Saturday, December 29, 2012

Haiku: After midnight

Tonight, I bury a wing, a once starlit thing--

After Midnight

What dreams may teach me:
Glass slippers break easily,
Leaving only shards.

And yet . . . Cinderella's next step after midnight, when the ball and all her gossamer glories were completely undone, that step was the most important. Barefoot in the dark, she made her choice to go on.

"In the deepest hour of the night, confess to yourself that you would die if you were forbidden to write. And look deep into your heart where it spreads its roots, the answer, and ask yourself, must I write?"
                                                                                              -Rainer Maria Rilke
I must.

Friday, December 14, 2012


Something Silly--Cinderella from the Pumpkin's Point of View!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Inked out, or "daring to fail"

                                           (A last wish might look much like this, methinks)

True story: I've run out of ink sometimes. I'm not talking about the tedious malaise of writer's block. There comes an hour in every work in progress when I must acknowledge an acute desolation, the fact that I simply can't remember what I once loved about a manuscript I've been working on for seemingly eons. . . Now, this is usually where I insert a perky quotation on perseverance, but first I want to talk about the art of losing. Losing faith in a story, in one's self,  letting go of a tattered fantasia because it's just too frayed to grasp any longer. I think this line borrowed from the poet Sara Teasdale truly sums up the final lament of dream loss: 
"There will be stars over the place forever."
Letting go is absolutely healthy and necessary as a writer. I must give myself permission to enter a new dreamscape, to trade the cracked lens through which I have viewed my writing for a brand new perspective. I've come to realize that the more my lofty expectations are shattered, the closer I get to who I really am as a writer, and who I am not. I know my flaws. And now I challenge them, because I also know I can reach eclosion.

So, give up! Let the stars fall where they may. Grieve for what you could not at first accomplish. Then get over it. In time, you may find yourself returning with fresh eyes and ideas to your manuscript. (Afer all, star dust makes a most excellent loam. Some say the earth itself was seeded with life from falling stars.) Or you may find a new dream altogether. Just . . . go on. You are, after all, a work in progress! As John Cassavetes challenges, we must  both "dare to fail" and have the "courage to be bad."


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Scarlet and Magnolia Secrets

I found this scarlet one blazing in the woods not too long ago. Brave, bright little thing, I had to take a picture. Trees are the most magnificent metaphor for the human soul, in my opinion. They wear a demure green mantle for much of the year, and many bare stark limbs in the winter--yet even this outward stripping does not reveal a tree's true form. For there are seasons when trees spill such secrets from heartwood and sap! For example, who would guess that this spindly sapling packed such a wallop of saucy, precious crimson in each leaf?

Or take the Magnolia in spring. It's like the revelation of a goddess!

Yet I must confess that while nothing is more lovely in my sight than a Magnolia in bloom, I would hardly bestow a glance on the tree without its showcase of petals. Likewise, I think there are seasons of the soul. Times when people shine their brightest and best and persistence and cultivated talent find their fruition. I love to witness that moment in people and bask in the sudden reveal: the discovery of the glory which was gemmed up inside them all along, but that nobody noticed until today, not even me. Maybe especially not me. It's perilously easy to become so wrapped up in my own toils that I forget to appreciate the many abilities, gifts, and kindnesses manifested by others.

I believe that everyone is packed with just as much honest glory as a tree. The glow edges out of us in a luminous shadow, waxing and waning with the moments in our lives. I hope I can learn to trace mine in ink.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke

What do you do when murderous ghosts have sworn to kill you because of your family name? Why, summon a ghost knight to defend you, of course! I am in love with Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke, and not just because of the amazing specter battles. When eleven year old Jon Whitcroft is dumped in a boarding school in Salisbury, he finds himself hunted by ghosts that no one else can see. Only the local village girl Ella knows the truth and sneaks Jon into a cathedral to wake a champion from the tombs of dead knights. But after Jon calls the knight William Longpsee to save his life, he soon begins to wonder if his protector is hiding dangerous secrets. Jon and Ella must work together to unravel Longspee's past, and perhaps . . . a way to save the knight. I suppose what I love most about this story is that it's not the one-dimensional adventure formula where the boy meets a girl and battles evil for the ultimate win. It's also about personal redemption and family and finding the way back home, and sometimes, the way to a new home.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Mickle Madness

Mickle is a fabulous archaic word! I find it a pity that it has fallen out of usage. As a noun, it signifies a "great amount." As an adjective it signifies "great" as in "large" or "abundant," and as an adverb it signifies "much" or "greatly." Furthermore, its Scottish twin is muckle. There's a bilabial smack of satisfaction with each syllable. Now I just need to think of excuses to randomly insert the word "mickle" into my conversation and utterly betray myself as an English major . . .

*I have a mickle mountain of books to study for the Praxis II. Mt. Everest would be jealous.
(Here's a minor foothill . . .)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Cinderella Coach

What do you get when you mix a pumpkin with dollar store jewels, glitter, confetti, lots of green wire, and a hot glue gun? Why, Cinderella's coach, of course! My little sister and I conjured a bit of mortal magic this weekend for a friend's birthday . . .

Side 1

Side 2
Side, without wheels

Top, without wheels

Monday, October 1, 2012

Criss-crossed colors

Sometimes, my soul runs out of colors. Not to worry; the sky always colors me in again.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Faraway: Words as Self-Signifiers


What are the words that define your physical identity? In other words, if someone conducted an impromptu inventory of your cosmetics/accessories, what would they learn about your personal taste? Depending on my mood and the situation, I bedeck myself in a variety of signifiers every day--perfume, makeup, and nail polish, etc. After my own survey, I recorded some of the words that define me:

Spellbound, Amethyst Amelia, Shimmer Bleu, Islands in the sun, Scintillez, Irish Mist, Seaglass, Lucky Green, Aquadisiac, Shimmering sands-sable chatoyant, Blue Angel, Pink Flare, Goddess, Sunrise Sunset, Cool Orchid, Milani Ruby Jewels, and Japanese Cherry Blossom.  

What words accent your characters' physicality, and thus illustrate their personality?  Do they have a "signature" look? How do they stand out from the crowd with their personal taste? (Or lack thereof, as the case may be!). For example, my late mother was allergic to many perfumes, but there was one fragrance that she would wear whenever she was going somewhere nice: Faraway by Avon. I will always associate that scent with the warmth of her presence. In many ways, that scent defined her soul. There were many things that she could not do in life because of health limitations, but her dreams, no matter how lost, never left her. Now they linger in me, and in a word: Faraway.  

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

I adored every page of this book. The Near Witch  by Victoria Schwab wouldn't let me go from the minute I picked it up at night until 2AM the next morning!  Lexi's quiet life in Near is shattered forever by the mysterious disappearance of children in her village each night, and the sudden arrival of a strange boy who seems to dissolve into smoke. As Lexi's budding feelings for the only stranger she's ever met grow, so does the distrust and anger of the villagers as more children continue to vanish. Lexi and the boy must work together to uncover the hidden past of the Near Witch, a woman whose death is shrouded in secrecy and shame, before they run out of time. The lyrical imagery of the wild moor where Lexi lives haunts the reader's senses with snatches of moonlight and mist. However, it is how Schwab juxtaposes the fear of the supernatural unknown with the justifications that people make for their choices that I find most fascinating. Following one's fears has consequences, and Lexi's indomitable will is all that stands between Near and a witch's wrath.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Wanted Poster

Alas, my artistic skills are limited, but in a quick five minute sketch, a friend of mine penned the protagonist of my MG fairytale. Of course, I had to scan it and add a little Powerpoint drama . . . 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Plugging characters into social media

Ever wonder what a status update by Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen or Gollum would say? (Okay, Gollum is easy: my precioussssss!)

While I was conducting observations at a local high school, I was able to experience the characters of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter from a whole new dimension: Facebook! The teacher required the students to create profile pages for the major characters that imitated the layout and options of the social media site. Their finished product included instant message conversations, status updates, pictures, notes, and interests, etc.

I believe that plugging characters into a modern social media setting is a valuable creative writing exercise. It allows me, as the writer, to "flesh out" my character via a familiar format, one I have already used to profile myself. Undoubtedly, there will be more information included in the profile than will ever be included in the actual story, but the format offers an intriguing and current method to delve into the psyche of my characters!

For example, the protagonist of my MG fairytale might create a profile containing info something like this . . .

Status update: I wonder what the first human I meet will look like? I'm not asking for a prince, but a knight errant would be nice . . .

Contact information: Silver basin by moonlight

Political views: Mortals are our friends

Relationship status: It's complicated.

Subscriptions: Hokum's Cures for 101 Common Curses

Favorite quotations:

"Courage is the best magic"-Erica Jong

"Who never lost, are unprepared
A Coronet to find!"
-Emily Dickinson

Monday, July 23, 2012

Got lyrics in your ink?

I just finished a monstrous revision of an MG fairytale. I found that choosing a "theme" song for all eighteen chapters seriously enhanced the fun. What lyrics would you splash into your creative ink? Here are mine:

1. “Transcendence” by Lindsey Stirling

2. “Lullaby” by Emmy Rossum

3. “I wasn’t born to follow” by Carole King

4.  “Strangely beautiful” by Amethystium

5.  “The Butterfly” by Celtic Woman

6.  “It’s Amazing” by Jem

7. “Flute” by the Barcode Brothers

8. “Sweet Dreams are Made of These” by Emily Browning

9. “Ambulances” by Ladytron

10. “The Fairies’ Wind” by Trobar de Morte

11.  “Numbers” by Great Northern

12. “Requiem for a dream” by Clint Mansell

13. “My happy ending” by Avril Lavigne 

14. “Marvelous Things” by Eisley

15. “Not gonna get us” by T.A.T.U.

16. “Nightmares” by Corvus Corax

17.  “Coloring the Void” by M83

18.  Skies on Fire” by The Green Children

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Seeking Terra Salis

I've only been to Antelope Island three times in my life, but each time I feel like I'm slipping into an alien Other-world, trading Terra Firma for Terra Salis. The island lies in the middle of the Great Salt Lake in Utah. A narrow strip of road is all that connects the shoreline to an alternate reality free of the bustle of civilization.

The waves whip small mounds of salt crystals onto the island's banks as sleek flocks of seagulls dive into the waters after tiny brine shrimp. Herds of bison graze on wispy tufts of grass between rugged rocks. Sometimes, the wind stalls and I catch a whiff of lake stink, other times the wind tears at my senses until all I can feel and taste is the delicious sting of the salty air, and I realize: Antelope Island has stung my soul.

Maybe it's the sheer concentration of salt lacing the waters and tracing glittering patterns on the sand that scratches through my jaded skin, reaching something deeper. I once heard that the Great Salt Lake contains enough salt to supply the world for 100 years. I don't know if this accurate, but Antelope Island supplies me with an essential reminder: To be what I am, what I have forgotten, what I may yet become. I am reminded that just as salt provides vital nutrition to the human body, so dreams are another kind of salt that nourish humanity. 

Let me explain. In Matthew 5, verse 13 of the Bible, it reads: "Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men." The demands of life tread our dreams out of us sometimes. Wishes lose their savor. All our hopes seem "good for nothing," castaway stars. But I won't stop my improbable ink endeavors, not when I know that a saline island gem still gleams in the remnant waters of an ice age. 

Antelope Island isn't just the "salt of the earth," it's the salt of dreams. Mine. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Minor Character Magic

On a road trip out West, I stopped at a gas station and this scruffy little bird perched on the car wipers and refused to leave. It stared at me with bold, beady eyes until I started the car. Out of everything that happened on this road trip--watching the misty forests of Pennsylvania transition into the shining prairies of Kansas, and later, the sky-scraping mountains of Colorado--this cheeky avian fellow was one of the highlights.

The bird reminds me of the "magic" of minor characters and how they can add vibrancy to a story. For example, The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander would be incomplete without the character of Gurgi, the eccentric furry friend of Taran Wanderer. While Gurgi provided comic relief and tested the patience and empathy of Taran, he did not take over the story. I think this balance is important because sometimes a minor character becomes so much fun to write that the protagonist can become "dull" in comparison.

P.S. Does anyone know what kind of bird this is?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Cracked Marbles and Creative Muses

How do you nourish your creative muse? I like to conduct empirical stress tests on the fractal patterns of crystalline matrices in glass spheres. Okay, I quite enjoy cracking marbles and gawking at their facets.

Here is one site that will show you how to make cracked marbles. Be careful and wear safety goggles and oven mitts or gloves when handling them!

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Tale of Beren and Lúthien by J. R. R. Tolkien

The format of my book review today is actually a case for a film adaptation of the tale "Of Beren and Lúthien" by J. R. R. Tolkien, one of my favorite stories in The Silmarillion. Below is a draft of a (semi-serious) letter I'll be sending to New Zealand later this May to Wingnut Films fanmail. I figure, why not? This story rocks. More people should read it--and maybe, someday see it!

Dear Peter Jackson,
Please consider my outline for why you should helm a film adaptation of the tale "Of Lúthien and Beren" by J.R.R. Tolkien, meticulously bolded and randomly italicized for your convenience:

v  Sauron, the Early Years: Who wouldn’t pay to see Ole Flaming Red Eye playing the part of a ravening vampire AND a werewolf? Not the swooning sparkly kind or brooding fur ball sort, but a shape-shifting fiend that is also the principal lieutenant of the demonic overlord of all evil, Morgoth. Need I say more?

v  There’s so much more: Move over, Tristan and Isolde! It’s time for the ultimate love story about star-crossed species. Beren is a "baseborn" human and Lúthien is the daughter of an Elven king who wants to kill her mortal beau off quickly. Cue the impossible quest: basically, to steal a jewel from the crown of the devil in the land of hell.

v  Helen of Troy’s face launched a thousand ships. Big deal. Lúthien Tinúviel was the “fairest of all the Children of the World.”  Even Lúthien’s lovely descendent Arwen Evenstar was reputedly but a pale likeness of her beauty in comparison.

v  There’s a crazy Rapunzel/Quasi-Invisibility Cloak scene. When Lúthien is imprisoned in a lofty tree house by her father to keep her out of the action, she uses sorcery to grow her hair fantastically long and escape. She then recycles her hair into a shadowy, sleep-inducing cloak so that she can rescue Beren from a torturous death in Sauron’s prison.

v  Lúthien orders Beren to shut up when he tries to steal a silmaril on his own, and employs her sirenesque singing skills to beguile the lord of hell (okay, Angband) into hypnotic slumber so that Beren can nick a jewel from his crown. Can anyone say girl power?

v  There’s an epic smack down between the gargantuan wolfhound Huan, a noble canine granted the ability to speak only three times in his life, and Morgoth’s pet Red Maw, “the mightiest wolf” ever to terrorize the earth (think White Fang meets the Hulk).

v  When Luke Skywalker lost his hand to Vader, it was the most awkward family reunion ever. But when Beren’s hand is bitten off by Red Maw with the stolen silmaril still in his fingers, he loses the right to ever marry his beloved Lúthien. Now that’s tragedy.

v  Romeo and Juliet stay dead. Beren and Lúthien die and are revivified by an Elven God!

v  Such shiny jewels, preciousssss. Come on, what’s the glory of the One Ring or the Arkenstone against the three Silmarils, a trinity of jewels whose faceted luminosity ultimately destroys the elves with the toxic jealousy generated by their radiance?  

This story is begging to be told on the silver screen, and I know you are the director who can bring it to life. Besides, you already have a built-in fan base, millions strong.

Serendipitous wishes,
Your fan and Tolkien’s

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sea Coronets and Ultimate Recycling

So my little sister made me a crown for Valentine's of such extravagance I'm fairly certain that even Ariel would turn sea-green with envy! The crown is a combination of Floridian sea shells, broken glass, faux pearls and gem stickers all hot glued onto three pie tins.

That's right, pie tins! I'll never look at recycling the same way again.

1. For anyone wishing to construct their own crown, you will need a three pack of Hefty EZ pie tins (mine is slightly larger than the regular 8 inch pie tin size, but the size is entirely dependent on your preference).

2.Keep the three pie tins together. Use scissors and/or a razor to cut out the bottom of the three pie tins and crimp the edges shut. The edges can be sharp, so you might consider wearing gloves.

3.To mold the crown to your head, cut the ring of foil open and then punch holes in either end. Connect the holes with a ribbon or a strong strip of foil.

4. Now comes the fun part-choose your gems and apply copious amounts of hot glue. Mirrors shards and colored bits of glass work splendidly. Just be careful not to go overboard with the ornamentation . . . the crown gets heavy, fast!

If the rim of the crown is uncomfortable, consider gluing on a strip of felt or cloth, and you're ready to rule.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Multimodal Extras

Alas, my artistic skills are quite limited . . . which is why I love to flesh out story themes in a virtual setting!

Need some inspiration or just a chance to exercise your creativity? Create a banner or theme for your story on PicLits!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Power of Pen Pals

Sometimes both ink and wishing wells run dry. That's when it's time to call up our companions from the pages that first shaped our minds with wonder, to cry "Elboreth Gilthonial!" and "Eulalia!" as we lay siege to the syllables locked inside.