Friday, September 27, 2013

Thanks for Your Votes!

Voting results are in now for the Get Me Back to My Writing Desk Survey!

THANK YOU! A huge thank you to everyone who participated by reading and voting. Your vote helps nurture the feeling there are projects to work on and that creativity does matter, a feeling well-needed after a difficult year.Thank you for responding with curiosity, smarts, compassion and humor.

(click here to review the blurbs)
1 Chloe - 4 votes
2 Harry2 votes
3 Glory - 4 votes
4 Anne - 4 votes
5 JP - 5 votes
6 Ellie - 0 votes
7 Meg - 1 vote
8 Maddy - 0 votes
9 Julie - 1 votes
10 Paul's Mother - 3 votes
11 Jack - 0 votes
12 Diana - 4 votes
13 Ivy - 2 votes
14 Hattie - 2 votes

And the winner is:  Option #5 - John Paul (JP)
When I saw the groom with a black eye and the bride with an 8-month belly draped in lavender sequins and carrying the head of an alligator costume, I knew this was going to be my kind of wedding.
The winner, oddly enough, is one of the most recent starts I've created, and the one that I have the least amount of information on in my own head so far.  So thank you for choosing the character that is a fresh exploration, and one where my sometimes acerbic humor is likely to find expression. While I do have a few pages on this story, I suspect that I'll be taking it in a different direction than those pages currently detail. 

Chloe, Glory, Anne and Diana tied for second - and so what is next on the agenda could be more complicated question (and not one that currently needs to be addressed).  It was encouraging to see that all but three blurbs got at least one vote, that there was some kernel of interest be activated. Most who voted voted for several stories.  

Jack and Meg, who between them only collected 1 vote, are the two oldest stories floating around (the two that got me into graduate school, although I never considered them finished so much as abandoned).  I am relieved to have excuse to let them gently rest permanently. While I'm fond the characters - characters are children in a way, and I have fondness even of the less appealing ones - Jack and Meg have somewhat worn-out situations and making those interesting would have been an arduous challenge for rusty writing skills. Maddy and Ellie, the other zero votes, were both part of multiple point of view exercises, and were, in each case, the least strong voices in the exercise in my mind - and apparently the voting audience's as well.

Voting on creative elements doesn't live in a vacuum, of course, and I learned a little bit about folks' reading tastes - those that opt for humor and romance (including G's entertaining comments on those that sounded "porny" on FB) while others preferred a darker or more reflective tone.  Several people were irritated by the use of present tense, so stylistic elements clearly were in play even in such small snippets.

It's worth noting that I don't intend to write the Great American Novel. I'm not looking to alter the course of history and create a new world philosophy.  Rather, I intend to tell a story and let some characters explore. Obviously, I've got my own set of themes and tics that tend to reappear in one form or another, which I suspect most readers have already intuited in this blog well before the fictional parade of characters marched by.

Thanks again for reading.

Story Prompt: What if a door-to-door salesman
was a 2-foot tall white bird? 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

New Abstract: Geometric Rain

A relaxing day playing with a new abstract.

Current title is Geometric Rain, but that (and the painting) may change - as usual, I'm not sure if it's done yet.

I am sure it was a fun way to spend the day.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Voting Now Open: Choose the Story to Be Finished

Long, long ago, I went to graduate school, and while there and sporadically afterwards, I started stories.  I have the first draft of, well, a lot of stories, and the final draft of none. 

In sorting through story snippets, I get overwhelmed by which one has any intrinsic interest, and end up running away from all of them.  

So I'm asking for a vote.  For those brave souls that can face it, read through the first paragraph of the following possibilities,and vote for the paragraph that would most inspire you to read a second paragraph. Whichever one gets the most votes (possibly any, given the tininess of Artful Mistakes' readership and odds of actual participation) will merit a fresh literary attack. Any other comments also welcome.  

Vote early, vote often!

Option #1 - Chloe
When Chloe pulled the car off to the shoulder of the road, and she could see the man’s face more clearly, she started having second thoughts.  From seventy miles per hour, he appeared as a scrawny teenager.  But as he grew ever closer to her, he looked like an ex-addict, ex-con, current axe-murderer in his early thirties, all sharp elbows clanking around a skeletal frame, tangled black hair too long to be tame and too short to be pulled back, and skin tanned and weathered from long hours outside burying the bodies. Tall and lanky, the muscles in his arms weren't bulging biceps but sinewy lean, taunt under his faded lime green t-shirt.

Option #2 - Harry
Harry wakes with a start, swatting and missing the fly that has landed on his stomach.  Blinking widely a few times, he leans forward in his beach chair and stares blankly out at the ocean, neither seeing the sunset sky nor hearing the rushes of wind and tide.  At the tip of his memory are the remains of his dream, something about playing as a child in a hotel pool he visited with his mother at his cousin Deanna’s wedding.  In real life, Deanna has been dead for ten years, besides which, she never married, but in the dream, her invented daughter was splashing in the shallow end of the pool.  He kept tossing beach balls at the daughter, but they never landed close enough to her to float into her tiny grasp.  As he sits by the ocean, he instead smells chlorine and cement and the floral candy scent of his mother’s hand lotion.  He hadn't thought about Deanna in years.  They had never been close.  She died in a car accident when she was 51.  Harry blinks again, closing his eyes, trying to shake her death and his mother’s smell loose from his mind. He breathes in the salt air.  Deanna was awfully young to die.  But at least she didn't have to grow old alone.  And she would have been alone. She was ugly as an old wooden shoe as a grown woman.

Option #3 - Glory
Her second husband, Robert, was a boob man, obsessed with the glories of mammary glands, and convinced of his own expertise in detecting the real from saline.  He claimed he could tell saline from silicon as long he could “give them lovely lasses a wee squeeze.”  When he drank, he turned into an Irish caricature.  However, when sober, his Tennessee accent gave Glory a weak feeling near her jawline, a loosening of skin and tension that for some time allowed her to ignore what he actually said and focus solely on the smooth waves of tone.

Option #4 - Anne
Each time I move, the first piece of mail I receive is from the Academy.  With their endowment, they can afford to send an endless stream of postcards and announcements.  Despite the fact that I never give them my new address, they are diligent there in Alumni Relations, and always manage to update my file.  Why, I’m not sure, as my lifetime contribution totals fifty cents.  I sent that one check the year after I withdrew, just so they would know it wasn't just an oversight, an accident, that it’s not that I was too busy or too broke (although those were true too).  But I do always read the Class Notes in the magazine, about the awards and the weddings and children, the charity work and the trips to lush islands, the art openings and the advanced degrees.  I can picture faces, some fondly, all now over twenty years past.  But I've learned to stop memory from going beyond those high school years with those people.  For a while, it seemed fate pushed connections upon me, the way Tim turned up in the most unlikely of places, the years Lorna and I talked over our history, the way my mother still dropped the prestigious school name at the Garden Club, the way the magazine always managed to find me.  But fate had nothing to do with it.  Some signs are misleading. Some signs point to places you can never go.

Option #5 - John Paul (JP)
When I saw the groom with a black eye and the bride with an 8-month belly draped in lavender sequins and carrying the head of an alligator costume, I knew this was going to be my kind of wedding.

Option #6 - Ellie
Ellie walks in a broad circle around the old man, surreptitiously noting the even rise and fall of his chest under the terrycloth robe.  For the last hour, she has been sitting on the beach several yards behind him with her sweatshirt tucked under her as a makeshift beach blanket.  She wiggled her lilac-painted toenails in the sand while writing in the spiral notebook that serves as her journal.  The ink of the pen scraped and caught on the paper as she poured out her words, writing the note she now carries, folded in triangular eighths, in her left hand.

Option #7 - Meg
Hiding from Gary in the women's restroom at Miami International Airport, I stare at my face in the mirror and stick out my tongue.  My sunburn glows a stunning skin-stretching, two-days-tourist red, closely matching the shade of my outstretched tongue.  Against the stainless steel of sinks and stalls and mirrors around me, I am like a canned tomato – pulsing with red juices, trapped among metal. The remains of mascara settle into tiny wrinkles under my eyes, tracing maps to new territories of age. I wonder if I’ll still stick out my tongue when I’m 40.  Turning 30 ten months ago obviously didn’t stop it. My immortality evaporated in a poof of smoke, but there’s my tongue, still lolling in the air, stained red by a cherry-flavored Tootsie Pop.

Option #8 - Maddy
Maddy's father never hired that tree company again, although perhaps that was because there were so few trees left in the backyard by then that he could trim the remaining bedraggled twigs himself.  After the big elm came down, killed by a neighborhood resurgence of Dutch Elm disease, the backyard hosted only small squat trees, angry trolls.  Still, for months afterward, Maddy found herself looking for the Collins Brothers Tree Care white van around the neighborhood, began noting the few remaining infected elms to see if Tim and Mitch Collins would be tending them.  She never saw them though.  Shortly after they dragged away the stump of the elm, she heard her father complaining at a barbecue, and she wondered if he’d put a word-of-mouth hex on the Collins’ business.  Or maybe the elms took them elsewhere.  There was no way of knowing.  Ten years later, she looked for Collins Brothers in the telephone book under Gardeners, Trees, Trimming, everything she could think of, but they were gone by then.  Maybe they were long gone; she would never know.

Option #9 - Julie
Sitting at the hotel bar of the Westin in Minneapolis, Julie pointed her camera up at the sweeping shadows formed by lighting fixtures in the cavernous ceiling above, then swiveled her view down to zoom in on Steve's left eye, green, bloodshot, observing her.  She did not hit the shutter button, but moved the camera away from the hand rising up to block the shot.

Option #10 - Paul's Mother
Given that the incident occurred off the grounds of the school, Paul’s mother felt sure they couldn't very well suspend her son. She had already talked that nincompoop sheriff Earl Wiggins out of an arson charge – twelve year olds couldn't very well be held accountable for acting out a Wile E. Coyote cartoon. It wasn't as if Paul and Jack intended to burn down Morgan’s garage. Still, George Templeton, Dean of Students, known as Curious George by his students, could make things unpleasant for Paul. Templeton had been curt with her on the phone, requiring a meeting rather than being sensible and letting the whole silly fire cool down and blow away like the ashes of Morgan’s decrepit old shed. Templeton had an unreasonable streak – she saw that now.

Option #11 - Jack
Jack pushes open the glass door of Jay’s Liquor Warehouse and then hurries to pull it closed behind him. The frigid air that followed him inside swirls and dissolves into the comfort of indoors.  He breathes in the musty smell of wood crates, stale wine, and the ammonia used to clean the floors and smiles at the familiar odor with the warmth he’d greet an old friend.  In his top dresser drawer at home -- along with a frayed leather wallet, spare change, the toothpick holder his daughter gave him when he quit smoking, a ticket stub from the Uptown and his great grandfather’s pocket watch -- seven AA year medallions rattle each time he opens the drawer to get a fresh pair of socks.  If he walks out of Jay’s right now, he can claim his eighth medallion on April 3rd.

Option #12 - Diana
In German, the moon is male and the sun is female, or so Carlos tells me.  Carlos could tell me the sun implodes every evening and leaves a plate-like flat disc known as the moon as a placeholder until the sun regenerates like a phoenix -- and I would believe him.  Or rather, I would continue to stand there, doe-eyed, lapping up the rumbling cadence of his voice and noting the length of the lashes around his dark eyes.  Lust makes me stupid.

Option #13 - Ivy
Ivy sat on the edge of the four-poster bed, an antique reproduction blown up to king size splendor, and idly swung her feet in an uneven rhythm, bouncing them off the well-padded mattress.  She surveyed the room carefully, checking for any last minute details she might have overlooked.  She worried that somehow the inanimate objects in the room were absorbing her intentions, and would betray her in the end, yielding the truth to the first person that asked.

Option #14 - Hattie
I did not go to my mother’s house, my childhood home on a quiet suburban street in Maryland, with the intention of stealing her most prized possession.  When I went to see Mom, I intended to do what I also did: store the rest of my belongings, boxed once again, in the cellar, next to the furnace and the archaeological remains of my and my brothers’ childhood -- old toys and drawings, seashells from beach trips, pine cones from the backyard, malformed art projects of clay and Popsicle sticks, a plastic ukulele with one string.

Completely unrelated photo of raccoons at the beach.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Back to the Easel

Real Life

Still Life
I am back in painting class...and, alas, repeating my usual weirdness, with unclear light sources and an inability to draw, which translates to lumpy, bumpy shapes and questionable perspectives. That strange yellow lump is supposed to be a wilted flower.

Still. Even if the effort doesn't produce the desired results, it is, at least, evidence of effort. And that counts. And if the colors are odd, they are somehow a reflection of the breadth of colors that live within grasp of my vision, and that too is appealing.  The shapes, the technique, all of it, won't come without the steps toward exploration. And a lot more time standing in front of my easel.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Corey Ave Car Show

The round headlights make
 it look so friendly.  
The great thing about being back in a city is that you can randomly run into events.

Flamingo riding shotgun.  
Last weekend, I happened into the Corey Ave Car Show at the end of the street, and so got to peek into the engines and backseats of some truly lovely vehicles parked over several blocks.

Awards were handed out to cheers, but I didn't stay for all the festivities. Florida heat is still in high great, and so I retreated home to bask in the joys of air conditioning.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Zen of Glass

Glass sculpture outside the
Chiluly Collection, downtown
St Petersburg
St Petersburg is a glass town.  Notably, the Chiluly Collection is on display downtown. I've yet to make it there during appropriate hours, which is ridiculous given how enticing the sculpture outside is, but it is on my list of museums to check out.
Working with torch

Because St. Petersburg has a thriving creative community, I have, however, managed to see two glassblowing demonstrations in the past month.

The first was on the day I signed up for a painting class at the Morean Arts Center. Conveniently, their glass studio hot shop next door had a demo starting moments later, so I zipped over to watch David Spurgeon create a vase.
High heat work.

The second demo was last Saturday night, at Zen Glass Studio. Having checked out the downtown portion of Second Saturday last month, I wandered over to the warehouse district this time, over on 27th Street South. Zen Glass had the doors wide open to dissipate some of the heat and invite wandering folks like me in to see glass work in action.

As in the first demo, there was some handing off of the project back and forth as the piece was shaped, reformed, added to, cooled, reheated, and throughout, continuously twirled of the metal tube to keep it symmetrical. It is something akin to dancing watching people move through the studio (if dancer involved a lot more fire).

I spoke briefly with one of the founders of Zen Glass, Joshua Boll, who reported that he has been working with glass for 17 years (to which, in my head, I was thinking, so they handed you a torch when you were 5 years old?  Presumably, however, he is older than he looks), and clearly remains enthusiastic and enamored with the possibilities of glass.

I put my name in the jar for the free class drawing, so I'm waiting by the phone for the call to tell me I'm the big winner.

"What are you looking at?" look from glassblower.
(Answer: flame & glass)