Monday, June 27, 2016

The Art of Growing Artists- Part II

Last week I showcased some of the young artists I met at the Explore the Arts camp at the Fine Arts Center in Greenville, SC. In this post you're going to meet more artists and also hear about how art inspires writing. The pictures, videos, and poetry are mine. The italicized portions are excerpts from an essay by Donna Baier Stein, "Art for Contemporary Writers" that appeared in the July/August issue of Writer's Digest.

Ekphrasis and....Collage?

The literary term for describing in words what you see in a picture is ekphrasis. The practice can be traced back to Plato and Aristotle, through the Renaissance and the works of the Romantic poets, all the way into literature of the 19th century. Typically, the word ekphrastic is applied to poetry. 

Creating collage with Judy Verhoeven

But fiction writers, too, can derive inspiration from physical works of art. Herman Melville uses ekphrasis in Moby-Dick...Taking the practice a step further, visual images can become actual prompts for an entire story or novel.

Ekphrasis and....Dragons?

Eric Benjamin demonstrates the art of dragon drawing

 Whatever medium you choose— from painting to sculpture, pottery to pencil illustrations—art can trigger a story inside of you. Here are some ideas for finding your own ekphrastic story starter: 
*Wander through a museum *Browse an art collection online*Visit a local gallery *Check out a book of art history from the library*View a collection of poster prints online or in a store. 
          (Carol's addition: Visit your local arts camp or school!)

The old aphorism “a picture is worth a thousand words” is most often attributed to Arthur Brisbanea famous newspaperman. In 1911, Brisbane urged members of the Syracuse Advertising Men’s Club, “Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.” He believed in catching a reader’s attention fast and forcefully. Don’t waste your time fumbling for words, he was saying, when an image can get the job done better. Inadvertently, perhaps, Brisbane was setting up pictures and words as opposing forces. Ekphrastic fiction reunites the two, as a picture can actually produce a thousand words. 

Ekphrasis and...Music?

If Brisbane is correct, how many words do these videos inspire?

Jeff Holland led Drums and Shakers

Drum Set and Snare Drum

Beginning Guitar with 

Ekphrasis and....Improvisation?

Instructor Mia Hartley Phillips said second and third graders created this dance following a discussion of music evoking emotions. 

Ekphrasis and....Me?

Oh, Dragon!
With tail unfurled
claws paw the air.
Dance, prance
in vestments of turquoise, purple,
red and orange.
You dwelled in a canvas cave
until life breathed in you through

chunks of clay
into a fierce monster
or a bird sitting on her nest.

Imagination turns paper
scraps into sunflowers,
blue and pink fragments
into hydrangea,
paint droplets

swirls swathes of filmy cloth
and suddenly, 
a young girl is a fantastical creature
hatched from an egg
in search of her sister. 

Art begets art.

Thank you, Donna Baier Stein for introducing me to the concept of ekphrasis. And thank you, Explore the Arts students, for giving me the opportunity to practice it. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Art of Growing Artists - Part I

As some of you know, my husband and I recently relocated to Greenville, SC. I am finding an explosion of art and cultural events as well as arts education in the schools--including creative writing! Looking for an opportunity to teach, an acquaintance recommended I first volunteer with the Explore the Arts camp that meets in the Fine Arts Center. Over the next few weeks I'll share some photos and videos. These posts will be heavy on images and light on text as I try to share with you the excitement and energy of these young-artists-in-training. And hopefully, next year I'll be sharing my experiences teaching fiction and journalism!
When I stopped in the Drama and Improv class led by Andrew Bryant, they immediately improvised a jazz pose for me.

These rising kindergarteners and first graders learned about famous artists in Painting and Collage taught by Carol Ann Good, and then dripped, splattered, and painted away!

Jan Woodward taught Ballet and Modern Dance to sixth through eighth graders. The dancers had just learned this routine. 

Each instructor was passionate about communicating his or her love for art to their students.  It was a pleasure to watch kindergartners through adults unabashedly throw themselves into the act of creation. 
Opera star,  Kimilee Bryant, showing her class
her Phantom of the Opera scrapbook

The following pictures are from Katie Jones' class of second and third graders enjoying Clay Exploration.

I tried to take a picture of Dr. Roy Fluhrer, Director of the Fine Arts Center, in front of one of the many sculptures which adorn the school. He declined. Over his shoulder as walked away he said, "It's not about me. It's about the kids."

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Setting Thesaurus Books Are Here: Help Becca And Angela Celebrate!

Readers of this blog are no strangers to one of my favorite online writing resources, One Stop for Writers.  Now, the co-creators of that marvelous website, Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman, have added two more thesauri (yes, that really is an acceptable form of the plural!) to their awesome collection of self-published books. (Here is Becca's post on Setting through Personification. It'll give you an idea of the expertise these ladies offer the writing community.)

Now, in their own words, this is what you can look forward to in these thesauri:

"As we storytellers sit before the keyboard to craft our magic, we're usually laser-focused on the two titans of fiction: plot and character. Yet, there's a third element that impacts almost every aspect of the tale, one we really need to home in on as well: the setting.

"The setting is so much more than a painted backdrop, more than a stage for our characters to tromp across during the scene. Used to its full advantage, the setting can characterize the story's cast, supply mood, steer the plot, provide challenges and conflict, trigger emotions, help us deliver those necessary snippets of backstory...and that's just scratching the surface. So the question is this: how do we unleash the full power of the setting within our stories?

"Well, there's some good news on that front. Two new books have released this week that may change the description game for writers. The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to City Spaces and The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Personal and Natural Spaces look at the sights, smells, tastes, textures, and sounds a character might experience within 225 different contemporary settings. And this is only the start of what these books offer writers.

 "In fact, swing by and check out this hidden entry from the Rural Setting Thesaurus: Ancient Ruins.
"And there's one more thing you might want to know more about....

"We are celebrating our double release with a fun event going on from June 13-20th called ROCK THE VAULT.

"At the heart of the Writers Helping Writers site is a tremendous vault, and we have been hoarding prizes of epic writerly proportions.

A safe full of prizes, ripe for the taking...if the writing community can work together to unlock it, of course.

"Ready to do your part? Stop by Writers Helping Writers to find out more!"

Angela and Becca are encouraging their readers to post fanciful pictures of their favorite thesaurus. Here's my first attempt:

What are you cooking up
with your thesaurus?

These two awesome ladies plan to encourage people to share their love of all books thesaurus in nature. Take a picture of your favorite thesaurus and post it online with the #myfavoritethesaurus hashtag If they get to 500 original pictures they'll give away all the prizes locked in the vault. It's free to enter, but the more people who post pictures, the more prizes can be won. 
Here is one of the many resources you'll find on their Pinterest board: 

If you are a One Stop subscriber, don't panic. All the material found in these two new thesauri is right at your fingertips. Just used it myself last week!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Aaron Moments: A Tribute to Friendship

Congratulations to Joyce Hostetter who won the autographed copy of "The Great Call of China" on last week's post. Trust me, her winning was independent of this post!

A Bible Lesson

The ancient Israelites had a problem. In a battle with their enemies the Amalekites, Moses and Aaron noticed that whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed. But his hands got heavy and when he let them down, Amalek prevailed. 

Exodus 17:12 says, "But Moses' hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat on it; and Aaron (his brother) and Hur (his companion) held up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun." 

Apparently this intervention worked because the next verse records how the Israelites were victorious. This is a superb example of two friends coming alongside a great leader and giving him the help he needed.

Since this blog deals more with writing than Biblical history, you might be wondering where I'm going with this post.  

Half-Truths and Aaron Moments

I'm close to the end of my fifth write-it-from-the-beginning draft of Half-Truths. Last week I was writing a scene in which Lillie really wants to be mad at Kate. But, according to my outline, this is Act IV when the two girls are now friends. Why would Lillie choose not to nurse her anger?

Light bulb moment. By remembering a time when Kate believed in her when other people didn't.

In my mind, I dubbed this previous incident in the story an "Aaron moment." A time when Lillie was ready to give up and give in. But Kate's encouragement kept her going--despite her fears and doubts. 

Meet my "Aaron's"

Like Moses and Lillie, I've had my moments when I was ready to quit. Thankfully, I've had three friends who have believed in me and helped me fight my panic and doubts. You've met these friends in blog posts, but here's a little more backstory about how each one has helped me with my story. 

In chronological order, here are my three "Aarons:"

April, 2016

Seventeen years ago, Fran Davis, the Regional Advisor for SCBW (there was no "I" back then) called me, and then called Linda Phillips. She had decided the two of us should co-chair the 1999 regional conference in Charlotte. We each agreed although there was one problem--we had never met. After much email correspondence, phone calls, and meetings, Linda and I pulled it off. 

In the process, we became critique partners, praying friends, and walking buddies. We continue to lift each other up when the other person is overwhelmed by doubts and fears. We give each other marketing advice, pep talks, and a different perspective on ourselves and our writing. Most of all, we're always there for each other as the voice of encouragement when the other person wants to abandon her work.  

In 2007, I met Joyce Hostetter at the Mid-South Reading and Writing Institute in Birmingham, Alabama. I went to her workshop on writing historical fiction and had her autograph a copy of BLUE. Thus started a friendship which led to us co-teaching writing workshops at NCCAT and publishing our online newsletter, Talking Story

In 2008 Joyce challenged me to stop talking about writing a novel and to plunge into NaNoWriMo. She encouraged me to spend a week at a Highlights Foundation Workshop for which I'll always be grateful. She's read and critiqued numerous synopsis and first pages. She's now (finally!) reading this draft and giving feedback on everything from sentence order to killing my darling similes. When I bewail how long it's taken to write my first novel she offers understanding but no excuses.  


I attended the 2011 SCBWI-Carolinas conference with a revised first draft and great confidence that I was on my way to publication. Mary Kate Castellani my critiquer, changed all that.  She rocked my world and changed my novel by calmly suggesting that my book would reach a wider audience if I wrote it from both Kate's and Lillie's POV. 

My mind whirled as I walked through the revolving doors at the conference hotel. I had just finished writing the entire book from Kate's POV. How could I possibly write a story from a black girl's POV? How could I start all over again? (little did I know...)

The first person I saw on the other side of the door was Rebecca Petruck

She not only told me I could and should write Half-Truths from both POV's, she has helped me with the humongous task of plotting a book from two points of view. I've appreciated Rebecca's ability to see what Half-Truths was trying to be and to bring me back from the many bunny trails which my imagination led me on.

These friends have believed in me as a writer and in Half-Truths as a story. They have been my "Aarons" figuratively holding up my arms when my battles were rough. Thank you, Linda, Joyce, Rebecca, Kate, and Lillie. You each have showed me how powerful friendship can be. 

How about you? Who are your "Aarons"? 


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