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

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Inspiring Teachers

Photo from Best Colleges Online

Best Colleges has published an article titled “15 Incredibly Inspiring Women in Academia.” Given the Republicans' attack on teachers that is occurring around the country, this is a timely read to remind them of the importance of education. Find the article at

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Recently read: Donald E. Westlake’s Watch Your Back

I always enjoy Westlake’s comic crime books, especially the ones with Dortmunder and his cronies. In this one, Dortmunder’s fence, the offensive Arnie, is home from his “intervention” at Club Med with news of a billionaire’s home sitting defenseless. So Dortmuncer gathers his crew of Kelp and Stan and Stan’s mother and Tiny to battle on two fronts: the removing of the billionaire’s possessions, and saving the O.J. Bar & Grill from a Mafia takeover. A treat to read!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Recently read: Cara Black’s Murder in the Sentier

Black’s books are good contemporary detective novels set in contemporary Paris, featuring private eye Aimee Leduc. I’ve read and reviewed several of the books over the years, and all are worth reading. This one is too, although I thought Leduc’s driving motivation was too forced. In this book, a mysterious woman appears with knowledge of Leduc’s mother, who vanished when Aimee was very young. Leduc tracks down elderly terrorists from 60s and 70s Europe (remember the Red Army?), becoming more and more concerned that her mother abandoned her for political motives. As ever, lots of descriptions of the underworld of Paris.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Another birthday

Carl's birthday martini

We spent the entire weekend celebrating Carl's birthday, starting on Friday with a visit to the Denver Art Museum to see the Cities of Splendor: A Journey through renaissance Italy, with lunch at the museum's elegant restaurant, Pallettes. Yesterday we explored the northern suburbs and desolate lands between Boulder and Arvada, lunch at Bloom's, and cocktails and pizza at Abrusci's Italian restaurant. Today we are lolling, but still eating!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Recently read: Ines de la Fressange’s Parisian Chic

I love books about style and beauty and fashion, and this is a particularly fun one. Chanel icon de la Fressange still looks as chic as in her modeling days. This style guide, co-authored by Sophie Gachet, explains lightheartedly how the rest of us (all who do not live in Paris) can emulate Parisian Chic. Divided into four parts, the book discusses how to dress like a Parisian, French beauty basics, what distinguishes the Parisian home, and concludes with a guide to all of de la Fressange’s favorite stores, boutiques, neighborhoods, museums, spas and hair salons, restaurants (naturellement!), nightclubs and hotels. In addition to the beautiful photographs, the book is lavishly illustration with delightful drawings by de la Fressange herself—I was so impressed and immediately wished I was able to draw as well. A good book to add to your collection.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Recently read: Ruth Rendell's Portobello

Rendell is a long established master of the British thriller, whether writing as Barbara Vine, as herself in the Inspector Wexford series, or her dark psychological works such as this one. In this suspenseful work, a well-meaning and prosperous middle aged man discovers a cash filled envelope lying in the street near Portobello Road. He posts an ad for the owner, despite the misgivings of many of his friends as well as his fiancée. Thus a series of events are unleashed that reveals secrets, sickness and sorrow. As are all Rendell’s books, this is a must read.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Recently read: Tami Hoag’s Deeper than the Dead and Secrets to the Grave

I like Hoag. Her books are easy reads with good plots and characters, much suspense, and well written. These two books are set in the mid-1980s in a prosperous California town. Deeper than the Dead is the first book. A school teacher, Anne, and an FBI investigator, Vince, team up when several of Anne’s grade school students find a dead woman in the park. More bodies show up. Vince is asked to help the community track a serial killer using a new technique: profiling. In the second book, Secrets to the Grave, a respected single mother is found brutally murdered in her home with her four year old daughter unconscious. Anne and Vince (now happily married) again work to find the killer. You really need to read these books in order, because for some reason in the second book Hoag discusses the serial killings of the previous book in great detail, including the killer’s identity. So unless you don’t mind knowing all the answers ahead of time, you’ll want to start with Deeper than the Dead.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Colleges that paved the way for women

Photo of Moravian College in Pennsylvania from

In recent years, women have comprised the majority of college students at all levels from undergraduate to post graduate. See for information on ten colleges that paved the way for women. I am missing teaching, but not quite enough yet to check out the opportunities in the many colleges and universities in the Denver area.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Recently read: Jo Nesbo’s The Redbreast

This is the first book I’ve read by this highly acclaimed Norwegian writer, and I’m looking forward to reading the two more books by him I’ve bought. His detective, Harry Hole, is in the pattern of my favorite protagonists like James Lee Burke’s Robicheaux and Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse (the books, not the TV shows). This book slips between contemporary Norway, and Nazi Germany, examining Norway’s role in World War II, which I knew little about. This is a fascinating history with excellent plot, and complex characters, and narrative that is well written by Nesbo and well translated by Don Bartlett. This is a memorable thriller that follows a small group of elderly Norwegians who had served on the Eastern Front for Hitler’s army. And one of them may be about to kill again.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Lakewood Cultural Center Annual Juried Holiday Show & Sale

Photo from

One of the many great things about living in Lakewood, CO, is the Lakewood Cultural Center and its sisters, the Heritage Center and the Washington Heights Arts Center. Every year, the Cultural Center hosts a juried exhibition and sale of artwork by Colorado artists and artisans. This year, applications digital images of submitted art must be postmarked or emailed no later than July 15. The judges decide based on quality, originality, and salability. There is a $20 jury fee, with a 40 percent commission on all work sold, with the Cultural Center being responsible for the collection and payment of sales tax. If you are a Colorado artist, this is an excellent venue for your work. Contact Jeff at 303-987-7756 or via email at for information and applications.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Nation magazine is looking for student writers

The Nation, the oldest continuously published weekly magazine in the U.S., is looking for high school and college student writers for their Student Writing Contest. All students are eligible. Entries answering the question, “What do you think is the most serious issue facing your generation?” are accepted through June 30. Winners will be published in The Nation, receive $250, and a subscription. See

Monday, May 2, 2011

Recently read: Terry Taylor’s The Artful Storybook

Like Taylor’s book of paper dolls, this is lush with splendid photos of artists’ stories made visual. Taylor asked a number of artists to “explore the storybook form.” The results are mixed media, three-dimensional pieces of art that inspire individually as well as collectively. Taylor also provides use with practical advice on creating our own, including how to choose a book format and tips on bookmaking. He includes the Working Process of each artist’s work, which gives a fascinating glimpse into how a creative project is conceived, planned, built and finalized.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Writing Life Contract

I'm in the final stage of completing the Literary Living Program (see link at left side of blog). One of the things we did during the course was to develop a six-month Writing Life Contract. I have finished mine and am busy and happily writing away. Because I can't resist adding visual elements nowadays, I wrote my traditional computer/print version and also did a six panel mixed media collage version to have on my desk to inspire me.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cookie the baby penguin

Just in case there's someone out there who did not see the video on the news or YouTube of Cookie being tickled, here it is! This is too cute for words.

Read an article about Cookie here:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Recently read: William Kent Krueger’s Red Knife

This St. Paul author continues to produce well-written, fast-paced books about life in rural Northern Minnesota, the complex relationships between the whites and the tribes, the poor and the wealthy, and the way violence can ricochet between them. This is a Cork O’Connor book, with O’Connor once again the former sheriff. Gangs have come to Tamarack County, and the Red Boyz, an Ojibwe gang, seems to be at the heart of a wave of drugs and death. O’Connor has to tread carefully between vows of vengeance and further violence. As ever, a page-turner.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sites worth seeing

When you explore, it helps to have your Idle Muse inspire you!

Here are some great web sites, articles and blogs I’ve discovered recently and thought I’d share: (currently in transformation, but worth a look in the mean time)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Summer Writers Colony in New York City

This sounds fabulous! From June 6 through 23, you can live a writer's in the mecca for writers for three weeks. Participate in workshops in fiction, nonfiction and poetry in a supportive atmosphere with other writers. Attend readings, take literary tours of Greenwich Village, and participate in literary salons where you can meet professional and award winning authors and journalists. See for more details.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Recently read: Lynda LaPlante’s Cold Shoulder

LaPlante, whose book Prime Suspect was the basis of the British television series starring Helen Mirren, has a number of other series books that are also gripping. This one features Lorraine Page, a Pasadena homicide detective whose alcoholism and its resulting behavior gets her kicked off the force. That doesn’t stop her from tracking down a serial killer—or are there more than one? Excellent read.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Poetry Forum on the Old Farmer’s Almanac

The Old Farmer's Almanac is the oldest continuously published periodical in the U.S. Since 1792, it has been informing its readers of weather forecasts, tides, astronomy data, and planting guides. It literally has something of interest for everyone, of every age. I love that it’s online as well—talk about adapting to the changes in media. Visit to sign up for its email newsletter. Also, click on Blogs and Forums then scroll down, click on More Forums, scroll again until you find the Poetry Forum. Note that the Poetry Forum is only for amateur writers and photographers.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Photo from Wikipedia

Please go to this site and watch the short video in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. and the workers of America who are again fighting for their rights:

Friday, April 1, 2011

April’s Script Frenzy

Spring bulbs image from Dover Publications at

Script Frenzy begins today. Sign on at to write your TV show script, your film script, or your screenplay script during 30 April days. And any young people you know can go to for the Script Frenzy Young Writers Program. Like NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), this gets your writing muscles going and that idea that’s been hanging out in the back of your head actually out into the spring air!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Recently read: Kelly Rae Roberts’ Taking Flight

The subtitle of this book is Inspiration & Techniques to give your Creative Spirit Wings, which sums of the content of the book nicely. I have encountered Roberts’ art in a number of books which include a variety of artists’ works. Her mixed media paintings are instantly identifiable with their pensive female faces and richly textured surfaces. She includes easy instructions on how she and the artists she interviews create the featured works. Her essays, self-exploration questions, and advice are helpful tools, whether you are considering expanding your artistic work or just want to discover more ways to free up your creativity.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Art Journals

One of my colleagues taking the Literary Living program with me (see )
asked me for some suggestions on creating art journals. As writers, whether or not we also consider ourselves to be artists, an art journal is a good way to express your creativity. There are as many ways to create art journals as people making them. The examples above show some of my art journals in a variety of formats. All are mixed media mainly using ephemera (like tickets or vintage ads), photos, magic marker, acryllic paint, varieties of papers, and watercolor. From the top: a collaged journal page in process; a journal page where I have sketched and written using magic markers; mailing tags that I've collaged and tied together (great way to save space on your bookshelves), an altered book where the pages serve as my journal, and a single unbound collaged journal page. Click on each image to enlarge it.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

March 23 is Democracy Day

The National Education Association, representing more than three million teachers, support professionals, and administrators aross the country, is sponsoring Rock the Vote, a celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the 26th Amendment. See for more information.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Recently read: T. Jefferson Parker’s L.A. Outlaws

I have read Parker’s books for years, and find them always well-written, with gripping plots. Of his many works, this one was not up to the masterful levels of his earlier works, but it is still worth reading. The people and the media of Los Angeles are fascinated by a woman outlaw, Allison Murrieta, whose outrageous robberies, charitable donations after each “job,” and her penchant for stealing fancy cars, have entertained everyone but the police for months now. Until one day ten gangsters are found dead and a fortune in jewels is missing. Suddenly Murrieta is in danger herself.

Monday, March 14, 2011

10 ways nationwide teacher cuts affect you

Here is an excellent article that sums up why cuts to education will hurt all Americans: It makes no sense to me (other than corporate and individual greed), why vital programs must be cut so that the wealthiest people in the country don't have to pay taxes.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Recently read: John Sandford’s Phantom Prey

Lucas Davenport isn’t involved at first in the case where a wealthy widow comes home to blood on her walls and a missing daughter. He is drawn in as a series of grisly murders of friends and acquaintances of the missing daughter—all young people involved in the Goth scene in Minneapolis—cause panic. Then the daughter’s body is found in a ditch, a mysterious Goth “fairy” hovers at the edge of each victim’s last hours, and even Davenport’s life is in danger. Excellent as usual.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Too much going on!

My latest Vision Board, created as part of a Literary Living assignment

I know, I've not been posting as often as is my goal. Bear with me as I complete a mountain of tasks. I hope to post at least three times a week soon. I will keep the contests up to date, and post at least two new jigsaw puzzles a week in the interium.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Recently read: Louise Penny’s Still Life

This is the first in the series of Chief Inspector Gamache books, and is as enjoyable as the rest are. Set in the picturesque village of Three Pines in the countryside of Quebec, Gamache and his team are called in to investigate the shooting death of an elderly woman on Thanksgiving Day. The village folk desperately want it to be a hunting accident, but too many things strike Gamache as suspicious.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Using collage to create a vision of your future

Joan Dempsey, the developer of the Literary Living program ( ), asked me to write a piece on using collage to create vision boards for the program. In addition, I have posted a selection of my vision board collages above. From top to bottom, the images are my vision board for creative space (acrylic, photos, ephemera, sketches, stamps and handwriting), vision board for moving to Colorado (words and images from magazines, poster paint), and journal pages to inspire creativity (poster paint, ephemera, handwriting, stickers, art paper, and stamps). Click on each image to enlarge for details.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

America Indian Art at the Denver Art Museum

Grand Procession: Contemporary Artistic Visions of American Indians by Lois Sherr Dubin

This weekend, Carl, our friend Cathy and I went to see the expanded exhibit of the Denver Art Museum’s permanent collection of American Indian art. It was stunning, with ancient art and artifacts, clothing, traditional work and contemporary art beautifully displayed. My favorites were the doll sculptures created by contemporary artists. These sculptures are fully clothed with traditionally made beaded clothing, two feet tall, each representing the garments of the eighteenth and nineteenth Plains and Plateau Indians. I bought the book about them at the museum shop. Fascinating stuff.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

In my quest to break my Internet news addiction to the Huffington Post, CNN and NPR, I've been doing a lot more recreational surfing. I recently saw this web site, which is a job listing for professional bloggers (or those wishing to be). Check it out

Friday, February 4, 2011

Recently read: Norma V. Toraya’s Paper Puppet Palooza

In my ongoing quest to play with and create paper dolls, I found this book that not only has all sorts of fun art dolls made of paper, but also explains how to use sticks and brads and string and other things to make the dolls into moving puppets. Toraya is an animator for videos, commercials and television, and is the creator of Crankbunny. I love her mystical, funny and dark creations like Zahmoo the Puppet Shaman and Ms. Ananushka Puppehklova. These puppets are not for kids!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Recently read: Leonardo Padura’s Havana Gold

This is the fourth in Padura’s Havana Quartet series with Lieutenant Mario Conde. I am fascinated with Padura’s descriptions of life in modern Cuba. In this a school teacher is brutally murdered, drugs seem to be involved, as do some of her students. It was interesting how Padura describes the use of marijuana as rare and extremely scandalous among high schoolers—not what we would expect here where even grade school kids seem to have access to a buffet of drugs. Worth reading, yet I wish the translator would not sprinkle the text with outdated British slang words.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Appreciative Inquiry Process

My collage titled "Celebrating Lives Well Lived."

This week in the Literary Living Program we are engaging in the Appreciative Inquiry Process, which I hadn’t heard of before, but it is exactly in line with my own world view. Instead of focusing on problems, the process focuses on what is working. It can be applied to an individual, a system, or an organization. To learn more, visit:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Recently read: Donald Westlake’s Don’t Ask

I enjoyed Westlake’s novels years ago and for some reason lost track of him. To my delight, I rediscovered a number of more recent books about Dortmunder and the gang. This one was originally published in 1993 and has been reissued, thank goodness. Westlake’s characters are each unique gems, his plots are solid and fast-paced, and his writing is hilarious. In this one, Tiny Bulcher’s cousin from the old country needs a small favor, and who else to tackle it but Dortmunder, Andy, Stan and the other specialists in burglary? The demise of the Soviet Union has, among other things, resulted in a feud between the tiny country where the Bulchers are from and another tiny country. One of the things at stake is membership in the United Nations. The decision of which one gets the membership is up to an old archbishop, who says it will go to whichever country has the medieval relic of the femur of Saint Ferghana. So Dortmunder and his gang embark on a multinational caper. Love it!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Literary Living and the writing self

One thing that surprised me—my writing personality likes a tidy, organized office, and I guess mine COULD be messier!

I am very much enjoying the Literary Living Program, and the community of writers who are participating. This week, we took an online personality test based on Jung and Myers types (most of us have taken the Meyers-Briggs personality test in school). The only change I’ve ever had is that, up until now, I was slightly more introverted, and now—after teaching for a number of years and participating in a variety of public speaking programs such as Dale Carnegie and Landmark, I have crossed the line and am slightly more extroverted. I am, if you are curious, an ENFJ (extrovert, intuitive, feeling, judging), which is the Teacher personality. To take the online test, go to

One of the things that interested me about Literary Living is that the creator, Joan Dempsey, asked Dawna Kemper to write a book that takes each of the personality types and identify what the types mean when applied to writers. For more information on the program, see

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Batalugu: helping you create children’s books

The program manager at the online publisher, Batalugu, contacted me about their product, which I think sounds really fun. Batalugu is a tool for creating children’s books, and can be used to write and illustrate personalized or general books by writers, parents, and even kids themselves. Check it out at

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Recently read: Alexander McCall Smith’s Tea Time for the Traditionally Built

I love this series, and is that the greatest title or what? The gentle adventures of Precious Ramotswe, her husband, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni (never do they call each other by their first names), and their friends, family, clients and employees all have their problems. And as we expect in this well-ordered world, all find the solutions, from the strange losing streak of Mr. Molofololo’s football club, to banishing Mma Makutsi’s dreaded rival, to saving Mma Ramotswe’s treasured tiny white van.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Read a winning short story from Creative Competitor

One of the things I always recommend writers do is to read as many winners of the various essay, poetry, creative nonfiction and fiction contests as possible. The purpose is not to think you have to duplicate the styles or the content, but because it will give you a sense of what the judges--who are writers and editors and publishers and teachers--feel is good writing. I have mentioned Creative Competitor in previous blogs, as well as listed the contests in the Money Corner. Here is a link to the winning short story for one of the recent contests: Take a few minutes to read it (it's very short) and analyze why you think the judge believed this was first-prize work. And while you are on the site, sign up for the newsletter for more insights into what makes one piece of writing a winner.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Recently read: James W. Hall’s Blackwater Sound

The more I read of this author, the more I admire him. This book, like so many of his others, contains both poetic descriptions of the sea and the Florida Keys, in-depth characters, and some brutal action. In this, Thorn and his girlfriend of the moment are having fishing in Blackwater Sound when a passenger plane on its way to Rio plummets into the water with no sound until the splash. As Thorn tries to rescue as many of the survivors as he can, he notices a boat with three people watching. His intuition tells him something is wrong and he starts sniffing around over the next few days and discovers two of the three people are the only two siblings remaining of the powerful Braswell family, who deny being near the wreck. The horrific death of their older brother ten years before still casts a strong shadow over the present. Hard to put this book down.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Vote for your hero dog

My own hero dog: Sharpie

You've read about Ricochet the surfer service dog who works with disabled children in earlier posts. For more information, see her web site at I received the following email from Ricochet's trainer:

"We just found out that Ricochet was nominated for USA Today's Most Heroic Dog of 2010. We're not sure who nominated her, so thank you whoever you are!
These contests give us another platform to raise awareness of her causes, so we really appreciate you help in getting the word out about them, and voting."
I had no sooner posted about this, when I got another email. Ricochet and Sparky the Fire Safety Dog, one of the other hero dog nominations, were asking all their fans to vote instead for Target, the dog who saved so many soldiers only to end up euthanized at the dog pound. Vote for Target to help Target's cause, called Target's Bunker, a no-kill shelter. Learn more, and donate, at Click and vote here:

Friday, January 7, 2011

Literary Living Program

I’ve spent the first week of 2011 pondering what I want to do this year, figuring out what my next project will be, and lolling around pretending I was thinking about these momentous topics. A week or so ago I signed up at Literary Living for the free e-books and information on the 12-week program that helps you design your writing life. I have just now enrolled in the program and am so excited about it. To get your e-books, get more information, or enroll, see The program starts January 15, with enrollment closing on January 12.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A great year ahead

My collage titled "Enthusiasm Muse."

After a year of exciting changes as we packed up in Wisconsin and settled into Colorado, I'm looking forward to exploring more, writing daily, creating art, and listening to my muses. And doing it all with enthusiasm. Happy New Year everyone!