National Novel Writing Month: No Plot? No Problem

No plot

 

With NaNoWriMo being right around the corner I thought this would be the perfect book to review. November is National Novel Writing Month. It was started by Chris Baty in 1999. It started out as just a lark. He and 20 friends or so in the area that fancied themselves creative and they set off writing during the month of November.

In his book Chris states nothing helps a creative endeavor along better than a deadline. Starting with nothing at the beginning of November and ending with a 50,000 word novel is a lot of fun.

He chose the 50,000 word target through a very unscientific method. He grabbed up the smallest novel on his shelf, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and did a rough count. 50,000 words ends up being about 1,667 words per day. When you think about it, it’s not that much to do in a day.

My first few NaNoWriMos came with technical troubles. In the first one I wrote for about 7 days straight when I either copied over it or something happened with the hard drive. Either way, I was out 7 days worth of writing. I still managed to finish that year. The next year I wrote for about 10 days before hating it all and scraping it. I finished that year, too.

Writing a 50,000 word novel in a month is one of the cheapest and most satisfying creative projects I’ve done. I’ve written myself into a corner, much like painting yourself into one, and had to figure a way out. I plowed ahead and put the most bizarre characters and situations into the story to move past the dead end. It might not have been pretty or even cohesive, but it was a lot of fun.

This book is a quick read. He talks mostly about finding the time to write and getting inspiration from things around you.

Pros about this book:

  • It is motivating. I didn’t think I could write a 50k word story, but I have now written quite a few.
  • He gives pointers on how to find time and get friends to join in.

Cons:

  • It doesn’t really ‘teach’ you how to write.
  • There are no grammar lectures, no research guides or plotting devices.

National Novel Writing Month is a great website. It’s designed for all ages. For the younger ones there are lesser word counts geared for different levels of children. There are forums to interact with people who are also doing the same crazy thing in November. There are chats in the forums about all the different genres. There are forums for specific geographical locations and often in those areas there are plans for get-togethers and little parties in public places.

Have you ever done NaNoWriMo? Did you check out the site? What did you think?

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NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month

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Click pic to go to the NaNoWriMo site

 

November is National Novel Writing Month. For the month of November you are challenged to write a 50,000 word novel in just one month. It is a very fun challenge and the NaNoWriMo site has tools and forums to help you succeed. They have web count helpers, score boards for regions and the forums where you can talk to others for inspiration and help.

Some people volunteer as Municipal Liasons and they oftentimes have meet-ups in the real world. The ones I’ve been to were held in public places, like cafes and bakeries. Mostly it is a group of people sitting in the same area quietly writing on paper or laptops. It was nice seeing that my daughter and I weren’t the only crazy ones writing a novel in a month. When you actually finish the novel in by November 30th you “win”. As a prize for winning the NaNoWriMo site gives you a badge declaring you’ve won in the current year.

Writing a 50,000 word novel in a month is much easier when you break it up into manageable chunks. I think it’s somewhere around 1,500 words you need to write per day. On the forums there are people who make NaNoWriMo calendars that you can put on your desktop to show you what word count you should be at.

NaNoWirMo has a classroom-based Young Writers Program, which supports project-based learning and writing literacy. They have a donation page to give to this part of their charity.

Check it out and see what you think! NaNoWriMo starts in 2 weeks! Will you be doing NaNoWriMo this November?

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Artist Trading Cards for all ages

When I first heard of Artist Trading Cards I was intimidated. I am not artistic. I am, however, very creative. Luckily, you don’t need to be an artist to make Artist Trading Cards. This is a craft I did with my daughter when she was younger. I thought about making this a step by step tutorial, but didn’t because it is way too easy.

Materials:

  • Card Stock or just paper. Depends on how fancy you want to be
  • Glue (glue sticks, white glue, decoupage doesn’t matter)
  • Pictures (optional)
  • Something to write with: markers, crayons, colored pencils

ATC (artist trading cards) are 2 1/2 inches by 3 1/2 inches. It’s the standard so you’ll want to cut your paper to that size. This is probably the most time consuming part. I like to use card stock for this, but if you don’t have any you can use regular paper.

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I keep a box with small pictures around. Every now and then I get magazines or catalogs in the mail. I’ll go through and cut out pictures I like to use later. This particular box is a Kraft box. It’s those brown boxes they sell in the big craft stores. I like to paint and use them for storage.

Artist Trading Card artist trading cards

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is one my daughter did a while ago. These pictures came out of catalogs. She likes to make a double sided cards. I’m sure the “Artists” that make Artist Trading Cards would have something to say. For a formal Artist Trading Card you are required to put information (date, artist, title) on the back of the card. Instead my chickie liked to put another picture, 2 sides of the coin so to speak.

artist trading cardsI prefer using rubber stamps. My favorite stamp is the top right bear stamp. One thing I don’t like about rubber stamps is the scale, there is no changing it. I loved my Scarecrow stamp but I wish he were a bit larger to fit with the road sign. I didn’t write names on the sign since Scarecrow looked perplexed.

artist trading cardsThe top left card my daughter made by smoothing out Hershey Kiss wrappers and gluing them on the card and used the little paper strips as an X, as in X stands for kisses. The bottom card is with a rubber stamp and the top right are actors from a silly sitcom. I knew I’d lose the picture, so I put it on an ATC.

A little background on terminology for these. Artist Trading Cards (ATC) are made by artists and are are traded, never sold. ACEOs, on the other hand, are always sold and never traded. ACEO stands for Art Cards Editions and Originals. On the back of those card it will have the artist’s name, date, and the edition of the card and the number if it is in a set. There are communities of people, Yahoo Groups has a few, in which they make cards with a theme and then trade them within the group.

What do you think, will you give Artist Trading Cards a try or have you made them before? I’d love to know what you used.

 

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Mini-rant about organizing products

As the title suggests, I’m not really happy with some of the things I’ve gotten for my craft room with the idea of organizing. Luckily, I haven’t paid a lot. My stores of choice are Goodwill and Big Lots.

The first target on my list I bought at Goodwill for $4.00. For the price I really shouldn’t complain, but I nearly bought it at a craft store for over $30.

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How pretty, what could possibly be wrong with it? After bringing it home, I had all the screws tightened and bolts bolted. It was in good condition. The unfortunate problem with this, and probably when it was new, too, is how it typically looks.

IMG_3485The drawers stick to the sides, it’s just plastic on metal, and don’t easily go back in place. They slip out of the groove, fall on the next shelf which causes a domino effect. I was in a bit of a hurry looking for something in the morning and didn’t have the patience to slide it in, out, in, lift up tilt sideways, out and finally slide it into place.

This is where I store the glass marble magnets I sell on Etsy and other crafting supplies. Any time I opened the drawers it is a process to get them closed properly. Maybe I need to tighten the screws on a weekly basis, because it was pretty good for a week after they were first tightened. I just get irritated with it and leave them a mess sometimes.

My public service announcement: these drawers are not as cool as they seem.

My next piece of organizing was the square bookcase. I think they look so nice with a little square for different crafts. I bought mine at Big Lots in May for around $30 or $40. Other places were selling it for over $70 and the reviews weren’t that good, so I thought I’d just get the cheaper model. Turns out Big Lots had the exact same model/brand as the more expensive store. It pays to shop around. This isn’t what I’m complaining about. I like my little cubes even though I haven’t really maximized their potential yet.

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My problem is with those purple squares. First, they are usually expensive, like $5.00 each. I got a package of 3 at Big Lots for less than $10. What I don’t like about them is that they just hide the mess. You cannot organize a cube, nor can you maximize the cube’s space with it. While it looks nice on the outside, here is the inside:

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I need to find a way to use my space more appropriately. I need to get my room straightened up. My next post will show some of the improvements.

Do you use these cube shelves with cute boxes? How to you organize the stuff? I can use any help I can get with this project.

Thanks!

 

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Craft Room Cat

IMG_3488Frankie helping me in the craft room. He loves my craft room. I think he loves it so much because I keep it closed unless I’m in it. I had a bad experience with a kitten in my craft room (too sad to relate) so now they only go in supervised.

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I don’t believe I was supposed to find his hiding place. After this picture, I got the claw.

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The main reason for this post is to test my comment form. I didn’t know I was having trouble with it, but I think I’ve got it fixed. I also wanted to put comment luv in it (shows the last post of the person commenting), so this is my post to test for it. Also a good excuse to put out my Frankie’s picture.

Please leave a comment about your cat or craft buddy. I’d love to hear about them!

 

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Craft room: From clutter to funtional

This was a previous post about my craft room redecorating that got deleted due to changing services. I’m one of the lucky ones that get a whole, full size bedroom dedicated to crafting. My craft room became such a mess I began avoiding it. It was ugly, cluttered and getting more disorganized by the month. Every 3 – 6 months I’d go in to try and straighten it up. All I would end up doing was dragging out at least one black garbage bag full of junk. I don’t even know how I could continue to sift through this every few months and continue to get more garbage out of it.

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Back right of craft room

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Honestly, these pictures were taken after extensive clean-up. In December, 2013 I got ‘real’ with it. I either sold things on Ebay, tossed it to Goodwill, or put it in the trash. In November there was no space to walk.

These pictures are in June, 2014 while I was making a dozen more trips to Goodwill filling up my Liberty with everything I thought someone else could use. It is such a cluttered mess.

I had my The Lemon Daisy Etsy shop up and the colors there are yellow and orange. I wanted my craft room to reflect these colors. After a lot of consideration I chose Pale Daffodil.

 

 

The during pictures:

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I had no idea how to paint. I’ve never done it before and I’d be all on my own. How hard could it be, I thought. I found out. It’s not that painting is hard, it’s just if you don’t get the right tools you’ll be in for some a truck load of frustrations.

First, the cute little roller I got kept slipping off it’s holder. I was so angry at that, I was creatively cursing and hoping for a spectacular hell for the engineer of the roller. Yeah, it got personal.

I didn’t understand what a edger truly was, so I bought something I thought looked like one on which the packaging said, “Designed by women for women.” Those women joined that engineer in my personal version of hell. By the way, if you see that roller don’t get it. I don’t know what woman they designed it for, perhaps the one that hands it off to her husband. It doesn’t perform well in quite a dramatic way. Back to Home Depot to get the right tools.

No one told me that you can really mess up a room with paint. I had no idea until I was messing up the back wall (read: focal wall). Enough coats of paint will solve that. Involving another trip to Home Depot. I was so surprised at how much paint costs. Like I said, I never paint. I’m never even involved with it. I hate choosing colors. Of course after this project I will never paint again or chose colors.

About the color. I love bright colors, but from personal experience I know that bright on the wall can cause headaches. Early in our marriage we painted our kitchen a bright yellow and it took a coat of white (still to bright) and 2 coats of blue to cover that yellow. I picked Pale Daffodil mostly because of the word PALE. Turns out, it’s pretty darn bright on the wall. A good bright, I was just surprised at how bright it turned out being. I thought it would be pastel. It is far from pastel, but not eye-blindingly yellow.

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Here is the finished room. I’ve added more touches to it and it does look a bit nicer. I should up-date these pictures. The yellow in the pictures looks paler than in real life. It’s a nice yellow, it’s just that I thought for this yellow should have chosen a shade 2 down from this one on the card palette. This was the second shade out of 4.

I used Behr paint that says it’s very washable and lovely. So far I’m very happy with it. This project took 2 very long very hot days. I’m glad it’s over.

UPDATE: I changed my blog color to match the color of my room. It’s a nice color, just a tad brighter than expected.

Do you do your own painting and decorating? Do you find it fun?

 

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Crazy Paisley: A coloring book for Adults

Crazy Paisley a coloring book for grown ups

 

This is one of my favorite quick, easy and no mess creative projects. Crazy Paisley is my favorite coloring book for grown ups.

People always feel better when they are able to express themselves creatively. Many of us don’t consider ourselves artists, so we often ignore creative pursuits. A study published in May, 2014 at San Francisco State University found that employees who pursue creative activities outside of work find that these activities boost their performance on the job. They added that, creative pursuits away from work seem to have a direct effect on factors such as creative problem solving and helping others while on the job.

 

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Even something as simple as coloring in a coloring book is effective. It requires focus, so it incorporates mindfulness which promotes a meditative state of mind that is calming and relaxing. I get out my big box of colored pencils, and sit down with my coloring book and just color.

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I’m not the greatest color-er, but I do enjoy putting colors on the page. I’ve always encouraged my daughter’s creative pursuits, which is why I have so many different types of colored pencils. They are inexpensive and I get them just about everywhere.

My favorite ones are my cheapest ones from Rose Art. I like how smooth and creamy their color goes on the page. I have a set of scrap-booking colored pencils (read: boring adult colors) and they go on the page with hard lines. Those are nice for the tiny spaces. The Crayola pencils with the erasers are my least favorite. It takes a lot of pressure for them to put down their color, and it tends to be very light. I love bold colors.

Because I love the bold colors, I put 5 pieces of printer paper between the page I’m coloring and the page underneath. I press down hard with some of the colors which leaves little indentations. Coloring on those pages with the indents cause the color not to take evenly. The printer paper solves this little problem.

This book has intricate paisley designs. You can also find coloring pages all over Pinterest. I have a board for printable coloring pages if you’d like to check it out.

Do you color with your kids? Or color by yourself? I hope you’ll give it a try!

 

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SoulCollage: Book Review

SoulCollage

SoulCollage: Click picture for a reading on the SoulCollage site.

SoulCollage was created by Seena B. Frost as a way to explore your inner self and nourish your soul. The cards are created with images you find and use within the structure she sets forth in her book. The SoulCollage process originated in a program led by Jean Houston from 1987 to 1989.

It was a time that the author was practicing psychotherapy in her private practice.  The SoulCollage process is a way to tend the soul and explore your psyche at the same time. I feel that her background in psychotherapy helped her develop the themes to the cards to better understand your inner self. The cards are much like a Tarot deck, but one that is made by you and specifically for you. Seena gives guidelines for four ‘suits’ and one card which is called The Source card.

Seena suggests using 5″ x 8″ mat boards. That is an odd material to find, I feel, especially now when all weights of card stock are available. This book was written in 2001, when the scrap-booking trend was just taking off. I think any heavy card stock will do. While she does suggest the size, she does not make any suggestions to how many cards should consist of a deck. She does say that it can take years to create a deck.

The Source Card:

  • The one card in the SoulCollage deck that symbolizes the Oneness of all things.

The Suits:

  • Committee Suit (Psychological Dimension) which are the inner parts of your personality.
  • Community Suit (Communal Dimension) are the people who are influential in your personal community.
  • Companion Suit (Energetic Dimension) are the imaged animal totems who reside in the 7 major energy centers of your body, the Chakras.
  • Council Suit (Spiritual Dimension) are imaged archetypes who are active in guiding your life and weaving it into a larger story.

She doesn’t suggest you make all the cards at once. You should chose your images with care. You may get the images from magazines, your personal pictures, or things from the internet. She goes into detail what you should expect for each suit and how to make the source card. She feels that while you are making the cards, they are somewhat of a mystery. It’s when you use them in a card reading do you see even more meanings to the images, possibly meanings you hadn’t anticipated when you first glued them to the board.

The author states that making a deck of SoulCollage cards involves both the intuitive and logical parts of your brain. First you sift through magazines almost in a light trance, letting images leap out and grab you. You do this for quite a while, tearing out the pictures you find interesting. Later the logical side is used to make selections and glue them onto cards.

I purchased the SoulCollage book in the early 2000’s. I have attempted to make a card, I bought magazines and had the proper size card stock, I never actually got down to doing it.  Maybe I was intimidated by all the art I’ve seen in SoulCollage cards. It could be her instructions are vague. She describes these cards and reading them less like a psychotherapist and more like a Tarot reader. She says you should unplug the phone (yes, it’s dated!) and light a candle. Most spreads are 4 card spreads, but if I’ve only made 6 cards then won’t the readings be invalid? Should I make 78, like in a Tarot card deck?

I like the idea of the book, but I’ve never actually gotten around to making the cards. Cutting pictures from magazines or printing them from the internet seems like more money than I’m willing to spend. Storing pictures takes up room in my very cramped Craft Room. One of these days, I keep saying, I’ll get around to this.

On the SoulCollage website there is a place where you can get a four card reading. I thought it was a fun thing to try. I put the link in the picture at the top of the page. Please try it, I’d love to know what you think!

Have you heard about SoulCollage before my review? Did you get your reading? Tell me what you thought!

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Creative Whack Pack: Review

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The Creative Whack Pack by Roger von Oech (1992).

These cards are all taken from von Oech’s book A Whack on the Side of the Head. I found the book in the library and loved it. When I went to buy it I found these cards. I really love cards so I bought them instead.

It has 4 categories of people, much like the Tarot has suits: Explorer, Artist, Judge and Warrior. They are color coded so that the card title color corresponds to a suit.

Creative whack pack

In the picture, top left, there is a picture of a man with a wizard’s hat. The title says, “Ask ‘what if’?”  The end of the short essay asks, “What off-beat ‘what if’ questions can you ask about your concept?” I feel that generates some really creative thinking. In most of my projects I have a single line going from start to finish. Asking crazy questions may lead to unproductive results, but some might be a way to make your idea much more intriguing to your audience.

There is a little booklet that comes with the Creative Whack Pack. It shows different layouts for ‘readings’ much like you’d do for a tarot reading.

  • Card 1: The environment
  • Card 2: The Mirror, it represents what you should be tapping into.
  • Card 3 is The Shadow, this is what is hidden from you.
  • Card 4 is Caution, it represents what to watch out for
  • Card 5 is the Power card. This is what you need to do to have a positive outcome for what you’ve asked.

By laying these cards out in this format you are tapping into your creativity to see what options you have or other directions you can go in. Another way to use the cards is to think of something and then just pull out one card. That card is what you will use to brainstorm.

I find these cards fun to look through, pull out singly or read in a spread. I recommend either reading the book, the cards or both. Since the book is from the ’90’s you might have an easier time finding it at the library than a bookstore.

Are there any cards you like to use to explore your creativity?

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Wide Open: cards with an art journal

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Wide Open: Inspiration for Art Journaling on the Edge by Randi Feuerhelm-Watts (2007). This set comes with an art journal and 50 cards.

I love being creative and love creativity books. The thing I like more than books are cards. So when it comes to creativity cards I’m all in! The cards have an image, or series of images, on one side and the back has a little story and an exercise. It also comes with an art journal. The pages already have images and words as background for you to add your own.

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Pros:

  • Large cards 4″x6″
  • Colorful photos
  • Small essay on the back of each card
  • Comes with an art journal to use

Cons:

  • The art journal is glossy. It’s difficult to draw on with pencil or some markers.
  • The art journal looks nearly complete. It doesn’t feel like it has endless possibilities. You are simply finishing the author’s work. Her hand is in it more than yours.
  • There isn’t much discussion about technique.
  • Each card appears to over-reach for ideas. Some cards don’t offer an exercise but simply a thought.

Overall, I am not happy with these cards. Here is an example about discussion but no real exercise:

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Art Journal card: Body as Art

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Art Journal Card: Body as Art

The Body as Art card describes a young lady in art class who wrote words on her body as a project. Her idea was to write on her body how she felt about her body. On her hips she wrote “Too Wide”, her breasts labeled “Too Small”, her feet “Too Big.” She came to class, took off her clothes and everybody read the work.

In the card’s 4 paragraphs, 3 were devoted to this quick idea. Those 3 paragraphs were mostly about the girl’s search for a non-toxic, washable pen. Apparently she didn’t get one but we don’t hear that part of the story, which I thought would be the most interesting part. Instead in the last paragraph we’re asked to observe our thumbprint, as well as the rest of our body, and think about how different we are. Ta Da.

I felt that was a waste of a card. And I still wonder about that girl. How long did it take for the permanent ink to wear off? Did she have any problems at work, school or home from it? How did that make her feel about her body now that it was labeled? Perhaps I am much more a journalist than an artist.

One card had a technique where you printed a photo (ink jet with cheap photo paper) several times with high contrast. Then spritz it with water to see the changes. She asks you document your emotional response to each.

Another asks you to take pictures of orderly objects; rows of mailboxes, rows of corn, fish at the market, eggs at the grocery. Print them out then let several of them drop on your journal and glue them where they lay. Instead of creating real lines, she says, let them create themselves.

Maybe I’m not artist enough to appreciate these exercises. I am very practical and the thought of watering a photo that will no longer allow the journal to come even close to closing seems uninteresting to me. In the end, I never used these cards. Every now and then I take them out and look at them. I really want to like them.

Do you art journal? What’s your process? I’d love to know.

 

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