I haven’t had enough artist’s dates recently. Every time I imagine taking the afternoon off to enjoy something–a friend, a meander through a bookstore, a movie–I start fretting about what I’ll have to give up to get that. Work or exercise mainly. I won’t give up the afternoons with Amara, which are artist’s dates in many ways, and there is a garden to put in now that the ground is warming. Gardening can be an artist’s date, of course, especially a little later in the season when I’m buried in flowers and emerging vegetables.
Hilary, the wild-mind, tattooed bad girl who does most of the heavy lifting, has been rebelling as a result of this neglect. I realized it over the weekend and made a resolve to do more for her–let her direct us to shoot photos in the morning before we start writing, arrange some flowers, spend an afternoon a week out doing something like wandering the shops on the westside or having tapas with a friend or…whatever.
Yesterday, I went to Pueblo to see my parents. It’s been way, way, way too long since I’ve seen them–another example of my neglect of the rest of my life–and we went to lunch on the Riverwalk (actually, we ate at Angelos, which is the site of a pinnacle scene in The Garden of Happy Endings), then meandered back to the car along Union Avenue. There is a massive and wonderful antique shop there. We stopped. All of us look at different things, though at first my mother and I look at each other’s stuff, then we wander into our own worlds. I never know what will catch my eye, if anything. I’m pretty ruthless about bringing too much stuff into my house.
Almost as soon as I walked in yesterday, this caught my eye.
A window. The screen is still intact, and despite the worn look of the paint, it’s quite solid, $25, with 20% off, making it $20. I was smitten, but forced myself to walk away until I’d gone through the whole place. When I circled back, I still wanted it, my mind offering possibilities–it could be a mini greenhouse. I could put a light inside and photos on the windows and hang it in my dark basement. It could form the structure for a collage. It could even be a backdrop for photos, studio-like, if I set it up right.
Whatever. I thought about whether it would even fit in my Mini, especially since my mom was riding in the backseat. Maybe not–but I could always have my father bring it to me. I just knew that it would be one of those things I’d think about later, wishing I’d given myself permission to play. Check out the chain.
So I paid a whopping $20. It fit just fine in the back of the Mini, especially once I dropped my parents off and could put the seats down.
And I’ve been happy about it ever since. I might paint it a very light aqua and cream or just clean it up and distress it. Or put shelves in. Whatever. Hilary is happy and occupied, playing with ideas and possibilities. Giving her this little present is exactly what she deserves.
Oh, I also bought some charming little bottles for flower vases, but wordpress is not letting me post a photo. Who knows why.
A great artist’s date–and I spent time with my parents, too!
Have settled the summer schedule:
June 15, 3013:
Missouri Romance Writers
“The Heroine’s Journey”
Maryland Heights Centre, 2344 McKelvey Road, Maryland Heights, MO
July 16-20, 2013
Romance Writers of American National Conference
Panel on Romantic Women’s Fiction
Friday 2-3 pm
Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Atlanta GA
July 28-August 3, 2013
Antioch Summer Writing Institute
Writing Commericial Fiction workshop
Mornings, all week
Antioch University, Santa Barbara
The cactus in my window thinks it might be time. Maybe it be so. Soon.
We are working on a new title for my next book. I’m nearly finished with the copy edits, and cover discussions have begun. That means it’s time for me to think about what’s next.
I’ve started working on ideas for new books. This is–by far–the most enjoyable stage of the process until I have a finished book to hold in my hands, and one of the pleasures is in building collages. Tonight, I’ve been leafing through some of my favorites, tearing out pictures and simply enjoying the quiet, restful pleasure of looking at beautiful photos, leafing through magazines, letting images and ideas rise.
One of my favorites, Artful Blogging, actually provided the seed for the new book. In its pages, I read story after story of women whose lives had been transformed by the act of starting and keeping up with a blog. Some were artists, some chefs or bakers, some quilters or photographers, but over and over again, they said the same thing: “Blogging changed my life.”
I kept wondering what that would be like, to live somewhere isolated, and decide to begin this journey. And what might my character discover? And where would it take her? And so the book was born, four food bloggers who support and encourage each other, and finally meet on the blue moon at a lavender farm….
Anyway, tonight I was leafing through all these beautiful magazines and thought of all of you. If you have not ever picked up Stampington.com‘s artful magazines, I hearby order you to go look around the site and click through a few. And remember that little things can change your life, too.
Do you collage or quilt or make art in some way? Do you have favorite art blogs to share with us?
The other day, I bought some tulips at the grocery store. It was a gloomy day, threatening snow, and they just looked so appealing in their buckets that I gathered up two bouquets and brought them home.
As I was settling them in a vase, a bucket of indirect light poured through the window and glossed the petals. I peeked into the centers of the flowers, seeing the dark stars at the base of the flowers and the stamens, sturdy and sexy. I thought about going to get my camera to take some photos.
And then I remembered that I do it every year. Choose these very flowers—pale pink and orange edged with flame yellow. I put them in a vase and shoot them against the dark snowy days of April (which just doesn’t even sound right!). One of my nieces loved one set enough that she had prints made and hung them in her apartment. One of my own favorites is a tulip reflected in the silver faucet. And this morning, I shot this one. Well, actually I shot 46 photos, but this one was one of my favorites.
I also like this one, which looks like a bunch of girls whispering.
It’s a peaceful little ritual, shooting tulips on wintery spring days. It brings the promise of the coming season a little closer, where I can believe in it. It brings the light, it brings beauty.
Do you have rituals like this? Has spring arrived in your world yet? If not, what are you doing to keep believing it will come?
Finally, there is real spring in the air. You can feel it burning off the cold by eight-thirty, and a brilliance of light makes everything stretch and awaken. My poppies are up, green and thick, and the daffodils—a bit scrawny so far—and the tulips, looking sturdy. I’m surprised by a crop of garlic that must be leftover from last year, and not at all sure that the wisteria that’s supposed to overwinter is actually going to do anything.
We shall see.
In the meantime, I have a new experiment. I’m madly in love with a chubby Spanish pepper called pimento de padron. I must have had them in Spain when we walked the Camino, but it was later that I started to love them so madly—they’re often served as a tapas plate in Spanish restaurants, and prepared very simply, pan grilled in olive oil, sprinkled with coarse salt.
That’s it, but every bite is heaven. They are mostly not very hot, but part of the pleasure is in finding the one in ten that has a bite—it explodes in your mouth, spice and heat and salt and oil, and it makes me laugh, every time.
The thing is, we have peppers of every variety you can imagine here. I could buy habaneros and jalapenos and Anaheims (which we call Pueblo chiles here) and cayennes; I can grow all of those and more from bedding plants sold at the grocery store.
Padrons are not common. I had to search hard to find a place that would ship me some last fall, and they were $17 a pound, plus shipping. Worth it, but at that price, not something I’d do very often.
Naturally I decided to see if I could grow some. Logical, yes?
Problem #1: getting the seeds. I did find some, and ordered from three sources, to see which ones grow best.
Problem #2: peppers need a long growing season, which I do not have. They also need a very hot bed to germinate, and my greenhouse is not heated.
This was not the easiest challenge. I bought some heated mats, but they said they kept the temperatures of the soil about 10-15 degrees higher than the room. Not really enough. I fretted and considered one solution after another. I bought a space heater, but when it arrived I realized that even if I hung it from the rafters of the greenhouse (not ideal), I’d worry about it melting the walls. I put it aside for my real greenhouse (which I vow to you I will have by this summer’s end) and went back to brainstorming and combing the web.
Turns out, many people use jugs of water, painted black, but I didn’t have time for that. Another solution is oil heaters, which I happened to have in the basement. I lugged it outside, but it was too tall for the spot it needed to go, and the slope was too much for it to stay stable—another bust.
I finally decided that maybe I was putting too much effort into what is, after all, an experiment with seeds, a little hobby play. Keep things in perspective, I said. Let’s just see what happens.
I planted the seeds, along with some celery. One of the leaflets in the padron seeds suggested putting a ¼ inch of water in the bottom of the trays to help conduct heat, so I did. I also made a special trip to Lowe’s to find seedling greenhouse covers, to help keep the heat and water in. I tucked some potato starts in a black potato bag and put it on the south end, by the tables, hoping it would hold and conduct heat, too.
Then I closed everything up and waited for the storm. (Oh, I didn’t mention that? Yes, a storm came through over the weekend and dropped the temperatures to below freezing.) The cats slithered in below the plastic and slept in there, so I figured it had to be sort of warm.
By the time the storm passed, I’d stealed myself to find everything inside frozen—but when I opened the window flap to peek in, a rush of warm—not hot, but definitely warm—air poofed out. Everything was fine!
Nothing is sprouting yet, but I’ll keep you posted.
Christopher Robin loves fresh peas with a passion he usually reserves for milk chocolate. He will eat a solid pound of them, steamed and salted and buttered. I enjoy the meditative aspect of shelling them, sliding open the pod, pulling a string, skimming out the contents of the cold jackets. He also added them to store-bought chicken soup. I ate a lot of them before they even made it to the steamer.
What I noticed this time is that the peas look very like Shrek’s ears. Do you suppose they might have provided inspiration for the artist who conceived the ogre?
THE WRITER’S VOICE
A six-week writing intensive designed to help writers understand voice as a whole, and to understand the elements that make her own voice unique.
The exercises are mostly timed writings, and are designed to build, week by week, to help you see what you have to offer the world with your work. Are you a funny ethnic writer with a thread of poignancy? A serious historical novelist with roots deep in a particular time? What influenced you to become a writer and what do you want to get from it? Who taught you to speak, and what have you read and loved? These are all elements of the writer’s voice.
The class runs from Tuesday to Tuesday, and is comprised of lecture, exercises and discussion. Due to the intensive nature of the reading and writing requirement, class size is limited to 8. If an entire critique or other like group takes it together, there is a 10% discount, and as always, I will offer one scholarship available for each segment. To be considered, email me with “scholarship” in the subject line and specify which class and date you want to be considered for.
Questions? Email me.
DATES: April 30th–June 4th 3013
July 30th–Sept 3rd 2013
IF THERE IS SUFFICIENT INTEREST, I WILL CONSIDER OFFERING THE VOICE II CLASS LATER IN THE FALL.
What is voice, exactly?
Childhood and cultural influences
Becoming Aware: ourselves and our places
Voice vs. Style
Other influences: other writers, stories, genres.
Individual truth and emotional honestly; why writing is scary sometimes, even if you’re making it up and the heroine is a princess for heaven’s sake
Check in: how does it feel? Discussion.
More on influences and exercises on how to see them, see yourself, see others, pick out a voice
Illustrating the differences.
Exercises designed to show individual voice and quests.
Two part exercise designed to illustrate each individual voice. Reading, side by side posts.
Pulling it all together. A worksheet and discussion to help each writer answer lingering questions, put all her ideas in one place, and have a chance to display her own work.
To sign up for the class, email me and I will give you details.
To apply for a scholarship, email me with VOICE SCHOLARSHIP in the subject line. I’ll draw names from a hat the week before the class starts. Please don’t feel you have to give reasons. I’ve been there, and I trust you–if you can pay, you will.
Sometimes, an over the top tourist trap experience can still be emotionally authentic. CR and I rode the gondola at the Venice hotel in Las Vegas this weekend. It was a Disney sort of thing, a water ride through the shopping areas of the hotel. It turned out that our guide was an Italian opera singer (who had sung at the Bonfils center in Denver for years and arrived in Las Vegas to discover she is too short for the shows). So she sings for tourists who imagine what Venice might be like. Her voice reduced me to puddles of emotion–I was genuinely, deeply moved.
A handful of news updates this freezing Friday February morning.
—The first is that I’ve finished revisions for my next women’s fiction book, The Flavor of a Blue Moon, which will be out from Bantam some time next spring. (Sorry–it was research intensive, four food bloggers who gather at an organic lavender farm–I hope you’ll find it worth the wait.)
—I’ve solicited some reads on The Mirror Girl, the project I blogged a year ago, and the response is overwhelmingly enthusiastic. I’ll be making another pass through it, then sending it off into the world Hope to have news of that for you soon.
—Audio: lots of books are going up in audio, both backlist and frontlist, so if you’ve missed one, keep checking back. I’m waiting for approval on A Bed of Spices, and will run a special promotion (because it is particularly beautiful!). Recent new additions to the catalogue are some special reads on The Sleeping Night, Walk in Beauty, The Last Chance Ranch, and one of my favorites, Light of Day. Check out the growing list here. Nearly all of my books have been contracted or are in production. I have had so many emails asking, so this is very good news!
—I’ll be teaching this summer in Santa Barbara, at the Antioch Summer Writing Institute in Santa Barbara. The week-long immersion will focus on Writing Commercial Fiction. Space is limited. READ MORE ABOUT THE PROGRAM>>>
—After many many inquiries over the past few months, I have decided to offer my six-week voice class twice this year, in April and in August. I’ll post an official announcement soon, but if you are interested, email me at awriterafoot @ gmail.com with the subject line VOICE CLASS. As always, there will be two scholarships per section offered, to be drawn randomly (so you don’t have to qualify). Places are VERY limited.
Check back for more on that next week.
Now, I’m off to scribble some more on a juicy piece I’m writing for Lunch Hour Love Stories. It will be available mid-March.