Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Rising Tide

A rising tide lifts all boats. I saw it every summer growing up. My family spent a lot of time on Edisto Island (before the hotels and golf courses) off the coast of South Carolina.
I saw it last week here in the desert when spring-like weather lifted everyone's spirits. People took to the outdoors, baring knees and smiles.
Of course, it's colder now, but the effects lasted. It can happen indoors too. Kindness spreads like a virus. It can affect our work spaces or families just like a change of season. This requires a bit of effort at first, of course, and a brave soul to get things started. Not so easy sometimes to change a human climate. Humans tend to resist change. But certainly worth the effort. Eventually, even the most bitter little dingy can be lifted.

Your artist is deep at work. I hope your day is good.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Words are Powerful

March is National Reading Month. Every month is reading month for me and probably for you. I'll always love books - the ones made of paper. I don't know what it would take to wrest from me my copy of Lewis Padgett's A Gnome There Was. Likely, only death.

I just finished James Owen's Drawing out the Dragons. Currently I'm reading Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell.

My children are all readers. It's the one thing about parenting I can be sure I did right.

Words are powerful. A book can be a talisman against the darkness.

What are you reading now, and why?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Thoughts on Gene Wolfe

In March, Gene Wolfe will be honored here.

What I wrote about Gene Wolfe today, and the bit of cover from "Strange Birds" that shows Neil Gaiman and Gene as the strange birds they are:

During the time Gene and I worked together on Strange Birds, we got into a habit of exchanging emails, once a day. Every morning I'd wake to find a note from Gene. These were unique bits that could've been strung together like beads for a strange necklace. I applied that layer of Gene to his work and began to understand why it and this marvelous and brilliant human resonated so strongly with me. He told me the stories he wrote for Birds were the darkest he'd ever written. Gene's work taught me a lot about symbols, layers and subtlety. It took me into new territories. In an interview later, Gene said he was a little scared of me and suspected that secretly I was a cannibal. Maybe he thought that or maybe he didn't, as Gene is a bit of a jester and I a bit of a fool. The funny thing is, I am a cannibal, in engineering terms. I re-purpose objects into symbols, and it might well be Gene's work that pushed me in that direction. My dear Gene, you may be surprised to learn that it was you who turned me into this sort of cannibal. Your work is in mine. Deepest admiration and congratulations, my friend. I will love you always and, in my dreams, you are delicious.

In addition, there's a flash fiction writing contest connected to the event here.

I'm working today with Gene in mind, for sure.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Herding Inspiration

I drove Orion to school this morning and the views of snow frosted mountains and clouds was spectacular. I felt inspiration stirring. I have a list of things to do today, as every day. This morning puts me in mind of a topic I've spoken often about at conventions: Write High, Edit Sober. It's a catchy title and yes, I do talk a little about drugs, including caffeine. But the heart of the matter is that most of us struggle to find a balance between inspired work and time to act on it.
It's good advice to write, paint or dance when the muse shows up. The work we do when inspired is, well, inspired. Sometimes, failing to act on inspiration can be a loss. Sometimes the correspondence and organizing can wait, even if we think it can't.
But sometimes the have-to's can't wait. Life is messy and most of us have many jobs.

On the other hand, it's possible to bring inspiration to the time we do have. To a degree, we can invite the muse. It might be a matter of paying attention to what works. If it's the feel of wind on your face, go outside. It could be a particular music or a scent or a passage in a book.
Or sometimes it's just a matter of getting started. If you don't feel inspired, prepare the canvas, lay in the background colors. Or start writing about the moment you're in. Sometimes my best work happens this way. It focuses us, calms us, opens the door for creativity.

Jump into inspiration when it comes. If you can't, allow yourself to feel it, pay attention to what brought it to you and invite it back when you're ready. It's not perfect, but I can tell you from experience, it works often enough to be well worth the effort.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Choosing Form for Function

I've come to realize, as I've worked on this book project, that it's been writing itself for years. I know the subject matter well. It flows. The difficult work has been in choosing the form. I've always been a storyteller. You've likely been with me long enough to know a story can be just two inches tall. My 'go to' form is sculpture. I can draw with pencils, or paint with brushes. I can even sing a little. Still, if you can believe it, I can sculpt a poppet faster than I can draw one. It's simply a matter of experience and practice. Could I sculpt a poppet with my eyes closed? I don't know. Hmmm.....

I'll think about that tomorrow.

I can write a few words or a lot of words. In writing, the tool I reach for most often is an image with a few words, e.g. just last week.

Or I can write a lot of words about the experience that brought me to there. (I'm working on it.)

The former can be very effective and even lasting. These stories are iconic. The latter sort is more immersive. We can snuggle into it. Either can stick with us. Either can deliver the message.

The question is, what kind of a book do I want to make? We know already that it will be some combination of words and images. Drawings, paintings, photographic images of sculptures? Verse, anecdote, fiction?

I'm looking through the work I've done so far and honestly, the best answer seems to be not to choose one form, but to mix it up. That would create a new challenge - how to take what could look like a garage sale and make it visually cohesive. Already this seems a reasonable challenge, even if only because I haven't beaten my head against it for three months.

It seems to me that I've danced long enough with the old challenge. I've chosen over and over and just can't stick with my choices. It seems the best way to go is to try another approach. It works in sailing and herding cats, why not for creating a book?

I'm having this conversation with you before I have it with the publisher. Which, in my mind, makes a great deal of sense. After all, I'm your artist and this will be your book.

Tell me what you think. It matters to me.

It's Sunday. I'm in my ratty old robe, there's a lukewarm cup of forgotten coffee on my desk and I'm surrounded by cats. I laugh at myself. Stereotypes aren't created out of thin air.

Hope your Sunday is good.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Through the Dark Night

Sometimes you think you're alone.

Sometimes you are alone.

It's not a terrible thing, then, to discover that you can rely on yourself.

Thursday, February 02, 2012


January went by in a blur, mostly caused by cold meds and the general misery of bronchitis. I wrote this on facebook:

Lisa Snellings What I've had is a tanked economy that squeezed my business into a one-woman juggling act, single parenthood and all that goes with and a psychotic ex boyfriend that's stalked and harassed and even broke into my house. Not too many warm fuzzies, no safety net. But I know this--I laugh with my kid every day and eventually, I'll work it all out in the work. Two Constants for me - love and making stuff. Everything else can just suck it.
January 26 at 10:40am · LikeUnlike ·

Thought I was coming around and it knocked me back a good one. Silly virus! But now I'm digging out, catching up. Orders are getting mailed out, the studio got swept, trash taken out, bills paid and ducks jostled into rows. Some of them, anyway.

We all have time to be sick, don't we? Tose 'smell the roses' kinds of things we've been meaning to do get put aside because we're too busy. Or even taking a break with a good book or getting some fresh air and exercise. It takes a virus and a good ass-kicking to get me to spend a day on the sofa watching classic science fiction movies and reading. Two days. Likely, if I'd slowed down sooner I would've resisted the bug better. Silly human.

But now I'm coming around, catching up and this weekend, hope to be back to writing.

Last week was a good reminder not to invest so much in the future that I don't enjoy my day. The future is uncertain, but certainly would be better with some good memories from today.

Enjoy your day.