Friday, January 30, 2009

Writing a Novel and The Happy Dance!

First 3 completed chapters of my novel

I didn't tell y'all that I just finished a two year course on novel writing with Long Ridge Writers Group. This last assignment was actually way late and was really a challenge to get myself to do.

It was the business part of the course and included a query letter, a cover letter, a synopsis of the whole novel, a publisher's form, a revision of one of the chapters that I had already written and sent in to the instructor, plus a letter to the instructor. This part was not fun and I kept procrastinating. I finally got tired of it hanging over me, hoisted up my bloomers, and got it done and emailed to my instructor, who nearly died of a heart attack because he finally got an assignment from me. :) I started not to finish it, but now I'm so proud of myself for doing it and am awaiting my diploma.

This will be my second diploma from LRWG. I took the Breaking Into Print course on writing short stories and articles a few years ago, and it was worth every penny.

I really enjoyed writing the short stories and articles, and actually got a few of them published online. I found out early on in the novel writing course that I'm not sure that I have the patience to write a whole novel. Maybe if I'd written the rough draft of the whole novel to start with I'd feel differently.

For the novel writing course I only had to complete the first three chapters, plus plot lines, outlines, etc. I had to present two ideas and get the instructor's input, which was that he thought they were both good ideas with good characterization, and that either would be marketable. He left it up to me to pick one.

I chose to base the novel on a short story that I had written for the first course. The working title is "DANCING A DREAM." It is about an obese, thirty year old woman, named Fedora Isabella Quintana, nicknamed Fizzy, who lives to dance and still dreams of being a professional dancer.

I don't want to tell too much about it here, because I might decide to finish the whole novel and don't want to give away anything, but it is about five years of Fizzy and her best friend's lives. There is a little mystery, romance, setbacks, adventure, humor, and a lot of dream chasing in it.

I actually have written two short stories with these two characters, and everyone who has read them has enjoyed them. They have both almost been published. I would love to post them here, but that might hamper them ever getting published when I start submitting again. I haven't submitted anything in a while, but I plan on starting again soon.

My instructor encouraged me to finish the novel and submit it. He thinks it has a good plot line, interesting characters, and a good chance at getting published. Right now I don't think I have the patience for all the reivisions of that many chapters. I almost got burned out on the first three. I prefer short stories or personal experience pieces, but who knows, I already have a good start on the novel, so when I've rested a while on it I may just finish it...or maybe I'll write one on the other idea I had about the cat lady. We'll see.

Anyway, I'm proud of me for finishing the course. I have too many other works in progress going on as it is. Trust me, I did the happy dance as soon as I finished. :)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sammidog Rules the Roost...For The Time Being (an update)

Well, Sammidog has been with us almost three months now, and he almost has me trained.

For those of you who haven't read the post (under the label of Sammidog) about how he came to live with us, he came trudging up through the garden one morning so starved that you could see every bone in his body, and he could barely stand up he was so malnourished. Mama gave him some dog food, but her dog let him know quickly that he wasn't staying there. He followed Mama to my house. I fed him some milk and fixed him a bed and now we can't peel him off us. :)The cats had their bluff in on him for a few weeks. I started out feeding them seperately, but Sammidog would follow me to feed them, where he promptly and frequently got his jaws boxed. Then they got to swapping food, so now I just feed them all together. They get along pretty well. He sits amidst the cats, towering over them, waiting patiently when it's feeding time. As soon as the door opens though, he's all over me.

I declare he has flubber in his paws, the way he's continually jumping straight up, sometimes doing half-twists in mid-air. He looks like he's on a trampoline. It's very funny, but sometimes frustrating, especially when we're dressed to go somewhere and all of a sudden we have muddy paw prints on our butts. One of Sammidog's favorite things is to run up from behind, tap us on the butt with his front paws, then take off like he's playing tag.

He loves everybody, including the cats, and is more than a little overly zealous. I hear him yelp several times a day when the cats have had enough. I have scolded him repeatedly about the jumping up on people, but he is so hyper that he just can't contain himself. If he were a child, he'd probably be on Ridlin or something.

And stubborn. If you looked up the word in the dictionary, his picture would be there. I can call him all day long and if he doesn't want to come...he isn't going to. I think he's been taking lessons from the cats.

When he first came I could carry him in one arm, he was so light. Not now. He's solid as a rock and I can barely pick him up. He's also very strong. Sometimes, he nearly knocks me over.

He's also still puppy enough that whatever he can get hold of he tears up all over the yard. Our back yard looks really bad right now. I bought him rawhide toys and they disappeared. I don't know if he lost them, or dismantled them. He dismantles everything, including the antlered deer skull in my flower bed that I found in the hayfield and put there.

He gets so bored with nobody to play with that tearing up stuff is how he entertains himself. Anything we set down, he grabs and takes off with, and he totes stuff out of the car shed and throws it around if he can't tear it up. I told Jim that I expect anytime to see him coming out with the chainsaw.

Jim has been away working most of the time since Sammidog has been here, and it's been so cold and bad that I haven't been out much to spend a lot of time with him. Jim has one more week before he'll be retired and spring will be here soon. Maybe then we can get him under control.

He loves to go walking in the woods and fields, preferably if we're walking too. Sometimes he runs alongside when I'm on the four-wheeler, sometimes not. Depends on the stubborn factor that day.
Mama bought Sammidog this woolly lined coat for Christmas. She thought it would be funny. You can tell that he wasn't amused at all. It was a little snug. He posed for me to take a couple of pictures, then started rolling and chewing to get it off. Within a few minutes the coat was laying on the ground and he had gone to bed in his insulated house.

The only time Sammidog is still is when he's being scratched on his chest or when he's having his picture taken. He's a camera ham and when he sees one aimed at him he will hold still and pose...most of the time. If I'm scratching his chest he will wrap both front paws around my arm and sit still as long as I scratch.

Despite some bad habits and his hyperactivity, he's a delightful dog. He keeps us laughing, and he has this mischievous way of looking at you sideways, almost like he's flirting, that gets him some petting almost every time.

I've always preferred smaller woolly dogs, but Sammidog is okay, and since nobody ever came looking for him, I guess we belong to him.

The saga continues...

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Play-fulness In Art & Writing

I find myself having a hard time getting started back to writing or drawing in the new year. I had the habit of drawing/writing something every morning while I had my first cup of coffee. The holidays have thrown that off a bit it seems. I've gone from "couldn't wait to get started" to "finding it difficult or downright impossible to start."

This brings me to a question Leah asked in a post, and since I'm participating in her Creative Every Day Challenge this year I thought I'd share my answer here.

The question was, "How do you return to playfulness when your creations are getting stiff?"

Instead of having a chance for my work to get stiff, I tend to get blocked. Sometimes I get stuck before I even start and sometimes it's half way through the project.

I love to do stream of consciousness writing, and if I do it a couple of days in a row that usually unlocks my writing and gets me going again.

Tammy in the Mojoart group introduced me to touch drawing the winter my dad died, four years ago. She shared her story about a technique that she had learned in art therapy. I looked it up on the net and tried it. I was hooked. I made dozens of drawings over the next couple of years. It not only helped my art, it helped me survive those years when we were hit with one trauma after another.

Touch drawing only requires your fingers, ink, thin paper, and an inking board. It helps if you meditate and center yourself first. You spread a very thin layer of printers ink over your board with a brayer, lay your paper down gently over the ink, and tapping into your inner self, let your feelings come out through your fingers and hands onto the back of the paper. You can use both hands at once if you want.
It's amazing what images come out when you pull the paper up and turn it over. Each drawing tells a story, which you can write out if you want. You can also add color to them. Each drawing is numbered in the order you drew them during your session. I can line all of mine up in order from all of my sessions and see a progression from grief and anger to acceptance and healing.

I haven't done any for a while, but they sure did help my creativity and my sanity during a rough time. The Center for Touch Drawing has a website with a demo if you're interested.

Another thing I learned this past year was from Judi Russell's website. She shares her art journaling technique, where you center yourself, close your eyes, try not to think about what your pencil is doing, and let it glide lightly over the paper making different shapes, lines, circles, etc.

When you're done, you open your eyes and study the shapes until an image emerges that means something to you. When it does, you darken the lines of the image, add lines, words/phrases, faces, enhancements, etc. to bring it out as far as you want to. Go over the image lines with an ultra fine black sharpie. Then you can color it if you like. You can also journal about what the image means to you.

Judi does have a gallery of her art journal drawings and some of her paintings that derived from the drawings. I have a tutorial of sorts on my Moxie Blue website under the label "quirky art journal instructions." However, my images look nothing like hers. :)

I've been doing at least one of these a day since last April and I have over 325 now. I am constantly amazed at the images I pull out of a bunch of shapes and lines, but they have inspired dozens of ideas for paintings and stories for writing for me.

I tend to take everything waaaaaay too seriously and these techniques are a lot of fun to me because I don't worry about everything being perfect or good enough. I just relax and let things flow. I always come away from these "play" times feeling more relaxed and confident about my art and writing.

As a matter of fact, writing about play time with art/writing has put me in the mood to do some. See you later! Have a creative day!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Bobbie Tail & Nacho Say...

For some reason the font letters wouldn't go any larger. Sorry! It says, "Happy MoooooooYear From Rabbit Hop."

Wishing you all the best year ever!