Busy, busy, busy!

aug-10-blue-beeI can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve posted on my blog! I’ve had quite a lot going on. I’ve been blessed with some full-time on-site work recently (YAY!), but have consequently had to put a couple illustration projects on the back burner (ICK!). And now NaNoWriMo is coming up (a month to devote to writing 50,000 words), and also PiBoIdMo (the SAME month, challenging me to come up with a picture book idea every day).

Am I a glutton for punishment? Yeah, I guess so.

And quite possibly I am about to be slammed with freelance work (hopefully).

Okay. I’m feeling a little overwhelmed.

But happily so.

Why add more to my plate by participating in Nano and PiBoIdMo? Well, I just love those two challenges. It’s the one time out of the year when you know there are thousands of other writers trying to do the same thing, and most likely not making their goals and getting frustrated – just like me. You know the saying, misery loves company.

PLUS I have FOUR or FIVE book ideas that are SCRAMBLING to get out of my darn head. And each one is totally different. I have the next Wearing My Weird book that is solidifying in my mind (thank goodness for the people who have asked me to write another one), a book about my own dad’s life, a nonfiction book about my creative heroes that has been gestating for the past 4 years that MIGHT end up being the most important book to write (keeping the title secret for now), a spiritual book, and a children’s book I wrote and illustrated back in college that just needs to be polished up (I SO wanted it to be completed before Christmas! Not sure that’s happening now)!

So I visited my blog today to add the Nano and PiBoIdMo widgets, noticed I hadn’t blogged for a while, and decided to finally type up a new post to explain what I’ve been up to (yes, I’m still alive!).

The HOPE & SUPPORT Challenge – for Suicide Awareness Month – WHO’S WITH ME?

2878660a0be6531e2b579500927cf379One of the most fundamental reasons why I call my business “Create-A-Way” is to communicate to others that there is always a WAY. There have been painful times in my life when I felt totally STUCK, even in recent years. Struggles are overcome and new struggles take their places.

It’s just life.

We ALL go through times in our lives when we need encouragement. Sometimes EVERY DAY.

So I suggest a CHALLENGE for September.

Send a piece of snail mail to at least one person every week this month (starting today) who you know is having ANY kind of emotional stress. It can be a Facebook friend (message them and ask for their address), a loved one, or maybe even an acquaintance (does someone at work/school seem depressed/overstressed lately? Leave an anonymous supportive note on their chair).

Why send/give a physical note or snail mail? An email or an electronic message or even a text is too quickly dismissed. It might make them smile for a moment, but sending a letter or card or even a postcard means SO much more. It means you care THAT MUCH MORE, and you are SERIOUS about sending them your message of support and love. A physical note can be kept as a memento. It can be tucked into a journal or under a pillow. It can be treasured.

Please leave a comment as a way to mark your commitment to the challenge to send a message of love and encouragement to someone you care about. Even if you only do it once this month… BRAVO.

And if you’re reading this post AFTER/BEFORE September, I challenge you to send that snail mail to someone TODAY.

Trust me… there is always someone around you who is in need of a little emotional support.

Oh Captain, My Captain…

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A quote from Dead Poets Society rings in my memory this week, in reaction to the passing of Robin Williams. It was the excerpt to be read at the beginning of every D.P.S. meeting:

I went to the woods because I
wanted to live deliberately…
I wanted to live deep and suck
out all the marrow of life!
To put to rout all that was not life…
And not, when I came to die, discover
that I had not lived…

Robin’s untimely death tears at my heart and soul as I remember my own battles with depression, past and present.

I think the saddest thing about this for me, is that when I was at my lowest, I would watch some of my favorite Robin Williams films to uplift me or to just forget my inner pain. The messages in his films were so inspiring to me.

It’s a sore reminder that even our heroes – the people we turn to for help – are suffering as well, and facing their own demons.

So many thoughts are running through my head since the news of Robin’s death. I think about my own demons. I think about a dear friend I lost this past year to suicide. I think about people close to me that suffer from Bipolar and/or depression, and my concerns rise… again.

When I was sixteen, I watched Dead Poets Society MANY times. The character Neil in the film was an inspiring one, much like Williams. He was filled with passion. The character inspired me SO much. When I saw the movie for the first time, it was on TV at home. I remember exactly where I was standing at the side of the living room couch while watching the scene when Neil began to descend down the stairs to his father’s den to shoot himself. I remember vividly because I felt I was watching myself. I knew that character. I knew what he was thinking and I knew what he was going to do.

And when I realized I was right, my stomach seized up on me. Queasiness hit. That film, to me, was all about the message to NOT give up and give in to those inner demons that tell you life is hopeless. Because when you give up and give in, the possibilities that are waiting for you just around the corner are GONE… And the legacy you had the chance to leave will never happen. Lives you had a chance to touch and change… gone.

Again, I tend to resort to a powerful Dead Poets Society quote:

…life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse…

That the powerful play GOES ON and you may contribute a verse…

What will your verse be?

 

Amazing Authors I met at Author Alley this Year!

IMG_3515I wanted to share about some of the most interesting books and people I had the pleasure of meeting at Author Alley this year (my first year at Author Alley).

jerry_lewis_celebrities_coverI had the goal to meet one specific author I wanted to get advice from, who ended up being a really awesome individual, Irv Korman – author of I was Jerry Lewis’s Bodyguard for 10 minutes! and I was Jackie Mason’s Chauffeur for 5 Minutes. I wanted to get some advice regarding the book I’m working on about my dad’s life. My dad’s brushed up against several celebrities when he lived in Canada, and I want to write about his encounters. It was good to talk with Irv and get some important tips – most importantly to RECORD my conversations with my dad as I interview him about his experiences. It was cool too, because Irv also works as an entertainer for parties, so when a little girl bought Pretty Betty Butterfly, he made her a little balloon apple – a very cool surprise!

I was thrilled to meet the two wonderful people sitting on each side of me as well. They were both professional illustrators as well as writers, which we had in common.abirdsc

I met Lawrence (Larry) Hohman who had written and  illustrated a series of alphabet books, called Alphabetical Books in Color. We actually both graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Art, which was another wonderful coincidence! I bought his book on bugs for my son Jack who is obsessed with bugs lately. Larry did pretty well at the event by selling a whole set of his books to one customer. That was exciting (and envious) to see!
fd5db72ecf996469e71348ecbb9379c4Another great person I met was Dixie Frank! I bought her wonderful children’s book, I’m So Glad You Saved Me – The True Story of Ringo Star-ling. It’s a beautiful story with equally beautiful illustrations. I highly recommend it. Her book is a true story about the Starling she rescued as a baby bird. This bird is actually quite amazing. Dixie told me that Starlings actually are mimicking birds – like parrots. So this bird talks and sings, and whistles the Andy Griffith Show theme! Ha! Dixie also creates Pet Portraits and does face painting for events as well.

There were other authors I wish I could have spoken with more, and their books looked very interesting to me as well!

Here are my favorite books & authors from the event:

Jennifer Priester – author of The Mortal Realm Witch Series – a series for ages 8-12 years old.

James A. Willis – Author of many “Weird” books and Ghost Stories (yummy!)

Tali Nay – Author of Schooled - A book about the things you REALLY learn in school – the life lessons you remember for the rest of your life. This topic of course interested me.

Mary R. Woldering – Author of Children of Stone: Voices in Crystal – A very interesting looking book. If the title interests you, I recommend checking it out! And this awesome woman lives in Euclid, Ohio – so excited to live so close to some of these people!!

Joel Ayala Ayapana – Author of The Book of Positive Light – Remembrance of the Heart. This guy will be conducting a workshop at the Ohio Journey Expo this year, and has an iTunes Radio page.

The experience at Author Alley was an interesting one. Not the best when it comes to book sales (but I guess selling 2 books isn’t too shabby for an event that’s tucked away in an alley), but a wonderfully fun networking event! I definitely want to do it again next year, and am looking forward to having at least a couple new books to sell next year (my gears are working)!

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Emergency Business Card Creativity for My Afternoon at Author Alley!

IMG_3506This past weekend I was excited to be a part of the Author Alley event at Loganberry Books in Shaker Heights, Ohio – as part of the annual Larchmere Festival! Unfortunately I couldn’t find my business cards for the event, so I was forced to improvise and create some promo materials to act as business cards instead.

I was there to promote the books I’ve published this past year, Wearing My Weird (the 3-book series), and a book I illustrated by Sally Deems, Pretty Betty Butterfly.

I returned to an old technique and dressed it up with adding ribbons to make tasseled bookmarks as my freebie giveaways (to double as business cards).

Materials (to make 1.5″ x 4″ 200 bookmarks/business cards):

STEP ONE: Have FUN, painting on your watercolor paper – be abstract or not, and involve the kids!!! Let them paint whatever they want, because these large painting will be chopped up into pieces 1.5″ x 4″.

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STEP TWO: Let the paintings dry, of course, and then start slicing each page into 5 long 4″ strips (using the Exacto knife and cutting mat – or large paper cutter).

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STEP THREE: Take the 4″ x 15″ strips and use the small paper cutter to chop them into 1.5″ strips.

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STEP FOUR: Start stamping! I used a 3.5″ personalized stamp for the backside of my cards with my website/promo information, and on the decorative side I used a variety of Rubbermoon Art Stamps!

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STEP FIVE: Punch holes in the top ends of the cards to create tasseled bookmarks out of your cards – turning your business card into a fun promotional giftie/freebie!

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These were very fun giveaways, because each bookmark was unique, creating a fun synchronicity for the person choosing it. I received some comments regarding the messages on the bookmarks. People really responded to them positively! I could have easily sold them if I wanted to!

Mail From “The Center of The Universe” – Rubbermoon Stamp

postcard fandbI just bought this wonderful rubber stamp from Rubbermoon which I totally love. It’s a logo-like emblem with the words “Messages from the center of the Universe” on it. Ever since I first saw this stamp months ago, I knew I would have to buy it eventually.

Here is my first little playtime with this stamp. It seems ideal to use with mailing gifties to people. I wanted to try making a creative postcard with it, playing with synchronicity, not knowing WHO I will end up sending this to, and also not knowing exactly what I’m doing (the best way to play with synchronicity when making artwork).

Here are the steps I took creating my first little postcard:

MATERIALS:

  • Thin board suitable for postcards – I used some card stock I had on hand which I bought from Papyrus: Crane’s KID FINISH CARDS, pearl white, 100% cotton fiber, 4 1/4″ x 6 3/8″.
  • Messages from the Center of the Universe Rubbermoon Stamp! – Small size.
  • Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pen (yeah, I know, I use these ALL the time!)
  • Scrap materials – old calendars, old stationery, scrapbook materials, magazines, catalogs, etc – anything with imagery and/or words that inspire you!
  • Glue stick – I like glue sticks – they’re easy to work with, always accessible, and they do the job.

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STEP ONE:

Have fun collaging the front side of your postcard using various scrap materials you find interesting. I suggest you not think so much about who you will send this to – just grab whatever imagery speaks to you. In MY case, I was drawn toward scraps from a calendar I loved – with various inspirational phrases used. I chose one of the phrases to highlight on my postcard, using the background image from one part of the calendar page as the background for my postcard piece, and pasting the torn fragment on top with the lovely quote.

STEP TWO:

Turn your postcard over and stamp the “Messages From The Center of The Universe” Rubbermoon Stamp on the left side where you would normally write your personal message.

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STEP THREE:

Embellish this message area with IMAGES instead of words. Doodle whatever comes to mind intuitively. Perhaps even use the collage you created as a point of inspiration for your doodling. I used a Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pen – they are just so reliable to use – no bleed, no mess. I used a fine tip for the doodling and a brush tip for the squiggly edging.

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This is a stamp I plan to use a lot in the future for correspondence with the angel work I do. Looking forward to playing a lot more!

Now the really hard part: deciding who to send it to!

Sending Love and Happiness – with Rubbermoon Stamps and Betty Butterfly!

IMG_3146A recent post on Facebook by Kristen Powers, owner of Rubbermoon Art Stamps, inspired me to brainstorm some different ideas for my “Open Arms” Rubbermoon Stamp design. I designed a whole group of stamps to work nicely as a set to promote “Sending Love” with the art of rubber stamping, but I thought it would be fun to brainstorm ” What else could this little girl be sending out into the world?”

I decided to have fun and chop up some pages from my watercolor sketchbook to use as canvas for some mini paintings that will work well as little gifties to send with books I sell, or as some Mother’s Day gifties to family and friends!

Here are the steps I went through to brainstorm and create a variety of ideas from a single rubber stamp!

IMG_3147MATERIALS:

1. Cut the watercolor paper out of the spiral book with scissors and left the rough edge as a decorative element for the top of my bookmarks.

2. Chopped the paper into strips using the scrapbook paper/photo cutter.

3. Start stamping! I used the same stamp on each bookmark piece, adding other stamps to some, and on some I simply embellished using the PITT artist pen (I used the brush tip which I regret – too bold for my taste – I prefer using the fine tip from now on).

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4. Add handwriting if you like, as a special custom touch of your own. Again, I used the PITT artist pen for this as well, fine tip this time!

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IMG_31455. Paint your creations, using Gouache (I like Gouache because the colors are so bright and happy!).

I chose to use the butterfly sample for this particular post because this morning I was on the phone with my creative cohort, Sally Deems. We created the book, Pretty Betty Butterfly, together – Sally wrote it and I illustrated it. We were talking about what a HAPPY little book it is. Sally was telling me that she has received such a positive reaction to the Butterfly book – the overall reaction is that simply flipping through the book makes people feel HAPPY.

So along with this little “open arms” girl I created, it made me feel good to imagine her releasing Betty Butterfly out into the s722216732801892793_p1_i3_w320world to spread happiness!

I think I’ll create more of these butterfly ones as a promotional giftie for those who buy Pretty Betty from me when I receive my own first shipment of copies!

Overall I realize I want my art to make people feel HAPPY – and I’m so glad that these rubber stamps I created for Rubbermoon AND Betty Butterfly are both doing that!

I invite you to come to the new website I set up for Pretty Betty Butterfly and see what Sally and I have been up to! Sally and I are SO happy to put this colorful, delightful book out into the world, and we look forward to making more!

That’s what art is all about for me… spreading love and happiness!

 

Making a SCRAP-Booky Thing ~ A book/card made from stationery scraps, featuring my Rubbermoon Stamp!

IMG_2968When it’s time for me to do a Rubbermoon post, that’s when my creativity is really challenged. What can I create that’s unique from the scrap materials I happen to have around me? What fun activity can I come up with?

This month I wanted to use a card my mom sent me as inspiration to make something. My mom used my Rubbermoon stamp, “Sending Love,” on a special card she made for me. It was a wonderful surprise in the mail! I wanted to try doing something similar, but ended up going in a very different direction once I realized I didn’t have ANY of the same materials my mom used for her project. I didn’t have a blank card, I didn’t have embossing tools, I didn’t have special shape cutters, etc.

That’s when I became desperate and asked myself, “Okay – what DO I have?” I have a LOT of unused stationery and birthday cards. Yep. A LOT of them. I became interested in using some of my old fashioned styled cards/stationery for this project, and had fun gathering cards and things that worked together as a theme.

What began originally as a goal to create a card made from scraps of my unused cards became more of a fun scrap-booky thing. Okay, that’s my official name for it.

MATERIALS:

  • Stationery/birthday card/scrapbooking scraps
  • hand held hole puncher
  • Ribbon/decorative yarn to tie at holes
  • stapler
  • Rubbermoon Art stamp, “Sending Love
  • scissors and/or small paper cutter

HOW TO DIRECTIONS:

1. Collect similar-themed cards/stationery/scrapbook materials.

Collect unused stationery with a similar theme - I chose old-fashioned styles.

Collect unused stationery with a similar theme – I chose old-fashioned styles.

2. Start chopping them up, and work on covering printed areas with scraps so you can keep the card/book blank to use only for your own sentiments/thoughts/writings.

Chop up your cards

Chop up your cards

I decided to add a sheet of stationery to fold around the other "pages."

I decided to add a sheet of stationery to fold around the other “pages.”

3. Put pages together as wanted, and use hand held hole puncher to punch two holes (top and bottom) to use for inserting decorative yarn/ribbons.

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4. Tie decorative yarn/ribbons through holes – not too tightly, so pages can be opened.

5. Add embellishments as wanted. I added a pocket on the front as special housing for the “Sending Love” note.

Used a piece of decorative unused scrap from birthday card to make a pocket on front. Added antique image as embellishment.

Used a piece of decorative unused scrap from birthday card to make a pocket on front. Added antique image as embellishment.

Stapled top and bottom of added pocket piece to create pocket to slide in "Sending Love" message.

Stapled top and bottom of added pocket piece to create pocket to slide in “Sending Love” message.

6. Use Rubbermoon “Sending Love” stamp as embellishment on removable pocket card.

7. Now you have a fun giftie to use as a keepsake journal or to send in the mail to someone with special sentiments. Since I used birthday cards as a base, the whole thing fits neatly inside a card envelope! Handy!

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Fits neatly inside original card envelope!

This is a fun project to try when you just want to play around with scrap materials – to see what original creation you can come up with!

Talking to Students About Writing, Art, and Dreams!

Speaking at Porter Ridge Middle School

Speaking at Porter Ridge Middle School

Caricature Demo at Porter Ridge

Caricature Demo at Porter Ridge

I made the choice to drive down to NC during my kids’ Spring Break week to spend some much-needed time with my family and to come full-circle by speaking to my old Middle School in Monroe, NC.

Why?

Because the books I have recently self-published were originally written when I was sitting in the courtyard during recess at Piedmont Middle School, Monroe, NC. This was my way of bringing my journey full-circle. The amazing thing is that my nephew now attends Piedmont Middle as a seventh grader… the same grade I was in when my written journey began. How totally amazing!

I was also lucky enough to have a connection at Porter Ridge Middle School, a school I have never visited before. What a blessing! I ended up giving two days of my trip to visiting Porter Ridge – the first day to give a writing talk series, and the second day to speak about art and answer questions. I also gave an impromptu caricature demonstration, at the end of my last talk.

Overall, I gave about 12 30-45 minute talks, speaking to well-over 600 students – in three days. What a marathon run!

Sometimes you just have to test yourself to see what your limits and capabilities are. That’s perhaps one reason I did this as well. Speaking to Middle School aged kids was very different from the wide-eyed audience that welcomed me at Sunview Elementary. I was fortunate, though. I was so engaged in what I was speaking about, there were very few students who nodded off… and there was the occasional snicker in the group, which I was happy to realize didn’t phase me in the least. I proved to myself that I am SO over that level of self-consciousness that used to paralyze me as a kid and young adult.

Again, sometimes I just have to push myself into something to test how much I’ve truly grown.

I’m so happy to have tested myself in this way, and to hopefully reach at least a few kids who are dealing with the same things I dealt with as a teen. It’s the hardest time of life to get through, I think.

What a blessing! I’m grateful to have had that opportunity, and grateful to have some time to recuperate – I pushed myself so far, I ended up making myself sick with a bad cold (ugh!) – well, at least I know my physical limits now as well!  :)

Below you’ll find a series of clips from my writing pep talk day at Porter Ridge MS.

Giving Writing Pep Talks to Kids ~ At Sunview Elementary School and BEYOND!

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Photo taken during my Writing Pep Talk at Sunview!

On Thursday, Feb.6, I gave what I call a “Writing Pep Talk” to the kids of Sunview Elementary School in Lyndhurst, Ohio. Both of my kids attend Sunview. I also have been leading a mini group of kids in my daughter’s class which I call the “Sunview Star Writers Group.” When the school teachers caught wind that I released my first book series, I was contacted to speak with their Third Graders who have been going through a Treasures Reading Program. I was ecstatic!

Inspiring and encouraging kids to be creatively expressive is my personal JOY, and I was SO thankful for the opportunity. Besides, this is something I’ve been wanting to get started anyway… visit local schools here in Cleveland and around my hometown in Monroe, NC, to not only promote my books, but to tell my personal writing & publishing story to the kids, encouraging them not to give up on their own dreams.

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Thank You notes from the Sunview 3rd Graders!

Giving this talk to the kids was a great experience – and the Q&A was very soul searching for me. I was proud of myself for being so “on,” I was able to answer most questions quickly to get as many in as possible. I spoke to four third grade classes, gathered into two groups. I also created artsy bookmarks as giveaways to the kids, and learned how to quickly create 100 of these little gifties! It was wonderful when I also announced to the kids that I was donating a copy of each of my books to the school library, too. My heart swelled from their enthusiastic response!! About a week later, on Valentine’s Day, I received the most wonderful gift from my daughter’s teacher… a packet stuffed with beautiful handwritten Thank You notes from all the third graders, thanking me for my visit, for donating the books, and for the artsy bookmarks. They also wrote to me about their favorite parts of the talk, which was pretty cool to read about, and through reading their responses, I made an adjustment to the book I’m currently writing (3rd  in the series), to include a story I told to the classes, realizing it’s a very important story I need to tell in the final book of the series.

Now I’m planning a trip during my kids’ Spring Break to visit my old school in North Carolina, Piedmont Middle School, and give the same talk to some students there. I am so excited to do this. And ultimately I’m hoping to take a trip to my Elementary School in Canada, Meadowbrook Public School, to do the same thing, bringing my book journey full circle!