Thursday, March 30, 2006

Dead and drunken yo-yo's

[My first magazine cover is on newstands! Yay! I did this painting for Cricket Magazine last fall, and it just arrived in my mailbox this morning. I love getting to see the published product after a long wait!]

Now, excitement aside, it's time for some New Month's Resolutions. I've been feeling scattered and unproductive lately, a teensy bit lost in a labyrinth. (I sense an onslaught of metaphors coming, I'm warning you in advance) I'm feeling like all my goals are yo-yo's tied to all my fingertips, and right at this moment, none of them are spinning up and down in an orderly fashion. They're either hanging there slack like they fell asleep or died at the ends of their tethers, or they're drunkenly reeling around, veering wildly, threatening to bop me in the face. So, I've decided to take some quiet time to get my yo-yo's back in rhythm. (This is a VERY ironic metaphor because I can't yo-yo and never could! But nevermind that.)

The problem is, I think, I've been overly self-indulgent lately. I accomplished some big, big goals last year and then, feeling mighty pleased with myself, fell out of the habits that had allowed me to accomplish them. Creative goals and health goals. I've been acting like sort of a benevolent grandparent to myself, letting me eat what I want, watch TV instead of doing my homework, and buy myself things I think I must must must have, like polka-dotted shoes. (Of course, in that case, I truly would have perished without them.) Indulgent grandparents are a wonderful thing, but what I need to be to myself right now is a good strict parent, one that won't fall prey to my wheedling ways!

So, I'm gathering my good habits back together. I spent most of the day yesterday at my writing table with stacks of manuscript around me and it felt good, so good. And this morning, I unearthed my brand-new running shoes, still in the box from the after-Christmas sale at which I bought them (the shame!!!) and went to the brand-new facility our gym just opened. It smelled like new car and was filled with flat-screen TVs and many glistening people running in place and tugging on handles. And THAT felt good. And I'm focusing in on my lists - I'm a list-maker - and setting a series of micro-deadlines for myself for ongoing projects. And Saturday I'm going to slouch into a Weight Watchers meeting, which I have been happily shirking for many months, and remember all that good stuff I learned. THEN I have a writing date with Alexandra for the first Sunday Scribblings scribble! I'm so excited about it! I'm going to unveil a brand-new notebook for it, and make a weekly cafe writing date with Alexandra or myself, and keep my writing mind limber that way. Cafe writing dates are where the Tiny Stories were born -- the change of scene, and writing in a notebook instead of my laptop, puts my mind on a different setting or something. This seems to coax strange and exotic ideas out of the air like butterflies coming down to perch, and the great thing is: they're MY butterflies! Like trained pet butterflies. Mine all mine.

Years ago I did an exercise in which I free-wrote for a half-hour every day for 30 days, without once going back to peek at what I'd written. Then I waited another 30 days before reading it all through, and when I did I remembered almost NONE of it -- and there were gems in there! It was like discovering someone's secret journal filled with beautiful sentences, story ideas, wild metaphors, only they were all MINE. My own butterflies. It was like plagiarizing my own sub-conscious mind.

Meg and I will post the first Sunday Scribblings prompt on Saturday, for those of you interested in participating!

And this is the contents page from the new magazine:

Monday, March 27, 2006

Multi-media weekend

T'was a pleasant weekend, and I hope so for you too. On Saturday I met Kelly for lunch -- she is the first blogging friend I have met in person! I felt like I already knew her, and not at all like it was a first-friend-date, but it was! If you're not familiar with her site, do check it out and see her beautiful paintings, and marvel, as I do, that she has only very recently discovered art. I mean, just in the past few months! I love knowing that a person can turn into an artist all of a sudden. The cookbook writer/illustrator Susan Branch first started dabbling when given a gift certificate to an art store at the age of 30, and now she's a best-selling artist-author. There's an acorn of creativity in us all, just waiting for the proper encouragement to sprout! What would happen if we all gave art store gift certificates to our friends?

Later that day Jim and I went to my parents' house to watch the movie Serenity on their giant new plasma TV. The TV was giant, the new red cabinet my mother was compelled to buy for it was lovely, and the movie... wonderful. It's the third time we've seen it, and every time I am filled with wrath that Fox network canceled the show Firefly on which it is based, and also that not enough people went to see this movie in the theaters to secure the hopes for a sequal. Are you one of those people who don't think they like "genre" movies and TV and so have never given Joss Whedon a chance? I'm speaking of Joss of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame and yes, if you have never seen that show -- it IS better than you think. I think Joss is one of the best screenwriters/ creators working today, in any genre, but tragically his core audience hasn't been able to grow beyond the "genre" fans to ensure his oeuvre the fame it deserves! Buffy was fantastic, Angel was great, and Firefly was even better. All... sniff... 14 episodes of it... I hope you will rent it and watch it. Don't be put off that it's about space. I'm not into space either. Or that it's a western. I'm not into westerns either. Just trust me. Sigh. Any other fans out there, please chime in!

(Also, upon learning that Joss Whedon is writing and directing the upcoming Wonderwoman movie, Jim and I have decided that no one could be better cast as Wonderwoman than the exquisite Gina Torres from Serenity. I mean, she looks a heckuva lot more like an Amazonian princess than Linda Carter!)

Our multi-media weekend continued on Sunday with an author reading at Powell's City of Books, otherwise known as the best bookstore in the world, where we went to hear Christopher Moore speak about his new book. If you're not familiar with him, it's another "cult/genre" phenomenon -- in this case "supernatural horror humor"! He's a very funny irreverant writer AND speaker and much fun was had. In my college days I worked at a great bookstore that hosted author readings, and I even got to introduce some of the smaller events. As fun as it was to meet the authors, it was kind of terrifying to feel responsible for having an audience show up (not guaranteed!), and to write and deliver an introduction that did them justice. Oh, how I used to fret as I read the publicist's material and cobbled something together, and with what relief did I sink down in my chair when the author took the podium! One introduction I remember was Karen Armstrong, the amazing former-nun & theological writer, author of The History of God. Also, a guy whose name I can't even remember but whose stories about Albania have been burned into my brain ever since. (I can't resist sharing this: according to him, the brutal dictator of Albania in the communist years had a number of men abducted and forced to undergo plastic surgery to serve as decoy body doubles for him -- and that after he died these men were just cast adrift with their horrible false faces, looking like the dead dictator, with nowhere to turn! Oh, and he had the plastic surgeons murdered after the surgeries!) Could it be true? If so, fact really is stranger than fiction. But not EVER stranger than Christopher Moore's fiction. You need look no farther than the book Fluke for confirmation of this!

Saturday, March 25, 2006


As promised by the title of this post:
1) The above painting by Misty Mawn just arrived! Yay! I purchased it by phone from the gallery in Pennsylvania that hosted her recent show. I'm thrilled to have an original piece of hers and hope to have more in the future. As you see, it is just gorgeous. Currently it is living on an orange wall in my studio, and I think the painting is whispering to me that we need a bigger house so we can buy more original art!
2) Vampires! Jim just finished an assignment he was doing for White Wolf Publishing -- 5 vampire paintings -- and to celebrate we went to see Nightwatch, the vampire movie that is taking Russia by storm. I highly recommend it to lovers of the supernatural. Cool story, cool visuals, dark and spooky but not overly gorey. Right up my alley.

You might have read about Sunday Scribblings on Meg's blog. Well, if you're a writer who might be interested in some short community writing exercises, we may have just the thing for you! I tend to get deeply involved in my big projects and forget to make time for fun exercises, but when I DO remember to have some writing fun, I think it really loosens my mind up, kind of lets some light and fresh air in, so that's why this appeals to me. Stay tuned -- we'll have more for you soon!

There's a terrible horrible rumor circulating in the media. I've heard it twice now, insidious little whispers, like the voices of devils hiding under manhole covers and taunting me... The faint of heart should stop reading right here. I don't know if I can even make myself write it, it'll be like helping the evil rumor spread... But I must WARN YOU!
Here it is...
High-waisted pants are coming back in stylel
(picture me gibbering in fear, sobbing, shrieking "WHY? WHHHYYYYY????? WWWWHHHHHHHHHYYYYYYYYYY??????")
Okay, but really, I'm only sort of joking. This is the worst fashion rumor since "they" started predicting the comeback of the 80's. My lord! I am convinced if I had come up in a friendlier fashion decade I would have had more fun in highschool. As it is, I only barely remember those years and I think that may be because I spent most of them scurrying around with my eyes fixed on the ground, clutching my books to my chest and trying to avoid seeing my reflection in those horrible clothes. Okay, it is POSSIBLE I am exaggerating, but please, fellow women with legs of average length, commiserate with me over jeans shopping in 1987! If low-rider, extra-long bootcut jeans and platform shoes had been the thing in 1987... well, I would still have had Orange County 1980's hair horrors to contend with, but I would have had bad hair and long legs and that would have made all the difference.

Okay. Now think of the older sister in That 70s Show and those high-waisted jeans she wears. The fashion world is trying to take us there. Ah yes, if I were a willowy 6-foot model, I would have no fear in my heart. But I am not. Now, I don't read fashion magazines and I'm not talking about wearing them because all the cool girls are wearing them. I'm talking about the fear of not being able to find good pants in stores! It happened a few springs ago when flat shoes were "in". I couldn't give a twitch if they're "in" -- but I couldn't find high sandals for love or money. Someone was trying to make me act my actual height, and man, I resented that. High shoes are just about my one and only fashion rule -- Jim found me 5 1/2-inch heeled cowboy boots for Christmas!! -- and I think they have been largely responsible for rescuing my self-esteem from the 80's.

So, I'm warning you all: stock pile your low-rider pants now while you still can, then we can sit back and cackle like witches when the rest of the country is forced to wear high-waisted jeans!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

What drawing taught me about writing

"I don't love writing. I love having written." I'm not sure who said this but for many years I identified with it whole-heartedly. I've always wanted to be a writer - I never wanted to be anything else, really - but for a big stretch of years I completely lost joy in it. I lost the fun of storytelling that had made me sit on the porch as a kid and write tales of magic crayfish. I was still "writing", but what emerged as my great pleasure as I got older was wordplay. Arranging beautiful sentences, reading them aloud, revising them, listening to the ebb and flow of words, tasting the sounds of the prose.

This is not enough.

As the years went on, I honed my sentence-writing skills, kept a whiney journal, got A's on school papers, read great fiction and pretended not to notice that I wasn't writing what I loved reading: stories! All I had to show for my dream of being a writer were notebooks filled with beautiful sentences - at most, paragraphs - that led nowhere. Ah, and there were synopses and ideas for stories, but I couldn't figure out how to make the leap from planning them to actually writing them. My junior year of college I made some progress and took a writing workshop where I finished several stories: Emily, Blindfolded; and The Muse of Suicide. I also took a class from Anne Lamott at the bookstore where I worked all through college -- she was a single mom who wasn't yet quite famous, and I had the great good luck of catching her then, when she still taught this little class to make ends meet. I submitted The Muse of Suicide, a self-satire of the months I lived in Paris after highschool trying to like espresso and wishing I was a tormented "artiste." I loved that story, and Anne Lamott liked it too. She gave me one of the greatest compliments of my life. On my story she wrote, "You are the real thing. Keep writing."

So I stopped writing.

It makes me laugh, now, the perversity of it. I was editing travel guides for Lonely Planet by then, and I had enough words in my life. I couldn't make myself write after work. But I had a creative void to fill, and I did fill it. I started to draw. I took a class in illustrating children's books. Then a watercolor class... then a life-drawing class... and the next thing I knew I was dropping out of my "professional" life to wait tables and go to art school! This actually occurred in a space of two or three years, but in my memory it's like a snap of the fingers.

In all that time, I wasn't writing. But that's okay, because it was learning to draw that taught me to write. I really believe that. Drawing was a new, mysterious world, and it had the benefit of immediacy. You draw it and it's there; the visual connection is immediate. As hard as it is to draw well... let me see if I can explain... you can't decieve yourself, can you? A whole notebook filled with disconnected beautiful sentences, well, someone really dedicated to fooling themselves might be persuaded they were actually "writing". But an incomplete drawing is plainly nothing more than an incomplete drawing. Drawing began to strip away the nonsense and to teach me to work towards a finished product, to just keep going and make it happen. It also gave me a repetoire of tricks. I learned that the first version of a drawing is rarely as good as it's going to get. You can start over, or you can build on what you have, refining it.

My "trick" for making my drawings better is tracing paper. I don't trace photos or other people's drawings -- I trace my own rough drawing and make it better as I go, then I flip over the tracing paper and further refine it on the other side. Seeing the mirror image gives me a new perspective, as well as allowing me to add detail without messing up what I've already drawn. This frees me. It's just the trick my particular brain needs. I particulary recommend it to perfectionists and detail-lovers. Big, bold, fearless types probably won't enjoy it. I am NOT a fearless type. I am a perfectionist in the worst sense: I am paralyzed by it, afraid to write a scene lest it not be the BEST incarnation of the scene possible in the universe, afraid to disrupt the white page lest the line not be just the beautiful line Destiny has in mind for that particular canvas...

Rubbish!! I've got tricks now to get past that. I never draw directly onto the surface I'm going to paint, be it canvas or whatever, because I KNOW my first drawing won't be good enough for me. So I do my drawing on tracing paper, reworking it until I love it (often this takes place over many layers of tracings), and then transfer it. Well, this translates to my writing, too. This is going to sound kind of insane to brave people who are NOT crippled by perfectionism, but... I can rarely write right into my actual chapter document. Right off, if my page reads 'Chapter One', I feel pressure for the words to come out perfectly as if dictated by god in good mood. Then I get stuck in sentence-perfecting mode. I've gotten around this by having TWO documents open on my laptop: my chapter document, and my "working" document, in which anything goes. There, amid the mess of unfinished thoughts and plentiful 'what ifs', I can actually get some storytelling done! When I say it like this I realize two things: 1) I am absurdly easy to fool; and 2) It must sound a little insane. I wonder if anyone else has to go to such great lengths to trick themselves?

The really good news is that the writers who tell you it gets easier, that with practice it does eventually start to flow, they're not lying! I was so sure they were! That when they would say things like "the characters took over the story", they were just being spiteful, but at last I've begun to experience it. (I still feel great skepticism when I hear things like how William Styron claims he wrote Sophie's Choice straight through without outlining it or ever going back to make corrections, like it stepped whole from his head like Athena. He MUST be lying!!) I never thought it would happen to me that I would love the actual process of writing, and not just the finished product, but it HAS. Sometimes - SOMETIMES - I even find myself writing with a smile on my face, my fingers racing to keep up with the flow of the story, and on REALLY good days, I want to high-five myself at the end of a scene! Mind you, not all days are like this. But enough are. And I'm pretty sure that if I hadn't taken up drawing, I might never have discovered the joy of storytelling -- I might still be stringing words like pearls into beautiful sentences that lead nowhere. Learning a new process has opened up doors in my mind... or maybe it inserted funhouse mirrors into my brain that made me see things in a new way? I don't know, but at long last, something clicked, and now that I know I can do it, I'm never going to stop!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Polka Dotted Shoes

What if I said I had been gone for a week because I was on an odyssey, scouring the world for red polka-dotted pumps, which at last, after much travail, I found in a little goth boutique in San Luis Obispo, California? Alas, I would be lying. The discovery of these most perfect of all shoes was a pure coincidence, the cherry on the cake of a fun family trip. Have you ever seen better shoes? I want to put them in a glass case. I am a giant nerd for polka dots.

I was driven half=mad last week by my blog being inaccessible for the day and a half preceding my departure, not being able to put up a new post before going out of town. Then, at my sister's internet-less house deep in an oak-filled canyon in the wine country of the central California coast, I had to try not to think of all the new posts I was missing out on, all the comments that would never be left... luckily it was easy not to think about, since we were in a gorgeous place with family & wine to keep us company! Jim and I went down to California with my parents to visit my "baby" sister, who is now a professor at Cal Poly. For those of you not familiar with the West Coast, San Luis Obispo is somewhere between Santa Barbara and Monterey. It's the state's most remote town of any size, seemingly several hundred miles from anything, amid rolling hills of zinfandel vines and canyons with tiled Spanish rooves peering out between mossy ancient oaks. Beautiful. The Zinfandel festival was going on, and we did our duty of tasting as many of the newly unveiled zins as we could. Here is a link to some photos of the region. My favorite winery by far was Clotiere. Described as "Edward Scissorhands meets the Mad Hatter at the Moulin Rouge," there are baskets filled with wild wigs and hats to wear while you taste. Here are some pictures of my family in action:

One day we drove up to Cambria, an artsy little town tucked back from the ocean behind a hill of cypress trees. There we discovered a new artist (new to us), the Lithuanian painter Arunas Zilys and wished for the zillionth time that we could afford original paintings, or even giclees. But we did what we usually do, and bought the book instead. Also stumbled upon the town of Harmony, population 18, and bought some pottery, and drove up the coast from Cambria specifically to buy weird cacti for my sister and her boyfriend. During their years in Arizona they fell in love with the strange and spiny things, and though they live amid lush green hills now, they must have them. And since cages of live rattlesnakes constitute a major part of their decor (and reptile art the rest), the cacti blend in nicely. Perhaps I should mention Emily is a herpetologist who wrote her doctoral dissertation on something about sexual size-dimorphism in the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. Oh weird, weird sister. But it's made for some interesting excursions, including one to the basement of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology where she worked as an undergrad at Berkeley, and where she took us down to meet the "preparator" -- the strange basement-dwelling man with the dermestid beetles (don't look if you're squeamish), those flesh-eating critters they use to clean off skeletons. I'll never forget seeing an entire dessicated giraffe leg lying on the floor down there -- weird man told us it came from Neverland Ranch, where Michael's eejit staff didn't bother to clear the poisonous mistletoe out of the trees before letting their giraffe loose to feed. But I digress...

We also got to spend some time with our friends Amy & Sasha who drove up from Orange County with their lovely little blond boy, Nikolai (seen above with pail on head), as well as Nikolai's soon-to-be-born brother, still safely tucked away in his mama. Amy and I have known each other since highschool, and she met and married Sasha while a Peace Corps volunteer in Ukraine, and we've tried to get them to move to Portland, to no avail. Nikolai is one of those children that makes parenthood seem like a good idea, or more likely, Amy & Sasha are such good parents they've raised a two-and-a-half-year-old who laughs a lot, doesn't throw tantrums, is smart and delightful company!

So, that's the very condensed version of where I have been, and why my blog has been sitting here stale for a whole week. In the spirit of a weekend of wine & shopping, I leave you with this quote: "We are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anyone tell you different." - Kurt Vonnegut

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

I'm Scary

I barely ever remember my dreams, and I'm tortured by this, because every so often, awakening suddenly, I find my mind filled with strange narrative. With story! It never happens in the morning to sunshine and the sound of the dog farting himself awake at the foot of the bed -- only when I'm jarred from sleep as suddenly as a yanked thread. And when I DO remember my dreams, I'm never in them. There are... characters... in them. These dreams are haunting little movies, propelled along by something not unlike plot. I say "haunting" because I have an overdeveloped sense of creep. I adore horror. As a child I used to beg to watch scary movies. Ghosts? Vampires? Gimme!

Last year when Jim and I were in Prague, I had one of my creepy story dreams and it has slowly been piecing itself together in my mind, taking the eventual form of, I think, a novella. I am so in love with the weird sneaky nastiness of the premise I can't wait to write it -- but I'm busy on other projects now. Perhaps I'll steal some time from myself. Perhaps it will have to wait its turn.

The Drowned also was born in a dream. I woke and lay in bed with my eyes open in the darkness, thinking over what I had just glimpsed: a man was walking in a storm, at the coast, at night.He sought shelter in a damp village at the edge of the sea. But it was no ordinary village... and he fell asleep there only to wake when the tide came rushing in to swallow the place, taking him and all the rest of the damned with it. Ick. Yum. Right up my alley. I didn't know who the strange women were who would live in a village that was underwater at all but the lowest tides, but Jim & I got to talking about it one day, and Jim came up with the idea that made the whole story snick into place (I love that "snick" -- you know, you can hear it and feel it when the pieces finally fall into place with your writing). I won't give the snick away here, in case anyone wants to read it, but anyway, that was the beginning. I wrote a script for a graphic novel, Jim illustrated it, it was published by Image Comics in 2004. You can see more about it here and here. It was so much fun collaborating with Jim, receiving the first books from the publisher, signing them in a booth at Comicon.

I don't know about other people, but when I wake from creepy dreams I reach out and try to gather in all the pieces so I don't lose a single scary detail. They delight me. I wonder if I have them every night and just don't have the luck to wake in the middle of them very often? But what if I did? What if I found I had story dreams playing like nighttime TV endlessly in my mind? I already have a queue of stories and novels I want to write -- and I'm a SLOW writer. I'd better let myself sleep!

Sunday, March 12, 2006


How to get through a creative funk? I thought of making a list of fun and slightly wacky ideas, like blowing bubbles at a sidewalk cafe or taking classes in the art of clown makeup, but that's all just avoiding the real issue. There's only one way I know to get through a creative funk and that's to create something! To make something I can't take my eyes off, can't believe I made. Myself. Me. "I did that? Wow. I'm not so bad. Huh. I wonder what I'll make next."

So I find myself in a lull between projects. The projects I need to begin seem so big, so looming, it's like standing on a street between skyscrapers where the sun scarcely reaches down to the street, and someone is saying, "Just jump to the top of that skyscraper. Or that one. You choose." As if WHICH skyscraper was the problem, and not the matter of jumping that high! But really, if projects ARE skyscrapers, they're skyscrapers with ladders all the way to the top. You don't have to jump, just start climbing, and keep climbing.

Okay, I've almost convinced myself... That's what this is about: a self-pep-talk. Usually when I finish one project I have already begun the next several, and don't ever find myself... to continue the metaphor... all the way down at street level in the shadow of the skyscrapers. I'm partway up a half-dozen ladders, at any given moment. But not this time. Yesterday and today I find myself way down there with my head tilted back, getting vertigo. So I need to do what I need to do: make something happen. Tush in chair & pencil in hand, until I find myself marveling, "I did that." Pick a skyscraper and start climbing. It's that simple. Fancy answers are just a diversion. It's like advice for weight loss: eat less & exercise. Yep, it's that simple. In this case the advice is: Sit. Draw.


Love this from Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird: "One writer I know tells me that he sits down each morning and tells himself nicely, 'It's not like you don't have a choice because you do - you can either type or kill yourself." HA! So that's a little dire, but it's funny. In fact, the whole book is so damn funny and inspiring, I think I'll reread it right to get out of this creative funk... Just kidding! That's tempting, but I know what I really need to do: Sit. Draw. (deep breath) Wish me luck.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Everybody loves gelato...

Here she is! Cleared my head with a little painting-play; now back to other things. Happy weekend to all!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Play Meander Smoosh

I've spent most of the winter in a writing cocoon, bundled up in fleece in our chilly little house, lost deep in my own head in a world called Dreamdark. From finishing writing my book (woo hoo!) I segued straight into a new Laini's Ladies line, and once that was done I had a powerful urge to uncap some paint and make a mess. To play! The sketch above is a play-piece in progress, and I'm happy to report I've slathered medium and paint onto it with my fingers, really gooshed it around. I tried acrylic and remembered I hate acrylics, so switched to my beloved oils. Mixed a shade of blue so lovely I want to kiss it. Fun, non-goal-oriented play. But... I have a hard time sometimes keeping my art "play" from transforming in my mind to business. Ideas have a way of blurting out of control, like things created by mad scientists in movies that grow from the petri dish to monstrous maturity in a space of days, then start killing all the scientists. Boy, the leaps my mind makes! One moment I'm dreamily sketching, the next thing I know I'm lost in a reverie of selling Peter Jackson the movie rights while Mattel comes calling for the toy license... I suffer from marvelous, ludicrous daydreams. At any rate, if my little play creation comes out alright I'll post the finished painting.

It's been nice being back in the studio & working in the same room as Jim (he's busy painting vampires right now for a role-playing-game company), instead of hermiting downstairs with my laptop writing -- but in fact I've already begun the mental transition back to my writing schedule. Today I made a pilgrimage to Powell's Books, the best bookstore in the world, and bought another one of my favorite blank books (the lined, hard-bound Clairefontaine books made in France) in preparation for really diving into book 2 of my children's series. This evening, between gooshing paint onto my painting, I also decorated the cover of this third Dreamdark journal, preparing it for its new life.

I don't write scenes in these books, they are just a space for notes on all the wonderful things in the world that spark my mind. One might find in them: Scottish vernacular for marsh plants; Arabic demon lore; definitions of succulent words like "atavism" and "farthingale" and "elodea"; old wives tales; archaic insults like "gobslotch" and "zounderkite", herbal remedies; the word for butterfly in dozens of languages; ideas for crow's thieving specialties, recipes for capturing moonlight in a mirror; fascinating facts of nature such as that the dung beetle can roll 50 times its own weight in poop and that flies pee every 4.5 minutes, wherever they land, and are 10 million times for sensitive to food taste than humans. And did you know that there are 91 species of bats in Papua New Guinea, an island the size of California? WOW! And that "sinister" means "left" in the language of heraldry? That's a sampling of what's in my notebooks. Some of it will wend its way into a book, much will not. I have plans to christen this new book with notes and musing on Chinese faerie tales, also from books purchased today at Powell's, to begin to create a mood in my mind for my next book. (It gives me a shiver of pleasure and pride to write "my next book"!)

I find I am meandering here, and that's kind of appropriate, since I've given myself a few days of meander-permission to do some sketching and some paint-smooshing, before taking that deep breath and sinking into the next lake of work. I hope you are all giving yourselves meander-permission, too, and getting matte medium under your finger nails, or perhaps meeting new and succulent words that taste like lightning and mildew and seed pods, chemicals and moonlight and dusty turbans on your tongue. Or, treat yourself to faerie tales from a mysterious country -- guaranteed to take your mind on a strange journey. Good night!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Three Things

With a sour look on my face, I just scrawled myself a post-it and stuck it right in the middle of my current project where I will have to see it tomorrow before I can forget and accidentally have any fun. It reads: MAKE APPOINTMENT FOR TAXES. Ick. I believe in paying them, I do. I'm no libertarian and would never want to live in a libertarian's world (though I wouldn't mind watching through a porthole as they tried to actually live in the pyscho world they want to build!) but ugh, I am filled with dread as only the self-employed can be at this time of year. Scratch that. As only the fiscally irresponsible self-employed can be. It will be fine. I just have a tremendous capacity for avoiding unpleasant tasks.

I've been tagged by Claudia and Shannon, and am finally getting around to it. The problem with getting to a tag late is that you've already read everyone else's profound, whimsical, and quirky answers. But I'll do my best.

Three things you wish for (just for you):
1. Health & long life (for me and everyone I know)
2. A writing room. (I can't complain. We have a great studio in our house, but to write I need solitude so I do it at the kitchen table, and I dream of a cozy room with a lime-green velvet settee and big polka-dots painted at random on the walls.)
3. Longer legs

Three things you would do if there was no one to judge you or if you had the guts:
You know, I can't think of anything! Moon the president? Flip him off? Shake him like a snow globe? Shave his head. Kick him in the shins. Send him to go to his room without any supper!!

Three bad habits you have:
1. Editing my writing compulsively instead of moving forward with it (getting better at this!)
2. Leaving my clothes on the floor like a college boy.
3. Not balancing my checkbook.

Three insecurities you feel
1. Self-examinations like this make me feel boring. I want to invent personality quirks. I'm very un-complex.
2. Anxious about speaking in public, esp a non-scripted situation -- I'd never call in to a radio show even if I felt passionately about the topic; I may have to do a phone interview soon and I'm so anxious!
3. A niggling and hard-to-explain feeling of being a phony? Of being, somehow, inauthentic? Discovering I have no emotional depth and nothing to say. Er, I don't know. Weird.

Three talents/skills you wish you had
1. Wish I could dance! Wish I felt lively in my skin, rhythmic & kinetic, instead of slouchy & self-conscious.
2. Wish I spoke fluent Italian.
3. Wish I was more natural around kids. I feel stiff around them and watch them like I'm an alien taking notes. Especially unsettled by middle-schoolers.

Three things you would do if you had more time:
1. Hike! Get my body out of the house and make it move up and down hills, in fresh air. I think that I remember that's what hiking is.
2. Quilt. Wish I'd learned from my grandma.
3. See more indie and foreign films. Go to film festivals.

Three things you would do if you had the money:
1. Buy a fabulous villa on the Amalfi Coast, complete with guesthouses for friend, family, and visiting artists
2. Buy original art, thus putting bread in artists' bellies.
3. See India, Ethiopia, Antarctica, the Galapagos Islands, Thailand, and other distant and exotic lands.

Three things that bring you peace & relaxation:
1. Reading a great book (If I can forget that I ought to be writing one instead)
2. Traveling -- being outside the boundaries of my life I can give myself some peace from my constant inner-nagging that I should be writing or painting or otherwise creating something. Traveling, I can let myself just look, see, smell, eat, smile, walk...
3. Getting in bed at the end of a long day (I LOVE going to bed!) and slinging one leg across Jim's.

Three things that spark your creativity:
1. travel -- trains, magic carpets, gypsy wagons.
2. bookstores!!!
3. mythology & folktales. Stories about vampires, witches, faeries, and other beasties.

I can't think of who hasn't been tagged already, so I tag everyone who's inclined to respond!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Don't Drool on the Art

Ah, we need to do that more often! Just two days away, a nice B&B, some good meals, good theater, shopping, historic towns: hand-holding, strolling, daydreaming. Jim took me on a mini-getaway to Ashland, a small town in the hills of Southern Oregon best known for its Shakespeare Festival. It's also a trove of art galleries and gingerbready Victorian architecture spilling down forested hillsides, and the Rogue River nearby is a famed white-water rafting spot. We stayed in a really cool old brick boarding house that used to house railway workers in the late 1800s and has since been fancified for the theater crowds. This was our second "grown-up" vacation. Our first, a trip to Prague a little over a year ago, was a departure from our youthful backpacker ways. You know, we're in our 30s now. We actually brought suitcases on that trip and rented an apartment near the old town square. A car picked us up at the airport, for goodness sake, and held up a sign with our names on it!! It was SO different than our previous travels, the snoozing on trains, the communal bathroom in the hallway of the pensione. This trip, too. Our room at the Peerless had magnolia trees painted on the walls, and there was complimentary port served in cut crystal in the afternoon. Ooh la la!

Other highlights:
- The Importance of Being Ernest -- the festival is primarily Shakespeare but not only. This was a FANTASTIC production and will be running through October. Anyone in this part of the world ought to try to see it some time!
- brainstorming story ideas together on the long drive
- big bowls of cioppino with huge Dungeness crab claws, & Chianti Classico
- seeing Laini's Ladies in several stores!
- coconut-curried yam soup for lunch at a hippie cafe called Pangea.
- the artwalk flyer that specified "don't drool on the art"
- Jacksonville, the fully preserved gold-mining town about 30 minutes away. SO CUTE! Tucked away in the hills, it's home to only 2500 people, its brick main streets is perfect down to the swinging saloon doors. I don't know all the history but this is cool: the town's most famous former resident, Peter Britt, was a photographer during the gold boom of the 1860s, and it was his photos of the area that, when sent back east, sparked the overland migration that became the famous Oregon Trail. Folks saw all the fertile country and came out not for gold, but land. We LOVED Jacksonville. Jim especially loved the 1860s storefront the Good Bean coffeehouse is in, and I think if we'd had the money to buy it on the spot and turn it into live/work space, he might have been tempted to do it! Actually, in the photos above, the little red building with the scallop-topped facade was for sale. It would be nice to have a second home in a quaint little town like this, but we wouldn't want to live there full time.
- the gourmet shop in Jacksonville: cabernet fudge, chocolate stout cheddar, fancy peanut butters (white-chocolate raspberry peanut butter, swoon!), rainbow-colored handmade pastas, peperoncino dark chocolate, and more!

Anyway, it was a delightful trip, and we're back home and back to work rejuvenated. We don't take time out to "live" nearly enough -- we need to do little things like that more often!! So right now I'm pledging to plan 2 more short trips like that this year, and if at all possible, at least one of them should be camping!

Do YOU treat yourself to little getaways now & then? Camping? Trips to the beach? And what are your best memories of family trips from childhood?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Days like this

Some days as an artist are more rewarding than others. There are the days that most of us know, days when it seems like our work will never see the light of day, that sending submissions to publishers is like dropping an envelope off the edge of the world. There are days when it feels incredibly self-indulgent to think that we, of all people in the world, deserve to follow our fancy and have satisfaction in our work. Days when no one is telling us to keep going.

Then there are days like this, when the universe seems to be saying YES. Keep going. In the mail today I received samples from two different licensees, of two of my different product lines that are coming out into the world. One had the Laini's Ladies desk calendars for 07 which will be in stores in the fall, these first samples fresh from the factory and they're gorgeous. I adore them! Next came the box of faerie greeting cards and they, too, are just as perfect as I could wish. I love these days, when proof of my art's journey through the world comes back to me!

And it doesn't only come in boxes of 'shwag' -- more importantly it comes in emails and comments. Thanks to Erin for her wonderful comment to my last post. I LOVE hearing stuff like that! It validates everything to know that I'm connecting with unseen women out there leading their own rich and gorgeous lives. And Liz Elayne, thank you too for the incredibly touching email last week. To know that my art strikes a chord in people's hearts, it makes me feel so warm and lucky. And to have found this forum where I can connect with some of those people -- it's great. Thanks for all the beautiful words of encouragement from everyone. In turn I encourage you all to keep putting your art in the world because after all the hopeless days, there ARE days like this!