Posts Tagged ‘blog’

The Post – Dinosaur Portraiture Methods

February 17, 2011

A neat video clip of an artist’s creation journey in bringing dinosaurs to life. James Gurney, of Dinotopia fame, speaks about creating the mud trap painting for Scientific American.

The article Gurney did the painting for was about the discovery of a group of small dinosaurs who died together trapped in mud. The article about the discovery, done by Paul C. Sereno, can be read at: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=dinosaur-death-trap

If you want to read more about/by James Gurney on his work, check out his blog, Gurney Journey , and specifically, his post on this topic: http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/2011/02/mud-trap.html

And last of all, Scientific American had a small article on his work to create this painting: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=dinos-gurney-video

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The Post – Weird Marine Monsters

January 6, 2011

I found a neat blog that covers topics on the ocean, called Scuttlefish. The blog owner describes it as follows:

“The scuttlefish is a project by Brian Lam, celebrating the lovely, terrifying, powerful, mysterious, soothing, angry, calm, merciless, and awe inspiring sea. It has nothing much to do about technology.”

Even better, I was talking about the ocean census in yesterday’s blog entry, esp about how they counted things and the technology used. Well this gentleman covered the wonders that were some of the discoveries made in that census, and his post, The Census of Weird Marine Monsters by monkeyfist, has WONDERFUL pictures of just a few of the marine creatures found. If you want to see some of these close up, check out the article there.

The Post – 2010 in review

January 2, 2011

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is doing awesome!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 5,300 times in 2010. That’s about 13 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 3 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 320 posts. There was 1 picture uploaded, taking a total of 34kb.

The busiest day of the year was August 6th with 66 views. The most popular post that day was The Post – Extra! News on Preparing the Fiddler Crab Nursery.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were en.wordpress.com, google.com, search.aol.com, student-loan-consilidation.com, and mariaozawa2u.blogspot.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for pregnant crab, pregnant fiddler crab, fiddler crab babies, faith is believing when common sense tells you not to, and pregnant crabs.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

The Post – Extra! News on Preparing the Fiddler Crab Nursery February 2008
4 comments

2

The Post – Pregnant Scarlett O’Hara and the Proud Father February 2008
2 comments

3

The Post – Faith is Believing in Something When Common Sense Tells You Not To June 2008

4

The Post – How Long Do Fiddler Crabs Stay Pregnant? February 2008
1 comment

5

The Gift – A Fiddler Crab Extra!! Meet the Babies! March 2008
1 comment

The Gift – A Writer’s Extra

March 21, 2008

I came across a great blog, done by one of the local SCBWI-Carolinas (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) writers. It’s such an informative site with tons of information and instruction in writing. So my Good Friday Writer’s Extra Gift is:

Writermorphosis: The Process of Becoming a Writer

Her own description, along with recent activities:

“Writermorphosis, this is not a book review website. It’s a site by and for Children’s/YA writers, where we can learn tips and techniques from each other, and encourage each other in our writing.

So, during the month of February, and for a week or two in March, we are doing what may look like book reviews. We’re critiquing “from a writer’s perspective,” some of the 10 books that were short-listed for this year’s CYBILS Awards in the category of fantasy/science fiction. We’re looking for techniques that we can use in our own fiction writing.

Last week, we looked at two books from the CYBILS list that are good examples of how to weave two different stories or plot lines together into one book.

This week, for those interested in writing about history and culture, we’re looking at two books that would NOT be considered historical fiction. One is Sci-Fi. One is Fantasy. But both of these books clearly incorporate (and sneakily even teach) history to the kids and adult who read them.”

There are several other writing blogs I’ll be mentioning in the coming weeks, from fellow writers. Stay tuned.

The Post – A Sidetrip to Essays – But the Bus NEVER Came Up This Far on the Curb Before!

February 16, 2008

Before I start talking about the Under the Pier process, I need to address the one side that calls to me in a big way – essays. I’ve sold a couple already and I yearn to do more. While this blog is a collection of all the bits of me, perhaps the one area of my soul most fed, is the ability to “speak in essays.”

I have spent most of my time over the last 12 years calling myself a children’s writer, though I have noticed that a lot of my focus is geared toward adults. Is this a contradiction or betrayal of a certain writing path? I don’t think so. Perhaps Madeleine L’Engle handled it best. She used to hate it when she was referred to as a children’s writer, as if that was all she was or it was a special category considered “not quite a writer.” She insisted on being referred to as a writer and considered her children’s writing just one aspect of her career, though certainly not the easiest or least important. Her observation there was: “If I have something that is too difficult for adults to swallow, then I will write it in a book for children.”

So in the same vein, I am first drawn to writing for children as there is the very alive open child within me who wants to speak. However, like everything else in my life, I do not fit neatly into categories. The label “children’s” writer is not totally accurate because I find, I just write. Who it fits, I leave for the readers to determine.

As to my essays, they run the range – spiritual, humorous, nature-based, flippant. One current essay is a list I keep of irreverent things to put on my tombstone: “But it was HER fault, really!” “But I had the right of way!” or “But the bus NEVER came up this far on the curb before!” – the last one from a moment at Colonial Williamsburg where my husband and son expressed concern at how close to the bus stop curb I was standing. When I reassured them the bus never comes that far up, they offered to put that one on my tombstone. 🙂

I love to write essays because my right brain revels in being able to take a single quote or line of dialogue, a comic, photograph, painting or a life question, and just write. Something that starts in the specific and ends up at a universal truth. A journey where I start with the concrete and wander around always surprised where I end up, usually someplace emotional.

In a lot of respects, though I’ve started this blog in the midst of writing a novel for upper middle-grade/Young adult readers, a lot of it so far has been more essays, journaling, unearthing the soul of the writer, rather than a lot about the Children’s Writing business. That’s okay. I need to have that soul of the writer to do that novel. The reality is, that novel has been a journey to answers in life. Maybe in a way, novels are just one long essay because the characters in those fictions worlds still ask the same life questions we all do.

This blog is also my “raw material” that I can mine at will for whatever projects come along. It’s my toy box of thoughts that I can spin into something for adults or children. Truth, is truth.

My “internship of the essay craft” has involved continuing education classes at nearby Duke University, as well questions. Always, questions. They are the catalyst for life, for growth, for wisdom. At least to me, if I stop asking questions, I stop growing. I lose the path to peace

The internship has also included reading countless books. Fiction, philosophy, spirituality, nature guides, and of course, books on essay writing. One in particular is my favorite, and has been the most useful for seeing how to first collect, then transform life experiences. I recommend it highly:

Leaving a Trace: On Keeping a Journal – The Art of Transforming a Life into Stories, by Alexandra Johnson. She teaches memoir and creative nonfiction writing at Harvard and has been published extensively. The book is divided into three parts. It’s possible to only use one of the three at a particular time in life, or ever. The first is about having a journal – creating one, the various types, what raw material to collect; the second part is about transforming your life – finding the patterns and meaning in what you’ve collected; the third section is called “Crossover: Moving a Journal into a Creative Work.”

Whether you just collect raw material, mine it for meaning, or use it to create fiction and nonfiction works, the process changes you. Like that overly used cliched example of a rock thrown in a pond, change one thing and it touches places unseen. Even keeping a list of favorite phrases over a lifetime does something deep inside to your soul and alters your outlook on life.

So I am a writer for all ages. I love to write essays, whoever reads them. They are my journey to answers. They are the playground of the right brain, and the compost pile that fertilizes the rest of my works.

The Gift – a writer’s extra

February 9, 2008

I had the pleasure of talking with children’s author and illustrator, Kevin Scott Collier via email regarding blogs, life, kids, God. In the course of it I had a chance to visit his blog. His entries on being a father, losing a father, gaining an unexpected friend in a convalescent home, have real heart. There is also a link to a very rich homepage. There you can see the many many books he’s illustrated or written, along with the many authors he’s worked with, including his wife, Kristen Collier. To visit the home page, just click on the link at the top of his blog. Enjoy!

The Gift

February 6, 2008

An interesting interview with an agent:

Cynthia Leitich Smith, author of fiction for young readers and a faculty member at the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults offers an interview with agent Emily Van Beek of Pippin Properties on her blog:
<<http://cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com/2008/02/agent-interview-emily-van-beek-of.html>>

Some tidbits from the article to give a taste of the whole:

“At Pippin the bar is set high. We strive to live and work by the following philosophy:

–The world owes you nothing. You owe the world your best work. And this can be painful at times (especially when it means telling a writer that their work isn’t there yet, that a particular story isn’t ready for submission, that s/he needs to try again). Even the best of the best need to write and rewrite.”

In response to the question: What do you look for in a prospective client?

“We look for passion and dedication. We look for a writer who is willing to work really hard. Someone who can keep the goal in sight when we ask for the eighth revision. We are looking for ingenuity. We’re looking for voices that stay with us.”

The Post – Writing: Fear, Luck, or Burn the Ships?

February 5, 2008

I know I am lucky because I have a chance at a dream. I have the rare chance to write my books, my blog, do what I’ve dreamed of. There are moments though, where I’ve considered that a curse, not luck, and I suspect there are at least a few writers who share that. It’s scary.

It’s like the time my husband and I moved from CT where we were born and raised, to North Carolina, where we’ve lived now for 18 years. We’d decided we needed a different environment. Ours was killing us – between climate, work problems, cost of living, we needed a change. We checked out this “North Carolina place” and after some initial uncertainty, decided, “yes, that’s where we want to be.” It took us about a year before my husband found a job that was right. The offer even included relocation costs, something not as likely today. It was exactly what we’d dreamed of. But when the person in North Carolina called and said, “We want you for the position. If you want the job, it’s yours,” we froze.

In that moment, all the eagerness to get the job, make the move, obtain relief from the circumstances draining us and our marriage, evaporated. In that moment terror flooded both of us. The moment of truth – if you want it, it’s yours. Now came the real questions – DO we want it? CAN we do it? We thought we could, but up until that moment it was a dream, not reality. Could we really leave all we knew behind? Go to a place we’d spent one weekend in? It was the equivalent of choosing to jump off a cliff. We knew there would be no turning back if we did. Financially, it was stay or go. No changing your mind once you chose.

My husband and I looked at each other. The question hung in the air. “Well?” We recovered after a few moments, gritted our teeth and said, “It’s not getting any better here. I guess . . . we jump.” With that, we invested our whole souls to make that choice a success.

My writing dream has that same feel. Each day I watch others go off to jobs that maybe they love or hate, jobs they choose or need, and I sit here, with the opportunity to create my dream. All it takes is for me to say “yes” . . . and just do it. I feel the weight of the responsibility, and the wall of fear comes up.

Katherine Paterson spoke a bit about the fear: “With each new book we must dare failure, or worse: mediocrity.” There are the questions: What if I try for that dream and find out that what I wanted all my life, I can’t do? What if I fail? What if I try and nothing happens, or I try, and it’s downright terrible? And if it is, it will be a very open, very public failure. As Paterson also said, “Writers are very private people who run around naked in public.” No hiding the results once you put it out there.

All the years I worked at other jobs to pay the bills, take care of my son, whatever, and didn’t have the chance to try for the dream, it was easier in two ways. First, love or hate the job, I came home with a steady paycheck. No matter what, the mortgage got paid, groceries came home, the car was repaired. I had worth and value because I provided security. It came in a paycheck. Not only was my home life secure but my identity got validated as well. The paycheck gave that, too. If I wasn’t who I said I was, would they really pay me? Second, the weight of having to answer that offer from life – it’s yours if you want it – was lifted from my shoulders. Because it wasn’t an option, I didn’t have to answer. Because I didn’t have to answer, I didn’t have to find out whether I could do it or not and risk humiliation, even if that humiliation was only in my own mind. So I had financial security, value, identity, and I could escape the question I felt God was waiting for me to face.

There’s that truth that a dream is always perfect. The moment you try to pin it down in the real world, it never, ever measures up. I read an interview someone did with Billy Joel one time. He spoke of the songs he heard in his dreams, wondrous bits of heaven. Perfection. Then he woke up and tried to capture them. Now I consider him a tremendous singer and songwriter and a hell of a success, given the body of work he’s created. Yet he said that nothing he’s ever created measured up to what he heard in his dreams.

So if someone considered a success by the world, feels he’s failed, where does that leave me? His work got the financial security. He had a job title and identity validated by his paychecks. God asked him the question, “Will you create?” and Billy Joel did it. Yet he feels it didn’t measure up to his dream. What do I do? Why? And how?

I don’t know how anyone else would answer those questions. For myself, I’ve gotten some glimpses at my mortality. I only know I can’t meet God and say, “Well, I meant to, but . . .” I could get away with that answer before. I can’t now. I also couldn’t look my husband in the eye, the man whose hard work is giving me this chance, and say that. Or my son, or my friends. However, I think the absolute worst would be having to look me in the eye and say that. I think God, my husband and son, my friends, would forgive me, accept me, and who knows, God might even give me another life to try again. But would I forgive myself? Maybe that is what hell is. So why would I do it? Because I would never forgive me if I didn’t.

The question hangs before me: the job is yours if you want it. Deep in my heart, win, lose, fail, or as Katherine Paterson put it, be mediocre, I know what my answer is.

The remaining question is – How? I could say that if I’m terrible, at least I know I tried. But then maybe that’s not quite the right attitude, either. In the movie, The Empire Strikes Back, Luke tells Yoda he’ll try to lift his spaceship with his powers. Yoda immediately jumps down his throat. “NO! Do, or do not. There is no try!” Maybe the answer is that it’s how you show up to do the work that makes all the difference. It certainly made the difference in our move to North Carolina knowing there would be no option to turn back.

There’s a scene from the movie “Hunt for Red October,” that illustrates it. The captain, played by Sean Connery (who looks better and better as he gets older), is leading a select group of officers on a mission to defect and deliver a new, deadly silent Russian attack sub to the Americans. It is treason. If discovered, they’re dead and they all know it. Their consciences drive them to do this so that such destructive power cannot be used by their superiors, yet at one point their resolve fails and they want to quit. At that moment the captain tells them there is no going back. Moscow knows what they are doing because he sent a letter to their superiors stating their intentions. His men freak. In their eyes, he’s signed their death warrants for sure. They know that every ship in the Russian Navy will be out there to hunt them down and kill them. They demand to know why he did that.

His answer: “When he reached the new world, Cortez burned his ships. As a result, his men were well motivated.”

When there is no going back, you have only yourself to work with. It is “Do, or do not. There is no try.” You have only your motivations and faith, or the lack of them, to fall back on. What do you believe? When Luke could not raise his spaceship, Yoda did it for him. When Luke said he couldn’t believe it, Yoda’s answer was simple: “That, is why you fail.”

So my answer to how you do it is: Burn the ships. There is no turning back. Do or do not, there is no try. And believe. Because if you don’t, that is why you fail. I cannot control the outcome of the effort – whether my writings will be read, published, make a dime, validate me and give me value- but I can control how I do the work. And I only know that if I don’t do it, none of those things will matter.

The Post – and finally, Admiral Byrd

February 2, 2008

fiddler-crabs-039.jpgfiddler-crabs-040.jpgfiddler-crabs-042.jpgfiddler-crabs-048.jpg

To round out the fiddler crab trio in our household, I give you the sole male in the tank, Admiral Byrd. He is fearless, commands the tank, explored every inch of it the moment he first entered the tank, and so he deserved a name fitting for a courageous explorer.

The first picture shows Admiral Byrd under less than optimal circumstances. In one of the first blogs about the crabs I mentioned the problem of getting the salinity level right in the water. Being brackish water crabs, they like lower salinity. Not knowing this, I had made the water the same as regular sea water. That drove Admiral Byrd literally out of the water, up the gravel hill, and as seen here, climbing the walls of the tank to get out. I quickly diluted the water, thus calming him down and convincing him to stay.

The second picture seems to sum up Admiral Byrd’s standard pose: “Stand back! I have a claw and I’m not afraid to use it!”

The third picture shows Admiral Byrd trying to get closer to the ladies by nestling in against the live rock while they were sleeping inside. (He was too big to fit inside). I guess he figured if he slept outside their front door, they’d have to run into him sooner or later. Admiral Byrd may be brave, but he is not too smart. The ladies just exited the live rock by the side entrance.

The last shows dinnertime. Admiral Byrd is chewing on a shrimp pellet clasped in his smaller front claw.

That’s the crew.

In another post, I will talk about a couple of ways this photo project helps my writing.

The Post – The first comment. Now what do I do?

January 26, 2008

First, just an aside. If any of you suddenly discover you too have a love of fiddler crabs and don’t know where to start, here’s a helpful link:

http://exoticpets.about.com/cs/rarespecies/a/fiddlercrabs.htm

And of course, you can always write me. If I don’t know, I’ll go visit the guys at Fish Pros.

Well it being Saturday and many life things to manage, I have to be brief. Brief is something I find hard to do once my fingers get started, but even writers have to buy groceries and pay bills. However a moment of excitement for this first-time blogger today to see I actually had my first “comment” from someone.

When I had my son I was clueless about what to do with infants. Every time something new happened, I quickly flicked through Dr. Spock to figure out what to do. I felt the same way this morning with the first comment. What was the correct thing to do? I didn’t even know I was supposed to moderate this blog, never mind mentioning the spam catcher already sifted out three Viagra ads. Should I answer the person here? On her blog? On the email posting I got letting me know there was a comment? You have to understand, I love the world of paper, though I have managed email well. But what do you do with a blog comment? In any event, I dug out the blogger’s equivalent of Dr. Spock, The Everything Blogging Book. Of course there’s setting up links to that person, and blog statistics and something called Trackback, which sounds neat but I don’t know what it is or where it lives. So, I simply did what my mother taught me to do: say thank you. I wrote a response in this blog under her comment, and I mention to all of you that this person is also a writer. She’s set up a great blog about the process of her book going from germinated idea seed to publication. We get to go along for the ride. If you want to follow her journey, click on Write Through Me under the Blogroll header on the right side of my blog page.

One of these days I will figure out what Trackback is and maybe even, where it lives. In the meantime….bread and milk.