Books for a Creative Life

wimd-34If you want to live a creative life, you’re going to need some help. Books are my first place to start. Here are some books I’m reading now that are a great help for your creativity.

Writing is My Drink by Theo Pauline Nestor. Simon and Schuster, 2013. Love this book that helps you discover who you are through writing. A good story by a woman who knew she was a writer, but just couldn’t write. Till she took some risks.  Each chapter has writing suggestions at the end.

Become a Life Change Artist by Fred Mandell, Ph.D. and Kathleen Jordan, bookPh.D. Penguin Group, 2010. These two Ph.D.s teach you seven creative skills to reinvent yourself at any stage in life. And they do it by breaking down how creative people do their work and then applying it to your life. The seven skills are:

  • Peparation
  • Seeing
  • Using Context
  • Embracing Uncertainty
  • Risk Taking
  • Collaboration
  • Discipline

Building Your Business the Right-Brain Way, by Jennifer Lee, New World Library, 2014.  OK, I haven’t read this one yet, but it’s on my desk. I love the idea that right-brain strengths can be applied to a traditionally left-brain activity–building a business.  Again, business is considered an art (good idea if you are an entrepreneur), and you need some of the same skills to be successful as left-brained people. You’ll learn about taking a stand and making an impact and attracting clients–the right ones.

The Right-Brain Business Plan by Jennifer Lee, New World Library, 2011. art-books-highlight-261x199This was Lee’s first book, and it shares a lot of design elements with the second book: tips, success stories, worksheets, and a friendly, approachable format.

I bought all these books in the paper-book format. I do love ebooks, but when I’m reading for research (and all of these books are for becoming a better coach), I like to take notes on paper. In this case, I’ve put those convenient #8 shipping tags in the books as bookmarks. I take notes on the tags, keep them together with colorful binder rings, and can flip through them to find the notes I need. And yes, I do color-code them.

Now, here’s a question for you: If you were to take a week-long creativity course, one that focuses on writing, but not on one style or genre of writing, what would you want included? List as many items as you want. Some ideas to get you started:

  • Comments can include topics you want covered (memoir, poetry, fiction, non-fiction)
  • How you want to spend the day (traditional teaching lessons, writing and reading your work, critique,)
  • How important it is to write in class and get personal feedback
  • How much you want to read your own work or hear the work of others
  • Special topics you want covered (why write a book? Collaborative writing)

And yeah, I’m creating a class. Might as well get feedback from the smartest people I know. My idea right now is that the class will have an online component and an in-person component. You can form community and start working on a project online, then meet for the in-person class. You can also experience each part separately. Don’t ask me how I will do this yet. I’m just thinking.

—Quinn McDonald is creating a new kind of class.

 

 

Writing Wild (Book Review and Giveaway)

Tina Welling is a fiction writer, known for Cowboys Never Cry, Fairytale Blues and Crybaby Ranch. This book, Writing Wild, is non-fiction; in fact, it is a book about writing.  Here’s how Welling describes the book:

Everything we know about creating, we know intuitively from the natural world. Over and over, nature shows us the rules of creativity. . . Writing Wild offers writers, journal keepers, and those others of us who wish to live more fully a direct pathway into a stronger relationship with wildness, both inner and outer. The result is writing that inspires, heal, enlivens, and deeply engages both writer and reader.

writingwildAs a model, she takes Joseph Campbell, who wrote, “The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.”

Welling lives in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a place where (I imagine) you love the natural world, or you move away.

She believes in using all five senses in writing, and has several exercises to show you how to do that, too. She uses a method called “Naming, Detailing, Interacting,” which she describes in detail, so you can learn how to get the most out of a nature walk, and bring it into your writing.

She also shows us how to truly inhabit our body. For many of my coaching clients, the body ends right at the neck, there is a vague connection to fingers (for writing or typing) and then. . .nothing. I’m always surprised at how many writers live their entire lives in their head. Welling pries you out of it with gentle, easy exercises that make you realize how much of your truth lives in your body.

Once you have learned to connect your body to your head, she guides you to understand that intuition is a knowledge we all have, but often don’t trust. And that writing is the healing action that combines body and soul.

One of my favorite parts of the book is the idea that we do not, after all, write what we know. Instead, Welling says, we write to know something, and that something is ourselves. (I found a hint of Inner Hero here.)

Chapter titles include:

  • Nature as a Writing Partner
  • The Body Never Lies
  • Creativity and the Four Elements
  • Lessons from the Natural World
  • The Energy of Writing
  • Follow Your Longing
  • Wild Spirit

This book is certainly not for everyone. But for hikers, naturalists or writers curious about the world around them, you will find help, validation, and some interesting exercises to help you become the writer you already know you are.

Giveaway: Leave a comment that you want a free copy of the book. On Saturday, I will announce the winner. Make sure you stop by on Saturday, May 10 to see if you won and send me your mailing address. Good luck!

Note: Congratulations to Kaisa Mäki-Petäjä, who won Writing Wild. I love her blog, here’s the link to the boulders she draws in her journal. Send me your mailing address to QuinnCreative AT yahoo DOT com. The publisher sent me two books, and I’m giving away the second one as well. Congratulations to Diane Becka, new owner of the second book!

Thanks to everyone who left a comment!

Disclosure: New World Library kindly sent me two copies of the book because I wanted to keep one and give one away.

—Quinn McDonald is a writer who loves to read books about writing.

 

Altered Imagery: a Giveaway

The Complete Guide to Altered Imagery is a mixed media book explaining techniques for collage, altered books, art journals and more.  The author, Karen Michel, is a New York mixed media artist.

610Au086VWLI’ve had the book in my collection for a while, and it has been a solid source for techniques and inspiration on topics I didn’t know much about: altering photography, digital work, and printmaking techniques. Because of the popularity of art journaling techniques, I thought it was time to pass it on.

The book has sections on various multi-media techniques:

  • Photography, which includes both 35mm photography and Polaroid photography.
  • Altered images working with scanners and printers.
  • Found sources, such as magazines and found objects and working with image transfers.
  • Printed images: using acetate as a negative, using photographic images to creating rubber stamps.
  • Creating monoprints

There’s also a gallery of projects and tips done by contributing artists, including Julianna Coles, Traci Bunkers, Lesley Riley , Michelle Ward and Lynne Perrella.

If you want to add it to your collection, leave a comment. I’ll announce the winner on Saturday’s blog. Be sure to check back on Saturday to see if you won!

-Quinn McDonald is (gulp) is re-doing her studio. The first stage (of three) is just starting. With some luck and hard work, it will look less like an explosion in a paper factory and more like a studio. It will also be a guest room. (That’s the third part).

 

Reading and the Clean Plate Club

If you had parents who grew up in the Depression, or went through other hardships, you remember the “Clean Plate Club.” You cleaned up your plate at every meal.  Hungry or not, you ate. You finished your meal. old-fashioned-thanksgivingSomehow, I translated that to reading books.

I find it almost impossible to abandon a book I’ve started, no matter how unsatisfactory.  I keep reading, even when the plot is weak, the characters uninteresting, or the premise vague. There is no good reason I do this. But I do.

I just finished an audiobook, and when the female protagonist (a flighty, timid, weak soul who is always “rooted to the spot in fear,” “numb with indecision,” or  “quavering  with hesitant hope”)  gets into yet another scrape, I begin to root for the villain to do her in. When the writing is weak, I keep hoping for a change.

Maybe the next chapter will pick up. At some point, I should know better. It’s not patience, it’s not tolerance. It is a good lesson in the difference between patience and endurance.

There comes a time in every situation when the excuses are used up, the reasons for staying the course unclear. That’s the time to stop listening, stop eating, and look for another source of  satisfaction. If satisfaction is not found in what you are dealing with, it time to stack the plate, put the CD back in the case, and start the search for more satisfaction.

–Quinn Mcdonald has moved on to another book. A far better one.

Book Review: No Excuses Art Journaling

And yes, there is a giveaway of a signed book. But first, about the book.

Before I met Gina Rossi Armfield, her book, No Excuses Art Journaling, had me hooked. After I met her at CHA (Craft and Hobby Association Convention in Anaheim), I felt I’d met someone I’d known for a long time and crossed paths with again. She’s warm and happy to share her ideas. Over dinner, I got hooked on her style of art journaling and am having a lot of fun doing a “No-Excuses” journal of my own.

Cover of the No Excuses Art Journal.

Cover of the No Excuses Art Journal.

Her book is a flat-out, ingenious way to journal. There are easy step-by-step instructions. Take a book-size calendar, weekly preferable. Convert the datebook into a  journal by adding the journaling program (a free download) by taping it into the datebook. Add envelopes in each month, to store snippets you will want to use as you go along.

Gina also gives you monthly theme pages with quotes, ideas and prompts to put in the calendar for each month. You then add watercolor paper so you can draw, collage or paint, as you decide.

That’s just the beginning. Each month has a theme, there are tasks for each week. Feeling overwhelmed? No need. She just wants to make sure you aren’t bored. You can do as much or as little as you want.

I decided to use a watercolor sketch book and added sticky-note weekly calendar pages. This page shows some envelopes I made to hold painted leaves and feathers.

I decided to use a watercolor sketch book and added sticky-note weekly calendar pages. This page shows some envelopes I made to hold painted leaves and feathers.

To help you stay interested, she teaches you some techniques: how to carve your own rubber stamp, how to create collages, how to do contour drawings (so you can create sketches, which you also learn.

Jennifer Joanou's pages on seasons.

Jennifer Joanou’s pages on seasons.

There are hints to work with photo strips, the color of the day, getting in touch with your emotions and drawing the weather. Just when you think you are going to pop if you don’t grab a journal and get started, she gives examples of her own and from guest artists like Jenny Doh, Jennifer Joanou, Traci Lyn Huskamp, LK Ludwig, Susan Elliott–one for each month of the year.

"Nice Pair" watercolor marker and Gelli plate collage. © Quinn McDonald, 2014

“Nice Pair” watercolor marker and Gelli plate collage. © Quinn McDonald, 2014

Each artist chose a color palette to work with and answered a set of interview questions. You get an intimate look at each included artist and a view of their interpretation of the assignments.

The book is cheerful and peripatetic. You will want to use it as a reference, as a guide, as an inspiration.

Gina has offered to sign a book as a giveaway. Leave a comment, letting me know why her book would help you, and I’ll have a random drawing. Winner will be announced on Sunday–make sure you check in to see if you won.

This book will show you a fresh new way to create a fat, interesting journal while exploring your own seasons and landscapes. Oh, and Gina’s giving away the Inner Hero book today, too.

Quinn McDonald loves to read other artist’s journaling ideas.

Fast Fiction (Review and Giveaway)

FastFictionAlways wanted to write a book? Have the story but don’t know how to start–or keep going to write a novel? Denise Jaden has your answer. Fast Fiction: A Guide to Outlining and Writing a First-Draft Novel in Thirty Days is the answer to most of the question you’ve had about how to write that novel.

Yes, I know National Novel Writing Month is barely over (or still eight months away), but you don’t need the challenge to write a book. And if you use Jaden’s book, you will be done by the time November rolls around.

I was a bit skeptical when I picked up the book. I may have even muttered about the way we do everything so fast and without real thought. But after I read the book, I changed my mind. Jaden herself says, “If someone had told me during my early writing days that I would be able to write a draft of an entire book in less than a month, I probably would have though they were crazy,”

Jaden guides you through the first draft of a 50,000 word novel. And she does it just in time for the novel-writing March Madness contest she holds each year on her own blog.  The book is divided into three parts–Before the Draft, During the Draft, and After the Draft. She doesn’t leave you hanging with a draft and no idea what to do. But I’m leaping too far ahead.

web+banner+booksIn Before the Draft, you’ll learn how to narrow down the idea for your novel, separate plot from story idea, and set a three-act structure (and she tells you how to do each step.)

You will also learn why theme is important, how much to develop your characters (and how much to let them develop themselves), and why setting is important. She helps you develop a list of scenes (in clear terms), and to write a story plan and how you will write your first draft.

All of this will happend before you start launching into During Your Draft. In that section, you will get help for each of 30 days in which you are going to draft your novel. Jaden reminds you that it is a first draft, not a finished product. One of the pieces of the book I found most useful is the weekly checkpoints she helps you set at the beginning of the 30-days.

For each of the 30 days of drafting, there is an encouraging portion of avoiding pitfalls, writing tips, and hints. Then there is a Simple Task for each day. Following her advice and using the tips will have you writing 2,000 words a day.

I expected to hear some repetition in the 30-day section, but there wasn’t any. Each day is molded by the goal for that week, and has a new idea and fresh approach to old writing problems. No clichés, no trite affirmations, no platitudes.

The last section, After the Draft, Jaden talks about revisions, using first readers to help you identify problem areas, and how to fix those areas.

I found myself wanting to write a novel for the first time in a long time, just to try out her method. I love the positive town that never sounds cheerleader-ish, and the real advice.

I received the book as a review copy and would love to keep it for myself. But I give away review copies. Leave a comment and I’ll give the book away on Thursday’s blog. If you’ve wanted to write a novel, but weren’t sure exactly how to do it, you’ll know how when you finish.

Quinn McDonald is tempted to write a novel now. She has always said she is not a fiction writer. She used to say she wasn’t a book author, either. She is the author of The Inner Hero Art Journal.

The Creative Compass: a Giveaway

Not too long ago, I reviewed The Creative Compass by Dan Millman and his daughter Sierra Prasada. I liked the book, enough to want to hold on to it a bit longer. The publisher kindly sent me another book to give away.

BookWho would like this book? Writers who are doubtful, don’t understand self-publishing and want a thorough, thoughful book that guides writers from Dream through Draft, Develop, Refine to Share. Those are the five steps the father-daughter team use to help writers (and other creators) from idea to promotion.

The book helps you look at, listen to and evaluate research and think clearly about content. The book helps you become more self-aware, pay attention to your audience, and develop the habits of a writer.

There are old truths that will lead you to new wisdom. The balance of the father-daughter team is both analytical and intuitive. It will help you gather the story you want to write and transform it into the book you will be proud of.

Tell me why you need the book in the comments. I’ll chose (at random) someone who needs this book to fulfill a dream of writing.

And thanks to New World Library for giving me two copies–one to keep and one to give away. Winner will be announced on Tuesday, November 26, 2013.

Note: Congratulations to Jody Lund, who won the book!

—Quinn McDonald is a reader and writer. She is also a creativity coach who helps people finish their creative work. And while she welcomes new clients, she does not make the decision for writers whether to self-publish or go a traditional route. That’s the writer’s choice, always.

Finding What You Didn’t Lose (and a Giveaway)

410G4DDA8YL._SX258_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_Finding What You Didn’t Lose by John Fox is a book on writing poetry. The whole title continues with Expressing Your Truth and Creativity Through Poem-Making. It’s one of my favorite books on poetry. It has chapters on

  • The need for poetry making in our lives
  • Revealing yourself in your poem
  • Reconnecting with your natural creativity
  • Experimenting with the Delight of Language
  • Metaphor and Other Tools
  • Making Poems from Your Journal Entries
  • Creating a Community of Poem Makers
  • Breaking Through Your Pain With Words
  • Expressing the Sacred Through Poetry

So why am I giving it away? Because at one point I thought I’d lost it in Tucson and ordered another. Yes, yes, I understand the irony in thinking I’d lost a book called Finding What You Didn’t Lose. And once the second one arrived, I found the first one. Of course. That’s the only way you find something you’ve lost, by purchasing a replacement.

This book is the replacement book. It may have a few underlines in it, but not many. There are many examples of poetry, by Fox’s students as well as by well-known poets. There are also great quotes about poetry in the margins, so if you are a marginalia lover, this is absolutely for you.

It comes with a painted leaf bookmark–the leaf is from an Arizona eucalyptus tree–the leaves aren’t the round ones you are used to seeing with koalas, this leave is about six inches long and looks like a blade. One side is painted gold. There is no further explanation needed. Wait till you see The Gardener Chapter in the Inner Hero Art Journal book and you will understand.

Leave a comment telling me why you want a book on how to write poetry. On Wednesday, October 16, I’ll chose a winner at random, from the best answers. How’s that for an out? I can’t help it, some answers will make me laugh or feel the book is going to the right home. I’ll gather those and draw a random name.

Update and Note: In the book giveaway, I read every comment. I wished I had more books. And then I realized I did! So in addition to Sue in Georgia winning Finding What You Didn’t Lose, Ray in Canada won Saved by a Poem and Annie who Laughs won Voices from the Heart, which is more of a visual poetry book. Congratulations to the winners, and thanks to all of you who read the blog. There are more giveaways coming.

-Quinn McDonald writes poetry and dreams of being in a poetry slam some day.

Art Journal Freedom: Book Review (and Giveaway)

book1Note:  The three people who won the random drawing for Dina’s book fromare Shannon Ganshorn, Annettte Geistfeld, and Ann M. Philli. Congratulations to all of you!

Dina Wakley’s book is great. I could end the review there, but it wouldn’t tempt you enough to buy the book. And this is an art journaling book you should own, whether you are a beginner or an experienced art journaler.

I’ve taken classes from Dina, and I love her dedication to her art, her insistent encouraging to try new things or delight in familiar ones, and her easy way to bring out ideas and share them freely.

A few weeks ago, when I went to her book signing, I asked her just to sign the book (rather than sign it to me specifically) as I was planning on giving it away. But in the course of doing projects to review it, I got a bit enthusiastic, and splashed paint here and there and maybe dribbled a bit of gesso on the pages as well. So the giveaway book will be a fresh new one, but it won’t be here for about 10 days or so. If you are the winner, please be patient.

book2Details of Dina Wakley’s book: Journal Freedom: How to Journal Creativity with Color and Composition.
Publisher: North Light. Paperback, 128 pages long.
Chapters:

  • Tools and Materials
  • Symmetry and Asymmetry
  • White Space, Continuance and Closure
  • Proximity
  • Dominance and Repetition
  • Color Basics
  • Contrast with Color
  • Color as a Composition Tool
  • The Power of Black and White
  • Putting it All Together

On the table of contents page, there is a QR code that will take you to bonus content from Dina. A nice touch.

What I like about the book: It’s a real how-to, with basic creative art instruction. Many art journalers are self taught, and don’t want to go to school to learn color theory, the rule of thirds and other pedantic necessities. The genius in this book is that Dina teaches all the things you need to know to create beautifully composed pages by doing exercises that are fun and manageable.

book3She keeps the tone light and fun, and takes you along in a logical pattern that makes you want to learn. Her signature silhouettes are there, and in addition to seeing several ways to use silhouettes cut from magazines, you learn placement and balance.

I mean this next statement in the best possible way: Dina’s book is all hers. She doesn’t aggregate the work of 20 people, she teaches what she knows. I find it refreshing. Yes, it is nice to see different interpretations of an idea, but in this book having just one artist explain composition and color through her own work is a really good idea. It keeps lessons simple and allow the reader to try out personal ideas without having too many examples to choose from.

What I didn’t like: I kept a list and when I was done, I squinted at it to see if it was my preference, or an objective critique. The things I would have done differently would have made the book not Dina’s. So I am going to be happy that Dina’s fingerprints (colorful ones!) make the book what it is. I’m glad I spilled gesso on it and get to keep it.

This is more than a reference book, this is an enjoyable project and reference book.

Giveaway: If you want to win the book, leave a comment. I’ll be giving it away on Saturday morning, so you have time. And yes, partly that’s a stall to wait for the ordered book to arrive. The rest of it is that I am up to my armpits in paperwork this week.

Quinn McDonald loves seeing books with so much heart and soul of the artist on every page.

Book Review: Flavor for Mixed Media (+Giveaway)

BookCoverNote: Ms. Lillypads is the winner of Mary Beth Shaw’s book.Congratulations! Send me your address and the book will be on its way!

Mary Beth Shaw‘s book, Flavor for Mixed Media, caught my attention because it used food as a metaphor for art. Two favorites in one book! The book expands the meaning of mixed media by including favorite recipes from contributors. That made it interesting to Kent, who is a personal chef, and loves a good recipe. We both decided to try projects from Mary Beth’s book–I’d try an art project, Kent would cook one of the recipes.

Paper Mosaic is one of my favorite collage approaches, and Mary Beth’s book has a section on using a color theory exercise to help expand your use of color. I built on that technique to create one of my free-standing journal pages. Here’s the video–about 6 minutes long, and a project from start to finish.

Artists mix colors, but we often mix our favorite colors over and over and don’t expand to different hues, tints, and values. The chapter’s guest artist is Sarah Ahearn Bellemare, and her color triad theory helps you mix and keep information on colors you love and that work together.

Page 26 and 27 of Mary Beth Shaw's book shows color triad theory.

Page 26 and 27 of Mary Beth Shaw’s book shows color triad theory.

The book is full of projects and ideas, but be sure to check out Mary Beth Shaw‘s website, too.

Color
Painting Without Paint, guest artist Misty Mawn
Triad Color Theory, guest artist Sarah Ahearn Bellemare
Organic Abstract Painting, guest artist Elizabeth MacCrellish
Texture
Clayboard Book, guest artist Shari Beaubien
Texture Sampler, guest artist Susan Tuttle
Candle Shade, guest artist Laura Lein-Svencner
Layers
Collagraph Plate, guest artist Julie Snidle
Plexi Squared, guest artist Tonia Jenny
Three-Dimensional Painting, guest artist Dolan Geiman

Project from page 112.

Project from page 112.

Flavors
Icing Panels, guest artist Heather Haymart
Taste of Klimt, guest artist Deb Trotter
Collage Painting, guest artist Claudine Hellmuth
Combinations
Cardboard Collage, guest artist Katie Kendrick
Abstract Letter Forms, guest artist John Hammons
Abstract With Discarded Material, guest artist Judy Wise

Don’t take that “discarded material” too seriously. These are ideas for recycling materials and keep your art supply costs down.  I’m all for seeing materials in a new way, particularly if I don’t have to create a shopping list for them.

Project from page 77

Project from page 77

The eye candy in the links alone is richly satisfying–but what I really like is the variety of the projects. You get enough help to make the project through the step-by-steps, and the luscious photos of finished projects encourage you to keep going.

One of the joys of mixed media is choosing what you are interested in and exploring it. No problem veering into the kitchen for some of the guest authors’ recipes, either. I asked Kent to make Katie Kendrick’s  coconut lentil soup because I like lentil soup, it freezes well, and it’s satisfying without damaging my diet. But you can also make your own tortillas,  sugar cookies from a recipe that’s as versatile as the artwork, and Mary Beth’s own secret Brownies. (Yum!)

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a how-to book that you can take to the grocery store with the same great results as if you take it to the studio!

Front of art journal page I made from instructions on pgs. 24-27.

Front of art journal page I made from instructions on pgs. 24-27.

Giveaway: Mary Beth generously donated a signed copy of the book to my blog readers. Leave a comment that you’d like the book, and your name goes in the drawing that will be held on Wednesday evening, Phoenix time.  The winner (international entries are fine) will be announced on Thursday’s blog and at the top of this blog post.

—Quinn McDonald is learning how to shoot and edit videos to teach online classes. She wishes she had another four hands and a side porch on her brain to provide more room for learning new skills.