The Artist’s Date

artistsway-t           Several years ago I followed the exercises in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. Well, I followed some of them; I wrote my morning pages without fail. But I confess: I didn’t do the collages, and even though I went so far as to schedule regular Artist Dates, I didn’t always follow through.

In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron prescribes taking oneself on a regularly scheduled “artist date.” An artist date is “a block of time, perhaps two hours weekly, especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist. In its most primary form, the artist date is an excursion, a play date that you pre-plan and defend against all interlopers.”

Even though I’m good at blocking out time for writing and other word-related activities, I’ve never followed through on Cameron’s advice, even though I carried a shadow of shame that I should – if only I had the time.

Then last weekend, while I was in the Hudson River Valley for a family wedding, I visited The Storm King Art Center, a world-class sculpture park.

Waves, by Maya Lin

Waves, by Maya Lin

It was as I was strolling across the rolling terrain studded with sculpture of all sizes that I finally got it – what the artist date was all about.

Most of all, I became more observant, especially as my point-of-view of each sculpture kept shifting first as I saw it from a distance, then as I walked closer to it, around it, and then again from a distance. What I was seeing changed from each vantage point, just as our stories are shaped by the point of view from which we tell them.

I was also struck by the way the relationship of objects and angles bent space and changed one another, just the way details in narrative shift in importance and meaning depending on how they are presented.

I was especially struck by the power of negative space – the blank area created by sculptural lines that nearly vibrated with tension. Great prose can do this too – outline what’s not there, what’s not being said, but what may in fact be forcing all the characters in a story rushing toward mayhem.

Abstract sculptures at Storm King Art Center

Abstract sculptures at Storm King Art Center

Many of the sculptures were abstract. Nevertheless, I nearly always tried to make up a story about them, to ground them in narrative, because that’s how humans (or this human, anyway) makes sense of the world: through story. And once I noticed myself trying to tell a story about each orange girder, I challenged myself to see it simply qua orange girder, the way in yoga class I’m learning to acknowledge intrusive thoughts and then let them go. This technique allowed me the freedom of seeing without storytelling, sharpening my observational capability and focusing my concentration, two key tools for writers.

Some of the artwork literally stopped me in my tracks, they were so breathtaking, others barely registered as I strolled by. I simply noted this, without trying to evaluate it. Isn’t it interesting, I said to myself, that some of this art is so moving and some leaves me cold? And I walked on.

By the end of the day, I was seeing ordinary objects in new ways, which is one of the wonderful things that any IMG_1302art can do – sculpture, painting, music, prose. Suddenly, the way two trees leaned toward each other was pregnant with meaning, as was the relationship of two trashcans standing shoulder to shoulder, like sentinels guarding the parking lot.IMG_1312

And that was it: looking at art changed how I look at the world.

It also taught me the importance of the artist’s date, which I’ll now ink into my calendar and heed.

 

 

 

IMG_1298Deborah Lee Luskin is a novelist living in southern Vermont.

Be My Guest: Oct 11 Event for Mystery Writers and Others

There’s a fun day on tap this coming Saturday, and if you’re somewhat local to Concord, MA and this is of interest, make sure to register today, Monday, October 6.

Fellow NHWN bloggers, Diane and Julie, and I are part of a mystery writers group called Sisters in Crime. We also both belong to the New England chapter. And it’s the chapter that has pulled together a wonderful mystery-focused event this Saturday.

Here are the details:

Sisters in Crime New England Presents

History, Mystery & Murder!

Saturday, October 11, at Concord’s Historic Colonial Inn

11 a.m. Guided Walking Tour (optional)

12:15 p.m. Luncheon & Author Panel

What happened when two Puritan ministers and a fur trader wandered into the wilderness? What was Nathaniel Hawthorne’s shocking and grisly encounter? What’s so memorable about Major Pitcairn’s boo-boo or Tildy Holden and her chickens?

This easy-going, 60-minute walking tour of downtown Concord and Sleepy Hollow covers a bit of what you’ve read in history books and a whole lot that was left out, including tales of witches and shoemakers, drunken barbers, and the almost unbelievable story of Frank Sanborn, “possibly the coolest dude that ever lived in Concord”.

Afterward, enjoy a luncheon at the historic Colonial Inn and a spirited author panel on writing one of the hottest properties in our industry, Historical Mysteries.

Moderator Leslie Wheeler and award-winning authors M.E. Kemp, Ben and Beth Oak, Tempa Pagel, and Sarah Smith discuss how to make the past come alive while spinning an exciting tale for contemporary readers.

SinC/NE is covering most of the cost of this unique chapter event for members and their invited guests.

Register as my guest at these rates:

Tour & Luncheon/Panel: $25

Luncheon/Panel Only: $15

Reserve your tickets now/today (this is the last call for RSVPs) at http://sincne.org/history-mystery-and-murder

It should be a fun time on a beautiful New England fall afternoon… as long as no headless horsemen appear, I’ll be just fine.

 

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Rejuvenate and Explore: My Two Nights in a Museum

We’ve talked about getaways and writing retreats and taking time for ourselves as ways to recharge, get back in touch with the muse, and just to enjoy life — because what’s life if you aren’t enjoying it, right?

A couple of weeks ago, I had a fabulous opportunity to join a group of other active older adults who enjoy group outings through Boomerang Adventures. This one involved an island, a ferry, a golf cart, tai chi, yoga, kayaking, walking, cycling, and dining on fresh-from-the-ocean lobster, mussels, and clams.

NightAtTheMuseumHave you ever seen the movie Night at the Museum? It’s from 2006 and stars Ben Stiller. It’s a fun movie about a museum security guard who discovers the museum exhibits come alive at night.

Anyway, back to my adventure weekend. It was on Peak’s Island, Maine (a quick ferry ride from Portland, ME). I’d never heard of the island, yet it was only 2 hours from my home.

The island itself has a lot of civil war history – and at one time it was considered the Coney Island of Maine with hotels, entertainers, amusement parks, and more.

Currently on the island (among many things) are 2 military museums – the Fifth Maine Regiment Memorial Hall and the Eighth Maine Regiment House and Live-in Museum & Lodge. It’s amazing how much history is preserved on this beautiful little (4 mile) island on the Maine coast.

8th Museum and LodgeThe Boomerang group stayed at “the 8th”, and, wow! It’s really a museum! Part of what is preserved is the kitchen and dining hall (both in the basement). The main floor has an enormous fireplace and is open space – it’s where the civil war soldiers gathered (and slept) when they met at the lodge for reunions. Descendants still come and stay at the 8th.

I signed my name in the visitor’s log that dates back to 1924. How cool is that? The building is only open during the warm months, and the log book shows the influx of visitors – when the reunions happened, and now that the museum is open for reservations, it was fun to read the dates people have visited and where they’ve visited from.

8th Dining Hall Thankfully, the museum didn’t come alive at night, but I felt the history and saw it at every turn. Eating is a community event – visitors are assigned refrigerators (modern) and cupboards (original) for their food and tables so they can meet new people. Everyone chooses their own dishware (vintage and old) and silverware from the kitchen, and, most important, everyone does their own dishes! It’s how the soldiers did it, so it’s how current visitors do it.

There is still so much I’m absorbing from the trip. So much I’m writing down so I can remember. So much I plan to write about. So many people whose essence lingers and whose stories I would love to learn!

Peak's Island landingToday, I wanted to share how rejuvenating a totally different type of getaway can be. It wasn’t a writing-related getaway, I’m not a history ‘buff’. The trip was unique – and that attracted me.

New experiences – and sharing it with new friends – can rejuvenate and recharge you in ways you can’t imagine.

If you have a chance to try something new, go somewhere nearby you’ve never explored before – even for a few hours – I hope you’ll do it. An open mind is a great asset for any writer.

And if you can get to Peak’s Island and even stay at the 8th for a night or two – it’ll be a unique experience!

(I’m not a paid sponsor for any of the places mentioned. I just personally recommend them. And I do think the 8th Maine would make for a great unique writing retreat location – as there are lots of places to sit — inside and out — and large spaces to gather and share writing projects as a group.)

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She highly recommends getting a change of scenery now and then as a way to rejuvenate – and if you can turn it into an adventure, so much the better! You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook,  Google+, and LinkedIn.

Don’t miss NHWN at the Bookstock Literary Festival

Look out Vermont, the New Hampshire Writer’s Network is coming for a visit!

Don't miss (bottom row l-r) Deborah Lee Luskin, Lisa J. Jackson and Wendy E.N. Thomas as the present at the Bookstock Literary Festival Saturday, July 26

Don’t miss (bottom row l-r) Deborah Lee Luskin, Lisa J. Jackson and Wendy E.N. Thomas as the present at the Bookstock Literary Festival Saturday, July 26

The 2014 Bookstock Literary Festival takes place this weekend in lovely Woodstock, Vermont. This will be sixth iteration of the festival that features, workshops, panels and readings. Panel topics include, How to Get Happily Published, a Young Adult Fiction Panel, and A Story of Writers Blogging Together (more on this in a minute).

There will be food and music and activities for all ages and a used and vintage book sale that runs all three days. You can view an overview of all the events or review the descriptions for each session. All events are FREE and open to the public.

The keynote speakers are novelist Anita Diamont (The Red Tent, Day After Night) and former United States Poet Laureate Charles Simic. But, clearly the highlight of the festival will be the panel at Noon on Saturday A Story of Writers Blogging Together featuring NHNW’s very own Deborah Lee Luskin, Lisa Jackson and Wendy E.N. Thomas*. Here’s the session description:

“Live to Write—Write to Live is a critically acclaimed and highly popular blog about the craft and business of writing. It is written by eight professional writers known collectively as the New Hampshire Writers’ Network, representing a wide spectrum of genres, including literary fiction, mysteries, fantasy, young adult, memoir, marketing, cookbooks, and journalism.Three of the blog’s regular contributors will speak about running a successful blog, working collaboratively, and using the blog to boost their individual writing careers”

You don’t want to miss this!! The panel runs from 12pm to 12:40 pm this Saturday July 26th in the conference room of the Woodstock town hall located at 3 Church St, Woodstock, VT. Most of the events take place on and around the beautiful Woodstock Green. There is limited parking, nearly all of it metered, in Woodstock village. For more information about the event and parking visit http://bookstockvt.org/about/.

If you’re in the area, we hope you’ll come out. Make sure to introduce yourself to Deborah, Lisa or Wendy.

*The rest of the NHWN team will be there in spirit while cursing deadlines and previous commitments.

Julie’s Super Amazing Mystery Tour

I love my mystery writing community. A lot. Sisters in Crime (especially the New England chapter), Mystery Writers of America, our New England Crime Bake committee, people I have met at conferences, and blogs I follow. And my two writing blogs (this one and Wicked Cozy Authors) both provide a team of support that enrich my writing life.

Writing is a solitary act, but finding a community of writers is critical. So today, I thought I would virtually introduce you to a few of my mystery writing friends and their virtual communities.

Lisa Haselton. You know her as Lisa Jackson. She is a wonderful member of the mystery writing community, with online chats with different authors, and a interviews and reviews. She covers more than mysteries, but that is how I know her best.

Hank Phillippi Ryan. Hank writes thrillers. She is also a force of nature, and blogs regularly for Sisters in Crime, doing wonderful interviews with other mystery authors.  Her regular blog is with the Jungle Red Writers, a wonderful group of mystery authors including Hallie Ephron, Julia Spencer-Fleming, and Roberta Isleib.

Roberta Isleib also blogs on Mystery Lovers Kitchen. I love this blog. Cozy authors who share recipes. They are turning 5 this month, and have a give away contest.

The Maine Crime Writers blog includes Barbara Ross, Kate Flora, Kathy Lynn Emerson, and Lea Wait amongst others.  There are a lot of crime writers in Maine. Long winters?

And, of course, there is my other blog, Wicked Cozy Authors. The Wickeds are Barbara Ross, Jessie Crockett, Liz Mugavero, Sherry Harris, and Edith Maxwell. Sheila Connolly also blogs with us once a month, as does Kim Gray. [Four of us will be at Jabberwocky Bookshop this Friday, July 17 at 7pm. I will be moderating a panel with Edith Maxwell, Liz Mugavero, and Jessie Crockett. ]

Glad to introduce you to some of my friends. Happy summer reading, everyone!

 

Not worse, just different

A large part of this blog is sharing what it is that writers actually do (when we are not communing with spiders.) If you’ve been following this blog then you know I have recently finished a manuscript and have sent it out to some literary agents. While I have gotten a few nibbles, most of them, like the proverbial big one, have gotten away (although it is still being evaluated by one agent and I have a slew of others to still try)

No one loves me, I thought, I think I’ll go eat worms. Then I got a reply from an acquiring editor for a publisher – she liked my e-proposal. She liked my presentation. She invited me to send a full hard-copy proposal.

I need to prepare what is, essentially, a “board meeting quality” presentation on my book including:
• Letter of introduction – who referred me, qualifications
• Book description – one paragraph (elevator pitch)
• Why this book is needed and who the audience will be
• Current competitors
• Platform and credentials
• Table of contents
• Length, general appearance, photographic and illustrative requirements
• Previously published writing samples
• 50 pages of manuscript

Because I have a ton of online marketing experience, I’m also going to add a section on:
• Marketing plan

And because I’m pretty good friends with a number of people in my field (chickens), I’m also going to add:
• Endorsements/blurbs

I thought I could get all of this done during this week but, although I know where most of this information is, it’s important that I don’t just throw everything together. I need to present a polished and finished package that will wow the socks off of everyone. You can bet that this puppy will have a title page, TOC, and will be housed in a protective binder.

It will take a dedicated few days to get it all done, and that’s what I’ll be doing this coming weekend.

Keep this information in mind when you get to the point of querying your project. There’s more than one route to publication. Everyone has their own way of doing things and, because this is an acquisition editor and not a literary agent, the submission requirements are vastly different.

Not better, not worse, just not the same.

IMG_20140709_150708944_HDR

 

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Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

Boston-Area Mystery Writers’ Conference – Nov 2014

If you’re a mystery writer or reader, there’s a wonderful (I may be biased) small conference held each November in the Boston area.

2014 marks the 13th Annual New England Crime Bake Conference.

CrimeBake banner

 

We (I’m part of the conference committee) have a wonderful GOH (guest of honor) this year. Well, we always have a great GOH — Meg Gardiner, Lee Child, Charlaine Harris, Harlan Coben, and Sue Grafton, to name a few.

This year’s GOH is Craig Johnson. If you’re a fan of the Walt Longmire mystery series or the Longmire A&E TV series (3rd season starts June 2!), the name is familiar.

I met Craig last year at a local independent book store. It was the most unique book event I’ve ever been to. The author lives in tiny town in Wyoming (population 25) and he was here, in NH, in his cowboy boots and hat. He brought a few six packs of beer to share with drinking-age audience members – I had ice water – and had a 2+ hour conversation with us. We could have been sitting in his living room for how comfortable the evening felt.

This year’s Crime Bake conference is going to be loads of fun with him around. The banquet is featuring line dancing (with lessons) as well as cowboy poetry (from participants on the spot). But that’s not all the fun!

Several agents and editors will be around all weekend to listen to pitches (from cozies to thrillers to noirs) and share their expertise.

We’re going to have professionals set up a crime scene and participants get to make their own deductions and determinations — and find out how right we are on Sunday morning.

There are several panels and seminars covering everything from writing cozies to selecting the best publishing option to talking about detectives from Sherlock Holmes to television’s Richard Castle. Check out the full conference schedule. There’s something for everyone who loves the mystery genre.

I personally love this conference because it’s small (250 people) and everyone I meet there (whether unpublished writer or multipublished novelist) is friendly, encouraging, and loves talking about all things mystery. It’s a guilty pleasure to hang out with other writers, but there’s something extra special about hanging out with mystery writers.

I invite ya’ll to come on along with us (at least 3 NHWN bloggers will be there) and “Saddle Up for Murder” on November 7, 8, and 9. The conference’s Facebook Page will keep you updated on activities and if you’re on Twitter, we’re slinging words using #crimebake.

Boy howdy, this is going to be a fun time!

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. In her other life, she writes and reads mysteries and is a fan of the New England Crime Bake conference. Her cowboy hat and boots are ready to go. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.