Smiling Over Spilled Milk

During my morning walk, I came across some spilled ice cream on a sidewalk. In another city, or in another time, a rain may have washed the spilled milk away. In Phoenix, it dries in place. Fast. Which made it the perfect image to photograph.

While the lines and dots in the sidewalk were beautiful in their own right, I loved the way the melted ice cream ran into the safety portion of the sidewalk.

It seems that when we spill out our life, it can create art for people to see hours later. But only in the Invisible, Visible World.

–Quinn McDonald sees accidental art on her morning walks through Phoenix. She calls this temporary art part of the Invisible, Visible World. She’s working on a book about it.

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Book Review: Live Your Life; Two Giveaways

OK, I’ll admit it—I like self-help books. Here’s why: I don’t expect them to change my life. Or even the next month. I do expect a good self-help book to have at least one solid idea that can help me see a situation, a habit, or a person in a different way.

A book that gives me a fresh perspective is a book that may move my decision-making machinery in a new direction, one that helps me make better decisions.

Ann LeFevre’s book, Live Your Life, 14 Days to the Best You, takes an interesting approach to self-help. In addition to taking a holistic approach, there is a lot of support, including a downloadable workbook (url is listed in the introduction, another reason to read those.)

In each of the 14 days of the book, you get stories from LeFevre’s own life (which makes the book seem human and the tasks seem achievable.  Each chapter has “Thinking Points,” and “Action Items” which allow you to take the lesson and make it yours, just for your goal.

Each chapter is a day, but it can be a week for you, or a month. The book (paperback) is a slim 130 pages, and you can set the pace that works for you. You might find some of it challenging, but that’s the point, right? If your life is not working now, reading a challenging book will seem like the perfect excuse to blow it off. Dig in instead.

Here’s a sampling of the chapters:

  • Silence the Voices (Yep, she believes in the inner critic, too!)
  • Stay the Course (Making a commitment isn’t hard, keeping it is.)
  • Start Somewhere, Anywhere (Dealing with the overwhelmed feeling.)
  • Just Breathe (Dealing with stress.)
  • Show Yourself Compassion (With  the imposter feeling, shame, or guilt)
  • Let it Go (Making space in your home and your life.)
  • Find Balance (in everything, from bad habits to good)
  • Look for Opportunities (you save yourself, no one comes to do it for you.)
  • Do it Anyway

Was there any part of this book I didn’t like? Sure. I ran across a few grammar errors and they always trip me up (because I teach grammar and am sensitized to it).  There are also a few thoughts that contradict each other, but not in the same chapter.
For example, in one chapter, a cruel professor berates LeFevre (as grad student) for “not being born brilliant . . . you are just a hard worker. . .” In that crushing blow, the professor defines brilliant as the ability to have abstract connections among ideas or emotions.  In another chapter, LeFevre advises ridding your space of items that are not necessary, vital, or have a specific purpose. Those are pretty concrete definitions, and don’t leave much room for emotional attachment and just plain liking, but not loving, an item. Those abstract ideas become important in this chapter.

None of those bring down the ability of the book to help. But if I’m reviewing a book, it’s a good balance to point to things I don’t like as well as those that do. These few small imbalances don’t tilt the scale. It’s firmly in the “helpful” category.

The Giveaway, Part 1: On Friday, February 23, 2018, I’ll give the book away. All you have to do is leave a comment on this blog. You don’t have to give a reason, just let me know you want the book. I’ll do a random drawing. Winners will come from the continental U.S. for this drawing.

The Giveaway, Part 2: I’m a coach, both a life coach and a creativity coach. I’m giving away three, one-hour coaching sessions, one session to each of three people. There is no obligation, no pressure, no sales pitch and it’s free. Leave a comment. This is in addition to the book giveaway.
Let me know in the comments that you want to try a coaching session. I will do a separate drawing for the book and the coaching sessions, so if you want to try for both, you can do it all in one comment.

Common-sense stuff:

  • If you are a current or past coaching client of mine, please let someone new try out for the coaching.
  • Winner must be able to call me in Phoenix at an agreed-upon time.
  • Winners must have phone numbers from the continental U.S.
  • Winners must be able to speak to a reason they want coaching–not in the comment. If you are one of the winners, I’ll be asking you.

The book was given to me to review. I am not paid for the review or compensated for the free coaching sessions.

Winners of the giveaway: Kelly Harms has won Ann LeFevre’s book, Live Your Life, 14 Days to the Best You. Winners of the coaching sessions are: Cynthia Pepper, Linda Marsh and Lynn Thompson. Congratulations to the winners! You’ll be hearing from me for details.

Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches writing; she is a life- and creativity coach.

Neocolor II Backgrounds

Simple book. Monsoon Paper cover, neocolor II surface decoration on the inside pages. © Quinn McDonald 2017.

For years, I made books in acceptable ways. Cut the paper, fold it, carefully stitch it into the cover. There you are–a nice blank book. But I didn’t like blank books. And I wasn’t into slathering paint or color onto a page and then coming back and writing on it. But it was the “right” way to create a book.

So I stopped making books. In fact, I stopped doing any kind of art. It stopped being fun.

Recently, I’ve decided to just experiment. Play. I want to make a book that has poems in it that I like. Something to take with me on a trip to read if I wake up at 3 a.m. (You can read more about my dreaming the lives of others here.) Something that isn’t for anyone else, something that is easy to tuck in a carry on.  The cover paper (above) was a piece of Monsoon Paper. (A surface decoration technique I created about 10 years ago.)

What if I completed all the pages first, then chose the ones I liked best and bound those into a  book? No pages I didn’t like, none that didn’t work out. Much more freedom.

My first step was to create a background in the book, something with color. I decided to use neocolor II crayons, because acrylic paint, which is plastic, is hard to write on without special tools. I wanted something that didn’t stiffen the paper.

First, I scribbled some Neocolor II onto a vinyl file folder. It has a slight texture and is waterproof.

Next, I sprayed the surface of the folder with distilled water. (The water in Arizona contains a lot of minerals, and I didn’t want them to discolor the paper.)

Using Arches Text Wove (also called Arches Velin), a 100-percent cotton paper, I pressed it onto the wet surface. Without moving the paper, I rubbed the facing-up side with my hands. Then I slowly peeled the paper off the folder. The wetter areas blended, the dryer ones were more textural.

I printed another page with a slightly less spray, so it was dryer than the first. You can see the texture in parts of this page. I also dipped a brush in the yellow section and dragged it across the page.

Putting aside the wet sheets, I went for one more really dry print. The colors are all pale enough to write over, particularly if I choose to write in the places with less color. The first result was a bit granular, so I sprayed the paper directly with a bit more water.

The experimental pages are fun, don’t come with a big burden of perfection, and are pure self-expression, rather than bound by rules. If the book turns out, I’ll show you the completed project!

Quinn McDonald is an everyday creative who writes, creates collage, and is a certified creativity coach.

 

 

Stress and Fear Relief in Your Inbox

An example of the poem-by-email you’ll get. © Laurie Blackwell, 2017

Been stewing in fear and stress for a while? Scared to go online for fear of what you will find? Need some good news? My friend Laurie, who runs LoneBlackBird, is starting a month of daily mail that will relieve your stress and put a smile on your face. And yes, this is a giveaway post!

Laurie is a teacher who helps kids who have difficulty learning how to read. Now she’s helping anyone who wants to open their email anticipating good news.

Every day in April, Laurie is sending out a hand-drawn email with a short, encouraging poem from well-known and lesser-known writers. April is National Poetry Month, and Laurie wants to introduce people to poetry who have never thought about it, those who don’t know what to think about poetry, and those who love poetry.

There will be a link to the entire poem, or the poem in an anthology of similar poems. Best of all, you can print out the entire image.

What can you do with the printed piece?

These poems beg to be colored and put into your journal. © Laurie Blackwell, 2017.

Well, if you are among the huge group of coloring fans, you can print out the pieces, color them, and create a journal with them.

Or you can simply print them out and put them in your journal the way they are.

You can share them with your kids and have a real conversation about what the words mean, who the poet was (or is), and, if you are home schooling parent or teacher, use them as a prompt for poetry writing.

There is a perfectly good reason to open your email every day in April and know there is a smile waiting for you.  It’s an excellent way to anticipate the best every morning and be rewarded for it!

What a way to start your morning–coffee and coloring! © Laurie Blackwell, 2017

How to win a month worth of smiles: Laurie is giving away three free subscriptions to the poem-a-day for the month of April. All you have to do is leave a comment on this blog post and keep your fingers crossed.

Three winners will be drawn at random on Wednesday, April 5, after 6 p.m. in Phoenix and announced on Thursday’s blog.

You can also follow Laurie on Instagram and see what she is up to. She teaches online and in-person courses that are kind, gentle, and a welcome relief from our frenetic world.

Quinn McDonald is a poet and non-fiction writer who is delighted to support the positive poetry posting.

 

 

Talisman for Clarity

Clarity is hard to come by. My coaching clients struggle with it. My training clients re-write till the document becomes clear for the audience.

So when my jeweler-scultptor-pal Matt Naftzger (who owns Works of Man) created the Window of Clarity pendant, I knew it was the right talisman for me. I own several other pieces that Matt made, and all of them have powers to remind me what I want to be.

Front view of "Window of Clarity," © Matthew Naftzger

Front view of “Window of Clarity,” © Matthew Naftzger

Another benefit of Matt’s work is that he works in titanium, which is light and strong and non-reactive. Starting in late April, all my silver talismans and jewelry go into hiding until October, when the weather cools down. For the hot days of summer, I can wear only gold or titanium. The combination of heat and the tiny bit of copper or other metal in silver makes my skin break out. (I will spare you photos or descriptions. Not pretty.)

So, no steel, surgical steel, copper, brass, gold-plated or low-karat gold. Or silver. But yes to titanium, gold, and silver pendants on longer gold chains.

What makes an amulet different from a talisman? An amulet is believed to give

Back view of "Window of Clarity" © Matthew Naftzger

Back view of “Window of Clarity” © Matthew Naftzger

protection, a talisman offers some other kind of benefit. A talisman does not have the power, the wearer does. The talisman reminds you of powers that may not want to stick around in hard times. A talisman builds strength because it is worn; it stays close.

So what is this talisman about? Matt calls it “the window of clarity.” I had him customize it by putting a window on the front and another one on the back, but in a different place. Clarity doesn’t come in at the same place every time.

The best recognition of the truth and power of the talisman is the answer Matt gave me when I asked him, “On this pendant, why is the window so small?” The answer? “Because people can only take so much clarity at once.” And that is a reminder for me, too.

—Quinn McDonald knows that clarity is sometimes hard to take.

Creativity Hop, April 4, 2015

Broken mirrors have brought New York photographer Bing Wright a lot of luck. He photographs sunsets in the shifting glass surface of broken mirrors, then creates prints.

Broken+Mirror_Evening+Sky(Agfacolor)

The exhibition, called Broken Mirror, Evening Sky  at the Paula Cooper Gallery looks like vibrant stained glass windows.

Broken+MIrror_Evening+Sky+(Kodacolor)

A quote from the gallery’s website says, “Cracked glass seemingly generates doubled reflections, disjointed gleams and refracted light into shards of images.”

While on the topic of glass, here is more interesting work, this done with mirrors.

mirror-1

Alyson Shotz created a picket fence of mirrors and let it reflect the scenery around the fence within the mirrors.

50_alyson-shotz-mirror-fence-2Here is the same fence from a distance. You have to work to see it behind the first row of trees.  If you look slightly above the ground, you can see the straight line created by the top of the fence.

50_alyson-shotz-mirror-fence-3

Here’s another  installation that both reflects and disappears into the landscape.

Have a creative weekend!

Quinn McDonald loves the reflective nature of art.

The Joy of a Trashy Novel

imagesPeople who work on airplanes are admirable. I watch them take out their laptops, open documents and work as if their lives depended on it. Maybe they do. Then there are the game players who hold their iPads like steering wheels and race through narrow lanes on their screens. It’s hard not to feel sorry for the people who are watching a movie on their iPhone. Seriously, I would not want to watch a movie that expanded across a big screen shrink down to the size of my phone. I’d keep wondering, “Which one is that? Was he the driving the getaway motorcycle or was he the guy who crashed through the window in France?”

On airplanes, I bring a book. The kind you don’t have to put away until you are at 10,000 feet. The kind the flight attendant doesn’t ask you to turn off until the Captain tells you it’s OK to read. The kind that makes you look like a matronly grammar teacher on her way to teach a class and . . . let’s leave her alone.

These airplane-reading books are a slice of heaven. I keep my eyes glued to the pages tPile-of-Bookshrough turbulence. Ignore the man in the next seat whose head is on my shoulder and he’s drooling. Ignore the squalling toddler who is kicking my seat.

For I have the trashy novel and am loving it. I pick them carefully. They have to be well-written and the plot has to capture my attention. I’m willing to suspend a lot of disbelief if the main character is flawed in a believable way and has to struggle to solve his problems.

When I say “trashy,” I don’t mean bodice-busters or Fifty Shades of Gray. I have standards. There are genres I don’t like (but not many).  Give me a good mystery with an interesting protagonist, and I’ll have to be pried off the plane like a dried-on diaper from a baby that’s been asleep since we passed over Cleveland.

pile-of-books-1During the work week I often read non-fiction books on writing, coaching, critical thinking. Art books and magazines for fun. But I do have a weakness for novels, and audiobooks have made many a car trip not just fun but deeply satisfying. Airplane books fall into that category. Yes, I’ve read Middlemarch and Moby Dick, Light in August and The Gulag Archipelago, but I don’t read classics on an airplane. I read books that hook my interest and my imagination. Some of them may even be literature. But all of them hold my attention.

My latest airplane novels:

Inferno by Dan Brown. More of the same, but if you love Italy or are a folklorist, there is a wealth of interesting information buried in the so-so plot.

A book of short stories by Neil Gaiman. That led me to reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane and then onto American Gods and The Ananzi Boys. Not trashy, incredible. Some of the best story-telling I’ve read.See where a book of short stories can lead?

Several by Jodi Picoult. She writes page-turners with interesting characters and interesting plots.

Peter Robinson writes about an English detective, Inspector Banks, who is flawed and troubled and a very stubborn and a good detective. The books are always interesting because they weave the personal life of the characters into the crime plot.

J.A. Jance now lives in Seattle, but she’s from Tucson. She wrote a series that takes place in Tucson (Joanna Brady and another set featuring Diana Ladd Walker and Brandon Walker)  another in Seattle (J.P. Beaumont),  a few where the detectives from each town meet. Then there are some about a woman newsreader who gets bounced from TV because her face is starting to look old (Ali Reynolds). J.A. Jance is prolific and a kind and generous woman who once comforted me with a funny story that made a clever blog. And she writes page turners. If I finish one on a plane, I put a note in it recommending it and leave it in the airplane. Someone will be delighted.

You don’t have to get on an airplane to read an interesting novel you like. Good writers almost always are also voracious readers–of anything. Enjoy an old-fashioned book. You won’t be disappointed.

-Quinn McDonald reads books in bed. Her iPad hurts too much when it drops on her face as she falls asleep.