Category: Greyhairs Rising

Week 30. Cirenaica with Nickolas Butler

This week I will be in residency at Cirenaica, outside of Eau Claire, WI, with author Nickolas Butler and ten other fiction writers. This will be my first residency experience. I’m grateful to have been accepted. I’m eager to work and critique among other writers, off by ourselves in the wilds of Wisconsin farmland – eating, drinking, sleeping, talking, and working fiction.

Nickolas Butler, credit: Chippewa Valley Writer's Guild

Nickolas Butler. Photo credit: Chippewa Valley Writer’s Guild

Before I go much further, I have to thank the Cirenaica Residency Coordinator and author, B. J. Hollars, for his accommodating nature. It is a fact, friends, that we retirees have likely developed certain lifestyle sensitivities and limitations. We don’t want to stop ourselves from enjoying the most that life has to offer but face it, some of our choices may be relegated to the senior menu. B. J. – who I originally thought through email exchanges was a woman in her mid-fifties – is a bright and friendly young man who would do well in the hospitality industry. As my mother used to advise me, artists must always have a real skill to fall back on.

B. J. Hollars Photo credit: B. J. Hollars

B. J. Hollars Photo credit: B. J. Hollars

Listen to his podcast and be charmed. And listen to Nickolas Butler read from “Shotgun Lovesongs,” within the stunning review by Janet Maslin March of the New York Times.

I didn’t know that artist residencies were “a thing” when I stepped into my retirement career as a writer. Some people, I understand, spend their retirement jumping from cruise ship to cruise ship, or house sitting for professors on sabbatical in college towns. Others, writer and artist others, can be mapped across residencies – coast to coast – in country villages to western-ranging dude ranches.

Some residencies are in-house, pay-your-way workshops, offering teaching opportunities from an established artist. Some will invite you to stay as the artist in residency and provide a small stipend for expenses. All will feed you and house you and teach you in a pod of artists, charging the air you breathe with creative fire.

Length of stay varies. Do your research. Apply liberally.

A note on Cirenaica

The Chippewa Valley Writers Guild is pleased to partner with Cirenaica for our second year of summer residencies!  Nestled on 43 acres of hills, farmland, and forest near the quaint village of Fall Creek, Wisconsin, our residencies promise participants of all levels and genres an intensive yet rejuvenating experience amidst an inspiring backdrop.

Next week’s topic: Probably a review of the Nickolas Butler’s Theory and Practice of Fiction Residency

See you back here next Sunday (or some day during the week). Would you like to keep up with the Greyhairs Rising community? Sign up for the latest updates.

 

 

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You’ve all heard about – or lived through – the cold and snow and ice of Minnesota. It’s the land of endless winter popped by 3 months of summer that brings blowdown storms, tornadoes, giant mosquitoes, and biting black flies. It’s all true. But we also have, and I thank our Minnesota State Legislators (Legacy Amendment funds) for this, a supportive arts community through the Minnesota State Arts Board, Springboard for the Arts, and regional arts councils.

By the way, fellow Minnesotans, be sure to click the link to the Minnesota State Legislators. That will take you to the Legacy Funding Committee. Take time, please, to contact these legislators to tell them how arts funding is needed and thank them for their support.

Springboard for the Arts

I attended a series of 5 classes, offered by Springboard at no charge and presented in my local library, April through May. The title of the group of classes was “Work of Art. Business Skills for Artists.”

I had not planned to attend since I had been a freelance graphic designer for the better part of thirty years. I thought I knew… well, I didn’t. From a review of how to tailor the artist resume to legal considerations, pricing and time management, to funding options, I left with knowledge about how-to and artist resources, to build my retirement career into a solid retirement business.

I strongly urge you to visit the website and explore all it has to offer – even if you aren’t a Minnesotan. Download the 2017 class catalog pdf and dive into

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Creative Exchange, practical, artist-created toolkits to spark change and stories to inspire connection.

As with most things, 90% of achievement is powered by our own efforts. Not everyone is equally equipped for the challenges our goals require. Get help from a friend – you’ve got one in Springboard for the Arts!

Next week’s topic: (depends… it’s summer in Minnesota.)

See you back here next Sunday (or some day during the week). Would you like to keep up with the Greyhairs Rising community? Sign up for the latest updates.

 

 

 

 

 

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Early on in this series we looked at our intention to create art and asked the question, “How serious am I?” The deeper I get into my own work, the more serious I am, the more driven, the more confused I am about the quality of my work. I’m talking about writing and how I’ve learned that there is a “best” way to tell a story. I’ve learned that I’m prone to leave out some important things – best ways to deliver characters and scenes – and I’m struggling to understand how to recognize and fix the problems.

I just heard myself saying to myself, “Maybe you’ve taken on too much with this book.” Maybe I have. Maybe I can’t learn the things I need to know to do this story justice. Maybe… and then I stopped. I reminded myself that I want to tell this story, this particular story because I believe it’s important. And I reminded myself that two years ago I didn’t know enough to know to ask the questions I’m asking now.

My intention has been clear from the beginning. I want this. I want this enough to work this hard at learning the craft. I’ve learned to ignore some input and some teachings and to embrace others. I’ve done virtually nothing but learn and practice and learn and practice. I tell myself, “This isn’t math. You can do it!”

So this week I’m going to take you back to the second week topic and ask you to review your intention to create. Are you any further along than you were six months ago? Does it matter to you?

How Serious Are You?

On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being I’m all in!, where are you as we start this week and is it where you want to be?  Where you imagined yourself to be?

Pick Your Battles.

Everything we do that we do well requires some time and effort. Time and energy can be the two strongest forces working against us as we age. Can we ignore our obstacles? By this time in life, I think we’ve all come to realize that the adage, pick your battles, has real meaning.

I’ve always been a nap taker. On the days that I did not allow myself the luxury of an afternoon snooze, I felt restless and less focused. Rather than fight my nature, I succumbed and am much happier and more productive for giving in.

My husband listens patiently to my babblings about what I’m writing or what I’m painting. He’s supportive but not engaged in my enthusiasm. I had to seek out other creatives who would share my excitement. Rather than fight with my husband over my disappointments, I accept what he offers and appreciate him for who he is.

I have friends who are challenged by mobility and other health-related issues. They’ve had to accept their physical limitations but that doesn’t mean restrictions on their creative dreams. Tools at hand, inspiring videos and a willingness to embrace the freedoms a creative spirit affords, keeps the artist alive and busy finding new ways to accommodate first the artist, then the limitations.

Finding the time to work.

I found that I accomplished the most writing in the early morning. Fresh from sleep and dreams, I hit the computer keyboard and pound out the words. After about an hour, I have to take a break and walk around a little, feed the dog, have some coffee or tea. So I learned to set alarms on my phone to reflect my way of working.

I officially start work at 9 o’clock in the morning. I may be up at 4 or 5 and been writing and musing and planning. But by 8 a.m., I need to be showered and dressed and prepared for work as if I had an office to get to. It took me six months of retirement to realize that I work best with a schedule. So I created one. By following a schedule I found my level of commitment to the work was rewarded with pages written and paintings painted and boundless satisfaction and self-appreciation!

I also realized that not every day is a work day. Somedays I found I could not focus or settle down into the routine. I knew I was missing the element of pressure to achieve so I began working with deadlines. I entered art shows and writing competitions that came with a finish-by date. That gave me the extra nudge I needed to keep me going.

Deadlines and schedules may not be what work for you. I seem to get the most joy out of accomplishment. Many people find their joy in the process. Watch yourself, see how you work, notice what makes you feel good about what you’re doing and how you do it. Then establish working rules that fit you and allow you to get the most creative enjoyment.

Tips for the week:

  • Pay attention to distractions. What pulls you away from your art?
  • Take note of your personal work style. When are you the most productive?
  • Consider your workspace. Does it fit with your working style?
  • Make notes about the obstacles and challenges you find. How can you put your artist self first, before accommodating limitations or restrictions?
  • Keep sketching
  • Try a timed writing off of one of your sticky note thoughts from last week. Get a pad of paper, position yourself in a comfy spot, set a timer for 5 minutes and write without lifting pen from paper.

Keep building your bank of sticky note ideas.

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I’ve heard a lot of frustration from writers and artists about time – how can a working, mom or dad, or anyone, find time for creative writing and art?  Having just taken a course in time management from Springboard for the Arts, offered at my local library, I can say that a time audit will help you find that time.

Participants were asked to keep track of what they did for 24 hours in each of seven days. After each activity, we were asked to note if the time was Alpha, Beta, or Art time. Alpha is any time spent on art related activities and Art itself. Beta is time not spent on art or art related activities. There can be overlaps.

At the end of the week, it’s easy to see how much time is actually spent producing art. That may be only 20% of your time in a week. The time audit will document how your intentions to work are interrupted and will be useful in creating a space in each week that is devoted to your creative work. Following is a repeat of steps you can take to make creative time a priority:

Focus.

Focus is the key to making time to do the work. You may need to focus first on all the reasons why you are dragged away from the work you start. Keep a sticky-note pad handy and make note of each time you’re interrupted.

  1. How many times were you interrupted by someone else?
  2. How many times were you interrupted by your phone?
  3. How many times were your thoughts interrupted by (fill in the blanks)
    1. ______________________________________
    2. ______________________________________
    3. ______________________________________
    4. What else?

By Wednesday, after taking notes on interruptions, it’s easy to see why we can never find a decent amount of time to grow as an artist or writer. Now it’s time to focus on solutions. Review your sticky-notes and write on each one a possible solution to the problem. Example: Phone interrupts. Turn off the phone during work time.

Set Limits.

If you were on the job, you would not be allowed to entertain all the distractions you do allow when you are on your own time. Understanding how to set limits will be key to making the time you need to deeply focus on your creative work.

You have your notes in hand that illustrate how many distractions you allow. You’ve made notes on possible solutions. Now is the time to implement the solutions by setting limits.

Limit your workspace – keep distractions outside of your workspace, even if that means closing the door or wearing noise-cancelling headphones. Your workspace must become sacred space – yours – where important work is done and others are not allowed to intrude during work hours.

Limit your time – allow yourself enough time to get into deep focus and produce work, but don’t take so much time that everything else goes to the wayside and becomes an excuse for not getting back to work the next day. Make a schedule.

The most compelling distraction is the one that opens the gate for all others to flood in and overwhelm your best intentions. What is that one thing that overwhelms your artistic practice? Faith in yourself to do this work.

 Have faith.

You’ve made the decision to explore your creative self. Don’t judge your successes and failures. Judge only these things:

  1. Adequate workspace
  2. Adequate work time without interruptions
  3. Whether or not you did anything with the workspace and time you created.

The lack of belief in the work and you as the creative spirit will undermine every effort you make or think you want to make.

This entire process is about YOU and no one else. Only you can make the time and make that time what you want.

Prompt for the week. 

  • Keep those sticky-notes handy so you can keep track of your interruptions and plan for solutions to distractions.
  • Create a cheat-sheet using your distractions/solutions notes and post it above your work area where you can see it for quick reference.
  • Make sure other members of your household who feel to interrupt, refer to the cheat-sheet before breaking your focus.
  • Post your work day schedule for them to see.

Next week’s topic: Steps to publishing a story.  

See you back here next Sunday night! Would you like to keep up with the Greyhairs Rising community? Sign up for the latest updates.

 

 

 

 

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Rules are made to be broken. How many times have we heard that? Before you go breaking rules, you might want to know why the rules are in place and give some thought to what will happen – including unintended consequences – when the rules change. Storytelling has been at the heart of human community learning from earliest times and the way a story is told will make or break its success for the reader.

The rules for stories rose from the way people hear and relate to their message. Stories were meant to share a vision of the world around and within us, as well as to inspire, teach, and continue as a memoir for a tribe or individual.

The essentials.

  1. Beginning
    a. Early on in your story, set up the conflict and let the reader know what type of story this will be: mystery, drama, inspirational, etc.
    b. Introduce your protagonist, the setting, the plot/conflict, and a pathway through to resolution.
  2. Middle
    a. Tell the story of the characters in their setting, working through the challenge.
    b. Surprise the reader with a twist if possible, but not one that derails the setup.
  3. End
    a. Wrap up all the loose ends
    b. Provide a transformative resolution.

Length.
Stories can be comprised of

  • 6 words – example: For sale, Baby shoes, Never worn.
  • 2 sentences – Try it!
  • less than 700 words
  • up to about 5,000
  • after that, your story becomes a novella.
  • 80,000 to 100,000 words is a

How to:
http://thewritepractice.com/how-to-write-a-short-story/
http://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Short-Story
http://www.nownovel.com/blog/how-to-write-a-short-story/
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/18/short-story-tips-_n_3947152.html

Read and learn.
https://media.bookbub.com/blog/2016/02/04/free-short-stories-online/
https://americanliterature.com/100-great-short-stories
https://www.wattpad.com/stories/short-story

Creative prompt.
Write a short story about your favorite moment of the day.

Next week’s topic: How to publish short stories.
See you back here next Sunday night! Would you like to keep up with the Greyhairs Rising community? Sign up for the latest updates.

#blogging #amwriting

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What are the differences between a crafter, a craftsman, a fine artist, and all the degrees in between?

Some will argue that a craft has a utilitarian purpose such as a crocheted afghan or a ceramic plate. Some will say that fine art has no utilitarian purpose and that is the sole rule they follow when drawing a distinction between the two. I say it’s really up to you!

Anyone who thinks that a tulip in a hand-thrown vase only represents usefulness as in the vase supporting the flowers and the water to refresh them has never taken a photo of or painted a still life. All possibilities lie in the imagination of the audience.

I will say that a crafter is more likely to produce products with a more homespun appeal. A craftsman may be considered one who is a master of the crafting of… a Maple table or a massive woodcut – both utilitarian and appealing to an artistic aesthetic. A fine artist may excel in traditional oil portraiture while a contemporary counterpart may make stunning street art.

Art is art. A song. A painting. A knit shawl. A fabric pitchfork. You decide.

Creative prompt.
See if you can make distinctions between craft and art – in writing or in painting or maybe in a quilt!

Next week’s topic:  The short story

See you back here next Sunday night! Would you like to keep up with the Greyhairs Rising community? Sign up for the latest updates.

#amwriting #writing #blogging #art #artist

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Last week the topic was Support Other Artists. The content must have been of little interest to readers since the readership was WAY down. Wow! What does that say about us as a creative group? “Maybe, I told myself, “everybody’s distracted by the approach of spring and infected with spring fever.”

It’s been a long, long winter for those of us in the northern states. The early spring months have brought little in the way of sunshine and consistently warm temperatures. I could see my backyard covered in six inches of snow by tomorrow. (Groan.)

We’ve been here before, in every aspect of our lives, in a place where we aren’t inspired to go forward and we certainly have no heart to help others. So this is a good – no, great – week to talk about social media. We use social media because it’s social. We can interact with others and get responses. The interaction makes us feel good – usually.

Sometimes, depending on what we see on social media, we don’t feel better. That’s something we have to pay attention to and get it under control! As artists, we especially need to pay attention to what we are doing and giving away on social media before making one more social media post.

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Social Media for artists. the good and the bad.

I just completed a course offered by Springboard for the Arts on Legal Considerations for Artists. I have been self-employed as a graphic artist/designer/copywriter – you name it – for much of my professional career. I didn’t think I needed this course, but what could it hurt?

This was an excellent class and a terrific reminder to

  1. Know the law and
  2. Follow the law and
  3. Get help with the law

Our instructor, Naomi RaMona Schliesman, did not offer legal advice since she’s not a lawyer – she didn’t even offer an opinion. She did direct us to resources to research our needs as artists to protect ourselves, our work, and how we work as we work for others as freelancers and by commission.

One thing I knew (I knew this) and ignored every single day that I posted artwork on this blog or on other social media platforms – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. – is that many social media platforms’ Terms and Agreements assign your rights to your content to them by use. I went home and thought about how I use social media. The idea was to boost traffic to my website to get people to:

  1. Read my blog
  2. Hire me as a speaker
  3. Purchase artwork
  4. Inquire about freelance work as a writer and/or artist

Are my goals being met? They are not! I am not driving traffic to my website via social media. I made some immediate changes.

Greyhairs Rising blog posts and images of my artwork will no longer be posted on social media other than Linkedin and Twitter.

  • Linkedin because the site offers job information and professional networking opportunities
  • Twitter because I like it. (But no more artwork!) I like Twitter because I can EASILY find people, information, and businesses I’m looking for by hashtag

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have money for legal fees and big corporations have lawyers on staff. It’s a no-brainer for me to step back and review what I’m doing on social media.

Another lesson learned. Another lesson shared. Have a great week. I hope it’s filled with sunshine and summer-like temperatures.

Creative prompt.

Write or draw a paragraph or image of social media in action. How it hurts. How it helps.

Next week’s topic: Craft vs Fine Art

See you back here next Sunday night! Would you like to keep up with the Greyhairs Rising community? Sign up for the latest updates.

mefuller.com #amwriting #amblogging #ampainting

 

 

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Review.

Last week I shared some thoughts on traveling to artist communities to find other artists and to be inspired by their work. This week I’m encouraging you to support your fellow artists.

Here are a few ways to do that.

  • Following their blogs
    • Start with five and keep up! Show your support with comments.
  • Going to art shows and encouraging the artists you find there.
    • Check local listings for art events and make a plan to attend as many as you can.
  • Network through social media or community groups
    • Make a list of social media outlets and your local art groups.
  • Join art organizations
    • What are they?
  • Attend artist performances
    • Where are they?
  • Read local authors
    • Who are they?

What else can you do to help support other artists? Please share with us through comments or in the Greyhairs Rising Facebook group.

Creative prompt.

I feel supported by other artists when I …

 

Next week’s topic:  Social media

See you back here next Sunday night!

Would you like to keep up with the Greyhairs Rising community? Sign up for the latest updates.

Join our Greyhairs Rising Facebook group.

 

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I’ll be taking the week off from posting. See you Sunday for another Greyhairs Rising post. Have a glorious spring day!

"Spring Tulips" M E Fuller 2008

“Spring Tulips” M E Fuller 2008

 

 

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Are you planning an early summer vacation?

Why not plan an artist community tour of your state or a neighboring state? Last February, my husband and I took a trip through Wisconsin, specifically to visit towns and cities that are known as destinations for artists and art lovers.

We kicked off in Madison, then visited in Mineral Point, and Cedarburg. Our purpose for the trip was two-fold. First, I was hungry to meet new artists and see work new to me. Secondly, we were looking for small towns or accessible cities where we might retire.  We met wonderful people. There wasn’t a town or city that was crossed off our list. We may yet become Wisconsonites!

PinkLlama

Pink Llama Gallery, Cedarburg, WI

Review.

I talked about the courage of your convictions – sending your work out into the world. Since then I have received one rejection from a cold query and two requests from my pitch, to send a query letter and a portion of the manuscript for “Saving the Ghost.” How about you? Did you venture out into the world of critics?

Finding other artists.

  • Select a region near to you or one you’d like to Make inquiries with the local Chamber of Commerce or art council (through online searches) to gather as much information as you can on artists and galleries in the places you plan to visit.
    • Don’t be shy. When you enter a new space or community, talk to people, let them know why you’re visiting their area and what you’d like to see. The locals can offer even more details that can make you visit worthwhile.
  • Look online for artist groups
    • search hashtags on Twitter – whether for artists, galleries, writers, publishers, and agents – whatever your interest.
    • Join Facebook groups specific to your interests
    • Use other social media platforms, including Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr
  • Find out if your state has an online arts organization and participate.

 

Have fun and good hunting!

 

 

Creative prompt.

If I’d only known then, what I know now, I’d…

 

Next week’s topic:  Support other artists

See you back here next Sunday night!

Would you like to keep up with the Greyhairs Rising community? Sign up for the latest updates.

Join our Greyhairs Rising Facebook group.

 

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