Heart Rules for Writers

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When we start writing a book, we need to put our souls into it. But that is scary, for there is always someone who has something to say about your writing, your grammar, your theme, your lack of . . .

My cookbook, Pumpkin, Pumpkin, has a lot of folktales in it, and some of them have bad grammar in them, but that is what the authors of those folktales intended. It is what gives the book its color and its flavor. Remember the book, The Color Purple? Can you believe that people actually wanted to ban the book for its ungrammatical language! What would have been the fate of that book if they had been allowed to ban it? It’s being true to the times and to the characters of the people and the place is what made it the great book and movie it has been. People tend to lose sight of the necessity of being true to a type of writing, the times, the people involved in the story, and the intention of the story. I remember when the book-banning people wanted to ban The Nancy Drew stories. Nancy Drew stories were ahead of their time. Empowered young women driving cars (alone too!!!) and solving mysteries and generally being interesting people. I don’t think The Hardy Boys mysteries were ever banned.

The basic thing is that this is your soul speaking. And of course we all want to be read and to have our books selling really well. But if anyone changes anything in the book other than an unintentional error in grammar or spelling, just say no. The editor will not “make” the book; your writing will. And if you don’t believe that yourself, how can you in all truth become a published writer? If you are honest with yourself, you can tell if your book is dry or lifeless, too “unlived,” or perhaps too unreal.

Great books don’t need to have fantastic events and people in them. They can be very ordinary, everyday people like the boys and young men in the movie, “Stand By Me.”

If you still don’t feel comfortable or sure of your own writing, go to the library and pick 10 books you have never read, authors you don’t know, and read each one of them. Write down your impressions of each one and his/her writing, but be fair to the times and the place and what those people are doing.

At the end of each day you write, pat yourself on the back, and say to yourself when you go to bed, “Good job! Well done.”

Spooky Things

Anne’s Sentence book from Jamie Fingal’s Book Sentence Challenge.

One of the things I have always loved to do is to enter challenges if I can understand them. This little piece is 8-1/2 x 11, and I had a lot of fun doing it. The challenge was to pick up a book, go to a certain page, and pick a sentence somewhere down on that page and use it as the theme for a quilt. The sad thing is that I have no clue which book I used anymore. It was years ago, when we had a lot of challenges. But fear not; I have other challenges we did that are a lot of fun too.

This quilt is a collage quilt; I cut the images from different places, and then held them in place with bridal tulle netting. Collage is probably my favorite technique for my quilts, though I also enjoy painting on then. I think I printed the lettering with the computer on cloth that I had specially treated to hold the ink.

This quilt seemed to have a good story and it seemed spooky as well. It might have been made around October, but I honestly don’t remember. I don’t like competition, not that I can’t do it; I just don’t like it because it seems to me to put us all in competition with each other, and I guess some people like that, but I like to enter personal challenges where we are challenging ourselves and not anyone else. There are no “bests” in challenges.

If you find it difficult to enter some sort of event where there is competition, you might try just pretending you are doing a challenge, and so you are challenging yourself to do that thing you want to do.

I am enjoying this particular Halloween season more than any I can remember for a long time. For one thing, I have never seen so many homes really decked out with tons of skeletons doing all sorts of fun things, or humorous decor such as a sleigh pulled by spiders! And the stores are filled with goodies to create your own story at your home, and costumes even for the pets everywhere.

I’ve read some great poems and prose and some very short stories for the season, all of them good. I hope that all of you who celebrate the season in whatever form, are all happy and enjoying it. Winter will be here soon enough.

Talking About Art

Anne’s VERY early quilt of Pumpkins. The most innovative thing is that I used men’s shirts for the borders – WOW!!!

Is my pumpkin quilt art? Why isn’t is as valuable as as earlier work I made that had a higher value? I am known for my art now (this is fiction, not truth). I have won awards in big name exhibits and shows (also fiction).

I think you can see in the piece above some of the answers. But is this true of all art? Absolutely. Art can be and eventually is inconsistent in overall style or quality for most artists who have big names. They put their ALL into pieces for a time, and then perhaps they burned out, or because they already have big names, they could ease up a little and still command good prices. Not true. All artists, not just the big names, have times in their production when their work either changes styles, perhaps to a style that is less labor intensive, or perhaps they don’t produce as often as they were. It can happen in a lot of different scenarios. The thing is that if we are realistic and honest about it, not all art by an artist is the same quality nor does it necessarily command the same values. It is human nature. Now we may see great works of art and believe that a very famous artist DID produce the same quality all the time, but remember that many artists have had workers who worked with them on a particular painting or sculpture.

We have artists like Basquiat, and Andy Warhol and I am sure any of you can think of others. Perhaps you liked their rebellious response to fine art. Perhaps you see it as something new and refreshing. To be sure. But was it? I mean, Campbell Soup labels have been around since I was a child. So every time your mom bought a can, did you stop and think, “WOW! Now that’s art!!!” Both these artists had their names made by gallery owners and publicists who sold them to the public. It’s their job and they did it very well. Both the artists led colorful, unconventional lives. Now people in the art world often like this. It is the opposite of anything they might do or be in their own lives, and there is something about such lifestyles that attracts them to it. It’s kind like fashion. What attracts people to want to buy fashions worn by women with absolutely no facial expressions, who appear all to be suffering from anorexia, wearing, say sweaters with sleeves two feet longer than their arms as they walk rigidly down the runways? Are the people in the audience anything like this? Anything about this scenario remind you of “The Emperor’s New Clothes?”

I attended a minimalist painter’s exhibit many years ago. The comments of the audience taught me all I needed to know, plus my eyes confirmed what I saw. People were commenting on the brilliance of this painter, and how it took him six months of being alone in his studio to create a single line painting – that’s right, a single line on an entire canvas. Some art collectors really don’t know that much about what they are collecting. They collect pieces because someone tells them those pieces are valuable and will continue to increase in value. And like some people who want to be part of the “in crowd,” they pick up ideas here and there form others or from galleries, whose success is based on the sales they can get from their exhibits, and they know well who will bring people out and whose works will sit there. They have to constantly try to bring in new works of a type that are different from what people are used to seeing. And they also know that if the pieces have higher prices on all of them and the represent the work of one or perhaps two painters or sculptors at best, they will likely sell better in communities that are “art savvy” because people will respect that if they are looking for something to invest in.

Around Christmas, I will put up a photo of a piece I created years ago and then took it all apart even though it had been accepted into a good venue. The truth was that I didn’t accept it because I considered it was not as good as other pieces I had created earlier, or pieces by other artists that were accepted. Today when I look back on that piece, I often feel sad because it was what my mind was thinking of in terms of creativity at the time, and it said what I wanted it to say in the way I wanted it to.

Respect your creativity at any given point in your life. Comparing it to other pieces is not a healthy activity. You need to respect the fact that you had the courage to get out materials and create something at that moment. You are not a failure because a piece of art or a piece of writing doesn’t measure up to other pieces you or others have created. The only failure is the failure to even try at all. Go ahead. Be brave. Show off your worst writing example or your worst painting or sculpture. Don’t look at your art in terms of awards, money or other superfluous things. Make creativity your joy just the way a baby feels joy at discovering its hands. Maybe someday those hands will create great paintings, or perhaps play incredible sonatas, but for now, be ok where you are and with what you have done. It is all good, even the simple little pumpkin quilt.

Cycle of Life II

Milkweed plants one week after being devoured by Monarch Caterpillars

I could not believe my eyes when a week after the Monarch Caterpillars totally ate every single leave of the two plants that have also propagated themselves in several other places in the yard, and within one week, they have all come back, bigger and fatter leaves than before.

Sometimes we just need to believe that this old world will continue as it has been doing for thousands of years. Yes, I am not so naive as to believe that we do not have things like climate and environmental changes that are affecting the world. I am sure that some of the things have been happening since the beginning. I believe most sincerely that many changes in cultures have taken place because of the inability of human beings to adjust to the changes successfully. Some of the changes I am not certain humans could have adapted to very successfully such as the ice ages that took place, or perhaps the plagues. But at the same time, mankind DID in fact exist before AND after those things, so perhaps it was an accident that they survived, and perhaps they adapted more than we think they did.

Today a lot of psychology is used to convince us of this potential thing or the other thing, much as the whole world was set to collapse with the coming of the year 2000, is about to happen to us and there are more books and talks, etc. by all kinds of people telling us what we need to do to survive. And of course it IS fully possible that this thing or that thing could cause total destruction of our world at any given time, but the truth is if that happens, I don’t think we need to worry about it anymore.

If, like the cycle of life that I witnessed in my Milkweed plants, this old world goes on, why not just continue to do what makes sense and stop worrying about destruction or the rest of the “what if’s”. When and if they happen, we will deal with them as we need to then, and we will hopefully learn from our mistakes. There is really no guarantee either way.

Enjoy the moment. Appreciate the air we breathe. Look for the beauty all around us. Find miracles in the everyday events. Remember not to always worry about tomorrow because the reality is that when tomorrow comes, it will also be today. Tomorrow is just a way to avoid being fully alive today. Trust, because trust really is something that can benefit us all. I am glad I trusted those caterpillars eating the Milkweed plants and gave the world a chance to do what it does best. Someday I know those Monarch butterflies will show up, and when they do I will be glad that I gave the world and myself this gift.

Vexed by the Tribe (part one)

If you don’t read anything else today, I hope you read this article. It gives me hope for the world as we know it today. This is a lot to take in, but we sure can use some change and perhaps this can help bring it about. Thank you kindly.

Sun in Gemini

I am vexed…

It’s a word you don’t hear much, now. Old English, I believe. It describes an agitated state of mind – and possibly body – when something nagging can’t be solved.

What I’m vexed about is the entrenchment of nationalistic opinion across the world, in the face of much more important issues – like the world’s climate problems and the undermining of democracy as a new type of war carried out by authoritarian regimes.

I’m vexed because I think I’ve seen beneath this to the psychological mechanics of something that has the potential to kill the world.

In Britain, with Brexit, we are marching, like lemmings, towards a clifftop that will bring chaos and self-inflicted harm to not only this generation of voters, but our children and their children. They will look back at the devastation and ask why somebody didn’t do something to avert it.

Friends in…

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A River Runs Through It

Art Quilt By Anne Copeland, Painted, Collaged and Machine Quilted

It was a warm summer day and my mother and I were up in the mountains of New Mexico, in a place called Ruidoso, which today is a big tourist place. But in those days, it was just a quiet little burg, and we went to stay in a cabin there owned by someone we knew. I remember one of the few times when my mother was actually glad to share some moments of peace with me. I am not sure my brother was born yet, but I don’t think so; I think my father was overseas still, one of the many times he would be sent there as he was in the Army then.

I intentionally did not paint my mother’s face or mine; I just wanted to capture a moment in my memory when faces were not important. I knew she was my mother, and as we sat there with our feet dangling in the water, there was nothing else that needed to be done or said. It was a moment shared, and one I was able to remember through my life. Such moments would be gone forever when my father returned. Our father did take us places for dinner or Sunday rides, or sometimes to see a movie, but the time would never again be like this one.

Life is short, often too short, and I think perhaps this was the one moment in time I will always remember as the time I treasure. I am not sure what happened in my family, but it was as though the whole world changed overnight once my father came back, this time perhaps from Korea. I hold onto that image in my mind, and I often wish I could remember the wonderful scent of those pine trees, and the way the breeze blew. But all I have now is the memory of a life, and the way a river runs through it.