Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous Thoughts’ Category

“Death Spiral” by Janie Chodosh comes out!

Tuesday, 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

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Improv Storytelling & Creative Writing Workshop in Santa Fe

Friday, 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:
http://e2.ma/webview/qy7xh/95de554579c92f665f71f8de9183b629
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Henry Miller and his Writing Schedule

Thursday, December 26th, 2013
Writing desk

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

http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/02/22/henry-miller-on-writing/

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,

Barbara

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Writing Prompt: Taste and Memory

Friday, 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?

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Dreams can come true, it can happen to you

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013
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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!
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Barbara’s Dwelling Prompt: the Tipi Rant

Tuesday, 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.

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Titles as Stories

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013
Deep Kiss from the Universe, 7x10 gouache on paper

Deep Kiss from the Universe, 7×10 gouache on paper

It seems true to me that Stories are upstream from everything, and the Cosmic Word gets it all going.

This week I launched an art e-shop on Etsy.com.

And I see with this work, as with my other artwork, the piece is not finished until I give it a title. Until it is Named.

And that is when my storyteller self kicks into gear: “Birds Poking Around in a Swirling Vortex”, “The Third Eye is Very Large”, “Cosmic Dust Making Itself into Something”.

And people seem to like the stories that accompany the visuals.

I’ve listed for sale about 30 pieces, as of today. Many of them are small gouache (7×10″) paintings on paper that were done in the late 90’s. These pieces were so personal and I liked them so much, I kept them! Didn’t show them to even a friend, until now.

My Etsy.com Shop

 

 

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Spare Time

Friday, January 25th, 2013
Kitchen shelf at my friend Hillary's house. She is so into china.

Kitchen shelf at my friend Hillary’s house. She is so into china figurines.

Susan’s recent prompt at writing group was “SPARE TIME”. So I wrote a list of my characters in the Mrs. Iptweet book and what I imagine are their favorite spare time activities. I think Mrs. Smithee writes letters to her relatives to be opened upon her death.

Now I share one of my very own personal Spare Time things: I love to take pictures of any oddball thing I see. Somehow noticing the quirkiness that happens during the course of an “ordinary” day – as if such a thing existed – reminds me there is no such thing as an ordinary day.

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Wishes & Chocolate

Friday, September 28th, 2012

Who among us has not had our proverbial noses pressed against the glass?

In Roald Dahl’s, ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, Charlie Bucket is accustomed to the outside window pane of the local candy shop. One day, he finds a golden ticket, providing him entrance to the great and mysterious chocolate factory, fulfilling a wish he almost dared not have, bringing him experiences beyond his wildest dreams.

Today I present you with a ‘golden’ ticket: one free chocolate at Todos Santos, the chocolate at the bottom of the stairs. We shall all go together and each person may choose a chocolate (or two if you just can’t decide, or three because it’s a nice number).

Then we will come back and write. Hopefully, your new treasure will inspire you to write a piece about:

-chocolate

and/or

wishes fulfilled.

Ponderings: Do we always have to be careful what we wish for? What if you or your character doesn’t get his or her wish, or doesn’t know what it is he or she really wants, or gets his wish but it doesn’t turn out as planned, or gets her wish and lives happily ever after? Or never wishes for anything. Or gets a wish fulfilled that someone else thinks he or she wants?

There is a quirky movie called, ‘The Fairy’. The movie opens with the protagonist riding his bicycle in the pouring rain. He’s going as fast as he can but the chain keeps falling off. He finally gives up and carries his bike to his destination—a motel where he works as a front desk clerk. A customer walks in. She says she is a fairy and will grant him three wishes. He doesn’t  hesitate with the first two: a scooter and free gas for life. This character’s choice of wishes reveals a lot about his ambitions in life, no? What does your character’s wish reveal about him/her?

P.S. The clerk’s third wish? Alas, the answer would spoil the story.

Note to our readers: Todos Santos doesn’t bother with the virtual universe—no website wanted or needed. It’s a parallel universe all its own ,where creativity, uniqueness, fun and deliciousness delight each of our senses. Todos is located in  Santa Fe’s ‘secret garden’, the downtown courtyard of Casa Sena, a centuries-old hacienda. Prepare to dream!

Todos Santos
125 E Palace Ave # 31
Santa Fe, NM 87501-2042
(505) 982-3855

 

 

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Lizzie K. Foley: The Writer’s Questionnaire

Friday, September 14th, 2012

With this post, we inaugurate our new series, the Writer’s Questionnaire!  We culled questions from a wide variety of sources, including our own heads.  First up (full disclosure):  one of our very own, Ms. Lizzie K. Foley, who (sadly) no longer lives close enough to commune with us on Fridays, but who shall always be a member of the group in our hearts.

Lizzie  has just had her successful debut in publishing with her children’s book, Remarkable.   Remarkable tells the story of Jane (Doe, of course), who believes herself to be the sparrow among swans in the town of Remarkable where everyone is a prodigy of something.  Pirates and natural-born but gifted (of course) evil twins create havoc, which only plain, ordinary Jane can resolve.  One of the things I love about the book is how Lizzie juggles crazy plot lines and yet it all makes sense — or maybe it’s just such great, funny writing that I would go along with anything she wrote.  Read it, if you haven’t yet!

 

On to the questions:

Oliver Stone once said the secret to completing a script was “ass-meets-chair.” How do you get your um, b-t-m, in a chair?

I think Oliver Stone is grossly oversimplifying here.  I’m not saying it’s not important to sit down and write – because it is, obviously, and books can’t get finished without a lot of butt-meets-chair.  But that’s not all there is to it.

First of all, no matter how determined I am to write, sometimes sitting down to work isn’t in the cards.  Like a lot of writers, I have a family.  I have responsibilities and obligations that are sometimes more pressing than writing.  And on those days—when I have to run around doing errands and chores that keeps life functioning—I’ve had to learn to keep the story in my head.  Even if you aren’t sitting, you can be mulling.

And we all know that the most brilliant ideas for a story almost invariably happen when we don’t have anything to write with, like when we are in the shower, or when we are half-asleep, or when we are driving.  I think sometimes our minds need time away from the pressure of actually putting words down on a page. So, not sitting can be as important as sitting.

Then there is the fact that some days sitting at the desk trying to write is about as productive and enjoyable as hitting myself with a hammer.  And when I am having one of these days, it’s important to know when to put the hammer down, get up out of the chair and go do something else.  Otherwise, writing turns into something that I hate.  And it is hard to write well when I am hating writing.

 Is there a food you write by?

Not so much food as drink.  I love black tea – very strong black tea – with milk.  And coca-cola.  I love having coke when I write.  I probably love this too much (I drink a lot of coke).

 Do you have a favorite writing spot?

Yes.  Home.  I am a total homebody when it comes to writing.  I love to be able to write, then get up and do the laundry or the dishes while I think about a scene.  I love having my dogs for company because it keeps writing from being lonely.  And although the idea of working at a coffee shop seems really appealing to me, I’m always much too distracted by the other people to get much done.

 People say there are two kinds of writers, those who outline and those who wing it.  What’s your process?

I try to outline.  I really do.  But as soon as I start writing, the story usually veers off into a different direction and renders my outline useless.  So basically I’m always winging it.

 The best thing you can do for any writing project is…

Remember what excited you about the idea, so you can recapture the enthusiasm when you start feeling burned out about your work.

And give your characters the chance to surprise you.  Don’t get so hung up on your early vision of what they are like and what they have to accomplish in the story that you can’t allow them to be more interesting if you’re hit with inspiration

 What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

I would love to be a librarian.  Seriously.   Librarians are awesome.  They know everything.  And if they don’t know something, they know how to find out about it.  And the fact that librarians are being cut from schools and municipalities is just insanely wrong.

 What is your favorite word? (Yes, this is stolen from James Lipton, who adapted it from Bernard Pivot, who started with Proust’s Questionnaire) 

Aluminum—but when it is pronounced in the British way al-U-minium. Oh, and “diegesis,’ which is a great, under-utilized word that refers to the world that a story creates for the characters.

What is your least favorite word? (Ditto, see above)

Compliment/Complement.  I am incapable of remembering which word means “goes with” and which one means “to praise”.

 My favorite thrill is….

I love watching someone get really good news.  It chokes me up every time.

 What’s your favorite shower song?

My shower songs are usually a compilation of whatever song is on the radio too much and is stuck in my head.  But I can never remember the actual lyrics, and so I mostly make up my own the lyrics.  And my lyrics are always deeply stupid and enjoyable only to me (or at least that’s what people who hear me sing tell me).

I wish I understood why…

It is not possible to summon, at will, that beautiful voice in my head that does the best writing.  You know the one – the one that write those beautiful paragraphs that never need changing.  The one, which sadly for me, only shows up about once every other year…

I need to learn how to…

Text.  Seriously.  How great would it be to be able to jot down notes for a story on my phone.  Or, I don’t know, successfully send a text message.  But I am the s.l.o.w.e.s.t texter in the world.  I could mail a message via the post office to someone faster than I can send a text.  It’s pitiful.

I’m often puzzled by…

So many things.  Seriously, you don’t even have time or space on this blog…

But the one thing I’ve been feeling deeply puzzled about lately is the relationship between reading and writing.  I love to read—absolutely love it, but I’ve noticed that I have a very difficult time reading fiction when I’m deep into writing one of my own stories.  I have a complete inability to stay focused no matter how interested I am in the book.  I would love to hear an explanation of why this happens…or better yet, I’d love a cure.

 

Thanks, Lizzie, for the perfect inauguration of our writer’s questionnaire!  Can’t wait for your next book…

Next up:  Jill Koenigsberg.  If you want to suggest a writer for us to torture with the questionnaire, please do so via the comments or you can email us.

 

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