inspiration

Cracked Vessels – Pursuing Kintsugi Art in my Life

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Can you find any imperfections in this Japanese plate?

 

How about now?

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The Japanese art known as Kintsugi, or Kintsukuroi (meaning “golden repair”), according to Wikipedia,  is “the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum…. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.”

 

Wow! My husband, Mark, recently shared this tidbit with me after reading a daily devotional. We talked about how, in our society, we want to ignore or disguise our imperfections. Lately, I’ve taken a closer look at my spiritual, emotional and physical states. I’ve also taken a closer look at my work as an author. I see areas where I’m chipped or cracked – pieces are broken off that I want repaired.

 

These images of Kintsugi art serve as a reminder that I’m far from perfect in any area. Rather than run from or cover up inadequacies, I want to embrace them and look for the gold in their repair. I recently had an editor review my work in progress. Her feedback showed that I needed to totally restructure the entire novel. Ouch.

 

In my spiritual life, I recently saw that I needed to ask forgiveness from a few families members. Another “ouch”. I want to pursue all of my life’s avenues with passion, embrace the cracks, and seek healing. I can’t do it on my own. For me, this is where my motivation and strength come from to pursue Kintsugi art in my life and in my writing:

 

“But we have this treasure in earthen (cracked!) vessels, that the excellency of the power (the gold) may be of God, and not of us” (2Corinthians 4:7, AKJV).

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Story Structure – The Virgin’s Archetypal Journey

I recent posted about a Webinar I attended that focused on story structure. The presenter, Beth Barany, has graciously provided a link to the Webinar that also included helpful slides. I highly recommend you take time to view it.

nail down.jpegI’ve recently struggled to nail down the proper structure for my current work in progress. After the Webinar, however, I resonated with a form Beth called “The Virgin’s Archetypal Journey”. Several of the structure categories Beth discussed were ones I’d never heard of before, including this one. Beth emphasized that the word “virgin” in this structure’s title doesn’t refer to a lack of sexual encounters. Rather, it describes a main character who experiences an internal change because he confronts the story’s conflicts and obstacles. These challenges cause the protagonist to discover a dormant, unproven potential that lies within. As the main character acts on this discovery, it changes not only the protagonist, but also the world  he inhabits. This structure differs from the Hero’s Journey where the central figure overcomes obstacles that lead to an inner change, resulting in the hero selflessly saving the community.

The differences between these two structures illuminated the darkness of my writer’s block as I realized that I was trying to make my protagonist a hero, when in reality, he was a virgin!

Beth outlined and described a list of thirteen beats that formulate the world of a character whose storyline fits the virgin’s archetypal structure. The originator of the Virgin’s Archetypal Structure, Kim Hudson, explains her understanding of this construct in an article titled,  “The Virgin’s Promise, a New Archetypal Structure“. I’m still trying to digest all of this new information and would love to hear your take on it!

Categories: authors, books, historical middle grade fiction, inspiration, links, Story Structure, Structure, The Virgin's Archetypal Journey | Leave a comment

How to Choose Your Story’s Structure

rolling up sleeves right.pngNow that I’ve agreed to value lessons more than successes, I’m rolling up my sleeves to make major revisions on my current work in progress. I participated in a Webinar last night titled “How to Choose Your Story’s Structure” (recommended by my writing coach).  The presentation opened up a whole new area of thought for me regarding “structure”.

Hopefully I’ll devote subsequent posts to topics covered in the Webinar, (you can email Beth Barany to ask if she’ll repeat this Webinar in the future) but I’m going to focus first on material Beth referenced from a book titled The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne.

recumbent bike left.jpgToday I watched the first of five (free) YouTube videos regarding Coyne’s Story Grid. They were easy to watch while I huffed away on my exercise bike for eight minutes. (No judging here – I’m slowly building up my stamina!). The material filled in knowledge gaps that I realize will make my WIP stronger. I just ordered Coyne’s book and will read that in conjunction with watching the videos.

One of Coyne’s major points that hit me over the head is the idea of creating “obligatory scenes”. This concept proposes that different genre readers have specific scenes they look for when reading a particular genre. If these scene types are not included, the reader will feel disappointed and probably not read more of your work (or may put the book down before finishing}! I never heard the idea  of “obligatory scenes” before. I asked Beth during the Webinar if Coyne covered obligatory scenes for historical fiction, and she did not think so since historical fiction can include either romance, adventure, mystery, or other specific genres. I believe historical fiction, despite its inclusion of some of these other genres, DOES have some specific elements of its own. I’m looking to discuss this further with other historical fiction writers. Any takers?

Categories: authors, books, inspiration, obligatory scenes, Story Structure, Structure | 8 Comments

Why I Write – Reason #1

fal bed.jpgWhy I Write – Reason #1: So I don’t fall out of bed at night.
At least, that’s my working theory. You see, this month I haven’t had time to write. My mom, who has lived with us for the past three years, has dementia that advanced to the point where we needed to find her a place to live where she could receive professional care. Getting this in place absorbed all my time and energy this month.

As a result, my story brain went into overload. The other night I struggled to free myself from gunmen (in a dream), but discovered my feet bound with a belt. I cut my bonds with a knife, but my legs still wouldn’t move. I had to will my body to roll over to avoid getting shot by my pursuers. The next thing I knew I was on the floor next to our bed with my husband looking down on me, asking if I was okay.

So if I don’t return your call or email right away in the next few weeks, it’s because I’m busy writing so that I won’t fall out of bed at night.

 

 

 

Categories: authors, books, inspiration | 4 Comments

Honestly Speaking

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Author and blogger Cristian Mihai wrote in a recent blog, “I’m an ardent believer in the fact that all great writing comes from a place of truth, from a place well hidden inside our soul. I believe that those elements that are based on our own experiences, faults, and beliefs give substance to a story.”

Those words hit home. In my historical fiction novel The Bronze Dagger, my 12-year-old protagonist, Samsuluna (Sam) is asked by his mentor, a Babylonian healer:

“What do we always take with us when we visit the sick?”

Sam wiped his cheeks with the back of his hands and sniffled. “Our pouches with our medicines and tools,” he replied.

“And do we always have what we need?”

“Most of the time,” Sam responded, and then sniffed again. “But not always.”

Balashi pursed his lips. “Most of the time, parents carry a pouch that gives them the tools they need to take care of their children, to love them, provide for them, protect them. Your father didn’t have any of those tools in his pouch.”

Sam imagined his father carrying a pouch like the one Balashi carried when he visited the sick. In his mind, he opened his father’s pouch. He saw nothing inside. Empty. Sam began to tremble. He looked up into the stars. “Maybe if I had been a better son.” Hot tears spilled out onto his cheeks. “Maybe if I hadn’t cried so much as a baby he wouldn’t have thrown me across the room and I wouldn’t have this limp. Maybe.”

Balashi also looked up into the sky. “No, Sam,” he interrupted. “As I said before, children shouldn’t have to earn their parents’ love. Love should already be in a parent’s pouch. Parents must teach their children right and wrong; but providing for, loving, and protecting your children should be unconditional.”

I added the above section on my third draft of the manuscript – when I began to make more honest connections with my main character. I experienced abuse as a child. In the process of learning to forgive, I realized that my parents didn’t have all the tools in their pouch they needed to provide a protective home. When I connected with that honest truth, it enabled me to give more substance to my story.

Mihai also writes, “Readers read fiction knowing it’s just make believe, but they also know that every story holds a bit of truth, a bit of the artist.” We must write from a place of honesty and truth, even (and especially) in fiction. Only then can we really honestly connect.
– Marie Sontag, PhD
www.mariesontag.com

Categories: books, inspiration, quotes | Leave a comment

Ballpoint Pen to Deodorant

rollonWhat do ballpoint pens and roll-on deodorant have in common? Would you believe one inspired the other? The amateur inventor of  roll-on deodorant saw how the newly-invented (1940’s) Biro pen delivered an even flow of ink, and adapted the idea to create an even flow of liquid deodorant. The ball deodorant went on to revolutionize its industry, even though the genesis of the idea came from a completely different sector.

Pablo Picasso is often quoted as saying, “Bad artists copy, good artists steal.” A bad artist sees another artist’s style and then tries to emulate it. A good artist selects elements from another artist’s work and incorporates it into his own unique mix of influences. Apple, Google and George Lucas each developed innovative modern-day products: the iPad, an amazing search engine, Star Wars. Yet each of these creative ideas was developed from other sources that, imaginatively combined, created something uniquely different.

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I’ve shared how my idea for The Bronze Dagger came from visiting an antiquities shop that sold ancient coins, jewelry and, what became my muse, an ancient Luristan bronze dagger. What’s your muse?

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Inspiration

Inspiration

Inspiration: the word “inspiration” comes from the Latin word inspīrāre, which means to breathe upon or into: in + to breathe  (in spīrāre) . It also means “to fill with an animating, quickening, or exalting influence.” The original idea was that something outside of a person affected them in such a way that it left them somehow changed. That’s what I want to do with my writing, especially for kids. I want to influence them in a positive way that somehow leaves them changed.

I can’t do that, however, unless something also breathes into me. For The Bronze Dagger, the animating idea for the book came when I saw a dagger that looked almost exactly like the one I’m holding in this picture. I wanted to help students get more interested in the time period of Ancient Babylonia. I saw the dagger in an antiquities store and began to wonder what things the dagger had seen back in 1800 BC. Even now, just holding this bronze dagger from the time period and geographic location of Ancient Mesopotamia still inspires me!

 

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I make Children's Books

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"Nothing happens unless first a dream." Carl Sandburg

Cathleen Armstrong

"Nothing happens unless first a dream." Carl Sandburg

A Writer's Diary

Author, Educator, Consultant

Blissful Scribbles

Musings through the journey of writing my first novel

ACFW - DFW CHAPTER a.k.a. DFW Ready Writers

"Nothing happens unless first a dream." Carl Sandburg

ACFW SFBayArea

Northern California Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers

Letters to Noah

Spoken words are fleeting, but written words last beyond a lifetime.

Sontag Writing Dreams

"Nothing happens unless first a dream." Carl Sandburg

marsha ottum owen

I make Children's Books

Under His Wings

"Nothing happens unless first a dream." Carl Sandburg

Cathleen Armstrong

"Nothing happens unless first a dream." Carl Sandburg

A Writer's Diary

Author, Educator, Consultant