10 Ways to Be Creative in the Summer

Does summertime make you feel creative and want to try new things? Or do you just like to have fun in the sun? I like both, so while I’ll be posting all through the summer, I’m taking a break from blog commenting until after Labor Day. Some of you may remember this post from last year, but I felt it needed repurposing!

What will You be Doing for Creative Fun this Summer?

Summer is a great time to try things you might not normally do. Here are my suggestions for being creative this summer.

1.Build a Sandcastle or a Sand Painting

A.K.Andrew, http://akandrew.com

Brighton Beach by A.K.Andrew

Building sandcastles are one of my favorite childhood memories as we always had beach holidays. Some of the ones you see are amazing, not just the fill a bucket and turn it upside down kind. I love making a moat with a sand castle too, all that foamy water rushing in. And then at the end of the day you can make it disappear with one sweep of your hand or wait for a wave to do the same thing. Creative things don’t need to be permanent. Sand paintings are fun for that very reason. Do one on the beach with a stick or your finger, or buy a sand painting kit.

2.Write a Short Story

This is the time to let go, have some fun with it. And remember no-one but you will see it, unless you want them to. Write about an unexpected sexual encounter. Try out a different genre you don’t usually use. Never written about vampires? Now’s the time. Write in a different point of view, or from the point of view of a different gender, or sexual orientation. Hey, this is supposed to be fun right?

3.Go see a Film or Make a Movie

When was the last time you went to a cinema? No, not your home theatre, but a big screen-Dolby stereo-popcorn-selling cinema. Treat yourself. If you’re a regular cinema goer then try a different kind of film. For me that would be a horror film. Of course, I’d have to take something to hold up in front of the screen though! Maybe you’ll be inspired to make a short movie on your phone or camera. One of the best shorts I’ve ever seen was made by a guy who was stuck in his house in Minnesota one winter, and he used himself as the subject. It was so imaginative, and best of all, hilarious.

 4.Take a Photograph

A.K.Andrew, http://akandrew.com

Sonoma Cowboys by A.K.Andrew

We all spend so much time on our mobile phones these days, but do you use your phone camera for anything other than selfies or groups of friends laughing together? I love those photos, but it’s great to capture even simple things you see that give you a memory of the place you’ve been and the good time you had.  Better still, take an actual camera!You remember those right? I must dust mine off. I happened to catch these cowboys with my phone while driving home last Sunday morning – I wasn’t driving:-)

5.Try a Poem

Lots of people, myself included, sometimes find poetry intimidating. But if you think of poetry as being just the essential information you need, it’s not so threatening. Of course, the arrangement and choice of words is what makes poetry beautiful, striking and memorable. Play around with words that come to mind, and put them together in a bizarre order. See what happens.

6. Watercolors and Painting

A.K.Andrew, http://akandrew

Grasses by A.K.Andrew

I used to think water colors had to be twee little scenes of cottages with roses round the door. They can be if that’s what you want, but you can paint anything you want with watercolors including abstracts. Look at the beautiful watercolors from Leora Wenger she painted during a blackout. It’s a brilliant medium to take on holiday. I have a little Winsor Newton box that is about 3″x  5 ” with a telescopic paintbrush inside. The paints are little squares like a kids paint set. I’ve had so much fun with that little box. The key to both drawing and painting is really looking at your subject. And don’t try and get the whole thing in the painting. Just pick a small section, like a doorway not the whole house, or a single plant, not the whole garden etc. If you really want to be adventurous, try acrylics or oil paints. The textures are delicious.

7.Drawing

A.K.Andrew,http://akandrew.comKids have so much fun with drawing , and there is no reason why adults can’t either. If you want your drawings to look as if you were classically trained, good for you. But if like me, you don’t have that skill, then draw whatever it is you see. If it’s stick figures – fabulous.  You know who they are, and I can guarantee that if you forget about it having to look realistic, you will have fun with it. Think simple , but creative. Look at the work of Keith Haring. I used to think drawing was an innate skill. Some people have more of a natural talent, but it can basically be learned by anyone. So you might want to elaborate on your stick figures, and give it a shot. Drawing your own hands is a great way to practise. Or look in a mirror as I did above for this self portrait. Drawing images from photographs is much easier than from real life, so that’s a good place to start too. Pencils are great, but charcoal or pastels are also really fun too. The important thing for me is the process.

8.Gardening

Gardening  is a fantastically creative pursuit and I’m often amazed the effects people can get from very simple things eg. putting a plant in an old metal jug, or combining flowers with herbs. It’s hot and dry in the summer where I live, and I’ve seen some of the most amazing succulent gardens in our neighborhood. Years ago I thought they were a very boring plant, but once I saw them in the US, and particularly the ones that bloom, I’ve come to love them. They’re great for needing little water too, which is always a good choice. Watch your back though – gardening is addictive, and it’s easy to forget how much work you’ve done. If you find this is the case then try using raised beds. Here’s one surprise I found in a neighbors garden….

A.K.Andrew, http://akandrew.com

Pig in a Garden by A.K.Andrew

 9. Music

How many times have you heard people say, I can’t sing? Nonsense! Everyone who does not have vocal chord issues can sing. Some voices are more pleasant to listen to than others, but we’re talking about having fun here. Sing at the top of your lungs, and who cares what it sounds like. Or pick up a musical instrument you haven’t tried before. Harmonica’s and tin whistles are inexpensive. Ukulele’s can be very cheap these days. The chords are very simple,  – some only use one finger. It’s all about having fun.

10. Cooking

A.K.Andrew,http://akandrew.com

Wrapped Buffalo Mozzarella by A.K.Andrew

Cooking does not have to be complicated, and in the summer, many of the dishes we eat are cold. Some people are so creative in what they make. Check out Susan Cooper’s site Findingourwaynow.com. She has lots of great recipes, and you can tell she has fun in her cooking. I like simple dishes in the summer. There’s nothing more beautiful than a caprese salad – luscious heirloom tomatoes with fresh buffalo mozzarella, sprinkled with chopped basil and dribbled with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Talk about a treat for all the senses.

What else do you like to do creatively? Welding, sculpture, making jewellery, beading, rockhounding? Try something new this summer, and whatever it is, make sure you enjoy yourself.
Have a fantastic summer everyone and don’t forget, comments have “Gone Fishing” until after Labor Day!
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Barbara Kingsolver: What is the Heart of a Novel?

 

Cover of "The Poisonwood Bible"

Cover of The Poisonwood Bible

Barbara Kingsolver is an American novelist, essayist and poet. She was raised in rural Kentucky and lived briefly in the Congo in her early childhood. The novel which earned her a pulitzer prize nomination and an Oprah endorsement, was “The Poisonwood Bible”  published in 1998, and follows a missionary family in the colonial Congo.  She is now the author of 14 books and her most recent novel “Flight Behaviour “, deals with climate change.

How Does a Novel Start?

I talked a couple of weeks ago in my post on Ray Bradbury, about the short story, referencing one of his quotes. This week I’d like, through Barbara Kingsolver, to look at how a novel might come to fruition. We can look at what is the heart of a novel by looking at her inspiration for it’s beginning.

“I woke up one morning with a vision,” she says. “I don’t know whether it was a dream, but it felt very dreamlike. And I saw – I don’t want to say it because I’ve made a point of not revealing the secret – the beautiful thing that arrives, that starts this novel rolling. I just woke up and saw that, in these forested mountains where I live.”

“I didn’t even understand what I’d imagined,” Kingsolver says, recalling that vision she had, “but I spent all day thinking about it and I’m enough of a biologist to ponder what it would really mean if that did happen here. I immediately saw the whole thing. Often there is a moment when I can see the novel sort of unrolling like a carpet in front of me and that did happen with this book. I think the novel is very much about how we understand and process what we see and how very true it is how we decide first what we believe and then collect evidence to support it, rather than the reverse. When you look at the conversation about climate change it’s baffling that everyone is presented with the same facts but people come away with very different convictions about what’s going on.”

This is one person’s experience, but it struck a chord for me. A novel can start with just the tiniest of sparks, and from that it can unfold or unroll like a carpet, as Kingsolver says. Like the short story, and even more so, you need to have a feeling about the work and be totally immersed in that feeling, otherwise what the book is really about – it’s theme – will be jumbled and confused. One can have more than one theme, but there needs to be a core sentence which you can refer to that tells us what the novel is about. You could call it the elevator pitch, but it is really the heart of the novel. “Flight Behaviour”  certainly has plenty of heart, and while I loved “Poisonwood Bible”, I think “Flight Behaviour” is her best novel to date.

Flight Behaviour, A.K. Andrew, akandrew.com, A writer's Notebook

 

As a novelist, can you summarise your latest novel in one sentence? As a reader do you think it’s important to know the theme? Does the theme of the novel influence you in buying the book?

Come join the discussion, and please share this post on your favorite social media. 

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Do You Want to Watch An Animated Ray Bradbury Interview?

Lisa Potts did an interview with Ray Bradbury  in 1972 and she by chance found it again in 2012. Since then, it’s been animated though the wonderful Blank on Blank , in part of their PBS series. Thanks so much to Maria Popova of Brainpickings.org – one of my favourite websites BTW – for introducing me to this wonderful series. Alongside writer Bradbury, Blank on Blank  have animated interviews with Maya Angelou, musicians such as Lou Reed, John Lennon and actors Philip Seymour Hoffman and Heath Ledger among others. A real gem of a find.

Here is part of what Ray Bradbury says about writing:

“Don’t pay any attention to what anyone else says — no opinions! The important thing is to explode with the story, to emotionalize it, not to think it. If you start to think it, the story’s going to die on its feet. It’s like anything else… People who take books on sex to bed become frigid — you get self-conscious.

You can’t think a story — you can’t think, “I shall do a story to improve mankind.” It’s nonsense! All the great stories, all the really worthwhile plays, are emotional experiences. If you have to ask yourself whether you love a girl, or whether you love a boy, forget it — you don’t! A story is the same way — you either feel a story and need to write it, or you’d better not write it.

[…]

You write to please yourself. You write for the joy of writing. And then your public reads you and it begins to gather around…

The enthusiasm, the joy itself draws me — so that means, every day of my life, I’ve written. When the joy stops, I’ll stop writing.”

You Can’t Think a Story

This to me was the best thing I’ve heard on writing for a while. So what is the difference between thinking and feeling a story? To me, “thinking ” a story is working out the plot, developing a clever idea that would make a snappy little tale. “Feeling’ the story is either having a call to write about a particular thing you feel strongly about, or starting a story with an essence and let the words flow from that emotion.

Bradbury might not have  meant this at all, but that’s how I look at the written word. It’s not that I don’t plot – of course I do at a certain level – especially with a novel. But with a short story, the mood of the piece needs to carry you forward to allow the story to unfold.

How do you like to write? Do you plot and plan? Do you pick a theme? Do you start with a freewrite,no clue as to how the story is going to unfold? 

Come join the discussion, and please share this post on your favorite social media. 

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How to Express the Golden Gate Homesick Blues

We’re coming to the end of National Poetry Month and I want to share a poem I wrote a few years ago in a poetry workshop. I was living in England at the time, feeling very homesick for San Francisco, as well as nostalgic for a time when I was more mobile than I am now.

So this was the result – the first poem I’d written since I was a child, in fact. For this collection of emotions, I found the process of writing a poem very cathartic.The location is the waterfront near to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge at Fort Point. For those of you who remember the scene in Vertigo where Kim Novak falls in the water – that’s where I’m talking about!

A.K. Andrew,akandrew.com,a writers notebook ,Golden Gate Bridge, Fort Point

Under the Golden Gate by A.K. Andrew

Fort Point

Ghosts of blue-bellies dash between chill, meagre quarters
Running up concrete steps
Running up the flag of
the Red Brick Fort
Alone facing the Pacific Ocean
Now nestled beneath rumbling red girders of the Bridge.
An Alliance of Gateway and Protector of
The City
Our City.

White foamy tentacles crash, split
Rusting chain links,
Goliath chain
Serving only to taunt, not protect
A leap to the rocks or giant watery mouth inviting in
it’s enormity, its moving depth beckoning.

Agonizing beauty surround once more
Pacific blasts tearing at hair and heart
A white rogue wave rises up
hitting crumbling brick, splashing me
drenching
Her.
Laughing still
we cycle home on the bays blue edge
warmed by love, vigour,
youth.

A.K. Andrew, Fort Point, Golden Gate Bridge, akandrew.com,a writers notebook

A.K. Andrew at Fort Point

Fort Point, Golden Gate Bridge,A.K Andrew,akandrew.com , a writers notebook

Fort Point under the Golden Gate Bridge by A.K Andrew

How do you feel about happy memories? Does it make you sad to think of them and wish that things were still the same, or do you feel fortunate to have had the good times to look back on? Perhaps you don’t like to dwell on the past at all, but prefer to look forward rather than back.

Come join the discussion, and please share this post on your favorite social media. 

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Oscar Wilde:120th Trial Anniversary in National #Poetry Month

Oscar Wilde in New York

Oscar Wilde in New York (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

April 3rd 2015 marks the 120th anniversary of the start of the trial of Oscar Wilde that went to court in 1895. Ironically it was Wilde himself that pushed for the court hearing, ignoring advice of friends, after the Marquess of Queensbury left her calling card with the note: “For Oscar Wilde, posing somdomite” Wilde picked up the gauntlet and sadly paid dearly to clear his name. While imprisoned for 2yrs, his health deteriorated and he died a few years later in 1900.

Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde (16 October 1854 – 30 November 1900) was an Irish author, playwright, but also a poet. As April is national Poetry Month, I thought it appropriate to look at his work. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of London’s most popular playwrights in the early 1890s. Today he is remembered for his epigrams, his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, his plays, as well as the circumstances of his imprisonment and early death.

My favorite epigram is actually the one most quoted:

Trials of Oscar Wilde
English: Card of John Douglas, 9th Marquess of...

English: Card of John Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry with “For Oscar Wilde posing as somdomite”

Oscar Wilde was renowned for his quick wit, which he maintained through much of the trial proceedings. Here is a small snippet from the trial:

G–Your view, Mr. Wilde, is that the “shame” mentioned here is that shame which is a sense of modesty?
W–That was the explanation given to me by the person who wrote it.  The sonnet seemed to me obscure.
G–During 1893 and 1894 You were a good deal in the company of Lord Alfred Douglas?
W–Oh, yes.
G–Did he read that poem to you?
W–Yes.
G–You can, perhaps, understand that such verses as these would not be acceptable to the reader with an ordinarily balanced mind?
W–I am not prepared to say.  It appears to me to be a question of taste, temperament and individuality.  I should say that one man’s poetry is another man’s poison! (Laughter.)

English: The Wilde Trial as recorded in The Il...

English: The Wilde Trial as recorded in The Illustrated Police News, May 4 1895. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wilde’s Poetry

By the Arno 

The oleander on the wall
Grows crimson in the dawning light,
Though the grey shadows of the night
Lie yet on Florence like a pall.

The dew is bright upon the hill,
And bright the blossoms overhead,
But ah! The grasshoppers have fled,
The little Attic song is still.

Only the leaves are gently stirred
By the soft breathing of the gale,
And in the almond-scented vale
The lonely nightingale is hard.

The day will make thee silent soon,
O nightingale sing on for love!
While yet upon the shadowy grove
Splinter the arrows of the moon.

Before across the silent lawn
On sea-green vest the morning steals,
And to one’s frightened eyes reveals
The long white fingers of the dawn.

Fast climbing up the eastern sky
To grasp and slay the shuddering night,
All careless of my hearts delight,
Or if the nightingale should die.

 By Oscar Wilde

(First published in 1876 in the Dublin University Magazine.)

It’s interesting to me that a man with such caustic wit, known for comedic plays, could also write such sensitive verse, which such delicate phrasing.

What do you think of most when you remember Oscar Wilde? His trial, his novel “The Picture of Dorian Grey”, his plays, his  epigrams or his poetry?

Come join the discussion, and please share this post on your favorite social media. 

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