Favorite E-reads of the Month: July/August

Morning E-reads

I love Summer Vacation because it is a time when my life and body can move (or not) by its own rhythms. One of my favorite rhythms is waking up, making my “poor man’s mocha” and sitting down for an hour (okay, sometimes that’s “hours”) of e-reading. I learn a lot, and find a lot of inspiration in the practice.

So, why don’t I just do this all year round? Well, there is one thing I like even more than my morning routine, and that is sleeping as late as possible before getting up and going to work.

July/August E-reads

This month, as last month, I’ve got a great selection of online reading for you. So here they are, from the most to least recent:

A Little Weird? Prone to Depression? Blame Your Creative Brain” by Susan Biali, MD: This is from one of my favorite blogs–Psychology Today. I particularly liked it because it explains why creative people (like me…maybe like you?) might feel a little out of sync and experience the blues. The good news is…it’s because we’re creative. Or are we creative because we’re a little weird and sensitive?

Literate Lives E-Read: This Incandescent Llife6 Ways Reading Fiction Will Inspire You to Live Bigger” by Emily Morgan: This is from Emily’s blog This Incandescent Life. I love to read and encourage other’s to read, and so when I see someone pointing out reading’s awesome benefits, my brain does a little happy dance.

What Becomes of the Brokenhearted: Why Fiction Heals Like Nothing Else Can” by Kristen Lamb: The premise here it that fiction provides the kind of experience and perspective that can only be mirrored in real life, and brings emotional healing through the emotional experience of story rather than reason and logic. Again, yay reading!

Other Great Reads

More Awesome E-Reading to Come

Just two and a half more weeks and my long hours of summer e-reading will be at an end. But have not fear, my morning routine will remain the anchor of my weekends, and there will be many more awesome e-reads to come.

Your Turn

Have you read anything interesting online lately? Please share the title and link in the comment box below. Remember, the more we share with each other, the more great reading we can all enjoy!


Creative? Or Just Really Weird

crazy little personDo you ever wonder if you are just really weird? I do. I talk to myself, disagree with myself, and disobey myself on a daily basis. I make up silly little ditties. If I’m alone and in a particularly good mood I might even sing them.

And then there are those characters who start conversations in my head at the most inconvenient times–in the shower, when I’m trying to fall asleep, when I’m hiking or out on a walk, or when I’m driving in a hurry because I’m running late and I can’t catch a red light for the life of me so I can jot down my latest inspiration.

I confess, I also have odd habits. I love to drive through puddles and watch the water fly–although I never splash people. I rotate my clothing, selecting each day’s outfit from the “front” of the rack in my closet and putting it away at the “back.” I don’t like to touch most things–but I’ve got a good excuse for that–terrible eczema on my fingers. I am way too old to be as addicted to Bejewelled as I am. (It is my favorite use for my phone.) I eat precisely six pistachios, eight grapes, and one fiber bar for breakfast every workday morning. However, I don’t need any rituals for writing. I can write just about anywhere.

Am I crazy or creative? What’s inside my head would never “fit in” the regular work-a-day world, and I can’t live constantly in my “normal” persona without feeling like I’ve lost what is best and brightest about life.

Don’t worry, though. I’m functional. (Except I hate to cook. Alas for my poor husband. However, he is a fabulous cook.)

The trouble is, if I’m not reading or pinning or crafting, I’d just about always rather be writing. It is the carefully carved out fiction writing time in my life that makes my heart sing.

What about you? Are you creative? Are you a little bit weird? What makes your heart sing? Please share. You’re in good company here.

Creativity and the Collector

seashells-graphicsfairy005bAs a fiction  writer, the concept of creativity fascinates me. Where does it come from? How do I nurture it? What have brain scientists learned about it that can help me to be more creative? Therefore, I follow the Susan K Perry’s blog, Creating in Flow, on Psychology Today.

Posts from Psychology Today’s blogs usually come with a list of links to similar topics, as well as a list of related topics on the blog you’re reading, and the most popular posts of the day. Therefore, when I receive on of Perry’s posts, it is of value in itself, and a doorway to more, fascinating posts.

Today, through a series of links, I came across Michele and Robert Root-Bernstein’s post, “The Collection Connection to Creativity” on their blog, Imagine That! They start by noting that many creative people are also collectors. Naturally, the collections themselves can inspire creativity. However, the act of collecting, in itself, exercises valuable cognitive skills. Collectors hone their ability to make observations, discriminate between similar objects/ideas, and recognize patterns, exceptions to patterns, and what is missing from a pattern.

Whew! As a yet unpublished novelist (my publishing credits are all folk tale retellings) I worry that I might not have what it takes to be a good author. So when I read about creativity, I often compare myself to the qualifiers proposed and judge myself passing or failing at this crucial quality necessary to writing fiction, especially fantasy! Well, if collecting is one sign of a creative brain, at least in this domain I pass brilliantly.

What do I collect? Books, paper, ephemera, rubber stamps, art materials, reference images for drawing, bead crafting supplies…and then there is the granddaddy collection of them all–Pinterest. I have boards for book ideas, writing information, story structure, characterization, settings, historical reference, education, art (I love art!), crafts (with multiple boards for jewelry making), travel, and recipes.

Do I have time to actually use any of my collections? Very little. Between working nearly full-time and writing, I don’t have much leftover time for jewelry making, drawing, or sewing. But I love collecting and sorting the ideas, (and actual materials). I hope I live long past retirement, then someday I may have an opportunity to try all these other outlets for creativity.

What do you collect? How does it inspire you or bring you joy?

~Art courtesy of Thegraphicsfairy.com


Play With Your Words Writing PromptsFriday, I was anxious and weepy. Sunday, I was blissfully at peace with the world. So, what happened between Friday and Sunday, and what can I learn from it as a writer and a person?

Friday was my first full day back home after a week-long trip. Before going away, I had begun my “Big, Summer Project”–expanding and reorganizing my office, which was complicated by the discovery of pantry moths and their larvae hidden away in the folds of notebooks and sheets of paper–which at all times are abundant and all over the place in my office, thus the need for expansion and organization– and lodging between the dust jackets and bindings of hardback books. I was nowhere near done when I departed–after all it is my summer project–and was most distressed to encounter it in all its chaotic glory upon my return.

Furthermore, it was a visiting loved-ones kind of trip (and quiet satisfying, I might add). However, my mission to squeeze in as much fellowship and togetherness as possible caused me to disregard my usual needs to be quiet, read, think, and write. When I got home, I longed to do just that, but being the ever-conscientious person I am, I insisted on unpacking everything and throwing myself back into work around the house. Not a recipe for tranquility.

Sunday, I had nowhere I had to go and, honoring the biblical commandment to rest on the Sabbath, nothing I had to do.  It was bliss. (See Sunday’s post.)

So, what have I learned or, as in much of what follows, re-learned?

  • Big projects can make a big mess before they make a big difference. Be at peace with this reality and know the good results are coming somewhere down the road.
  • I need to write. Years ago, I came to the realization that I think better with a pen in my hand (or, more recently, a keyboard under my fingers).
  • It is worthwhile to take a little time for fun, relaxation, and creativity—I watched t.v. with my husband in the evening, read, and went to stamp-camp (where I crafted 6 greeting cards.) yesterday.
  • Keep God in the equation–always keep God in the equation. I went to church. I read, I studied my Bible, and I prayed.

One of my biggest struggles is to maintain a balance life. Writing, reading, creativity, and my faith are essential for me. What do you do to maintain balance in your own literate lifestyle?

“Non-Writing Ways to Become Better Writer.”

In this troubling economy, we have all had to make difficult or unpleasant choices. The bad new is, I need to return to the workplace. The wonderful new is, I get to return to something I love—teaching!
Therefore, as I have been contemplating the need to revise my writing schedule, I found this article from Rachelle Gardner’s Books and Such Blog inspiring: “How to Become a Better Writer: *10 Non-Writing-Related Ideas.” Check it out. I think you’ll like it.

(I particularly liked idea #1.)

Which is your favorite?

Wonderful Words: On Reading

We read stories to make sense of our lives, to be entertained, and to feel something…to be transported to another more lucid and compelling world, to learn about ourselves, what it’s like to be human, and to “meet” someone we can care about. We read stories in order to imagine and to create, and so we ask the writer to tell us a story.

John Dufresne How to Let Plot Guide Your Short Story

Pay Attention: Notice What Nourishes

The other day, as  I was reading the article “A Deeper Knowing,” by A. Calhoun and K. Trujillo on the Kyria website, I was struck by this quote from the book of Isaiah, “You have seen many things, but you pay no attention; your ears are open, but you do not listen.” Although written thousands of years ago, the words of this prophet are truer than ever today. Life moves so fast. It’s easy to miss the little things, even easier to miss the things that lend it joy.

As I’ve written previously, I’m in a “between” time right now. I’m not only between writing projects, but also between careers, between the seasons of the year when the air outdoors is healthy for me to breathe (I have allergies), and between the time my husband has been accepted to and will begin a new education program and a change of occupation.

Each day, job hunting seems to consume my hours. Who would have ever imagined looking for a full-time job could swallow up more hours per week than working one? And so I spend hours trying not to hunch over my computer, keeping my nose to the “grindstone”: get this application filled out, write that cover letter, describe the range of your skills… I guess I can’t complain that I’m not writing, and yet… I’m not writing.

The days slip by. My crocuses bloomed without me ever stepping out onto the patio to admire them. The daffodils are dodging hailstones, and the buds of the tulips I planted last fall are starting to emerge from the protective cocoon of their sheltering leaves. I need to stop and notice. It is these little details that feed the creative soul.

Happily, I can report I continue to jot down notes for my new project. With each new idea my soul sprouts wings, and I yearn to start the writing. And I have found a new occupation for those minutes I lie in bed trying to fall asleep. I collect an alphabet of words that bring me delight—either the sound of them or their meaning—delicious, sapphire, harmony. Often the words are inspired by looking back over my day—gentleness, for my husband’s touch, sparkling, for the shaft of sunlight that broke through the clouds. In remembering, I notice, and my spirit is filled.

What do you do to help you notice what nourishes when life is spinning you along at a madcap pace?

Creativity and the Nurture of the Soul

In The Horn Book Magazine’s July/August 2010 awards issue, Andrea Spooner describes  the childhood of  Jerry Pinkney  (who won the Caldecott Medal for The Lion and The Mouse). She writes:

Jerry Pinkney was born…a middle child in a family of six children. He shared a crowded bedroom with two brothers, and with no physical space to call his own, he created his own personal space with his drawing pad.

As a writer of fiction, folktales, and fantasy, the concept of creativity fascinates me, and what moved me in this little snippet from Jerry Pinkney’s life was the picture it created of how creative endeavor nurtures our spirits.

Once upon a time, I went through a crowded period in my own life when there was no room for the crafting of fiction. I was newly married, the mother of three active kids, and working through a ten-month program to earn both my teaching license and Masters Degree in Education. I was starved for time to create.

Graduation came at last. To my joy, my first folktale was published in Cricket Magazine, although I still had no time to write anything new. I threw myself into finding a teaching job yearning for students to love and a classroom to call my own. Finally I landed a job and the reality of being a brand new, full-time teacher set in. I threw myself into work I loved, yet found as the months passed, a deep well of sadness yawning within me.

After much searching, I finally connected with the source of that sadness. I was grieving my writing. Yes, I had family, friends, and people to love, books to read, and a career I was passionate about. Yet without the mental space to engage in my own writer’s craft, my life had lost its vibrancy and color.

Time for creativity is an important aspect of a life well-lived. For me, it ranks right up there with food to eat, the shelter of my home, clean air, sleep, work, and love. God, the ultimate creator, made humankind in his image. Think about it; we are made to create.

What creative activities feed your soul? What creative activities make a place for you to be who you were made to be?

Gifts of a Grandmother’s Love

I am Yea Yea, that’s Greek for grandma, to two absolutely darling little girls, ages three-years-old and seven-months-old. These precious souls are two of the major delights in my life. Just thinking about them makes me smile!

So what do I get them for Christmas?

There are three categories of gifts I deem a must.

The first is clothes. I buy each of them an outfit. These represent my commitment to my daughter and son-in-law to cherish and protect these beloved little persons. And I pray as these clothes cover their small frames, God will cover their lives with his mercy, protection, and grace.

The second category of gifts is books. I buy each granddaughter a book. As has already been long-established, I love reading, and I want to be part of making sure my little girls have plenty of opportunity to enjoy reading and books throughout their lives. Reading supports and develops not just literacy skills, but the imagination and creativity, two of the primary fuels not just for childhood pleasure, but for the science and industry that powers our economy. And, reading provides connecting points with our world, all while blessing in our lives with stories and characters to love, and information to bolster any interest or need.

The last category of gift is a toy. I get each granddaughter a toy, often something that can help them learn, grow, or develop a skill, but most important something to fuel their delight. Play and delight are intrinsic to the life well-appreciated and lived. Plus, they are essential to developing a capacity for gratitude and wonder, prime facilitators in recognizing the work of God in our lives.

So give some blessings for Christmas. Do you have no kids or grandkids of your own? Pick up a tag from one of the giving trees located in malls, stores, and businesses all over every community. I developed this three-fold strategy of giving when I was the mother of young children and shopped with them each December to provide gifts for children in need..

You don’t have to be yea yea to bless young people this holiday season.