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!

 

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.

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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!

 

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!

We Are What We Create: The Memoir of a Latter-Day Saint

In this week’s guest blog post, Laura Walth shares how love for her brother and her religion inspire her creativity.


 

“Out of the bad comes the good” is a phrase my brother Phil often liked to repeat during our Sunday morning phone conversations. Phil so desperately wanted me to finish my memoir, to know what life was like for the eight years before he was born. He felt mine was a story that needed to be shared.

 

He had no idea about the struggles I put myself through to get to where I am today. He wanted to know it all. He instinctively knew he didn’t have much longer to live but denied death to hear my story and know how it was going to end.

 

Phil and I were never very close growing up. He annoyed me to the point where I didn’t like being around him.

 

When he was in 2nd grade and our parents were out of town, I got so mad at him I kicked a hole through his bedroom door and knocked his pet, Myrtle the turtle, to the floor. I felt sorrier for my grandmother, who was taking care of us; she didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to explain what had just happened. It scared both my brother and me.

 

After that, we just left each other alone. I found out much later in life that he was afraid of me yet always admired me as his big sister.

 

In 1995 I received a call from my sister in South Dakota. Our brother was in the VA hospital and not expected to live. He had been diagnosed with AIDS and had pneumonia. We all went to say our goodbyes.

 

We were prepared for his death, but he didn’t die. He later told us it was the love he felt from us that gave him the desire to live.

 

We had to find a place for him because we weren’t prepared to have him live with us in his condition. We found him a group home to stay in until he decided to move into an apartment with someone he’d met at that place for the terminally ill. They weren’t ready to die. They moved to Arizona, where his partner died several years later.

 

My brother moved to Florida, where he lived with AIDS for many years. He survived cancer, a staph infection that could have killed a healthy person, and pneumonia several times throughout his life. It was a stroke that left him unable to walk or talk and took away his quality of life, yet he chose to hang on. Ten days before he passed away, my sisters and I let him know it was okay to let go. We expressed our love for him over the phone. I made a promise to finish my memoir and then wondered what good that would do if he wasn’t here to see the finished product.

 

Having faith that there is life after death gives me the belief that his spirit lives on and my story needs to be shared. I feel him smiling as these words appear before me. Making that promise to him made me believe that he’d be the muse I needed to create a life story for a book.

 

That’s how I arrived at the title for my memoir.

 

I have wanted to be a Saint since childhood, but I was not born into the Mormon faith. My husband and I moved from North Dakota to New York in 1974. In 1982 a Jewish friend of ours and his Christian girlfriend discovered something that they said “just changed” their lives. We were curious to know more, and we found what we were looking for. They didn’t join the LDS Religion, but we did. Mom joined about seven years later.

 

Phil was very concerned for us. He thought for sure we’d joined a cult and convinced Mom to join as well. Then he saw positive change in Mom. She no longer needed a drink to calm her once-troubled soul. She found peace and joy in life without the alcohol. Later, he told me it was the best thing that ever happened to her.

 

The conflict taking place in California between the Mormons and the gay community was what brought my brother and I together. It was called Proposition Eight and regarded same sex marriage. A commercial was made that depicted Mormon missionaries in a very bad light. It bothered me so much, I called my brother to ask what he thought about what was said about Mormons in this commercial. He said he was upset that the gay community was wasting good money that could have been spent on far worthier causes than bashing Mormons for their beliefs.

 

That phone call changed our relationship for good. We found a common ground that let us open up about past experiences that kept us apart for so many years. We discovered that it was fear that kept us from communicating: He was afraid of me because of what had happened when he was a child, and I was afraid he’d seek revenge for what I’d done to him.

 

We became friends. He called me on Sundays before I went to church. When I was teaching Sunday school, I would share my lesson with him, and when I was asked to give a talk at church, I would share that with him. He would give me feedback.

 

While looking for photos of my brother, I found the two below. On the left is my father, and on the right is my brother.

I never realized how much Phil looked like our father until I saw these pictures. Like me, Phil also felt he could never please dad no matter what he did, including joining the 82nd Airborne.

 

One time Phil told me I’d brought tears of joy to him because he finally understood that my religion is about service and compassion. He felt my love for him, and he understood that it was more about love than being judgmental of others.

 

So, Jack and he visited an LDS church service in Florida to learn more. Phil then shared how much he’d enjoyed learning more about the religion through the Sister Missionaries he invited to his home. He wasn’t ready to make a commitment to membership, but at least he was willing to find out more. Whenever anyone in the gay community would start Mormon-bashing, he defended the faith. He was proud to tell them that his sister was a Mormon.

 

At first, I thought it a bit presumptuous to think of myself as a Saint. My life experience has helped me see how I used to be an overachiever, attempting to compensate for feelings of inadequacy. Writing my memoir has helped me to change my mind. I can replace negative thoughts with positive ones about the image I want to create. It’s not easy living the life of a Saint, but it’s a fun challenge.

 

To fulfill this calling means being a person who is good, kind, and patient. I can be recognized as a Saint because of the way I live the rest of my life. If we are what we create, then I will truly strive to be a Latter-Day Saint. That doesn’t mean I’m perfect; it’s just something to aspire to before the end of my life on Earth. It’s a work in progress.

 

We Are What We Create: A Memoir of a Latter-Day Saint won’t just be about the Mormon religion; it will be a story about the life experience that led me to where I am today. My goal is to have it published by Pen Women Press in time for the 49th NLAPW Biennial in Des Moines, Iowa, which I volunteered to host in April 2018 because I believe I can handle the challenge.

 

Phil always encouraged me to run for a political office. He liked how I listened to both sides of a story and didn’t judge others for their beliefs. My brother would have been thrilled to hear about my involvement with the National League of American Pen Women.

 


Laura Walth is President of Des Moines Branch NLAPW. She also serves as Outreach Chair for our National society and as Chair for the coming NLAPW Biennial in 2018. Photos appearing herein are from her private collection.

 

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: Rainbow Teapot

 

“Rainbow Teapot” by Melissa Woodburn
Golden Gate/Marin Branch NLAPW
Ceramic with underglazes and glazes

Creative Inspirational Wisdom: The Call

In this week’s post, Mary Joan Meagher advises listening to your inner voice on your special day. 

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What did you do on your last birthday? If you became 40 or 50 years old, you probably had a stressful day. A comedic cousin, friend, or even a spouse might have thought that it would be fun to tease you about your age.

 

Perhaps someone threw you a surprise party at work. Everyone showed up wearing black clothes. They gave you a cake with black and white frosting that featured a grave with your name printed on a headstone emblazoned with the initials “R.I.P.” Everybody laughed and thought it was hilariously funny… until it happened to them.

 

Birthdays are hard enough without someone else taking them over and telling you how to feel. We all mark the passage of time in different ways, but it is always a time of account-keeping. We think about our faces and bodies, and we measure them against what we remember we looked like at sixteen or twenty.

 

This exercise is usually detrimental. Your spirits sink as you consider wrinkles, gray hairs, and double chins, or notice the effect that too many fast food stops have had on your waistline.

 

One saving measure to take at zero birthdays (when you enter a new decade) is to do another kind of accounting. Take a measure of how far you have moved in getting closer to your goals.

 

Dean Koontz, a best-selling novelist, says he writes and edits ten pages each day. What are your goals? Have you kept your promise to yourself to write or create something new each day? Have you finished a chapter of your novel?

 

You need to get in touch with your inner self.  You need to listen to your inner voice. For this exercise, set up a quiet space of time on your birthday. Get up earlier than normal. Find a quiet peaceful place either inside or outside, in the house or in the park, in the library or in the woods. This is your day. Find your place and time.

 

When you learn how to listen to your inner voice, you will know what you are called to do at this time in your life. Each stage of your life has a different calling. If you are too tuned-in to the voices of others constantly deciding your fate each 24 hours, when can you ever know what is right for you? Go back to your youthful dreams. What were you called to do then? What were you looking for? What were you going to be?

 

Your birthday can be a wonderful experience if you use it to launch a new enterprise, to take the first step to improving your relationships with others, to listen to the voice within calling you to be all you can be. Cyril Connolly, critic and editor, said: “Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”

 


 

Mary Joan Meagher, a member of Minnesota Branch NLAPW, taught English and Speech at Regina High School in Minneapolis for 24 years. She also taught journal writing at Bloomington Community Education and was script writer there for The Time of Our Lives Show for 20 years. She is a poet, a watercolorist, and an essayist.

 

Image above courtesy of mrsiraphol at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Creative Inspirational Wisdom: Swimming Upstream

This week’s guest blogger, Bonnie J. Smith, shares how a challenging life experience inspired her creativity.



In 1999, I suffered a work-related injury. Being told that I might never be active on my feet or work the job I so enjoyed again and that I would have to use a wheelchair was a shock I didn’t handle well.

 

Having to sit 100% of the time in 2001, I decided to take a quilting class. I thought creating a few heirlooms for my family would be a nice gesture. Well, quilt I did—and to the frustration of my teacher, I could not stay within the pattern. My thought was, why do I want to create something that looked like everyone else’s?

 

Having moved to a new home with a lot of empty walls, I informed my husband that we’d purchase no new art; I would create art for our walls. Create, I did. My work has now traveled the globe, been juried into the prestigious Quilt National, and is held in private collections—and I feel like I’m just warming up.

 

For many years, I wondered how to translate that unrelenting horrific situation of my work injury into my artwork, but always avoided the subject in my art.

 

After I sat and let my body heal, the doctors said, “You can start exercising.”

 

“How about swimming?” I asked.

 

Thereafter, I swam every day.

 

One day, my youngest daughter Shara purchased me a pair of swim fins. Well, I had my doubts. Within about eight months, however, I witnessed a remarkable change in my feet. I then realized that those fins were probably the best physical therapy I could have had. The fins forced my feet to rebuild the muscle. I knew I was on my way.

 

While enjoying my swims, I would imagine what an artwork of myself swimming would look like. Could I create it? Would viewers accept my minimalist creative style or reject my work?

 

I rarely shy away too long from taking on a task, so I created Swimming Upstream:

 

  Swimming Upstream by Bonnie J. Smith

 

I looked at the finished work for a long time. It came to me that the artwork was not just about myself; it’s about everyone trying to navigate through life. For some, it’s hard to pick up the pieces and keep swimming upstream. For others, it’s just about trying to survive life.

 

Ideas keep coming to me for new works. Some show how we have days when we feel strong, and then other days when we need to pull back, maybe feeling just a little too much hubris. This series has been fun to create and visualize how I feel about myself moving onward and upward. People have gravitated to this work, as swimming is an iconic image that most of us can do or try.

 

I tell those who want to swim but say they can’t to just float or hold onto the side of the pool. One day, you will get the courage to let go and feel your body enjoy the stability that the water—or the world—can offer, depending on how you see it. Even if you never try swimming, you can always imagine yourself swimming upstream through life. Just imagine!

 

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Bonnie Jo Smith, textile artist, is a member of Santa Clara Branch NLAPW. She attended IUPUI, Indianapolis Campus; Indiana Central College; and has taken Master Dyeing Classes under the direction of Prof. Joan Morris of Dartmouth College. Her most recent installation, “Swimming Upstream,” provided the inspiration for her book Swimming Upstream: A Memoir. The “Swimming Upstream” installation will be exhibited at The Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, UK, during the summer of 2017. Her web site is bonniejofiberarts.com.

 

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

wonder

explore

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 carolsmann.com.