Let’s Play

  By Kellye Crocker Memorial Day has always struck me as a bit odd. It’s a national holiday honoring the US military men and women who gave their lives for our freedom. Their sacrifice—and that of their families, friends and communities—is unfathomable. At the same time, it’s a three-day weekend (for many) that unofficially kicks off summer. Even as an adult, I feel giddy anticipation. Summer is the quintessential season to play. Recently, I’ve given serious thought to play, including how it can help me reach my writing goals. That may sound counterintuitive, but I’ve come to believe play is integral to the creative process—and not just for feral first drafts. For me, play means ditching my Inner Critic, stripping off the pantyhose of perfectionism, and, as literary agent Holly Root advises, keeping my eyes on my own test paper. (It doesn’t have to be about mixed metaphors, but it can be. Loosen up! Break some rules! No one is going to die if you add another exclamation point! Or another!) It’s about embracing your weird, as Alexander Lumans advised in an excellent talk at Denver’s Lighthouse Writers Workshop this spring. Because that weird stuff that pops into your head—say, the naughty fairy who flies into your Serious Literary Art—can breathe energy into your writing if you let it stay and play. Disclaimer 1: I’m not saying you should throw the rules away, write badly and then try to traditionally publish that dreck or put it out yourself. Unless, you know, it works for readers. On the other hand, maybe allowing yourself to write awfully badly (!!) might propel...

Coordinating an Art Show

    By Bobbi Shupe Just when you think you have control of life you’re asked to coordinate a major art show. “A nice chunk of change,” you’re offered for very little work since the show has been running smoothly for a number of years. “Too good to be true.” “No such thing as a free lunch.” Quotes like these run through your mind, particularly as you say yes. . .yes, you will be the 2016 coordinator for the Arapahoe Community College Community Education Student/Instructor Art Show. Logistics are in place, however, there are always those little details that, if an event runs smoothly, no one outside of the conscientious coordinator is aware of. How hard can this be. . .you send out letters to students and instructors inviting them to show current work and giving them dates for 1) Art Check-in 2) Hanging Art 3) Judging Art 4) Opening Reception and 5) Art Pick-up. You can follow the previous coordinator’s timeline, just tweak the dates a bit. How hard can this be? Another letter needs to go to art instructors asking them to solicit volunteers from their classes to assist with invitation check-in, hanging, reception and pick-up at the end of the show. It is the middle of February and you feel very confident as you develop a folder to house “The Com Ed Student and Instructor Art Show.” You compose your invitation letter to students and instructors and enlist the help of the Community Ed office to email as many as possible and snail mail letters to those without email. This should be completed by the end...

Teens Gone Wild

    by Whiney Writer Writing about teens is hard. I’m doing character profiles for my contemporary prequel to my YA SF/zombie/romance/mystery/thriller, and that means I’ve got teen pre-zombie backstories to build. But not having been a teen for a while (and I wasn’t even that good at it when I was one) I needed a way to know how they think, talk, dress, and behave today. I mean, I took notes after I talked with my teen bagger at the grocery store, but I got the distinct impression she was trying real hard not to act like a real teen. I mean she wasn’t wearing gobs of makeup, didn’t have a piercing anywhere but through her ears, and she called me “Ma’am” and asked if she could help carry my bag of ice cream and potato chips to the car. That is NOT normal teen behavior based on every show currently on TV! So speaking of TV shows, that night I watched a National Geographic channel special about lions while eating my ice cream and potato chips. The wildlife researchers installed a special blind that blended in with the grasslands. Then they observed lions in their natural habitat. They filmed them and took notes on everything from the pride hunting zebras as a team to caring for cubs to … well, you know, that stuff that lions do to make cubs. Every wildlife special has to show that! Then it dawned on me how I could see and hear the real-life world of teenagerdom. I would observe them in their natural habitat! I didn’t try to be sneaky at first. I...

Are Your Books Unintentionally Scary?

    Claudia Cangilla McAdam I was recently in the car, driving a three-year-old passenger. A conversation we had got me thinking about what’s important in the books she reads, in the ones I read . . . and in the ones I write. Here’s a recap of the conversation that sprang up out of the blue: HER: “I have big girl books now.” I read with her frequently, and I’m familiar with her books. So, what exactly was she talking about? I wondered what constitutes a “big girl book” to a three-year-old. Do they have more pages? Are they larger in dimension? Just what did she mean? “But they’re kind of scary,” she added. Hmmm. That confused me even more. She can’t read, so I was left trying to imagine what kind of books her parents might be reading to her. Mysteries? Suspense? Horror stories? Oh, the horror of such a thought! ME: “What’s scary about them?” HER: “They don’t have any pictures.” ME: “Oh. With books like that, you need to use your imagination and make up your own pictures in your head.” In the weeks that followed that conversation, her comment about books without pictures being “scary,” got me thinking on a number of different planes: Why Pictures Matter in Picture Books When I read picture books to young children, I enjoy watching their eyes roam over the page, taking in all the illustrations. A good illustrator tells his or her own story on the page, apart from what the writer pens. And good illustrations can bring the reader (or listener) even deeper into the story....