Is writing ever wasted?

“Work hard for what you want because it won’t come without a fight.”~Leah LaBelle, Canadian musician

Wrapping up the Month of Little Things is a photo reminder of those precious moments. It’s easy enough to do; there are a lot of phone apps out there for you to create A Picture A Day composite. I use Photo 365, because if your day is too awesome for one memory, this app lets you post more than one photo to the day, even though only one is visible on the calendar. I don’t stress if I miss a day or three, but since I take so many pics and screenshots, I almost always fill a box.

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I spy a happy plant–Sprout is a baby tree, actually–WiiFitness activity, Swarm checkin moments and other celebrations. and coffee shops. Three days in a row writing in coffee shops

Speaking of writing, remember that brief tirade of stress yesterday about my contest and procrastination? I chose to cut one entry from the final submission package, which was, surprisingly, a good thing.

I posted a photo yesterday on Instagram of the holiday memoir I was working on. That’s the one I removed from the contest submission. The writing of it was not a failure, it was not wasted time.

First off, that piece only somewhat fit the category requirements for Holiday Memoir. The event I wrote about did happen at Christmastime, but it didn’t have anything to do specifically with the holiday. I liked that entry, but I found a better one from an earlier piece of writing that came from my journal. In fact, all three pieces were previous half-written material, but they fit the contest requirement because none of them have been published.

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Farewell…for now

So that vignette didn’t make it. Big deal, or no big deal. Does that leave me with another half-finished piece of writing? Absolutely. But now I have a piece that I can tweak into something else in the future. Besides, I would have had to do some serious editing to make that fit the required word count, and I was not prepared to do that. I let it go.

I had to edit the other three entries anyway, and I forgot how tough tight writing is. Every word occupies valuable real estate on the page. The word count for poetry was 100; mine was 85, cut down from 120 words. the Holiday Memoir category was between 200-400 words; I got mine down from 533 to 371 words. The First Page of a Novel had a word count of 250; I made it at 199 words. Since I waited until the 11th hour to submit–literally, about 11:30pm–there was no way I would’ve been able to do justice to make that 789 word moment into a cohesive, intriguing 400 word story. I cut it entirely.

When I wrote it, I expected to have a ruthless editing session to make it work, but by the time I got past the backstory into the actual event, it was a mess. It takes a talented writer to condense 400-ish words, chopping a piece in half. It also takes time. I have the talent but not the time.

Still, what made that exercise so good is that I was writing. I wasn’t spending time planning or blogging or planning blogposts. I wasn’t editing or rewriting or thinking about writing–I was writing. Not journaling; creative writing with a purpose. I felt free. I missed that feeling of initial creation. I’ve been so bogged down in external nonsense that I forgot to write for fun. That’s one of my ROW80 goals achieved.

Retro love

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”~Martin Luther King, Jr., American leader

I’ve been feeling nostalgic lately.

Do you remember any class in school where you had a creative writing assignment? If so, you may have stressed out about writing that first line. That’s when your teacher would say “Just freewrite,” which meant for the next however many minutes, you wrote whatever thoughts came to mind, without stopping.

Your pen. Remember those? Or maybe you wrote with a pencil. Regardless, it was–and still is–a stick that you hold in your hand that produces a visual image when pressed down on a surface. I mention this because I don’t think we do remember these anymore.

I watched a YouTube video the other day, and the host was a teenager or a girl in her early 20s. She created some art with her hands and then had to write some information down. “My cursive is terrible,” she wined. “I haven’t written in cursive since middle school. Looks like I have to practice my handwriting. It looks terrible.”

First, as a writer or blogger or artist, never apologize for anything you do save technical difficulties or natural disasters beyond your control. Even then, explain don’t excuse.

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My husband shares my nostalgia in this gift to me (us)

What made her comment doubly bad was that she made an excuse for not using her talented hands to write. Much of society has lost touch with the tactile, with the real. I haven’t tangled in awhile–something I miss, and a whole separate topic–but I do journal by hand. No online diary for me, except for this blog. I write and edit my stories. I use colorful pens to make it more fun. Heck, what happened to crayons?

Twitter chats this week were retro: what books do you recall fondly from your childhood? Favorite high school trip? When did you see your first concert? What video game(s) rocked your world? For the record, my answers include:
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
–Cancun, Mexico (seriously!)
–Hall & Oates Big Bam Boom tour…you do the math
–Joust, Sinistar, Dig Dug, Mappy and Gauntlet

So I have been missing that lately, the delightful memories of youth. The times when I felt young and free and safe. What about you? Is there something you miss from long ago, or just from last year? Times change, but our memories do not.

I want to go home and color.

Social media haiku

“The best way to pay for a lovely moment is to enjoy it.”~Richard Bach, American writer

Today was a delicious day, and it was totally media free.

It was a long drive back to Michigan yesterday, and my husband and I both took today off. I slept guiltlessly until 10:30am, getting out of bed only because I was hungry. It took a lot of effort to microwave my meal, so I stretched out on my LoveSac for a two hour nap.

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Haiku Horizons #98: Find”

At 4pm, I finally showered, ran a few errands and came home to relax with another easy-to-prepare meal. We ventured out for our annual sneak peek of the Plymouth Ice Festival at about 9pm, but tarps covered the carved sculptures to keep them as cold as possible before the 40-degree temps hit our area on Saturday. We did see some carving being done on a side street: a half-completed Norse-style dragon and a flying bald eagle. Then home for the night.

What makes this day delicious–aside from the sleep and nap–is that I didn’t touch my smartphone all day. I turned the ringer off, turned the alert volume to mute, and I left it face down on the bed until after I showered.

For almost 18 hours, I did not check email, status updates, alerts or voicemails, nor did I play any games.

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Finding myself in a haiku

It felt wonderful!

No guilt. No stress. What surprised me was that I did not feel itchy to check my phone even though I live with it connected to my hip. I was able to focus on other things around me: my husband, the TV, the blinking Christmas tree lights, the softness of the blanket, and my daydreams. I was active in our conversations and I looked out the window when we drove around. I found things to do to keep me from being bored. You know, like before there was Internet.

Have you ever unplugged from the world? How did it feel? Or why do you feel you can’t do it?

A new year, a new #WeekendCoffeeShare

If we were having coffee…

It’s kinda nice to get out of the house, isn’t it?

Yeah, it’s not like I’ve been cooped up all week–far from it!–but sitting in this Starbucks gives us some space to spread out. Too bad that local coffee shop in Maple Glen closed. It was charming. They started a tab for me the last time I was there. How cool was that? How dangerous was that? I wanted to show my husband, but alas. I was hoping we’d meet there, too, but this is the best we’ve got at 6:12pm.

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Happy New Year in Philly

Happy New Year! How did you spend yours? My husband and I were crossing the highway hand-in-hand when everyone tooted horns and yelled out windows. We made it to Sugarbush Casino to see the fireworks over Philadelphia. Much warmer than last year, and this spot in Philly is easier to get to. Maybe you’ll be in town to join us?

My gosh, a worldwind week: shopping in New York City; train ride from New Jersey; craft stores in North Wales here; mall shopping at King of Prussia and here in Montgomery Mall; coffee shops everywhere; and so much more. The weather was great all week.

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Believe in the magic of Christmas and window displays

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Celebrating in the City and beyond

It was in the 40s when we were in the City, perfect for walking around. Times Square was the most crowded, maybe because some streets were already blocked off for the ball drop the next day. The Macy’s window displays were creative. The bookish geek in me adored the Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus display, but the Charlie Brown animatronic windows were divoon. My favorite was the Red Baron one with Snoopy decorating his dog house in lights then taking off into the sky among fireworks. The way the curtain of clouds revealed the story made everyone gasp.

We found some fun Starbucks Christmas tree ornaments and exclusive Times Square mugs. It rained only as we got to Penn Station for the train home, and of course we got roasted nuts. No trip to the City is complete without nuts.
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The Penn State bowl game yesterday was a loss, but it wasn’t. My husband and I watched the game with the Montco Penn State Alumni Chapter. They hosted it at a bar and provided free appetizers. The final score was 24-17 Georgia, but our team came back with two 4th quarter touchdowns to make it a game at the end. It all came down to the last play of the game, and it was a real effort. No one gave up, and we don’t feel bad about the outcome. Okay, we hoped they would win, but the soul and the spirit that the players showed was enough for me to feel proud about it all.

I did get some writing done, as well as some writing organization. I didn’t touch Jimmy the Burglar: Thief of Socks once I chose not to publish by December 31, but I did some blogging, some planning for blog and writing time, and I’m catching up on my much-neglected social media.

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Lucky the puppy flops on the stairs waiting for head and tummy scritches

It’s strange that people are going back to work tomorrow, but we’re still on vacation until Wednesday. Not that I mind. It’s been nice visiting with my in-laws and the puppy. Eat, nap, scratch, eat, sleep…oh, the life of a dog. I feel like that today since I’m sleeping in tomorrow.
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Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? I haven’t, and I don’t intend to. It’s complicated but really simple: I don’t want the pressure. I’m being kind to myself that way, but that’s why this whole writing-planning thing is important. I’m setting goals and striving towards them, which is different than “resolutions.”

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Together time: he whooped my butt in air hockey

It’s been all about food. There was brunch last Sunday, pizza from another delicious hole-in-the-strip-mall Italian restaurant here, more pizza in the City, homemade lasagna, Wawa subs and…. Let me say that I’m looking forward to getting home if only to eat “normal” food and exercise on my WiiFit.

It’s really been all about family. And the puppy. My husband and I had together time, we talked with his folks around the dinner table a few nights, we played with the puppy, stuff like that. His folks are getting older, so it’s good that we make these times to be together. Make no mistake, I wasted many hours playing games on my phone and watching YouTube videos, but we were here in the house with them. Sometimes just being is enough.

Care for more coffee or tea? There’s free in-store refills for Starbucks Gold Card members, and I have yet to hear what you’ve been up to. How was your week?

It’s all fun and games with a twist this Halloween

Welcome to the annual Halloween Blog Party hop sponsored by A Fanciful Twist. Come stay, play and eat for awhile, and then hop over to the other parties you’ll find.

For now, walk up to the door.  Don’t be scared by the warning.  The zombies just cross the sidewalk; they don’t come inside the house.

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Greeted on the other side by our host, Sehlat.

“Welcome to my 6th Halloween party here.  Tonight is just about fun and games.  Come in, come in….”

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“Are you hungry?” he asks.  “There’s a buffet table in the other room.  Help yourself to some finger food.”

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“The coffin dip is on the kitchen counter.  Don’t worry about the crypt keeper.  He just hangs around.”

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In the living room, there’s a furious game of Scrabble in progress.  Snufflet and Finse keep score, but they’re in third place.  Lasso is last for the moment.  Socks is winning by 9 points, and she is quite happy about that. 

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Blue places her tiles for a score of 6, and the fourth round begins.

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Snufflet and Finse study their tiles intently….

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On the other side of the room, a game of Jenga has just started.  Boo Peeps celebrates his skill removing the his block.  It’s Snuff’s turn, so he looks up and studies the tower.  Otter, Brownie and Frost offer suggestions as they pace around the structure.

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There’s a warm, smoky smell coming from the kitchen. Appetizers are out of the oven.

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“My famous homemade Mummitizers,” Sehlat says, straightening his shoulders as he sets the tray down. “There are two types: savory and sweet. The sausage wraps are ones are a tad smoky. The banana ones have a touch of hazelnut spread to them. Be sure to take a napkin because the mummies are known to leak the sauce out onto your fingers.”

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It’s tough to say “Thank You” with a full mouth, but a nod is enough for Sehlat. With a smile and nod back, he takes off the oven mitts, grabs a nutty mummy and wanders into another room to mingle.

In the parlor, Whiffer and Ploppers hover over a handheld game. They’re playing Nintendogs on the special pink paw Nintendogs Nintendo DS console, a unit that was a limited edition.

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On the screen, Rosie the dachshund has been fed, washed, and now decides between a nap or playing ball.

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Wades, Tuesday, Prickles and Ice start a game of Clue.

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“Clue is a murder mystery game,” says Wades.  “Does anyone object to a more appropriate setting? 

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“Not at all,” says Prickles.  “What did you have in mind?”

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“This,” says Wades, and with a click flick of her wrist, the black light turns on.

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“What do you think?” she asks.

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“Oh, this is much better,” says Prickles.

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“Spooky-eerie,” says Tuesday, smiling beneath his mask.

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“Indeed,” says Ice.  “Let’s roll.”

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“Desserts are ready,” says a booming voice in the kitchen. Frankenpudding with tart orange cider.

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Hyde has already wandered over to the freshly-dipped caramel treats. He’s a favorite of the nut covered ones, but the smooth caramel looks enticing tonight.

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“It’s a football Saturday,” Catnap tells new lion. “Before Penn State takes the field, let’s get in some practice now.”

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If you’re looking for more games, there’s a pile in the corner, and there’s lots of Guys around to join in the fun.

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Sehlat calls the partygoers over for a round or three of group MadLibs.

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Friendship. Games. Chocolate. Makes for a good party. Hope you’ll be staying for awhile….

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Smartphones, Yahtzee and more in #WeekendCoffeeShare

“Change is the law of life.”~John F. Kennedy, American president.

If we were having coffee, I’d share a joke with you that my husband made. I’d pull out my iPhone–ironic, right?–and show you the picture he asked me to take of his first iPhone next to his 6+. Seeing them side by side, he observed how cute they were together, like those My First toys: “My First Craftsman,” “My First Barbie,” “My First record player,” and “My First iPhone.”

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If we were having coffee, I would show you an app on my iPhone and tell you I have found my Happy Place with Swarm, The Check-in App Formerly Known As Foursquare. I hated the change, breaking the original cool app into two separate ones. I fought the change, I boycotted the app, but I missed following my friends. I downloaded the app. Little by little, Swarm put back the features we users all loved. Mayorships have returned, badges are available for the hunt once more, and the new add-a-sticker feature is cool for sharing your mood. I never sought out badges-stickers before, but now I challenge myself to figure out the clues in this game. Tonight, I earned the Pizza Owl badge with my take-out order from Benito’s Pizza.

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Pizza Owl badge: intimidating yet tasty

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Speaking of games, if we were having coffee, I would tell you about the games I play with my husband. Not those kind of games, but our games in Starbucks. About seven years ago, Starbucks stores offered fun items for sale, probably an attempt to encourage more people to make the coffee store their third home. They sold travel games, specifically Travel Scrabble and Travel Yahtzee. My husband and I bought both of them–in downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan as I recall–and we play often. That game and a Frappuccino make up our “date night” several times a week. Travel Scrabble takes too long and requires too much thought, so Travel Yahtzee is (his) game of choice.

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We often get large straights
on our first roll

I grew up playing board games with my parents, but this is more of a novelty for my husband. We’ve played this game at every coffee shop we go to, but most often in Starbucks. As a scrapbooker, I have every game sheet we’ve played. In that time, he has had the highest score–somewhere between 600-800 points–and he has swept two cards.

We also take pictures of every Yahtzee we each roll. Yes, I have a stack of Yahtzee photos.

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That’s right, I rolled a Yahtzee.
Deal with it.

On this very day, while drinking a mocha Frappuccino, I swept my first card.
Boom!
That’s how I roll. One more sweep and we’re even.

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That’s right: my second Yahtzee helps me win the game…and more

It’s friendly competition. If we were having coffee, I’d ask if you want to play a game with us.  We have plenty of photocopied scoresheets, and we travel with 5 different colored ink pens. You never know when a weekend coffee friend will come along.

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My first swept Yahtzee scoresheet

Writer procrastination, brought to you by the letter B

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Welcome to Day B of the A to Z Challenge. What you will learn this month is: 26 Ways to Procrastinate a Writer
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2. The second way to procrastinate a writer: BEACH balls

Granted, just about any ball will do, but some options are better. Bouncy balls are hard and tend to play hide-n-seek with you, winning because they lodge themselves under the couch and hunker down until you get new furniture. Footballs can break windows, and baseballs can knock over frames and break glass. Very few houses have a basketball court hoop in their living room. Nerf balls are soft but bland: their bouncing consists of a soft plunk on the carpet or a withering slunk down the wall. A desktop basketball Nerf combines both, but this game may become annoying as the writer gets up every 15 seconds to pick up the ball just to toss and miss again.

The beach ball is ideal because there are multiple sizes to coordinate with a small office or a large deck, and since it is soft plastic filled with air, the risk of physical or material damage is minimal. In fact, there is a pleasant pa-doink sound when the ball hits someone on the head. The beach ball makes a great distraction as the urge for a writer to play overwhelms the task of typing. Setting a beach ball back and forth across a room or in a circle of chairs reminds the writer that there is a world outside their cramped computer desk or writing corner, and one should never let Life pass you by. Finally, the colors are cheerful green-yellow-red-blue, reminding the writer of tropical vacations and relaxing times under palm trees, thoughts more worth ruminating on than writing–unless the writer is crafting a fun-filled sandy scene. Writers, however, rarely write fun stuff that doesn’t feel like work to them, so this is an unlikely situation.

Jayne is Write Beside Herself

“Tomorrow’s Friday,” Tom said in his teasing voice.

“Yes, it is,” Jayne replied, tossing peppers into the stir-fry.

Friday, she thought. The end of a week, another great, unproductive writing week. Yeah, Tom can relax, but not me. I haven’t earned that. Unless. Well, I can get up early Saturday morning and get some writing done before Tom gets up. Maybe he’ll want to visit his folks, and I’ll just say that I need some time to…to what? To finish my character, yeah. If I knuckle down and bang out maybe 2000 words or 5000 more, I can drive over there in time for dinner. Then I can relax and maybe we’ll see a movie.

Better yet, she continued thinking, maybe he’ll want to hang with his friends. That’ll be great, I won’t have to make up an excuse or anything.

Jayne turned around to look at Tom. Please let it be that.

“The weather’s supposed to be good,” Tom said. “Do you want to go to the beach on Saturday?”

Jayne felt her brain muscles freeze, her mind and vocal chords struggling for dominance. She pushed the vegetables around in a circle then pushed them into each other “That sounds nice,” she said, taking a breath, but the pause said more than her words.

“Or I can go and just scam shorties at the beach,” he laughed, raising his eyebrows.

“Ha, ha. If you think you can find better than me out there, go for it.”

Tom walked out of the room, and for a moment, just a moment, Jayne thought he might be serious. When he didn’t come back in, she wondered, Did he just go to the bathroom or is he in our bedroom packing? That’s just silly. She concentrated on making sure each piece of broccoli had the same amount of oil on it before she added the chicken. Did she miss a spot on that side of the pan?

“Look what I found in the closet,” Tom called. Two seconds later, there was a white-blue blur to her left and a soft pa-doink on her head a heartbeat later.

“Owww, Tom, what the–? You almost spilled dinner.”

Tom strolled around the kitchen and grabbed the beach ball off the counter. “Sorry,” he said. “Remember when we got this?” He tossed it up in the air. “We drove down to see that band last year.” He tossed it up in the air again. “Everyone was tossing beach balls, and you were smiling so much.” Tom bounced the ball on his wrist. “I bought you this as we left.” He caught the ball and held it secure on the counter.

Of course she remembered that. He asked her to move with him the following Friday, over dinner at– The memory caught her as she studied the stir-fry. They were eating at Stu’s Stir-Fry Studio when he asked. She’d had the beef special. Special. Their restaurant.

She looked at Tom; he stared at her, but he might have well been staring through her heart. “Sure that sounds nice. I could use a break from this.” She tossed the chicken in and heard it sizzle.

<to be continued>

The beginning of a writer’s journey through a #tbt

“Sex without love is a meaningless experience, but as far as meaningless experiences go, it’s pretty damn good.”~Woody Allen, American actor

I’m feeling very throwback today.  And writerly.

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My monthly pub date is the 18th


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Here’s how it started in my writers group: my first Deadwood Writers Voices blogpost from February 2014 titled “The Writer’s Life.”
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Story Cubes = my published story

That first post was more an introduction to my background and how a yellow highlighter began my writing frustrations. My second post is really what I consider my first post, published one year ago yesterday: A Cracker Jack prize: story ideas.  My post involves this picture, which subsequently led to my first published fiction story, Jimmy the Burglar, available now on Amazon for less than price of a cup of coffee. Jimmy is a burglar who must pass his final exam to follow his parents’ soft footsteps into the Burglars Union Guild. Jimmy’s plan, however is an ambitious one, perhaps too ambitious for a guy who can’t pick locks. It was fun to write fiction after doing memoirs for so long.  
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The Timehop app reminds me of things…


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Here’s what Timehop has to say about my previous March 19th. That Tweet from 2014 is also about writing and books, and it was also a Throwback Thursday.
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Relating to the WoW quote at the beginning, if you want a throwback to my first sexual experience… well… you may find a tasteful rendition in my upcoming memoir My Father, My Friend due to be released June 2015.

New news in a Zentangle New Year

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

February 14th was Valentine’s Day. My husband and I had evening plans in Detroit, but snowy weather and a busy week for both of us changed our minds into a snuggly day together. We went to two different local coffee shops and played a total of FIVE Yahtzee games. We ordered take-out from Palermo’s, a pizza place we haven’t eaten in for entirely too long. We drove to Penn Theater in Plymouth and also picked up an extra-large bag of popcorn so we could enjoy some new DVDs at home movie-style.

As such, I almost missed this blog post because it published on Valentine’s Day. Thanks to my friend’s email, my news is officially official.

Seriously, it’s exciting Zentangle class news. Check it out here. Go ahead. It opens in a new window, so I’ll wait.

Love it, love it, love it! Since I’ve began attending in 2007, Mega Meet has opened up to the new and exciting everything. Scrapbooking has transformed over the years into something beyond matted pictures and precut stickerss on colorful paper. I blame–or thank–some of that to the popularity of Tim Holtz, a man who met an unspoken need in the market: artsy scrapbooking and art crafting.

My class is the best of all worlds: Zentangle techniques, creative simplicity and repurposing old items. It’s a great mixed-media technique, and I am thrilled that the organizer, Kate, has been open to such amazing class suggestions. In the past years, some of the more popular classes have been the mixed media classes such as art journaling and book binding. People know how to put pictures to paper; now there’s a craving for something new. I’m excited to teach this class. Seeing my name next to a class like this is always as exciting as seeing my name in print, whether it’s one of my books or my Michigan Scrapbooker Magazine articles. The class is unique, combining an artform I’ve fallen in love with the drawing artform that started this whole journey.nd is something that a combining of an artform that has caught my eye with my drawing passion.

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This is a great way to start the New Year. I discount January somewhat because I was sick and unfocused for most of it. February has been the cool month–and the cold month, so I’m dreaming of the spring Blue-White game.

So it was serendipity that this week’s Diva Zentangle Challenge #205 is to use inspiration from the Chinese New Year. The Zodiac sign for 2015 is the sheep. Taking a cue from Laura’s tile, I pulled out a pre-strung Zendala tile. Yes, Zendala. It’s not been my favorite Zentangle medium, but this week is was fun to rediscover it. I chose tangle that began with the letters S-H-E-E-P. Turns out there are five spaces in this tile, so away I went.

Shattuck – Huggins – Ennis – Evoke – Purk. It was actually fun to work on a Zendala again, although part of that made be the pre-strung aspect to it. It was a simple string, flowed well with just a few tangles. I felt a pull towards red, so I used my Inktense pencils to play with color shading.

If you’re in Detroit for Mother’s Day weekend, be sure to check out this class. It blows my mind that the scrapbooking community might embrace such a class in this public venue once again. I can’t wait to share this with students. My friend who sent me the email exclaimed that this is DEFINITELY one of classes she plans to take. That’s an honor: my friend is taking my class for the technique and not just because we’re friends.

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