My art inspiration list

A random collection of artists and other creators that inspire my writing and art.

Maira Kalman
Dave Pilkey
David Shannon
Chris Van Allsburg
Matisse
Nick Bantock
Vivian Swift.

Handwritten, illustrated journals

Daily reading. Affirmations.

Sara Miles
Barbara Brown Taylor
Anne Lamott

Graffiti
Day of the Dead

Alice in wonderland
“Grover and the everything in the whole wide world museum”
Madeline L’Engle
Jesus

The Pern novels by Anne McCaffrey

Music – —
Punk and funk
Red hot chili peppers
Old Stevie Wonder
Soul Coughing
Michael Hedges

E E Cummings.

Sutton Hoo helmet
Celtic. Woad.

Rob Gonsalves
Escher
Bev Doolittle
(Hidden in plain sight, different perspective)

Stamps (tiny art)

Rosie’s Adjustable Man

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Rosie knew what she wanted in a man. Trouble was, she wanted something different every day. The wealthier ladies could afford different models, but they had room to store them too.  She’d had to settle for a model with adjustable heads. The body stayed the same, but the personality changed. It wasn’t ideal, but it worked.  Currently she had six different versions, but over thirty were available. Whenever she could afford it, she got a new head for her Adjustable Man.

Rosie’s house wasn’t tiny by any means. It was the standard allotment for Zeta-class citizens – three bedrooms and one large common area with dining/ kitchen/ living room, with movable panels to divide up the areas when necessary. This was a far cry from Gamma-class, with only two bedrooms and a living room but no kitchen. That was shared, communal style, with ten other Gammas.

Gammas tended to eat together in the common dining room. Slinking off to eat in their private apartments, hunched over a coffee table while sitting on a stiff sofa, was possible but frowned upon. Nobody would say anything about it to the citizen who did it, but then they simply wouldn’t say anything at all to them for a few days afterwards.

It wasn’t planned that way. It wasn’t a rule. It was more like a habit, or tradition. Not sharing time with your fellow citizens meant you wanted to be alone, so they gave each other space at those times. But, if a citizen was absent more than about four times a month and wasn’t on a scheduled trip for their task-group, then subtle and not-so-subtle inquiries were made. Some were to the citizen’s family. Some were to the Overseers. Perhaps s/he was ill? Perhaps therapy needed to be assigned? Perhaps s/he needed to be reclassified? Sometimes that particular area’s citizen class wasn’t a good fit for that citizen’s style of life. Never would they ask a Gamma-class citizen themselves if anything was wrong. That wasn’t thinkable, not for that class. It was only once you were promoted to Zeta-class that you were even considered to have enough spirit to have an opinion.

Rosie had opinions all the time, and felt that everyone needed to hear them. The Overseer channeled this into encouraging her to write an online blog, where she felt that she was being heard for a change. She thought she was making a difference. She was wrong. Nobody read her writing. The numbers on the statistics were a ruse from the Overseer to get her to keep writing and thus keep her out of the way. The comments were supplied by workers in his office.  It kept her placated and maintained order. It didn’t do to have citizens thinking too much. It upset the social fabric.

She was so opinionated that no man wanted to spend time with her, and so insecure that she didn’t want to spend time with herself. Fortunately for her, she was not alone in this. Plenty of women had been told “You think too much” by men, and rather than stop thinking, or at least out loud, they decided to get an Adjustable Man. He could be modified in any way imaginable, providing you had the resources.

It was easy these days to pick up a used version, have the memory wiped, and start from scratch. Or, you could custom build one online and have it shipped to you, ready to cook, mow the yard, and be pleasant to take on a visit with your friends. No more awkward times like when your man suddenly started talking about less-than-polite topics around your best friends or coworkers. No more attitude about doing housework or it being “woman’s work”. No, the days of men thinking their contribution to the family ended as soon as they left their workplace ended around the time women realized they didn’t have to have children, and thus didn’t have to stay home to raise them.

Adjustable Women were in the works for those women who wanted to work outside of the home after having children. There were never enough reliable or affordable childcare providers – never had been. Come to think of it, the same was true for eldercare. Nobody wanted to take care of the very young or the very old for very long, even if they weren’t related to them. Those that did wanted a lot of money for it, or they had less than honorable reasons for seeking those jobs. But Adjustable Women were proving to be harder to make than Adjustable Men.

Rosie was trying to decide who she wanted as her partner to the dance tonight. It was almost as important as determining what dress to wear. Too formal? Too casual? She wished there was a guideline on the RSVP, like “black tie” or “blue jeans” but for partners. She’d hate to take a stuffy, know-it-all partner to a casual gathering, the same as she’d hate to take a sci-fi geek, able to name all Star Trek captains in order (and delineate their flaws and charms) to a company luncheon. How did early-century escorts do it?

She opted for the boring “Bob” version.  He was cute, but he didn’t talk much.  Her friends would understand, and the new people she was there to meet wouldn’t care.

 

Yoga in the morning.

I’m rethinking my idea of yoga. I think it is better to do it every day, rather than just once a week at a class. I also think it is better for me to do it first thing in my morning routine rather than at the end.

I hear it is best to do yoga before having breakfast. This would certainly take care of my need to get my morning started but not be in the way of my husband. Our day overlaps by about thirty minutes and if I go into the kitchen where he is it is a little chaotic. I’ve discovered that it is best for both of us if I don’t try to start my morning in the same place where he is trying to finish his.

As an alternative, I’ve been bringing my Kindle into the bedroom to write during that time, and while I may still do some of that, I think that doing yoga then would be good too.

I’d been leaving yoga for the end, just after my shower. Somehow I was running out of time and I was either rushing through the poses or just skipping them entirely. So that isn’t working. When I had been making time to do it I’d also been doing an example of “Praying in Color” and that was good too. In the past several months if I’d done either they were done as a sort of afterthought.

If I do them first, they are done. No excuses.

I like how I feel during the day if I’ve done a little yoga. Things seem to go better. I’ve actually found myself sort of checking in with myself. Did I write? Yes. Did I do yoga? Yes. It is like taking a multivitamin for my soul. If I’ve done it, I feel better.

Now, do I feel better because I’ve done yoga, or because I’ve done something I feel is good for me? I don’t know. This has long been something I’ve wondered about. Is it the activity that matters or the commitment and discipline that matters? Sometimes I think what helps me the most is intentionally living my life, rather than just drifting aimlessly through it.

This is part of why I write. Writing keeps me awake. Writing means I face things, rather than running away from them. Writing means I don’t hide behind the unknowing, behind the questions. When I write, I dig, and when I dig, I learn. I start to uncover, and recover, the truth, and with it, myself.

Writing is yoga too, like that. Yoga isn’t just poses. Yoga is a way of thinking. Yoga is sticking with it and working through it. Yoga is leaning in and being patient. Yoga is trying. Yoga is sometimes just showing up, bored and tired, but there anyway. Yoga is finding the center calm. Yoga is better lived off the mat. Yoga is being awake in the moment.

So why wouldn’t I do this every day? Why wouldn’t everybody?

Audience

Who is my audience? Who reads this? Who “gets” what I write? And does it affect what and how I write?
I am my first audience. I write to understand things. Writing helps me to clear my head. Writing is how I define myself – it is how I understand what I’m thinking, and it is a descriptive. I write in order to be me. But I don’t write about the same things all the time. I write poetry, “progressive” Christian commentary, what it is like to be an adult survivor of an abusive family, Bible study, and political pieces about modern culture and what it is like to be female. That is a pretty broad range, and there aren’t that many people that will like each thing. I write about whatever comes to my mind that I want to understand. I also write about things that I think are helpful to others, things that may give them a signpost in an often confusing world.
I feel that sometimes I have something really important to say. Sometimes I feel like I want to shout from the rooftops – hey – look at this, here’s a connection that has just come to me and it will make so many lives easier! I sometimes don’t feel like they are my words. I feel like I’ve found a treasure rather than created one. Writing is like that sometimes. It isn’t always a process of creation but discovery. Sometimes these discoveries are pretty amazing.
My audience is small. It is highly unlikely that the right person will get this information. My audience is varied – all over the world. I look at the profiles of every person who “follows” my blog. I give thanks for each person who has decided that what I have written is worthwhile enough to want to read it on a regular basis. I keep a list of every person that I personally have sold a book to for the same reason.
I don’t feel that what I write is “mine”. I feel that I am a receptacle. I feel that I am a channel. I feel that God uses me (and everyone else) to reveal things. Sometimes I’m not very good with conveying the information. That is why I write every day. I want to get better. Writing is just like any other exercise. You have to do it a lot to get good at it. What is the point of having information if you can’t convey it to others in a way they can understand it?
But I think that is part of faith and trust. I think that if God wants this information to get to others, God will make it happen. I think writing a blog is a great idea. You can write a book, but then you are dependent on a publisher accepting it and then printing it and then distributing it. You have to rely on people being able to get to a bookstore and being able to afford it, or having a library nearby. With a blog, whatever you produce is right there, available, no waiting, to anyone with an Internet connection.
Admittedly, that isn’t everyone. Not everyone has electricity. Not everyone has the infrastructure to have high-speed Internet. Not every government is OK with the free exchange of ideas. Just looking at the map of who has read my blog reminds me of this.
But I think that part of all of this is that I just have to do my part. I have to show up, and receive what I can, and offer it forth in the best way I can, and let it go. Just like casting bread upon the water I have to trust that it will get to where it needs to go.
Would it help if I had more followers? Would that encourage me, or hinder me? Would I get bolder, or more hesitant? Would it help if more people “liked” my posts? Would that mean I’d write more things like that, or less? Would it help if I posted some of my posts on larger sites? Would that change my audience, and then change how and what I wrote?
I think it is best to just write, a not worry about it. I don’t make any money on writing a blog, and in a way I think that keeps me honest. Nobody can “buy” my words. I don’t have to change what I write to suit anybody. While it would be nice to get a little money from this, I feel that isn’t fair in a way. I feel that I get the information for free, so I should give it out for free. But then, there is the time I take to write it – isn’t that worth something? But that too, was given to me by God.
Not everything I write is divinely inspired. Some of it just is rambling and wondering out loud. Perhaps it sounds strange to say that I feel that God inspires some of what I write. But to me it sounds humble – it is giving credit where credit is due. To take the credit for a connection that came to me out of the blue is to lie, in my opinion. I’m sure that some people will think it is vain to say that God inspires me (and others – I’m not alone) but to me it is the exact opposite.
I write all the time. I write every morning. I write while I’m walking at lunch. I write while I’m waiting in doctor’s offices. I write while I’m going somewhere if I’m the passenger. (Long road trips are great). I write if I’m on retreat. I write at work when it is a quiet time and I’m caught up. I keep a notepad with me all the time for ideas.
I pray to be a worthy receptacle, and that God is able to help people through me. I pray that I can help encourage others through my words, and to open doors for them to shed light on confusing ideas. I pray that I can let them know that they aren’t alone in their struggles, and to keep on working on it and through it.

Flashback – then and now (1)

(Originally written 12-4-12)

This writing is like creating my own beads.

I’ve written in a journal for years. But then I’d need to cull through my journals to find what I wanted to type up and put out.

By typing what I’m thinking instead of handwriting it, I’m saving a step. I have no idea if this will work, but it is journaling while typing. It isn’t as natural, because I have to remember to type. I have to remember how to type. Typing class was the most valuable class I took in high school. I’m thinking that more of high school needs to be how-to and hands-on.

When I bead, I go through what I’ve found. I’m limited by what is already there, what has been created. I may want to “say” something in bead, and I can’t do that easily because that bead doesn’t exist. But I still try. I’ve created a “Griffin and Sabine” necklace, a “DaVinci Code” one, and one that is for “Alice in Wonderland”. I’ve also created ones that remind me of a trip to Gulf Shores, and one for what it is like to swim in the pool at the YMCA. They are impressionistic.

But this is different. I’m creating the beads – the paragraphs. With this, I can string together these beads, these sections, to create something bigger. I just have to create them, and put them in a logical place. Perhaps then I’ll put the sections together in folders, and then they will make sense. I suspect I’ll have themes. There are ideas I return to again and again, because I still don’t have them figured out. I may never have them figured out, but the working with, the wrestling with them, is all part of it.

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(11-19-13)
I’m going through my older saved pieces, ones that I’ve not posted. This is from a year ago, when I started this blog. It is interesting to see how I’ve evolved in my process. I now dislike handwriting anything because it generally means that I won’t post it. Neil Gaiman has an assistant who will type up whatever he hands her. I don’t have anything like that, so I have to do it all. I now will type anywhere and anytime. I use my “notes” feature on my phone to write up ideas while I’m at a doctor’s office or standing in line at the post office. I’ll write while I’m walking at lunch. To the average person it looks like I’m texting. In a way, I am, but just to a larger audience. I’m glad I’ve gotten over feeling it was awkward to type instead of write. I still handwrite some things. Sometimes it is the only way to get ideas out. They still (generally) stay in the journal and don’t come here, but sometimes the main idea makes it out. I use my Kindle to write as well. Now, writing by typing seems natural.

Butterfly

I’ve noticed that I want to pin down words like butterflies. They come to me and I want to stop them, to hold them. I want to look at them again and again.

I’m doing it right now.

I write to understand. I write to discover. I write to remember.

I don’t want to lose a single idea. There are so many. The more I write, the more things I have to write about. It is a deep well. But then I’m afraid it isn’t deep. I’m afraid it will dry up and leave me stranded, holding this bucket, looking stupid, standing at this well.

I remember the story of Jesus standing at the well with the Samaritan woman, in John 4:1-26. She was an outsider, someone that Jews weren’t supposed to associate with. Jesus is all about that. Jesus is all about the outcast, the outsider. The leper. The menstruating woman. The tax collector.

He tells her about living water, water that will never run out. He is that water.

Maybe if I tap into that living water I’ll feel safe. I’ll feel like I’ll have an inexhaustible supply of words.

I have a feeling I’m only standing in the shallows right now. Knee deep, looking out at the ocean, breathing in the salt air, listening to the gulls.

I feel like I’d like to jump in, but I’m afraid. I’m afraid of drowning. I’m afraid of losing myself. I’m afraid of it all being too much.

I catch words in my journal and I string them together in my blog. I feel like I’ve put out an antenna to God. Hey, I’m here! I’m listening! Give me what you’ve got. Talk to me.

I feel like if I stop listening then God will stop talking.

Well, deep down I know that God won’t stop talking, but I feel like I’ll stop being able to hear.

But butterflies are more beautiful when they are flying. And the truth that can be spoken isn’t the real truth. Truth can’t be pinned down, but you can point towards it.

I know my words aren’t everything, and that not many people read them. I know that I understand things more when I write. I’ve had a few people tell me that they understand things better when they read what I’ve written.

So I keep writing. I’m trying to find a better balance with my notebook though – to not be so obsessive about writing every thought down. Patience and faith are part of it I think.

Neil Gaiman in Nashville – July 10th, 2013

We’d waited months to see him. Neil Gaiman, my favorite author, was coming to Nashville. This was unheard of. He rarely got anywhere near the South before.

I got out of work at 4 and drove downtown. I’d decided to park at the Main library, partly because it was just a block away and partly because I just don’t understand downtown Nashville at all. It is too crowded, the roads are too narrow, and Nashville drivers aren’t that alert or considerate.

The show started at 6, with the doors opening at 5.

Here is the line for the show. Walking from where I am to the front door took about 10 minutes. This wraps up and around and over and across and through.

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Here is more of the line.

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The War Memorial Auditorium is an older facility, where the comfort of the audience was not really considered. The bathrooms are in the basement, so if you are in the balcony (which we were) that meant going down and then back up four flights of stairs. The only concessions are from a vending machine (in the basement) or beer, wine, and sodas in the lobby. This whole arrangement was very tedious for trying to endure the evening. It started at 6, and we finally left at 11:30, having still not had our section called for the signing line.

This view is from our seats, waiting for him to come on stage.

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Here is a girl with cool purple hair and a smart bow (which she made). There were many people with alternative hair color at this show. Bright pink was very popular.

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And, here he is on stage.

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In the biggest sense I’m glad we didn’t stay until the end, because we could have been there until 1 in the morning (he said that was common). He mentioned that this was his last signing tour because it was just getting too hard to manage. There were about 1600 people there at this show alone, and at the last show he’d had to ice his hand because he’d signed so much. I felt a little guilty even thinking about getting him to sign my book at this point. He writes longhand – this is the hand he’ll use to write the next book. So really, I’d rather him write a book than write his name. Plus, I was really tired. I would have loved to just have seen him up close, and said thank you, and given him a smile. But, it was not to be. It isn’t like we would have had a long, meaningful chat or anything. I’m sad, but I’m realistic.

He said that sometimes people would say “Your book changed my life”. He usually dismissed this, until after his Dad died. His Dad had died suddenly, when Neil was on tour, and he put off his grieving. There was just too much that had to be done with the tour. He didn’t have time to grieve. But then after the tour, while at home he read a book where a fictional character died, and that opened him up. He started to grieve for that character, and through that, grieve for his father. So he started to understand how fiction can be healing for people.

He mentioned that when he first started signing tours he was writing the “Sandman” series, and there were “very few people with a pair of X chromosomes in the audience”. Later, as his writing diversified, his audience diversified. Occasionally he’d notice a huge man come up to him in a smelly dirty t-shirt who would say he owned a comic book store. The man would say “You brought girls into my shop!” (He did this in a great accent). To which he mused to himself “Maybe if you washed your shirt more often girls would come into your shop more often.”

He read from “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” We got a bit towards the end of the book. There was a thunderstorm going on, and we could hear the “boom!” from inside the auditorium. It was a section of the story that took place during a thunderstorm and it is very scary. He was waiting the entire tour to be able to read that bit during a thunderstorm -so we were in luck. This special performance was just for us. The thunder was perfectly done. He gave thanks “to the effects department” at the end.

About writing “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” – He feels he is in a three way relationship, himself, Amanda, and her album, and the album is winning. She went away to Australia to record her new album, and this time he’s only getting occasional emails, and they usually are very short and say “the album is doing fine”. So he decided to write a short story for her, that was very personal and had a lot of feelings in it, because that is what she liked. He wasn’t sure if he could pull off feelings, because “Well, I’m English, and I’m male.”

He started writing it as just a short story, and it kept going, and kept going, and it ended up being a novella which was far more than he meant. He sent it on to his publisher and said “Well, I seem to have written a novella, and I’m very sorry and it won’t happen again.”

It was amazing to find out how much of this story is real. There really was a Hempstock family that lived at the end of the lane that he lived at when he was a child. Their farmstead really was in the Domesday Book. There really was a South African lodger who killed himself in a white Mini, for the same reason, who lived at Neil’s house. In fact, when he finally found out, as an adult, why that Mini went away so suddenly, he was really upset. His take on it was “Something interesting happened to my family and I didn’t know?!”

This is his kind of humor. Dark. Real. Strange.

The way he wove in reality with fantasy makes both a little mixed up. How real is the fantasy? How fantastic is the reality?

He talked about writing in general.

He writes in longhand so he doesn’t get distracted. He stays away from the computer while writing. He said he might go look up how many Ps and Ls are in ‘apparently’ and then end up 90 minutes later finding himself buying something on Ebay that he doesn’t want. Also, he changes pen colors every day, so he can see what progress he’s made. He found out that Neil Stephenson does the same, but he uses expensive paper from Italy that comes sealed up with wax.

A fan gave him a handmade book at a signing once, with handmade paper made with rosepetals. He knew that this would be perfect for writing a sequel to “Neverwhere” – “How the Marquis got his coat back” He started writing it with a fountain pen (his normal tool of choice) and found that every time he hit a rose petal the pen would create a huge blot and he’d have to clean up the mess. He got about a page written and never finished. He realized that he could have switched to a ball point pen, or regular paper, but he just wasn’t in the mood at that point.

He wrote on Coraline for quite a while, and then let it sit for several years. Then he wrote a little more, and let it sit for a few more years. He finally sent it off to his editor who loved what was there and she said “What happens next?” He said “Send me a contract and we’ll both find out.”

He wants to write sequels – “…it isn’t like I think I am better than people who write sequels. It is just that there are so many other characters that have stories that want to be told.”

After the reading, he answered questions from the audience. There were 3×5 notecards on each seat when we arrived for us to write questions. Here are some that I remember. They aren’t exact quotes, just what I recall. A. stands for audience, NG is Neil Gaiman.

A. “Who is your favorite Doctor?”
NG. “Yes, Who is my favorite Doctor.”

(Earlier on he said after mentioning Doctor Who – “How about we make a deal? Every time I say ‘Doctor Who’, you don’t go ‘Wooo!’ , or we will be here until Friday. (Personally, I don’t have a problem with this, as I’d happily hang out listening to Neil Gaiman for a month at least…))

A. “What would you do if you drove 2 hours to get here, and you’ve forgotten where you parked.?”
He then told us that he doesn’t have this problem, because after many years of touring and staying up late signing, and then having to be at an airport very early to check in, he decided to use a tourbus. He goes outside to the bus, gets in, and goes to sleep. He wakes up ten hours later in another town, showers and changes, and is ready to go.
So at the end, his reply to the question was “Me, I’d look for the bus. You, you’re screwed.”

A.“I’m thinking of a number between 1 and 10”.
NG. “No, you’re not. You’re thinking ‘He read my card!’.”

A. “Why?”
NG. “Why not?”

There were other cards that said “Why?” on them and he commented that we were very existential here in Nashville.

A. “You are married to a much younger wife. Are you going to have another child?”
NG. “Well, that is very personal. But, then again, I’m married to Amanda, who blogs about everything we do, so I’ll probably find out that we are going to have a child by reading her blog.”

Here was the final question –

A. “So, you’re in Nashville, and you might not like country music. But if you did, what country music artist would you have dinner with?”

NG. “Well, I’m not going to be having dinner with anyone tonight because I’ll be here signing, but if I did, it would be Bela Fleck.”

The crowd erupted in a roar of approval. Bela Fleck isn’t quite country, and he isn’t really pop, or rock. He’s unique. He does things with a banjo that humans don’t normally do. He created a banjo version of “The Danse Macabre” for Neil’s “The Graveyard Book” Bela Fleck is cool.

Then Neil went on to say that it might be possible that Bela was there that night. He was being coy. There had been a chair set up next to the podium all night, and most of us had just assumed that Neil would sit in it if needed. No. It was for Bela. He came out with his banjo. This was a Nashville-only event. We were treated to Neil reading a section from “Fortunately, the Milk” (not yet published) with Bela Fleck doing his own special accompaniment to it. There were aliens and pirates and fathers, oh my! And Bela made all the noises and it was wonderful.

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I went downstairs, all those stairs, to go to the bathroom. I looked outside. There is an immense statue just outside the doors. It was pretty cool when we came in, but after the rain it was really intense. It was hard to get the camera to handle the weird lighting.

This is my favorite view. It is not altered at all.

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Here is a view with the focus on the statue and the courtyard.

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Here is a view with the focus on the sky. photo 3

You can kind of combine them together in your head to get an idea how awesome it was. I’m pretty sure Neil would have been impressed – if only he’d been able to take time away from the adoring fans.

The storm had created an amazing sky. It was a pretty cool evening.

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