When the Well of Words Is Low

Today is Reveal Day for the winners of the awesome Lyn Miller-Lachmann’s young adult novels, Rogue and Gringolandia. (And if you’ve heard the TED Talk of Jill Shargaa, let me quickly say that I mean awesome in an appropriate way. Wondering about that talk? Head to the awesome Ellar Cooper’s blog here to listen to the talk.)

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Lyn and Jill

If you’ve decided to remain here, that’s cool too. I want to apologize for dropping the ball lately on blog posts. This is one of those weeks when the well has been on the dry side. The words that come to mind most readily—“Are you going to pay me soon?”—don’t make a good blog post. And no, I will not go into detail about that question. Suffice it to say that the life of a freelancer is often fraught with weeks like this. (If you know a freelancer, be kind to that person. Ply him or her with fruit salad, warm mittens, snuggly blankets, and popcorn. Chances are, he or she could use those.)

Fruit Salad

So, lately my mind has been filled with cotton batting and those words I mentioned in the paragraph above. When I’m feeling anxious or “pen tied” (my way of saying, “at a loss for words”), I let my crochet hook do the talking. And lately it’s been saying two words: “Make hats.” When life hands you lemons, make hats, I always say. I’ve been on an owl and minion craze. It’s my way of keeping my toe in the pool of creativity.

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004A hat still in the making

One thing I need to do that I’ve done in the past is return to the exercises of this book.

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I recommend it to anyone feeling a bit “pen tied.” Friot reminds me that writing can be fun and frolicsome. But what do you usually do when you’re at a loss for words but feel the need to be creative in some way?

While you consider that, let me introduce you to the minifig given to me by Lyn Miller-Lachmann. I’m calling him Jordie. Lyn felt that Jordie would make a good addition to the blog. Please say hello.

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Jordie says hi back.

You’ll see more of him in posts to come. Today, he wanted to be present when the winners were announced. So without further ado . . .

16101109The winner of Rogue and some crocheted flowers is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Charles Yallowitz!!!

hbc_gringolandia_front_medThe winner of Gringolandia and some crocheted flowers is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Andra Watkins!!!

Congrats, winners! Thanks for commenting. You know the drill. Please confirm below and your book will be mailed to you.

Fruit salad from teamripped.com. Book cover from Goodreads.

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That (Not So) Imaginary Space in My Head

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Space Series

Another awesome friend from VCFA, Ellar Cooper, is in the house with part 3 in the Space Series. (The first post in the series can be found here and the second here.) Her blog, Ellar Out Loud, is here, in case you want to visit. (You should!) Ellar currently is working on a young adult novel with a touch of fantasy. Intriguing! And now, I give you, Ellar Cooper.

When I think of “space,” my mind (true to form) tends to ramble through a few different meanings and images before settling.

Captain_Picard_ChairFirst, there’s always outer space, and the comforting throwbacks to a childhood that included Jean-Luc Picard’s ever steady intonations about the final frontier. Not to mention my own early fascination with astronomy, and learning to find and trace favorite constellations. Then, too, there are the more tangible spaces that surround me in daily life. The dips and curves and crests of the mountains and valleys where I have lived for so long, which I love so dearly. Or the sturdy wooden desk in the soothing blue room that has seen hours upon hours of my work. And my procrastination.

brain1But if I am thinking about a space that is truly integral to me, especially as a writer, I must acknowledge one that could easily fall into metaphor. And yet it is, to me, a vivid, vital, and very actual part of my writing. It is my creative brain space.

I have likely seen as many images of the brain as the next non-neuroscientist, and I know enough to know that there are cortexes and lobes and a bunch of other weird looking noodle stuff highly scientific and important parts. I mean—damn it, Jim, I’m an artist, not a doctor. But I am, at the very least, fully aware of the right-brain/left-brain split and the fact that I (as just such an artist) supposedly have a penchant for the right.

Leonard_McCoy_(alternate_reality)A doctor (Dr. McCoy), not an artist

I say “supposedly” for two reasons. The first being that I’m generally wary of boxes and labels and oh-so-defined categories. And the second being that I simply don’t conceive of my brain that way at all.

Granted, I’m not saying that my conception is necessarily better than those colorful diagrams of thalami (which is, admittedly, a fun word to say). And my version certainly isn’t biologically accurate. Because you see, in my vision of my creative brain space—which, honestly, is what I consider my entire brain, not just a particular section of it—there are no highly scientific divides or squishy noodle parts. It is, rather, truly one wide open space.

blue_sky_and_green_grass-wideMore specifically, it’s a field. A field of tall, green, green grass, spread out wide and calm and waiting under a perfectly Carolina blue sky. And within that field is a town. A small city, really. It’s picturesquely medieval, with thatched-roof houses and a gray stone castle rising up benignly along one border. Characters wander the streets of the town. Some of them would fit in quite nicely in a story with just such a setting, and others would be completely anomalous except for the fact that they are all mine, just as this city, this vision—this space—is mine.

DSC05188There are many doors in this city-space. Some of them are labeled; most of them aren’t. They open to other medieval towns or enchanted forests or modern cityscapes or unexplored planets or decks of pirate ships or desolate dystopian landscapes. And more. When I watch a character walk through a door, if I am not caught up in another’s story, I try to follow. Sometimes I have to let them go on ahead without me, knowing that eventually—be it hours or days or years—I will catch up. And sometimes I open doors on my own, just to see what’s behind them. On occasion there is a void, but that’s usually because there is another door calling more insistently.

Sometimes I see characters walking down a street and I stop them to see if I can go with them. Sometimes they say no—but I have learned that this really just means not yet, that they are not quite ready to let me in. And so I have also learned not to argue, and to keep walking. Sometimes I am within one house, one world, day after day, and sometimes I will crisscross the town and the castle multiple times in the space of a few hours, stepping in and out of doors, leaving them cracked open to make it easier to slip through again later without disturbing the story.

That is my creative brain space, which may fade when I am not there, but which never disappears. No PET scan could map it, but I can see it. It is as real and non-metaphorical to me as searching the sky for Orion or driving the winding roads through my mountains. It is certainly as real as sitting down at my writing desk.

White-Rail-FenceBut there is one last thing, perhaps the most important thing: There is also a fence. A white rail fence beyond the town, cutting through the grass.

It is not to keep anything in, of course; quite the contrary. Rather, it is to remind me that it is my job to protect this space, to preserve all that lives within it so that one day these stories will not just exist within a door in a town in a field in my mind, but also on the page before me in this world. It is to keep that Carolina blue sky clear and those doors unlocked.

And really, whatever you see when you picture your own creative space, that is the point. Know it. Protect it. And create so that you can free it.

Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard photo from Wikipedia. Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy photo from en.memory-alpha.org/wiki. Sky and grass photo from hdwallpapers.in. Fence from informedfarmers.com. Town photo from 2.bp.blogspot.com. Brain from christianoey.com.