Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Purple Martin Adventure

Field Trip Day

"Hey, kids, wanna have breakfast out?"
'Sure, mom,' they chirp.
Mom hustles everyone out of the nest. Reluctantly and awkwardly they flutter and fly a few hundred feet to a nearby porch.
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'Whew, that's hard,' the little fledglings chirp.
Mom flies off to find breakfast.
After a few minutes of being alone, the young birds shiver in apprehension. The sky is sooooo big. The wind is blowing and many strange noises and sounds flood over them.
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"I'm scared," said one little bird.
"I'm hungry," said another.
"I'm tired," said the third.
"I want to go home," said the fourth.

Mom arrived with breakfast, flying away and returning again and again with a tasty insect morsel for her offspring.
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All the day the young birds clung to the porch gutters. As the sun settled over the horizon, mama bird gathered her small flock for an evening flight lesson. After soaring and swooping for a while, all returned to the nest.

The next day, the field trip happened all over again, but mama scooted everyone off the porch several times.
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By the third day, the young birds only came to the porch area a couple of times to rest.

The fourth day, they soared like grown ups in a blue, blue sky.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Not So Wordless Wednesday

Consider the lilies....

Calla Lily
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Lady Bug Daylily
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Asiatic Lilies
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Stella D'oro Daylilies
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Not a lily, but...
Cecile Brunner Rose planted for my late sister in law.
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Ralph Waldo Emerson said the earth laughs in flowers. If so there is a constant chuckle going on in my yard these days. Joyful, joyful!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Celebrate!

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My hairstyle hasn't changed much over the years, has it?

Today is my birthday. We were fortunate to have friends here from Belgium. What a delight to spend time with them.

You gardeners will appreciate that The Pilot Guy brought me a couple of boxes of rocks from one of his last trips. Nice golf ball sized rocks to put around a fountain in the front beds. You just gotta love a man that brings his honey rocks.

I also got a nice new radio for the back porch (sigh...listening to the Texas Rangers on the radio, swinging on the porch swing, sipping iced peach tea, and leafing through a Southern Living magazine...is there any better way to spend a Sunday afternoon?) and an automatic water timer for the veggie garden. Does my family know me?

I'm a fortunate lady.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Birds of the Neighborhood

Are you lucky enough to have purple martins living nearby? These handsome birds are the small jets of the bird world.

Yesterday, as I was mowing the lawn, five of them kept me company. They swirled and dove, glided and swooped, sometimes coming within a foot of the front of the mower. All in search of a feast of insects stirred up by mowing. My own personal air show.

I've seen sea gulls following fishing trawlers begging for scraps and hawks will follow a tractor in hopes of catching a startled mouse or rabbit. In the last two years, I've noticed the purple martins working the yard as we mowed, but this year they are really taking advantage of the mower, perhaps because our spring has been cool and there are not many insects yet. I thought a time or two one of them was going to misjudge and crash into me. I wasn't worried really. I've been around too many pilots and know that the flyer generally knows how far he can take it.

We enjoy having these guys as neighbors. Where they patrol we have fewer mosquitoes. Always a good thing.

In addition, a pair of cardinals have made this area their home. For the last three winters, cardinals have enjoyed our winter hospitality, but moved on in the spring, I think because we haven't had much cover for them. We live on a former cattle pasture, after all. This year, one pair seems to be staying, telling me they are appreciating all the trees and shrubs we've planted. I love seeing his bright flash of red across the tree's green background. She visits the feeder near my writing window, otherwise I might not notice her because she is comparatively drab next to the mister.

We've also got some sparrows I need to identify. They have black and white striped 'helmets' on their heads.

All the sparrows have discovered a dirt 'spa' in our backyard. In an area where we don't have grass, they come to wallow in the dirt. They fling dirt on their backs, fluff their feathers, and all but roll in the loose dirt. They leave small depressions behind. It is fun to watch them cavort. Anyone know why they do this?

Of course, then there are the mockingbirds. Loud, musical, flashy. I really enjoy watching them swabble and strut.

What birds sing in your yard?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Painful Pleasure, Part II

Part two of our chat with Bonnie Pemberton, author of 'The Cat Master.'

CS: What mistakes have you made?

Bonnie: I was arrogant. I thought I knew more about writing than I did. After all, I’d written ad copy in LA. I’d written screenplays. What I didn’t know was structure. I’m a story teller. Born that way, but I needed to learn about arcs, hooks, and character. I had to rid myself of ‘ly’ words and ‘purple’ prose. Those are craftsman skills you can learn from others.
There are rules that must be obeyed in any art form. Orson Welles said that the enemy of art is the absence of limitations. Learn the rules, and then go back to being arrogant. Determine how much you can push the rules at your current skill level. Humility can be as detrimental as it can be good. Don’t lose your voice.

CS: That’s good advice.

Bonnie: Others have gone before you and you can learn from them. Respect those who’ve gone before. Learn from the brilliant in your field. I visited an actor friend in New York several years ago. He was involved in an acting class every night. Right down the street from him, Al Pacino was starring in a play, yet my friend hadn’t been to see the production. My friend was in acting classes while one of the greats in the business was literally next door. I told him he could be learning from the best by watching Pacino every night. Think of what he could have learned.

CS: Learn from the best…

Bonnie: Read writers you find brilliant and inspiring. Remember some of them were writing on parchment paper and telling a great story without a way to make easy edits. I look back and think how hard writing was on a typewriter. It’s much easier on a computer these days.

CS: What did you do right?

Bonnie: Somehow, not by design, I created characters people find compelling. So compelling that people forget the characters are talking animals. Somehow, I was able to make their voices interesting. I can write humorously, too. I’ve learned a lot. In ‘The Cat Master’ I made Jett, the villain, too melodramatic. I won’t do that again. The villain in the sequel is so different. He is fat, greasy, and heartless. Just your average creep.

CS: Do you get creative blocks?

Bonnie: Here’s when my blocks come. They are of my own making. My plotting is not efficient. I know the beginning of my story and I know the ending, but I have only the vaguest idea of the middle. Often I write myself into a corner. Then I have to spend a couple of days sitting and staring and not writing. Once I figure out who needs to speak next, I’m off and writing.

If something isn’t working in a scene, it means I need to raise the stakes. High stakes for my characters are important. Every chapter ends with someone in trouble or a foreshadowing of trouble.

CS: Tell me about the business side of writing.

Bonnie: It’s hard. One of the hardest parts is one of the things writers fantasize about, book signings. These are fun when you are near home and all your friends and relatives show up. But when you are in another town, book signings are lonely. You physically take yourself and your wares and sell yourself. Once you’ve built a fan-base, it is easier.

I’d say publicizing yourself in one of the hard parts. But I grit my teeth and do it. It is part of the job. It’s not the icing on the cake, it’s more like eating the china plate. Not fun and it takes a lot of time and energy to do. Time and energy you need to write. But here’s what I think, ‘Do I believe in my art enough to do what I need to do?’ And then I go do it.

In every field, dues need to be paid. I work to establish good public relationships and good will with every bookstore. There’s no slouching in with a lazy attitude. I answer every piece of fan mail and try to build a fan base. Hopefully, that will make promoting my next book easier.

CS: What about working with an editor?

Bonnie: I did eight re-writes on ‘The Cat Master.’ I learned a lot in the process, but I was mad every time my editor asked for changes. It's hard to hear that you don't write perfectly. I was very inexperienced and na├»ve and so happy to be working with a publisher. At first, I didn’t know I had a choice in making changes. Once she asked me to make a change and I pushed back. She saw my point and said she could understand that. Really, I didn’t disagree too much with the changes. My editor knew what she was doing.

CS: What would you say to someone just beginning to write?

Bonnie: Only do it if you can’t do something else. If you are a writer, allow it to happen. Don’t put the burden of publication on yourself at first. Just tell your stories. Write your stories. Learn.
And when you fail, don’t let it get to you. If you care too much about failing, you will never get anything done. It’s all grist for your writing mill anyway.

Bonnie is almost finished with 'The Lizard Rides Again,' a sequel to 'The Cat Master'
Learn more about Bonnie at http://www.bonniepemberton.com/

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Not So Wordless Wednesday

Ready.....
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Set.....
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BLOOM!!!
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Red Cascade rose

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Painful Pleasure, Part I


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For Bonnie Pemberton, author of ‘The Cat Master,’ writing is a painful pleasure. Join us as we discuss the ins and outs, the ups and downs of a life creative.

Creative Soul: Why writing?

Bonnie: I’ve written since I was a little kid, but I was never one to say ‘I want to be published.’ I never said ‘I want to be an author.’ There are art forms that people are born to express. Writing is not that easy for me, but it is always satisfying. There have been times in my life where I’ve gone long periods of not writing anything but an occasional letter to the editor or written in a journal. Acting and singing are much easier.

CS: It took you ten years to finish ‘The Cat Master.’

Bonnie: Yes, for a time after my cat Buddy died, I just couldn’t write about him. He is the main character of ‘The Cat Master.’ Once I start something, I want to finish it. It eats at me. It troubles me until I finish it. Eventually, I picked the manuscript up and finished it.

CS: Where do your ideas and inspirations come from?

Bonnie: Ideas and inspiration are two different things. An idea comes from something I see or hear. Like in the book I’m writing now, a news piece about a man gathering 300 plowshare turtles to sell caught my attention. There are only 600 of these turtles in existence and this man had captured 300 of them to sell on the black market. So I have a plowshare turtle character as part of the black market story line.

CS: What do you look for in a story?

Bonnie: I’m interested in a story with a haunting quality. Not horror, but a melancholy feel. A story has to have a depth beyond the plot. I create comedy and lighthearted moments around the seriousness of the story. I don’t want to write shallow.

CS: What about inspiration?

Bonnie: Inspiration is in the depth of emotion I feel when writing. Inspiration comes after I’ve fallen into the story.

CS: Do you keep a schedule?

Bonnie: When I wrote for myself, I wrote when it felt good. When I aimed for publication, I set goals for myself. Now that I am published, I do not want to be a one-book-wonder. I’ve set a goal to write one book a year. Today’s goal is to write three scenes on my work in progress.

What I love to do is go back over scenes I’ve written and tweak them. Writing new scenes is excruciating. Writing is a painful pleasure for me. Not fun at all, but satisfying. Very satisfying.

CS: Do you have ‘rituals’ that help you get in a writing frame of mind?

Bonnie, laughing: Like reading all the gossip possible from AOL, you mean? After I’ve read about Britney Spears latest adventures and exhausting all possible distractions, I focus on writing. The first paragraph of the first page is the hardest. Once I’m through that, I’ve fallen into the story and all is right.

Stay tuned for the second part of Bonnie's interview on Thursday when we will chat about the mistakes and successes in her writing career.

Learn more about Bonnie at www.bonniepemberton.com

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Money and Art

White Iris
Iris-Dreamy

Do you make an income from your creative endeavors? If not, do you hope to someday? If so, what challenges does this present in your life?

I have a skewed viewpoint about this since I've always made a dollar or three from my pursuits.In high school, I worked in photo darkrooms during the summer. Photography put me through college and introduced me to The Pilot Guy. As newlyweds, we supplemented our income with our cameras. Eventually, we opened our first studio business together. When The Pilot Guy took to the skies as a commercial pilot, the studio became my baby.

Over the years, I've received checks not only for photography, but writing as well as cross stitch patterns I designed. It feels good to get paid for doing something you love. It also adds pressure for you to perform to someone else's expectations and on their timing. Then there is the pesky business aspect of it all. Taxes, accounting, marketing, and customer service. It is enough to give a girl a headache.

It's all good, but it can be a challenge. We are up for a challenge, aren't we? Off and on over the next few weeks, I'll write about some of the lessons learned in making your creative life an aspect of your income producing life. We creatives don't always get the left-brain, make-the-numbers-line-up, stay-organized parts of running a creative business. What's normal and natural to me scares the daylights out of others, but fears and qualms and obstacles can be dealt with. Buckle your seatbelt!

Do you make an income with your artistic skill? What parts of that do you struggle with the most? Leave your answers in the comments section.

By the way, I just finished an interview with a terrific author. I'll get it written up and posted in a day or two. Don't miss it!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Not So Wordless Wednesday

Is it a sign of an active and vivid imagination to not plant something in front of a favorite broken gargoyle because he won't be able to effectively guard the driveway if he can't see? I hope so.
Gargoyle

Stella d'Oro daylilies
Stella D'Oro

Shasta Daisies
Shasta Daisies

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, May 5, 2008

F R E E D O M !

Furled Iris
Iris about to unfurl it's petals

Imagine a Mel Gibson yell from 'Braveheart.'

F R R R E E E E E E E E D D D D D O O O O O M M M M ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

Most of my winter into spring committments are done and I'm free, free, free.

Monday evening ladies Bible Study--done.

Planning for Senior Celebration--done.

and, the most time consuming of all......

Nathan's JV and Varsity baseball season is complete!

Do you know how many hours not having baseball gives me back?

Hours and hours and hours every week.

Think of the writing, gardening, and creating I can do.

Just thinking of the possibilities gives me delight.

I'm giddy!

We will be winding up our curriculum chores in a few short weeks giving me even more time to think. For a homeschool mom, summer break is me time. And I'm going to wallow in it this year.

I love May, not only because I was born in May but because it is a transition time from the school year to the summer months. New goals, new schedule, new attitude.

What's on the horizon for you? Travel plans? Taking a class? Trying a new technique? Tackling a challenging creative project?

Refine and renew your goals and share your thoughts on summer in the comment section. Let's have a dynamite summer together.

Celebration

Romans 12:15...Rejoice with those who rejoice....

Last night was a delightful moment in the life of our church. We paused to celebrate and honor the graduating seniors and their families. This is a big deal to us. An afternoon photo session, a limo ride, culminating with a dinner and presentation at the church.

As the mom of a junior, I was part of the planning committee. We chose as the theme journeys and travel. Here's a few photos of the various table scapes we put together, as well as a few of the larger front of the church displays.

Front of the church auditorium.
Eiffel Tower

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Tablescapes
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Appetizers, anyone? The photo doesn't show off the tiny white lights glowing under the poufy tablecloth.
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Each of the twelve dining tables had a different tableau, all with an antique travel transportation flourish. Unity came from the black tablecloths with gold accents. In the fellowship hall we had an appetizer area and each graduate had a table for memorabilia. Very fun! The church gave them a copy of Dr. Seuss's "Oh The Places You Will Go!" Those attending the celebration signed the books yearbook style. Oh yes, our leadership also gave them a lovely new Bible.

The dinner was delish. The speeches by each set of parents heartfelt. The photo presentations fun.

All in all, a good night.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Ways to Sabotage Creativity

Red Dianthus
Not feeling as creative as you'd like? Not producing the kind of artistic work you know you are capable of?

We all get into bad creative habits. Here's a few ways we sabotage our own creative endeavors.

1. We over schedule. Do I have to explain this one? If you are always on a committee planning an event somewhere, you rob yourself of the time you need in your studio. Learn to gently, firmly say no. (When I figure out how to do this consistently, I'll let you know.)

2. We get intimidated by others. We look at another's work or read another author's book and think, ' I can NEVER do as well as they do.'

Hogwash.

The joy and beauty of creativity in our lives is that what ever we produce will come through us and be forever stamped with our fingerprints. Two women using the same quilt pattern will not produce the same quilt. Each piece will have different colors and fabrics, expressing something unique about the person creating them. You have a style. Develop it.

3. We don't pay enough attention to details. Because we are often too over scheduled, we hurry through our art, instead of loving on the details. It's the small things that make a difference. Slow down. Enjoy the process of creation. Fiddle with fine tuning until whatever you are creating is as wonderful as you can make it. Then, by golly, release it into the wild to be sold or given or enjoyed by others.

4. We deny ourselves support. You need like minded creative souls around you. Hanging out with other artists from your field gains you experience and the wisdom that comes from experience. Expertise is something else you can learn. Around here, we often say, 'That person has forgotten more about ___________ than I will ever know.' Learn from each other. And do not limit yourself to just 'your kind.' I believe photographers can learn color and style from observing a gardener or quilter. A gardener can learn from a watercolor artist. An artist friend of mine taught me much that I apply to my writing today.

Besides, these artsy types speak your language and understand you in a way that all those 'normal' folks don't. Right?

5. We don't get real. Whatever you create should resonant within others or what's the point? If you stir your own emotions and experiences into the mix, then your writing or painting or sculpture will ring truer for the intended audience. I'm talking happiness as well as despair. It takes opening ourselves up, sometimes in painful, sometimes in delightful ways, to bring truth and honesty to our craft. Dig deep.

6. We quit. Again, do I need to say more? If you stop writing and submitting, you can not sell your novel to a publisher. If you stop painting, then you will never perfect that new brush technique. As long as you are working, learning, and doing, your artistic life has a chance to grow.
As Winston Churchill said, 'never, never, never, never, never give up.' Well, it was something like that and those words helped a nation win a war.

Imagine what could happen if you start saying them to yourself.