Creative Inspirational Wisdom: A Creative Journey

In this week’s guest blogger post, Carol Mann shares the joy of her creative collaboration with former fellow Pen Woman Lynn Centeno.


I recently made a creative journey culminating with the publication of the book All Ways a Woman, a collection of art and poetry celebrating women, done in collaboration with artist Lynn Centeno. As Lynn and I worked on the project, we recognized the uniqueness of every woman’s life. However, we also realized a universality of experience. Women inspire and encourage each other with their strength, their resolve, and grit; with their vulnerability and ability to give; with their talents. We wanted to capture this story, these feelings.


The book, published by AquaZebra Press in hardcover, became available on Amazon in January 2017. Within its pages, we walked a woman’s path, gave voice to her life song, and honored her journey. We celebrated being in all ways a woman, always.


The collaboration began in 2011, but we didn’t know it. Lynn and I participated in an Ekphrasis (EHK-fra-sis) program for writers and artists, sponsored by the Palm Springs Branch NLAPW.


Branch artists submitted their art online, and branch writers selected a work of art about which to write. I chose Lynn’s watercolor “I Care Not.” For the final program, each artist’s work was displayed and the writer read her accompanying piece. By the end of the event, a calm could be felt in the room. The women in attendance, whether they knew each other or not, seemed to feel what can only be described as a palpable closeness, a bonding of spirit, and a sense of well-being. The Palm Springs Branch repeated the event in 2013, and I again chose one of Lynn’s watercolors to write about: “Girls’ Night Out.”


Girls’ Night Out by Lynn Centeno

Both watercolors and poems are in the book.


Three years passed. In the summer of 2016, Lynn casually suggested we do more. We each went through our body of work, searching for everything “woman.” Themes came to life about thoughts, loves, and lives. Some poems had been previously published in literary journals; some watercolors had been in juried shows. We also created new work. We had a story—a woman’s story.


As with any endeavor, we discovered a few tricks along the way that apply when involved in a collaborative effort:


  1. Come prepared.
  2. Meet commitments.
  3. Respect each others’ work and ideas.
  4. Don’t compete with each other.
  5. Respect each others’ process. People have different ways of arriving at a mutually desired result.
  6. Negotiate when visions differ.
  7. Compliment.
  8. Listen.
  9. Be flexible and stay focused. Discoveries may be made. Plans can change.
  10. Recognize that during the creative process, stress and tensions may develop. Remember numbers three and five.


Our creative journey taught us about collaborating and creating an enduring work of art. It inspired us. We hope women will become inspired by their own journey.



Come …

walk with us



For together …

we grow

we discover

we become

– from All Ways a Woman,

by Lynn Centeno and Carol Mann



Carol Mann is a Letters member with the Palm Springs Branch of NLAPW and co-author of All Ways a Woman. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Education from Buffalo State College (SUNY) and a Master of Arts in Theatre from California State University Fullerton (CSUF). Her short stories, personal essays, and poetry have appeared in literary journals and magazines such as Six Hens, Bloodroot, RiverSedge, Phantom Seed, Dual Coast Magazine, Coachella Calling, and The Sun Runner Magazine. Her blog can be found at



  1. Congrats, Carol & Lynn! I’ll have to buy a copy. Fantastic.

  2. So enjoyed seeing you and Lynn present “All Ways a Woman” yesterday afternoon in Palm Desert. As you read, Carol, I saw knowing nods around the room. Truly, the images and words resonate. What a gift this book represents.
    And PS your ten tips for working with a collaborator are invaluable.

    • Lynne – I was so pleased to have you, one of my mentors, at the book launch and presentation. Your teaching and modeling for authors has been invaluable. We’re happy the book “touched you” with its words and images. That’s its reason for being. (And glad the collaborative tips are useful.) Thank you!

  3. Wonderful post Carol! Can’t wait to purchase the book.

    Donna F.

  4. Laura Walth says:

    The poem by Lynn Centeno and Carol Mann sums up my experience of working with members and the Des Moines community to provide an opportunity for many of us to come together in Des Moines, Iowa in April 2018 for the NLAPW, Inc. 49th Biennial Conference. Together we can explore, grow, discover, and become what we create. That is what makes this feel like a creative journey. Connecting with members is so inspiring. I was so excited after reading this I called Kathleen Vermaelen to let her know how much this blog post resonated with me. We inspired each other to set goals. Thank you, Carol Mann, for sharing the joy of your creative collaboration with Lynn Centeno. I hope you will consider submitting a proposal for a workshop at the April 2018 biennial in Des Moines, Iowa. As the current biennial chair, I am working with the committee on the details to share with everyone. Numbers three and five really do help in this creative process! Thanks for the inspiration to continue on this journey. I just ordered this book.

    • Thank you, Laura. So happy the post resonated and inspired. Hope you enjoy “All Ways a Woman.” It was a joy to create. Would love to know your favorite pieces/images. Thank you for your thoughts on the April 2018 biennial in Des Moines, Iowa. Will explore.

  5. Brenda Layman says:

    Very inspiring! Thank you!