On Creative Drought Plus Shareworthy Reading and Writing Links Jul 31

Even a withered stalk can generate a beautiful flower.

Even a withered stalk can generate a beautiful flower.

While our situation is not as severe as the one in California or many others around the world, this summer has been one of the driest in recent history for our little north-of-Boston town. Water bans are in effect all across the region, causing lawns to wither and crisp under the cruel and oppressive rays of the sun. Garden plants and flowers wilt and fade during the day, recovering as best they can in the slightly cooler and blessedly darker overnight hours. Rooted in the ground, the parched plants have no escape from the heat or the searing touch of the sun’s rays. They can only endure in silence and hope to survive long enough to feel the life-giving caress of a good, soaking rain.

For weeks now, we have been watching the weather reports for any signs of precipitation. On a few occasions, the meteorologists have forecast rain, but it seems like our tiny town has some kind of forcefield around it. Again and again, our hearts are lifted by the promise of rain, but more often than not, the storm detours around us, or the drops evaporate before reaching the ground. Even last weekend, when towns on all sides were ravaged by impressive thunderstorms, we had only a brief shower that barely managed to properly wet the dry earth before rushing out to sea.

I feel for the plants. I can imagine how they pine for a long, slow drink of water. I can imagine this because I have been feeling the same way about my creative work lately. Summer arrived at my doorstep with a flurry of client projects, and while I’m always grateful to be gainfully employed, keeping up with the deadlines has meant putting aside not only my Big Picture creative projects, but all of my daily creative and self-care routines as well.

My morning pages practice has dwindled to only a few pages every couple of weeks. I have only done yoga (a practice which provides me with time and headspace for nurturing random thoughts and writing ideas) a half dozen times in the last four or five months. My pleasure reading has been slow to the point of having to sometimes back-track when I return to a book because it’s been so long since my last read that I’ve forgotten what was happening in the story.

Each of us faces period of creative drought. Whether we’re overwhelmed with work, dealing with a personal crisis, or have had our creative time usurped by the family and social obligations of summer, there will be days (or weeks, or months) when we simply can’t make the time we’d like to nurture our creative projects. Though I’m in the middle of such a period, and – I won’t lie – am feeling a little cranky about it, I can still step back and offer a little encouragement to others who might be going through a similar experience right now:

  • Number One: This too shall pass. Yes, I know it’s a bit trite, but it’s also true. Whatever is taking up your time and keeping you from your creative endeavors will eventually move on and out of your life. You will get back to your projects and your dreams. You might have to be patient for a while, but that’s not such a bad thing. Just try to roll with it.
  • Number Two: Even in times of creative drought, you can create. While I have been feeling frustrated and put out by my inability to make time for my usual creative pursuits, I am trying to remember that there are tiny creative acts that only take a few minutes. I may not have large chunks of time to write on a story or tackle the complex task of organizing source materials for a larger work, but I can pen one or two lines or edit a photo for Instagram or doodle in the margin of my notebook. Those may not be impressive accomplishments, but something is better than nothing.
Despite it's diminutive size, our smallest tomato plant is yielding the most robust crop of the season.

Despite it’s diminutive size, our smallest tomato plant is yielding the most robust crop of the season.

We must remember that we are not the drought. The drought is just an external circumstance, not a reflection of our creative spark or spirit. Even if we are unable to engage in the external act of creation, the source of our creativity is alive and well – hunkered down beneath the cracked earth, just waiting until the rains some so it can burst forth and blossom.

Just you wait and see.

_jamie sig

 

 


My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:

CRAFT

PUBLISHING & MARKETING

INSPIRATION

THE WRITING LIFE

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Finally, a quote for the week:

I’m stealing borrowing this week’s quote from the lovely and delightful Sara Foley, who borrowed it in turn from Raising Ecstasy:

pin vonnegut edge

Here’s to getting close to the edge, weathering the droughts, and always being ready to emerge from underground when the rains finally come.
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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Summer Reading Makes the World a Better Place

Summer Reading II by Catherine Nolin

Summer Reading II by Catherine Nolin

When I think back to my childhood summers, one of my favorite memories is the feeling of coming home from the library with a heavy armload of new books. Our weekly forays to the children’s room were a cherished ritual. There were (and still are) few things that filled my heart with such happy anticipation as a book not yet read.

Now that I’m all grown up, I love reading in any season, but there’s something about summertime that suits the literary pursuit particularly well. Even people who rarely read during the rest of the year are apt to pick up a “beach read” when they head to the shore. Perhaps it’s the way slipping between the covers of a book so perfectly complements our summertime proclivity for escape.

But there’s more to reading than just escape. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, the stories I devoured during childhood were a significant part of my education on how to be a good human being. Looking back now at my book selections from those early years, it’s not difficult to identify the roots of my personal mythology. From the elementary grades through high school, I read almost exclusively fantasy and science fiction; and my virtual excursions into the imaginative and wondrous worlds of authors like J.R.R. Tolkien, Ursula K. LeGuin, C.S. Lewis, Anne McCaffrey, Robert Heinlein, Frank Herbert, Douglas Adams, and many others shaped my view of the world. The boundless diversity of the characters, ideas, beliefs, and themes in these books opened my mind and my heart, page by page.

“If minds are truly alive they will seek out books, for books are the human race recounting its memorable experiences, confronting its problems, searching for solutions, drawing the blueprints of the future.” Those words were penned by Harry Allen Overtreet, an American writer and lecturer best known for his book The Mature Mind, which contains such gems as, “All children, Diderot once observed, are essentially criminal. It is merely our good luck that their physical powers are still too limited to permit them to carry out their destructiveness.” Overstreet points out that maturity – the development of empathy, patience, respect, etc. – is the result of cultivating a particular mindset, not of chronological aging. Sadly, our society is plagued with immature grown-ups who never evolve beyond the self-centered perspective that, in adults, leads to sociopathic behavior.

Happily, there is hope. Study after study has revealed that reading fiction has a very real and positive influence on our ability to empathize with others. When we read fiction, we experience life from the perspective of the protagonist. We put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. What’s more, some studies indicate that reading fiction stimulates the same neurological regions that would be activated if we were going through the protagonist’s experience ourselves.

So, stories can expand our knowledge, insight, and capacity for caring. They can also, apparently, heal. According to a fascinating article by Ceridwen Dovey in The New Yorker, bibliotherapy, a term that dates back to the early 1900s, is the practice of reading for therapeutic effect – prescribing particular books as tonics to cure apathy, heartbreak, doubt, etc. According to a number of studies, even reading simply for pleasure has many benefits including deep relaxation, lower stress, higher self-esteem, better sleep.

Books, in short, make the world a better place – a more accepting, open-minded, and empathetic place. I recently read a blog post by a mom whose family lives in a tiny town of about 1,200 people in Nevada. The local school library hadn’t been able to purchase new books since the 90s, so she sent out an SOS asking people to donate “just one book.” In her plea she wrote, “We need racially diverse books. We need graphic novels. We need women’s studies. We need science … Everything that would make a difference in a young person’s life … Will you donate a book? … Something literary or fun—something that speaks to your truth, their truths. Something that teaches them something about the world. Makes them feel less alone?”

It is perhaps ironic that the solitary act of reading a book can make us feel less alone, but in these deeply troubled times, it may be one of our best hopes.

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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Join me each Saturday for the Weekend Edition – a long-form post on writing and the writing life – and/or introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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Get Out!! Plus Shareworthy Reading and Writing Links

Sunlight on the surface. A snapper in the depths.

Sunlight on the surface. A snapper in the depths.

Summertime is in full swing around here. Though the longest day of the year is behind us, it feels like the season is just hitting its stride. The kids have only been out of school for a couple of weeks, so we’re still settling into the new routine (or, should I say, “un-routine?”) of structureless mornings, spur-of-the-moment events and outings, and late nights. While our friends on the other side of the world are preparing for winter, here the beach is calling, making it harder and harder to consistently keep my butt in the chair.

It’s an annual challenge to reconcile my daughter’s sense of summer freedom with my reality of summertime work. These are the months when my ability to focus is repeatedly put to the test. I do my best to be responsible, but sometimes the right thing to do is to forget the focus and just get outside.

Take yesterday morning. Though I had a half a day’s worth of work to do (and would usually have tried to get it done earlier rather than later), I abandoned my desk and instead enjoyed a leisurely and mostly aimless morning with my daughter. We walked to the local coffee shop where we read and wrote while sipping our respective drinks – a cinnamon chai for me and a raspberry fizz soda for her. We watched from our window table as a mom in an oversize SUV mangled her parallel parking job, and then we cooed over the two small dogs the woman and her daughter left in the car – a Maltipoo and a small King Charles Spaniel. When mom and daughter passed by on their way out, we asked if we could meet their dogs and wound up having a lovely conversation and learning all about the personalities of the two pooches.

Leaving the coffee shop, we headed toward the local farmers’ market, but wound up spending nearly a half hour on the bridge that spans the river near an in-town dam. Initially, we paused to look for turtles sunning themselves on the rocks below; but our stay was prolonged when we ran into a couple we know and got to talking about her new job and what we were all doing for the fourth and so on. Together, the four of us scanned the shallows, pointing out painted turtles, snappers, and schools of tiny fish. After they left, we lingered, and struck up a conversation with a couple of guys who had spotted a massive snapping turtle on the other side of the bridge. We all watched, fascinated, as this prehistoric-looking beast chased a smaller one of its kind through a maze of algae-covered rocks in an amphibian version of a high-speed car chase.

At the farmers’ market, we ran into more people we knew and engaged in that most delightful of pastimes – friendly small talk. We patted dogs and returned kicked balls to small children. My daughter got a henna tattoo of a crow in a tree. I bought a couple butterfly-friendly plants for the yard. A friend promised to bring some cuttings from her garden. We listened to some local folk musicians and relaxed in the shade.

My point is this – even writers need a break, and the ironic thing is that often when you give yourself a break, you wind up getting inspired. This morning’s walk, for instance, wasn’t just a lovely outing and a chance to spend time with my daughter, it also provided me with a great topic for the column I have to write later this afternoon. Sometimes, there’s a lot to be said for getting away from your desk and out into the world. No artist creates in a vacuum. It’s vital to get out and experience things and talk to people – to be a participant as well as an observer.

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there!

_jamie sig


What I’m Reading:

Art copyright © 2016 by Keith Negley

Art copyright © 2016 by Keith Negley

I’ve been so busy, I’ve had little time for pleasure reading. I manage to sneak a little in with bedtime stories and audio books; but it’s never enough. I’d dearly love to curl up for an entire afternoon of uninterrupted reading. Such afternoons seemed so easy to come by when I was a kid, but now they seem almost mythical – a figment of my overactive imagination. How is it that I now have so little time to spare?

Once again, short stories come to the rescue. Since it can be frustrating to have to consume the novels I’m reading in such tiny nibbles, I often mix it up with a short story to fill in the gaps and deliver a small sense of having finished something. This week, I read Monica Byrne’s story “Traumphysik” on Tor.com.  I recently became one of Monica Byrne’s Patreon supporters (a story I’ll share in more detail on another day), and learned about this story in one of her supporter emails. Byrne’s challenging and fascinating novel, The Girl In The Road, intrigued me, as did her recent TED talk, which was more a performance than a presentation.

“Traumphysik” was, as are many short stories, a tale that left me with more questions than answers. I used to detest short stories for this reason, but the older I get, the easier it becomes to hold ambiguity without flinching. I love the way this story loosely weaves together the ideas of lucid dreaming, solitude, and alternate realities.

··• )o( •··

My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:

CRAFT

PUBLISHING & MARKETING

INSPIRATION

THE WRITING LIFE

Sundry Links and Articles:

audible encyclopedia

Earlier this year, Audible released an  April Fool’s recording of professional narrators reading the encyclopedia.  I’m not sure how I missed it until now, but I am glad that I found it and took the time to listen. As an avid fan of audio books, I have a great respect for the skills of these voice actors. This particular showcase of their talents was both funny and also a little awe-inspiring because of the way their individual styles put completely unique spins on simple encyclopedia entries. Hysterical. The piece also includes some behind-the-scenes Q&A that’s pretty interesting.

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin living an art

Here’s to getting out into the world to collect our stories. 
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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Shareworthy Reading and Writing Links Apr 3

Never a Dull Moment

Up through the discarded amber and rust of last year's autumn, a firework of cerulean blue and sunlight yellow bursts into being.

Up through the discarded amber and rust of last year’s autumn, a firework of cerulean blue and sunlight yellow bursts into being.

Last week, Mother Nature was whispering spring secrets, sending delicate blossoms up through the last fall’s detritus, injecting flashes of color into the otherwise drab landscape. This morning, she has covered us in a blanket of wet snow, and the meteorologists are advising everyone to batten down the hatches in anticipation of some wild winds due later this afternoon. There’s nothing so mercurial as spring weather in New England.

Like our weather, the writing life is full of unexpected twists and turns. We must be flexible in our expectations and agile in our execution. We must be prepared for anything and willing to keep on writing in any circumstance or condition. In snow, sleet, and hail – in good times and bad – we must keep putting the words down – one after another. As I wrote yesterday, we can’t let anything hold us back.

No matter how bizarre the weather or how challenging our writing tasks, we can take comfort in the knowledge that Mother Nature and The Muse both work in cycles. Neither of them stays the same for long. As they say here in New England, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes.” And so it is with our creative energies and inspirations. If you’re not feeling the spark, just wait five minutes. Keep putting down the words and things will shift. They always do.

_jamie sig


 What I’m Reading Watching (Don’t Worry – No Spoilers):

star wars force awakens

Though I grew up with the first trilogy of Star Wars movies, I was never a rabid fan. I didn’t have a single Star Wars action figure or ever dress as Princess Leia (slave or otherwise) for Halloween. I liked the story and was fascinated by the special effects, but the galaxy far, far away did not capture my imagination nearly as much as the worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Anne McCaffrey. But last night, my beau talked me into watching the latest movie in the Star Wars franchise, The Force Awakens, and I was blown away.

In case you haven’t seen it, I won’t give anything away, but the movie does a near seamless job of connecting the characters and storyline from the original films to this new cast and narrative, set thirty years after the fall of the Galactic Empire. As someone who was a kid when those first films hit the theaters, I was delighted with the many nods and homages included in this seventh installment of George Lucas’ opus. It never felt like schtick or sentimental crap. It was warm and funny and respectful. It was heartfelt. I was drawn in and on the edge of my seat from start to finish.

As soon as the movie was over, we watched the two-hour documentary on the making of the film. The scope and scale of the undertaking is amazing to see – all the designers, artists, and craftspeople, all the sets, special effects, and costumes. It’s an astounding feat of creativity, skill, collaboration, and organization. But, what impressed me most (and what ultimately made the movie work) was the entire team’s focus on the authenticity of the story.

Although writer/director J.J. Abrams used all kinds of cutting-edge technology, many of the production methods were actually very old school. They filmed on celluloid, not digital. They used puppetry and meticulous motion-capture techniques instead of straight CGI for key characters. They built things with real-world materials instead of pixels. They brought the Star Wars galaxy to life in as authentic a way as possible because they knew how important it was for the world to “feel” real. They realized the huge responsibility they had to this story. As many of the people involved said, they felt that Star Wars had to feel like something that had really happened in history, because – in a way – it had. It was a shared experience that has become part of our culture, part of who we are.

Great stories are like that. Whether they live on the pages of a book, up on the silver screen, or (in many cases) both, great stories are bigger than any one person. Great stories help us tap into a kind of universal yearning – a sort of infallible truth.  They put us in touch with something that makes us feel more connected to everyone and everything else.

My favorite scene in the documentary was one that captured a few minutes of the first full read-through of the script. The writers, actors, and production crew sit on chairs and couches in the middle of an enormous sound stage. There are no sets or costumes, just the people and the story. And as Mark Hamill begins to read the narration, you could almost feel the magic coming off the page. I love that something as big and spectacular as a movie like The Force Awakens starts with something as comparatively modest and simple as a great story. The story is the heart of the whole thing, and the power of story can move mountains and touch the lives of millions of people around the world. Pretty damn amazing.

··• )o( •··

My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:

CRAFT

PUBLISHING & MARKETING

INSPIRATION

THE WRITING LIFE

··• )o( •··

Sundry Links and Articles:

Four years ago, inspired by a hysterical (and not at all appropriate for work) viral video, I wrote a post called Blog Like a Honey Badger. Earlier this week, I came across another video, this one produced by the BBC, about an astonishingly clever and persistent honey badger who simply refuses to stay in his enclosure at a wildlife facility. As a follow-up to yesterday’s post about overcoming the obstacles that hold you back from your writing, I thought this latest video might offer a little additional inspiration and – if not that – at least make you smile. Honey badgers just don’t take no for an anwer!

Finally, a quote for the week:

Via 30somethingdq.tumblr.com

Via 30somethingdq.tumblr.com

I hope you weather whatever storms may be in your life at the moment and never, ever stop writing. Have a great rest of the weekend, and I’ll see you next week!
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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Shareworthy Reading and Writing Links Mar 27

Happy Easter!

baby bunny

I rescued this baby bunny from a neighborhood cat. The cat was none too happy, but the rabbit seemed grateful.

Even more than the traditions of various holidays, I love the myriad myths and fairytales from which those traditions spring. I love how storytellers and academics weave the beautifully diverse threads of folklore, history, and pure imagination into a complex web of collective consciousness that defines our celebrations of these special days with layers of meaning and mystery.

Take the origins and icons of Easter. Whether you believe this particular holiday has Biblical or Pagan roots, the secular symbols of this holiday – bunnies and eggs – are ripe with story inspiration. In some versions of the story, goddesses rescue injured birds and then transform them into hares who can lay eggs in every color of the rainbow. Both rabbits and eggs represent fertility and, by extension, the rebirth or resurrection of the natural world after winter’s long reign. They are sings of promises and hope.

I find it both humbling and inspiring that these particular symbols of life reemerging are relatively small and fragile things. They remind me that not all heroes have to be bold and brawny. Not all battles are won by force or ferocity. Sometimes, heroism comes in the form of quiet courage and perseverance, in the ability to patiently incubate an idea or – like the wily hare – outwit your opponent.

an egg in the hand

An egg in the hand is better than …

Stories are like eggs. Protected from the world by a fragile shell, they nest in our hearts and are nourished in warm darkness by our attention and curiosity. We wrap our thoughts around them to keep them safe and provide space for them to grow, until one day they crack open and release their secrets into the world. I love that, often, we don’t know what kind of creature will emerge from the shell until it’s already hatched and wobbling there before us, blinking in the light as it stretches damp wings or unfurls a long tail. What else could that be but magic?

faerie easter eggs

Nestled like faerie Easter eggs among the ferns

And once we have embraced the spirit of magic and possibility, the world abounds with all kinds of story ideas. They lurk in the grass at the edge of the road and hide in the ferns at the forest’s edge. If we are willing to walk slowly and observe closely, a whole world will reveal itself to our writers’ minds – a world where anything is possible.

 

_jamie sig

 

 


 Books I’m Reading:

book curtsies and conspiraciesI read the first book in Gail Carriger’s Finishing School series – Etiquette and Espionage – two years ago. This week, I’ve been listening to the second installment in the steampunk fantasy. Curtsies and Conspiracies is just as much fun as the first book, and an absolute delight to listen to as read for Audible by Moira Quirk.

Set in a massive dirigible floating over the English countryside, these stories follow the cloak-and-dagger adventures of young Sophronia and her classmates as they matriculate at a prestigious school of espionage that is disguised as a proper finishing school for young ladies of quality.  Carriger’s steampunk world is populated not only by the usual stock of Victorian characters – both upper crust and Dickensian – but also impossibly proper professors, manipulative vampires, and somewhat uncouth werewolves. The plots have many twists and turns, the characters are well developed and fun to “watch,” and the dialog is crisp and witty. The tongue-in-cheek humor is very appealing and keeps me smiling as I listen to the girls’ get in and out of trouble again and again.

I’m already looking forward to the next book in the series. They seem to be an excellent antidote for the general sense of dread and malaise that seems to be afflicting much of our media these days. If only we had spies as fashionable and resourceful as Ms. Sophronia Temminnick in real life. One can dream.

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My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:

CRAFT

PUBLISHING & MARKETING

INSPIRATION

THE WRITING LIFE

Sundry Links and Articles:

I have long been a fan of Vonnegut. His work is insightful, humorous, and wise. This week, I stumbled across this little gem of a video featuring Mr. Vonnegut illustrating the shape of stories:

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin magic patiently waiting

I hope you have a lovely holiday – whichever holiday you may be celebrating today – and I hope your world is full of unexpected and wondrous magic. Happy writing & happy reading! 
.
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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Shareworthy Reading and Writing Links Mar 20

Happy Spring!

A sure sign of spring - skunk cabbage, Mother Nature's little, alien pods

A sure sign of spring – skunk cabbage, Mother Nature’s little, alien pods

Though there is a chill in the air and snow in the forecast, a sense of spring still vibrates through the ground beneath our feet. All around us we can see the signs of green things growing things and feathered and whiskered creatures returning and awakening. There is an expectancy in the air that cannot be denied.

On our walks this weekend, my beau and I heard peepers and larger frogs singing in chorus from the edges of vernal pools nestled in the hollows of the forest. Rising in counterpoint, the voices of summer birds flew back and forth amidst the still-naked boughs of budding swamp maples and beech trees. Streams bubbled along at our feet, pushing their familiar way through the grass and debris that had collected in their springtime paths over the winter. Ever a herald of the changing season, the skunk cabbage emerged at the roadside, exploding through the spongy, brook-side earth like alien pods.

And just like the denizens of wood and stream, pond and sky, I find that spring sets my heart beating a little faster. Though, living in our fabricated world, I do not have the luxury of syncing my existence to the natural rhythms of nature, I still feel a kind of quickening in my mind. Ideas and inspiration bubble up like those vernal pools and springtime brooks. Everything I see and experience holds the potential of some creative work; the world fairly bursts at the seams with possibilities.

Like the seasons, we writers are always changing. Ours is a ceaseless cycle of creative birth and growth and death. Our inspiration and passion ebbs and flows, waxes and wanes. We are one moment caught up in the throes of creation, and the next lying still and fallow, catching our breath for the next burst of energy. Both extremes have their challenges, but we can take comfort in knowing that neither will ever take us over completely. Always we will spiral through the process, crossing over the same path in new lands again and again.

Happy spring equinox. May this season bring you creative joy and adventure!

_jamie sig

 

 


 Books I’m Reading:

This week, I chose a book that is the perfect antidote to last week’s read, Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood. Well, “antidote” is perhaps not the right word. After all, I enjoyed Stone Mattress and admire Atwood greatly, both for her writing and for the woman she is. But, as excellent as Atwood’s stories are, they are somewhat dark and even a little bit depressing. They are thought-provoking, and the thoughts they inspire often have to do with the less appealing side of human nature. So, let’s not call Bailey White’s work an “antidote.” Let’s call it the perfect complement to Atwood’s oft-dystopian tales – the ray of hope to Atwood’s shadows.

Amazon Affiliate Link

I first read White back in 2013 when I finally read the copy of her short story collection, Mama Makes Up Her Mind. About a year later, I read her novel, Quite a Year for Plums, a book which is now taking up space on my mom’s hutch bookcase since I’ve made her promise that she’ll read it. This time around, I chose White’s other short story collection, Sleeping at the Starlite Motel: And Other Adventures on the Way Back Home.

Once again, Bailey’s skillful storytelling and simple but magical prose transported me to the southern towns that she so loves. Each piece in the collection is very short, some only a two or three pages long, but each is whole in its own right. White has a wonderful ability to sketch out each quirky character with only a few sentences. Though we meet them only in passing, we feel that we might recognize them if we passed them on the street. And the charm of the anecdotes she shares  always gives me a pleasant case of the warm & fuzzies. There is comfort there, but it never feels contrived or turns its back on the difficult realities of life. The quote from Isabel Allende that appears on the inside flap says it best,

“Bailey White has the kind of intelligence that allows her to see things from behind and from beyond. She has a rare combination of wisdom, infinite tolerance, an eye for the absurd, and a sort of tenderness that is never sentimental.”

I couldn’t agree more, and I highly recommend all of White’s works. I know that I will return to them often – both as an inspiration for a story well told, and for the solace that they bring in times of strife and stress.

And if you’d like to listen to White read some of her work, you may want to explore some of the NPR archives featuring her stories, like this one – “The Second Hand or the Roach.”

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My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:

CRAFT

PUBLISHING & MARKETING

INSPIRATION

THE WRITING LIFE

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Sundry Links and Articles:

out on the wire

This week, I’d like to share another podcast resource with you. I think I may be on my way to becoming a podcast junkie. I listen while I make dinner, while I shower, while I run the vacuum, and pretty much any time I find myself in the car alone. I could have worse vices, and at least with Out on the Wire with Jessica Abel, I’m gaining tons of insight into the craft of storytelling.

In Out on the Wire, Abel walks listeners through creating a story step by step. The process she shares is based on what she’s learned interviewing “the masters of new radio” including the people behind iconic shows like This American Life, Radiolab, and Planet Money. Abel’s podcast was born from the research she did for her graphic nonfiction book of the same name.

The format of the show is bi-weekly episodes in which Abel covers an element of storytelling interspersed with bi-weekly “workshop” episodes in which she and her two team members discuss some of the interesting work that listeners have posted in the Google working group. Oh! Did I not mention the Google working group? There’s a private group on Google in which listeners can share their ideas, get and give feedback, and generally enjoy the collaborative part of storytelling. Very cool. (You get an invite to join the group when you sign up for Abel’s newsletter.)

Though the kinds of stories that Abel focuses on for Out on the Wire may not be exactly the kinds of stories you’re telling in your fiction, trust me when I tell you that there is a LOT you can learn from these podcasts. I’ll be sharing bits and pieces in future posts here at Live to Write – Write to Live, but I recommend you listen to the full podcasts to get the total experience.

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Finally, a quote for the week:

pin bird sings proverb

Enjoy this first day of spring. I hope you get outside, and I hope what you experience outside inspires the stories you hold inside. Happy writing & happy reading! 
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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Shareworthy Reading and Writing Links Feb 20

A golden afternoon by the sea with an almost-full moon watching over us.

A golden afternoon by the sea with an almost-full moon watching over us.

After a vicious cold snap that had New Englanders living in mortal fear of burst pipes (my condolences to those who had to endure that particular experience), the weather around these parts has been unseasonably mild. Yesterday, my beau and I enjoyed a long walk through the dunes. We had hoped to see some snowy owls, but – alas! – if those feathered regents were visiting, they stayed out of sight.

Today looks like another beauty, so we’re heading out for another walk soon. But, before we do, here’s this week’s collection of books and links for your browsing pleasure. I hope you have a lovely and relaxing Sunday, wherever you are. And, I hope your day includes both reading and writing.

Enjoy!

_jamie sig

 

 


Books I’m Reading:

book steinamI feel like I ought to apologize to someone for not finishing Gloria Steinem’s memoir, My Life on the Road … maybe Emma Watson. You see, I borrowed the book from my local library only after Ms. Watson selected it as the first read for her Goodreads-based book club, Our Shared Shelf.  Though I didn’t quite finish the memoir, it was less because I didn’t like the book (I did), and more because there were other reads that were calling me away.

It was enlightening and humbling to read Steinem’s first-hand accounts of the birth of the women’s movement. Though so many of us still struggle with issues of equality, including gender equality, there is much we take for granted.  Though I knew who Steinem was, I knew little about the role she played in bringing women’s issues and feminism to the forefront of politics. Her anecdotes about key events are a fascinating study of how a movement is born and grows. If ever I am writing a story about a revolution, this is a book I would return to as a real-life reference.

··• )o( •··

book galapagosThis week I also took a walk down memory lane with an old favorite, Galápagos by Kurt Vonnegut. Though I still have my battered paperback copy, I chose this time to listen to the audio version via Audible.

Vonnegut has always held a special place in my heart. I first discovered him when I was quite young, a teen. My first exposure to Vonnegut’s work was probably Slaughterhouse Five, prerequisite reading for most high school English classes; but from there I flew through a half dozen others. I loved Vonnegut’s sharp wit and the taste of rebellion and revolution in his words.

What’s amazing to me is how relevant his work remains. I’m not sure this is something to be happy about, but it’s certain a reason to celebrate the man’s keen sense of observation and insight. Though it was originally published thirty-one years ago, Galápagos remains a current commentary on the state of human kind. It’s not a pretty picture.

From a craft perspective, I am very intrigued by the fact that almost this entire novel is told in straight-up narration. There is very little dialog – just a first-person, omniscient POV voiceover. I don’t know that I’ve ever come across another novel that employs this kind of story presentation. The book also does not seem to conform (at least at first glance) to your typical story structure; but that’s something I will investigate further. Either way, Galápagos is certainly unique in its format and style.


My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:

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Sundry Links and Articles:

Dr. Gresham, I presume ;)

Dr. Gresham, I presume😉

Yesterday’s weekend edition, 3 Steps to Your Perfect Writing Life, was partially inspired by a conversation I had earlier in the week with Jen Gresham. Jen coaches people through “career reinvention” over at her site, Everyday Bright.  Her blog posts are encouraging, insightful, and full of ways to cut through the clutter of whatever career baggage you might be dragging around your life. While the work I do doesn’t necessarily fall into the category of a traditional “career,” I still find a great deal of value in Jen’s work.

The reason I mention all this is because she’s hosting a free webinar this coming Tuesday. I was going through my inbox this morning (something I should have done after I wrote this post, but I couldn’t resist the siren call of my email), and there was an invite to join her at 6PM EST on Tuesday the 23rd for a webinar/conversation about her 4 Secrets to Finding Money + Happiness at Work. I’m going to try and make it. Maybe I’ll see you there!


 

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin angelous muse

I hope the rest of your weekend is restful and inspired. Wishing you good reads and good writing and a fresh start to the new week. Enjoy! 
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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