Thursday, February 25, 2010

Greetings from Sunny Key West

Oh, no. Wait. THIS isn't Key West. This is the West Virginia Turnpike. I need Viv's Sherpa! Actually the drive yesterday was quite scenic. The mountains are ghostly in the big-flake snow that fell on us off and on all day and didn't stick a bit.

We woke up this morning in Statesville, NC to bright sun and high wind warnings. I'm enjoying the toasty Marriott Sweet Sleeper Bed (I love marketing!) And a Starbucks coffee from the lobby. All is well. (My mother says, "So far." But let's not listen to her today.)

Counting Week is going swimmingly and I just finished my morning pages. I guess, though, that we can't go to the Original Pancake House which Billy found online until I get dressed. Bummer. I wonder if they deliver....

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Severe weather alert

What? Our sherpa on the mountain, laying down our ropes, our guide on the road, unfurling our map, Ann tells us she’s heading for gentler climes. Key West! Leaving us up North, snowbound and packed in February ice. What? Posting photos to make us green, when there’s not a blade of grass in sight out here? She will be in touch, she says. Sure, from Starbucks hot spots, with caffeine carry-out and waterside tables, breakfasts at leisure, sighting giant blue herons in the sky. Postcards from snowbirds! Indeed. Go Anne, go. With the March wind at your back. Write up a storm. Go South on us and enjoy!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Perceptions: My Artist's Way Story of the Week.

I have recently achieved a goal to get cast in a play at a professional theatre. Actually, I have been cast in two plays that pay. Yay! The current one is the play that Anne told you about, Is He Dead?, at the Beck Center. While I'm busy as heck in the evenings and weekends, floating and fainting in a hoop skirt, my days are filled with the desire to develop a freelance situation as a copywriter. Working part-time from home during the day and part-time at the theatre at night would just be tits.

As luck or fate would have it, who should attend a performance of Izzy Dead?, but the former head honcho of marketing at my last place of employment. (sidebar: While head-honcho was always nice to me, we did not travel in the same circles - like at ALL. In my former so-called life at the ad agency, she was the kind of client who would have scared the CRAP outta me.)

Anyhoo, honcho didn't know I was in the play, didn't know I was an actor, as I learned as we chatted over drinks after the performance. She seemed intrigued and impressed and it turns out that she's interested in talking to me about writing for her as she has launched her own marketing consulting company.We're meeting for coffee in a couple of weeks to discuss the possibilities. I'll let you know how it turns out. Either way, I was amazed at how the path I followed toward my true love of acting, led met to a wonderful opportunity in the day job department.

I post a picture of Stockard Channing. People say I remind them of her. There you have it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


It’s not the smartest Not the fastest. But in my book, it’s the latest. Must-have. My own personal electronic mobile bookstore! Just what I need. Another device, one more means to feed my bibliomania, in my case a probable medical condition warranting medication.

Hands-down, hands-on, I was hooked on Nook at first sight. No matter that I had already bought a Kindle for my great niece and nephew (twins) as a combination birthday/Christmas and pre- Bar Mitzvah gift. (don’t ask.) My affinity was for B&N, not Amazon. And the Nook! So sleek, so Apple-iLike, so irresistible with its color touchscreen, its virtual bookshelves, its wifi instant turn-on, its anal jewel case packaging, and its designer leather accessories.

So what I am reading?

God only knows: with the pile-up of books on the nightstand and the signed first editions that stream in monthly via the Odyssey Book Store (South Hadley, MA), it’s hard to keep track. Just pulled signed copies of Louise Erdrich's Shadow Tag and Jonathan Lethem's Chronic City out of the mail this morning. Reading Updike’s Rabbit Run for March book club. Also reading American Salvage, Lark and Termite. On hold with Lacuna (Kingsolver), Let the Great World Spin (Colum McCann) and . . . and . . . and on it goes.

I admit to a sickness of sorts. A gentle malady, harmless enough, collecting the last of the Mohicans: hardback first editions. Those lovely pounds of paper. That smell of ink. The tactile pleasure, turning pages. The solitary joy of reading, words melting into pictures only the imagination can see, an untold delight.

And now! Out with the old, in with the Nook, and the issue of what2read ebookwise. What now in my virtual bookcase, my travel companion and gateway to new spending at Barnes & Noble? Out of ether, choosing guilty pleasures: perhaps it will be Anne Tyler’s dreary and repetitive Noah’s Compass or Stephen King’s juicy potboiler Under the Dome -- too heavy a read in its published first state, but light enough now as a download.

A week without reading? Just opened the floodgates. And so, fellow Wayfarers, what, pray tell, are you reading?

'ZUMA'S Rewards!

I sent my post about the life lessons I have garnered from playing 'Zuma's Revenge like a mindless fool to the Devil/Geniuses at Pop Cap and they send me a whole package of cool stuff. Like a Pop Cap button, a key chain, a fresh copy of the game, and this, my absolute favorite, The Tiki Boss VooDoll. So if there's anyone you want VooDolled, I'm now your girl for that.

Isn't he fabulous?

Who says wasting your life doesn't pay?

And there are some folks out there who need to be afraid, be very afraid. You know who you are.

What I did on my No-Readie Vacation

First of all, I blessed the folks who posted so eloquently about what's available for doing when not reading. Viv and Laura, your photos were amazing. The insights were fantastic as well. I empathized! And Maura's synopsis-es of news and stuff cracked me up!

So, here's what I did first. I whined and complained like a big baby. I discovered, to my rue, how much I depend on making my way through the day to a resting spot in which I find either a book or a TV. (Aside: I'm noticing that "TV set" is a usage that's not used so much anymore. Duh. Getting old. Remembering the first TV set. Dinosaur.)

Also, I was in complete withdrawal from the shows we watch at dinner time. House. Bones. Fringe. Castle. And Numb3rs when John -- who loathes it -- isn't around. So, here's what I did. I suffered some. And I cheated a little. Tuesday night I screamed "BLEEP-IT! C'mon, guys. I'm watching Castle!" And we DID. Ahhhhh.

So, what I didn't do was read anything for fun. Or watch TV except for that cheating. I got totally out of touch with the news and the weather. I emailed, because writing is fine. I tried not to spend much time reading emails though. I enjoyed morning pages. I reread the chapter heh, heh because Julia says that's okay. I counted the Opening Ceremonies as my Artist's Date. And you thought I didn't bend the rules.

I cleaned a lot of closets. I pretty much finished my memo board as you can see. I love how it turned out. I need some more furniture nails for the ribbon intersections but that's a small matter.

I spent more time thinking. I listened to music with no words and in the car I didn't check to see the names of what was playing on the Sirius. I decided I could decide what stuff should be called. That was fun.

Mid week I went into the TiVo queue and cancelled all my CSI passes. I decided I'd seen enough autopsies for a bit. I noticed that is a little scary. I actually got a bit of a twinge. Withdrawal from my long years of CSI addiction. I kicked Miami a couple of years ago though. And I dropped Criminal Minds because, again, how many serial killer do I need to imagine about. I was ruthless with Oprahs. She's so great about some things and then -- sorry! -- so much I don't want to clutter my head with. No more House Hunters. I'm done with those spoiled brats saying, "I don't much care for the marble."

So: freedom! And a fresh appreciation of the pleasures of words.

That's me. If you haven't said how it was for you, say how it was for you.

And let us know how you're doing on the Way.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Ask Alice

The brain is elastic. Or is it plastic? This much we know. Or don’t. The mind is a force of nature. Or so we think. Or not. Now where to draw the line? Exactly. What part of the brain makes up the mind?

That’s it, I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole. Writing a narrative for an exhibit on mental illness -- puzzling its content, searching for clinical answers to questions I don’t even know to ask, working along the lines of so many arguments dictating which direction to fall (besides down into a deep depression), feeling vulnerable, stressed, and strangely close to madness, myself. Inevitably. And variably. I will go wonderfully mad with this project.

Tough subject. Tougher audience. Aren’t we all touched in our own way, spinning through the universe, in our own weather system? What an assignment! Brainy, but not too. Simple. But complex.

Did you know? In utero, in the first trimester, the human brain is lizard brain, a stem, a vestige of what we once were at the dawn of human time, when first crawled out of the water. The fetus is not unthinking, however. It catches on quickly to mom’s pace, voice, even preference for music. In infancy, the brain is all mouth to feed, survival instinct, a sponge suckling experience, counting, multiplying and dividing the world: taste, touch, sight, smell, surface, experiment, evidence, learning, memory. Childhood: we all know those wonder years. Precious few. Then comes adolescent brain- heading for turbulence, hormonally charged storms of activity, like a switching station at a train terminal, too many tracks, more grey matter than white matter, more action than judgment. It’s a biological fact that the brain doesn’t come to full maturity until age 25, which explains a lot of things about our lost youth. Now the adult brain we live with seems to go on for infinity, until we notice: tangles, confusion, dimming lights, slowing down, the natural pace of aging. To wit, use it. Or lose it.

Noting tonight that we “break the fast” and delight as we read for pleasure, watch a movie, follow the Olympics. A good week, a good time was had, by all?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Snow Day

So far there’s been no epiphany in my state of media deprivation this week, but I can report an experience nearly as remarkable: a Snow Day.

Detroiters! What snow wimps. Yesterday, with barely a 4-inch snowfall and clear grey skies above, schools and businesses were closed. Honestly, nothing makes me more homesick for Cleveland than memories of those full-blown, blinding-wind, snow-drifting, Lake Effect winter storms, dropping sheets of black ice and 6-foot barricades in the driveway. With that you have something to work with, or at least your money’s-worth from the plow service. Here in Detroit, everything closes at the drop of a hat. (The Union Effect.) With all probability, yesterday’s snow day was declared for reasons more political than meteorological, because yesterday also happened to be a “Count Day,” a day assigned to census-taking in the schools whereby students are counted and allocations are made for the following academic year.

So I’m home for the day and what do I do? What any normal insane person would do, I go to work. Wearing pajamas ‘til noon, never leaving the house. This is everyone’s dream. I am living it, albeit in the Perfect Storm of media deprivation week, sworn off the pleasures of leisure, restraining from all temptations of TV, movies, radio, email, web browsing, magazines and novels.

Fellow Wayfarers, you might imagine the fervor with which I set my hand to Morning Pages. Followed by 3 loads of laundry. Then cleaning out the refrigerator. Then chopping ingredients for a pot of chili. All that before 8 am. With infinite choices of a full day ahead, there were serious matters to resolve. To shovel or not to shovel the walk, that was a momentary question, answered in the basement with a four-mile jaunt on the elliptical trainer. Followed by 40 minutes on the stationary bike, a shower and polishing toe nails. (Hey, it’s my day) 10 o’clock: time for a second breakfast, a fresh pot of coffee . . .when curiouser and curiouser, reading deprivation takes over, my mind drifts to writing - involuntarily composing sentences in my head. I am Alice – peering down the rabbit hole, tumbling down to the work I left on my desk.

And so it was: a snow day off, where I put in a good 10 hours at my desk. Was that crazy? Most definitely. But working on my own time and in my own space to meet a self-imposed deadline was wonderfully refreshing. It was lovely, really. And liberating enough to count as an Artist Date.

That’s it: my post-snow wrap up. More on Alice and madness. Next time.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Week of Living Dangerously

A week without reading is like a week without sunshine. Actually, it's more like a week with a sister from another planet - and that would be moi. So no newspaper, I can live with that. Or without that. Or can I? No stock market reports - that's good. But no Sally Forth? It ain't fittin'. It just ain't fittin'. No NYTimes online. No really good book that I was just getting into. Most of my reading these days has been scripts of plays, and I was just allowing myself the joy of getting into a good book when that b!tch, Julia Cameron started getting all bossy on my @ss. Focus, Laura. Focus.

So Monday morning is the most beautiful morning in the world for any season. Clean sparkling blanket of snow. Clear blue sky and trees that are glazed and gleaming with the frozen-ness of it all. Frozenly-solid as Aunt Carol used to say. If I didn't get out the door fast, the tree gleam would be gone. No time to think or to argue with myself over the injustice of not being able to read anything. I grabbed my to-go tea and my low-tech digital camera and did my best to carpe the diem in my neighborhood. A sample of which I share here.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Without reading

Reporting in: first day of "Media Deprivation" - an entire week without reading for pleasure.

Without reading . . . there are books on the nightstand, papers on the newsstand, reading material everywhere waiting to be read. Without reading there’s life without headlines, news breaks, and media alerts. Without reading there's little to review or preview. There are no opinions, no editorials, no finer points to place into context. Without reading there’s only navigation along the terrain of a quieter mind. Without reading there’s only searching, reaching for a pen and notebook, connecting the dots.

Without reading there’s harder work. Fewer pastimes and electronic distractions. Fewer desktop stops at the electronic water cooler to check email, newsmail, junk mail, chainmail, admail, linked mail, twittermail, ebaymail, misc mail and missed mail. Without reading, there’s little to do with trivial pursuits, facts to check, weather to watch. Without reading there’s real need for motion, physical activity, exercise for the brain, a walk around the block.

Without reading, there’s forgetting: to not read.

Without reading . . . there’s acute awareness of the daily grind (without caffeine breaks). Without reading, there’s the noise of employment: a day that begins with the droning of traffic, the din of heavy machinery, the whine of an air compressor, the scream of a power drill, piercing metal through metal, the sounds of industry and production. Without reading, there’s tuning out, then noticing the cold shoulder of colleagues similarly tuning out as brain fatigue sets in. Without reading, there’s a limit, imposed by the clock. Time to come up for air. Food. Exercise. Balance.

Without reading, there’s today’s post . . . that no one will read


Hello all, since I am being Artist's Way agnostic and wimpy, I am posting some recaplets I sent to Ann as a Public Service during Media Deprivation Days. This is just a snapshot of what I watched this weekend, not including everything else:

... There was this girl growing up on the moors and heaths of Yorkshire named Cathy, and her Dad brought home an urchin boy, whom they called Heathcliff for some reason, though he looks more like a Benicio to me …

or: David Gregory was talking to these 2 guys named Hank Paulsen and Alan Greenspan, and they both looked pretty worried, but rumor has it that when Hank gets really really worried he gets the dry heaves, and he didn’t look like he was going to barf on the desk in front of David Gregory or anything, so maybe things are sort of OK…

…and then there was this lady Jenny Sanford and she was all married to this Prince Charles lookalike named Mark, and he was governor but he forgot or something because he took off for Argentina to see his girlfriend but he didn’t even check his iPhone or anything because no one knew where he went, even his wife, so when he got back he was all tears about how he had to say fare-thee-well to his Soul Mate, the chick in Argentina, meanwhile *HELLO!* we presume your kids can read and they know everything you sent her in e mails and then Jenny grabbed their butts and moved to the beach house, but god only knows what the schools are like down by the beach, and Barbara Walters tried to make her cry but she totally didn’t, and she’s the only Republican I ever sort of admired…

anyway, I'll keep TV going for all of us so it doesn't just go away like newspapers have- cheers!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Reading ahead

Week Four on the Artist Wayfarer path, I find myself at a curious crossroads. With two books in hand, which one to follow? According to The Artist Way , first published in 1992, week four is dedicated to the experiment of Reading Deprivation.

Seems hard enough.

With the proliferation of electronic reading material, The Artist Way at Work , written in 1998, expands the concept to include all media. No TV, no NPR, no music with lyrics, no net surfing for pleasure, no email! Furthermore, Media Deprivation is introduced in week six in a chapter on solitude and meditative techniques entitled “Pearls of Wisdom.”

I could take the easier fork in the road, stay with the agenda of the second book, postpone the Media Deprivation for another two weeks, when coincidentally I will be out of town on vacation anyway. But, no in the spirit of our communal effort here, I’ll take on the challenge this week. I have a writing assignment at work where I find myself foot-dragging and procrastinating. I am indeed familiar with he detours and distractions of online drifting with its guilty pleasures of junk reading and window shopping, -- so here goes, 10 minutes to midnight. I'm posting my declaration for the week: no media!. Ouch. Will see how it goes.

In the meantime, noting that a picture is worth a thousand words (as the cliche goes) I'm posting a favorite photo, grabbed in New Orleans with my little Fuji camera. Photography is my husband’s creative outlet. He takes beautiful pictures. But from time to time, I get lucky -- catch a shot like this one, quite by accident.

Midnight: time to post.

Sucker-punched by The Artist's Way.

A Guest Post from Lynn Lilly, another Liggett-Stashower refugee, freelance writer, and believer in the unimaginable power of words.

You can't escape The Artists Way. Just knowing that it's out there in the Universe asking questions I ought to be answering is something (not everything, not nearly enough, but something).

I'm living my life trying not to look over at you guys who have made the commitment. It's like walking by Pottery Barn and willing yourself not to look at the beautiful things in the window because you're not quite ready to clean the crap off your dining room table so you'll have a place to put beautiful things. Too busy, too tired, too something. Don't look. Maybe later. Don't look.

But you do look. I DID look. I read the blog posts -- intimidating in their own right in their beauty. ( I still "channel" Viv and Ann when I'm writing sometimes…do you feel power leaving the hems of your robes?). And there it was…Artist's Dates.

I live in a farm town now…except that it's a university town, too. 7000 residents, 19,000 students. Think Bowling Green, think OU Athens. If you're not on campus, you're in nowhere. And even with a husband on the faculty, you're perceived as pretty much a townie, need a passport to be on campus…and they never look at you, just your faculty spouse. Plus, you're living in a town painted bloody Republican red…this is tea party central, Fox News-watching country. They still have "safe haven" faculty offices for GLBT students on campus (though, in fairness, I don't think anyone has ever needed one).

I rant. (Now and frequently).

That's why the Universe (in the guise of all of you) sent The Artist's Way to sneak up behind me…and sucker-punch me with Artist's Dates. My first thought was…"it's a good thing I didn't sign up for THIS…where the hell would you go for an Artist's Date in Statesboro, GA? Wal-mart? The pawn shop?

You already see where this is going, don't you? Inner voice -- shit, you're worse than the people you rant about. Tom Case (former boss, mentor and touchstone) -- maybe it WON'T rain. My mom's voice from The Other Side -- Scratch your butt and get glad.

So thanks. Really thanks. Keep posting for those of us still hiding in the shadows at the edge of your campfire. And if you're ever 53.7 miles due west of Savannah, Georgia, I'll take you on an Artist's Date with me. How do you feel about the tattoo parlor?


Everything I need to know about life, I learned playing 'Zuma's Revenge.

And you thought it was the zombies who ate my brains....

'Zuma's Revenge is a computer game, devised by the genius-devils at Pop Cap. I worship those people. I want to work there. I could make up more cleverness for the frog to say while the game is loading. (And ask them HOW with a round like THAT I could end up with a lousy 22,000 points.)I bless their ingenuity and creativity so often they probably have permanent earburn.

Anyway, as we approach Reading Deprivation (and, for me, 'Zuma Withdrawal) Week of the Artist's Way, I have been musing about 'Zuma Truth as I have learned it.

Goes like this:

1. Don't wait for the perfect opportunity.

Don't be timid. Don't dither. If you don't shoot right now, your frog will get Horribly Killed.

2. Don't second-guess your previous shot.

Move on! Keep firing. A moment's doubt can cost you big time. You'll just be sitting there going, "Well, that was bad." (Ask Bill and John. I say this all the time.) And while you're doing that, your frog will get Horribly Killed.

3. It doesn't hurt to keep practicing.

If your frog is getting HK-ed all the time, go back to the Challenges and fine-tune. It's not like you know everything, Annie. You can still learn.

4. For mercy's sake: FOCUS, girl.

You snooze? It's HK for the frog. If you get distracted by thinking your score is about to be great. Or awful. Or that you're maybe a complete loser. Or, boy, is George Clooney still really hot. Or is something burning on the stove?

Dead. Dead. Dead.

Pay attention! This is your life which as the man said is "fired" at you, "pointblank." Don't miss it! It'll murder your frog. And in this case, unlike in 'Zuma, you can't get extra lives or return to the postcard and start over. Bummer.

5. Once you get the rhythm, you can dance.

There you are: Not waiting for perfection. Not second-guessing your last move. Skilled through great habits of practice. Focused like Laser Frog. Making that awesome zapping noise. Your heart is pounding. You're scared, excited, you have NO IDEA how it's going to come out. You're dancing. You've WON! Or you've lost in a way you can be satisfied with. And ready to play again.

And in the word of The Voice I can only assume must belong to the Great 'Zuma, "Oooh, Takka Oonga.

Or something like that.

And this is what I'm giving up for No Readie Week. Among many other things, like the O Magazine and serious literature. But I take with me upon the path the lessons I have learned. And share them here with you.


Saturday, February 6, 2010


Annie, without saying so much that you'll get embarrassed and turn all milk-toast like (not to be confused with milquetoast, because you are not timid, meek or unassertive), I just want to note what a delightful AW leader you are. You're non-threatening, you're understanding, you're persuasive should someone think he or she is dumb, do-less or drop-out-bound, and you lift us on your tide of fun and humor.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Blatant promotion disguised as Artist Date suggestion

What could be a better Artist's Date than getting up on Saturday morning to struggle though a snow storm and its blistering winds to hear the Lyceum Chamber Chorus sing at St. Michael's in Independence? Nothing! At 8:30 (AM!) tomorrow, at St. Michael's on Brecksville Road, my son's school choir subgroup, the "Chamber Choir", will be singing at the memorial Mass for Bobby Tripodi, a sibling of one of their schoolmates who died a number of years ago. Bobby's parents run the Cornerstone of Hope, a bereavement organization that helps grieving parents. I don't know them well, but they must be very brave people.

I must confess that when the larger choir sang the Advent concert in December, they blew me away, they sounded tremendous. The new director, James Flood, has whipped them into great shape. We'll see how the smaller Chamber Choir does. Saturday morning is not usually a meditative time, but in a snowstorm it can be. I'm just sayin'. Cheers!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Assignment from the Beyond

Hello, fellow feisty Artist Wayfarers. Here is a knock on the door from Ann Hampton Callaway, singer/songwriter/optimist/diva-on-the-go. What a fun start you are off to! Ever since the brilliant and delightful Ann Hogsett seduced me into joining this group, I have done absolutely nada to participate except feel some fun ann-ticipation about what is going on and some curiosity bubbling about how I can make this part of my very busy lifestyle.

I read "The Artist's Way" several years ago and have given countless copies to friends because I believe in is empowering principles. What was funny about the book is that I have naturally been doing a lot of what she says to do much of my life. But in the last few years, as I travel more and more and spend much of my time connecting with people on the internet, I have noticed that my personal writing and journaling has dwindled. Part of the problem was that I was involved with someone who thought nothing of reading my journal so I began to stop my life long habit, out of a deepening need for privacy. So, now, three years after the end of that relationship, I am re-examining my habits and my need to connect creatively with my depths.
I put a beautiful writing table in our bedroom for the purpose of journaling and writing poems, etc. No computer allowed. It comforts me. No daily practice as of yet, but definitely patches of progress.

I have been doing automatic writing ever since I read Bob Dylan's free association novel "Tarantula" at the age of 13 or 14. It blew my mind that someone could write so freely and brilliantly so I began trying it out and over time, struck gold. The liberation it has unleashed in me has had enormous consequences. My intuition has expanded greatly and I am compelled to put myself in creative situations that many people would probably be afraid to tread. I've discovered that I do my best thinking when I'm not thinking. Years of this writing live in various books and countless songs I have written as a result of this abandon I have, over time, learned. Crazy as it sounds, I may be one of the only people in the world who will make up songs on the spot anywhere and anytime, fearlessly rhyming about any given theme in front of my audiences in jazz clubs, theaters and concert halls across the world. Those pages each day that you are writing can lead to this sort of freedom so I hope you are excited. Thanks to Ann's tap on our shoulders, I want to delve deeper once more into this daily practice that Julia Cameron proposes.

I had an amazing experience last week- the most unexpected writing assignment. I lost my beloved father John Callaway, legendary Chicago journalist, last year on June 23rd. It has been the most heart wrenching loss of my life and I have been struggling on many levels to deal with it. So I consented to have a session with a new friend of mine who is a medium/author named Tina Naughton. In our one hour session, my father emerged in spirit form and said he would like to write a book together. It could be using writings of his that were never published and adding my own thoughts but it could also involve me channeling him. Can you imagine? I am very intrigued and excited about the prospect.

During the session, my dad conveyed to me that he was trying to find ways to connect and that he has and would continue to appear to me in rainbows. (Last week, on a treacherous drive from San Francisco to Palm Springs, I saw three rainbows.) I was told that when the session was over and I went to the beach after, there would be a sign from him. so, there we were walking to the beach on a perfectly sunny day and what should appear above but a small round rainbow in the sky! It almost looked like a radiant beach ball. And above the ocean, there was a small cloud floating in the perfect shape of a heart. My father always loved to make his point and since he had just done so in such a dramatically gorgeous way, I immediately sat down and put pen to paper, inviting him to speak through me. As waves lapped near my feet, over one page of "dictation" unfolded which was mysterious and thought provoking. I'm looking forward to dedicating many more encounters with this energy. I will let you know how this book idea progresses.

So, my fellow adventurers, just wanted to say hello and wish you all a splendid time on this path we are sharing. I look forward to reading your words and sharing our revelations together.

Reading Deprivation Week Alert. & 5 Whys.

First of all, look at the post just below this one and see what Viv has to say. She's far more interesting than I and I hate to get in between you and her fabulous post -- so full of ideas, creativity, thinking and questions that will inspire you! -- but I need to alert you to something that's up the road a few days.

Reading Deprivation Week is coming. Next week, in fact. Like, Monday. The assignment is not to read for pleasure or escape, and yes, Julia recommends you not fill the empty space with TV or (sob!) 'Zuma's Revenge. I'm alerting you because you may want to do some things now, like finish your book club book.

I know this is going to be hard. We, many of us, need to read incoming email for work. I plan to keep writing agent queries at the rate of one a day and that requires some research for each one. You need to handle this as you do.

But here's the deal: RDW or as I like to call it "No Readie Week" is MAGIC. Because once you step out of your familiar hiding places and look around, what you see is the truth. And endless possibilities.

No Readie Week will force you to have creative breakthroughs, insights, beginnings that you will not believe. Your head will become at first a noisier and then a quieter place. (After the WHAAAAAA! sound dies away.)

So, what about those "Whys" mentioned in the subject line?

The Japanese (who I hope never read this in case I don't know what I'm talking about)have a practice they do as part of troubleshooting on the job, in the factory, in the boardroom, etc. It's to ask "Why?" five times.

"We can't get the cars done by Friday." "Why?" "Because the wheels aren't here." (Can you tell I'm not in the car-making business?) "Why?" "Because Kaizen Inc-san can't find the tire connectors." And so on. Usually by the fifth Why they have an answer they can work with to get the cars done by Friday.

The Five Whys can work for you during RDW because you'll have time to ask a second question before you go "Oh, I'll never [fill in the blank]" and then numb your sad little head with reading or tv or surfing the tangled Web we wove. Goes like this:

"I'm never going to find an agent."


"Because I don't believe I can be that successful, lucky, talented."


"Because my mother once told me that everybody wants to be famous but only a very favored few can. And I shouldn't get my hopes up."


"Because she loved me and didn't want me to be disappointed."

See. It doesn't even really take five. Here's what I get if I don't let the first answer just fulminate for years on end without looking at where it comes from or what it means to me now: My mother loved me and didn't want me to be disappointed. Or possibly be too 'career-oriented' and not get married." (This WAS the fifties, you know.)

That's all. That understanding doesn't get me an agent. I have to do that with the sweat of my brow and all my guts for every query, but it does get me a place from which I can see clearly enough to try.

Reading Deprivation Week is blinders off, people. Amazing Grace.

It can change your life, make you sad, make you angry, shake you up, calm you down, light your fire, or whatever, but it wasn't written by someone else or produced in Culver City or wherever. It's yours. And it's worth "wasting" a week for. And I would say the advantage to you would be in inverse proportion to just how bad you don't want to do this.

Now, here what you don't need to do. You don't need to call me and say, "Wow, the Jehovah's Witnesses just dropped a little brochure off at my house, and I glanced at the cover, and it looks like my eternal soul might be at stake here. Can I just skim it?"

My answer is, "Hell, yeah. Do whatever you got to do." This is your opportunity. Your decision. You don't need my permission to put it off, to only do three days, whatever. You can ask me for support of any kind, encouragement, comfort. Any kind.
But the permissions are all in your court.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

What keeps me up at night

Mental illness. Dreams of mummies. Diagnosis diabetes. The Exhibits.

For those who missed early posting and introductions, it's Vivian in Michigan, a former adwriter at Liggett, colleague, friend and devotee of Ann Hogsett.

After Morning Pages, Artist Dates and other ventures having to do with bicycles and book collections, what I do on a daily basis is work on concepts and content for life science exhibits at the Detroit Science Center. Most exhibits are targeted to grades 4 through 8, so by design, content must be simple. Playful. Interactive. Interpretive. Light reading.

In a walk-thru the museum today, I could point to nearly 30 exhibits where I've had a direct hand in developing the design concept and text. From Talking Couch Potatoes, to a Rappin' Refrigerator, from a traveling exhibit on Diabetes to the life and science of Accidental Mummies of Guanajuato, it's been wild and crazy work. Firing on all cylinders at times. And hair-pulling otherwise. I'm grayer (and balder), but happier. Not a bad gig for an old English major and long time copywriter.

Now about my Mental Illness: in a nutshell my assignment is as follows (in funderspeak): "to research and develop the content for an exhibit exploring the nature, the science and stigma of mental illness, its spectrum of disabilities, and what strategies, medications and healthy habits can be deployed to help those living with mental illness cope.

Still working out the details. Ya think??!

So far I've arrived at the metaphor of a giant maze (50x50 feet) housing a 15 foot luminescent walk-thru brain sculpture. Chambers surrounding the Big Brain include a mirror maze (in which visitors will Search for Self, a deep blue area where Depression is Real and bipolar disorder Storms the Mind, a hyper area exploring ADHD, autism spectrum and epilepsy, and High Tension area touching upon OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorders, anxiety, phobias and eating disorders.

Coming up for air. . . are you there?

Fellow wayfarers, as I understand, our pathway this week is exploring the corners of the maze, so to speak. Seeking synchronicity in what comes our way. This may be an imposition on your creative energies, but just for the fun of it, I invite you to daydream, imagine and play along with me. . .

Where exactly does the brain end and the mind begin? What is mental illness anyway, and who says? What have you read, what have you experienced, where have you ventured that would inform the topic of mental wellness, so illusive and personal, an imprecise science, such a presumption that we can wrap it up in neat bows for visitors at a museum -- how indeed, and what do you think?

For starters, I'm puzzling and stumbling over the name of the exhibit, the one-two punch of a title, the power words that capture the complexity and ambiguity of the subject. Shades of Grey was a leading candidate, then got overturned by BrainStorm. Or how 'bout MindStorm: Brain Under Fire.

Any thoughts? All welcome. And do tell, do share: what are you working on?

Synchronicity gone awry.

So JD Salinger was in my head pretty strong and consistently in recent weeks. Imagine how I felt when he bought the farm. I was more hoping for a new book.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Louise's First Blog

Greetings, this is my first blog--ever, and just wanted to say hello. I have a date with myself tonight at Severance Hall to listen to the St. Olaf's Choir, something I have never done before. And, I am treating myself to a box seat a place not normally available to the "public."

Tah Dah! Laura's Play Opens Thursday

Laura has been relentless and intrepid in pursuit of her goals as an actor. Therefore, as night must follow day, she's in a play opening this week at the Beck Center. And though I know Laura considers all her plays as important and worthwhile (as would I who have seen almost all. Although I'm still kicking myself that I missed Rumors also known as How Laura Met Darrell and Found Love )this is a a role she gets paid and worked to death for. Which makes it special. Cleveland artists, this would be a very excellent artist date. I'm just saying.

Is He Dead?
“New” Mark Twain Comedy Premieres at Beck Center for the Arts

Lakewood, OH—What happens when a group of poor artists stage the death of a friend to drive up the price of his paintings? A fake funeral, cross-dressing, and lovers' deceptions, to name a few.

Beck Center for the Arts presents the Cleveland premiere of the Mark Twain comedy, Is He Dead?, on the Mackey Main Stage, February 5 through 28, 2010. Show times are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays. Special 10 a.m. weekday matinees will take place February 11, 18, and 19.

Written by Twain in 1898, Is He Dead? richly intermingles elements of burlesque, farce, and social satire. Discovered by a Mark Twain scholar in 2003, Is He Dead? was adapted for modern audiences by talented playwright David Ives and staged on Broadway in December 2007 to strong critical reviews.

“This is pure comedy – a fictional, farcical Paris-set yarn about a young painter, the real-life Jean-Fran├žois Millet, who fakes his death to score fame and fortune,” said And Variety called Is He Dead? “a ripely enjoyable confection.”

“Is He Dead? is a tremendous piece of satire by one of America’s greatest wits,” says Director Matthew Earnest. “People from all walks of life will enjoy the high-speed antics of these kooky, Buster Keaton-style dimwits trying to protect their secret: that the gorgeous Widow Tillou is actually the great painter Jean-Fran├žois Millet in a wig and heels. We’re left with a very funny discussion of the value of things, and people, and a freewheeling discourse on gender and identity.”

Playing Millet and Widow Tillou is the highly talented comedic actor Nicholas Koesters. Joining him as co-conspirators in the deception are Tom Woodward as Dutchy, Adam Thatcher as Chicago, and John Peters as O’Shaughnessy.

Tickets are $28 for adults, $25 for seniors (65 and older), $17 for students (with valid ID), and $10 for children (12 and under). An additional $3 service fee per ticket is applied at the time of purchase. Preview night on Thursday, February 4, is $10 with general admission seating. Group discounts are available for parties of 13 or more.

For tickets, call the Beck Center box office at 216.521.2540, ext. 10, or request seats online at Beck Center is located at 17801 Detroit Avenue in Lakewood, just ten minutes west of downtown Cleveland. Free onsite parking is available.

Beck Center’s production of Is He Dead? is produced through special arrangement with Playscripts, Inc. and is sponsored by Martha Holden Jennings Foundation, Cox Communications, the Ohio Arts Council, and Cuyahoga Arts and Culture.

Beck Center for the Arts is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization that offers professional theater productions, arts education programming in dance, music, theater, visual arts, early childhood, and creative arts therapies for special needs students, and gallery exhibits featuring local and regional artists.