Saturday, January 30, 2010

Saturday Sculpture!

Today's "art that makes me wanna write a book" is the work of Portland-based artist Brian Elliot . Brian's work is amazing, combining found objects and hand fabricated parts, done with painstaking attention to detail. Much of his work has a sly sense of humor, and all of it seems to have a secret story. You're always left thinking about the piece and its story, which is exactly what I love, and why it fits the theme of my Saturday posts.

Above is a piece from his raygun series (click picture to enlarge). Brian did write out the storyline for this series, but in his talented hands, it leaves me imagining even more.

Currently, I am obsessed with two projects of his.
First up: the" Aries 2010 Time Capsule", which was commisioned by Nike to debut at the 2010 Olympics. It was just installed at the Boardroom Snowboard Shop in Vancouver BC!
I think part of what is so striking to me on this piece is Brian's perfect details. Like the way he took a bright, shiny, 'finished' piece and dented and chipped paint and scuffed and added grease stains, bringing out the sense of time in this time capsule. A lesser artist wouldn't have known to add that layer of complexity, but Brian understands that great art, like a great book, needs that.

The second project is called "Racehopper'. Below is a photo of the almost finished cockpit, and under that is Brian's rendering of what a Racehopper gang would look like!

I can't stop daydreaming about all the stories this grasshopper-shaped vehicle could play a part in.... If I wasn't so far behind on my editing, I would be writing a story involving Racehoppers right now!

In addition to his sculpting work, Brian also worked for two years as a rigger on the Neil Gaiman book-turned-movie, Coraline. In case you missed the movie, it was incredible. Especially so in 3-D. You can see some pictures of Brian at work on Coraline on his website in the current projects section.

Brian Elliot is just dizzingly talented, and never fails to surprise and engage his viewer.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Random Cool Things Thursday

Ummm, this has nothing whatsoever to do with writing, but I simply must make sure everyone knows about this. It is very important....
OK, it's not important at all, but it IS awesome. Check out the total kewl-ness one of our Olympic men's figure skaters doing an exhibition routine to Lady Gaga's 'Poker Face'.

Here's Johnny Weir!

Seriously, I LOVE Johnny Weir, and not just for that routine to Lady Gaga... He currently has a series running on the Sundance channel that I can't stop watching. He is obviously talented, but the guy is hilarious, ultra snarky, smart, and I can actually identify with some of his perfectionist tendencies. Now I am dying for the Olympics to start because I really want him to win!!

Some things you learn on the Sundance show:
He started skating just before the age of 12, after watching Oksana Baiul win the gold medal, and originally did so on roller skates in his basement, then on used ice-skates in the iced-over cornfield behind his house.
At 12 his mom was told that he had a real talent, and she was convinced to get him a real coach and lessons.
At 16(!) he won the Junior Nationals.
At 19 he won Nationals, after falling and having to withdraw the year before.
He has bursitis in the ball of his 'landing' foot, where his big toe connects, which pretty much makes it feel like he has a rock in his shoe every time he lands one of those jumps... yikes!
He doesn't quite get all the fuss over his skating style, which is far more lyrical and ballet-inspired than the typical, angular, athletic mens' routines. For some reason Russia and Asia get that style, but America is stuck on the idea of winning over football-watchers.

I know, I know, it seems strange for me to gush so much, but after you watch the sundance channel thing, you'll love him too.

UPDATE: One more reason I love him-- this was in his Q&A section on his webpage:
Q: Johnny, your skin is gorgeous. Not a single pore! What products do you use?

A: I am very consistent with my regimen. I use organic washes by Ren and creams from both Ren and Cle de Peau. Thank you very much. I get so into a routine with my products that when one has a packaging change or the company stops making it, I have a month long depression. I am currently in the throws of a deodorant disaster. They stopped making the only one that I liked that worked for me and now I walk around unsure if I smell like a flower or just smell period.

Hilarious. I so want to be his best friend.

Breaking Out of Your Shell

I joke that I am a Cancer Crab and that I live up to it, but really, it's the sad, sad truth.
I am 20 times more likely to stay at home in my little shell doing what I think I want to do, than to accept an invitation to do anything else. Seriously,the way I complain about it, some people could get the idea that I'm agoraphobic!
Now, I am a bit of an introvert, and I do get nervous meeting new people or having to interact with large groups (parties where I don't know anyone drive me crazy), but that's not what's stopping me going out.
No, the whole 'staying in my shell' thing is really more a combination of laziness and overzealous time-management.
I'm terribly content to be in my house. I have lots of fun art to look at, and books to read, and two dogs to cuddle up to, and once they're snuggled into the crook of your legs on the couch, it's just impossible to move... and....what? you want me to go with you to the fabric store? Oh I know, it's something I like doing, but I think I'm just too busy today (Ann says as she is sitting half asleep on the couch with the dogs curled up against her)...
Also, my idea of time-management is almost always finding some excuse to turn down going out. I tell myself it's because I need to write, or read, or research something for the book, or watch some movie, or relax for a few minutes because I had a hard week at work, or something, but I have a sneaking suspicion it is related to reason #1.

ANYWAY... my whole point in this post is to tell you to Break Out of Your Shell! Don't be a Crab like me, no matter how comfortable you are in there, you've got to challenge yourself sometimes, leave the house, and do something you would't normally do. Unless you're writing a book on how one becomes agoraphobic, because then you'd be right on track.

So last night I went with fellow blogger, Valerie Geary, to hear 5 successful, award-winning Portland YA authors, Laini Taylor, Lisa Schroeder, L.K. Madigan, Christine Fletcher, and April Henry, speak about their writing, their processes, and their experience in the business. And it was great. There were parts where I felt proud that I already knew something they knew about the business, and parts where I felt relieved to know that my writing process wasn't that different from those of successful authors. I loved hearing that they all came to writing a bit later in life and were published in their 30's-40's (sometimes on the web it seems like everyone is getting a book deal at 15, and I'm the irrelevant old fogey just now trying), and I loved hearing about their reactions to editor's notes on their manuscripts-- it seems a certain level of venting and a few days of trying not to think about the editor's changes (before finally giving in) is normal. They all agreed that their books were infinitely better thanks to the insights of their editors.
It was also super fun to hang out with Valerie again (although I think the fabric of space/time will rip wide open and the universe will implode if we come up with any more eerie similarities between us-- last night we discovered we're both reading World War Z!). Doing her part to break out of her shell, Valerie has been reading books in genres well outside her normal comfort zone, and then posting reviews on her blog. This month has been travel books, next month she tackles another equally foreign (to her) genre.

So, I am going to take my own advice and try to break out of my shell more often. I'm going to read books that I'm not sure about, I'm going to go to author events and writer's group events even when I'm feeling shy, and by god, I'm going to go to the fabric store next time someone asks. You never know where inspiration is going to strike! And you never know what experiences are going to come in handy for your next book.

Besides, who wants to be on their death-bed reminiscing about all those great times sitting on the couch?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Saturday Art!

In today's edition of "Art That Makes Me Wanna Write A Book", I'd like to introduce all of you to the art of Amy Sol!

Amy is a Korean-American artist, living in Las Vegas, and has deservedly become quite a sought-after artist over the last few years.

The thing that I love most about her pieces is the atmospheric quality. Misty and windy and rainy and moon-lit... I'm instantly transported to the other-world she's created, and always the image haunts me-- like a scene from a long-lost fairy tale.

I love to bask in all the details she paints. They way wind blows through her paintings, how mist turns into giant creatures, even the tiny details like jewelry or freckles. All of it draws me in and sends me right into her daydream!

Sigh...I feel like there is a book in every one of her paintings!
I often check out the gallery on her website for inspiration, and I love her blog to see works in progress-- always interesting when an artist shares their process.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

EEEKS! My work out in public, sort of...

Steph Bowe did it. She coaxed me out of the dark corner I've been hiding in...

I have been working on my novel for a while. Quite a while. Like, this is probably year 4, or maybe 5 depending on when you started counting. Now, I know we're supposed to write that first novel and then throw it in a drawer and write something else to submit to publishers and agents, but I just like this story too well to diss it like that. I'll finish polishing it up this year, and then I'll start querying again, and we'll see what happens.
As far as the length of time it has taken me, well, the whole first 3 years of that time I really don't count, except for the part where I won a fellowship, because that part was awesome :-)
I was just such a newbie to the craft of writing in those early days. I've always written, of course, but this time it had to be good enough for others to read, and that meant 3 years of writing, and learning, and writing some more.
No information dumps, get rid of your adverbs and passive voices, don't get too flowery with adjectives or dialogue tags, keep your eyes on the end of the story and move your MC toward it in every scene, get rid of too-familiar tropes, show don't tell, simplify.
Three hard years of making all these mistakes and more, and then revising each time I realized that one of these things was bogging down my story... and finally this year, though I have much more to learn, and always will, I feel like I am finally proud of my story! Even if it never sees the light of day, or if I have to revise it a few more times, I'm still proud of it.

Which leads me to explain the title of my post. For the first time, I'm happy enough with my story that I've actually posted the first few paragraphs of it where people can see it and critique it. I'm really excited to hear people's feedback! Eventually I will post a bit of it here as well, but right now you can read it on Steph Bowe's blog, where she's put up a 250-word "share what you're writing" post. She's making comments on everyone's pieces, and encouraging others to give feedback as well. So go, post a piece of your own, and if you want, tell me what you think of mine too!

PS, My piece is posted in two comments, one below the other, because it wouldn't all fit in one. Thanks to Valerie for pointing out that this could be confusing :-)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Science Sunday

click to enlarge

"I want to be a chemist. And if I was a chemist I would mix up lots of chemicals. And I would make $50.00 a day." --ann foxlee, aged 8

.....And this is where I mention the part about me being a secret science nerd-- a slightly technophobic science nerd, but that's another post.
That's right my lovely readers, before I decided to pursue arts or writing, I was absolutely positive I wanted to be a chemist (or at least positive about the '$50.00 a day' part). Also, I was rather interested in proving I could correctly spell 'chemicals'.

These days, the secret science nerd in me is a sucker for Particle Physics, Theoretical Physics(including dark matter, string theory, and supersymmetry-- squee!) and most of all, the Large Hadron Collider. Just thinking about it makes my brain go tingly!
MMMMMmmmmmm.... shooting a stream of protons at 99.9999991% the speed of light, in opposite directions around a 17-mile circular track until they collide, creating conditions that only existed a billionth of a second after the big bang.... oooohhh, tingly.

I was asked the other day why it mattered, and why they were bothering to do this.
Besides the obvious pursuit of knowledge, most of the scientific advances we've had-- from going to the moon to the personal computer-- would not even be remotely possible without the work of physicists, like Einstein and those who followed him. Before Einstein we didn't even know that mass could be converted into energy, that mass WAS energy. And electromagnetism? Nope, we had no idea it was connected. Without understanding that magnetic fields produce electric fields and vice versa, computers are kinda not possible.
As far as we've come in 100 years, imagine then what we could do if we truly, completely understood what it is we're made of and how/why it is all stuck together the way it is. (tingly, tingly).

The things that make up the universe have been described as like snowflakes-- once, the flakes were a simple thing, water, and with time and cold, they grew into unique, complicated, separate things, with intricate crystal structures. But at the core of their beings, they are only that original pool of water. Similarly, we and the earth and the stars also 'crystallized' out of a simple source, and are at our cores, all the same thing. (sigh, tingle)
But how and why?

As it is right now, there is something predicted, but missing in all the theories-- something so small or dark that it's hidden from our view, or perhaps it's something larger that is driving all the other forces. The theorists have made their best predictions, and hope to find what they're looking for via the LHC and its mini big-bangs. Otherwise, they'll all be rethinking the existing theories.
The exciting part is that, no matter how it is solved, we'll end up understanding why you and the table and the light coming from your lamp are all fundamentally one thing (tingle tingle), and why, like snowflakes, they are coalesced into so many forms. Understanding this would open the doors to making and manipulating anything. (tingle...............)

My two favorite physicists are cool not just for their contributions to Particle and Theoretical Physics, but also because they have a unique ability to charmingly explain these complex things to laypeople like you and me. Both have regularly appeared on the Science Channel, the BBC, and give lectures whenever they can.

Dr. Michio Kaku is a theoretical physicist, and often talks about the impact and potential of science in the future. His writings give you the ability to visualize and 'get' things like extra dimensions. His books are very readable, although I did re-read sections a few times here and there to make sure it stuck, or just to make my brain tingle some more. So far I've read Visions and Hyperspace, which are great, and I'm looking forward to his new book Physics of the Impossible (which I think his current Science Channel show is based on).

Dr. Brian Cox (otherwise known as ann's nerd crush-- hands off!) is a particle physics professor at the U of Manchester, a former rock star (really!) and is a total dreamboat because he actually works at the Large Hadron Collider, in the ATLAS detector. Plus he sometimes cusses and calls people tw*ts when discussing science, which only makes me love him more. You can youtube him and get some great shorts of him discussing everything from the 2012 conspiracy theories, to what excites him about the Grand Canyon (hint: the rocks at the bottom are 1/7th the age of the universe--TINGLE!).
Here is a not-to-be-missed speech he gave for TED, all about the LHC. In it he also explains so many things about particle physics, and does it in such easy to understand language that I almost feel qualified to work at the LHC too. Mmmmmmm......Me and my science nerd crush, working side by side... what? It could happen, you know, extra dimensions and all!
OK, maybe not quite, but I could visit the LHC and understand what the hell they're talking about. And I would wear this t-shirt:

heh heh. It's just the sort of cheesball, dirty humor my nerd crush will love.

Art That Makes Me Wanna Write a Book. Also, WINNERS!!

Seriously, I am secret science nerd.
More on this in another post, possibly tomorrow, but today I know what you're really here for...


I popped over to, assigned the 8 contest entrants a number for each entry they had, and out of the 40 numbers assigned, I ended up with 2 winners.
That's right, 2! The gods of Randomizer did something so... random...that I had to take it as a sign. Either that or Randomizer has stalker tendencies, so I'm just gonna back away nicely and let Big R have the two he picked . Of the top 6 numbers, 3 belonged to one person and 3 belonged to another...and they alternated.

So randomizer totally has a stalker crush on:

VALERIE (from Something to Write About )
STEPHANIE (from Hatshepsut: The Writing of a Novel )

Congrats you guys! but you might want to make sure your phone numbers are unlisted...
email me at: shop (at) mystudioacorn (dot) com, and tell me which print you want and where to mail it :-)

Today's piece is one Matt ended up giving me for my birthday because I love it so much.

It's called Fighting, by Japanese artist Shohei.
Three interesting facts about Shohei:
1. He doesn't use his last name, because his father happens to be uber-famous Japanese animator, Otomo-san, and I assume he'd rather make art without that kind of baggage.
2. He is color-blind, hence the use of black and white, and sometimes a splash of red. His mother told me she noticed the color-blindness when he was a kid-- he pointed to green leaves on a tree and said they were purple!
3. His art is done entirely with a ball-point pen. Let me repeat that. He works entirely in ball-point pen. All that shading, ball-point pen. Seriously. Watch him work on youtube-- it's freaking amazing

Obviously I love this piece, and there are many reasons, but here are the two main things:
First, the two boys make me think of my nephews-- not so much that they get into bloody fistfights with each other, but they are Japanese schoolkids and they wear those cute uniforms and leather backpacks.
Second, it reminds me why I love writing MG and YA. There is such complexity and depth to kids' emotions. Look at all the hurt and rage on those 8 year old faces!
Too often adults write off kids' emotions as simple or not important, as if adults are the only complex ones in the room because they have Responsibilities. How many times have we heard an adult tell an upset kid to just "wait until you're grown-up and have Real Things to worry about"?
I happen to think that adults are waaay more emotionally simple than kids, because they're not in the throes of Figuring Out How The World Works! Remember when you were 8, and still trying to find your place in all that mess, and how to interact with...everything without getting in trouble? And just when you started to think you were in control, hormones wreaked havoc on you and you had to learn everything all over again? Yah. Emotionally speaking, way harder to be a young person. And probably the reason so many people are drawn to MG and YA fiction, because it allows us all to remember and rediscover the incredible rush of all those synapses and neurons making connections.

Did I mention that I'm a secret science nerd?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Yeeehaaaww!! Contest Round-Up

Not sure what has gotten into all of us, but there seems to be Contest Fever going around, and even I caught it on Saturday .

For those of you who haven't caught it yet, your luck just ran out!
Remember when we we little, and a friend came down with chicken pox, and our moms were suddenly very interested in having us go hang out with the pox-y friend?

Well this is just like that.

I care about you, I really do, and I know it's better to catch this thing while it's going around-- it only gets worse if you wait until you're older! I swear, get it over with now, or you'll end up on that Hoarders show, surrounded by stacks of publisher clearing house entry forms...

So enter as many of these contests as you can, and save yourself an ignoble fate.

First up, my Art That Makes Me Wanna Write a Book contest, wherein you have a chance to win a lovely art print for doing something as simple as one comment.

Next, Shannon Messenger has an awesome contest going where you can win 3 signed Lisa Schroeder books, and as a bonus, she will be interviewing Lisa this week too!

Steph Bowe (a YA novelist and real live teenager whose debut book comes out in September!) is running a contest that offers a "first five pages" critique. She's picking at least 5 winners!

Shelli from Market My Words is running a De-lurking Contest and as part of the Comment Challenge going on this month, if you both comment and become one of her followers (or, de-lurking, as Shelli calls it!), she'll put you in a drawing for an author marketing book.

Don't forget Kasie West's First Contest ! A totally hilarious and fun contest where you come up with a good Faerie T-shirt idea, and you can win your choice of the joke t-shirts she has posted. Or if your inner comic just isn't coming through, she'll be randomly drawing a second winner out of the commenters/followers.

NEW ! It looks like the Fever has spread to Carla Gade from Writing to Distraction , where she has started a monthly contest, "A picture worth 1000 words" with a photo as a writing prompt.

Sadly, I missed Natalie Whipple's fun contest to write a story based on one of her drawings, and I also missed Nathan Bransford's contest for The Secret Year, where everyone wrote teenage diary entries....

but anyway, enter plenty, and good luck! that a pox spot I see on your stomach?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

New Saturday Feature... with CONTEST!!

This is it! My spectacular new saturday feature called "Art That Makes Me Wanna Write a Book". Spectacular, no?

Ok... how about if I add three awesome pieces of art instead of just one? I mean, I know I blew the surprise a little by putting up a preview on thursday, but still, it IS the first official post...

Oh alright, I'll throw in a contest too. Sheesh. NOW it's made of spectacular.

Contest Rules:
1. contest begins now and ends 8AM Pacific, next Saturday.
2. to enter, you have to add a comment on this post.
3. adding a comment on this post= 1 entry
4. being or becoming one of my followers= 2 more entries
5. mentioning and posting a link to this contest on your blog=
3 more entries
6.getting someone else to comment that they followed your
link here=
4 more entries for you, 2 more for them

Wait, now it's starting to sound like a pyramid scheme! Anyway, I'll close the contest 8AM next Saturday and then at 9AM I'll draw the winner's name from a hat, and announce it along with the satuday feature!

I bet you're wondering by now just what it is the winner wins... See the three art pieces at right? Well the winner gets their choice-- in a print, not the original. When I get published, I'll do a contest with originals to celebrate. Until then, prints!

So now, on to the art!
As I said on thursday's post, I tend to stare at certain art pieces over and over, and I finally realized that it's not just because they're well-made, but because they spark something in my own imagination.

The piece at the top of the post is called "The Journey" by Jen Lobo. The original oil painting is stunning, with incredible depth, not to mention that the wheels are shiny and golden! Every time I look at this, I start daydreaming about Gypsies or circus caravans...except now thanks to Southpaw, I'm worried about what those butterflies are doing. Still, I'm taken with that rhino!
The middle piece is one more by Japanese artist Kana Ohtsuki, and now it seems I can't stop finding pieces with butterflies in strange predicaments... what's going on there? I must have a subconcious desire to write a book with a butterfly villain that Must.Be.Stopped.
The last piece is by another Japanese artist, Ren Sakurai , who also happens to be an insanely talented tattoo artist right here in Portland. My ankle is now very pretty thanks to him! Anyway, his piece titled "Red Dress" (which has no butterflies!) sends me straight into a steampunk type of story. Even though I know it grew from Ren's love of old military stuff, I still look at that dress and the belt around her waist, and suddenly I'm jotting down notes for a steampunk novel!

Which one is your favorite? What stories do you want to write now?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Art That Makes Me Wanna Write a Book

So, I just got back from hubby Matt's monthly art opening (he curates for a gallery in town), and while I was looking at a piece from a previous show, I wondered why it is that certain pieces really grab my attention and make me go back for second or third or tenth looks. What I decided is that I'm drawn to those pieces not only because they are well-made, but because they're just mysterious enough to spark something in my own imagination.

This is the piece I was looking at, "Ayatoriebi" by Japanese artist, Kana Ohtsuki. And now I've gotta know:
Why are those strings interlaced? What's making those bubbles? What is that liquid she's standing in? Why does she have a pair of scissors on her waist? And the shrimp and butterflies...what do they have to do with it?

And then it happens. Suddenly my head is filled with scenes and stories and plot twists based on that one vivid image... which I guess is how I tend to write anyway. I usually get one shining little scene that pops into my head, and then I have to know the rest of the story.

Consider this post a sneak preview, because beginning this Saturday I will be starting a weekly feature about "art that makes me wanna write a book". Each week, I'll post a new piece guaranteed to send someone to daydreamland!

P.S., anybody got an idea about the shrimp? I'm still trying to work out whether it's a villian or a hero...

Sunday, January 3, 2010

What I Want For Christmas Next Year... an open letter to bookstores

Aside from the fake fireplace that dear hubby got me for x-mas (it looks real! flickering 'flames'! glowing logs! a heater you can turn on and off! ...sigh, I'm sitting by it right now... so very cozy), the other best present he gave me was a gift certificate to Powell's.
Now, for those of you who don't live here, or who don't know Powell's, you might want to consider a trip to Portland just to go. Seriously. Best.Bookstore.Ever. It takes up a whole city block, several stories high in parts, a wonderful labyrinth of every book you could ever want. New and used side by side on the same shelf, out-of-print and rare books galore... every time I think I'm just going to run in and grab something, it takes me an hour because I'm drawn off into some twist or turn of the bookstore, wondering if they have, say, an in-depth book on the lives of Japanese servants in feudal times (they do!), or a picture book of shopkeepers signs in Edo era Japan (how did I have any doubt?)

That being said, I do have one minor bone to pick with bookstores, including the great and wonderful Powell's:

Why do they continue to confuse age range with genre?

I certainly understand that YA and MG books have exploded in the past 10 years, and I noticed that Powell's recently rearranged and expanded the room dedicated to them, but that has only made it all the more confusing to find anything at all.
In 'adult' (I mean grown-up, not porno) book sections, they have real genres, like fantasy, romance, historical non-fiction, etc etc. Not so in the YA and MG spots. I routinely have to scan through every genre of book, hoping the fantasy ones will catch my eye. So much more difficult than it needs to be, and I fear that it's only going to get worse!
What would truly make my day is to hear that bookstores have finally read the definition of a genre, and realized that an age range does not a genre make.
I will seriously have a party on the day I hear that bookstores are going to start shelving YA and MG into real sections of their own! Oh the glorious relief of not having to scan past 20 books about mean popular girls at school or serious non-fiction books about life under the nazis, just to find the fantasy novels that I love! (and I'm quite sure that people looking for those non-fiction, 'life under the nazis' books would dearly love to quit sorting through vampire books to find what they're looking for as well)

So bookstores, listen up! For my x-mas present next year, I want bookshelves catagorized into real genres!
Pretty please?