26 January 2012

Twitter Art Exhibit: Creativity + Charity

Art is the desire of a man to express himself, to record the reactions of his personality to the world he lives in. 
~ Amy Lowell

Sullivan just told me about a great art exhibit that any artist in the world can contribute to.  The caveat?  The artist has to be on Twitter.

David Sandum is a Swedish artist living in Norway.  Last year, he came up with the Twitter Art Exhibit to benefit the Moss Public Library and it was a roaring success.  This year the exhibit will benefit The Women’s Crisis Center in Moss.  All submissions are must be the size of a postcard and the deadline to send your artwork in is March 30. 

To learn more about David, his art and the details of this fantastic charity art exhibit, visit his website.

And let us know if you submit any artwork!

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

18 January 2012

2012 Goals: Mid-Month Check In

Goals are dreams with deadlines. 
~ Diana Scharf Hunt

Eighteen days into my goal setting extravaganza; time to check in!  How am I doing?

Writing – Blogposts
Five posts in January so far; that’s at least two blogposts a week ~  so far so good!  I am so glad I gave myself this goal; it is forcing me to write and let go instead of keeping my writing under lock and key.  The written word is like a child; it needs to get out and make some mistakes or it will never mature.

Writing – Letters
I said 2 weeks and it’s been about 2½.  But I did mail one letter yesterday and am in the process of replying to two more and writing another two after that. 

Writing – Submitting
Ok, I admit it.  This one I forgot about, but the month isn’t over yet!  I still have time! 
I did compose a new poem, so before the month is out, I need to submit [or another one] and let the words fall where they may!

Writing - Journaling
I’ve simply flown on this one.  I have journaled almost every day since the start of the month.  It was a rough start ~ being sick makes doing anything seem impossible, including lifting a pen.  But now I’m on a roll.  The strange thing?  I’ve found myself typing all my journal entries because my fingers can keep up with my rapid-fire thoughts and I don’t lose anything.  Writing it long-hand, I lose track of the thought or the emotion I want to capture.  My next lesson will be to not beat myself up for typing instead of the more romantic long-hand. I do still hand write my letters, so there is that.

Personal Growth/Giving Back Goals
Perhaps I should have broken my goals down by month. As in, focus on writing goals in January, personal goals in February, etc.  I say this now because the other two main goals (Personal Growth and Giving Back) have fallen by the way side.  And by that I mean that I haven’t even looked at them in the last 3 weeks.  Go me.  Ah well.  I can start tonight!

Not bad for the first couple of weeks!

How about you?  How are you doing with your 2012 Goals/Resolutions?

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

13 January 2012

Top Five Friday: Fear the Thirteenth!

Fear makes us feel our humanity.
~ Benjamin Disraeli

Happy Friday the 13th! I am not a overly superstitious person nor am I OCD ~ although sometimes for the sake of my cluttered home office and bedroom, I almost wish I were! But I love stories that deal with the dark side. Not the blood-and-guts, chop-chop horror stories full of scantily-clad screaming teenagers and no plot. But stories that tackle the dark side of humanity ~ something I think we are all too familiar with.

So in honour of Friday the 13th, I offer up my top five picks for artistic explorations of the dark side of humanity.

Criminal Minds – CBS
In my opinion, Criminal Minds is one of the best dark police procedurals on television right now. I have been watching the show on DVD the past couple of months, starting with Season 1; I’m in Season 5 at the moment. The writers for this show are incredible ~ every episode I watch has some aspect that makes me green with writerly envy. I’m the type who becomes completely enmeshed in the story [i.e. do NOT talk to me while I’m watching]; however, there have been moments when the writer in me detaches and thinks “that was a brilliant line or plot twist!”

In terms of fear, CM has got it: they’ve had episodes dealing with almost every type of sick psycho out there, including a Satanic-esque cannibal. What fascinates me is the myriad factors that go into making a criminal who he or she is, family background being the most important.

Grimm – NBC
The Grimm Fairy Tales as criminal profiles? Brilliant! The development of myths, how they affect us and what they say about a culture is a fascinating study. And NBC has a winner with this show. The pilot was a little slow, but set the stage and the episodes after have not disappointed. Imagination is not dead, folks! It’s alive and well in the minds of Stephen Carpenter, David Greenwalt, and Jim Kouf.

There’s fear aplenty and it airs tonight at 9pm!

Fringe – Fox
J.J. Abrams is my hero. He comes up with the most amazing plots and story lines that push the boundaries of the mind. He must wake up every morning thinking “What if…?” Mad scientists, parallel dimensions, other selves, and Joshua Jackson. Plus a haunting soundtrack.

Downside? Also airs on Fridays at 9pm. Tivo, baby!

The Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
Remember reading this for English 101? A fascinating psychology study. A modern adaptation is Apocalypse Now, starring Martin Sheen and set in Vietnam instead of the Congo. Read the book ~ again ~ and then rent the movie.

The Tell-Tale Heart – Edgar Allan Poe
Picking five stories to read or watch for Friday the 13th is tough ~ there a re many great authors and stories out there. But you can’t talk about scary stories without mentioning Poe. The man was a master of the macabre and a brilliant writer. Masque of the Red Death is one of my personal favorites, but the Tell-Tale Heart is sheer brilliance because it Poe wrote it before “profiling” was invented. It’s a crime story told by the criminal who committed it.

I would love to see this re-imagined on Criminal Minds in Season 8. A violent and possibly schizophrenic yet organized protagonist becomes fixated on the old man’s eye, sadistically shines a light on it night after night for several weeks. After the vile deed is done, he chops up the body and arrogantly invites the police into the room and talks to them at length. Come on, it’s perfect!

What noir fiction do you like to read or watch and why?

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

11 January 2012

Finding the Right Words

Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.
~ Buddha

Yesterday I attended the wake of a dear friend of mine.  Sharon was the light in the life of so many people: she always had a kind and encouraging word to say to everyone, was a tireless worker in the vineyard of the Lord, and had a mischievous sense of humour.  She will be greatly missed around here.

As I was tidying my hair before going into the chapel, one of her daughters-in-law came up to me and introduced herself.  She'd been crying and didn't seem to know what to do with herself.  I took her hand and told her who I was and how I knew Sharon, and how it was a shock to think she was actually gone from us.  And then I walked into the chapel and sat down several pews back from the family.

Every word of comfort, every poetic prose and turn of phrase I had ever thought of ~ out the window, up in flames, hidden behind a wall I couldn't penetrate.  Why is it that when people need the right words the most from me, I stumble and hesitate or merely grimace, hold their hand, and say nothing at all?!  I'm a writer for heaven's sake!  I should be able to say something worth remembering! 

After the wake was over and I was driving home, I thought of a few things I could have said that would have been sincere, authentic and comforting.  But to write them down for later use would be to run the risk of turning into a Mr. Collins!

I know I'm not the only one with this lapse of. . . what? Memory?  Prose?  What do you do in these types of situations?  How have you handled a loss of words before?

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

09 January 2012

You're Invited to Abbey's 54th Poetry Party!

Poetry is what gets lost in translation. 
~ Robert Frost

Christine over at Abbey of the Arts is hosting her 54th Poetry Party!  This party’s inspiration: the bare trees of winter. We are invited to write a poem and then post the image below (with a link back to Abbey of the Arts) and an invitation on our blogs, Facebook pages, and Twitter.

Invite your friends to the party!

My contribution to the party:

The Naked Tree

Alone and forgotten
She stands straight.
Each gust of wind bends her back -
Bends but doesn’t break.
She stretches her limbs
Up, up
Toward the pale sun
And touches his warmth
In a fleeting embrace.
As the days wane
And the nights trace
Her outline by the moonglow,
She is transparent,
Vulnerable –
Stripped naked.
Still, none can see
The hope of spring
Deep, deep
In her hibernating heart.

Oremus pro invicem,

07 January 2012

Writing Without a Devil on Your Back

Words betrayed her: beautiful butterflies in her mind;
dead moths when she opened her mouth for their release into the world.
~ Glen Duncan

I said that I wanted to post at least twice a week, and here it is the end of the first week of the new year, and voila: my second post, just making it across the finish line like a sweat-flecked favorite at the Derby, his nostrils spewing white gusts of breath.

Better late than never I suppose.

G.K. Chesterton once said (or at least it is attributed to him) that a thing worth doing is worth doing badly.  But I don’t know about that.  Bad writing is just plain bad writing.  And usually when I read it (or see it played out on the big or small screen), I want to gouge out my eyes or have a book-burning party.  (Can one burn DVDs?)  Some writing should never see the light of day, it’s so bad. 

Unfortunately, bloggers have two demons chasing them: a daily deadline (if we want our words to get out there; you can’t change the world with words if no one reads them!), and no editor.

Deadlines.  I can live with deadlines.  Like most writers, nothing I write is ever perfect enough to publish, and without an editor riding my procrastinating rear, self-imposed deadlines can simply fade away like pixie dust. 

But editors!

Some writers will tell you they hate their editor.  I only wish I had one to hate!  Sullivan does a pretty good job of catching my grammatical mistakes and pointing out better ways to convey whatever it is I’m trying to say.  But for the most part, I’m on my own.

And I hate poor writing.

Actually, hate isn’t a strong enough word.  Despise?  Abhor?  Loathe?

You thought I was kidding about burning books, didn’t you?  I have two working fireplaces in my house and sadly, I have enough kindling in poor writing to get me through the winter!  

Who wants to be that writer?  I do not want to be that writer!

But of course I have been.  A lot of the kindling are my own scribblings, bits and bobs of poems never pursued, first drafts of stories that I strangled at almost their first breath, songs only half remembered.  But that’s ok.  Bad writing should never see the light of day, but it must still be written.  Think of it as getting the poison out, or sowing your wild writing oats.  Get it over with so you can get on to the good stuff.

And by the way, don’t burn the bad stuff.  It just might be the seed of something new. 

And good.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

06 January 2012

Top Five Friday: Breaking Writer's Block

The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible. 
~ Vladimir Nabakov

Day six of the new year ~ are you still psyched about realizing your dreams and goals!?  I have to admit, I’m not quite as energetic about it all as I was when I was laying out my goals and planning how to reach them.  A faulty thyroid, a severe vitamin D deficiency, and a low iron count may be contributing factors, but honestly, reaching any goal, no matter how badly we want it, involves sacrifice and hard work. 

Stares at a blank page for an hour.

What I wouldn’t give for Harry Potter’s wand!

Checks FB four times in that same hour.

Actually, what I wouldn’t give for J.K. Rowling’s brain!

Page still blank.  And now throat is dry.  Pours herself a drink.

Ok, there must be a better way than this to get motivated to write.  For crying out loud, six days in and I haven’t written one, single, bloody word!  The brand new journal is blank.  My poetry book hasn’t been written in since God only knows when.  My folders for blog posts has moths flying out of it.  And my pens and keyboards are covered with a fine film of dust.

Ok, Maybe it’s not that bad.

Looks at blank sheet of paper.

Maybe it’s worse!  What is an earth-bound muggle writer to do!?

And voila!  My own writer’s block is broken and I have my top five list for you today: Mikaela’s Top Five Ways to Break Writer’s Block.

I love reading book reviews; a good one can be like Cliff Notes, giving you enough of the book to give you a flavor and the desire to read more. Tia Bach over at Depression Cookies recently read and reviewed Stephen King’s On Writing.   Tia pointed out that Stephen King reads a lot of books and he recommends that writers read a lot of books.  It’s an old but true proverb: the best writers are well-read.  Meaning, they read.  A lot.

Just Write
Stephen King writes 1,000 words a day, and there’s rarely a day he doesn’t write.  Now, perhaps 1,000 words a day is too much to tackle.  So make it 500.  Or maybe a timer works better.  Set a simple kitchen timer for 20 or 30 minutes, put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and don’t stop writing until the timer goes off.  Don’t worry about perfect prose and elegant poetry.  Just put words down on the page.  It’s amazing how doing this unlocks topics and connections you hadn’t thought of before; you won’t be able to stop writing.  The key is to write the same amount of words every day.

Get Active
Sometimes you just need to step back and get a different perspective on what you’re writing about.  Get outside and take a walk.  Or a jog.  Dance with your children, play with your dog, hug your spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend.  Just get away from the desk, breathe in some fresh air, and get the blood pumping.  But don’t dilly-dally.  Once you feel rejuvenated, get back to the desk and start writing again.

Talk to a Friend
Criminal Minds is one of my favorite TV shows, and I don’t watch a lot of the idiot box.  Right now I’m on Season 5 of the DVD set from Netflix.  Every episode my respect (and perhaps a little envy?) of their writing team grows.  And I realized something: it’s a team effort.  Most writers will tell you that the art and craft of writing is a solitary endeavor, and for the most part I agree.  But I have seized upon some of my best ideas when bouncing things off of fellow writers.  Sullivan is writing more poetry then blog posts these days, and we still get together as often as we can to watch the spark of creativity explode into some great projects. 

In this plugged in age, you would not believe the benefits of just sitting in silence.  No text message beeps, no voicemail dings, no vibrating hum ringtone, no electronic hum at all.  The human brain can only handle so much.  Turn things off, get comfortable, and just breathe.  Empty your mind of your to do lists, schedules.  Breathe.  Relax.  Focus on one thing only: that you are loved and accepted by God ~ however you understand Him. Do this for 15, 20, 30, or even 60 minutes once a week, and you’ll be surprised at how much calmer you will be.  And when your body is calm, your mind is calm.  And when your mind is calm, oh the ideas you’ll think!

What about you?  Do you have any tried and true methods for breaking writer’s block?

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela