Organizing The Book Promotion: Low-Tech Rules

I wrote the book on the laptop, of course. And I scanned in all the photos and permission slips, and chapters, and changes. I have a smart phone I couldn’t live without. Now it’s time to start organizing the promotion for the book.

People are sending me email suggestions for book stores and craft stores, mixed in with contacts and suggestions, links to websites, email addresses and Yahoo groups.  There are different ideas mixed up in different emails. There is no way to label each and keep it all straight.

So now I can ask people with blogs on writing or coaching or mixed media, creativity, journaling or arts to let me know if you would be interested in being on my blog tour–a series of interviews I’m scheduling around the release date. I can guest post or you can present an interview–in print or as a podcast. Let me  know in the comments!

I’m doing fewer signings and more events–Raw Art Journaling is not a novel, it’s a book on making meaning with your art. So having people do some art when they come to a signing makes sense.

A few events are planned, some in the works. And that’s when I realized that I need the old-fashioned organization tool I used for years before the computer: a three-ring binder. At first I refused, and made an Excel spreadsheet instead. But that didn’t work for me. I need to see the calendar at the same time I see the to-do list. See the “maybe” list along with the “final” list. Of course I’ll still use the computer, but I also need one place in the third dimension for all these lists and ideas and maybe-I-cans.

So the binder got purchased and labeled and organized. It will require a lot of updates and changing, but as the book release date (July 20, 2011) creeps closer, I’ll be ready for it.

–Quinn McDonald is the author of Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art to be released by North Light Books.

Through a number of my careers–creative director in an ad agency, editor at a newspaper, training program designer, event manager–three-ring binders kept my projects organized as I traveled from Beijing to Ft. Wayne.

The binder is chartreuse, easily visible on my desk or in the studio, as paper drifts pile over it. There are dividers for events (including signings), developing classes, publicity, people, and related projects. Costs are on an Excel sheet that I can print out if I have to. Most are lists that are also in the computer, printed out, and written over with additional thoughts.

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Thanks for the Sakura Postcards

When I wrote about the Sakura children–the kids left homeless by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, I had no idea what would happen. Asking people to make postcards doesn’t seem like much, but it’s easy to forget. You didn’t forget. It would have been easy to just let it go–after all, what good would it do? But those who sent postcard know that art heals.

When I went to the post office today, I opened the box and found it empty. Well,  I thought, it was an experiment. Then I noticed the thin slip of paper on the bottom of the box. I slipped it out and found the note, “See a postal worker at the front desk.” I wondered why–I had just renewed the box and paid the fee.

When I got to the front, the postal employee asked me if I was “Sakura.” Uh-oh. Not wanting to explain, I said “Yes.” I’m not Asian, but then again, we don’t all look like our stereotypes. She brought me a dozen fat envelopes filled with postcards. My eyes filled up. It’s wonderful to know that people care enough to make art and share it.

Thanks to Marva in Colorado, Erica in New Jersey, and a group of anonymous card-makers with big hearts.

The photos here are just a quick collage of some of the cards. I’ve thanked some people before, but it’s time to thank all of you again. Cards came in singles, some came in envelopes. The youngest person to send a card was 6 years old. The oldest was well into her 80s. Some were anonymous. One package had the note, “We made a group of cards and added some money for postage.”

Thanks to Karen in Oregon, Lynn in Arizona and Priscilla in Massachusettes.

In the last months, I’ve had some low times. Wondering about war, the world, the people in it. To all of you who have sent a card, thank you so much. For your time. For your messages. For caring. I’ve shown the cards to friends and the reaction is universal: immediate soul-lifting. The joy in these small pieces of paper doesn’t wear out–they made me happy and they make everyone who sees them happy. That’s pretty amazing. Joy doesn’t get used up, it increases.

If you haven’t sent in your cards, you can read more about them here. Or, just make a card with a loving message for a child and send it to:

Sakura Children
P.O.Box 12183
Glendale, AZ 85318

More Mixed-Media Postcards

The last batch of mixed-media postcards were a good beginning. Having fixed the concept, I began to work on details. Still exploring, still making mistakes, but getting better at identifying them.

After making the pink/yellow/orange one:

I decided it needed more. I added quotes from Plutarch (“Nature and wisdom never are at strife”) and one from Toni Morrison (“If you surrender to the wind, you can ride it”) and one from J. Petit Senn (“Happiness is whwere we fine it, but rarely where we seek it.”) After that, I added design in gel pen and then framed it in copper tape. I think that was one step too far, but it was good practice in framing with copper tape, the kind stained glass artists use. I love the effect, even it was a little too much here. It can add a spark of color or a bit of steampunk, depending on the postcard.

Moving on to other unlikely materials,

this postcard is made on a tag base, uses book pages, black paper and cheesecloth. I love the effect. It’s not done yet, but so far, the stitching works well. Thanks, Rosaland of Soulful Creating,  for telling me about stitching over the edge.

I had some handmade paper with flower inclusions left from paper-making days,

so that became grist for the mill. Derwent Inktense pencils for the circles, and washi tape for the edging. I’m starting to pay attention to the finishing details now. In fact, the other side of this card is a different paper,

and uses a different tape for finishing. All of these cards will eventually have writing on the back that relates to the front. And my rule is that they must all be sent to make them real postcards.

I had some embossed foil in plain silver. Using Copic markers (alcohol markers) I colored the floral embossing, attached the foil to a card-stock backing with fusible webbing, and added a copper foil edge.

The edge doesn’t photograph well, (there are no black marks along the top, I think it’s a ceiling fan reflection) but it looks appropriate. It’s difficult to get right, as I have a well-known inability to get things perfect straight. I’m not sure all four sides need to be exactly even, but edging the postcards is almost always a must, so I will also try edging them in marker and bias tape.

This one is the beginning of a frame. I don’t know what’s going to go into the middle yet, but the hem tape and decorative touches make it look almost Victorian.  It’s 4 inches  6 inches, so I’ll have to watch the proportion.

Remember I said I had a postcard that needed a zipper? Here it is. “I’itoi unzips the sky at morning.”

There are other zipper cards coming. I want to attach two cards using a zipper that separates. But first I’m enjoying this one.

Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach and writer whose art combines words and images. Her book, “Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art” will be published by North Light Books in July of 2011.

Under the Mistake, Gold

“Sometimes it hits me that I’m wrong about most things. About time. About my place in space. About the nature of the body. About the nature of the divine. About human nature. About what death is. About who I am and who my kids are. And about what the creek needs to support the salmon and all its visitors.

But heavens, let’s not worry about being wrong! I’m gradually learning that, paradoxically, it’s the foolsgold–the blunderings, giving ups, breakdowns, in spite ofs, chance encounters, shatterings, letting gos, and mess-ups, that has led to most of the creativity in my life, not the sweet making of something beautiful, or “enlightened” inspiration, and certainly not feeling in control. It’s the opposites, listenings, buzz hums,  the falling (leaping) down the rabbit hole, the stepping through the looking glass, barefoot, with no suitcase, in new territory.”

–Susan G. Wooldridge, Foolsgold, p. 88.

Transformation. Tape, ink, stitching, © Quinn McDonald. All right reserved.

After reading that, I began to wonder why, when we notice we are wrong, we are so concerned with having been wrong, instead of eager to have the skill of discernment and a chance to practice problem solving.

What exciting, wonderful, practical or clever thing have you learned recently from making a mistake?

Here’s my list: I need seven hours of sleep, no matter how much I think I can get by on five or six.

Rushing in the studio is directly proportional to the project failing at the last moment.

Not walking in the morning means losing important incubation time for ideas.

Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and creativity coach.

Recovering Perfectionist Starts Something New

Combining fabric and paper to create mixed-media postcards is my latest art project. I’m new to sewing, after one disastrous failure when I was about 10, and spectacular embarrassment in a class of 8 to 10-year-olds when I was 30. This time, I’m not sewing clothes, I’m experimenting.

Jeff Szymanski wrote The Perfectionist's Handbook.

Experimenting is hard for perfectionists. There’s a lot of risk. You could mess something up. (Serious when you are a diamond cutter, not so much when your materials are smallish pieces of paper and fabric.) There is also the possibility of looking foolish, as you feel pleased with amateur level work. Yet I know few people who went from beginner to master in a single step. That’s what makes us perfectionists such procrastinators–if we put it off long enough, we might make it perfect. So we put it off in hopes of perfection. Sadly, perfection is elusive.

I’m a recovering perfectionist, so I push myself. I post my experiments, even my mistakes, on my blog,  because it may be helpful to someone just starting out. Or ready to quit. What made me want to quit with almost anything is the enormous amount I had to learn right at the beginning. As a recovering perfectionist, I figured out that I work on the meaning

Monica Ramirez Basco, Ph.D. wrote Never Good Enough.

first. What makes it important to me. That’s generally content–the Why in “Why am I doing this?” Once I have that down, I work on details. The “How,” especially the “How am I going to make this work?” if I worry about details first, I’ll never capture the overall concept.

The past few days, I’ve been posting photos of postcards in progress. I’m pleased that I’ve figured out how to thread a machine and wind a bobbin and make the machine run forward and back. I’m not worried that the pieces aren’t perfect, or that the mistakes show. I was surprised when I began to get emails telling me I wasn’t a quilter (you’ll get no argument from me), or that I should take a sewing class (hmm, wonder why?) or that putting up my mistakes shows that I’m an amateur. (Yes, I am a rank amateur on the sewing machine.) What is it about starting a new project that brings out the outer critics to chorus up with the inner critic? I don’t answer the critics, no more than I get into an argument with my inner critic.

The crucial stage is starting. If I bog myself down in details early on, I’ll never see anything beyond the details. If I try out the big picture–does this concept work? I’ll make progress. I’ll learn techniques and problem-solving. I’ll figure out work-arounds and work throughs. But mostly I’ll keep working. If I let the critic slow me down fixing details, I’ll quit. I won’t learn.

So to all the people who are letting me know I’m making mistakes, don’t expect to hear back from me. I’m busy. But if you hang around here, you will see a postcard with a zipper, or lined in copper tape, and they’ll all have mistakes, too.

Quinn McDonald is a recovering perfectionist and creativity coach. She writes about her experiences as a beginner. Because she begins every day with an eye to making meaning.

Mixed Media Postcards

The new sewing machine has enchanted me. While I’ve made some spectacular mistakes that involve picking chewed-up thread bits out of the machine with a vacuum cleaner and buying a special pair of teensy scissors to reach into crevices and cut out thread, the machine is easy to use. Particularly if you use it for what it was intended to do–sew cloth.

I’ve been working on combining fabric and paper to make some postcards for the Japanese kids left without homes after the earthquake in Japan. You can help, too, the address is at the bottom of this post. But first, the postcards.

Voile in yellow, orange and pink. Cheery!

I purchased some floaty material called voile in a color that, if it were any more saturated, would make my pupils contract involuntarily. Because the material is so sheer, the color is, too. The images here seem to be more vivid than the real fabric. I’m trying to work outside my usual neutral color palette, and this was way out of my comfort zone.

Sewing the fabric to the card proved to be a little tricky. Voile is slippery. Sew it onto paper and it shifts, slides, bunches and stuffs itself into the place where the bobbin will eat it. So I purchased a piece of double-sided fusible and ironed the voile onto one side and the paper (to make it look like a postcard) on the other.

The double-sided fusible was thick enough so the paper was just a nice detail. I could have used single-sided fusible, but I wanted the postcard to look like a postcard and not like a discarded scrap from the sewing room.

The postcard needed a bit more life, so I sewed another layer onto the top half of the card. This gave it a deeper, more finished look.

The card is fun; it reminded me of an Arizona sunset. Which made me wonder what would happen if I drew a design on paper and covered the paper with the voile. No fusible, just machine stitching.

First I drew a cactus and a horizon line on a card in watercolor pencil to create a simple image. Right now I’m in love with cactus spines (only when they are firmly attached to the cactus), so I drew them in with a pencil, then went over them in a yellow glitter pen. That doesn’t show in the image above.

Then I adjusted a piece of voile so the red was across the top and the orange on the bottom of the card. When I stitched it on, it looked pleasing, but needed a bit more.

I sewed another piece of voile across the top third of the card. I used a bright yellow thread which blended better than I anticipated. I used an ivory bobbin thread to not contrast too strongly on the back of the card.

Finally, using a River City Rubber Works postcard rubber stamp, I finished the back of the card to look like a real postcard. The card on the top is the reverse of the first, plain postcard, the one on the bottom is the cactus postcard, ready to send!

Please join me in making postcards for the kids in Japan who have lost their homes, toys, beds, and clothing. I dubbed them Sakura (cherry blossom) children because the festivals around cherry blossoms were cancelled in Japan this year. Postcards are easy to make–you can use actual postcards, too, just add a cheerful message. You can send them to me in groups (in an envelope) or individually, directly to my mailbox. I’ll forward them to Japan.

Sakura Children
P.O. Box 12183
Glendale, AZ 85318

Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach who is learning how to use a sewing machine.

Early Summer in Phoenix

It’s easy to think of Phoenix in terms of familiar desert scenes with hot sun and lots of sand. The Sonoran Desert doesn’t look like the Sahara. Only 40 percent of Arizona is desert. Flagstaff, 140 miles north of here, gets more than 100 inches of snow in the winter. The Mogollan rim has more Ponderosa pines than Maine.

But here in the desert,  we have a large variety of small-leaved trees that make early summer–late April to the end of May–green and beautiful.

So if you think that Phoenix looks only like this:

Or like this:

You are missing some amazing parts of early summer. There are yuccas and agaves that shoot up

long spikes of flowers. When the spike is finished blooming, the plant dies and a new one takes its place. The spike is about 20 feet tall.

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We also have ocotillos, a cactus that looks like a collection of long sticks. The octotillo has small round leaves that fall off when the heat and drought get too much for it. Give it a good rainfall and the leaves come back quickly. In the spring, the ocotillo develops orange-red flowers that last almost a month. An octotillo looks like a bunch of candles in the yard.

The desert willow has purple flowers that look like orchids. They bloom in April and May when the lacy leaves are still light green. The desert willow has long, draping branches that catch the wind.

Our palo verde trees have green trunks. The tiny leaves falls off in the heat, so the tree has evolved to photosynthesize through the trunk and branches. The palo verde and sweet acacia drop tiny leaves and pollen that drifts. Older sections of town have flood irrigation from the canals. Some of the water runs into the streets and washes the pollen away Some days we have just a bit of pollen:

And some days we have so much that it fills the gutters and puddles in the streets.


Here is a green pollen-pool that looks like a leaf:

This time of year the roses are in bloom. They will start to bloom in March and bloom through early May.

Once we get regular 100-degree days , the roses go dormant. We had our first 100-degree day on the first of April. We haven’t had one since, and I’m grateful. We normally hit 100 degrees in early May.

After the hard freeze we had in late January and early February, a lot of trees died. It’s nice to see them coming back from the root. This one will be blooming again next year.

This time of year is wonderful. The nights are cool and the days are warm–well, OK, hot. The migratory birds have left to go back north, but we have hummingbirds, finches, gila woodpeckers and great horned owls that stay around all year.

The state has a huge diversity of ecosystems. Come visit and enjoy them before it gets too hot. And Happy Earth Day!

Quinn McDonald is a writer and naturalist who lives in Phoenix.