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Writing, Art & Photography

Journal Jam

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My sister-in-law Gretchin and I are putting together a series of joint art and writing prompt classes that we are calling Journal Jam. We will be announcing the location of the first workshop shortly. In the meantime, we have both been working on our own journal pages. One of the prompts I love to offer comes from a book by Tristine Rainer called Your Life as Story. In it Rainer gives a prompt on How to be ________. The writer than offers a list of criteria describing how to be ______. Gretchin and I plan to use this prompt in our class and as an example I tried my hand at my own.

The night before I had been visiting Gretchin’s house where my three-year-old niece Ellie was dancing around in the buff. I decided to write How to Be Three-Year-Old Ellie Dancing. Here’s the result:

How to Be Three-Year-Old Ellie Dancing

Be Stark Naked

Lift Your Arms in the Air

Twirl

Mold Your Hands into Tight Little Fists

Roll Them One Over the Other

Do Your Magic

Stare Up Into the Sky with a Smug Look of Satisfaction

Burst Into Song

Sing the Theme to Frozen

Twirl Again

Lose Interest

Walk Across the Room, Strutting like a Drunken Supermodel

Turn and Walk Back Toward Me

Shout “Hey Bee, Look at This!”

Twirl One Final Time.

I then went to work on my own journal pages, but as so often happens the preliminary sketches seemed better than the final result, so I experimented a couple of times.

One of the things I love about digital collage and one of the reasons I turned to working in that medium is that nothing every has to go waste. You can always use a “bad” photo or sketch and transform it into something else. I started to do so with one of the iphone pics I took of my sketch.

I had an older picture of Ellie and when I put them together it seemed as if the two were dancing. I am still working on the collage. This is just the preliminary piece. I’m calling it Shadow Dancers or Fairytale 699.

blog shadow dancing

I’m hoping to add a version of this to my journal pages as well.

 

Writing Prompt: One Arts Center

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Some of my students writing tonight to lyric prompts at One Arts Center in Burlington, Vt. Want to try one?

Writing Prompt: Write for three minutes based on the following lyric “I was carried to Ohio in a swarm of bees…” (Bloodbuzz Ohio by The National).

Ellie Saves the Day or My Tribute to Leonard Nimoy

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William Shatner, Me, Chris and Leonard Nimoy

I just finished googling “Everest Paw Patrol Action Figure” because my three-year-old niece Ellie is obsessed with the show. Earlier this year I ordered all the remaining action figures I could find from the series when she received only two for her birthday and realized she could not recreate her precious adventures with so few. Now they went and introduced a new member to the Paw Patrol team, Everest. So new, they haven’t even produced an action figure for her yet, though Ellie recently told her mom not to worry, “Bee (her nickname for me) will get me one.”

If my recent Internet search is accurate I probably won’t be able to pull off that miracle anytime soon, but I will keep trying because I understand Ellie’s obsession. She loves Paw Patrol so much that her present hope is that they will produce an episode called “Ellie Saves the Day!” Who knows? As an idol of mine once noted, “There are Always Possibilities…”

When I was three, I would stay up way past my bedtime to watch the Starship Enterprise streak across my television screen and dream of exploring “strange new worlds” as a Starship Captain. I would sit on my backyard swing for hours soaring to those same new worlds.

When I grew older I secreted Star Trek novels and Best of Trek books under my bed because I feared friends would discover them and deem them too nerdy. Little did I know my brother was sharing my stash with fellow Trekkie, his friend Chris, and with that cat out of the bag we began attending conventions together, feeding a mutual obsession. It was at one such convention I discovered our own version of buyer’s remorse after spending $300 to a replica of an original series tricorder—you know that cool scientific contraption carried by Spock to take readings of alien life forms? At 15, it was the most I had ever paid for any one item and after making the purchase I felt nothing but guilt. That tricorder, however, has adorned many a Halloween costume, attended some Star Trek movie premieres, even been worn at a friend’s costume wedding. I think I got my money’s worth. Still, till this day Chris or my brother John can text me at a moment’s notice with the phrase “I have Tricorder syndrome” and I think, oh no, what have they gone and bought now?!

Last Friday both John and Christ texted me almost simultaneously, Chris, in Chicago, John, here in Vermont. “Did you hear about Spock?” both messages read. And, by now everyone has. The actor, Leonard Nimoy, who brought our beloved alien to life, had died. Facebook and Twitter were filled with tributes as fans everywhere tried to express what this actor and this character had brought into their lives.

Long before I was old enough to truly grasp a concept such as tolerance. I remember learning what it meant to embrace the differences in others and the uniqueness in myself through a fictional alien named Spock. I learned that what I valued, the things that make me happy, should not be hidden under a bed but shared with others and in so doing, broaden my world. I learned to embrace Tricorders and Paw Patrol Action figures because these things we see on TV that can seem so childish or frivolous can take us outside our tiny lives and reveal our biggest dreams.

I just hope Ellie doesn’t come home at 15 with a $300 Everest action figure. Then again, maybe that is exactly what I wish for her—to discover the value of her dreams and explore all the worlds where they take her. May these things teach her that one day Ellie can save the day!

Chris, Me and John in Uniform

Chris, Me and John in Uniform

 

March Common Thread Give-a-Way

Restore the bond

It’s March! That means a couple of things: one, it can’t stay cold for too much longer and two, it’s time again for the Common Thread Give-a-way. This month’s artist is Maria Wulf, who is giving away this colorful, energetic “Blue Star Quilt.” To qualify to win visit Maria’s web site Full Moon Fiber Art between now and Wednesday evening and leave a comment. The winner will be announced on Thursday.

In the meantime please visit the blog’s of the other participating artists:

Jon Katz

Jane McMillen

Rachel Barlow

and, me.

Let Me Get You Up to Speed…

Let me get you up to speed…

Let’s say for the sake of argument that all of this blog from Day 1 through the middle of last year was Season 1 of our ongoing saga—the pugs, my art, my writing, my friend Joan, her life, and mine. Then let’s say we went on hiatus—a long one. We’ve done a lot in that time, but how do you capture it all on the blog? You can’t go backwards and who wants to inundate everyone with a year’s worth of material, right? But, how do we jump right back in? I’m going to do my best to bring the story forward.

We’ve had our share of romance…

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Gryffindoor and Alfie

 

No, not me unfortunately, but my pug Alfie. She turned five in January and it was a do or die moment—time to breed her or forgo the idea once and for all. Alfie is my show pug and the plan from the beginning was to breed her and pass on all her wonderful traits. Unfortunately, her heats were uncertain and it took awhile to figure her cycle out. I decided to take a big leap of faith and go for it this year, so toward the end of January, Alfie and I began daily pilgrimages to visit her “boyfriend” at Pugdom, my friend Joan’s house. Challenge no. 1, while Alfie and the Old Man hit it off, he just couldn’t seem to get the job done, so we had to bring in reinforcements—his son, Gryffindor. Gryff was nowhere near as refined in the courting department, but what he lacked in charm, he made up for in finesse and I was fairly certain after thee successful matings that Alfie was pregnant.

On Super Bowl Sunday, Alfie began vomiting and panting and not acting at all right. I ended up taking her to the Emergency Vet only to learn she had pyometrea, a dangerous uterine infection and had to be spayed. No puppies for us. It seemed unfair on a lot of levels, my idea was if I can’t have children of my own right now, at least I’m gonna have puppies, but that didn’t seem to materialize. Our new grand adventure was cut short, but Alfie is okay, in fact, she seems downright happy and the plan for the future is to find another show dog, since after her spaying, Alfie can no longer be shown.

We’ve had our share of religion…

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Me In Hana

 

I spent two weeks in Hawaii last July on the Missions Trip I go on ever year. It was the start of a life-giving time, a creative time, when I returned home I began taking courses to become a certified minister, became a full-fledged member of my church and recently even taught one of our weekly bible studies. I didn’t discover God—I’ve known him all along—I simply got excited about connecting with Him in a while new way and so much has changed.

We’ve had our share of work…

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Alfie helping me plan my Pet Projects class

 

 

This fall the college where I worked for the past 12 years closed, so I’ve been finding new opportunities to teach at assisted living facilities, arts centers, writing centers etc. and expanding my repertoire. This summer I am supposed to teach at a teen art camp in Lebanon, N.H. I am presently teaching a course on the relationship between animals and memoir writing called “Pet Projects” at an assisted-living facility also in Lebanon. My sister-in-law Gretchin and I are also putting together a joint workshop called Journal Jam.

The art projects are going well. I’ve been in several shows, sold more work than ever, and introduced new techniques such as encaustic to my collages. I joined an artists’ collective in Burlington that not only carries my work in their gift shop, but networks with area businesses to showcase the work of their members. The xposure has been great. In November, I had a solo show of my digital collages called Once and Future Things: An Exploration of Girlhood at Radio Bean in Burlington.

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One of my collages in the Once and Future Things show at Radio Bean

 

I’m currently in another juried show at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center called “Healing with Arts.” The idea behind the show is to hang works of art in the cancer treatment center with the belief that art contributes to and reinforces the healing process for patients with caner. It is an important show for me to be apart of as more and more close friends face the disease.

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Two of My Pieces in the Healing With Arts show at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center

 

Also, this fall, a friend made financially possible for me to attend a wonderful and productive writers workshop, Dartbrook Writers Retreat, in the Adirondacks. I worked on pulling some of my blog posts together and creating new writing for a memoir of some of my experiences with my friend Joan. I’m starting to see the themes that underlie the work and why getting to be a part of her life and that of her pugs has been so important to me. The plan is to work more on that over the next year and get that book actually written.

Writer Abigail Thomas and Me at Dartbrook Writers Retreat

Writer Abigail Thomas and Me at Dartbrook Writers Retreat

So here we are…now that you’re caught up let’s call this Season 2. Stay tune for our next adventure.