such looking creates a different sort of relationship with the world, something I’ve had with writing at various times in my life.

4. I would be a generous artist.

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Ehlert from Scraps

I love the way Ehlert lays her process open for readers, so we can see that art doesn’t happen by magic. It is clear in Scraps that art comes from watching and playing and planning and doing. She demystifies the process by showing us how she takes inspiration from the world, and then how she turns that inspiration into stories and gorgeous collage illustrations. We get to see drafts and notes and sketches.

Too often, I think, we act as if there can be only so much creative success in the world. I believe there is enough for all of us to have some. It seems Ehlert does, too.

5. I would work to expand others’ notions of what artistic expression is.

From Scraps

From Ehlert's Hands

In another of Ehlers’s books, Hands: Growing Up to Be an Artist, she writes about how fortunate she was to grow up with parents who used their hands (which she also writes about in Scraps). (The second image above comes from that book.) Her father built things, and her mother gardened and sewed, and both provided Ehlert with her own work space and scraps of materials to create with. I love her message that all such creative work is part of artistic creation.

Ehlert parents

6. I would exude happiness.

Lois Ehlert Doesn’t she look like a happy person? I know there is much more to a successful career as a children’s book writer/illustrator than simply playing with bits of paper all day long, but I think that getting to spend a large portion of one’s time playing with bits of paper might make me smile like that, too. 🙂

How about you?

If you could be any writer or artist, who would you be? If I had to choose only one, I don’t know if I could. But Lois Ehlert would definitely be on my list.

Ehlert end papers

(I love the end papers for Scraps.)

Oh, and I almost forgot…

Ehlert has been a source of inspiration and instruction as I continue to work on my Valentine for Cane:

Valentine card

Not sure if I’m going to finish this by Saturday…

 

*If you are or have been one who’s read Goodnight, Moon a million and a half times (or so), you must check out this post from The Ugly Volvo. But please don’t click away until you leave a comment telling me about your favorite childhood books/authors. 😉 Because I could talk children’s books all the live-long day.
**There are no affiliate links in this post, but if I’m writing about a book I want to link you to a source for it. I link to Powell’s because it is an independent bookstore and local to me. It’s a treasure and one of my favorite places in the world.
**I am the media coordinator for a public school district, which means that I oversee 10 school libraries. I would rather be a librarian in one school library (so I could do story time rather than just watch it!), but Oregon school librarians were decimated in the cuts following the 2008 recession and we now have only 1 half-time certified librarian in our district:  me.

What would you make of this?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you’re fortunate enough to live in or near Portland, OR, you simply must visit the SCRAP store.

SCRAP is a non-profit creative re-use store and donation center, filled with all kinds of materials–like this table of sample decor fabrics. I’ve been enamored with these samples ever since I discovered some on a clearance table at a fabric store and made these pillows with them:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, of course, when I saw that I could get a whole grocery bag’s worth for only $5, a bag had to come home with me. It’s been sitting in my supply closet for a few months now, but I think it’s going to come out soon. In the meantime, tell me creative reader:

What would you make with such fine scraps?

Fabric scraps from SCRAP

 

Valentine’s Card 2015: Ideas and Inspiration

This guy is my Valentine:

Cane in the living room

Even though we’d do cartwheels for each other (for reals, see below), we aren’t really fans of Valentine’s Day. Too much of what goes on for that holiday feels phony and contrived. We prefer to generally mock and/or ignore the pressure to make grand romantic gestures on February 14th. Nonetheless, I always make him a valentine card each year.

Last year's card, made from the discarded pages of old books.

Last year’s card, made from the discarded pages of old books. Just a bit of mocking going on here.

This year, I’m feeling inspired by an article in the February issue of Better Homes & Gardens. In it, Natalie Chanin shared handmade cards with hand-stitching on them.

BHS Natalie Chanin valentines

This sent me on a search for tutorials and inspiration online.The tutorial I like best is this one from Leigh Ann at Freckled Nest:

freckled nest hand stitching

Although many of the images above show hand-stitching on fabric, Leigh Ann’s tutorial addresses hand-stitching on paper, too.

Some years I’ve incorporated poetry, and I think I’d like to do that this year, too. One of my favorite sources for Valentine poems is Ted Kooser’s Valentines.

Ted Kooser's Valentine

University of Nebraska Press, 2008

I love the story of this book almost as much as I love the poems. In 1986, Kooser (former US poet laureate) wrote the first poem in the book and sent it to 50 women friends. That began a tradition that continued for 21 years, and the list of recipients eventually grew to 2,500. (Full story on NPR here.)

Ted Kooser's "A Map of the World"

One of my favorite poems in this favorite book.

If I get really ambitious, I might try writing my own poem. Or, I might write a collage poem–one in which I pull lines and phrases from other writer’s poems and combine them into my own. A good source for poems about love is the Academy of American Poets site, where you can browse poems by occasion. You can see quite a selection of poems on love here.

I’m looking forward to learning a new technique, exploring some poetry, and messing around with paper and fabric and embroidery floss. Hopefully I’ll have a project to share soon.

If you’ve got any great inspiration/ideas for making your own valentines, please share in the comments.

Cane cartwheeling