POEM: Mindfulness

“Mindfulness”

the swish of my skirt’s soft fabric
against my ankles
black translucent cloth flowing behind
threads catch upon the rough concrete
as my uneven gait
from old worn sandals
clips and slides along the sidewalk

a cool breeze
softly strokes my hair
like a lover’s caress

my dark reflection
moves aside as the door swings slowly
open, then closes

Does that other me follow me inside with her dark gaze?

 

#

Saturday, November 10th, the Massillon Library’s Local Author Fair will feature several Ohio authors between 11am and 2pm. I will be reading from my work about 11:30. Please stop by and find out about the writers in your community. I hope to see you there!

*image courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.Net via Creative Commons License.

 

Advertisements

ON WRITING: CUYAHOGA LIBRARY’S INDIE AUTHOR CON & SHOWCASE–Part II

20181013_1020445279996995774530683.jpg

My last post concerned the Cuyahoga Library’s Indie Author Con and Showcase on October 13th, but there was way too much information to convey in a single post. So here, as promised, is Part II of my post about the con. Enjoy!

Legal Issues for Self-Published Writers

This segment of the con featured Jacqueline Lipton, founder of Authography: a company dedicated to sustaining authors with legal and other issues. She also teaches writing courses online, writes the Legally Bookish column for the SCBWI bulletin, has received awards for her fiction novels, and holds multiple degrees. Her upcoming book, Law & Authors, will be published in 2019.

“Write what you need to write, and worry about the legal stuff down the track.”

I know many authors worry about the legal ramifications of what they write, because they are afraid of accidentally committing a legal blunder, so this simple piece of advice felt very reassuring. It’s not necessarily that you won’t make mistakes, but that you mustn’t let the fear stop you from creating. If you are worried, you can seek legal advice by having a lawyer look over your work or by using some other legal resource, but the important thing is to not let fear stop you. Fear is the enemy of creativity.

In the interest of passing on some of what Ms. Lipton shared at the conference, I am sharing the photos I took of her slides (with her permission), as well as notes I took of the Question & Answer session afterwards.

20181013_1249248525844257427218278.jpg

20181013_1235053432582423804889186.jpg

20181013_1230314029279916876575389.jpg

20181013_1225358318464224558125668.jpg

20181013_1222421942608737170325040.jpg

20181013_1216523057487919603000521.jpg

20181013_1210254126401171231595231.jpg

Q&A:

What are the issues using quotations?

–Ms. Lipton explained that much of what you may want to use may be considered Fair Use, but because Fair Use is so uncertain, traditional publishers will want legal permission. This is a site you may consult for more information. authorsalliance.org

What about issues concerning more than one person using the same Pen name? Is it a copyright or trademark issue?

–If you or someone else uses the same pen name, you do not need to do anything. Others may have the same name, but it does not tell you anything about the underlying work. If someone is using your pen name, because they are copying your work, it’s a copyright issue anyway.

What is the definition of a Trademark (in greater detail)?

–Trademark concerns work a particular market (narrowly identified). Ex: The For Dummies series, etc.
Problems occur when you look closely affiliated with the other market. The main question asked concerning Trademark is, How likely would consumers be to mistake one product from the Trademarked product? Ex: orange arches compared to McDonald’s yellow arches for hamburger restaurants.

That completes my summary of last month’s writers’ conference. If you have any particular legal questions, I suggest you consult a lawyer or other official legal resource, but I hope this summary proves useful in a general sense.

I will post again next week, but I also wanted to tell you of an upcoming event. I am very honored to have been invited to participate once again in the Massillon Library Local Author Fair. The Fair takes place on Saturday, November 10th from 11am – 2pm, and features many talented local authors! I will be reading from my work, as well as have a table with some materials from Literary Cleveland to give out. If you are able, please stop by, listen to some cool authors, visit their tables, and maybe pick up a book!

*Permission to post photo of flyer kindly granted by Cuyahoga Library

***permission to summarize this session for the blog kindly granted by Jacqueline Lipton.
**permission to use photos of her slides generously granted by Jacqueline Lipton. The photos themselves were taken by myself.

ON WRITING: CUYAHOGA LIBRARY’S INDIE AUTHOR CON & SHOWCASE–Part I

Two weeks ago, on the 13th of October, Cuyahoga Library‘s Parma-Snow branch hosted a free Indie Author Con and Showcase. Cuyahoga Library is a pillar of Northeast Ohio’s literary community, with multiple programs and facilities supporting writers and bibliophiles of all stripes. However, I realize not everyone is lucky enough to live within driving distance of this fantastic library system, so I want to share some of the information I took away from its most recent conference. Since there is a lot to convey, I split the information between two posts.

Truly, one of the things I love best about cons is meeting new people with the same interests as myself, as well as reconnecting with others I have not seen for some time. It’s invigorating to be surrounded by creative people, and I always leave more inspired than when I arrived. When the conference started, the first panel of guests were representatives of different local writing organizations. I will link to them below, along with short descriptions.

Find Your Writing Tribe

Sisters in Crime

–This group meets monthly at the Twinsburg Library, primarily for female writers of crime stories, both fiction and non–although male writers are also welcome. They periodically organize field trips for members. In the past, they have visited the Medical Examiner’s Office as well as the Natural History Museum. At meetings they may have guest visitors, such as a poison expert giving a talk or a visit from a cadaver dog. In November, a judge will speak to them about criminal procedure and trials.

Literary Cleveland

–This writers’ organization hosts multiple events, both free and low cost, at various locations throughout the Cleveland area. They have published a chapbook of Cleveland stories, and will take part in the Cleveland Humanities event; they also host members-only mixers, and offer monthly poetry workshops and general writing classes. They also organize a free writers’ conference called INKubator annually at the Cleveland Main Library. Membership is $50 annually.

Skyline Writers

–A writing group that meets monthly at the Parma branch library for kind and helpful feedback. Interested parties can go to one meeting without submitting, then after they may sub a 3,500 word manuscript for critique by the group.

Literary Akron

–Literary Akron is relatively new organization dedicated to promoting writing and appreciation for literary arts in the greater Akron area. They have been working behind the scenes to bolster a number of smaller efforts around town and are planning a formal launch of the organization in early 2019.**

In the meantime, they may be contacted via email at Literary.Akron@gmail.com

Northern Ohio Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

–This local group aims to support authors and illustrators of children’s books, focusing on community and craft.
Northeast Ohio Romance Writers of America

–This organization requires membership in Romance Writers of America, although interested parties may attend two meetings for free. They meet one Saturday a month year-round (except in July) from 10am – 1pm. Other benefits include online workshops (membership not necessary), a Spring writing contest, and an annual members-only retreat in November.

xxxxxxxxxx

Hybrid Authors: Best of Both Worlds
(Mary) Kathleen Glavich & Abby L. Vandiver

This second panel of guests featured two prolific authors kind enough to discuss their personal journeys via combined traditional and self-publishing. While a traditional publisher has more control over content since they are investing financially in the work, self-publishing authors exclusively control their content while assuming any financial risks.

Mary Kathleen Glavich has written over eighty religious books since 1972. While she’s published traditionally–and still does, on one occasion a publisher broke their contract with her; she decided to publish the book herself. She enjoyed the complete editorial control she had over content and cover choices, and has since self-published some of her previously out-of-print books as well.
Abby L. Vandiver has published twenty books in the five years since she began her writing career. She began self-publishing as a way to generate revenue and get her work known, before transitioning to the traditional publishing model. In 2017, she made the Wall Street Journal’s Best Seller List, which attracted both a traditional publisher as well as an agent.

Her first book, however, was a manuscript she had written years earlier, that her daughter found in the garage. When Ms. Vandiver decided to publish, she did not want to go through the process of traditional publishing, including the waiting period for a manuscript to become a published book. She also did not want to spend money for a vanity press. She discovered she could publish her book, without cost to herself, through Amazon.*** The first two months, she had no sales, so she analyzed the best seller list and made some adjustments. Then she sold five books–still without cost to herself. She invested $25 (EREADER NEWS TODAY, now priced higher)for a promotional package, which resulted in selling 525 books!

Every book after that became a best seller in her category, through independent promotions and FaceBook.

Although she started as a self-published author, she was approached by an agent for her second book, and now has traditionally published books as well. She spoke at length about the Amazon publishing model she used, as well as the difference between traditional versus self-publishing.

At this time, Amazon takes about 70% of royalties for discounted books (.99 cent model). However, if the book costs more (not discounted), the model is reversed. Amazon also pays for each page read on borrowed books and lets you sell at your own price, although it does not allow you to publish in other formats. She suggested the discount .99 cent model as a great way for self-publishing authors to market their books, by getting their name out there and read; the discount model can be profitable.

During the Question and Answer session, both authors agreed on the necessity of establishing an author platform through social media and a website. Mary Kathleen Glavich also suggested using other local promotional media such as tv, radio, and newspapers. Abby L. Vandiver suggested promotional FaceBook parties with other authors, Twitter groups, and creating virtual box sets with other writers–utilizing their combined marketing resources. She also advised asking other indie authors for suggestions, as they are generous and love to share their expertise.

Part II of this post involves legal issues for self-published writers and will (hopefully) be up next week. I hope you found this helpful, and–if you don’t already do this–support your local libraries!

*Permission to post photo of flyer kindly granted by Cuyahoga Library

**Description courtesy of Scott Piepho

***I do not know if this Amazon publishing model is still current. I would suggest further investigation if you are interested.

Upcycling Trash into Crafting Treasure

01a06c07dea1fa272906c0727ea843b17483932998239542017.jpg
Bob the zombie pincushion was made with old tshirt fabric, torn pjs, and salvaged stuffing from an old pillow.

Making art and homemade crafts is an exciting way to spend your time, but many people are put off by the mistaken impression they need special equipment and skills to participate. While it is true that some basic tools are required to create certain crafts, most are cheap and easy to find or–better yet–easy to make yourself! The main ingredients for completing any type of craft are creativity and the ability to learn something new (cough, cough, YouTube, cough cough). Crafting is making a resurgence, along with the DIY movement, and what better way is there to spend your free time than creating something original as well as beneficial? It’s a great outlet, relaxing, and it affords you the opportunity to actively use your skills for the common good.

For the uninitiated into the crafty arts, craftivism is exactly what it sounds like: a combination of crafting and activism. Craftivists actively use their DIY talents to try to make the world a better place: from making banners that bring attention to an important issue to leaving anonymous homemade gifts in public places as encouragement that may brighten a stranger’s day. And you don’t need to buy a bunch of supplies to enjoy your favorite hobbies while working toward a more benevolent world.

Most of us don’t have a lot of money to spend on new or fancy supplies, and even if we did landfills are already overflowing with the results of our consumer-driven society. However, if we upcycle our own craft supplies, we cut down on our contribution to those landfills as well as save money and use up things we already have in our own homes; upcycling means taking something and finding a way to reuse it rather than throwing it away. If you have some basic supplies, like scissors and glue (or a glue gun), there are tons of ways to upcycle your own craft supplies. I want to share some of my favorites with you!

TSHIRT YARN:
That’s right. You can take old tshirts, cut across them below the sleeves to make one large loop of fabric, and then by cutting a series of strips from one side to almost the other, strategically cut to make one long strip of fabric. If you pull on the fabric strip, the cut ends will curl up like the fancy chunky yarn sold in craft stores. The video is very precise, and she uses fancy cutting tools, but you don’t need to be precious about it. Cutting freehand with scissors works just fine. Tshirt yarn is great for chunky scarves.
Here is a link to a helpful video illustrating the process: LINK

PLASTIC YARN:
“Plarn” is made pretty much the same way tshirt yarn is made. Simply cut off the bags bottom, cut across below the handles to create a single large loop of plastic. With the same strategic cutting, make one long strip of plastic yarn. Don’t try to pull on the edges to make it curl like tshirt yarn though; you’ll tear the plastic. Plarn is good for knitting water resistant items such as mats and shopping bags. LINK

FREE FABRIC:
This one is a no brainer, but cut up old clothes and sheets and anything else that will give you fabric. If you like embroidery, linen towels make great evenweave fabric, but don’t disregard unconventional ones such denim in old jeans, print from old skirts, or patches cut from old purses and scarves: patterned and textured fabric make for interesting and unique projects. In a pinch, you can go to a thrift store and buy second-hand clothes to cut up. Who knows? They might even have donated thread, yarn, and other art supplies.

 
d4b0d99faf89e5550290ba0fb49231893482670990668386719.jpg

EMBROIDERY HOOPS:
This one is a little outside the box (or hoop), but you can convert lots of moderately flat circular objects into embroidery hoops. You can use old bicycle rims as hoops by using glue or elastic to secure the fabric you are working on. You can also use an exacto knife to cut a hole in the lid of a tupperware container, cut off the top section of the container itself, and snap the two parts together to make a fabric hoop. And you don’t need to be limited by shape either; experiment!* Maybe try using an old frame!

 
6a8f5c057e7f900dcb4eb9e5e86474cc2548234949970229669.jpg

THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX:
I know I’ve referenced out-of-the-box thinking previously, but it bears repeating. Do some research by searching YouTube for crafting videos or checking out library books, especially upcycling ones. Add coloring to glue to make textured paint. Cut up old plastic bottles to make everything from pencil cups to Christmas trees. Disassemble that old keyboard before recycling to salvage the keys for beads and the circuit board for other art projects. Spruce up something ugly by decoupaging with cut up comics, wrapping paper, or magazine pictures. A new coat of paint can make something old look like something new–even if you are using up old paint or you scored a great deal on spray paint from the local GoodWill. Why buy new when you can reuse with just a little imagination?

 

65003ae7b4b447b9f80c164360fdd7525775363779705765833.jpg
Star Wars themed Christmas tree made with cut plastic bottles scotch-taped to a candle. The lightsabers were made with unused juice straws left over from Halloween.

If you like to embroider, you can make patterns from old coloring books, or simply draw on the fabric yourself; I know you probably already know that, but I’m sharing my favorite methods so get over yourself. And you don’t need to limit your embroidery or other art to just fabric. You can sew on plastic packing sheets (instead of fabric) or use mesh from produce bags for art projects. You can poke holes in photos, postcards, tin salvaged from cans, or other paraphernalia for unconventional embroidery projects. Again, YouTube instructional videos are pretty amazing. Enough said.

EmbroideryBox
clothespins and plastic bread tabs can be used to store embroidery floss

Some other simple crafting hacks:
-plastic bread tabs for storing embroidery floss
-wooden spring-loaded clothespins for storing embroidery floss
-soda can tabs for jewelry beads or chain mail
-plastic lids for coasters
-pill bottles for storing needles or other small sharp objects

 

JellyfishEmbroidery
jellyfish created over embroidery hoop with assorted materials: salvaged mesh produce bags, bubble wrap, packing material.

The key to upcycling is the same as the key to crafting: imagination. If you get used to looking at things in new ways, there’s no limit to what you can make! So don’t spend money on any supplies before you’ve looked around your home for things that would work just as well if not better. In a pinch, second hand is better than first as you are not creating a need to manufacture more of an item that already exists and would otherwise go to a landfill.

Until I post again in two weeks, have a lovely life and happy crafting!

 

*Cards on the table, I have not tried the tupperware container one yet, but it looks really cool to me. 🙂

Current Events: New Year’s Resolutions for 2018!

fireworks-15000471777Gy
I know you must be weary of reading other people’s resolutions for the new year. They are inherently selfish posts aimed not at you–the reader, but rather written for the benefit of the author: a public affirmation of their intentions for the new year. There’s something special that happens in a person’s brain when they write their goals down. The act of writing makes the idea concrete and mandatory. Combine that with the possibility of public accountability, and you have a recipe for (at least some measure of) success.

.

So, in the tradition of utterly selfish writing, I am announcing my goals for the coming year. In the spirit of honesty and accountability, I did not accomplish all my goals this past year–mainly getting a literary agent. I did accomplish others though–such as reading more non fiction and poetry. I had a table and read at a local author convention, and by preparing and printing my own materials to sell I discovered I loved publishing my own work. It was empowering. Can you guess what my New Year’s Resolutions are for this coming year?

.

1. Publish a book.
I want to publish my work. Although I have blogged and written for the past ten years, I have yet to publish a complete book. I still have my unpublished science-fiction manuscript, which I honestly love and think is pretty damn good. However, I am more heavily into poetry at the moment, and I still write quite a bit of flash fiction. I have a backlog of stories and poems, so I’m not sure if I want my first published book to be the novel or a collection of my shorter works. I may do both.

.

I’ve considered ordering a small amount of print books (to sell in person), as well as making the work available by POD or as an ebook. My local library also has options to publish for free (Self-e), although I doubt that would give me print options. I’m also still open to the traditional publishing route, but, in the meantime, I am working toward self-publishing. Either way, I’m getting at least one book out this year.

.

2. Market my book.
I’ve already worked on my “brand” this past year by setting up a more professional author site, as well as matching social media accounts and even business cards. I generally try to attend as many writing conferences and workshops as possible, although this year I was sadly unable to make some of them due to a family emergency. My writing blog is informal, but my author site functions as a resume with sample writing for prospective publishers.

.

So when I say “Market my work” I’m talking about marketing the book I plan to publish this year–which will involve public appearances. I’m extremely nervous when speaking in public, so this is something I’ve been working to overcome for awhile. Hopefully, I will improve with practice.

.

3. Learn to make one origami form with a dollar bill.
I know this one has nothing to do with writing, but I’m terrible at origami. It’s something I’ve wanted to learn for awhile. I don’t need to learn a bunch of complicated forms, just a simple one that I can do well. I want to do it with dollar bills because I can use it for a craftivism project involving play money. Also, if I leave a tip with paper money, it might be cute.

.

I’d love to hear what your resolutions are, if any, for the year 2018! If you’d like to share, please let me know in the comments below. And Happy New Year!
 .
**due to the holidays, my posts will be scheduled slightly off from the normal two weeks. My apologies. Happy holidays!

 

Current Events: Writers’ Con Season is Upon Us!

20160709_145256
2016 view of Eastman Reading Garden at the Main Branch of Cleveland Public Library

Literary Cleveland’s INKubator conference takes place tomorrow, Saturday the 29th, from 8:30 am – 5 pm, at the Main Branch of the Cleveland Public Library. If you are interested in going to this completely free writers’ conference, there’s still time to register for craft talks and workshops. Instruction is given by experienced writers in different genres, in everything ranging from poetry and comics to researching nonfiction books. Since this is an all day conference, you may want to pack a lunch to eat in the library’s lovely Eastman Reading Garden. Between events you may also want to stop at the library’s Superman exhibit, basically the closest thing there is to a Superman museum, since Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created Superman while living in this great city.

There’s always plenty of smaller writing events taking place in Northeast Ohio as well, such as the bi-monthly Poetry Workshop, another free event at the Cleveland Main Library. The next meeting will be on Saturday, August 12th, from 10:30 am to 12:30pm. If you’d like to get the most out of the experience, be sure to bring about a dozen copies of a poem you would like to get feedback on–although if you’d like to just sit in, that’s perfectly welcome as well. Either way, you’ll be sure to learn more about the craft!

And it’s still early, so you have plenty of time to get ready for the annual Western Reserve Writers’ Conference on Saturday, September the 23rd. It’s another completely free writers’ conference, this time hosted by the South Euclid-Lyndhurst Branch of Cuyahoga Library!

Also, I’d like to leave you with a friendly reminder to check your local libraries as well as the Literary Cleveland website for more free (and sometimes not) writing events in the Northeast Ohio area. Even if you are not blessed to live near two of the top ten library systems in the entire country, chances are your local library will do everything they can to support their writers–so take advantage of every opportunity.

 

On Writing: Habitica–Gamify your Life!

1398222_10152596667338585_6830532591610476838_o.jpg

Who knew that creating a productivity tool that is essentially a video game would be so effective? Habitica (formerly HabitRPG) helps you establish good habits and eradicate bad ones by giving you in-game rewards for completing real life tasks.

My first experience with a game-based productivity tool was Life RPG, suggested by my teenage son since he’s really into video games. I tried it, and initially found it somewhat helpful–although I was frustrated by the lack of customer support. When I had issues, I tried contacting the developers through the app store and twitter to no avail. Their twitter account hasn’t been updated since 2014, and while their reviews in the Android app store were overwhelmingly favorable, I could never get them to respond when I had a question.  Customer service and response times are important to me, since I am not tech savvy.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have only used Habitica during the current week. However, in that time I’ve already had more positive feedback and interaction through the site than I ever did using Life RPG. I think part of the reason is Habitica’s strong open-source community. There is a Tavern that can be visited via the app or site, where Habiticians can hang out casually or ask general questions. People who use Habitica are encouraged to be helpful to others, positivity is promoted, and everyone (as far as I have seen) is incredibly polite and considerate.

Habitica has a webpage online that you can log into each day to check off or add tasks, as well as an app for your cell phone or tablet device. I mainly use the app, but I try to check into the website at least once a day since I find typing on the laptop easier.

The first thing you do as a new user is create an avatar, with certain free options such as hair color or body type. As you complete your tasks, you gain health, experience, gold, and other rewards that let you buy things for your avatar. As you progress in the game, you gain levels and start to acquire pets that may become mounts in the proper circumstances, as well as other things–such as food for your stable animals, potions to regain health, armor, etc. There are also Guilds and Challenges for social opportunities as well as chances to gain extra rewards such as gems.

After you create your avatar you set up your real world tasks: Habits, Dailies, and To-Dos.  Habits should be things you would like to do every day (or every week, month, etc). Dailies are things that you should do every day (month, etc), and To-Dos are things that may (or may not) have a set-time limit. You gain rewards for everything you accomplish, but you lose points only if you miss your Dailies. In addition to the virtual game rewards offered, you may also assign yourself real life rewards, such as “Watching a movie” or “Eating a cookie” that may cost x-amount of gold. There are also other features that allow you to join parties and partner with other people, but you share the rewards or punishments when you do so.

An example of a Habit would be Stretching. I don’t remember to do my stretches every day, so this gives me extra points when I remember. A Daily would be Eat Lunch, since I often forget to eat, even after preparing lunch for my son. A To-Do would be Fix the Banister; I used the option to set a due time (end of this month) since I’ve put off this simple chore for several months. I have also set myself additional real life rewards, such as watching a movie for 25 gold coins.

The Guilds offer users a way to interact with other Habiticians that share similar interests. Guilds often offer Challenges to members, which promote Guild interests. For example, there are multiple writing Guilds that offer Challenges with set editing and publishing goals.

While it may not seem to tie-in to writing as a craft, using a productivity tool like Habitica can obviously help you establish a writing routine that increases your output. My life has become progressively more hectic over the past several weeks, but in the past week I’ve accomplished more of my writing goals than I have all month. I’ve reestablished a more productive daily routine, and I actually look forward to greater rewards for tasks I would otherwise put off.

If you tend to procrastinate or get overwhelmed with daily tasks, try Habitica. Signing up costs nothing but a little of your time, and the investment more than pays for itself.