Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Did you notice?

A few weeks ago I met a friend for lunch. During our visit I made a comment on some of the cafĂ©’s artwork. She mentioned that I always seem to notice details. She’s right.

I’m always on the lookout for interesting snippets to incorporate into my fiction. As an author I’m always reading, and I love to take note of an interesting detail that pulls me further into the fictional dream. The more deeply I’m drawn into the story, the more meaningful the book becomes and the more it lingers with me after I’ve read the last page.

Several years ago I went to an Expressionist exhibit at an art museum. The curator mentioned that long before multimedia, people would go to an art show then discuss the picture much in the same way that people discuss a new movie release. That thought intrigued me. To do that, the critics must have REALLY looked hard at the image.

Over the weekend I visited the Denver Art Museum. I strolled through the galleries and wondered what the artists were trying to say through the paintings. Why was the scene outdoors instead of inside? Why was the subject glancing to the right? What significance is there in the other objects in the painting?

When you consider the art, you can find stories inside. The experience helped to jumpstart my creativity. I wondered about so much of what I noticed. One family portrait had the family gathered around the end of the table, but if you look carefully, there was a figure at the other end of the table, shaded so much that you might have missed her. Why did the painter depict her like that? Could she have been a beloved child, now deceased? Another portrait showed a young girl holding a doll dressed in black, one that looked like a little adult. I read some information about that painting, and it said that perhaps the child’s mother was no longer living.

There are so many stories swirling around us, both written with words and crafted with a painter’s brush. What make the stories intriguing are the details.

It’s up to us to notice the details. And it’s all in the details, don’t you think?

BTW, the above portrait is called Lady in Pink, artist unknown. What could her story be?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

One-day local writing conference!

If you're within driving distance from Colorado Springs, or if you want to fly in, there's a great one-day conference coming up in three weeks.

The Peak Writing Conference will be held Saturday, February 5th from 8:00am - 4:00pm.

The keynote speaker is Karen Ball, Executive Fiction Editor for B&H Publishing Group. She'll be teaching three sessions on taming fiction dragons: You may not know it, but they’re there. Five fiction dragons hiding in your writing, just waiting to breathe fire and knock your readers right out of the story. But you can tame them! Bring your current WIP, and get ready to get down nd dirty. In these interactive sessions, we’ll take on the dragons together, and by the time we’re done, they won’t just be tame—they’ll be gone!

There will also be an author/editor panel and a Q&A.

The conference will be held at Holy Trinity Anglican Church, 13990 Gleneagle Drive in Colorado Springs.

I'll be there, will you?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Dear Writer's Block . . .

If you’re a writer, do you carry around a notepad? You should.

I keep a small notebook handy to jot down ideas, bits of overheard conversations, interesting names, intriguing billboard messages, names of streets or towns, and anything that catches my fancy or sparks my imagination. I’ve been able to create scenes from snippets I’ve written down in my little 4.5 x 3.25 inch composition book.

I was looking through my little notebook today and came across a letter I’d written to the dreaded writer’s block. It made me chuckle, and I decided to share it with you.

Dear Writer’s Block,

Thank you for stopping by today. I appreciate your urge to tell me that I don’t have the talent to write another book. Thanks for reminding me of that. (Insert sarcastic snicker here.)

Now that we’re having this conversation, I’ve decided that we should call off our relationship. You are too high maintenance for my temperament. You are also a liar. My writing therapist says you’ve been filling my head with matters that are neither true nor important.

You are a manipulator, Writer’s Block. Despite your best efforts, I will continue to write because of my desire to communicate, to assure people that they’re not the only one who feels “that way,” and to discover more about the human spirit and the power of love. I also believe that by developing my craft, I will move forward in my calling, despite your lack of support.

And so, Writer's Block, this is it. I will no longer allow you to sidetrack my writing efforts. Goodbye, adios, auf wiedersehen, ciao, viso gero, sayonara -- and if you don't understand my sentiment in any of those languages, then let me give it to you simply: don't let the door hit you where the good Lord split you!

Very truly your Ex-Friend,


Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Kindness of Strangers

If at some point in life you haven’t relied on the kindness of strangers or haven’t extended a kindness to a stranger, then face it—you’re not really living. Instead you must be moving through your days wrapped so tightly in your own self-absorbed world that you either haven’t noticed the kindnesses or you don’t bother to pay attention those sharing earth with you.

Several years ago I endured a sad experience that left me with the stunning knowledge that no one needs to show kindness to me. And as a result, I make it a point to always be thankful for even small acts of consideration. I know that someone else’s time or effort on my behalf is a gift.

Last month I was carrying two boxes, one stacked on the other, and was walking into a building. In front of the door were three or four concrete cylinders. You know, those structures to prevent someone from driving through double doors. Anyway, the wind was blowing, and my hair had webbed across my face. I decided to lean the boxes into the cylinder to free a hand so I could tuck my hair behind my ear.

While walking toward the cylinder, a woman’s voice behind me yelled out, “Oh, no. To your right. Move right!” As I got closer to my destination her shouts grew louder and more frantic, “Careful, no! Uh, uh—you’re going to crash!”

I made my desired connection, pushed my hip into the boxes, swiped my hair off my face, and tucked it behind my ear. As I did, footsteps quickened across the pavement, and the woman stopped next to me, asking, “Are you okay?”

When I explained I only wanted to clear my hair from my eyes, we both got a good laugh out of the situation. (I wonder what she though of me as I made a beeline straight to the barrier.) She shook her head and started off on her own errand, but I caught up to her and thanked her for her kindness and attention.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how we interact with the world around us. I’m trying to be more purposeful in acknowledging the little things and rejoicing in the kindness I receive or extend. Sometimes paying it forward is noticing the small things and being of assistance to one another in even trivial matters.

Joy isn’t necessarily found in the big events of life, but rather in the little, day-to-day moments. Don't you agree?