Tag Archives: guest blogger

Guest Blogger: Morgan Keyes

Many thanks to everyone at Black Ink, White Paper for allowing me to visit and tell you a bit about my writing process.

The heading at the top of this page says:  “If you want to write life, live it.”

I would amend that slightly, dropping out a single letter:  “v”.  If you want to write life, lie it.  Tell a lie, or two, or three.

Okay.  I’m not quite the sociopath that statement makes me seem to be.  I prefer to think of myself as a person with an “excess of imagination”.  I am a storyteller, not an unredeemed liar.

I know all about lies.  I mastered them – or at least, I mastered the consequences of telling them – in fourth grade.  I remember the incident as clear as day:  Caught without my homework done, I told my teacher I’d left my completed problem set back in my locker.  She let me retrieve my work, and I returned to class with a blank sheet of wide-rule paper in my hand.  No fool, my teacher asked for my paper so that she could grade the problems the class had already worked through.  I was busted, in a major way.  And then, ahem, I compounded the error by forging my parents’ signatures on the note my teacher sent home.  In pencil.  With three erasures because the signatures didn’t look right.  I was really, truly busted.

With an experience like that, you’d think I would never have lied again.

But no.  I lie every day.

I lied when I took my childhood experience of losing a best friend and turned it into a chapter of Darkbeast.  I lied when I re-worked the rites of my faith, turning them into the rituals of my twelve-year-old heroine.  I lied when I captured my work as a stage manager, building and striking the set of a play that will never be seen in the real world.

I lie when I tell my stories.

The best lies (as I should have realized in fourth grade…) are ones that have seeds of the truth.  I really did lose a best friend.  I really did study for my bat mitzvah.  I really did stage manage plays.

But those seeds have to be planted.  They have to be tended just so, with creative exaggeration.  They have to be coaxed to germinate, to grow into the sturdy stalks of a wholly new story.

I lost my best friend because I moved away.  That transition was well before the days of Skype, even before email.  My friend and I exchanged paper letters for a few years, but eventually we drifted apart.

That last paragraph wasn’t very exciting, was it?  You certainly have your own friends you’ve grown away from, and my story isn’t very different from your own.

But what if I take that seed of truth and water it with new, untrue details.  What if I tell you I lost my best friend because of religious differences?  Because she followed her faith blindly, while I bravely struck out on my own, seeking my own way of believing in the world around me?  What if I tell you that we parted during a life-or-death struggle over who would find salvation and who would be damned to eternal torment?

That story isn’t quite true.  But it’s a lot more interesting.

I always know when I’m lying.  I’ll even admit it, if I’m called on the practice.  But usually?  People would rather hear the story, enjoy the made-up world.  It’s almost always more interesting than the truth.

So?  How about you?  Have you ever twisted a truth from your own life to create your stories?  If and when you do that, is your story stronger than one that is completely made up?

In Darkbeast, twelve-year-old Keara runs away from home rather than sacrifice Caw, the raven darkbeast that she has been magically bound to all her life.  Pursued by Inquisitors who would punish her for heresy, Keara joins a performing troupe of Travelers and tries to find a safe haven for herself and her companion.

Morgan can be found online at:

http://www.morgankeyes.com

http://www.facebook.com/morgan.keyes.author

Darkbeast is for sale in bricks-and-mortar and online bookstores, including:  Amazon | B & N | Indiebound

Morgan Keyes grew up in California, Texas, Georgia, and Minnesota, accompanied by parents, a brother, a dog, and a cat.  Also, there were books.  Lots and lots of books.  Morgan now lives near Washington, D.C.  In between trips to the Natural History Museum and the National Gallery of Art, she reads, travels, reads, writes, reads, cooks, reads, wrestles with cats, and reads.  Because there are still books.  Lots and lots of books.

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Guest Blogger, Phillip S. Benson

Me, My Ant Farm, and How My Six-Legged Buddies Have Healed My Inner Child

First, I want to sincerely thank Lisa Di Dio for inviting me to contribute to Black Ink, White Paper. Second, I should probably level with everyone right off the bat—I do not own an ant farm. Third, although men have feelings too, I am hesitant to discuss my inner child, since doing so would conflict with my macho image. However, with that said, I do believe that life itself — not to mention writing —has both a practical side (the busy ants completing tasks step by step) and an inspirational side (the inner child longing to be enthralled with wonder).

Some philosophers argue that rational analysis and a sense of wonder are at odds. They imply that one can either be a brilliant yet melancholy intellectual who is grounded in reality or a naïve yet joyous mystic with his or her head in the clouds. However, I contend that there is no inherent conflict between rationality and wonder.

Apart from our ability to think rationally, we would have no true ability to appreciate wonder in the first place, since we would be nothing more than objects — incapable of genuine free thought. On the other hand, if we were capable of rational thought but there was no deeper purpose to our existence, then our logic would be empty. As such, I firmly hold that rational thought and wondrous inspiration are not only compatible but are in fact both necessary.

And speaking of my personal sources of inspiration, breathtaking landscapes have always, well … taken my breath. Whether walking along the Northern California coast or hiking in mountain ranges across the Western United States, I have always felt drawn to the wilderness. This becomes readily apparent in my recently published novel, Defiant, Book One of the Northstar Series.

Although Defiant is a fantasy novel, it is intended to directly explore real-world joys and sorrows—to echo the difficult questions with which we all wrestle. Defiant focuses on a warrior’s quest to discover the purpose of his existence, if such a thing exists, and though he comes to strong conclusions by the end of the story, he is still left to grapple with many doubts. Despite those doubts, he is convinced that there are things in life about which he can be certain.

Every day, regardless of what we pursue in life, we need a reason to get up in the morning. This purpose ought to be grounded in both rational thought (day-to-day realities) and a deep sense of wonder (the hope of our dreams being realized). Those of us who lean towards science and heady intellectual pursuits do not need to reject our sense of awe, and those of us who lean towards mystical inspiration need not shelve our critical thinking abilities. The mind and the heart can complement each other perfectly.

–Phillip S. Benson

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DEFIANT, by Phillip S. Benson is available at Amazon.com

Guest blogger – Nancy Hundal

Please join us in welcoming our guest this week – Nancy Hundal. I got to meet Nancy through a mutual friend (who also happens to be one of my beta readers) and I knew that any friend of Ardella’s would be a whole lot of fun to be around. And I was right.

We asked Nancy a whole bunch of questions and her answers are below. I’m sure you’ll laugh out loud at some places – I did.

Kate

What is your day like? On a good working day? On a bad working day? And how do you cope with the bad ones?

Most of my days consist of momming and teaching; a few days are singing, and even fewer are writing. I need to work on that; not a great pattern for a writer. But there’s only so much of me to go around….check that, I just looked down. There’s plenty of me to go around, but I still don’t get to writing as often as I’d like…

On those writing days where things are not going smoothly, I either just keep going, bludgeoning my way through the block, or give up in disgust and reward myself for said behaviour by eating something I shouldn’t.

Tell us a little bit about your workspace.

I work in the basement…dark and quiet. Until now I have shared a computer with my teenaged son, which required much arm-wrestling to determine whose turn it was on the computer. But!! I was given a laptop for Christmas, so my wrestling days are over. Complete computer control, 24/7…will I write more? That remains to be seen.

If you had a perfect day, what would it be?

Getting up really late, but then having the clock magically flip backwards so it was actually very early. Some reading, some writing, some singing, out for dinner with my family. Maybe someone would go shopping for me and find me a great new outfit, and my cat would definitely NOT bring me a dead mouse or bird as a gift.

What turns you on creatively?

Reading other peoples’ great writing. When I’m reading a novel that I admire, I continually flip to the author’s photo on the back jacket to look at the face of the person who can do such wonderful things with words.

Who do you most admire in your field (or in general) and why?

Sharon Creech and  Kate DiCamillo, both fabulous kids’ writers. I admire them because their books are filled with meaty ideas and interesting characters, with plots that pull you along effortlessly. I just read a new book, “Because of Mr. Terupt”, by Ron Buyea, and he can do the same thing!

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

I’m also a teacher-librarian. My two jobs complement each other beautifully. I’m always reading new books to introduce to kids at school, and this helps so much with my writing life.  If I were to be something completely different? I think that would be studying the brain and how it works…or how it sometimes doesn’t, in my case.

Tell us a little about your working process.

Turn on computer, reread story since I’ve usually left it so long that I need to figure out what the heck the book is actually about, write a little, check my email, write a little, check Facebook, write a little, get some tea, write a little…you’re getting the picture?

What is one thing you want to do before you die?

See more of the world.

What is your favorite saying?  

Pardon me? (I have a hearing loss).

What’s the one thing that drives you crazy? At work? At home? In general?

When the computer asks me if I want to save the change in a file I’m closing and I don’t think I made any changes to it…so should I save it and risk possible horrendous loss of writing, or not save it, and risk possible horrendous loss of writing?

What’s your favorite book? Movie? Painting? Musician? Album?

I can never decide on an absolute favourite; too restrictive. But amongst my favourites are Water for Elephants (book), Rod Stewart, paintings that are crazy-colourful and cheery. I’m feeling quite cheered right now, actually, as I notice the word ‘album” has been used in this question, and that makes me think that I’m not the only one who remembers what an album actually is. I’d be feeling even better if the word had been ‘record’.

 Where’s your favorite place in the world? Why? 

I thought about that for a while, but I guess I don’t have one. Picking favourites is too hard for me; I keep thinking and rethinking, making sure it’s my absolute favourite. One of my favourites is the Oregon Coast, because it’s so wild and thunderous and windy and lonely.

Nancy Hundal
www.nancyhundal.com

Guest blogger, Barb Drozdowich aka Sugarbeat’s Books

I’d like to thank Eden for inviting me to guest post on this wonderful blog! My name is Barb Drozdowich, but I’m known in the blogging world as Sugarbeat’s Books. Sugarbeat’s Books is a blog that I started about a year and a half ago for two main reasons. One, I wanted to express my thoughts on the books that I read. I read romance. My husband rolls his eyes at the sight of the cover of most of the books I read – he certainly doesn’t want me to talk about them! Second, I wanted the technological challenge. I’m a stay at home mom that runs a bookstore from the house. I left a challenging job running the technical training department of a financial institution to have a child. Although I’m happy with that decision, I decided I need something to challenge my mind.

I found a student willing to set up my blog for me, as I didn’t think I was capable of that part. I just wanted to run the blog. After the blog was mostly operational, and after spending a huge amount of money, this student increased his prices ten fold. I was stuck with the blog that didn’t do what I wanted it to do, and no money to go any further. After wallowing for a bit, I decided that I should be able to figure this out myself, and set out to learn what I needed to learn.

At the same time, I was discovering what a wonderful world of authors there was “out there”. I was one of those people who went to Chapters/Target/Walmart and bought a book – based on the cover – always printed by a big publishing house. I certainly didn’t have an e-reader, and I didn’t read anything that I couldn’t buy in a store. Through my blog I have discovered the world of self-pubbed and small pubbed authors. I have read some absolutely outstanding books by new and nearly new authors that don’t have their books for sale at Walmart. I also discovered that I love telling everyone who will listen about these outstanding authors. My blog, twitter, and facebook are the vehicles I use to do this promotion.

Early last spring I “ran into” Amber Scott on-line. I had the opportunity to review her book “Play Fling” which was being featured in an on-line promotional day. This promotion was so much fun. I learned more about marketing books in that one day that I’d learned in the previous 9 months! Amber and a group of her friends have taken their careers in hand and are publishing and selling their books. They are an incredibly motivating group! Around this time, I took my blog and my bookstore in hand – both of which didn’t really work all that well, and started teaching myself how to fix them! I found out about on-line courses that I could take from home, I read books, and I took charge of my sites. I stopped paying outrageous amounts of money and did the work myself. I figured out how to get people to follow my blog and figured out how to set up the various social media accounts that allow following. I taught myself some SEO principles so that I would be picked up on google searches. Finally, I taught myself how to do blog design. Because I have background in teaching, I’ve found myself back in my element, helping other bloggers and authors with what I’ve learned. The blogging world, like the writing community is a incredible world to immerse oneself in. I had the opportunity to go to the RWA book fair in Bellevue, WA, a month ago and enjoyed meeting authors in person that have appeared on my blog. In this online world, we rarely meet face-to-face. It’s neat to see the look on an author’s face when I walk up and say “Hi! I’m Sugarbeat’s Books and I’d like to thank you for appearing on my blog”! I was like a kid in a candy store. So many romance authors in one big room!

I’ve learned a lot in the last year and a half! I’ve met some amazing authors and some amazing bloggers. I’ve learned so much about the technology used in blogging and today’s version of promoting books that some days I feel like my head will explode! It’s an exciting and ever changing world and I’m here to stay!

I’d like to thank Eden and all the authors of this blog for inviting me today! I can be found at my blog, Sugarbeat’s Books, my consulting business Bakerview Consulting, my bookstore, The Beat’s Book Nook or contacted at sugarbeatsbooks@gmail.com or bakerviewconsulting@gmail.com

Thanks,
Barb

Guest blogger – Ani Kalemkerian

Please welcome Ani Kalemkerian to our blog. She’s a friend of our very own eden baylee and, fortunately for me, she lives in Vancouver and bakes all these amazing things. Just looking at the photos has me craving cheese souffles!

Say hello to Ani and check out her links at the bottom of the post. She’s a creative, talented and very interesting human being, plus she bakes like a maestro.

Who are you? I was born in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1970. My parents and I immigrated to Montreal in 1975 to escape the dictatorship. My parents chose Montreal because my relatives already moved there from Egypt where my mom’s from.

We moved into a tiny one bedroom apartment until we were able to afford to buy land and build a house in a boring suburb. We were the only non senior household on our street. 17 years later, I graduated from high school and got into a creative arts program at a college. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life but I knew it was going to be creative. After taking a film class, I decided that making films was what I wanted to do. I enrolled in the film production production program in university. I started working on a documentary after I graduated as well start a jewelry line that I sold in stores in Montreal, Toronto and NYC.

In 1996, I made the decision to move to Vancouver even though I’ve never been there before and only knew one person. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I was ready for a new experience. I was also planning on working in the film industry which is really big in Vancouver. After working on several film sets, I decided that it wasn’t for me. I completed my documentary on chat lines 10 years later and it did well in various film festivals in Europe and North America. Coincidentally, I bumped into and acquaintance who told me about a new job our mutual friend had. It was at a chat line. I thought about working there and was hired shortly after. I began selling memberships for phone chat lines and I stayed at this job for 5 years. The novelty wore off after a while and wanted to try something different. I worked in the fraud department at eBay but was laid off 3 years later.

I was unemployed for the first time in 15 years. It was the best time of my life. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen baking. I felt that the kitchen is where I belonged. It was fun, creative and almost everyone loves dessert. I couldn’t sit down at a desk, in an office surrounded by grey walls and computers anymore. I started a blog a few months later. I considered the blog to be my baking school. It was a place where I showed my results, failures and wrote about them. I had no intention of going to baking school where I would be the oldest person in class. I changed my mind after I met a pastry chef who encouraged me to go to school. I got into the baking program at a community college and spent the next 10 months baking full time in a lab with 12 other students old enough to be my kids.

A few weeks after graduation, I started baking at a small patisserie where i’m currently still working.

What is your day like? I wake up at 6:30 am, take 2 buses to work, and bake for 8-9 hours. I make cinnamon buns, cakes, pies, trifle, tiramisu, crème brûlée, cheesecakes, pudding cakes, and bread pudding. I go home have dinner, watch a movie, try to read but end up wasting a lot of time online.

On a good working day? A good working day is when I don’t screw up on a recipe and I’m able to finish everything that I need to do. Even after making the same cheesecake many times, and you know the recipe by heart, you can completely forget to do something which might destroy the whole thing and you have to throw it out.

On a bad working day? I have too much on my mind. I’m stressed out because I have so many things to bake that I won’t be able to finish in 8 hours and I make a mistake on something.

How do you cope with the bad ones? I forget what happened and move on.

What do you do on your day off? I wake up when I feel like it. Make eggs benedict and coffee. Read my newspapers online, check my emails, go on craigslist and Facebook. Go to the gym and work out on the elliptical for 30 minutes while I read the New Yorker. I might bake something, photograph and blog about it and then go have another coffee at my favorite cafe where I can read the NY Times and some Canadian newspapers. I also love people watching. If it’s a Thursday, I’ll volunteer at the movie theatre concession. They screen foreign and independent films. Volunteering allows me to get a pass to see free movies at a couple of movie theatres. If I’m not volunteering I’ll probably be watching a movie. I watch a film almost every night, either at home or in a theatre.

What turns you on creatively? Being inspired by a good film. This happened recently after seeing the documentary A matter of Taste, Serving Up Paul Liebrandt. Liebrandt’s a NYC based chef who creates these beautiful looking deconstructed modern dishes. I’m sure they taste amazing too. I also get inspired by high fashion. I love watching fashion shows when it involves someone like Alexander McQueen, Gucci, or Anna Sui. I also follow a lot of visual art and like going to art galleries. Some of my favorite artists are Francis Bacon, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Lucian Freud, Basquiat and Georges Braque. Seeing unusual color combinations and interesting compositions and textures can give me an idea for a nice platted dessert that I’ve never thought of before.

what do you most admire in your field and why? People who can survive in it for a long time and share their knowledge with others. It’s very stressful and physically gruelling to work in a kitchen which is why you see so many chefs, cooks and bakers start writing blogs hoping to eventually get a book deal or a TV show.

Tell us a little about your working process? If I’m going to create a plated dessert, I like to come up with the flavor combinations first. Then I think about what I’d like to use in the recipe that will go well with the flavors that I’ve chosen. Then the most fun part is coming up with an illustration of how it’s going to look together. I make several drawings then pick the best one.

What is one thing you want to do before you die? I want to open my own dessert only restaurant.

What are your favorite books? Animal Farm by George Orwell and anything by Jonathan Ames.

Who are your favorite musicians? I’m going to say Prince because I’m seeing him next month and I’m very excited about it. Mostly, I love his older music. I grew up listening to British post punk and I still listen to it now. I love Siouxsie Sioux, Robert Smith of The Cure, The Cult, and the Jesus and Mary Chain. Newer bands that I love are The National, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Outrageous Cherry and Ariel Pink. I love 60s and 70’s music too. The stones, Nico, Syd Barrett, Bowie, Betty Davis, Love, Gainsbourg, France Gall, and Francoise Hardy.

What are your favorite movies? Je t’aime moi non plus, Loves of a blond, edge of seventeen, David Holzman’s diary, Warrendale, Masculin Feminin, I was on mars, The Up series, The king of comedy, Without you i’m nothing, La chamade, The elephant man, Saturday night Sunday morning, High fidelity, Mask, Grey gardens, A taste of honey, and Playtime.

Ani

Links:

SEX! now that I’ve got your attention…

It’s an old joke but one that I found actually relevant to my circumstances. About a year ago I was offered a freelance writing assignment; Write short adult sex stories for a new website that the owner was intending to create. These stories were to be explicit and run anywhere from 5-10 pages in length. Well, I have been writing most of my life and that has always included some sex-stories (as a young man it was an incredibly freeing way to explore my own desires). I thought to myself, “How hard can this be. No plot, no character, just raunchy sex…and I get paid for it!”

Well, it was easy…at first. I have no limits when it comes to my imagination and I like sex so away I went. Trouble is the more of these I wrote, the more I wondered who the girl was or the guy and how had they gotten into this position(s)-no pun intended. I wanted to know what made people feel this way, about whatever fetish or desire I was writing about. So, my stories started getting longer. Where my sex scenes had usually been starting out before I was finished with the first page, soon it wasn’t for 3-4 pages before I got to the “good stuff”. I started exploring the characters feelings. I wanted to know what had happened in their lives previously or where they thought they might be going. And you know a funny thing happened as I evolved this way; my stories got better. More interesting. The sex even became more “honest” because I had insight as to why they were doing whatever they were doing.

Now, I won’t kid you, these were not Ernest Hemmingway or even Stephen King characters and I will never win any prizes for the sort of thing I was writing. What I have done however is become a better writer. I have gained an even greater understanding into the importance character plays in a story and I can…and do, translate these lessons into my own more mainstream fantasy writing.

Let’s face it, sex is sex. It’s been around for millions of years and there is nothing truly new about it. The same can be said about storylines in almost every book you read today. So really, what is it that makes a new story something the reader will hang onto and refuse to put down? It’s the emotions of the book and those emotions come from the characters.

We have all read a book that from the cover or the inside leaf sounded fabulous and intriguing, yet when we started reading we were bored and quickly put it aside. Was it a bad idea? A trite plot? No, it was the fact that we didn’t care what was happening or to whom it was happening. We need characters because they make us root, or hiss for them and more importantly, we see aspects of ourselves in them that we can believe. Through that, sometimes, comes greater understanding of ourselves, or the author, or someone we know. And even if we are not learning any deeper meaning about ourselves, we are enjoying the lessons that the characters are learning.

The other thing that happened as I wrote more and more of these stories is that I became a better editor. My own stories would sometimes get too character-centric and I would almost forget about the sex-parts. Or my employer would send me a story they had written and say “tighten this up for me, will you?”

A benefit of my own writing, of my first novel-not yet published-was that I had recently hired an editor to go over my entire manuscript. I had been reading and revising and taking to heart the edits they had made (and sometimes shouting at them, “No no! I want it that way”.)

But as I worked on my employers’ stories and revised my own work I started to see the same errors and problems that my editor had told to me. I started to understand more and more why an edit was suggested and how to make a scene better.

So, as it happens, SEX did get my attention and in the long run, I became a better writer for it.

Chris Cook-Sussan

Guest blogger – Hedda Armour or this dog made my perfect day

Welcome the second Friday of guest bloggers. You never know who you’re going to meet – it might be another writer, a painter, a musician, a chef or simply an interesting person one of us has run into.

Hedda Armour has been a friend of mine for so many years I can’t (perhaps, more accurately, don’t want to) count them. Suffice it to say that it’s been a lot, a whole lot. She’s an amazingly creative person – singer, writer, photographer, to name just a few. Her first love is photography but I think she could do absolutely anything she puts her mind to. Her knowledge and skills and talen just blow me away.

Please, meet Hedda Armour and her work…

For the past 8 or 9 weeks I’ve started each day by writing three pages of longhand, stream-of-consciousness, for my eyes only – stuff. I won’t call it prose, although some of it may be. Those familiar with The Artist’s Way know that isn’t the point; the exercise is meant to provide a repository for all the small, petty worries and complaints that would otherwise clutter a potentially creative mind. So, no matter what the day brings from then on, I feel I’ve accomplished one important act. Another thing I’m almost fanatical about is having a good healthy breakfast. Then I can face whatever comes my way with equilibrium, or at least a full stomach.

As much as possible I divide my photo shoots between indoors and outdoors, although I don’t like to take my gear out in the rain too often or for too long.  I shoot with film as well as digital and have several “novelty” cameras that inspire me to manipulate my images in different ways.  Most days are good days – I play with my photographic toys, get some images I really like and my equipment works beautifully.  A bad day is a day I show up at a location I’ve staked out only to find I haven’t enough film, the light’s all wrong or I’ve forgotten to bring fresh batteries or didn’t anticipate which lens I’d need.  That’s bad enough, but when my plans are interrupted by housekeeping or bureaucratic tasks that need to be attended to NOW (income tax returns, dental appointments, laundry) I really struggle with impatience.  I cope by listening to music, hitting the couch with a good book, sorting through some photos for inspiration, calling a friend or making soup – something I find very peaceful and grounding.

I dream of having a studio.  In the meantime, I work in my very tiny apartment, so I welcome small jobs.  For those, I mount a large 70s style copy stand (pictured) with hot lights on my little kitchen table. I love working with the copy stand.  I really get lost in the process, and feel a deep love for my equipment, particularly my trusty old Pentax film camera.  Besides having complete control over the subject, I like the ritualistic aspect of working manually and of making the commonplace unique.  I can isolate or enlarge or get really up close and personal with all sorts of images.  This is work that could probably be done much more quickly with Photoshop or some other photographic software; but I enjoy the hands on aspect of the copy stand so much that I don’t imagine I’ll be moving to full techno mode any time soon.

 If I’m doing anything as grand as portraits, I have to move furniture and create backdrops with screens and drapes.  Once the tripod and portrait lights are set up, there isn’t much space to move around.  It’s not a scenario I’d want my insurance provider to see, that’s for sure!!. Outdoor portraits are easier in some ways, as long as the model is flexible; there are so many variables outdoors – lighting, location, weather, other people – yet the options are endless, and there’s so much more space. 

Lately I’ve been getting ready for a course in photo encaustic collage (painting with hot wax).  We’re expected to bring lots of images to enhance the wax creations and I’ve been having lots of fun using my printer and scanner to create different views of the ordinary.   For example, I’ve made colour copies of cut flowers and close up images from family photos and even of my lingerie!

In terms of a perfect day, sometimes I’m pretty easy to please.  The other day I was walking through the neighbourhood – this time prepared with a little point-and-shoot – and a home-bound proprietary dog gave me a perfect portrait, its worried little face posed just so for my camera.  Along with those 3 morning pages I felt I’d had the best day, the Universe was smiling and so was I.  You, dear readers, are the first to see this photograph.

I love jazz.  Probably because my work tends to be very controlled, and (unlike the spontaneity of the dog portrait) usually very structured, I really like what seems improvised and free-form about jazz.  I do recognize there is a structure, but at the same time I see the possibilities, the diversions.  Jazz, to my ears, is like taking chances: let’s try this and see what happens.  There’s a balance, a trust, a fearlessness and rhythm that I would love to experience in my photography.  Sometimes it happens, it’s just something you feel, when you know you got it, what you saw is now captured, stilled, and you can play it over and over again.  If I could be anything other than a photographer I’d really like to be a jazz pianist.

Confession: this could almost be classified as a “dirty little secret” although it’s neither dirty nor small: before I die I’d like to take a workshop with Lynda Barry, one of my favourite cartoonist/writers at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY.  Her courses don’t come cheap but I think a 4-day class with Lynda Barry would influence the way I photograph.  Call me crazy, but call me.  I can take pictures.

I’d like to leave you with three favourite expressions.  The first is from Angels in America by Tony Kushner, and I have it posted where I can see it on my desk: “Respect the delicate ecology of your delusions”.  Our delusions have a delicate ecology, to be sure.  And we don’t respect them often or enough.  The second is credited as an African proverb: “Until lions have historians, tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”  This saying reminds me to think critically.  We are exposed to so much information all the time that it’s easy to accept as truth whatever fits with our particular way of thinking.  It’s good to stop once in a while and ask, “is that really true?”  “how do you know?”  The last expression always makes me smile.  I don’t know its origin yet it’s got a universal ring of truth to it: “The person who says it can’t be done should not interrupt the person doing it”. 

Thanks for this opportunity to unpack what I tend to take for granted.  I hope you enjoyed my take on things.  May you live well and with love.

 

Hedda Armour is a Vancouver photographer who has recently thrown off the shackles of paid employment for a life of free-floating anxiety and endless creative vistas.  She is a graduate of Vancouver Community College’s counselling program, and is studying Spanish in her spare time.  Her work has shown at numerous Main Street coffee houses and businesses and in 2008 partnered with her daughter in a photography exhibit in Toronto.  She is a long standing member and director of The Drift (Main Arts Drift Society).  She has very short hair, a likewise attention span and a big hearty laugh.  You can see more of Hedda’s work at www.thedrift.ca

Guest blogger – Joseph Eliezer

Joseph Eliezer, author of Simply Spirit: A Personal Guide to Spiritual Clarity, One Insight at a Time, has kindly consented to be our very first guest blogger.

I met Joseph a few weeks ago at a library event called Read Dating. Thirty different authors sat at tables and had 8-10 minutes with a score of librarians who moved from table to table to chat with the writers. It was an exhausting but exhilirating event. I hadn’t met Joseph before but I was intrigued by the idea of his book and asked him if he’d like to guest blog with us. And so here he is.

We asked him some questions and his answers truly did inspire me. I hope he’ll do the same for you.

What is your day like?
My day usually begins with either exercise or breakfast. I like to work out before I start my day, and I like to have my morning rituals (shower, food) completed so I can begin the work day by 9.

On a good working day?
On a good working day, I experience myself giving clear and concise messages to others and have a reciprocal experience with them.

On a bad working day?
I experience the opposite of a good day. Bad days are usually filled with miscommunications, misunderstandings and lack of yoga.

And how do you cope with the bad ones?
I allow myself to feel whatever I feel in the moment with the understanding that these feelings will pass. No matter how intense the emotions are at any given moment, I find that giving both them and me space to breathe is paramount to getting into the next day, moment, minute, etc.

Tell us a little bit about your workspace.
I have two workspaces. The one that I do my writing in looks like – well, it is, actually, a bedroom. It’s on the top floor of a two-level home and through my window I can see both the coastal mountains and a sandwich shop….not sure which visual impacts me more deeply. My office, where I practice counselling and psychotherapy, looks a little like a small living room.

If you had a perfect day, what would it be?
The perfect day begins at 5:30 am. I’m awake; I feel vibrant, and I’m ready to hit the yoga studio. I’m showered and back home by 8, fed and am ready to greet the work day by 9. My work hours would be filled with healthy interactions with others, and I help people process their thoughts and emotions until lunch time. Once fed for a second time, I complete emails, meet deadlines and have downtime in the afternoon. The evening is filled with good food and intimacy.

What turns you on creatively?
In order for me to create, I need to feel….something. I find that my emotions can become quite stirred when I hear a good story, or I listen to a good piece of music, especially if it is performed both live and well. Watching a good movie or having an engaging conversation can evoke a strong emotional response from me as well, but my current fixation and source of inspiration is psychoanalytic psychotherapy. Nothing stimulates me more these days than discovering art in the field of mental health.

Who do you most admire in your field (or in general) and why?
I’m a big fan of Wilfred Bion, a soldier who won the medal of Distinguished Service in the British army in WW1. After the war, he became a psychiatrist and developed his own unique approaches for treating war veterans in a group setting. His methods for helping people were not well received by his peers initially. He was ridiculed and ostracized for his originality and was fired from his position as group psychiatrist 16 weeks after he was hired. Eventually, Dr. Bion earned the respect he deserved. His methods and theories are now seen as cutting edge and are widely studied within the scientific community. Today he is considered to be the greatest psychoanalytic thinker since Sigmund Freud.

If you weren’t a psychotherapist/author, what would you be?
I would be an actor, musician or mad scientist.

Tell us a little about your working process.
My working process varies from day to day. When it comes to writing, I have to feel a spark or intuitive flash; otherwise, the words don’t seem to come as easily. I read fervently, and I like to read material that expands my understanding of me and my interests. I lean on my intuition when it comes to working with others and receiving direction as to what projects need my attention at any given moment.

What is one thing you want to do before you die?
I want to live before I die. I want to experience life as authentically as humanly possible. I believe that this is the key to experiencing both external and internal bliss… and I wouldn’t mind going scuba diving in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

What is your favorite saying?
My favorite saying today is: A self is co-created. You can’t achieve your very best without the help, love and support from others. And if you don’t have that in your life now, go find it.

What’s the one thing that drives you crazy? At work? At home? In general?
The one thing that drives me crazy is a person who is unable to accept responsibility for his/her own actions. Next to that is a person who is unable or unwilling to engage in self-reflection. Very little drives me crazy at work. At home, I like to have a lot of quiet. I thrive in quiet environments. TV noise tends to drive me nuts at home.

What’s your favorite book? Movie? Painting? Musician? Album?
My favorite books tend to change as I do. One title that has been on my list for a long time is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. I also like The Gift of Therapy by Irvin Yalom.

I dread having to name my favorite movie because I’ve seen so many good ones. I LOVE movies! Some of the ones that come to mind are: Field of Dreams, A Hard Day’s Night, Rocky, Phantom of the Paradise, The Cove, Casablanca and anything directed by David Cronenberg.

My favorite paintings are: Lake and Mountain and Mt. Robson by Lawren Harris and anything by Roz Spivak.

Today, my favorite musician is Leonard Cohen.

Like movies, a lot of titles come to mind when I think of my favorite albums. Here is a list, and it is by no means complete:

Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys
Music from the Elder by KISS
Sgt Pepper by The Beatles
Blood on the Tracks by Bob Dylan
Tea for the Tillerman by Cat Stevens
12 Songs by Neil Diamond
Tales of Mystery and Imagination by the Alan Parsons Project and, of course,
The Rutles – soundtrack.

Where’s your favorite place in the world? Why?
My favorite place in the world is my home because I live, breathe and work there. I also love the drive-in theater because even in the age of 3D technology and IMAX sensations, nothing compares to watching a movie under the stars while sitting in the great wide open.

Joseph Eliezer
www.josepheliezer.com