Thursday, March 27, 2014

Writing Jump Start for Your Wild Imagination #1

Here is a Wild Imagination Jump-Start to get a story, novel, poem, drawing going!

We had a Unicorn Scare in our neighborhood last night. 

Now JUMP! 
And remember, where you land is not important. Living in the Leap does.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

730 BELLS: Follow Intimations of Enchantment and THRIVE

Last week, I discovered a new way to listen for the bells. By allowing myself to pay attention to three things that converged, I felt suddenly awake and alive—at a very unexpected time and place: THRIVE , a 7:30 AM fund-raising event for the Woodland Park Zoo in a hotel ballroom.

The first thing I saw: Hundreds of people sat in circles at round tables, me among them, listening to bear biologist Chris Morgan talk about preserving wild species. The second thing I saw: Four screens flashed huge photos of bears, tigers, cougars, and other wild creatures around the room. The third thing: the ballroom lights—black nets studded with sparkling lights, like  rhinestone-studded net veils on vintage hats. Those lights enchanted me. I couldn't look away. This is rude, I thought. Pay attention to the speaker, don’t stare at the ceiling. But I’ve learned to follow intimations of enchantment. 

These three things—circles of people, huge photos of wild creatures, and sparkling nets of light—converged inside me. My mind imploded inward and yet expanded outward, and the bells began to ring as I saw a bigger picture.

Once, nets trapped wild animals, caging their power and beauty. Not here. Suddenly it seemed as though the sparkling nets above the ballroom were emanating from the circles of people below. Up the sparkling nets rose, and up, shining shields of protection. THRIVE was our chance to become sparkling guardians for the tiger, the bear, for all of the wild that remains. Circles upon circles of people had joined together to do the saving, to keep the wild from blinking out, least one day the nets fall over us and forever cut us off from power and beauty we can never replace.

How far we have come. How far we have to go.

Pay attention to what enchants you, 
and the bells will ring

My thanks to my friend, author Justina Chen, for inviting me to the Zoo event, and to Lorna Chin for hosting a table.

7:30 BELLS  Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on April 8 for a guest post with award-winning author Janet Lee Carey, author of Dragonswood.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

7:30 BELLS: Glory Crowns the Unsanctioned Life

As I walked along a bluff overlooking Puget Sound, the growth pattern on this haloed fir sent me a gifta sudden insight into my life. In its early years, the tree’s lower branches grew rigid and regular—in the usual pattern of well-ordered trees. 

Look higher. In later years, the tree burst into life at its crown. How thick and verdant the branches grew—pushing up toward the light, leaning out toward the wind as though to shout . . .

At last!
I don’t care!
This is me!

Here I am!

. . . to the water, to the world, to all the other straight and proper trees.

No longer will I lace my branches into a corset. 

No longer dole my sap in sanctioned drips, but spill over and up—my stickiness, my pitch a glorification. 
I will grow as I will—in the roar of light from the throat of life. 
I will burst forth unsanctioned. 
I am the wild-hearted, unbridled creative life—the wayward ringing of the bells.

Looking at the tree, I saw my truth. This is who I have at last become. The tree crowned with the knowledge that living is all that matters.

Watch for the world to reveal your truth

7:30 BELLS  Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on April 8 for a guest post with award-winning author Janet Lee Carey, author of Dragonswood.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

7:30 BELLS Guest Post: Revival by author Frances O'Roark Dowell

An enchanting 7:30 BELLS Guest Post is by the perceptive and evocative Frances O'Roark Dowell, author of award-winning novels for middle grade readers.

On those occasions when my spirit needs reviving, I like to go out and look at art.

On Friday I went to Duke’s Nasher Museum, five minutes down the road from my house, to see the paintings of Archibald Motley. Most of the paintings on exhibit were from his time spent in the bars and clubs of southside Chicago in the 1930s and ‘40s, the Bronzeville many of us know from the poems of Gwendolyn Brooks.

Motley’s palette is electric, pulsing reds and blues, and ecstatic faces and serpentine bodies crowd his canvases. These are characters that will not be spending Sunday morning in church because they’re spending Saturday night at the Sunset CafĂ©.

They are looking for ways to celebrate after a great migration and a long week of work, and their faces say, I have wiped the dust of Birmingham/Greenville/Little Rock/Macon off my feet, and now I’m going to drink and dance all night.

The paintings, like the people in them, practically leap from the walls. The vibrant blues that Motley employs vibrate on the canvas. I like how noisy the paintings are, how you can almost hear the trumpets and trombones. 

To witness someone else’s imagination at work feeds my own imagination. To receive stories without words (sometimes my mind is too weary for words) ignites the storyteller in me. What happens next, I wonder as I gaze upon a crowd of Motley’s people pushing past each other on the street? The woman in the blue dress, what’s going on with her? What’s her apartment like? What did she leave behind when she shut the door on Fayetteville or Baton Rouge?

I am fed by the images and fed by being in the presence of creative genius. “Look at this!” Archibald Motley calls to me from across the room. “It’s important! It means something!”

Look at this, I remind myself as I walk to my car, the bells ringing. Look at that. Look at all of it.

And arrive home revived.

Great works of imagination
make the bells ring

Archibald Motley video documentary

Frances O’Roark Dowell is the bestselling author of over a dozen books for young readers, including Dovey Coe (winner of a 2001 Edgar Award and the William Allen White Award); Where I’d Like to Be; The Secret Language of Girls, Chicken Boy (an ALA Notable Book and an NCTE Notable Book), Shooting the Moon (winner of the Christopher Award and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award honor book), The Second Life of Abigail Walker, which was named a 2012 PW Best Book of the Year, and most recently, The Sound of Your Voice, Only Really Far Away, a Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books 2013 Blue Ribbon Book. She lives in Durham, NC, with her husband, two sons, and their dog.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me in April for a guest post with author Janet Lee Carey, author of Dragonswood. 

Regular 7:30 BELLS Posts run every first, third, and fourth Tuesdays.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

7:30 BELLS: Paradoxical Bells--Bells in the Great Silences

This was a hard week to “be a bell” as my good friend, YA author Justina Chen, coined it. The-Never-Ending-Virus exploded into a sinus infection and pneumonia threat. Even so, I kept my ears tuned for bells. But by Sunday night, still covered in tissues on the couch, utterly bereft of ringing, I despaired of writing a 7:30 BELLS post for this week.

Then I began to laugh. Of course! The times when the bells don’t ring, tell their own tale. And this tale, too, is about being alive.

Sometimes being alive means hibernating in the quiet of the bell tower keep. Sometimes being alive means rest and restoration. Sometimes being alive means embracing the silence between rings—the rest at the end of a musical phrase, the caesura of the poem. Such silences are about being alive, too. 

In my twenties, I read a quote by Joseph Campbell that puzzled me greatly. “The warrior’s approach is to say ‘yes’ to life: ‘yea’ to it all.” I have grown up enough to understand this. For the bells ring, do they not, for glad celebrations, for divine occasions, for death, for catastrophe, for the New Year. The bells ring for “it all.” All of life. 

Yes, I know this is paradoxical: There are silences between bell rings. And those silences are the bell ringing. Both statements are true.

And so this week, I haven't been utterly bereft of ringing after all. So send me good wishes. Think of me--quiet in the keep, learning to hear bells ring in the great silences.

Even in the great silences, 
bells are ringing.

7:30 BELLS is posted every Tuesday at 10:30 AM PST.
7:30 BELLS Guest Posts are posted on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on March 11 for a guest post by author Frances O'Roark Dowell.