Monday, October 13, 2014

Things I Learned at the 2014 Moonlight & Magnolias Conference


I got step-by-step directions on how to create an author website on WordPress. I heard some great tips on how to write for the young adult market. I learned how to create great characters and how to add more conflict to my stories and how to revise them once they are finished. And I discovered that I might as well stop trying to be a "pantser." I don't do anything else in my life that way. If I'm ever going to craft a compelling novel-length work of fiction, I'm going to have to start with an outline. I made new friends and caught up with old ones.

That was all on Friday.

On Saturday, I learned that I shouldn't have left home without my pain meds. Because the kidney stones - according to the CT scan, there are four - decided to flare up about lunch time. I hobbled back to my room and spent the rest of the day sick in bed. I missed the workshops. I missed the drawing for the author baskets and critiques. I missed the cocktail hour and the photo op with the hunky male models. I missed the Maggie Awards Banquet.

The good news is that sometime during the wee hours of Sunday, the pain returned to its usual dull ache. By the time my alarm went off, I felt good enough take a shower, put on my clothes and make-up, enjoy a hearty breakfast, and soak Sunday's craft workshop on writing effective love scenes. It was terrific.

The most important thing I learned at the Moonlight & Magnolias Conference is that I am not ready to give up on my dream of being a traditionally published author. But how to go about it? Do I dig deep into revising my first book? Finish the young adult novel that was a finalist in last year's Unpublished Maggie Awards? Start something completely new?

It's not clear to me yet. But one thing I do know is that writing is going to have to become as important a part of my routine as eating and brushing my teeth. I'm not quite sure where it's going to fit into my busy days. It's likely that I will have to let something else go, at least for a while. But I am determined to find a way. I know it's a lot to hope for. But I'm going to do everything I can to be a New York Times Bestselling author.

It's now or never.

Monday, October 6, 2014

My Personal Credo

Oh yes, the past can hurt. You can either run from it or learn from it.
~ The Lion King


The view from my bedroom window.
This has been a tough year in many ways. I loved and lost; I made mistakes; I have regrets. But everything I learned has helped contribute to making me who I am today.

And for the most part, I like the woman I see when I look in the mirror. She has loving friends and family, a comfortable home, and a satisfying career. She plays as hard as she works and has a thirst for adventure. Even though my life hasn't turned out exactly the way I planned, I wouldn't trade places with anybody on the planet.

But there is always room for improvement. And I decided it was time for me to develop a personal credo - kind of like a mission statement - to remind myself of who I want to be and how I want to move through this world. This is what I came up with.

Pam's Personal Credo.

Be myself, not who someone else wants me to be.
Forgive myself.
Don't look back.
Always speak the truth.
Take pleasure in solitude.
Don't waste time feeling sorry for myself.
Be brave and take risks - lots of them.
Take care of my body.
Do what I love.
Share my life with people who are loving, supportive, open-minded, and kind.
Stop looking for love.
Make art.
Tell my stories.
Travel often.

Am I forgetting anything? I have big dreams and as long as I stay true to myself and my personal credo I believe I will find the courage to make them reality.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

On the verge of breakthrough?

Every challenge you encounter in life is a fork in the road. You have the choice to choose which way to go - backward, forward, breakdown or breakthrough. 
― Ifeanyi Enoch Onuoha

In September, I "reclaimed my sass" as a creative individual.

The month started out strong. I practiced the piano and started a couple of original music compositions. I did some beading and sold some jewelry. I made cold process lye soap from dandelion tea and did some drawing and added a few pages to my novel. I came up with a system to track my progress in all areas.

I told myself: I am an artist.

I believe it now.

But then life did what it does. It pulled the rug right out from under my feet and left me lying flat on the floor.

I'm still trying to find solid ground. In the meantime, I'm not quite the productive machine I was. But maybe that's not the point. Because I am taking care of the most important things. Teaching my students well and keeping an orderly home and cooking healthy meals and being available for RockStar when he needs me.

In the end, perhaps, it isn't about what I produce or create. In the end, perhaps, it's about what I leave behind in the heads and hearts of the people I love most - my children and my family and my friends and my students.

I can only hope that who I am and what I do will be enough to make a difference.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Moving ahead so life won't pass me by


I have a lot going on in my world. Between the teaching and the music making and the writing and the creating and the cooking and the cleaning and the keeping the old body maintained - well, it's a lot to keep track of.

I am trying to improve my habits but the truth is that on top of the time I spend teaching piano lessons there simply aren't enough hours to do everything I want to do EVERY SINGLE DAY. So I have decided upon a compromise. I will do everything at least EVERY OTHER DAY.

Towards that end, I created an Excel document with 31 rows (one for each day of the month) and fifteen columns, labeled as follows:

Write morning pages.
Write a blog post.
Write 500 words of fiction.
60 minutes solo piano practice.
60 minutes ensemble piano practice.
15 minutes improvisation/original composition.
Walk (2-3 miles).
Make something.
List an item on Etsy.
Tangle.
Read 30 minutes.
Cook or bake something.
Do a load of laundry or clean a room.
Wash face.
Floss and brush teeth.

Each day after I accomplish a task I put a check in the appropriate box. The goal is to have a check in every column at least every other row. I'm not there yet but I'm getting closer.

What about you? Do you have a system that helps you track your goals and progress?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Wonderful World of Zentangles

Do you tangle? Originally created by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas, Zentangle® is an easy to learn method of creating beautiful images by drawing repetitive patterns. Zentangle is a registered trademark of Zentangle, Inc. Click here to learn more and find your local Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT).

Meet Jacque Solomon, a Certified Zentangle Teacher in the North Fulton Area of Atlanta. Four classmates and I had the pleasure of taking her Introduction to Zentangle Basics Class 101 this afternoon. 


Just seeing all the beautiful artwork hanging in her teaching studio was inspiring.


But Jacque didn't let us sit idle for too long. We spent a few moments on introductions and then she gave us each a box of supplies and put us to work.


After going over a few basics, like what types of pens and paper work best and defining a few basic vocabulary words, we practiced drawing a few simple patterns. Then we took a Zentangle tile (a 3.5" square), divided into quadrants using a "string," and added patterns and embellishments of our choice to each quadrant. Here is my finished project. 


According to zentangle.com, Zentangle “increases focus and creativity, provides artistic satisfaction along with an increased sense of personal well being" and is also referred to as "artistic meditation." I have certainly found all of that to be true. And I don't think the timing of its appearance on my "radar" is any coincidence; I believe that it is going to be an important part of the reclamation of myself as an artist. Thanks, Jacque, for your warmth and encouragement today. I hope to see you in your studio again soon.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Thoughts on Friendship


The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.  
--Elisabeth Foley

I love people and have counted many among my friends over the years. Like "love," though, "friend" is a simple word that has complex connotations. For example, I am blessed to have friendships that have stood the test of time. I have already blogged about reconnecting with my childhood friend Peggy; I am also Facebook friends with several other girls from the old neighborhood as well as my best friends from high school. We keep up with each other's Facebook posts, exchange Christmas cards and photographs, and even meet face-to-face as circumstances allow. It is wonderful to enjoy adult relationships with these women I grew up with.

#

You wanna know who your true friends are? Screw up and see who's still there.
--Unknown

Unfortunately, I have also had my share of fair-weather friends. For example, there was my friend Katrina*, a devout Christian woman, who befriended me back in my Raleigh years (1985-1993). Even after she and her family moved away we kept in touch, sending each other long newsy letters and chatting for hours on the phone. Everything was great until 2001, when I made the difficult decision to divorce my husband. Certain that she would be supportive after learning my reasons, I was devastated to discover that her religious convictions prevented her from maintaining her friendship with me. She has not spoken to me since.

Indeed, I have been thrown under the bus or abandoned more times than I like to remember by women I was certain I would play Bingo with at the senior citizens center one day. Whether for a transgression they couldn't forgive or for reasons totally beyond my comprehension, they walked out of my life without a backward glance. My head tells me I am better off without them. My heart is slow to catch up.

#

Your truest friends are the ones who will stand by you in your darkest moments - because they're willing to brave the shadows with you - and in your greatest moments - because they're not afraid to let you shine. 
-- Nicole Yatsonsky

Interestingly, other of my conservative friends were among my biggest supporters as I went through my divorce. Asking no questions, demanding no explanations, they looked after my young children while I shopped for a house, met with lawyers, went to court. These women also supported me by attending my how-to-homeschool seminars and bringing their children to my home for piano lessons. Years have gone by; our children are grown and our lives have gone in different directions. Still, we manage to find opportunities to get together, to have dinner or plan an adventure. I don't know what I would have done without them.

#

She is a friend of mind.  She gather me, man.  The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.  It's good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.  
--Toni Morrison, Beloved

Today, I am blessed to have a small circle of friends who really get me. They have seen me at my worst but challenge me to be my best. I don't have to be overly careful about my words when I am with them; they read between the lines, hearing what is left unsaid as clearly as what is stated, and help me understand my feelings when they are almost too raw to experience. They hold me when I cry, commiserate with me when I am heartbroken, encourage me in my crazy dreams but love me just the way I am. I hope they consider me to be the same kind of friend to them.

#

A true friend unbosoms freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeably.  
--William Penn

These same women occasionally are put in the position of telling me something I really don't want to hear - either in gentle criticism or as a result of seeing me in a compromised situation. This kind of honesty is extremely rare and worth more than a thousand hollow flatteries.

#

I get by with a little help from my friends.
--The Beatles

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

*Name has been changed.

Monday, September 8, 2014

I Am An Artist



Even though I engage in a number of creative pursuits - sewing, knitting, beading, playing the piano, writing fiction - I have always told myself that I am not a creative person. Despite the fact that I have acquired enough skill in some of these areas to teach (quilting, English smocking, heirloom sewing by machine, piano pedagogy) and the fact that I earn a comfortable living as a pianist and piano teacher, I have always insisted that I don't have a creative bone in my body, that I am merely a talented thief.

Moving forward, I reject that notion.

I am an artist, an emerging synthesis of musician, writer, and maker of things. Towards that end, I will spend fifteen minutes a day working on music composition at the conclusion of my practice time, an hour a day working on my novel after I finish my morning pages, and I will create one new "thing" - like make a piece of jewelry or try a new lye soap recipe - each day. This is not an option. This is an imperative.

It has been suggested that I am not "emerging"; rather, I am already there. I don't quite believe it, so it must not be so. But as quickly as possible. Here I go!