Ellie Saves the Day or My Tribute to Leonard Nimoy

IMG_1066 I just finished googling “Everest Paw Patrol Action Figure” because my three-year-old niece Ellie is obsessed with the show. Earlier this year I ordered all the remaining action figures I could find from the series when she received only two for her birthday and realized she could not recreate her precious adventures with so few. Now they went and introduced a new member to the Paw Patrol team, Everest. So new, they haven’t even produced an action figure for her yet, though Ellie recently told her mom not to worry, “Bee (her nickname for me) will get me one.”

If my recent Internet search is accurate I probably won’t be able to pull off that miracle anytime soon, but I will keep trying because I understand Ellie’s obsession. She loves Paw Patrol so much that her present hope is that they will produce an episode called “Ellie Saves the Day!” Who knows? As an idol of mine once noted, “There are Always Possibilities…”

When I was three, I would stay up way past my bedtime to watch the Starship Enterprise streak across my television screen and dream of exploring “strange new worlds” as a Starship Captain. I would sit on my backyard swing for hours soaring to those same new worlds.

When I grew older I secreted Star Trek novels and Best of Trek books under my bed because I feared friends would discover them and deem them too nerdy. Little did I know my brother was sharing my stash with fellow Trekkie, his friend Chris, and with that cat out of the bag we began attending conventions together, feeding a mutual obsession. It was at one such convention I discovered our own version of buyer’s remorse after spending $300 to a replica of an original series tricorder—you know that cool scientific contraption carried by Spock to take readings of alien life forms? At 15, it was the most I had ever paid for any one item and after making the purchase I felt nothing but guilt. That tricorder, however, has adorned many a Halloween costume, attended some Star Trek movie premieres, even been worn at a friend’s costume wedding. I think I got my money’s worth. Still, till this day Chris or my brother John can text me at a moment’s notice with the phrase “I have Tricorder syndrome” and I think, oh no, what have they gone and bought now?!

Last Friday both John and Christ texted me almost simultaneously, Chris, in Chicago, John, here in Vermont. “Did you hear about Spock?” both messages read. And, by now everyone has. The actor, Leonard Nimoy, who brought our beloved alien to life, had died. Facebook and Twitter were filled with tributes as fans everywhere tried to express what this actor and this character had brought into their lives.

Long before I was old enough to truly grasp a concept such as tolerance. I remember learning what it meant to embrace the differences in others and the uniqueness in myself through a fictional alien named Spock. I learned that what I valued, the things that make me happy, should not be hidden under a bed but shared with others and in so doing, broaden my world. I learned to embrace Tricorders and Paw Patrol Action figures because these things we see on TV that can seem so childish or frivolous can take us outside our tiny lives and reveal our biggest dreams.

I just hope Ellie doesn’t come home at 15 with a $300 Everest action figure. Then again, maybe that is exactly what I wish for her—to discover the value of her dreams and explore all the worlds where they take her. May these things teach her that one day Ellie can save the day!

Chris, Me and John in Uniform


Let Me Get You Up to Speed...

Let me get you up to speed… Let’s say for the sake of argument that all of this blog from Day 1 through the middle of last year was Season 1 of our ongoing saga—the pugs, my art, my writing, my friend Joan, her life, and mine. Then let’s say we went on hiatus—a long one. We’ve done a lot in that time, but how do you capture it all on the blog? You can’t go backwards and who wants to inundate everyone with a year’s worth of material, right? But, how do we jump right back in? I’m going to do my best to bring the story forward.

We’ve had our share of romance…



No, not me unfortunately, but my pug Alfie. She turned five in January and it was a do or die moment—time to breed her or forgo the idea once and for all. Alfie is my show pug and the plan from the beginning was to breed her and pass on all her wonderful traits. Unfortunately, her heats were uncertain and it took awhile to figure her cycle out. I decided to take a big leap of faith and go for it this year, so toward the end of January, Alfie and I began daily pilgrimages to visit her “boyfriend” at Pugdom, my friend Joan’s house. Challenge no. 1, while Alfie and the Old Man hit it off, he just couldn’t seem to get the job done, so we had to bring in reinforcements—his son, Gryffindor. Gryff was nowhere near as refined in the courting department, but what he lacked in charm, he made up for in finesse and I was fairly certain after thee successful matings that Alfie was pregnant.

On Super Bowl Sunday, Alfie began vomiting and panting and not acting at all right. I ended up taking her to the Emergency Vet only to learn she had pyometrea, a dangerous uterine infection and had to be spayed. No puppies for us. It seemed unfair on a lot of levels, my idea was if I can’t have children of my own right now, at least I’m gonna have puppies, but that didn’t seem to materialize. Our new grand adventure was cut short, but Alfie is okay, in fact, she seems downright happy and the plan for the future is to find another show dog, since after her spaying, Alfie can no longer be shown.

We’ve had our share of religion…



I spent two weeks in Hawaii last July on the Missions Trip I go on ever year. It was the start of a life-giving time, a creative time, when I returned home I began taking courses to become a certified minister, became a full-fledged member of my church and recently even taught one of our weekly bible studies. I didn’t discover God—I’ve known him all along—I simply got excited about connecting with Him in a while new way and so much has changed.

We’ve had our share of work…




This fall the college where I worked for the past 12 years closed, so I’ve been finding new opportunities to teach at assisted living facilities, arts centers, writing centers etc. and expanding my repertoire. This summer I am supposed to teach at a teen art camp in Lebanon, N.H. I am presently teaching a course on the relationship between animals and memoir writing called “Pet Projects” at an assisted-living facility also in Lebanon. My sister-in-law Gretchin and I are also putting together a joint workshop called Journal Jam.

The art projects are going well. I’ve been in several shows, sold more work than ever, and introduced new techniques such as encaustic to my collages. I joined an artists’ collective in Burlington that not only carries my work in their gift shop, but networks with area businesses to showcase the work of their members. The xposure has been great. In November, I had a solo show of my digital collages called Once and Future Things: An Exploration of Girlhood at Radio Bean in Burlington.



I’m currently in another juried show at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center called “Healing with Arts.” The idea behind the show is to hang works of art in the cancer treatment center with the belief that art contributes to and reinforces the healing process for patients with caner. It is an important show for me to be apart of as more and more close friends face the disease.



Also, this fall, a friend made financially possible for me to attend a wonderful and productive writers workshop, Dartbrook Writers Retreat, in the Adirondacks. I worked on pulling some of my blog posts together and creating new writing for a memoir of some of my experiences with my friend Joan. I’m starting to see the themes that underlie the work and why getting to be a part of her life and that of her pugs has been so important to me. The plan is to work more on that over the next year and get that book actually written.

Writer Abigail Thomas and Me at Dartbrook Writers Retreat

So here we are…now that you’re caught up let’s call this Season 2. Stay tune for our next adventure.




Once and Future Things: An Exploration of Girlhood

Next month, November 7th through December 3rd, my digital collages will be hung in my first-ever solo show at Radio Bean in Burlington, Vt. The opening reception will be on November 13th from 5 to 7 p.m. Curated by ONE Arts Collective, the show will feature 12 of my digital collages in a show entitled Once and Future Things: An Exploration of Girlhood. For those of you familiar with this blog and my work, the following explanation is probably not needed as much of it is offered in past posts and in the gallery section of this site, but for those of you who are new here's an explanation of the show and some background on my work: When you watch girls at play you can often catch glimpses of the people they will become. Like fairies and other magical creatures, the inner world of children seems to evaporate if it comes in direct contact with that of an adult. Still, with a camera lens there are ways to capture it, if you stay on the periphery and observe. With little boys who are typically all action and mugging for the camera, this is more challenging. Girls? They frequently have moments of stillness that offer you this chance. The quickness of the lens lets you capture what is so fleeting—images that hint at the future, of the women these girls will become. In these moments, when their secret world becomes visible, there is a maturity, a strength, and yet, also a vulnerability that can make adults uncomfortable. Simultaneously, we see in them both their innocence and the approaching loss of it. We know they stand on the cusp of transformation. To become a woman means to leave the little girl behind. While children long for the future, we look at them and long for what was. We see in them “once and future things.”

My digital collages have been describe as” hand-worked stories” and as a writer and photographer, I couldn’t be more pleased with this. They combine photography with hand drawing in pastel, crayon and colored pencil as well as digital drawing with Adobe Photoshop and embellishments such as embroidery and glitter. I create my collages in Adobe Photoshop using “recycled images’ that maybe weren’t picture-perfect as standalone shots, but work together to create a new vision of the inner word of children and also animals. Most of my digital collages frequently have fantasy or spiritual undertones. I use Photoshop to draw, paint and manipulate the image and then print it out to hand draw, paint and perhaps embroider or add other embellishments before rescanning the image into Photoshop. The finished work is a digital print on photograph paper.

My work has appeared in venues throughout Vermont, New Hampshire and New York. I also work as a freelance writer and writing instructor helping others find their own unique way to tell their stories.

A few months ago, I connected with ONE Arts Collective, when I took part in one of their shows called Spirit Animalz at Burlington Beer Company and am happy to now be a member of their group. I am excited to have the chance to share my work with a new audience and hope all of you will spread the word and stop by to check out the show if you can!

It All Starts with the Children

SONY DSC It was a busy weekend. On Saturday I attended an Open House at author Jon Katz's Bedlam Farm. Sunday, my niece Ellie came down and we went for a hayride at a local pumpkin farm where we got to choose our own pumpkins from the pumpkin patch. Both days were quintessential fall days. The first filled with warm people, sweet song, and sun breaking through the slightly chilled air to create a picture-perfect day. The second? Perfect. How can anything be better than a hay ride through "The Spoooooky Old Woods" as my niece called it to a pumpkin patch to choose the perfect pumpkin? Both days featured beautiful girls and I couldn't resist snapping some pictures to turn into future collages.

My niece Catherine


Moon Child Encaustic

moon 3 Here's my first official encaustic painting. I say first official because the other encaustic works I have done all prominently featured wax-dipped collages. This does too, but at the base of the work is an encaustic painting. I love the texture it created. I wanted to carry the moon imagery through so I created the moon with a stencil and then rubbed oil paint into the wax to create the aura around the moon. I then attached part of the wax-dipped digital collage I created in class using pins. The three dimensional quality was created by putting cardboard in back of the collage. Finally, I used an iridescent blue acrylic paint to the edges, it looks purple. I'm calling the finished product Moon Child.

Textured encaustic painting

Adding the collage elements

Evolution of an Art Project

Blog Temptation My digital collages are frequently works in progress. While the initial digital aspects of the collage don't often take long to create, it frequently takes me awhile to get to the sewing and drawing and to the decision that the piece is complete. I started this collage, which I call Temptation back in March and only recently finished it, or so I thought. Since summer I have been taking an encaustic class in which I work with beeswax or wax medium and pigments to create textured paintings. I wanted to find a way to add more dimension and texture to my collages. I'm still learning and it has been a process. You need to work in a well ventilated space, which means I have only been able to work on my projects while in my weekly class. I've been a little slow at mastering the techniques, but recently came up with a few pieces that I really like. The problem is knowing when they are finished. The thing with digital projects is you can always scan them back in and continue to revise and revamp them. I've learned that the wax medium also allows you several alternatives, so I've been experimenting with some of the techniques. On November 20th, my class is going to have a show. We're calling it an Encaustic Jamboree. I now have several pieces to put in the show.

The piece shown above is not encaustic. It's the finished version of my digital collage. Originally, I was going to have only one image of a girl in the picture, but created the mirror image when I printed the collage out on vellum paper. It created a whole new look. I scanned the vellum print back in and flipped the image, adding it to the original collage so that I now had two girls. I printed the collage on a laser printer and brought it to my encaustic class. There I secured it to a wooden board with PVA, bookbinding glue, sanded the edges to make the image flush with the board and then dipped it in wax. From there I created a stencil of apples on a vine. I cut out the stencils and painted in the apples with red wax, adding green accents later. Then using acrylic paint, I painted the edges of the board cherry red. Below is the final result, which I will be showing in the Encaustic Jamboree.


That same class I also brought in some alternative versions of the print including the image I had printed out on vellum. My teacher thought it would be fun for me to try the vellum in wax and see what would emerge. I loved the results. My instructor also had some wonderful papers. We tried one in back of the wax-dipped vellum print and I loved it. I decided to stitch the paper to the back of the image using embroidery thread, creating an envelope like that below.

Temptation Envelope

Then carrying through with my Eve imagery, I cut up little red apples from a photo I had taken and put adhesive felt on the back. I dropped these into the envelope as well as a scripture from Genesis in which Eve eats of the fruit in the garden of Eden and offers it to Adam. I printed this out and also put felt on the back and dropped it into the envelope.

temptation envelope 3I also added felt to the back of the envelope, punched holes in the top corners, added red eyelets and a wire hanger. I will also be putting this in the Encaustic Jamboree although it is not entirely finished. My hope, once I can return to my teacher's studio is to paint a board with encaustic wax and embellish it with paper apples. Then I will hammer a nail into the board and hang this piece from it. At least that's the plan for now. It seems like my ideas are always evolving.

Temptation envelope 2


SONY DSC In a few hours I head off to one of the most beautiful places in the world, Hana, Maui, Hawaii, for my sixth missions trip with Jonathan Shuttlesworth. A few hours ago, my 18-year-old nephew Christian headed off for Army National Guard bootcamp. The world keeps turning as they say. Last night, I received a text from Christian's mom saying they would be celebrating at the 99 Restaurant with a send off meal for Christian. Mom and I were on a way into a movie, so when it ended we stopped by the 99 on the slim chance they might still be there. They were—standing outside in a huddle around Christian and his father, my brother Paul, who had stopped by while on the job as a Lebanon Police Officer to give Christian last minute pointers on bootcamp. Paul, in his mid-thirties, had only enlisted last year.


The scene nearly broke my heart. You see, it shows how much we love that boy! Born to teen parents, he's our success story. Work and tears and anguish and love poured into him from all of us. When he flew off today he took all of us with him. I didn't have the chance to go and see him off, another thing that nearly broke my heart. When he registered for kindergarten, a crowd of us showed up complete with video camera. But, when I picked up my cell just now his Momma had sent me a photo of a teary-eyed Christian hugging her. She included me in the circle. He just called my Dad to say he had made it to the waiting point, found the clock tower his Dad had told him about, and my Dad reiterated how well loved he was. "You're the most loved boy I know," he said, wishing that he had known that he was that loved growing up. We come from a family of love, but Dad is right—Christian may just be the most well loved of us all. The Jarvis and Gifford clans are big, our hearts bigger and he has grown into a man who carries us all.

They say "Aloha" is used in both greeting and parties. I can't wait to see my Hawaiian ohana, the family I leave behind each time I return to the mainland, all the friends we have made. It is a wonderful greeting, but right now before I leave I say "Aloha" to our boy-turned-man. It will be a long four months, kiddo, but don't think for a minute you left us behind. Aloha is better than goodbye because we'll say it when we see you again real soon!


Lost and Found

Belle Last week I had one of those days filled with metaphor and meaning, stolen joys and confirmed fears. It is not a day you can sum up in a quick blog post. It is a day that needs to be digested, pondered, explored. It started with a lost dog, TarBaby, my friend Joan’s grand diva of a Pug. Tar Baby began her life at Pugdom, Joan’s home, by getting lost wandering in the woods for 11 days and returning to our amazement as a scrawny, scratched up pup. That was many years ago and TarBaby has transformed from that wee little scamp to an old lady with secrets to share. Weeks ago she suffered a severe injury in a dogfight and Joan has been nursing her back to health. She decided TarBaby needed some time in the sun and while we snacked on Jane’s brown rice breakfast pudding and watched our brood of pugs explore, TarBaby snuck off perhaps desiring one last adventure in her old age. We searched and we searched and could not find her. Hours passed and still no TarBaby. I finally had to leave with the hope that TarBaby’s homing nature would resurface and she would return to the driveway as she had in her youth. No sooner had I hit the road than I received the call that she indeed had found her way home!

Another mile down the road and there was another old dog wandering in the street. Cars stopped on both sides as we tried to corral a wobbling German pointer. She looked dazed and limp and when we finally got ahold of her she climbed happily in one of the cars while I set off to guide them to the local vets. Problem? I had no idea where the local vet lived. I tried to call Joan and finally got through. Googled the vet’s number and entered her address in my GPS, called the veterinarian on the dog’s tags. It was Saturday, no one was in. Joan met me at the vets, who also was not home and we loaded the sweet old lady of a dog in her car with the promise to tell the lady who had been escorting her that we would later text the dog’s fate. We rode up to the ski area where the annual beer festival was taking place to see if anyone had reported a missing dog. Just then, a call from my Mom. She wasn’t feeling well. She was at the pharmacist’s office and thought she might be having a reaction to her new blood pressure medicine. She was ready to drive home, but I couldn’t let her. I called my nephew’s mom, Chesne and asked her to pick her up, then called my Mom back to learn that she was having trouble breathing. I told her to have Chesne bring her to the ER, mere minutes away, and called my brother to have him meet her. Then the phone rang. It was the emergency vet on the other line. Had I found the owner yet? Another ring. The local vet. She was at a memorial service. Could I leave my friend’s number with her answering service in case the owner called? My friend Jane came to the car to share that no one has reported a missing dog. I call my father to tell him about my Mother, call my brother to make sure he is en  route to the hospital. Hit the road and call my Mom again to see if she is okay. She is at the ER, her breathing still a challenge.

My Mom is my rock and my best friend and suddenly I was in charge of making sure she was okay. Those who know me know that I pretty much juggle my family’s responsibilities on a daily basis. Twelve years older than my youngest sibling, I’ve pretty much helped raise them and taken care of their kids, arranging family plans, making sure everyone knows what is going on. I’ve crossed the t’s and dotted the i’s for the family, assuming the role of oldest child. Single and childless, to me my mom remains the earth around which my moon evolves. She alone seems to know that while my shoulders are broad they are capable of bending under the weight, that sometimes it is all too much. I dread the day when she is no longer here. No one wants to lose a parent, but my Mom is more than that. I looked at the medicine cabinet in our bathroom today. Three separate compartments, combined into one large mirror. My parents’ recent choice when renovating the bathroom. There is a place for Dad, and Mom, and me. My compartment sandwiched in between the two of theirs. It has been that way since the beginning, me born one year into their marriage. The three of us. They tried to choose a set up that would give us each a space. It is not the setup I would have chosen. The three cabinets break up the mirror and I cannot see myself. And, yet there I am, my space between theirs. I love my parents. I am thankful that they share their home with me. It’s just hard sometimes seeing myself as separate. If Mom were to go, would I just disappear?

I don’t think it’s unusual for a child of any age to question her identity in light of a parent’s mortality and fortunately my Mom is fine. She indeed had a reaction to her meds and is now home trying out a new one. She will be okay. It is the future I do not like to ponder.

At midnight on Saturday, a car pulled up Joan’s driveway and took the German Pointer’s leash in hand. The dog’s name is Belle, 12 years old. She wandered off lost when they opened her crate. She was not far from home when we found her.  There is probably a metaphor here: flying the coop, feeling lost, dependence, independence, mortality, the mother-and-child bond. Just because things are obvious doesn’t mean they are easy to see. Sometimes we lose ourselves in love.

My Writing Process Blog Tour (and a writing prompt...)

My new solar Pope, blessing my writing process  

My friend and fellow animal lover and writer, Barbara Techel of Joyful Paws recently asked me  to participate in the My Writing Process Blog Tour. I first learned of Barbara when I read her memoir Through Frankie's Eyes. Actually, that’s not entirely true, I had heard of Barbara earlier when I went seeking a doggie cart or doggie wheelchair for my crippled pug Vader. In googling doggie carts I came upon Eddie’s Wheels in Sherburne, Massachusetts and also the story of Barbara and her dog Frankie, a dachshund that suffered from invertebrate disc disease and used a cart from Eddie’s Wheels to get around. Later when I read her book, Barbara and I had a chance to talk and become “Internet friends” since we live in different parts of the country. I admire so much Barbara’s warmth and authenticity in her writing.

Image of Barbara Techel from Joyful Paws

Although my post was supposed to be up earlier today, I spent the weekend in the emergency room with my mother who had a reaction to her blood pressure medicine and thus, am a little late in getting my post up. Yet, this is all part of life and definitely one of the many complications that can make the life of a writer and blogger challenging—how do we cope with deadlines amidst life’s crises? No easy answer, but something to address when it comes to talking about process. In any case, while I am late to post, I am happy to participate in this tour that allows writers to share what they are doing and how they are doing it. Why is this important?

Writing can be an isolating venture—hours alone toiling over a story, article, blog post or even journal entry with often little feedback on how the result will be received. We wonder am I the only one who feels this way? How does Stephen King get up every morning and churn out 600 page novels while I have been working two hours on a simple paragraph of introduction? I have written a number of times on my blog about the challenges in writing daily and in wondering if my content is up to par. This became especially challenging because I had a writing mentor who saw no problem in posting several times a day. One thing a tour like this one shows is everyone is different. And, that’s okay. I was feeling down about my own limitiations the other day when I turned on a podcast of an interview with Kelly Braffet, daughter-in-law of Stephen King, b.t.w. Anyway, the interviewer who has a regular podcast and blog launched the interview with an apology for his own lack of posts and noted that while he had hoped to produce a daily blog he was cutting it back to when he was inspired because he just couldn’t produce the quality of content he wanted writing daily. I felt redeemed. I am not alone. And, you aren’t either! It may not be daily posts, it could be a different issue altogether, but writers face similar challenges and share similar joys. Don’t believe me? Follow the Writing Process Blog Tour and learn what we as writers have in common…

My Writing Process:

What Am I Working On?

This should be an easy one, right? Truth is a number of things. My day job is as a freelance writer for several publications in the Vermont and New Hampshire area. Right now I am working on an article on radon—transcribing tapes and preapring to do a phone interview in an half-an-hour—for a real estate magazine; writing short pieces on a local gallery, a skincare company, and a business that produces a range of specialty food items made from quince for a second publication and a business spotlight on a Rutland dentist for a third. That is my day job.

I also have several overdue blog posts lined up: my pug Alfie has been sick and as part of the her new diet I embarked on an adventure in transforming her kibble into doggie biscuits; I spent a day visiting the multitude of pugs at my friend Joan’s in which one dog was lost then found, another stray discovered on the roadside and my Mom rushed to the ER. These are all posts that have been churning around in my mind like laundry in a washing machine, but I’m wondering how many will make it to see the light of day and how many, like a stray sock, will be left hidden spinning away indefinitely. There are only so many hours in a day. And, under the surface, beneath the scenes, in my spare time I am working on a memoir about the influence of my friend Joan and her pugs on my life and a book of short stories with dog-related themes. I have actually started the dog stories and have a wealth of blog posts to craft into the memoir and continue to revisit these as often as I can. I can truly say I am working on both. In the back of my mind are several other ideas—a book of my photo collages, a children’s book on one of the more interesting pugs I’ve known, and a half-finished children’s book featuring Vader. Those are there stored in the back closet if we are to press on with the clothing metaphor.

Why Do I Write What I Do:

Hmm, this is an important one and an amorphous one. A question that actually needs to be addressed in the writing of the memoir at the very least. The articles? I write them because I need a paycheck and because I love to write. Therefore I take what they give me whether it is an article on toilets (yes, I’ve written that. Used to be when you googled me that was the first article that came up. It's entitled "Take the Plunge" if you want to look it up) or on radon. The constant advice to any writer? Write what you know and love and I love dogs and a lot of other people love theirs, too, so they show up in my stories and my blog posts as other interests—my photography, my art, my nieces and nephews, my struggles and dreams. To be honest, I think for most writers, writing, seeing the world in story, is how we understand it. So, whether it is fiction or memoir, we write what we are trying to understand, what interests us, what scares us. We write to discover what we know or want to know…When it comes to my friend Joan and her pugs her life intrigues me and my reaction to it does as well. I’m trying to discover what lies at the heart of that attraction so I’m writing my way to understanding.

How Does My Writing Process Work:

In my freelance work I’m the consummate professional. I’m great with deadlines. I get an assignment, I create a folder for it. I research online, I set up an interview and follow up interviews, I transcribe my tapes. I go to my office or the local café and I write the story. It sometimes goes to the interviewee for fact checking or directly to my editor and I'm done. My rewriting occurs as I go along. Typically, there is not much time for anything else.

My blog posts? On a good day they come pouring out of me or I take some quiet time and draft a quality post of which I’m proud. On most days, I try to type something in the wee hours of the morning after interiews and articles have been completed and classes taught. When I am lucky I get a picture up and a post written before I drag my weary body off to bed. Lately, bed has been winning. I am one of those writers who needs more time to think and feel before crafting a piece and time is in short supply. I’m working on it.

My stories? This is where time seriously becomes an issue. If I am going to craft a good short story, I need time. A few hours in which to cocoon myself somewhere usually with an ample supply of tea and food nearby and immerse myself in my craft. This is the same for article writing, by the way, forget pen and paper, tea and snacks are the must haves in my writing process! You can get lost in that creative cocoon and it is a wonderful place to be. I look forward to those moments even as I war against them. War against them? You heard me corrrectly. I recently read a book called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, which speaks about breaking through blocks and winning your inner creative battles. Art doesn’t have to be a struggle, but it often is and it seems when it comes time to write I’m not the only creative person who finds every means imaginable to procrastinate. It’s why I recommend to my students joinging a class or writing group. Deadlines help. It is good to be accountable. That said I think some self-imposed deadlines are in order to get my short story writing off the ground again. I just wish those stray dogs and emergencies would hold off for awhile This  brings me to another lesson—it is important as a writer to not only be disciplined, but to be forgiving of oneself. We are only human.

Finally, don't forget to laugh! There are volumes written on the frustrations of writing, the writing process, writer's block. My best advice to writers, don't take yourself too seriously. Part of being forgiving, is to have a sense of humor. It's okay to miss a blog post or get a poor critique, you can get it "write" tomorrow. (Bad puns are allowed as well.) Part of my writing process involves stopping to smile. Sometimes that means leaving the computer behind and getting out to play and sometimes it means filling my office with wee amusements such as my new solar Pope featured above. Struggling with a sentence? I just look up from my work and see the Pope offering his "sunny" blessing. I smile and all seems right with the world.

So now that you’ve heard what I have to share, tune in next week to the blogs of the three writers I have rcommended to see what you can learn from them.

Meet Gretchin Gifford, Your Mom Is Strange:


Gretchin at the Bottom of the Heap (photo by me, btw)

Okay, I have to admit a partiality here because Gretchin Gifford is my sister-in-law, mother to the most wonderful girl on the planet, my niece Ellie, and yes, she is indeed strange, but in a good way, she can tell you all about it on her blog Your Mom is Strange in which she writes about the newfound joys and challenges of motherhood and the strange, wonderful comedy that is life! Her writing keeps getting better and shoot, I admit it, I’m a wee bit jealous. How can she be raising this beautiful, precocious two-year-old and still find time to write and write well? Damn you Gretchin! Seriously though, do check her out. I think you may just love her as much as I do!

Meet Rachel Barlow, Picking My Battles:

One of Rachel's drawings

Rachel makes blogging and drawing and writing look easy, although I bet she wouldn’t think so. Rachel and I met as fellow writers in Jon Katz’s Hubbard Hall Writers’ Group and Rachel has just soared since then launching her wonderfully creative blog, Picking My Battles and a host of other endeavors from writing short stories and selling the online as ebooks to her forthcoming ebook of drawings entitled It’s a Sketchy Life. I love Rachel’s drawings and animations and her keen observations on mothering and daily life. Her blog is a small gem whether she’d admit it or not.

Meet Cathy Armato of Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them:

An image of Cathy from Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

Cathy Armato is a new friend. I met her at in Las Vegas at the airport. We had both just arrived to attend Blogpaws, a conference for pet bloggers. I was drawn to Cathy’s warm personality and kind smile and found that we had much in common when I frequently found us gravitating toward the same places at the conference. I am just getting acquainted with her blog Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them, which seems to be filled with a wealth of information!

Writing Prompt: Take a moment and share your writing process? What gets your writing started? What are you working on and why do you write what you do? Feel free to comment and share on my blog!