Archives for April 2017

It’s a Creative Business: Business or Unconditional Love

This week, Ronni Miller reflects on her professional journey as a creative.


 

Business What did I know about business? I had been a stay-at-home mother, raising three children after graduation from Boston University with a liberal arts degree, and before that I was a sheltered daughter from a middle class Jewish family whose father was a lawyer and mother was an in-the-closet artist and writer.

 

Determination to achieve whatever it was you wanted had been the operative narrative around the dining room table in my home of origin.  All I ever wanted was to write, publish, marry and raise a family. Writing had been my mainstay, my plumb line since I was six years old.

 

Motherhood absorbed my energies, while creativity found a home in children’s plays I wrote for my children’s school and short stories that were stuffed in file folders. The feminist movement lit my fire, and I began to write articles and essays about the need for women to aspire to their creative potentials. A divorce propelled me into teaching English and theater in a private school, where I continued to hone my experiences by writing curriculum for my sixth and seven grade English courses. Trained in acting, I taught drama. That led to my initiation of a yearly consortium drama festival for six private schools in the area of northern New Jersey, which gave students an opportunity to showcase their talents.

 

I left teaching and landed jobs editing local newspapers and magazines, continued freelance writing and publishing in local and regional publications, and acquired rejections from national magazines that shook my confidence. All the while, I continued to raise my now high school-aged kids.

 

I worked as a temporary secretary while my children attended college, which helped supplement a freelance income so that I could finish my first novel. An epiphany happened after years of struggles to survive that led to my Write It Out® service product, now entering its twenty-fifth year. As founder and director, I facilitate workshops in the U.S., Bermuda, and Italy, guiding individuals to express feelings, memories, and experiences through writing. In my private practice as Book Midwife, I coach individuals to birth their books.

 

I’m thankful every day for that epiphany.  My students and clients have been my inspiration and motivate me to continue offering services. The Program has segued into the healthcare field; it’s used by people affected by cancer as well as those who have suffered loss and life-altering conditions, who want to document their stories in prose, poetry, and theater pieces. Seven published books remind me that joy of creating is a balm to my spirit.

 

Five suggestions to others:

 

  • Dedicate yourself and believe in your product or service.
  • Trust yourself to pursue a dream.
  • Rely on desire as your support system.
  • Listen and observe your efforts as an educational experience.
  • Incorporate your life experiences into a new profession.

 

I’ve translated the word business, still foreign to me, to mean service. That has made all the difference. You can call it business, service, profession or simply unconditional love. I call it being an entrepreneur.

 


 

Ronni Miller, award winning fiction writer, author of seven books of fiction and nonfiction, produced playwright, published essayist is the Founder and Director of Write It Out® a motivational and expressive writing program for individuals of all ages since 1992. She facilitates workshops in the US, Italy and Bermuda and has a private practice as Book Midwife. A NLAPW member since 2008, she serves as board member of her Sarasota, FL Branch and 4th Vice President of our national society. 

 

“Female Writing on Notebook” image by adamr/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

WANTED: GUEST BLOGGERS! Pen Women are invited to submit guest posts for two new series: Creative Inspirational Wisdom and It’s A Creative Business. Please visit this link for more details. We look forward to reading your material!

 

Art of the Week: MWS: Animalia (Homage)

“MWS: Animalia (Homage),” Oil on canvas
by Barbara Peters
Topeka Branch NLAPW

 

 

Attention Pen Women! We’d love to see your best work for possible publication as Art of the Week. Please review the general submission guidelines on our web site and then submit your work in an email to Jamie Tate at arteditor@nlapw.org. Please put Art of the Week Submission in the subject line. Thank you!

 

NLAPW’s Social Media: Come & Connect with Us!

Looking for other Pen Women online? The National League of American Pen Women has expanded and consolidated its social media platform. Click on the links below to access the following sites:

 

Facebook:

Like National League of American Pen Women (Official Page)

Join NLAPW Members Only (Private Group)

Join Friends of National League of American Pen Women (Public Group, includes nonmembers)

Twitter:

Follow @NLAPW

LinkedIn:

Join the group!  National League of American Pen Women

Google+:

Add us to your circles!  National League of American Pen Women, Inc.

YouTube:

Please subscribe!  National League of American Pen Women (Official Channel)

Pinterest:

View our boards at NLAPW 

 

We also seek a few good Pen Women to assist with the management of these platforms. If you’re platform-savvy and would like to add “social media management” to your résumé of marketable skills, please contact the Publications Chair to express interest. We’d be happy to welcome you to the Publications Committee.

 

We’re looking forward to connecting with you!

Creative Inspirational Wisdom: Arranging a Personal Work Zone, Part II

Last time, guest blogger Tricia Pimental explored the merits of a creative garret. This week, she provides tips for maximizing its potential for inspiration.


 

“Mary Tyler Moore in Mafra”

 

“Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.”

– William Faulkner

 

Last time we talked about finding a physical location—your very own garret—for creative endeavors. Now, here are seven tips to help you shape it into the perfect place of inspiration:

 

1. Find a suitable work surface

Whether it’s a table, desk, or counter, something solid is required. Your lap is for children and cats, puppies and pillows, and your laptop—but only for brief periods of time. Checking your email? Fine. Writing a key chapter in your mystery? Probably not.

 

2. Sit in a comfortable chair

Sounds obvious, right? But there’s more to it. What’s your mindset? An office chair that swivels, has armrests, and good back support can make you feel official and in charge of your writing session. Maybe you are more at home in the efficiency of a straight back chair. Are you having trouble committing to getting something on the page? Maybe the temporary nature of a stool will help you dip your toe into the literary water. Whatever you choose, make sure you have an ergonomic match to your writing surface.

 

3. Clear the clutter

Even if you subscribe to the “messy desk is the sign of genius” philosophy, your mind will be clearer if distractions are at a minimum. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo helped me enormously. You’ll never look at “stuff” the same way again.

 

4. Keep things within reach

My cell phone sits in a stand on a section of my L-shaped arrangement because I don’t want to hunt for it when it rings (assuming I haven’t turned it off). I also have three baskets at hand: one for notes on works in progress, another for electronic accessories like extra chargers, cables, and, because I live overseas, adaptors. The third is for vitamins, protein bars, and yes, chocolate.

 

5. Light up your life

Remember Tom Hanks in the opening scene of Joe versus the Volcano? Forego fluorescence and use full-spectrum light bulbs that emulate the sun. You’ll feel happier and more energetic. Similarly, because extended time in front of the computer screen is taxing, consider investing in a pair of tinted glasses designed to reduce eyestrain.

 

6. Bring on nature

Fresh flowers rejuvenate your space. The colors of yellow and orange are especially effective in stimulating the senses. Plants help counteract the energy drain from electronics like your desktop or printer. I opted for orchids, enjoying both living greens and colorful blooms in one unit.

 

7. Sights and sounds

First, sights: Open the windows, not just for fresh air, but to get inspired. I have a view of the Mafra National Palace from my office at home. It always transports me. Have you won writing, speaking, or other recognition? Put these on display on your wall or book shelf. Remind yourself that you have been, are, and will be an achiever. Don’t have any awards yet? Set a goal to get one.

As for sound, this choice is so personal, there is no rule. I have trouble with background music because I start remembering when and where I first heard a song. It’s the worst with oldies. But I have the TV—news, movie, whatever—on almost all the time. I feel like I’m missing something otherwise. I think I’m in the minority on this one, and would love to hear what you think about it.

 

I hope these suggestions will help you construct a new, or improve an existing, creative zone. If your area is public—a corner in your local library or “coffee-ing hole”—then your control over that space is obviously more limited than if you have a dedicated space in your home. Either way, you can do a lot to facilitate your process.

 


Tricia Pimental is the author of three award-winning books. Articles, short stories, and poetry have appeared in The Florida Writer, A Janela (the quarterly magazine of International Women in Portugal), International Living, and anthologies compiled by The Florida Writers Association, NLAPW, and others.  A member of FWA, NLAPW, and SAG-AFTRA, Ms. Pimental is also a former Toastmaster. Follow her on Twitter: @Tricialafille. She blogs on her website: www.triciapimental.com.

Photo provided by Tricia Pimental

WANTED: GUEST BLOGGERS! Pen Women are invited to submit guest posts for two new series: Creative Inspirational Wisdom and It’s A Creative Business. Please visit this link for more details. We look forward to reading your material!

 

Poem of the Week: Words

Sandra Seaton Michel
Diamond State Branch

 

The wonder, the plunder, the marvel of words

that snap our attention, cause anger and fear,

joy and elation, laughter and tears

and sometimes,

sometimes

sprinkle fairy dust upon the ordinary.

 

There it was, “apples, sauced.”

Oh, how delightful that sounds,

a delectable dish, undoubtedly served

with swagger and swish.

Not plain old apple sauce,

which children love

and hospitals too

but you won’t find it taught at Cordon Blue.

 

Art of the Week: Pulse Source

“Pulse Source,” Acrylic on Canvas (16 x 20)

by Natica Angilly

Diablo/Alameda Branch NLAPW

Artist’s Quote:

What Tools and Materials do I like to use? Brushes, sponges, the side of hand and sometimes the stretch of my arm, help me to spread my color and textures. Rulers and tape help me define areas, lines and give a precise edge.  I like to feel connected to the work.  Acrylic, and especially the liquid acrylic spray, has a tendency to “roam.”  Pallet knife, air brush, and old perfume atomizers help me work the transparent acrylic and achieve various affects.  The assemblages are found and created objects, fabrics, paper mâché, hand sewing, and several types of glues which I gather.  Things seem to “show up” when an idea starts dancing in my head. Affecting a sense of movement is the challenge.  I like to create a look of depth or seeing beyond with multiple transparencies.  For my collages – just about anything goes!  The liquid acrylic moves and can be coaxed across the canvas, which I guide and slide into form.  Getting caught by a compelling poetic idea, motivation or directive seems to be the key.  My Heartistry series, and Pulse Source paintings, speak of dynamism, musicality and the infinite spiral staircase.  The whorls demonstrated in the inner working of some sea shells helped to give me a clue toward painted movement.  The inner spiral is often called the spiral staircase. These shapes are used to enjoy the artistic dance and also teach directed line and motion.

* * *

Attention Pen Women! We’d love to see your best work for possible publication as Art of the Week. Please review the general submission guidelines on our web site and then submit your work in an email to Jamie Tate at arteditor@nlapw.org. Please put Art of the Week Submission in the subject line. Thank you!

It’s a Creative Business: Make Sure You’re ‘Legit’

In this week’s guest blog post, The Pen Woman Editor Rodika Tollefson illuminates what creatives need to know about business.


 

If you’re one of those creatives who enjoys the business side of things, congratulations! You are part of a very small group of people who love accounting and marketing as much as they love creating their art.

 

For the rest of us, the business aspects of paid creative work are tedious—which means we put them off for as long as we can.

 

You may be able to procrastinate when it comes to posting your receipts or updating your website. But there are a few things you should not postpone, and that is to make sure that you are conducting business according to the applicable local, state, and federal laws.

 

As soon as you decide to sell your work, you are a self-employed owner of a business. Even if you’re a solopreneur—without an incorporated business—and you don’t have a business name, you’re still liable for licenses, permits, and taxes.

 

Here are a few things you need to know:

 

Business licenses: Requirements vary from state to state and, in some cases, you don’t need one until you meet a certain revenue threshold. Even if you don’t reach that number, a business license is a good idea for those planning to do public commissions, sell to the public, and so on.

In addition to the state, some local jurisdictions such as cities require business licenses. Some must be renewed every year.

 

Income taxes: The IRS may consider your business a hobby for the first few years if you don’t have net income, but your state may not.

In Washington state, where I live, the business and occupation tax is based on gross income, which means businesses have to pay taxes whether they actually net anything. There are very few deductions, and none of them apply to the typical writer or artist. Instead, the state has credits, on a sliding scale, for businesses that earn up to a certain amount.

 

Sales and personal property taxes: If you’re selling tangible items like art, you will likely be liable for sales taxes. That means you have to collect them from your customers, keep track, then remit them to your tax entity (typically the state).

 

In some states, sales tax is based not on where the sale originates, but on the shipping destination. Talk about an accounting nightmare if you’re selling and shipping to customers in other locations!

 

Some jurisdictions also tax businesses on their inventory and personal property like equipment. My county does this, though luckily the total of my equipment value is low enough to meet the exempt criteria.

 

Home business permits: Some local jurisdictions require a special permit for conducting business out of your home, especially if customers will be stopping by or the business will generate noise (a chainsaw-carving artist, perhaps?). Check with your city or county.

 

There may be other odds and ends for you to consider based on your own location. Penalties and back taxes are no fun, so make sure you do your research.

 

No one dreams of having to study tax code and business regulations in order to sell creative works—but if that’s what it takes to have the freedom and privilege of pursuing one’s passion, I’d trade a little accounting headache for punching a time clock in an office tour any day.

 

 


“Business Woman Writing Job” image by Feelart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Rodika Tollefson is a member at large who lives in the Seattle area and serves as the editor in chief of The Pen Woman and the national Public Relations Committee chair. An award-winning journalist as well as a writer, graphic designer and video producer, she’s owned her own communications business for 15 years.

 

WANTED: GUEST BLOGGERS! Pen Women are invited to submit guest posts for two new series: Creative Inspirational Wisdom and It’s A Creative Business. Please visit this link for more details. We look forward to reading your material!

 

Poem of the Week: Walking on Water

Carolynn J. Scully
Orlando/Winter Park Branch

 

Confidence is momentary, never permanent.

 
Get out of the boat.
Just do it.
Jump!

 
Time for me to walk
on waves that reach out and back,
dip down and rush up.
Self talk builds sea legs, but
one word or look can weaken knees.

 
Fear washes over me and
drenches me in sweat.

 
First steps are always unsure.
Self-assurance, like the sea, cannot be controlled.
No guarantees.
But there is no end without a beginning.

 

Carolynn J. Scully ©2016

 

Creative Inspirational Wisdom: Musings of a Struggling Novelist

This week, Sara Etgen-Baker shares how she began a new chapter in her writing life by letting go.


 

When I began writing in 2010, I was especially comfortable and adept in writing memoirs about the people of my childhood and early adult years in my native Texas. I became known for my ability to connect with readers by giving them authentic, familiar characters, a sensitive narrator, and a keen sense of place—but in 2014, I turned to fiction writing and began the rather daunting task of writing my first novel.

 

I was the first to admit that I knew little about writing fiction or writing something as major as a novel, but I had an idea birthed from a real-life family situation. So, I began and painstakingly put words on pages hoping to create convincing characters, scenes with emotional value, and a believable storyline that would engage and captivate readers. Oh, how I labored over my characters and scenes!

 

The months passed. Words slowly became pages, and pages became chapters. By December 2016, I was deeply into writing Chapter 15 (of approximately 20 chapters). When the new year arrived, however, I became increasingly dissatisfied with my story and disillusioned with my ability to complete my novel. Honestly, I simply wasn’t motivated.

 

I’m not a quitter, though, and flatly refused to give up on a project begun so humbly years ago. I began losing sleep and often laid awake at night thinking about my characters—their strengths, their flaws, and their humanity. During the early morning hours, I played with the story line, scenes, plots, and subplots. With the lack of sleep, I became even more muddled and confused.

 

January gave way to February.  Sunless, harsh days prevailed; winter’s blue dreariness settled over me, further stifling my creativity. March arrived, bringing the warmth of the sun’s rays, but I was still unable to write.

 

Last week, I sat down at my desk with the sole task of making some sense of my collection of notes and putting some order to my rather haphazardly organized files. I hoped that task would ground me, but alas, it only served to further muddy the novel-writing waters.

 

So, I took to power walking a couple of hours a day hoping that the fresh air and open space would broaden my horizon and give me perspective. At this point, I’m quite certain my neighbors, amazed as they are with my persistence and dedication, questioned why I walked for so long.

 

Then, I took to pruning flowers in our garden, pulling weeds (symbolic? yes), and working myself to the point of exhaustion, believing that exhaustion would surely help me sleep. Still, sleep alluded me. Something about my novel was haunting me—but what was it?

 

Then yesterday, I had an epiphany of sorts. I am a vastly different person now than I was when I began writing my novel, yet I was trying to write and create from my old perspective. My characters had become unauthentic, and my scenes evoked no emotions—they were ineffective, extraneous, and disconnected from the overall story line. Every word I’d written seemed flat.

 

So in desperation, I re-read my synopsis and each of my completed chapters. Then came the stark realization that so many novelists face: This was my “shitty” first draft. No doubt about it. What I’d written thus far wasn’t that good at all. Disappointment and mild panic set in. For the first time since I began writing, I actually feared beginning again.

 

Before opening my laptop to begin anew, I literally marked through anything that didn’t enrich the story, eliminating so many words, paragraphs, pages, and even entire scenes and chapters. Now, I’m left with only about six good chapters, and I have huge gaps in my story line and in my character development.

 

Ah, where to go from here? I shall begin at the beginning and start anew, knowing that I’ve not failed at novel writing. On the contrary, I’ve been tremendously successful and gutsy. I’ve been on a learning curve—and a huge one at that!

 

The most important lesson I’ve learned is this: To grow as a person, I had to let go of old truths, old thinking, and old habits. I had to relinquish my control of expectations and outcomes and allow my life to unfold naturally.

 

To grow as a writer, I must let go of old words and unproductive writing habits. I need to relinquish my control of a specific outcome then let my story unfold, for it’s in the unfolding that my story will develop naturally. It’s in my letting go where the heart of both life and story lie and where creativity truly dwells.

 

I returned to my laptop, opened it, clicked on Microsoft Word, and began a new chapter in my writing life. And, yes, I’m exhausted—but oddly I’m refreshed.

 

I bet I’ll sleep better tonight!

 


Sara’s love for words began when her mother read the dictionary to her every night. Her manuscripts have been published in various anthologies and magazines including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Guideposts, Wisdom Has A Voice, My Heroic Journey, Times They Were A Changing: Women Remember the 60s and 70s, and The Santa Claus Project. When not writing, Sara spends time with her husband of 34 years, Bill. Sara has been a member of the Dallas Branch NLAPW since 2014.  She enjoys the support and fellowship her affiliation with NLAPW brings into her writing life.  She may be contacted via email at: sab_1529@yahoo.com.

 

“Pruning Fruit Tree – Cutting Branches at Spring” by adamr/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

WANTED: GUEST BLOGGERS! Pen Women are invited to submit guest posts for two new series: Creative Inspirational Wisdom and It’s A Creative Business. Please visit this link for more details. We look forward to reading your material!