Journal Fest Joy

October is a month of change, and one of the best changes you can indulge in is Journalfest, an art retreat put on by Teesha and Tracy Moore. This was my second year, and it was wonderful. You won’t see any photos of the art I did–I shipped a package home and the artwork was in it. The package will arrive at the end of this week.

Journaling at the Blue Moose Cafe in Port Townsend

Journalfest takes place in Fort Worden, just North of  Port Townsend, an interesting town about two hours North-Northwest of Seattle, on the Quimper Peninsula.

The beauty of Journalfest is that it lets you be as much with your thoughts as you like. You can stay in a dorm-like barracks, in small individual rooms with a lot of common place to journal with friends. You can stay in the officer housing, in which case you will have more space.  It depends on how rustic you want your stay to be. You can also stay in Port Townsend, in a hotel. I chose that option this year.

Journalfest runs for three days, and you take three classes from a long list of choices. Each class runs a full day, giving you real depth of learning.

Each evening there is a different activity so you are kept busy. One night there’s a bonfire (complete with s’mores!), another night is a demo- and vendor night, and one night, there is a Halloween party–complete with band and costumes, if you want to make or bring one.

Hadn't seen fall leaves in a while.

This year, staying in a hotel gave me the opportunity to explore the town. I discovered there is a downtown–with restaurants, antique stores, a fabulous coffee house called the Undertown, and The Writer’s Workshoppe, a  store just for writers. It offers classes, books on writing, T-shirts, and pens.

There is also an uptown–up on the bluff overlooking the bay are magnificent Victorian houses, a bakery, and a charming restaurant called Sweet Laurette.

Hannah Viano has an amazing exhibition of her papercuts, Shared is the Sea, at the Maritime Museum through November 5, 2011. When she says she is the daughter of a mermaid and a waterman, I can believe her.

I saw the notice of her exhibition pinned to a bulletin board at the Blue Moose Cafe. I love the cafe for their breakfast of eggs and hashbrowns made with both sweet potatoes and red-skinned potatoes. It’s on the waterfront tucked into the working area around the marinas. They don’t take credit cards and the space is small, but it’s wonderfully homey and comfortable. And you can journal there and feel at home.

The town has a wonderful history, and an ancient geography and emotional force. Bring a raincoat, it’s rainy. You won’t care, because you will be looking at the bright changing leaves against the backdrop of the smokey pines and foggy, low clouds.

On the way there and back, if you are crossing on the Bainbridge Island Ferry, be sure to stop at the small town right after the crossing to Bainbridge Island. Turn left at the first traffic light and enjoy the Blackbird Bakery’s excellent sweet and savory baked goods and coffee. Bring cash, they don’t take credit cards. If you are a knitter or crocheter, you must stop at Churchmouse Yarns and Tea. Stepping through the door is like stepping into the past where handwork is honored. Fabulous yarns of every kind and color, many of them knitted up so you can see what it looks like in a garment.

When my classwork arrives, I’ll do another post on the classes, but meanwhile, start saving to go to Journalfest in October of 2012. You’ll enjoy every minute.

Slow Down, Grow More

You have an idea. It’s a great idea. You gather materials and carry it out. It doesn’t work. You give up. What made you think that would work, anyway?

Slow motion water burst from 3dverstas
Slow motion water burst from 3dverstas

Wait. Act fast, fail fast, criticize fast. All that speed doesn’t allow you to learn a damn thing. Cutting your losses doesn’t teach you anything except how to cut.

There is a huge benefit to doing things slowly. We live in a super-fast culture, but it’s the same culture that doesn’t like mistakes, that encourages blamestorming as a fair shot in competition. What’s the benefit of slowing down?

Slow motion water burst by 3dadverstas

You can anticipate. Slowing down let’s you think before you act. You can think through the next several steps to see if they are what you want, if those steps move you to the result. If they don’t, you can choose another plan.

Slowing down saves time. Anticipating helps you plan more than one step ahead, create a Plan B, and discover options. All that saves time. Saving time reduces anxiety and possibly money. All because you slowed down.

Practice helps you get it right. Slowing down allows you to practice your steps before you have to do them. Practicing anything, from a piano concerto to a speech, makes you better at it. “Winging it” will just result in making your mistakes public. Slow down. Practice. Then when you do it, it will work, and you will know how come it worked. That allows you to do it again–the right way.

Slowing down slows time down. When time slows down, you see more and you understand more. The more you understand, the more you learn, the more you can use what you know.

Excellence takes time. No one was born an expert. You are not the exception. When you do things step by step you can see mistakes, often before you make them. You have more time to do each step, if you aren’t racing. John Wheeler, the physicist, said, “Time is what keeps everything from happening at once.” Take advantage of time.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer, trainer and life coach. She understands the value of slow.

To-Do Lists: Use Index Cards

To-do lists can work for you or make you crazy. There are many ways to create them, and the only one that works is the one that works for you. I love index cards. I always have. So yes, this is another post about index cards. I can’t help it. If I had to belong to a 12-step program to break the habit, I’d write the steps on index cards.

I use a paper to-do list. Even with all the electronics, the fastest, most efficient list-making for me is done with a pencil and index. card.  I don’t have to boot it up, recharge it, or open it. It’s available to me at all times, and a pencil doesn’t need to be connected, opened, or tested. It’s always ready to go. I’ll admit I have a pencil thing.

Here are two ways to use a to-do list. Both involve 3 x 5 index cards, or 4 x 6 cards if you write big.  (I turn the cards and work on them portrait-orientation.) I work on several projects at a time, so I use one card per project. Each project’s name is written on the top of the card, and the to-do list underneath. That way, I can put all the project to-do lists next to each other and see how much work I have and which project needs to take priority. When I have a lot of projects going at the same time, it’s wonderful.

Bright colored index cards available from or other locations.

When I get really into projects, I assign one color to each project, and color code the cards to match the project. (You can also use different color cards.) Color coding gives me overviews and helps me draw conclusions faster. (“A lot of blue cards, do I need to farm some of this out?” “The yellow project is due in a week. Why so few yellow cards? Am I done early, or is there something missing?”)

Then there is the worry list to-do list. When I wake up at night, unable to sleep and busy worrying, I make a list of things I’m worrying about. Having written down the worries, I go back to sleep. The next morning, I tackle the things that need to be done.

The last to-do list is called the tag-cloud to-do list. Because I use the same method as tag clouds–the more important a task, the bigger I write it. Because I have small handwriting, I draw a box around each item on the list. The bigger the box, the more important (or worrisome, or pressing) the item. That gives me two facts at once: the item and the importance, all in one glance.

You can use a mix of these methods. Color-coding works with tag-clouding very well.  Tag-clouding works with worry-list well, too. And no matter what method I choose, writing down all the things that need to get done helps me free up more memory cells.

–Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach and a trainer  who found out long ago that the shortest pencil beats the longest memory. And she is unabashedly in love with index cards.

L.A. Journey

Last week it was off to Los Angeles to do a book signing and to celebrate the birthday of a friend who got me started writing a book. She and I wrote a book together and couldn’t get a publisher. The book was a divorce workbook, and all those many years ago, publishers considered it “controversial and not appropriate to the seriousness of the matter of divorce.” Now all the ideas we had–divorce parties and cards–are everywhere. Norine and I have found other publishers, and I wish her a very happy milestone birthday.

Before I left I filled up my travel mug with coffee–and then I saw this truck.

Enough coffee for you?

I don’t think I want to drink coffee that comes in a tanker truck–there are consequences to drinking all that coffee–and driving across the desert means not that many open rest stops.

Driving West means you’ll be squinting at the sun all afternoon. I noticed the mountains covered in haze, and the sun set like a red rubber ball, with not much fanfare at all.

Small sun means not so much glare.

Probably the first time I was grateful for air-dirt. Sort of like built-in sunglasses.

Mural in Atwater.

The murals in L.A. are wonderful. This one was on a building that was two stories tall.

I wan't sure if I was looking for more science fiction writers or more religion leaders.

Of course there is an L. Ron Hubbard Way in Los Angeles. No sandworms alley, though.

Visit Zinnia in South Pasadena--it's heaven for collage artists.

If you are in L.A., go to Zinnia in South Pasadena. You can see it at the top, center. Tamara is a wonderful person with a store that is so full of beautiful ephemera, your eyes will not know where to stop looking. And they don’t have to. Say hello to Alley, the very cool cat, too. I’ll be back here to teach a class. We’re working out the details.

For a fabulous dinner, go to the Bistro de la Garre–the waitstaff spoils you and the food is fresh and delicious. Time for a splurge!

-Quinn McDonald is schlepping around the West Coast on a book tour. This week she’ll be in Seattle (Third Space Books on the 25th of October at 7 p.m.) and then off to JournalFest for a few days of creative boost!

Managing Your Own Book Tour–Part II

Yesterday, I gave you some tips about managing your own book tour. Here are some more tips:

7. Do your own follow up. Ten days before your event, call your contact and confirm time and place and if the books are on hand. If the location is in your area, drive there and see if your book is displayed and there are notices.

8. The day before the event, call your contact and ask what time you should be there. Overkill? Not at all. Some places want you there an hour before, some just 10 minutes early. Making the call will help you remember the name of your contact.

9. Out of town event? Check maps for directions, one-way streets, parking garages. Ask the store owner if the street number is on the store. Find landmarks. Bring change for parking meters, and cash for parking garages. Then plan on arriving half an hour early. You can’t be late to your own event.

10. Some spaces expect you to have a contact list in their area and will expect you to bring in your own clients. If you don’t have a list, you may want to mention that in an early discussion.

11. Even if three people show up, put on your best show. You owe it to your book, your self-esteem, and your work ethic to do everything as well as you can.

12. Bring your business card and use them. Make your card colorful, make it a card people will want to keep. Glossy stock is very popular right now, but you can’t write on it easily. Print cards so people can take notes.

13. Ask people for their cards. Have a sign-up list to keep people current on your activities. Then send them the links to your blog or website–wherever you post updates. Write them occasionally–a non-sales note. You can’t say thank-you too much.

14. Send a thank-you email to every contact in every place you go. Even if it was a disaster, thank them for their effort. You want to encourage people to do the right thing.

15. Never say anything bad about a book signing out loud. It’s cheap and that’s not you. But keep a list of which ones worked and which ones did not. That’s smart information for you to use next time.

-Quinn McDonald is on a book tour for Raw Art Journaling. She’s also reviving her creativity at JournalFest this week.

Managing Your Own Book Tour: Part I

Coaching Giveaway Report: Today is the day I’ll be contacting the winners of the free coaching. I will not be publishing names to keep all coaching confidential. It’s an ethical bond I want to continue. There were seven winners.

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Recently published a book? Going on book signings or a tour? Wear comfy shoes. Here are some notes  about what I’ve learned (some of it the hard way) from my book tour. No sense making mistakes if you can’t help others.

Make sure your book is at the top of the stack.

1. You care more than anyone else about your book. Book stores, art stores, libraries’ marketing managers are all understaffed and overworked. Your book is one in a long line of events, signings, and added work load on the store. Make it easy on the person you are working with by appreciating their job load and being flexible. Here’s how to do that:

  • Check out the book store to make sure their audience is right for you. If your book is how-to, don’t go to a mystery book store.
  • Check out the events in town the same day as your book signing. If there is a concert, art opening or big event that will drain your attendance,  re-think the date. You will have to check dates once the marketing person gives you a date, so ask your contact if you can  confirm within 24 hours and then do it right away.
  • Not every event will damage your attendance. You only care about the ones that are interesting to your target audience.
  • If your contact asks you to switch days, rooms, or stores, be flexible. Think long term–another opportunity, another book. It’s good to be remembered for helping out.

2. Check the calendar for holidays–and not just yours. An important religious holiday can not only drain your audience, but make you look insensitive.

3. Think event, not just signing. Book signings are getting harder to do. Celebrities draw crowds, but not every author is a celebrity. Think event–what is in your book that you can do with your audience that’s fun, relatively easy to do, and will make your audience want the book?

4. If you aren’t in a book store, make it clear who is bringing the books and how much they will be sold for. Not every store will automatically order your book. Find out before you show up.

5. If you sell your books yourself, you will need to charge sales tax. Get a sales tax license before you need it. They can take time. Know the local tax amount. Some locations have a county sales tax and a city sales tax. It’s your business to find this out. Check the city’s website, or call the comptroller’s office.

6. Not every cool location is well-organized. Check their website, subscribe to their blog or newsletter ahead of time. If they don’t update their blog regularly, if the website doesn’t show events, it will be hard to get people to show up.  And if people don’t show up, you aren’t selling your book and the cool location won’t either.

Tomorrow: The rest of the list in Part II

–Quinn McDonald is the author of Raw Art Journaling. She has learned a lot about book promotion in the last three months.

Live and On-Air

This blog post is for people who are behind the microphone for radio, internet radio, blog-talk radio, podcasts and webinars. When I say “behind the microphone,” I mean on either side–as interviewer or as the person being interviewed. This is different from being media ready, although it’s close.

Some tips for the person being interviewed:

1. Do NOT “wing it”. Write down your main points. If you feel nervous, write a script. Then practice it at least three times–yes, three times. The first time, you’ll hear words that are hard to say. The second time, you’ll hear context that doesn’t work. And the third time, you’ll feel confident–don’t give up any of those.

No face-plant for you if you practice.

2. Talk to the host–in person–ahead of time. You want to feel comfortable with the person asking questions. If that’s impossible, exchange emails. Listen to another show, read their blog. Do not go on the air not knowing the show’s target audience and the host’s style.

3. Have a list of questions you know the answers to and submit those to the host. If the host hasn’t read your book. blog, or website, they’ll be asking you good questions that you know the answers to. I was once asked, “What were you thinking about when you wrote [random sentence from my book.] ?” It took me a few seconds to recover and give an intelligent answer.

4. Double-check your calendar. Make sure you know the right time to call in. Check again. Set a timer or alarm to keep you on track 15 minutes before starting time.

5. Have a copy of your book next to you for reference during the interview. Even if you’ve memorized it.

6. Do not drink carbonated beverages for an hour before the interview. Have a glass of water close by–your throat will feel dry.

7. Have the interviewer’s name on an index card next to you. Thank them by name at the beginning and end of the interview.

8. Send the interviewer a thank-you email, naming something that went well. Don’t apologize for a flub in the email, you can do that on the phone later.

If you are running the interview:

1. Stop trouble before it starts. Send the person you are interviewing (called ‘the author’ from now on) all the information needed well before the show. Two weeks is a good time. Check in with them to make sure they understand the instructions.

2. Do not give the author impossible tasks. Here are  instructions I’ve been given that I could not meet:

  • Use a landline (haven’t had one in five years).
  • Be in a soundproof room. (Where do you live that you have one–or need one?)
  • Kennel your pets and have a baby sitter for your kids. (I understand the intent, but just tell me what you need, not how to do it.)
  • Send me a free book. (Most authors pay for their own books. Be kind and accept a PDF).

2. Do not assume the author knows your style or is a big fan your show.

3. If you are doing a webinar, schedule a practice session.Everyone will

The book in its first printing.

be happier and more professional for it.

4. Never, ever make fun of an author’s name. They’ve heard it all. Seriously.

5. Read the book, or at least two chapters so you can ask good questions. Or ask the author for speaking points. Then use them. Do not read a random quote from the book and ask the author what they were thinking when they wrote it. The author doesn’t remember.

6. Refer to the book in context during the interview. The author doesn’t have the book memorized, so saying, “Tell me more about that exercise on page 86” is not likely to get you a brilliant answer. At best, you will hear pages rustling. At worst, you will hear what a blank stare sounds like.

7. Thank the author. You both need each other.

Interviews are a wonderful way to broadcast information about your book.  Not every author should be on every show. Choose wisely. Practice, prepare and enjoy each interview!

Quinn McDonald is a writer who is promoting her book, Raw Art Journaling. The book is available on her website at a discount and free shipping (in the U.S.) for a limited time. She’s enjoying almost all interviews, except for the person who made fun of her name. And for the record, yes, she is Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. Sure.





Creativity Coaching? Why? (+ Giveaway)

Coaching Giveaway Report: Today is the day (Oct. 24, 2011)  I’ll be contacting the winners of the free coaching. I will not be publishing names to keep all coaching confidential. It’s an ethical bond I want to continue. There were seven winners—Thanks to all who left a comment!
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As people find out about creativity coaching and separate it from a football coaching, marriage counseling, and therapy, I start getting interesting questions.

Journal page, ink wash over white ink.

The first question is always, “How is creativity coaching different from life coaching?” The short answer is, “Creativity coaching focuses on that part of your life that fuels your ideas and talents. It helps you make meaning out of your life.”

Some other good questions I get at book signings:

Q:  Do I have to be an artist to benefit from creativity coaching?
A: No, not at all. Creativity coaching makes the most of your ideas and innovative ideas, even change in your life, to help you feel worthwhile and show up in the world the way you see yourself.

Q: How long before I see a change in my life?
A: In the last two months, I’ve had two people who came for a sample coaching, had a powerful session, and found their direction. That’s great, but it does take most people a bit longer. I ask for a 12-week commitment, because change is not easy, and while the first session is powerful, it’s hard to maintain that surge on your own. Doubt creeps in. To overcome the fear of change, to make change work for you, and to take the fear out of it takes about 12 weeks.

Q: Does coaching always work for everybody?
A. Sadly, no. There are people who do not want to put in the work it takes to create change in their lives. Some people would do better in therapy. But at the end of 12 weeks, you will either have made the change, or know the reason you haven’t, and that is a lot of learning worth having.

Q: What’s the point of creativity coaching?
A: If you are sleep-walking through life, you probably aren’t happy. Most people don’t like their jobs, but stay in them because of the salary or benefits. That’s a dreary life that to feelings of worthlessness and  low productivity. Finding something that fuels a purpose in your life, that combines left-brain drive with right brain insight can give you a completely different perspective. You life can fill with purpose and energy. That’s what focusing on creativity can bring you.

GIVEAWAY  Today on Create Mixed Media’s website, North Light Books (my publisher) hosted me at a webinar about my book, Raw Art Journaling, which is deeply rooted in meaning making. I’m finding people hungry to use their talents to do something that makes a difference. I want to help. That’s what the giveaway is about.

WHAT: I’m giving away free full-length (one-hour) coaching sessions, one for every five comments, up to 10 free coaching sessions. No multiple comments necessary.

HOW: Leave a comment telling me how you think coaching can help you. It’s not an essay contest, but I’d like to know your perspective.  You can live anywhere–coaching happens on the phone or via Skype.

WHEN: On Monday, October 24, I’ll announce the winners and contact them via email to set up a time in November or December to experience the coaching.

Drawing: Minimal Supplies

When I begin any of my journaling classes, I explain that we will be doing more than writing. Before I explain what it is we will do, someone will say, “This better not be about drawing. I can’t draw.” There is a lot of fear about drawing. Most people have their creative play driven out of them by fourth grade.

They are told what art is, and lessons are generally about precision and not making a mistake. Instead, art is about seeing and being. And making mistakes so you can fix them and learn to see better.

My big fear is that to be considered acceptable as a teacher, I better have a lot of “stuff.” Stamps and UTEE and templates; cutters and vinyl and foam; printed paper squares and ribbons and stamp pads in pigment and dye and chalk. But I don’t. I don’t have all that stuff. I have colored pencils, paints (acrylic and watercolor) and inks and some handmade papers and great drawing paper. And I often feel I have too much. (My sewing stash is growing).

I believe you can make art without a lot of stuff. Art comes from within you, not through stencils, transparencies and puffy paints. I’m not saying they aren’t fun, or that creative play should be sparse. I am saying you don’t need to break the bank and become an art-product consumer to be an artist. It’s not what you own, it’s what you do with what you have.

Preternatural Breakup by Justine Ashbee, © 2006

Here are two great examples of what I mean. Both of these people can’t NOT make art. They stand in the flow of time and art and the work pours out of them because there is no other choice. They have their own ideas of what art is, and the only tool either one of them uses is a Sharpie pen.

Justine Ashbee uses nothing except Sharpie pens and good paper. Her flowing lines and subtle use of color are incredibly beautiful art. She does it freehand. It comes from within her. It’s the flow of art. You couldn’t stop her creative work because it makes meaning. It doesn’t need to be supported with a million products.

Charlie Kratzer, the other artist, does a totally different kind of work. He decorated his entire basement with a black Sharpie. OK, it was more than one. It was $10 worth. The rest was his creativity, his ideas, his desire to decorate his life.

Kratzer is a lawyer, and started with one line in the basement–a line that began a mural around his basement wall. The mural is not just furniture and columns and wainscoting, although it is all that.

The art spans literature and popular culture, Picasso and Churchill. I could list all the things on the wall, but there is a wonderful video and article that does a much better job.

Being creative is not about owning stuff, buying stuff, or having a fabulous studio to store the stuff. Right now there it’s popular to have artists’ studios in magazines, along with descriptions about how this big, airy, wonderful space is exactly what every artist needs. Yes, it’s nice to have lots of space and storage, but thinking you need 300 square feet with special furniture before you can create is the same as thinking you aren’t an artist until you have six shelves of stuff. Creativity is making meaning in your life. Anyway you can. No excuses. Get busy doing one thing that you love. It’s fine if you think you can’t. Just get into the studio and start. The rest will wash over you and sweep you away in art.

–Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach who helps people discover they can make meaning in many ways. See her work at

I Hate My StudioToday

Usually, I work on weekends, at least part of the time. This weekend, I planned some studio time. All week, I eagerly waited for my uninterrupted studio time. Just as I headed to the studio, a call came–could I help? Sure.  But still, after I came back, I headed for the studio.

Finally, I sat down and. . . nothing. I had no ideas. I didn’t know what to start. My tried-and-true method of leaving something unfinished and ready to work on didn’t work. No idea what to do next.

Grid over layers.

Why not some layers? An hour later, I had a muddy mess. Not a fan of layers-on-layers. I can’t see a clear reason for doing them. Doesn’t matter. Overtired, over-committed, not interested. How can that be? It can. It happens to every creative soul. What to do? I knew that if I left the studio, I’d find it harder to come back next time.

The last fun project was using Copic markers on coated stock. I decided to play with that, no objective, no pressure to produce. So that’s what I did. It was the equivalent of a Grateful Dead concert–an hour of aimless noodling.

Aimless Noodling

What was the purpose? Well, aimless noodling. It’s an end in itself. Coated stock is fun to work with. Some notes I took included a half-baked idea for another class, which wrote down to develop later. Today was not a development day. Another idea for experimentation is to compare photography paper and coated stock, to see if they react the same way.

I’m still not loving layers, but I am more sure that I want to do some more collage, which is always what I come back to. Good to know. To cover the layers, I stamped some circles, cut out some squares from my aimless noodling and combined them. Is it fabulous? Of course not. Not every day is fabulous. But I think I have an idea for a new class, I’m sure I want to continue in collage, and I have coated stock to experiment with.

Even a bad day in the studio is better than no studio time.

-Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach who has her own bad days. She never admits that to her clients.