field notes (5.1.17)

Happily, I have resumed taking photographs on my DSLR. When I purchased my smartphone last year, my use of my DSLR plummeted: the smartphone camera was just so much more convenient. But, I’ve missed my DSLR. This past month, I’ve slowly worked it back into rotation. It has bought me unexpected joy. Using my DSLR,  I’ve noticed that I am much more careful in setting up my shots, much more aware of capturing special moments. My eyes work differently.

I am working to change my thinking surrounding my DSLR and smartphone camera: My DSLR is for capturing moments and memories of my family and friends. My smartphone camera is for collecting visual ideas and notes.

I attended the Western Washington SCBWI conference in Seattle in early April and I am still sifting my notes, considering the new ideas and connecting with fellow writers and illustrators. Grateful to learn from Patricia Hruby Powell, Melissa Manlove, Kazu Kibuishi, Stephanie Pitts.

Takeaway: Go with your gut.

The world looks so different when we remember we are an energy, not an image.” – Sarah Neuberger

Good composition is merely the strongest way of seeing.” – Edward Weston

Loving the phrase, “drawing words and writing pictures” as I awake and embrace my visual self more and more each day

Watching: GHOSTBUSTERS, LOST IN TRANSLATIONOLIVE KITTERIDGE  (in that order and unintentionally studying Bill Murray over the years. The man is brilliant.)

Reading: THIS BRIDGE WILL NOT BE GRAY by Dave Eggers (I’ve always wondered how to write a book, and now that I’ve read this one, I know), THE DESIGN OF EVERYDAY THINGS by Don Norman, THE PASSION OF DOLSSA by Julie Berry, AS ALWAYS, JULIA: THE LETTERS OF JULIA CHILD AND AVIS DESOTO by Joan Reardon (which made me appreciate my closest female friendships even more), PICTURE THIS: HOW PICTURES WORK by Molly Bang, UNDERSTANDING COMICS by Scott McCloud, BRIGHT DEAD THINGS by Ada Limon (and now I want to read all her books of poems.)

field notes (April 1, 2017)

My daughter and I were talking about failure the other day. She is learning to sew and, as it is with learning new skills, she is  making a lot of mistakes. I told her that she must continue. Try, make a mistake, come up with a new plan, try again. Keep at it. Keep trying and failing. She said, “Does that mean that eventually, I won’t make any more mistakes?” I told her that she will always make mistakes, she will always fail. But the thing about trying and failing over and over again is this: once you  figure out that it’s not a personal failing, just a part of the learning curve, the time you spend face down on the ground between tries decreases. You get better at jumping back up on your feet. You get quicker. You aren’t as devastated for as long. Also, you’ll master all kinds of skills. But because we are naturally curious people, we will always be learning new skills and failing at them before we master them. Throughout our life. We will always try and fail and try again. The recovery time between efforts though, will decrease.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”  – Winston Churchill

“Mistakes bring good.” – Maira Kalman

Reading: IN THE COMPANY OF WOMEN by Grace Bonney (highly recommended)

Watching: EAMES: THE ARCHITECT AND THE PAINTER by Jason Cohn and Bill Jersey and CHOCOLAT with Juliette Binoche

“Never delegate understanding.” – Charles Eames

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe

Starting to find a few niches where I may belong in my new town. And slowly, mindfully, attending meetings, saying hello, asking questions, following my nose, writing letters of introduction, making (I hope) lasting connections. I belong here.

A writing friend from Minnesota passed through town earlier this month and we had time to drink some coffee and share some book talk and our time together filled me up like nothing else. So wonderful to meet and talk with people face-to-face.

Considering ways to increase my visual literacy. Taking a helicopter view. Considering what I have here and now. Whom I can ask for help. How to do what I can with what I have. Making a giant mind map. So far: a daily drawing practice, a list of  visual artist friends to ask for help from, and an emerging idea of what I’m trying to do. I’m taking this slow because I’m not willing to ask for help or guidance until I know what it is I want. Things are still a bit murky. And that’s OK. A clear direction will emerge given time and patience.

I watched CHOCOLAT three times over the past two weekends. I wanted to watch it again and again and again. I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. And I finally figured out why: that’s what I want. What Vianne has: To live in a town where I am part of its fabric. / To stay. To stay. To stay. / To be a true, get-in-the-mud friend across the years. / To create things (books & essays & stories) that make peoples’ lives better, richer, braver. / To live bravely, big-heartedly even when (especially when) it makes me less popular. / To share good food with people around my very own table. /  To do it all wearing great clothes.

Finally pegged down my essential intent for my writing!!! (Now to do so for the other arena in my life. Namely, my family and my health.)

field notes (3.1.17)

This article, MO WILLEMS’S FUNNY FAILURES by Rivka Galchen is full of gems. (You’re welcome.)

Pretty sure that fear and failure are just really clever disguises for opportunities. (Note to self: remember this when you are scared and failing!)

Entering the high tide of conference preparation…which means lots of reading, researching, formulating questions, ordering new business cards, and focusing on my purpose. (I love a good conference. Helps me gather myself together a bit.)

Trying a new method to focus & flense my latest writing project. I’m writing a book-about-a-book. Which is maybe just a sneaky way to get myself to write a book proposal without getting all powerpoint- and spreadsheet-crazy. I get to use pictures! Essays! Quotes! Maps!It is fun (and helpful).

Noted: if I want a make a change, it helps not just to think a new idea, but to say that idea aloud. For example, I have a new book idea and like all new ideas, at first this one was shiny and perfect. But once I start working on it, the flaws started to show up. This doesn’t mean I need to stop working. It just means I need to keep working. And as I work, I am carefully saying to myself “This is a good idea.” And when that doesn’t work (which is most of the time) I say it aloud. “This is a good idea” to the empty room or to the full room. And this works. Honestly. It’s as if the idea hears the praise and stands up straighter and tries a bit more earnestly.

Reading: WRITING WITH PICTURES by Uri Shulevitz (it’s been a few years since I read this one. So good.)

Watching: TEMPLE GRANDIN and THE NATIONAL PARKS: AMERICA’S BEST IDEA

Visited the Museum of the Rockies for the first time and, man oh man, I love museums.

It’s March! Which means I survived February, my least favorite month.

Remembering that being uncomfortable is magical. Because it means that I am pushing myself and exploring new territory, taking risks. It’s scary and painful. Trying to remember that in the moment. Trying to get comfortable with discomfort. (This may take a while…)

New archival material arrived for my NF biography and it’s such vital information. Grateful I spent the $25 and got out of my own way. (Sometimes my thriftiness gets in the way of progress.) ahem.

Expanding from simply keeping a nature journal into keeping a visual journal. It’s a format that’s more flexible and fluid. More inclusive. I like it. Fewer rules, more fun.

field notes (2.1.17)

I think good fiction books (good art in general) create a deliberate emotion in the person experiencing it — ‘deliberate’ meaning i’s the emotion the author of the book set out to create…” from Cheryl B. Klein in SECOND SIGHT

I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to.” – Georgia O’Keeffe

Reading: SECOND SIGHT by Cheryl B. Klein, LET MY PEOPLE GO FISHING by Yvon Chouinard, THE HIDDEN LIFE OF TREES by Peter Wohlleben, PARENTING by Paul David Tripp, TWO LITTLE SAVAGES by Ernest Thompson Seton, FOUR QUARTETS by T.S. Eliot, RAINWATER HARVESTING FOR DRYLANDS AND BEYOND by Brad Lancaster, HOW TO READ WATER by Tristan Gooley, KEEPING A NATURE JOURNAL by Clare Walker Leslie, CLOTH LULLABY by Amy Novesky, GEORGIA’S BONES by Jen Bryant and OUT OF THE WOODS by Rebecca Bond

Visiting my new, local bookstore weekly to discover and learn. Country Bookshelf is such a stellar place. Grateful to live in a place where an independent bookstore thrives.

Deep in hibernating mode. This year I am not fighting it. I am letting myself be consumed by it.

I am four days into my nature journaling practice. A combination of a driving urge to learn to better communicate via drawing, a desire to connect to my new landscape/home and fond memories of drawing detailed diagrams for biology and zoology courses in college are pushing me onward…oh, and very low expectations!

Creating a limited to-do list: When I have only 1-3 items on my to-do list, I focus on just those things. With a longer list, I spend a lot of time trying to figure out where to begin and doing the easiest instead of the most important work first. A short list helps me focus on what’s the most important, what really matters. It’s not about doing less work. It’s about doing the most important work.

Honing my essential intents. I have three areas of focus and I spent January building routines to support my efforts. It is so easy to let trivial, distracting details clog up my days. Must stay diligent.

Downloaded new music for my daily bike rides. New music = new thoughts. Also, let me declare my undying love for my fat bike. It is the best thing (object) in my life. I am grateful it found its way to me.

Steady on with two manuscripts I’m working on…

In anything at all, perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away, when a body has been stripped down to its nakedness.” from Antoine de Saint-Exupery in THE LITTLE PRINCE

We bought some land in mid-January. Now, we are working, working, working on designing a house, finding contractors, making materials decisions, deciding on placement of the buildings. It’s exciting and demanding.

Until next month…

field notes (12.30.16)

I’m not telling you to make the world better, because I don’ think that progress is necessarily part of the package. I’m just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment.” – Joan Didion

field notes (12.23.16)

Merry Christmas!

This quote, “Many adults…stall in the information-gathering stage of a project. They keep collecting inspiration and ideas without ever moving forward to the point of making something of their own. Forget about finishing – they can’t start,” from Lori Pickert’s PROJECT-BASED HOMESCHOOLING is kicking me in the butt

I was completely immersed in BARKSKINS by Annie Proulx until I realized, with a jolt, that even though it was brilliant and amazing, I had to stop reading it because I knew that I couldn’t both read this novel and get my writing done. I had to choose. And I choose writing.

Working to re-establish writing times

My wound is geography. It is also my anchorage, my port of call.” – Pat Conroy

field notes (12.16.16)

Note to self: 1. do one thing at a time 2. say it simple

Writing so many thank you notes.

Reading: SOME WRITER! by Melissa Sweet, BLUE LIKE JAZZ by Donald Miller, Project-Based Homeschooling by Lori Pickert

Three quotes that are steadying me right now:

Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter. And lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.” – Jack London [Because I am loving, loving, loving my early morning journal writing. This is the bedrock of my writing efforts. The essential effort that holds my writing universe together.]

Without great solitude no serious work is possible.” – Pablo Picasso [Because I am living in a new town, and rather than feeling lonely, I am enjoying the solitude. Pair my recent move with cold, winter weather and the result is delicious.]

The best writing is often done by persons who are snatching time from something else.” – E.B. White [Because I have unrelenting demands on my time, my writing time is snatched from a loooong to-do list.]

field notes (11.4.16)

Oh November, I love you so!

My latest column: On Rejection

Current sanity-saving habits: not turning my smartphone on until after lunch, then setting it to airplane mode, and finally keeping my FB capped at a daily 10-minutes (kept honest with a timer)

Last week I drove a minivan for 900 miles and I’m embarrassed to admit that it was ah-mazing. So much space! (I usually drive a compact car, so the size difference was enormous)

Spent last week in Montana absorbing the landscape and taking great notes

Kicking of a 4-day Art Camp in which I will make all the things I’ve been wanting to make since forever: map stationery, tiny books, cyanotype prints, a skirt for my daughter, potato prints, paper marbling, I may even manage to sew a patch on the knees of my son’s torn pants

Collapsing into bed each night

Excited about all the changes that are ahead: trying to keep clear on what is the most important and let the rest go

field notes (10.28.16)

Two quotes are pin-balling around my head these days:

“He carried a country of his own in his mind, and was able to unfold it like a tent in any wilderness.” – Willa Cather

“Listen to me. You need to be a home for yourself and your work. You need to be the safe place to present things to be admired and loved.” – Elizabeth Berg

field notes (10.21.16)

Fitting in my writing in the spaces between all my other responsibilities. Even though I yearn for large blocks of time to submerge myself in, I am grateful for the time I’m given. (Also, It’s remarkable how much all the little bits and pieces and scraps of time add up.) Steady on, steady on.

Overdue for a conversation with my writing/accountability partner.

Catching up on my sleep! (Don’t laugh!) Being well-rested is a huge part of my creative process. I don’t do anything well if I don’t sleep enough.

Rebounding after learning that I was not awarded a grant I’d set my heart on.  Initially, I tried to distract myself from the disappointment I felt. But then I decided that I’d just allow myself to be sad without trying to fix it. I did other things that helped to soothe me: went to a local art gallery, drank extra peppermint tea, got an adjustment at the chiropractor and did some reading. And I worked to change my negative internal dialogue.

Reading: a story by Willa Cather called OLD MRS. HARRIS and SWALLOWDALE by Arthur Ransome