April 1st, 2014

Ta-da!  The day has finally come!  Our member Janie Chodosh’s new book, Death Spiral, comes out today!  Buy it!  Read it!  Comment on it on Goodreads and Amazon.  Here’s the cover:

ChodoshJanie’s book is getting some good reviews, and recently she was a guest panelist at Left Coast Crime 2014.  She was great on the panel, strong and articulate.  Look for her at Boucheron this November in Long Beach, as well as a local reading at OpCit bookstore May 18th here in Santa Fe (and in LA for the LA Festival of Books on April 12th).   Look for her also on Kasa Fox between 8 and 9 am on May 5th.

Here’s the link to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Death-Spiral-Flores-Science-Mystery/dp/1929345003

To keep up with Janie, visit her at www.janiechodosh.com

February 21st, 2014
My Saturday Improv Storytelling & Creative Writing Workshop in Santa Fe has filled up!
Now we are adding a Sunday workshop 3/16/2014- who is game? Contact me at b mayfield media at gmail dot com and I will send you the PDF with all details. Space is limited. Hope to see you in Santa Fe soon for this epic adventure.
And Peggy Pfeiffer of BadDog Design has 3 excellent social media workshops coming up. I’ve taken them. They are great.
Here is the link:
February 11th, 2014
Let's tell stories that won't be forgetten.

Let’s tell stories that won’t be forgetten.

Barbara Mayfield’s  Improv Storytelling & Creative Writing Workshop is coming to Santa Fe.

 A Day of Productive Play! Time to get out the way, tune in, and harvest the stories that are waiting to be told. Saturday. March 15th. 2014.

10am – 3:30pm. A creative lunch break from noon til 1:30.

Location: BadDog Design, 901 West San Mateo, Studio D, Santa Fe, New Mexico  87505

Barbara Mayfield:  505-231-4774 ph/txt and/or bmayfieldmedia@gmail.com

Improv storytelling is a way of accessing stories you didn’t even know where there.

Stories are upstream from everything. The Story is where all our joy, heart, power and successes, where all our creative projects, efforts, and enthusiasms originate. Mayfield has drawn from her years of training and experience working in the arts and put together a new workshop for Creatives and for those who think they are not. Barbara Mayfield is a multi-disciplinary award-winning author-actor-comedienne-storyteller-puppeteer. Visit http://ThePowerofPuppets.com.

Would you like to have a new workshop experience? Perfect for writers, storytellers, story-slammers, songwriters, screenwriters of any genre and level, wanna-be’s, and anyone who wants to experience the mystical power of the spontaneous. In a safe supportive environment, of course!

Peggy Pfeiffer, Creative Director of Bad Dog Design, is hosting this event in the Bad Dog Design studio. Some of you may be familiar with her gorgeous, rockin’ design space – an inspiring place in which to be creative.

About the workshop:

What won’t be happening: We won’t be doing any fixing, figuring it out, marketing, planning, publishing, worrying, fretting or struggling. We won’t be doing scary standing-in-front-of-an- audience solo public speaking (not this time anyway).

What will be happening: We’ll relax, listen, take fun and funny risks. Learn new ways to access stories you didn’t even know where there. Explore new creative territory. Work with fabulous prompts. Speak out loud a bit. Write to capture & harvest the goods. Let new stories float in. I’m bringing my bag of tricks from years of theater, improv storytelling and creative writing, to lead you in a creative process that I have found to be thrilling and unstoppable.

Cost is $55. Payment accepted by PayPal (I’ll email you a Paypal invoice). Credit card payments accepted by phone on my new fabulous Square account. Call me up. Or email me about sending a check.

To hold your place, please pay in full before Feb 28th. Space is limited. No refunds, but rain-checks will be issued.

On the Day: Bring a bag lunch and your beverage, or plan to eat at one of the great bistros in the neighborhood. You’ll have an hour and a half because art-making requires fuel, digestion and camaraderie as part of the day. Bring a notebook, and the writing instruments of your choice.

Wear comfy no-stress clothing that you feel good in. I’ll bring everything else.

Contact Barbara with questions, more details and to claim your seat.

bmayfieldmedia@gmail.com           http://ThePowerofPuppets.com

December 26th, 2013
Writing desk

My desk, given to me by Kate Van Roeken, the first “Mrs. iptweet” I’d ever met.


In preparation for the new year ahead, I share this link to Henry Miller’s list of best writing & life practices. I find it inspiring and it can applied to all art forms. The great power of focus.

As always, the motto is “Tell me a story I won’t forget.”

Write well,


September 3rd, 2013


When she got to where they were she turned her face on the bander log and spoke. They scrambled a noisy “good evenin’ ” and left their mouths setting open and their ears full of hope. Her speech was pleasant enough, but she kept walking straight on to her gate. The porch couldn’t talk for looking.

The men noticed her firm buttocks like she had grapefruits in her hip pockets; the great rope of black hair swinging to her waist and unraveling in the wind like a plume; then her pugnacious breasts trying to bore holes in her shirt. They, the men, were saving with the mind what they lost with the eye. The women took the faded shirt and muddy overalls and laid them away for remembrance. It was a weapon against her strength and if it turned out of no significance, still it was a hope that she might fall to their level some day.
But nobody moved, nobody spoke, nobody even
–Zora Neale Hurston, When Their Eyes Were Watching God thought to swallow spit until after her gate slammed behind her.

“Won’t you come in?”  She led them into an immaculate sitting room, antimacassars set with grim purpose as though aligned and placed with a template. Everything was exactly as it should be–china lined up in the cabinet, dinner dishes all washed and put away, the faint whiff of lemon oil and disinfectant in the air. It was a space that seemed to Ward essentially and inordinately female, as though it had never been contaminated by a man’s presence. Everything reeked of cleanliness and decorum.

–Erin Hart, Lake of Sorrows

He was most fifty, and he looked it. His hair was long and tangled and greasy, and hung down, and you could see his eyes shining through like he was behind vines. It was all black, no gray; so was his long, mixed-up whiskers. There warn’t no color in his face, where his face showed; it was white; not like another man’s white, but a white to make a body sick, a white to make a body’s flesh crawl – a tree-toad white, a fish-belly white. 

–Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

She had one of those guilty smiles, where the corners of the mouth turned upward just in time to keep the lips quiet — leaving a man to wonder if she’d wrecked his car, slept with his best friend, or given all his clothes to the Salvation Army.

She was the kind of woman who would have dated Lee Harvey Oswald in high school.

–Linda Bloodworth Thomason, lines from Designing Women, Dash Goff the Writer

The salesman lifted his gaze. But two boys, far up the gentle slope, lying on the grass. Of a like size and general shape, the boys sat carving twig whistles, talking of olden or future times, content with having left their fingerprints on every movable object in Green Town during summer past and their footprints on every open path between here and the lake and there and the river since school began.
“Howdy, boys!” called the man all dressed in storm-colored clothes. “Folks home?”
The boys shook their heads.
“Got any money, yourselves?”
The boys shook their heads.
“Well –” The salesman walked about three feet, stopped and hunched his shoulders. Suddenly he seemed aware of house windows or the cold sky staring at his neck. He turned slowly, sniffing the air. Wind rattled the empty trees. Sunlight, breaking through a small rift in the clouds, minted a last few oak leaves all gold. But the sun vanished, the coins were spent, the air blew gray; the salesman shook himself from the spell.
The salesman edged slowly up the lawn.
“Boy,” he said. “What’s your name?”
And the first boy, with hair as blond-white as milk thistle, shut up one eye, tilted his head, and looked at the salesman with a single eye as open, bright and clear as a drop of summer rain.
“Will,” he said. “William Halloway.”
The storm gentleman turned. “And you?”
The second boy did not move, but lay stomach down on the autumn grass, debating as if he might make up a name. His hair was wild, thick, and the glossy color of waxed chestnuts. His eyes, fixed to some distant point within himself, were mint rock-crystal green. At last he put a blade of dry grass in his casual mouth.
“Jim Nightshade,” he said.

–Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes

The Tired Minstrel, by De Chirico

The Tired Minstrel, by De Chirico

Character description is so much richer if it includes something beyond the physical, that points to some hint of who that person is beyond hair, eyes or height. These are some of my favorites. Think of the interesting ways these descriptions work: third person observation, juxtaposition of words that give an opposite underlying meaning to what’s on the surface, the use of metaphors so unique they immediately become attached to the character and could never be used to describe someone else, and action as description. Bradbury goes full out and changes the weather, the setting and the entire feel of the day for the salesman when he first sees Jim Nightshade.

Some of these characters are protagonists, but not all. Rich character description, crafting even one devoted paragraph to a secondary character (like the above Erin Hart example), is a way of making flesh out of cardboard.  (These few lines were enough to put her on my personal list of bona fide suspects.)

Is there a secondary character (or two or three) that you need to flesh out? See if any of the above descriptions inspire you to richer characterizations.  (This is also a great starter prompt if you’re having a hard time getting going.)

June 28th, 2013

taste and memory“…mechanically, weary after a dull day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid, and the crumbs with it, touched my palate than a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, but individual, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory–this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me, it was myself…

And suddenly the memory returns. The taste was that of the little crumb of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before church-time), when I went to say good day to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of real or of lime-flower tea. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it; perhaps because I had so often seen such things in the interval, without tasting them, on the trays in pastry-cooks’ windows, that their image had dissociated itself from those Combray days to take its place among others more recent; perhaps because of those memories, so long abandoned and put out of mind, nothing now survived, everything was scattered; the forms of things, including that of the little scallop-shell of pastry, so richly sensual under its severe, religious folds, were either obliterated or had been so long dormant as to have lost the power of expansion which would have allowed them to resume their place in my consciousness. But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, still, alone, more fragile, but with more vitality, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, ready to remind us, waiting and hoping for their moment, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unfaltering, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.”

–Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past, Swann’s Way

Yesterday while I was making dinner, I picked up a slim, crisp French green bean and bit into it. Immediately I was back on the factory floor of Green Giant where I worked two summers while I was in college. I could feel the soaring ceiling above, the ever-damp concrete floor below my feet, hear the whirring of the conveyor belt with mounds of freshly harvested green beans rolling along at fifty stations. I was in my overalls, wearing my high school green and white oxfords (which was a surprise, I’d forgotten about those). I was full of wonder and promise about college, thinking about the prank I pulled painting one-and only one-of the stools purple. All from a single taste of a green bean. Not that my time at Green Giant ranks up there with my fondest memories, though I admit a hazy glow permeated my flash of remembrance, probably because a) it was thirty-odd years ago and I was young and b) it was thirty-odd years ago and I don’t have to work there now. It’s undeniable, even without the many scientific studies on the subject, that a taste can sometimes flood us not only with sensation, but with memory and emotion. One bite into a Ciao Bella Key Lime Frozen Yogurt Sandwich, and life always seems better. Taste is linked to the most primitive parts of our brain, say the scientists, which means, when you think about it, that taste is linked to survival and instinct, things we must remember in order to live. But here’s the catch: You can’t make it happen (although Ciao Bella does a pretty good job). I’ve bitten into fresh green beans before without remembering Green Giant. And the next time I bite into a fresh green bean I will probably think about my factory time, but I doubt it will be that breath-taking immediate immersion into something that felt more than mere memory, even if just for a moment. And who knew that particular memory would float up, rather than, say, my grandmother’s bean salad at the lake? So this means that when this kind of taste-memory trigger happens, it is precious, and should become its own memory. Have your character bite slowly, lusciously, and with full detail of every sensation into something terrifically wonderful or horrifically bad. Does the taste-memory connection cause an action? Does the bite make someone fall in love, want to become a chef, go off canned tuna forever, understand the unity of all things, seal in the memory of a summer’s day, laugh, cry, or both?

June 10th, 2013

Prompt: Watch this short, hilarious video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vC8gJ0_9o4M

If you have any trouble this link, type: Norwegian cheesedoodles in youtube’s search window. Bet you never used those two words side by side before!

Now write about BLISS. Quiet bliss, big noisy bliss, your bliss, your character’s bliss, any bliss at all.



April 23rd, 2013
One of our own, Janie Chodosh, has just been offered a publishing contract.  Her YA thriller novel will be published by The Poisoned Pencil, the new imprint of Poisoned Pen Press.  Poisoned Pen is one of the largest independent publishers of mysteries in the world.  Janie will be one of the first authors to be published by its offspring – for which we congratulate The Poisoned Pencil!
No one has worked harder at creating a path to being a published author than Janie.  She has written, revised, fretted, reorganized, honed, and polished – fretted some more, then revised some more – in other words, she has put in the work that any successful writer must do, with a good heart and focused mind.  She’s also tapped into a great field – the YA, science-based thriller/suspense novel.  Her book uses as its hook the potentially dark side of the emerging field of genetic engineering which leads her heroine on a twisted journey to find the true cause of her mother’s death – a great, page-turning read no matter what your age.
So, stay tuned to this space for more on when you can get your hands on this book!
April 23rd, 2013

tipi turq
Tipis. Of all the dwellings on Barbara’s list, I would have to get tipis. I’d like to relate to them, I really would, but I have a very hard time doing so, despite the fact that I actually own one. It began life as a fun way to camp on vacant land while a house was under construction, but it has dwindled to an unused space filled with old chairs, wasps and mice. This is not a great metaphor, if I choose to see getting tipis as a metaphor, and since all things are metaphors, so must my tipi be.

I looked online for symbolism and meaning. There’s a legend of how one tribe “got” the tipi, and there’s another website that talks of the meaning of the 15 poles of the tipi, and even though it is the Gathering of Nations website, it reads to me as suspect, as a made up set of meanings written in a flashy website for non-native people to imbibe so they think they are gaining understanding of native culture. I tend to run from those things. I’ve never believed I’m the reincarnation of Pocohontas or Sitting Bull, or even Custer, nor do I think I understand what it is to be Native American, plural or singular in any way. To me, Native Americans are as mysterious and unknowable to me as the Masons – born into or chosen, these are lives permeated by an identity reinforced with a bunch of secret ceremonies I would love to witness as a secret anthropologist. But, if ever I was invited, I’d be there as an observer, much as I was at the vision-quest-sweat-lodge ceremony for a friend many years ago (which took place in a tipi). I’m glad I went, but though I’ve been invited since, I just don’t feel right pretending to be something I’m not.

So I was trying to avoid the whole topic of tipis, rushing through the above half-essay, eager to see what #6 was (my next pick on the list), eager to move on from the whole idea of tipis to something else. And so #6 was…yurt. I relate more to yogurts than yurts. Tipis!  Yurts! Yurts! Tipis! The universe is clearly, clearly trying to communicate with me. I didn’t get the incredibly cool items on the list, the apartment in Paris or the nifty airstream trailer, both of which immediately got story lines going in my head. So, I am stuck with tipis and yurts since I can’t take someone else’s pick – that is, I can’t be an unwelcome guest in someone else’s dwelling, usurp someone else’s message from the universe, which of course all things picked out of a hat or chosen blindly from a deck or a list are.

Yurts. Tipis.

Dwellings that I as an architect sniff at, turn my nose up at, sigh and murmur woo-woo under my breath about. Too often places for people who want to be something they are not. I once had a builder-friend ask me if I would please help out some clients of his who could not make up their minds about how to arrange their yurt (they were not Mongolian), who wanted to make the yurt do things it could not by its very nature do, like be a three bedroom, two bath house. Oh, and once I was asked to stamp a set of drawings for a yurt because the state wanted an architect to tell them that a form that has been used for thousands of years would, in fact, stand up.

Yurts and tipis to me are the forlorn hopes of the concept of dwelling, at least when used too much by people wanting to be something, anything they are not, looking for an injection of spiritual wasabi into their white bread lives.

And now I’m ranting, which I do when I am impatient, which I do when I wonder if other people know something I don’t, which I do when I feel superior for no good reason whatsoever.

If I can forget about the metaphor of trying to be something you are not (I am not)- and I’m not sure I should, since the universe has thrown me the double tipi-yurt card, and you can bet I won’t forget it, but if I can forget about all that for just the rest of this essay, what do I take away from the lesson to be found in the notion, the metaphor, the parable, the symbol of the yurt/tipi connection?

Tipis and Yurts are the portable dwellings of aboriginal, primal peoples: people who lived in their community, related to their world, who wandered.

Ahhh. One by one now.

People who live in community:  Here’s a sure challenge to me, the introvert, the person who loves to stay up into the night because no one calls, no one wants anything, and it is quiet.

People who attempt to relate to the world around them, who live in the world around them. Ooh, another challenge – me, who took up hiking when I first moved here, who reveled in finally coming to love the outdoors, of connecting with the outside, in a way a born-and-bred city kid never knew or thought she would ever come to know, who pounded on the steering wheel when  driving into NM the first time, when I went past the painted rock of Ghost Ranch, not knowing that it was the same place I’d seen in the film of Georgia O’keefe’s life that flipped some inner magnetic compass in my soul and pointed me here. Me, who now avoids walks, practically hibernates in the winter, and only goes to the office in my own backyard. I need to get out more. I need to connect more with what inspired me about here in the first place.

People who wander:  now there you go.

At this moment in my life, birthday just past, I am between tribes, between tipis. This is what I will think on most, I will stew and wonder and wonder if I am right to wander between tipis, if I will make a commitment to turn my life in another direction, to make myself a new tipi. If I will even have the courage and commitment to the creative side of myself to actually do it – or if I will cravenly slink back to the tipi I know and sit down as the fire burns out. For now though, I shall choose to see the tipi yurt message from the universe as both a circle, meaning both a never-ending path and the embracing circle of life. It means I am wrong – I am not so much wandering between tipis, as wandering within a circle bigger than I know even surrounds me, that still embraces me reminding me that wherever you go, there you are – you take your home place, your heart, wherever you wander.

April 12th, 2013

Hi Gang,

We just finished up Writers Group and today was my turn to bring the Prompt. So we Skyped me in and here it is:

Location and dwellings can be important characters in a story.

Before looking at the list, choose a number from 1 to 10. Then look at your number and let that dwelling style inspire a new story or a new bit for the book you are working on. This prompt yielded fantastic writings today. Deb says she will post her piece very soon.

Ok, below this photo is the list. GO!

Casita by the River, mixed media dwelling painting by Barbara Mayfield. 2013

Casita by the River, mixed media dwelling painting by Barbara Mayfield. 2013


  1. cave
  2. teepee
  3. airstream mobile home
  4. treehouse
  5. gazebo
  6. yurt
  7. seashore bungalow
  8. condo
  9. palace
  10. apartment in Paris

Write a story we won’t forget.