For some reason I can add sidebars, but not new posts. Please check back later. I have been working on a variety of things including switching my blog soon from this one, which was set up with my now-defunct West Wisconsin Telcom account. I hope to have my new blog through Gmail up soon. I will provide a link and announcement when I've got everything straight. 7/2/11

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Matron Saints

Last night was Raina’s final night in Menomonie before she and her son and her dog left today for their new lives in Bellingham, Washington. I started the Saints as a monthly gathering of my friends at Zanzibar’s restaurant on Main Street, and the gathering expanded to weekly. One thing that connects us all is our love of words, whether we rely on them for our jobs or whether we use them creatively in our solitary hours.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Living out loud

I have a tendency to be a recluse, so I like to remind myself to live out loud. I particularly like this admonition by Mel Brooks: “If you’re quiet, you’re not living. You’ve got to be noisy and colorful and lively.”

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Recently read: Carol Lea Benjamin’s Without a Word

This is a new author to me. Benjamin’s initial claim to fame is that she is a noted dog-trainer with a host (pack?) of books on the subject. She also was a detective at one point in her life. She uses both her experiences to create this series about Private Investigator Rachel Alexander. Set in New York City, not surprisingly the book begins in a dog-walking park. A man and his daughter approach Alexander to ask if she would help them find their wife and mother, who disappeared five years earlier. The daughter, who hasn’t spoken since her mother’s disappearance, is the deciding factor in Alexander’s acceptance of the case. Well-written, well-plotted, and well worth reading.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Books I’m finding inspiring now

Here is a list of sources for my self-exploration. I've finished some; dipped into some; and hope to start some. Reviews will follow at irregular intervals.

  • Slowing down to the speed of life, by Richard Carlson and Joseph Bailey
  • Artist Trading Card workshop, by Bernie Berlin
  • In This Garden, by Angela Cartwight and Sarah Fishburn
  • Life, Paint and Passion, by Michele Cassou and Stewart Cubley
  • Awe-manac, by Jill Badonsky
  • The Nine Modern Day Muses (and a bodyguard), by Jill Badonsky
  • Watercolor Tips & Techniques, by Arnold Lowrey, Wendy Jelbert, Geoff Kersey and Barry Herniman
  • The Vision Board Book, by John Assaraf
  • Vintage Greeting Cards, by Mary Jo McGraw
  • Creative Paint Workshop for Mixed-Media Artists, by Ann Baldwin
  • Drawing for the Artistically Undiscovered, by Quentin Blake and John Cassidy
  • Watercolor for the Artistically Undiscovered, by Thacher Hurd and John Cassidy

Monday, June 22, 2009

My Artist’s Retreat Day

My mixed media collage, titled Artday, celebrating my retreat

As I transition from decades of technical and business writing, I am learning to indulge in my long-repressed creative instincts. To assist me, I recently dedicated a day as an Artist’s Retreat. To help me, I used the booklet titled “Welcome to Your Artist Retreat Day” by Linda Dessau at It was a splendid day of absorbing and creating art, journaling, and being inspired. By the end of the day, I knew what my priority would be over the next few weeks, how to incorporate art with my writing, and what I can do daily to keep my momentum flowing. I almost had an “art accident” where I just about glued a mixed media collage to my kitchen counter, but I was able to salvage it, plus create three other collages!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Recently read: Violette’s Journal Bliss

This delightful book takes very little time to read and admire, and yet provides the creative soul with much inspiration. Richly illustrated by Violette, we learn such lovely talents as silencing our inner critics, creating bodacious borders, doodling, and making funky envelope art. It is not just for art journalers—anyone who draws or wishes they could draw will enjoy this book.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Quotations—a writer’s addiction

One of Degas’ Impressionist paintings of dancers

Many people, not just writers, love quotations. Often the books I read include quotations to illustrate the writers’ points, as do the newsletters I subscribe to. Recently I set up my Dell homepage so I receive daily doses of quotes, which further fuels my delight. I just can’t resist passing some on—like this one by 19th century painter, Edgar Degas:

“Muses work all day long and then at night get together and dance.”

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Belly dancing again!

I’ve signed up for the summer belly dancing classes being taught by my friend, Jen Bush. I’ve known Jen for years through the classes I took with Rebecca Whitman (who is doing nicely now since her horse riding accident last fall when she broke her pelvis). Jen has been working with me as a private movement coach through her business Dancing Mountain. And I’m feeling ready to add on the extra shimmies and socializing that are such a fun part of dancing with a group of women! For information on Jen and Dancing Mountain, see

Monday, June 15, 2009

Recently read: Leonardo Padura’s Havana Red

In my quest for novels set in hot southern countries, my most recent discovery is this Cuban writer. I think this is the first book in his Havana Quartet (the edition I have and Amazon identified it as such, but in a preface he wrote for another book, the author said Pasado Perfecto is the first in the quartet, but that one doesn’t seem to have been published in English yet). Police Lieutenant Mario Conde, “the Count,” is one of those haunted, poetic detectives that I always favor. In this lyrical and dark novel of Havana before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Count has to track down the murderer of a transvestite in a city park—in circumstances that at first appear to be just another pick-up gone wrong. As the Count and his team search further, they learn the young man, although gay, was not a transvestite, is the son of a wealthy and prominent family, and has ties to the dramatic and literary world that stretch back to Paris in the 1960s. During the investigation, the Count becomes friends with a shadowy older man who has been a legend in Cuba’s suppressed literary world. This is not a light or fast read, but it is worth it. I’ve already started the second (or is it the third?) book of the Quartet.

Friday, June 12, 2009


With all the web sites out there, it can be time-consuming to find legitimate ones, which I define as those that include real information and facts rather than promoting a hidden (or not so hidden) agenda. One of my librarian friends just told me about this web site: . It’s a list of verified, librarian-approved sites for information, research or just plain fun. You can subscribe so you can be kept up-to-date, as well as search the site for specific topics.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Recently read: Ian Rankin’s The Naming of the Dead

I have always liked this Scottish writer ever since I began tracking down his books in the Madison library back in the 1980s. The protagonist is again Inspector John Rebus, and as I expect from this excellent writer, the plot is intricate, the descriptions of the underworld and the upperworld are vivid, and the characters ring true. Rebus must find the killer of a paroled rapist, a victim even the police think got his just deserts. At the same time, Rebus is bothered by the secrecy and intrigue surrounding the suicide of a Scottish delegate to the G8 conference which is going on that year in Edinburgh Castle. An excellent blend of introspection, action, politics and crime.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Robert Genn and the Painter’s Keys

Some of my minature art cards

I recently subscribed to Genn’s free newsletter on art and necessities for the creative mind. I highly recommend it. Not only do you get to follow his adventures on his treasured mapbook, but the articles and links to his web site are fascinating. The Current Clickback has an article on bartering—timely for living in these economic up and downs. On his home page, check out Caroline Simmill’s musings on success. Sign up for the twice-weekly newsletter, read the articles, admire the artwork, and lap up the inspiration at

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Smart Women’s Café

I ran across this through one of the many newsletters I subscribe to (I wish I could remember which one!). This seems to be a good source for information—both learning and sharing. Check out the community and take the virtual tour For entrepreneurs and businesswomen, this sounds like a good investment at a reasonable cost.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Recently read: John Sandford’s Rules of Prey

I’m embarrassed to admit that, although I’ve been aware of this Minnesota writer, I hadn’t read any of his books until recently. Now I’m hooked. Sandford is the pseudonym of Pulitzer Prize winning St. Paul journalist, John Camp. His books under his Sandford name are excellent thrillers, and are well-written. His protagonist, Lucas Davenport, is a dashing, ruthless detective, who—at least in this first book of the series first published in 1989—is a bit too James Bondish for today’s sensitive male investigators, but I imagine he evolves with the later books. In this, frantic Minneapolis police try to find a serial killer. Computer games (remember, this was written in the late 1980s when there weren’t computers in every home and only a specialized group of youngsters and geeks did the advanced searching and virtual world play that many do now) figure in the plot. I’m delighted to have finally started reading this prolific writer.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

One of my favorite literary quotes

Portrait of Pascal from Wikipedia at

When I teach writing, I always refer to the words of 17th century philosopher and mathematician, Blaise Pascal. In a letter, he apologized for how long it was, saying “if I had had more time, my message would have been shorter.” Writers, whether fiction or nonfiction, understand the truth of his statement.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Recently read: Andrea Camilleri’s Voice of the Violin

I love this series of books about Inspector Montalbano as he dreamily solves the crimes that pop up regularly in Sicily. The murder by suffocation of a young wife sets Montalbano off on the trail that leads him to her elderly husband, her mysterious lover, a reclusive violin virtuoso, and other members of the upper-class professionals that live on the island. Montalbano not only solves the crime, but also manages to further complicate his own love life. A charming book that owes its readability in part to Camilleri’s constant translator, Stephen Sartarelli. Note: whenever you read a book that has been translated, be sure to notice the translator—a good one makes such a difference.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Landscapes in Watercolor by Stephen Coates

If you are in the Chicago area in the third week of June, my cousin-in-law, Steve Coates, has a exhibit of his watercolors at the Evanston Atelier from June 20 through June 26. Be sure to stop in to see his splendid art work. See for more information and directions to the gallery.