Painted Sounds – Writing About Art

Once a year the Palm Springs Branch of the National League of American Pen Women holds its annual program called Painted Sounds. The popular event actually begins several weeks prior when predetermined artists share their paintings online with the Branch membership. Pen Women then select one or more of these paintings to write about … what they see, how it makes them feel, memories the painting evokes.

This year an artists’ group in Desert Hot Springs called the Spa City Paletteers submitted artwork on the Pen Women website, the individual artists’ names anonymous. As a long time NLAPW member, I knew I wanted to participate. I scrolled through the submitted work to make a selection.

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A Blend of Writing and Art

I chose a watercolor by artist Marlis Gray. It reminded me of the first time I saw the Pacific Ocean and how I grew to love the Pacific shore. It reminded me of the times many years ago I swam from a Malibu beach out into the ocean, feeling free, empowered and full of wonder.

A strong swimmer, I often swam out into the sea a good distance. Near a large kelp bed, I’d turn and look back at the land, all the while enjoying the water around me, the breeze on my face, the salty smell of the sea. Mostly, I enjoyed the sense of freedom, the dissolution of boundaries, the joy of adventure in the offing. I admired the rising hills, the beauty of the shoreline and became filled with anticipation about life experiences ahead as a new California transplant from western New York.

Time has passed and, to build on an old adage, I’ve sailed through life’s smooth waters, its turbulent waters and have been becalmed. I no longer swim in the sea nor look back at the shore while treading water near mysterious kelp beds. I look out at the sea from the shore to give myself a different perspective.

Now, when I look out onto the Pacific, I seek its solace. I seek its ability to renew my spirit and clear my head. I welcome the brain space for new thoughts, to solve a problem or make a choice or decision. I savor the sea’s ability to calm my mind, give me peace, renew my sense of wonder.

These thoughts motivated me to choose the watercolor below by Marlis Gray.

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The artist titled her work “Join Me by the Sea.”

Join Me by the Sea

Join me by the sea,
spread a blanket among the dunes.
We’ll watch waves unfurl in
rhythmic beats along an endless shore.

Ocean breezes will skim
across the fathoms of sapphire hue,
while along the horizon a
setting sun will tiptoe from our view.

Immeasurable grains of sand will
remind us of ages past,
of explorers cautious but not afraid,
sailing seas unknown.

Like mariners of old, we voyage
life’s uncharted main. Take a
moment to fill your soul. Come,
join me by the sea.

                                                                                      by Carol Mann © 2018

Writing about art, called Ekphrastic writing, dates from the time of the early Greeks. According to the Poetry Foundation, “an ekphrastic poem is a poem inspired or stimulated by a work of art.” You can see more writings based on the Spa City Paletteers on the Pen Woman website. If you haven’t written to a piece of art or want to do it again, select a painting and try your hand.

The book pictured below, which I co-created with artist Lynn Centeno and titled All Ways A Woman, tells the story of women’s lives via original poetry and art as they make their journey through life’s special moments. The content illustrates this ancient ekphrastic concept of writing inspired by art.

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All Ways A Woman is available on Amazon.com

Posted in Books, Inspiration, Looking for Inspiration, poetry, Reading, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Marketing … And the Book Goes On

My husband created a book of original recipes for making chocolates called Anthony’s Chocolates On-the-Go, Done My Way. He felt making chocolates didn’t have to be a big, scary mystery with fancy, expensive equipment so he developed fail-safe recipes for success. He marketed the book at book expos and fairs, gave talks and demonstrations, and taught classes.

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Preparing for a class with one of his helpers for a Valentine’s Day event. Heart dishes made of chocolate are in the foreground and, of course, on the back of the helper’s shirt is the word “chocolate.” The baskets on the rear counter contain samples. The plant on the island is a Valentine’s Day “door prize.”

He also marketed his book with samples, his trademark creation being “The Turtle.”

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A popular item!

The book came out in 2009 and debuted at a crowded signing in a friend’s home. After five years or so, he retired from the circuit. (But not from eating chocolates.)

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Setting up for a boutique sales event. You can see the book on a stand, another book on the table for people to peruse, posters, ingredients on a tray, his favorite pan, a magazine called Prime Time open to an article about him, business cards in a small white holder, handouts and a basket of wrapped samples.

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He liked to wear a chef’s toque and coat and have fun. One of his favorite book inscriptions was “How sweet it is!”

One night recently, our phone rang. The woman identified herself. I didn’t make the connection. Then, to help me out, she said she bought Tony’s book a number of years ago, saved his business card and now wanted a book for her niece. No, wait. She wanted four books … for four nieces.

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Happy buyers having fun. Who knew the lady in the center would return after several years for more books?

Now we’ve arrived at the big point. It’s all about marketing your book. You can never underestimate the importance of interacting with buyers and potential buyers, building rapport, and making connections. Talk. Talk. Talk. For example, compliment an interesting piece of clothing a person is wearing or ask the person a question or refer to something of interest in the book.

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An animated conversation.

More ideas. Put a book in their hands. Put a bookmark in their hands. Give them a sample. For this book, it’s a piece of chocolate. Take a picture with their permission. Wear something interesting, in this case, the chef’s outfit. In other words, think of the various ways you can make connections with people. Think of actions you can take to make your book an item of interest, whether fiction or nonfiction.

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Prepare a basket to donate to a charity auction. This one contains Anthony’s book, a bottle of wine, two glasses, chocolates, etc. Someone was very happy to win this auction basket. Something like this puts your book and name out there.

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Anthony’s truffles in individual boxes for wedding favors.

Marketing, marketing, marketing. These are a few ideas used by a retired chocolatier that may help trigger ideas for marketing your book. Think out of the box. Try a word cloud of connected words related to your book. Don’t judge. Just do a word cluster. Items and ideas will pop out that are useful.

The pleasure of someone buying your book is unbeatable and that pleasure can continue. There’s nothing quite so satisfying as a repeat customer!

Posted in Authors, Books, Creativity, Finding Ideas: The Creative Process, Inspiration, Reading, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Kind is a four-letter word

I posted the image below on my facebook page because it spoke to me. I liked its whimsical feel, its innocence, its message. Kind is often used as an adjective to describe a person as in, She is a kind young lady. It may also be a noun as in, What kind of cookie is that? But when you add the word be in front of those four letters, it takes the word into something much more. It becomes an imperative, a call to action.

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Image courtesy of johntesh.com 

Kindness inspires writers and artists to create graphics, artwork, stories, essays, and even a haiku.

Please be kind today
Step beyond the manner bound
Do stop someone’s rain 
                                                                        Carol Mann

I became curious about the saying “random acts of kindness” and how it came about. Where and how did the idea get traction? According to The History of Random Acts of Kindness,

It all started in a Sausalito, California, restaurant in 1982 when Anne Herbert scrawled the words “practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty” on a placemat. From there it spread to bumper stickers, quietly at first, but with all the powerful momentum of something important–calling us to lives of caring and compassion.

Shortly after I posted the kindness graphic on my Facebook page, my husband and I experienced our own random act of kindness as we ate dinner at our golf clubhouse. We had an inside window table enabling us to look out through the floor to ceiling windows onto the patio and beyond to the Santa Rosa Mountains.

Part way through dinner, our waiter bent down between us to say in sotto voce, “That man on the patio will be picking up your tab.” He nodded in the direction of a table with three men and a woman.

“What?” I wasn’t sure I’d heard what I thought I’d heard.

“That man on the patio will be picking up your tab,” the waiter repeated.

“Which man?” I asked, perplexed. I looked and didn’t recognize anyone.

“The one in the blue shirt,” he replied.

“Two of the men have on blue shirts.” I gave the waiter a puzzled look.

“Not the one with his back to you. The other one.” The waiter nodded again in the man’s direction.

I relayed the news to my husband who hadn’t heard the exchange due to hearing loss in his right ear. He, too, looked out at the mystery man. We could see him in profile only.

The waiter nodded yet again and left. My husband and I kept glancing out at the man’s table, feeling a bit peculiar, wondering if we looked “down and out.” Why would someone we didn’t know pick up our tab? Twenty minutes later, the four diners stood. The man looked toward our table, smiled, waved and, with his friends, headed toward the patio exit.

Oh, this was too much. We weren’t even going to have the opportunity to speak to him. But due to construction, the patio exit was closed and the four had to exit through the restaurant, right past our table. The man stopped beside us. We blurted out our thank you. He must have seen why written on our faces. He then said, “You two were having such a good time and are such a good looking couple, I knew I wanted to do something for you.”

What? We were considerably older than he and his companions. He asked how long we’d been married. Probably not as long as he thought. Ours is a second marriage for each, coming in at 39 years. He wished us well and was about to leave with his companions when he focused on my husband’s cap. He saw the words WWII, Northern Illinois University, and names of sporting events embroidered on it. The conversation became lively and fun, with the four hovering and kneeling around our table. The interlude ended with, “Thank you for your service.” This made Tony, a former marine (and always a marine) beam.

 

Here’s our mentor with Tony. I love the man’s smile and treasure his thoughtful gesture. Thank you, Greg, for making our day! We realized you don’t necessarily have to stop the rain. Sometimes a random act of kindness just makes the sun shine brighter.

Posted in Inspiration, Looking for Inspiration, memoir, personal essay, Reading, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

I Like Happy Endings

Although I like literary fiction, dark films, and endings that make you catch your breath, there’s much to be said about hope and happy endings. Back on September 28 of this year, I posted a blog called “Layers of Loss.” In it, I lamented losing an earring from a pair my husband had given me many years ago. The post highlighted that ping of sadness a person feels when a sentimental object is suddenly just gone.

Well, a week ago when I was in the garage and about to hop in the Jeep, I heard my name being called from inside the house. Loud. Before I could take but a few steps toward the sound, the door from the house into the garage swung open and a hand emerged holding a small object. I heard the words, “Look, look!” Then the whole person emerged, smiling and waving said object. Our housekeeper had just made my day.

Elvira comes every few weeks to dig my husband and me out from under the clutter of our daily living. She’s been with us a long time and knows how we tick – I’d told her about losing a special earring. She has a cleaning system by which she addresses certain areas of need on a rotating cycle. This particular day was the moving of big furniture in the great room to give a thorough polish to the floors beneath and do a good wipe down of the chairs and couch.

Two pieces of furniture involved are heavy recliners. (I know, I know, we’re debauched – his and hers recliners.) Fortunately, they can be pushed about on the tile floors. The earring emerged from under my chair, having made its way from my earlobe into the creases, crevices and openings of the recliner, propelled in a downward journey as the chair went up and down, eventually landing on the floor beneath. Back on that dreary night when I realized the earring had disappeared from my ear, I’d gone over the chair like Sherlock Holmes. However, the earring was completely out of sight and feel, simply lost somewhere in the chair’s innards.

But now, I bask in this story’s ending, the best of Christmas presents, ever grateful to Elvira, her sharp eye and her thoroughness. And on this happy thought, I’ll call it a wrap. With nine days to Christmas, I wish you and those you love a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Be safe.

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The earrings … back together again!

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Feet, do your stuff.

Do you ever have a day when everything seems to go smoothly, when life flows without any hangups? You feel good. Your husband feels good. No appliances have broken down. The car seems healthy. You haven’t screamed at a telemarketer or the TV. Your favorite fur baby delivers lots of love. The day unfolds with few bumps. Tranquility has been delivered in a large dose. I had a day like that.

On this particular day, I had a number of things to do and places to go. First on the list was my writers’ critique group at 10 a.m. at a local library. I parked close and ran in. The input from my fellow writers is always insightful and sprinkled with good discussions of each other’s work. I left the meeting on a high.

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A good session like always.

Next, I had to drop off a “Book-in-a-Bag.” (This is a copy of All Ways A Woman inside a tote featuring an image from the book.) Going through security into the person’s development proved seamless. I found her house quickly as opposed to becoming lost in a maze of streets. A parking spot appeared right in front of her home. Mission accomplished. A happy ending.

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This book.

 

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This image.

 

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This tote with the book inside.

After that came a doctor’s appointment. Parking was and is tight at this particular medical complex. I cruised the lot. Aha. Brake lights lit up on a car parked right in front of the doctor’s entrance. When the car backed from the parking place, I pulled mine in as soon as there was room. Once inside, I waited only a short time to see the doctor which is not always the case. The short wait proved a blessing because a man came in with a cough from hell and sat in a chair two from mine.

One of the lesser maladies taking me to the doctor, among other concerns, was a nosebleed the previous day that took an hour to get under control. It turned out to be nothing of concern. Remedy? Pinch the nostrils for 10 minutes as opposed to plopping a package of frozen peas over the nose while you crane your head back as far as humanly possible or lie down to do so.

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This works.

Then, since I had to pass the store on the way home anyway, I went to Chico’s. Again, a parking place appeared right by the entrance. I felt the buying fever pick up while cruising the goods. I bought several holiday gifts. However, I managed to exit before gifting myself with early Christmas presents. Whew.

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This could be my nemesis?

The day slid to an end leaving me with a pleasant feeling. But somewhere in my brain was a slight alert, that old adage nudging to the surface. “The other shoe will soon fall.” You know the feeling. This smoothness is too good to be true.

The following day seemed to stay the course. I met a friend for coffee and light shopping in Old Town La Quinta. Good chat, good times. Later that afternoon I attended a memoir writing group in the development where I live. It’s always a very pleasant event. But. Walking from the car to the meeting room, I felt a kink or a catch in my left foot. A slight tweak. It slowed my gait, letting me know the kinky, catchy, tweaky thing was definitely there.

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Main Street in Old Town.

After the meeting, I packed up, the last to leave and, as I stood, experienced intense pain in said left foot. I couldn’t put any weight on it without discomfort shooting through my foot and ankle. Discomfort? It was more like someone hammering a spike up into my foot while someone else hammered a nail down into the foot. Walking became a nightmare. I managed to make it to the car. I drove home, hobbling into the house, my husband wondering what had happened.

I put ice on the foot and called the podiatrist the next morning who was able to see me later in the day. After three X-rays? Nothing broken. Diagnosis? A pre-stress fracture. A fracture on the verge, but not quite. A stress fracture results from repetitive stresses below the level needed to break the bone. Treatment? The doctor tried me in a boot, but it was too painful. Other treatment? Ice and elevation of the foot. Cause? Undetermined.

Excursions came to an end. Walking came to an end. To move around I tried a cane. Then I became more creative. We had a wheelchair stored in a closet. We dug it out. I sat in it and propelled myself around the house using my right foot for traction. I found I really could move with relative ease. After several days and lots of ice and elevation, I was able to walk gingerly.

I’m an optimist. I’d rather smile than frown. My philosophy? “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” But that pre-stress fracture thingy tested me. The other shoe did fall.

Moral? Pay attention to your feet. Without them, the going does get tough.

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Writers’ Workshops to the Rescue

I’m continually looking for writing tips, techniques, and approaches. I’m forever searching for ways to become a better writer and be inspired. Sound familiar? As a result, I attend conferences and workshops, read articles and books on writing, listen to speakers, and talk with fellow writers. I read novels and short stories all the time. And, of course, I write!

These on-going efforts with writing remind me of my golfing days and multitudinous lessons from golf instructors. (Spoiler alert: I am not the Carol Mann of golfing fame.) Many times I tried and succeeded or tried and failed at a lesson or on a course. However bad it got, I usually found something new or had a lightbulb moment (some days brighter than others), whether landing in the sand or soaring down the fairway. My golfing experiences are analogous to my writing journey – always searching for more, for better, landing in and out of the sand. And always enjoying those Aha! moments.

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Searching for more!

On a recent Sunday, I attended a short story writing workshop conducted by Author Elizabeth Sims and held at our local Miramonte Hotel. She is the creator of the Rita Farmer Mysteries and the Lillian Byrd crime series, as well as a contributing editor at Writer’s Digest magazine. In addition to fiction, she also writes nonfiction books. e.g. You’ve Got A Book In You. You can learn more about her at www.elizabethsims.com. She proved an original, entertaining, and informative instructor. There were techniques I’d heard before offered in a unique manner. But, more importantly, there were new concepts and ideas. Here are a few of both old and new:

Tips/reminders for characterization.
Give a minor character one physical trait.
Give a major character one physical trait, one psychological trait.
Give a major character an issue. e.g. abandonment

Suggestions for developing a plot.
Develop your story around a “heart-clutching moment.” e.g. huge moral lapse (Judas), nature gone wild (shark), change of heart (Michael Corleone in The Godfather).
Examine the structure of a Sherlock Holmes short story which often begins in a familiar setting with a messenger arriving with bad news. (We did a story analysis in session.)

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Sherlock Holmes and Watson

Paint a scene.
Make one element visual – e.g. a night sky
Make one element non-visual that appeals to another sense – e.g. a chill in the air

Tips for editing.
Cut one word per sentence.
Cut adverbs.

Final pearls to keep in mind as you write:

  • Get rid of perfectionism. Just get those words down. Go back later to refine.
  • Ignore sequence. Just get those words down. Again, go back later to address chronology of sentences, paragraphs, events.
  • Keep asking yourself, “Yes … and?”
  • Keep asking yourself, “What if?”

These items are just the surface. Ideas were developed through discussion and lecture plus Q&A. During the course of the workshop, we did writing blasts. I found her technique and approach freeing and fun. Her book, You’ve Got A Book In You, is now part of my library. At the end of the class, we each received an orange power bracelet and on it – you guessed it – are the words “You’ve got a book in you.”

This workshop was definitely a Sunday well-spent.

Posted in Authors, Creativity, fiction writing, Finding Ideas: The Creative Process, Inspiration, Looking for Inspiration, novel, Reading, short story, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Marketing Your Book – Again

Your book has been out for a while. What do you do now? How do you keep the marketing fresh? You do two things. You stick with what works and … you try something new. All Ways A Woman came out in January 2017. Lynn and I, the “we” of this post, have come up with our game plan for the 2018-2019 season.

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What have we done that works, that we’ll continue doing? 

First, because we combine the disciplines of poetry and art, we participate in art events and book events. Local art faires and book expos/festivals provide a ready market. The main tasks are being aware of these events and getting registered into them.

Second, we know talking about the book’s poetry and art in our program called “A Reading and Conversation with All Ways A Woman” is successful. We speak at libraries, museums, clubs, organizations, and private gatherings. We do readings in local coffee cafes. These are done with the stipulation we can offer our book for sale after the event.

Third, we’ll continue offering our note cards which feature an image from the book, with the accompanying poem on the inside.

What are we doing that’s new?

First, we advertised in a publication called Art Patron Magazine. According to its website, the magazine is “a regional art publication committed to the inspiration, curation, and collection of fine art in all its forms.” It has two editions distributed in Palm Springs and Laguna Beach, CA. This represents many thousands of people. We’ll soon see if there’s an uptick in online sales. In any case, the book is “out there” to a wider audience than we could have done on our own. Exposure can’t hurt.

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Second
, we will be presenting to a writers’ group. We’ll be sharing small excerpts from our regular program, but speaking mostly about creating a composite character, an “every-woman,” that women can relate to and care about, as well as our process of writing and collaborating. This is speaking to a new, more specialized audience with a shift in message direction.

Third, we’re trying some new merchandising. We’ll be offering a “Book in a Bag.” This will be a tote featuring an image from All Ways A Woman, with the book inside. The emphasis will be for gift giving.

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Nuts and Bolts

We’ll continue with the nuts and bolts of distributing bookmarks, business cards, and flyers. We’ll continue using sign-up sheets to build marketing lists, and we’ll continue with our Amazon and Facebook pages.

And so …

In the Palm Springs area, it’s a new “season.” Folks are coming in for vacations and extended stays to take advantage of the weather. The population swells as do the number of events and the marketplace. We wish you happy sales!

Posted in Authors, blogging, Books, Creativity, Inspiration, poetry, Reading, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments