Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Finding my way with The Artist's Way

Dusted off my copy of "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron last night. Somehow, that book, which changed my life (for reals), walked off my bedside table and joined a pile of books in another room. 

It's always good to check in with "The Artist's Way." Read a chapter here, do an exercise there. Restart the morning pages. 

It was fun to reread some of my thoughts from years ago. For example, I don't remember AT ALL having a desire to go skydiving. But there it was, in my handwriting (more than once) in the margins of a few pages. "Try skydiving." 

Decided I'm going to do the course again. There's an online version.  Want to get more focused. Need to get more focused to make some decisions on my business. Giving very serious thought to adding other ways of making money, such as handmade books. 

There's an online version, too. This is one of the most influential books I have read. In my life. No kidding. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Limerick laughs

Friday Funny

Limericks. Those are the five line poems, usually kind of naughty and funny with a rhyme scheme of AABBA. I'm sure you have heard the following, or a variation of it. 

There was an old man of Nantucket
who kept all his cash in a bucket
but his daughter, named Nan
ran away with a man
as as for the bucket, Nantucket

Edward Lear popularized limericks, he did not call them limericks, in the 19th century.

As a poetic form, limericks adhere to a set of rules. Actually, limerick rules are rather strict compared to other poetry. 

They are:
  • Limericks are five lines long
  • Lines 1, 2, and 5 rhyme
  • Lines 3 and 4 rhyme
  • Limericks are typically funny

Here's another example. Author unknown.

The limerick packs laughs anatomical
Into space that is quite economical.
But the good ones I've seen
So seldom are clean
And the clean ones so seldom are comical. 

And now, here's my go at it.

There once was a woman writer
whose mental blocks would bite her;
but she kept at her keyboard
til a story struck a big chord
now her job is a money counter

Now, your turn.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Mission Accomplished

Day 30 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

Mission accomplished. I did it. Successfully completed my 30-Day Writing Challenge. 

Maybe I should have called it the 30-Day Showing Up Challenge. Because that was the essence of it. The writing part was secondary. I am/was creating a container for my work, which is writing. 

The plan is to continue posting to Behind the Scenes at Orozco Ink. Twice a week is plenty. That may be a bigger challenge than the 30-day one. Sticking with the Friday Funny. Tuesday will be the other post day. 

Looking forward to growing my business by trying new things. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Lessons learned

Day 29 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

Lessons learned from the 30-Day Writing Challenge. First and foremost is Behind the Scenes at Orozco Ink needs to benefit the reader. Why would someone (other than good friends and relatives) bother to read this?

This next one is really about a lesson being reinforced, rather than learned. Show up and write. Start tip-tapping on those keys. Doesn't matter what comes out ... it doesn't need to be submitted or posted or emailed. What matters is the doing. The priming of the pump. 

You know, I learn by observing others. How do they run their business? What do they make a priority? What are they charging? Where do they get jobs? I like learning from others. 

And, just think ... I have one more day to learn more lessons from the 30-Day Writing Challenge. 

Below, apropos of nothing, my cat Nella is one of my lessons from the universe. She's semi-feral and really doesn't like anybody or anything. Sometimes she really hurts my feelings. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The ol' shot of inspiration

Day 28 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

Yay! It's Tuesday. That means Improv Workshop is tonight. The ol' brain workout of thinking on my feet is the perfect inspiration for work, life, and anything else.

No script. No writing. No computer. No microphone. (Did I mention how I love being encouraged to be loud?) It's fun, inspiring, and good for me.

Want to see what I'm talking about? Then view this 13-second long video by Chuck-Hou Yee.

So, yay! for Tuesday, an otherwise fairly humdrum day.

Below, the big news is that out of the Improv Workshop, the Plaza Improv Players troupe formed. (Maybe I've posted this already.) From left are Chuck-Hou Yee, Judy Sirianni, moi!, Juliette Rohde-Brown, Hope Zweig, Pauline Reyes, Sherri Mendenhall, and director John Pagano.

Monday, June 9, 2014


Day 27 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

Here's something solo-preneurs do on a regular basis -- spend more time scheduling a meeting than the proposed meeting is expected to last. 

I'm sure it's not only solo-preneurs who deal with this. 

It's funny, if you're a fan of irony. 

(I know this post isn't really worthy of being part of my Writing Challenge, but I'll only do this once. Promise. Thanks. It's Monday after all. [Last time to play the Monday card, too.] Thanks. And, if you're a fan of irony, you'll really appreciate that this tag ending is longer than my post.)

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The write time

Day 26 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

Writing fiction is not my thing. I'm not talking about plays or scripts. I'm talking about novels, short stories, that sort of stuff. However, every blue moon, I sign up for a class or join a writers group and slog out some fiction. 

I do this out of a sense of "have to." Like they'll figure out I'm a fraud if I don't have some unfinished piece of fiction torturing me. Actually, I think I'm over that self-induced torturing, but there hasn't been a blue moon in a while. 

I wrote the following piece for a class I took. 

Dinner Party

“This country was founded by a bunch of wild-eyed religious fanatics,” Liz Gibson’s voice rose above the dinner guests. Not quite yelling, but still a far cry from the civilized act she had managed to pull off during the meal.  The collective look of surprise from around the table told her either the lack of a cigarette for the last half hour or the more-than-half bottle of wine accompanying her meal was showing.

“That’s why they came here,” she continued, standing up to get an ashtray. It was her house. She didn’t need to ask permission to smoke. “So they could practice their religion … and then forbid others to practice theirs.”

“And you can thank the soldiers in Iraq for giving you the freedom to say things like that,” Monroe finished his sentence in unison with the strike of Liz’s match. Opting out of the tired old discussion, Liz doubled up filling her wine glass, not wanting to call attention to herself in a few minutes when she would have had to refill it.

“Time for everyone to go home,” Liz silently wished her friends to be gone when she looked back up from her glass. She wasn’t opposed to clearing the table as a hint for them to get moving – she just didn’t want to leave her wine. Her focus was on finishing her drink and then maybe, much later, another one of the bottles bought for this dinner party. The religious fanatics remark did its job of involving all the other seven people around the table in a spirited conversation among themselves. And, isn’t that the job of a good hostess?

“What year did the Pilgrims land at Plymouth Rock?”

“Our Founding Fathers would have finished the job during Desert Storm.”

“Roanoke was in Virginia.”

The debate whether Vermont was one of the original 13 colonies or not left her alone to concentrate on her wine.

Her husband, David, enjoyed giving dinner parties. Loved the planning, shopping, cooking, setting the table …he didn’t even mind the cleaning up. Her part was to keep him company during all the preparations, minus his grocery shopping. Her contributions consisted mainly of sitting in a high chair at the breakfast bar catching up on some reading, taking a taste here and there, offering a suggestion of where David may find a seldom-used kitchen tool, and answering the phone.

The phone rarely rang. Liz could predict who was on the other end by the time of day the sharp ring interrupted her. The sound blast, straight from out of nowhere, always set her posture stick straight. Why David hadn’t fixed that damn thing yet really irked her. A brrrrink during regular business hours indicated a telemarketer was on the other end, an early evening one indicated a friend, and after 8 p.m. meant one of the children.

The children rarely called -- never having much news to report. How could they?  She and David saw Bridget at least once a week and Kyle made his way over there three times a week to watch a game, borrow a tool, or lend some muscle to one of David’s many projects. Their calls were usually responding to an invitation from David to meet at a restaurant or come over for a new recipe he wants to try out. Liz usually let the answering machine pick up the calls.

Thursday night David called Monroe checking to see if he liked cilantro. Lord, how that had peeved Liz. “He never checks with me on what ingredients I like,” she silently seethed. “Cilantro? What on earth could he be concocting …” smoke had floated out of her mouth.

The result of Monroe’s affirmative answer to the cilantro question was a special pesto dish, which now sat barely touched in front of Liz. All the guests raved about it. Liz enjoyed the dish enough but mostly just played around with the food on her plate to make it look like she had been eating.

She had not appreciated David’s insistence on purchasing all the red wine to go with the meal – a good example of why David shopped solo for his dinner parties. She much preferred white wine and the cheaper the better. Pairing wine and food didn’t matter a whit to her. She knew what she liked and didn’t care what some celebrity chef dictated or what anyone else thought.
White wine didn’t stain. That was something you couldn’t say about red wine. And household hints such as rubbing salt on the red wine stain didn’t register with Liz. She gave up that sort of thing when Bridget hit fifth grade and Kyle third. Just about the time when wine spills started becoming more common in the Gibson home.

“Uh, do you have any club soda … Liz?” Carolina interrupted Liz while she was adding “not enough white wine” to her list grievances she’d later present to her husband. “Some red wine spilled.”

“White wine will erase that,” David grabbed Liz’s glass and poured it over the red spot in front of Carolina. “Don’t worry about it. Here are some napkins.”

And with a stack of about twenty-five napkins soaking up the red Rorschach blot in front of her, Carolina held out her glass and asked David for some more merlot. And, he happily obliged before refilling Liz’s glass, the very one he had snatched out of her hands twenty seconds earlier – yet, another item for the grievance list.

The possible wine stain didn’t annoy Liz. Even David being so rude to snatch the glass out of her hand took a back seat to the dinner guests not picking up on the table mishap cue to make their exit. Now dessert was a certainty, which put everyone’s departure time an hour away at the earliest.

“Please,” she mentally implored David. “Do not suggest everyone ‘retire to the drawing room.’”

He amused himself by saying “retire to the drawing room” with an exaggerated English accent and a big flourish of a bow. Bridget and Kyle have incorporated it into their vocabulary, too. It has become family-speak to mean “dinner is over, time to leave the table.”

“Shall we retire to the drawing room” one of them would say, and each went their separate way -- Bridget to her room and Kyle to the garage.  And in no way near retiring, David, of course, went to the kitchen, where he talked about tomorrow’s meals while making decisions on leftovers, taking inventory of the pantry, and scrubbing the kitchen.

No, tonight Liz would not like to retire to the drawing room. The ashtray was perched perfectly behind her to the right and the white wine was on the table in front. “Retiring to the drawing room” would mess up her little nest and then there would be Carolina, Lorraine, and Ivy fussing around and wanting to clear the table. It would be impossible to get them not to help. 

“I found that merlot at the little liquor store next to Vons,” David informed the table.

“I like it,” Carolina answered and batted her eyelashes exaggeratedly when she added “it’s kind of peppery.”

“Remember who agreed to drive home,” Shep chided his wife and finished off his glass of wine so he could refill it with the peppery drink.

How Carolina put up with that bore Liz could not fathom. And here he is about to offer his two cents worth of wine knowledge.

“I wouldn’t describe it as peppery, but more tannic. A very good choice for tonight’s meal. Excellent pairing, David,” Shep said. “Usually, I prefer more hints of fruit, but this really does satisfy.”

“Usually you prefer anything you didn’t have to pay for,” Liz said to herself as she inhaled her ninth cigarette since the party started. “So, put a cork in it.”

“Tannic? Fruits? What are you talking about? I never taste any of that. I just know what I think tastes good,” Estes offered his glass for a pour.

“And, I’ll agree with you on the good taste,” Estes added. “But tell me, Shep what fruits are you tasting? Rotting grapes? … and, do you the difference between a connoisseur and a sewer?” he added.

“Quantity!” he crowed the punch line.

“David is a gourmet, and I am a gourmand,” Liz chimed in, not even acknowledging the joke.  

“David is a connoisseur of fine food and drink, and likes to cook. I just like the eating.”

“And the drinking,” Estes added. 

Below, Dinner Party was included in AnneThology. I have a copy. Lots of good reading in the book. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Licking my chops

Day 25 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

"Blue Plate Special" is one of the best books I have read this year. I love Kate Christensen's writing.

I'm thrilled to discover she has a blog. Yep, I'm a follower. Signed on immediately. Yummy. 

Man, weekends aren't long enough. There aren't enough hours in any day to get everything done. So many great books to read, so little time.

Below, if you haven't done so already, I highly recommend checking out Blue Plate Special. Buy it from a local bookseller. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Mad about the funny people

Day 24 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

Friday Funny

Name your favorite humorist. 

Kind of tough, isn't it? 

OK. Let's start with when I say "who do you think of when I say humorist?"

What about Scott Adams? You know, the creator of The Far Side. How about Chelsea Handler

Some of my personal favorites are Dick DeBartola of Mad Magazine fame and Sandra Tsing Loh.

I like how they deconstruct the accepted norm and illustrate the craziness. Many humorists do that but are mean about it. For me, Dick DeBartola and Sandra Tsing Loh have a 'we're all in this together" approach, which makes it easy to laugh at myself. 

Below, some things you never outgrow. For me, it's Mad Magazine. It still makes me laugh ... and cry. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Ladies who lunch

Day 23 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

It's always good to get out from behind my desk and surround myself with industry peers. Especially inspiring, high-achieving ones. 

Like Nancy Leffert and Marianne Partridge, who were honored today at the Association of Women in Communication - Santa Barbara Chapter Women of Achievement Awards luncheon.

Nancy is the president of Antioch University (yowza!) and Marianne is Editor-in-Chief of the Santa Barbara Independent

Inspiring women who do very good work. Thanks for sharing your afternoon with us. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

When all else fails, start writing

Day 22 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

Three appointment in the morning followed by a backlog of administrative stuff (straightening my desk for starters) and some overdue phone calls made. 

Now I'm supposed to write. Or, maybe I can make a few sales calls. Follow up on some query letters. Yeah, some rejection would feel good right about now. Build me some character!

No, I think I'll take a couple of deep breaths. Maybe make a cup of tea. Take a couple more deep breaths. Put one figurative foot in front of the other and carry on. 

Literally (and I mean this in the literal sense) put my fingers on the keyboard ... and begin writing. It hasn't let me down yet. 

Above, the messy desk is always ready to serve as an excuse for not getting any writing done. Poppycock! I say to that. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Who versus That

Day 21 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

In the battle of Who versus That, That appears to be wining. Grammar purists aren't going down without a fight, though. 

Who fans deride That's strategy of becoming acceptable speech through common, albeit incorrect, usage. Check out what Professor Mark J. Perry has to say

Who refers to people. That refers to groups and things. 

Example: Marilyn is the woman who is in charge of the book club that meets on Wednesday night. 

Keep it simple. Keep it clean. Use Who for people, and that for groups and things. 

Not to complicate matters, but That versus Which is a completely new and different battle. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

This question never goes out of style for freelance writers

Day 20 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

It's June and the air is rife with advice for college grads. Especially for the job market.

Well, advice for finding work as a freelance writer applies to all stages of life - new grads, new retirees, old teachers, and so on.

Check out what Grammar Girl has to say about finding work as a freelance writer. It's good advice, applicable to all freelance writers.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Say NO! to overusing the exclamation mark

Day 19 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

June 1. A new month. A good time to make a writing resolution.

Lots of people toss resolution in the same category as budget and diet. A category they don't want to touch. I'm with them on the budget and diet thing, but for me, resolutions aren't like that.

Here's my resolution: Cut back on using the exclamation point. How that punctuation mark started littering my writing I'm not sure. But it's time to knock it off.

I'm not completely giving it up. I'm using them as they were intended -- to indicate an emphatic emotion, interjection, or command.

Check out this essay on the exclamation mark by Melissa Dahl for "New York Magazine." I like how she refers them as "shouty and juvenile."

This post got me thinking about how Catholicism uses the term "ejaculation" to describe a mini-prayer meant to be repeated throughout the day.

I bet those ejaculations use exclamation marks.