New and Updated Website at DWHirsch.com

May 17, 2016

Hello everyone!

You may have noticed a lack of posts–or you haven’t because I haven’t written anything here to notify you of. The reason? I have moved my WolfHowlings blog over to a self-hosted site:

DWHirsch.com

At this time, this blog will stay open as a static history of me and all of you. I am posting new content at my other blog, and I will get in touch with all of you, my dedicated subscribers, to let you personally know of this change. This was a decision a long time in the making–and a difficult task in the transition. More on that there. The new site is still under construction, and sporatic updates will be posted here.

Come join the fun: all this site had to offer and MORE!!

I look forward to seeing you there.

April 1: Art and #AtoZChallenge

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“A sense of humor is a major defense against minor troubles.”~Mignon McLaughlin, American writer
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Welcome to Day 1 of the AtoZ Blog Challenge. Today I feel more Zzzzzz than Awake. April is just one of those busy months. And, really, how did it become the 4th month of 2016 already?

I chose an easy enough theme this year so I could actually complete AtoZ this year, and I totally forgot what April is. April is National Poetry Month. That I knew, but I wasn’t thinking about that at all when I decided to do Alphabet Haiku as my AtoZ Challenge.

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What I didn’t know is that this year marks the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month. The social media hashtag #NationalPoetryMonth is exploding throughout the creative writing world.

Creating writing and catching up is just another theme with me this month, as I will complete the remaining letters of last year’s AtoZ Challenge: 26 Ways to Distract a Writer. Did you ever have one of those nagging things that you just can’t let go of, no matter how practical or useful it is to do that? For me, last year’s AtoZ is that. I’ll post those new links here as they get posted, which means you’ll have to come back every day if you want to find out how Jayne and her Writerself tale ends…for now.

If you want an idea of what Jayne is up to, read about her first day on the procrastination journey here.

Art is something I’ve struggled with lately, from Artist Trading Cards to Zentangle. I was an active member on ATCs For All, a delightfully creative online site for people to trade art with other artists. One of the most delightful events there was the monthly Bizarre Holiday Swap. Even my husband enjoyed seeing those cards! This is a mixed-media card I made from one of the those swaps:


Today’s Bizarre Holiday: One Cent Day. One cent and the 1st day of April. No April Fools here.

It’s been awhile since I’ve created art like that. I stepped back from that because I lost the interest and the thrill. I know when I feel the pull of it again, I’ll enjoy it even more.

For now, I’m enjoying my poetry journey. I hope you do, too.

Rediscovering Zentangle in a coffeeshop

“Life isn’t about finding yourself; Life is about creating yourself.”~George Bernard Shaw, Irish writer

Today, I am doing just that.

One month ago, Colleen contacted me about Zentangle classes. I’m not actively teaching, but the big-box craft store I had been teaching at never updated their website. Truth is, mine was cobwebby as well. I felt so gosh darn sad, guilty and responsible for no reason that I told her we could meet and tangle together. We found a midpoint between us in a local coffeeshop, and we met for the first time last week.

I forgot the newfound passion one has for discovering Zentangle. You see, for me it’s been so much a “job” or “profession” that I haven’t enjoyed it. I haven’t tangled in–what, months? years? I’m embarrassed to think about that.

My mind still goes back to that strong memory I have as a newly-minted CZT. I sat on the couch next to my husband, enthralled with it all. He watched TV and I tangled on a black tile. Content.

Somewhen after that, Zentangle contentment became commitment. I had to post weekly entries in the delightful Diva Zentangle Challenge to remain in people’s minds. I had to look for teaching gigs because I knew anyone could benefit from this art. I had to blog about Zentangle so that others knew my passion. In all that busyness, I lost the innocence and the joy. It was there, but buried under so much duty that I forgot to be excited.

Until today.

Colleen is that younger me: unsure but boundless, timid yet bold, amazed by the creations and creativity, exploding with possibilities. The first time we met, her enthusiasm oozed onto the table and into my coffee cup. Why wasn’t I excited like she was? It all overwhelmed me, partly because she wanted me to teach classes. She had to share this with her world, with the world, and she had all sorts of marketing and promotion and location ideas. She was my strongest advocate for me since me.

Where was she a year ago?

No, that’s an excuse because it would not have mattered. I was struggling to balance my job with two time-consuming passions: writing and Zentangle. I couldn’t commit to both, so they both suffered. No one I met recently was excited about Zentangle, which was discouraging. I wasn’t excited. My writing, however…I’m a da#n good writer–always have been, always will be–and here I was wasting precious writing time on unfulfilling Zentangle.

That’s why and when I chose to step back. It took me about 3 months to convince myself that I was okay to do this and that I had the courage to let go. Yet seven months later, I found myself in a coffee shop discussing teaching. I felt trapped.

I calendared time to meet with her again–remember, the guilt–and today is our second day together. I told her I didn’t want to teach formally, standing at the front of a room with a large pad of paper on an easel, but a casual meeting like this would be okay.

Once I released my expectations, or perhaps it was my commitments, I relaxed.

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Preparing to tangle with what I’ll call an “abstract celtic knot”

I suggested we do this week’s Diva Zentangle Challenge #259: Touch of Irish, interpreting St. Patrick’s Day however we chose. I wanted green.

The green marker I had with me was scraggly and dry. I thought a wash with paint or my Inktense pencils would rejuvenate my love of those art supplies, but they were at home. If I didn’t finish the tile here and now, it wouldn’t get done otherwise. Using what I had, I pulled two green ink pens out of my writing bag. Colleen had a great idea to do a Celtic Knot string. I found the traditional triangle image, but didn’t want to spend a lot of time getting it oh-so-perfection. I sketched it quickly in pencil–I was excited to actually tangle, not drawing–and came up with this weird Knot reflection. I like to think if you turned my image inside-out and around, you’d see a crude knot there, and that’s what I’m going with.

Ink pens don’t flow well on Zentangle tiles; at least these pens didn’t. I knew in my mind’s eye what I wanted to create, but I didn’t know how. I figured I’d just feel it along the way.

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Notice how it disappears off the edges into beautiful nothingness

I wanted the emphasis to be the circle and the center space that didn’t feel complete as just white space. I over-overdid the center area, and now it is the dusty focus, or that’s how my eyes see it.

Like Zentangle philosophy–I haven’t forgotten that–I accepted it. Slowly; I did forget how to be Zen with the process and be forgiving with myself. It was not what I imagined, but what it became.

Colleen, of course, loved it, sparkled by the touch of color everywhere. She asked for my casual guidance and input along her way, and we shared inspiration alongside un-oozy coffee. She felt hers was choppy in comparison, but I adored the fun and fresh lines of someone at the beginning of her journey.

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Together: the tools of inspiration and creation

Remember, it’s all in our eyes and our mind.

I’m relearning, too. Stay tuned.

Today is about the choices you make

“People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude.”~John C. Maxwell, American clergyman

It’s little things that change your day and alter your mood.

It was a crazy day at work in the morning. I mean, weird crazy busy. I was a bit cranky because of that and rescheduling doctor appointments and then having my “regular” table at Starbucks occupied.

I was settling into the less-than-perfect table when the guy next to me waves at me and points. He wears an orange knit cap and bright orange t-shirt, jamming to some music he was listening to. He pulled his headphones off to say that he liked my socks. “Those are cool socks,” he said, grinning and nodding his head in respect for someone who is funky enough to wear multi-colored plaid socks. At least that’s what I like to think. Day brightened!

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Goodbye January. Hello Month 2!

That’s a good thing because I am still torn from last night’s contest entries in the Specialty Craft Articles and Personal Blog categories. Dare I say, I write too well to choose just two entries each? That is a darn good problem to have.

I am a writer. I say that with no shame. Yes, I am a talented writer. Ditto, no shame. I embrace my creative work and know that even if I don’t place in the contest that I have still won.

How different my writing is today compared to a year ago. I didn’t realize the changes until I scrolled through every blog post of mine looking for something award-worthy. I promote my books less and my share my experiences more. I give advice, I discuss my struggles, I open up to my passions and I have fresh funness with everything. Part of that comes from refocusing my life and my blog accordingly. Not to get all transcendental on you, I realized that Zentangle was distracting me from writing. I needed to step back and focus on my forever passion: writing.

What do I like about my writing? My blog, I appreciate the variety of topics I choose, the events I participate in, the knowledge I share. Of my articles, I enjoy the tight writing I do, weaving creative words and phrases into the text as if they were always meant to be there. I’m fortunate to have a community of supportive blog readers–that’s you!–and a thoughtful, trusting editor.

Even here, now, it’s hard to still grasp how important these changes are for me. But last night, as I weaved through the blogposts and flipped through magazines, I was impressed with my work, more than I expected. I’m exploring these thoughts over the next couple of days, and I hope you will grasp some strength and perspective from me to apply to your own self.

Today, just compliment someone’s socks or shoes or purse or watch or coat or hairstyle. You have the power to make them smile.

My latest time-suck: Twitter Chats

“Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.”~Mark Twain, American author

Twitter.  8pm or 9pm EST.  ‘Nuff said.

In my quest to keep up with my social media here, I find the time not to check Twitter is at 8 or 9pm EST. That is when the Twitter Chats come alive.

Twitter chats are themed meetups where people discuss a particular topic and then quickly get off-topic, which is what makes these things so addictive. If you imagine Twitter as one, big hotel, Chats are separate rooms identified by specific hashtags similar to room numbers. Anyone can join in the discussion as long as you know the hashtag. There’s probably a list out there of common Twitter chats I’d enjoy, but I experience enough of a time-suck as it is because I’m constantly stumbling on them.

When I see someone I’m following using a particular hashtag over and over and over, especially in rapid-fire posts, I click on that hashtag to see what what’s going on in that room. This is why I’m not going to seek out a Twitter list; the discovery is half the surprise. There are two that I regularly follow when I can. This week, I calendared three new ones for next week.

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Showcasing one of my bookshelves in the #RockMyTBR Twitter Chat

The topics of Chats stay consistent while changing to keep it fresh. The #RockMyTBR (Saturdays 9pm EST) is a network of readers hosted by @thebooktraveler and @melanielost celebrating each other’s piles of books To Be Read. I just discovered #k8chat (Thursdays, 9pm EST) hosted by @K8Tilton where discussion revolves around topics of building worlds in your book, publishing and other topics of valuing yourself and your writing. #StoryDam is an online writing community who gather with @StoryDam (Thursdays, 8pm EST) to motivate writers to write their stories and offer advice how to move past the struggles that prevent writing. Oh, there was another new one I engaged in: #CraveChat by @CornerBakery. That’s an afternoon one (Wednesdays 1pm EST), and I haven’t figured that topic yet because I keep diving in to the conversation midway. There’s always talk of coffee and pastries. Good enough for me.

Topics are what draw people in to gather and commune. The host plans out questions to ask, and posts them using the intro Q1 or Q2 or whatever the number a particular question is. People respond to that specific question by starting Tweets off with A1 or A2 or whatever corresponds to the question. Then people get off-topic, and that’s where the “social” part of social media kicks in.

Many chats start off with virtual tea or coffee. Some have cookies. Some combine wine with chocolate. Notice how everyone’s become off-topic before the fun even begins?

What do I get from all of this, besides a major time-suck of my evenings? I discover new friends and followers, find new blogs, discuss new books, gain motivation and inspiration, learn techniques and tips, and eat a lot of virtual snacks. All that is good for my mind and my waistline.

Are you keepin’ it real today?

“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.”~Eleanor Roosevelt, American First Lady

It’s only 1:36pm as of this writing, and I already want to file today in the Let Me Forget pile.

Yes, feelings are real, and as crappy as they may be right now, I’m embracing them. Heck, makes me want to break out Jimmy The Burglar: Thief of Socks and give him a cranky day. Not counting the day after he robs the sock boutique, that is. Some days I eat my emotions; today, I want to write them.

Read any motivational quote and you’ll get some version of “without bad days we’d never know good days.” Why can’t I just have all good days? I recognize them, trust me, I will. I’d appreciate good days because I’d always be in a good mood. Others might say, but where’s the drama in that?

Some days I don’t want to be a TNT commercial.

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But really, what’s real? It’s whatever we give ourselves over to, actually real or not. It’s the beauty of immersing ourselves in books. Of creating worlds. Of soaking into a deep movie. If we believe, then for that while and maybe a little time after, it’s real.

Right now, my coffee is cold, so it’s time for a second cup. I really need that, especially since the Starbucks I’m in just got chilly. Really chilly. So it’s really time for that Clover brew.

If you’re having a real day, share a comment with me. If you’re not having a real day, commiserate with me. Either way, we’ll share strength together. And coffee. Or tea; your choice of beverage.

A chill blogging #WeekendCoffeeShare in Detroit

If we were having coffee…

Oh my gosh. Isn’t this the most chill coffeehouse you’ve ever been in? It is for me, and that’s saying a lot. I can’t even call it a “coffeeshop” because that commonplace word doesn’t do this place justice.

Can you believe we were in Philly just a few days ago? It feels like an eternity, but it’s easy to slip back into life here in Michigan.

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Organic coffee and personal service with for-here mugs and water in old milk bottle pitchers

The Bottom Line Coffee in Detroit. For a hole in the wall with a plain black awning out front and the entrance through the side alley, who knew about the local feel in here. I love it when a place serves drinks in for-here mugs. My Americano is smooth. How’s your drink? Are you steady on your wobbly, black wooden chair? It’s a good thing I do those yoga exercises on my WiiFit. Sure, it’s nothing like a real instructor and I don’t expect it to be, but the postures help my balance, so I’m steady perched on my chair.

I feel awkward talking loud with you. It’s whisper quiet in here, a library with a cool, hip vibe. I just Shazamed the music overhead; it’s Chet Baker and now Gene Ammons. It’s good I have a strong espresso drink at my side. My husband’s sitting next to you, but he’s on his laptop, so we have plenty of space to talk.

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Americano, apple empanada and brownie, all necessary for good writing

I just came from the most amazing Motown Writers Network meeting to date! The attendance was the largest I’ve seen since I started going almost two years ago; I lost count after 21 people showed up. Two years. Wow, I hadn’t realized that. I get as much from it as I give. As a published and award-winning author, I have a lot of experience and advice to share. I gain resources from others, like using Fiverr to source out projects or If This Then That (ITTT) as an avenue for social media blasts. I haven’t used either yet, but they come up at every meeting. I will, soon.

Today the meeting was about blogging. A lot of people here were first timers, and many of them didn’t have blogs. At least, not until today. One writer told me he was going home to set up a blog tonight! A good blog has the mobile-friendly setting enabled. A good blog has a subscription list or email form to follow blog. Gosh, I am so behind in doing that. My MailChimp account is set up, but I think I have a few steps to do before I can install it or whatever. I think when we’re done here, I’ll make a list of what I think I need to do first and work from there. I’ll be sure to set up a “Thank you for subscribing” email with a link to something…special, maybe a subscriber-only story or how-to post. Whatever it is, it’ll be cool, so I hope you’ll come back then. I’ll let you know here when I’m ready to go.

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Life is good

What makes a blog get views? Collaborate with other bloggers–are you interested? I write nonfiction, currently memoirs, haiku and my Jimmy The Burglar quirky crime fiction series. We don’t have to write the exact same material to benefit from each other. It’s all about exposure and sharing. Sharing content, too, is a way to get people to your blog. Make sure Share buttons are visible on your site.

The most memorable advice I got from MWN founder Sylvia Hubbard was about sharing. Post snippets of your best works or posts on social media sites and link back to your blog. In her words: “Use your social media as bread crumbs leading back to your site.” I knew that, I’m working on that, but the phrase “bread crumbs” just blew me away. Perfect!

Interested in sharing a French Press? My husband and I were talking about that earlier; I don’t know if he’s too caffeinated already, but we can all share. Get it? I can only imagine the organic Sumatra here is exciting. Besides, I haven’t heard about your week. What’s new with you?

Let’s try this #ROW80 thing again

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”~Ralph Waldo Emerson, American poet

It’s that time of year for resolution and Round of Words.

I didn’t keep up with ROW80 much last round. It seemed like a good idea, all that accountability, but I’ve set goals on so many sites that it was hard to remember to follow up and post there. Now it’s a new year and I’m still anti-Resolution, so you wont see any of that nonsense here. Goals, however, are a different matter….

My Detroit writers group, Motown Writers Network, starts each monthly meeting with a recap and projection of everyone’s 30-Day Challenge. Smaller bites, easier chunks, and three 30-Days equals one ROW80.

My next MWN meeting is this Saturday, January 9th. Pulling out my journal, my December goals were:

1–Publish Jimmy the Burglar: Thief of Socks.
2–New business cards
3A–Blog planning
3B–Blog self-hosting
4–Memoir/Scrivener
5–Heal fractured finger
6–Read blogs

These are my results:
1–Jimmy is not published. It’s just as well; I had enough activity in December with Christmas, holiday plans, and visiting family. As family members get older, spending time with them is not sacrificing writing. But it’s a NaNoWriMo story that I’m actually working towards completion, and I have a solid rough 2nd draft at the moment. I consider that success.

2–I still have old biz cards, and I have no idea what I want new ones to look like. It’s a rebranding of me, and something I will get to later in the year. I have other things to set in place first…like…

3A–YES! I am developing a system of blog planning, writing down a schedule and ideas and all that. Yes, I am all that, and more. It’s a work in progress, but I’ve started it. I expect by the end first quarter, I’ll have a good schedule to work from.

3B–I lumped this in with 3A initially, but it really is a separate step. It’s probably really simple, but it’s unknown; therefore, I have postponed it.

4–Laziness = No. The holidays are over, no travel or big projects loom ahead, so now it’s time to read the email and fix what I may or may not have screwed up back in September.

5–YES, mostly. I’m exercising the muscles, I have a lot more motion, but the swelling is still there. I’ll keep this on my list because it is ongoing.

6–No. This is now part of #3A. My “blog planning” includes social media activity, and I’m fitting that into my schedule slowly. I’ve caught up; now the goal is to maintain.

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How could I NOT buy this eternal shirt?

Which brings me back to A Round of Words in 80 Days. By the end of the first quarter–or ROW80 Round 1 dates of January 4-March 24, 2016–these are my ROW80 Round 1 goals:

1–Polish and publish Jimmy the Burglar: Thief of Socks. Possibly I’ll find an editor along the way.
2–Find and do a blog self-hosting site. Two folks from my critique group, Deadwood Writers, have offered assistance. Just sit down with them or read their emails and as the shoe company says, just do it.
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3–Blog planning. Besides planning and drafting posts, this includes developing a regular schedule for:
…..3A–Twitter
…..3B–Instagram
…..3C–Facebook Author Page (shudder; I dislike FB)
…..3D–Amazon Author Page
…..3E–Reading more blogs
4–Update my blog: About Me; Resources; all that and any new tabs. This may be ongoing, but start somewhere, woman!
5–Fractured finger, heal thyself.
6–Make progress on memoir My Father, My Friend using Scrivener. What do I define as “progress?” I’m breaking the rules here, but I’m leaving that vague for now. Anything I do is more than I’ve done at this moment of typing.
7–Make time to play. Be it scrapbooking, playing in my blog-planning planner, mixed-media art, massages, whatever…make time for me.
8–Do some fun writing. Whatever that is!

Let’s start there and see where the first quarter takes me. What about you? Where is your first 3 months taking you…or where are you taking your first 3 months?

What socks can teach us about life

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”~Frederick Douglass, American author

The conversation went something like this:

SHE (to class): “What three words describe you?”

ME (raising my hand): “Whimsical, charming, persnickety.”

SHE (to me): “‘Persnickety.’ That’s a good one.”
SHE (to class): “That’s for sure because I work with her. She’s persnickety alright, and she wears wild socks. Everyday we walk in and wonder and look, ‘What kind of fun socks is she wearing today?'”

Everyone turns to look at me. I raise one leg and show off my orange-and-black striped socks.

SHE: “There you go. Anyone else have three words about themselves?”

I had no idea my whimsy was noticed and appreciated; beyond myself, of course. Well, that’s not true. A woman in my writers group mentioned them once, but it was the first time I wore some funky orange patterned socks my husband gave me, so I thought her comment was a one-time thing. The socks which add a quirkiness to what could be a mundane day makes my coworkers smile, something I would not have know if she had not mentioned it. Who knows who else has noticed them in passing and not said anything?

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Chillin’ with my aptly-named skeleton, Socks, before Halloween

Far from lecturing here, tell people what catches your eye, whether it’s their socks, necklace, shirt, or whatever. Gals, we know that we often dress for other women, so let her know she’s amazing that day. Guys, a simple “That’s cool” to another guy or “(Pet name), you look extra-lovely today. That (clothing/hairstyle) looks great.”

I’m wearing my socks, crazy and non-standard as they are. In fact, now that I have a sock standard in my life, my feet tighty whities may be relegated to exercise socks, the kind I don’t mind if they get a hole in them…unless my WiiFit board says something about them. My WiiFit is the friendly sort, so who knows?

Be your extra-self today.

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