Category Archives: Creative Stuff

How To Make Vagina Cupcakes

You probably already know that every year I perform in a charity production of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, and every year I make a few dozen vagina cupcakes to sell in the lobby before the show. Because who doesn’t want to eat a vagina cupcake, amiright?

Hell, my cupcakes even appeared in the first edition of Karen Alpert’s book “I Heart My Little A-Holes.” (I say first edition, because when HarperCollins picked it up for publication, they cut my chapter, saying it was too risque. Vagina motherfuckers.)

My pussycakes are in a book!
My pussycakes are in a book!

But I can hear you out there, thinking to yourself, “If only I knew how to make these myself at home. They’d be terrific at the school band bake sale!”

So as part of my contribution to mankind, I thought it was about time I clued everyone in on how to make these at home. It’s pretty easy, you guys! Just follow these simple steps I’ve outlined below. And if you want to see how I learned, then check out Chaos Bakery’s video “How To Make a Vagina Cupcake” on YouTube.

For real, there’s videos out there about this.

Step 1 – Have a reason to make vagina cupcakes, such as you’re doing The Vagina Monologues (duh), you want to make a graphic impression at a baby shower, or you want to explain anatomy in a relatable way to a high school biology class.

Step 2 – Bake cupcakes. I did mine from a box. Because, honestly, noone really even notices the flavor when they are biting into an anatomically correct vagina cupcake. I added a little food coloring to give them a more “fleshy” appearance.

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Step 3 – Frost lightly. Again, I added a little food coloring to aid in the flesh-coloring. Add more or less to make it the flesh color you desire. We all know there are an infinite number of flesh colors out there.

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Step 4 – Make some fondant (you can do this ahead of time). Here is the recipe I used. It’s pretty easy to make your own, I would discourage buying it pre-made because it’s kind of gross.

Step 5 – Fashion the outer lips (the labia majora if scientific terms turn you on) with your fondant. I cut out circles of fondant using a glass and cut each circle in half. Then you fold up the straight side a little bit to make the lips. The frosting on the top of the cupcake holds the fondant in place.

Feed me, Seymour!
Feed me, Seymour!

Step 6 – Add a clitoris. You can use fondant, as Chaos Bakery does, or get creative. This year, I used strawberry-flavored tic-tacs and Starburst jelly beans because it’s Easter. Why not?

They look excited...
They look excited…

Step 7 – Fashion the inner lips (labia minora) with little scraps of fondant. Mine are kind of wild and crazy. Make ’em long, make ’em short, whatever. They come in all sizes.

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 Step 8 – Spread a little frosting around the outside. You will now attach the “pubic hair” to that. I used toasted coconut, chocolate sprinkles, and gold sugar and pressed it into the frosting. Shake off the excess. Or go without!

Don't get the hair stuck in your teeth.
Don’t get the hair stuck in your teeth.

Step 9 – The final step is to use a little food coloring to color the inner lips to give them dimension. I used red gel and purple gel food coloring, depending on the color of the cupcake.

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Voila! There you have it. Vagina cupcakes you can make at home. Here are some pictures of all the different kinds I made – a total of 60. So many vaginas, so little time!

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And here is the video from Chaos Bakery. Chef Bev does an excellent job walking you through all the steps.

IN VAG WE TRUST! GO FORTH AND MAKE VAGINA CUPCAKES, YOU VAGINA WARRIORS, YOU!

Art Healing Trauma

In case any of you have missed my barrage of messages, entreaties and marketing blitzes, I am appearing in a charity production of The Vagina Monologues on March 28th in Santa Monica, CA. This is the fifth consecutive year that we’ve produced the show to support efforts to end violence against women. Information and tickets can be found here.

The Vagina Monologues - March 28th
The Vagina Monologues – March 28th

The local charity that receives the proceeds from our show is a Venice, CA-based organization called A Window Between Worlds. These wonderful folks sponsor programs that use art to help people who have experienced trauma. Their methods have met with such success over the years that they have recently expanded their mission. Where once they worked exclusively with women and girls, they are now extending their reach to include boys and men, veterans and their families, and the mental health field.

Table filled with art supplies at A Window Between Worlds
Table filled with art supplies at A Window Between Worlds

Every year, AWBW invites our cast to their headquarters so we can see firsthand what they do. Every year, this is one of the highlights of the whole experience for me. Each day I become more attuned to how creativity is an integral part of who I am and how exercising my creativity makes me feel better and helps me to process all that stuff that goes on inside me. It’s a way to explore, to meditate and to heal. If I may be frank, these workshops are fucking awesome.

One of my favorite exercises is when we each take one portion of a drawing of a tree. We decorate our little square in whatever way moves us. Then all the squares are put back together, revealing one multi-dimensional image. It’s a perfect way to illustrate how we are all different, yet we can all come together to create something beautiful.

Before & After
Before & After

AWBW has this fantastic art room that is stocked floor to ceiling with every kind of art supply imaginable – paint, paint brushes, glue, glitter, pipe cleaners, paper, crayons, markers, colored pencils, bits of this and that. It’s exciting to be in and around all this great stuff and fun to explore all these different ways to express ourselves.

Muppet Shrinky Dinks!
Muppet Shrinky Dinks!

Remember Shrinky Dinks? Those fun plastic thingies from our childhood that you put in the oven and they magically shrink?

 

 

 

 

 

Vagina Shrinky Dinks!
Vagina Shrinky Dinks!

Yeah – we make vagina Shrinky Dinks every year and it is AWESOME.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This year our cast made also made a vagina painting together. All of us gathered around this canvas and made what we think looks like a pretty good Art Deco version of a pussy. What do you think?

Art Deco Vagina
Art Deco Vagina

I know I can speak for our entire cast when I say that this workshop is a fun night for us, and makes us appreciate even more what AWBW is doing for survivors out there. They are addressing a problem with a unique and creative solution, and their efforts are making a difference in communities across America, helping to break the silence surrounding violence.

You can help support AWBW AND have a fun night out by coming to see the show! If you aren’t in LA and would like to help, you can also purchase a ticket on behalf of a survivor. Just head over to the event page, click on “contact organizer” and leave a note saying your ticket is for a survivor.  It will allow a woman who might not normally be able to afford to come to the show an opportunity to experience a night of empowerment, community and joy.

IN VAG WE TRUST! Paint on, Vagina Warriors!

Finding the Path of Least Resistance

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Last night I attended the annual departmental reunion for my undergrad theatre program. A program which was terrifically formative for me and which has produced dozens, if not hundreds, of successful and even famous theater, film and television artists over the last 40 or so years.

There’s nothing like an alumni event for your competitive and prestigious alma mater to make you start questioning all the decisions you’ve made that have gotten you to this point in your life. 

There were many fresh, young, eager and excited faces there last night – full of hope and anticipation for good things yet to come. There were also a fair amount of faces in the 35- to 45-year-old range, looking a little dazed and sharing thoughts of “What the hell happened? Where am I? How did I get here?”

I’ve known since I was a teenager that I wanted to live a creative life, and more specifically, to pursue a career in acting. There was never a doubt in my mind about that. And for many years, I did just that. Many, many, many years. So many years of struggling to have a voice, to be heard, to find my place at the table.

I don’t think I’ve ever found my place as an actor.

I look around me and see so many of my colleagues in the same position. The market is glutted. It’s really hard to find your way and to make it stick. There is so much struggle, so much hardship, so much financial instability, so many sacrifices. So little success, so little reward.

I got into this business because I had something to say, something to share, a desire to make a connection with people and say “Look at this crazy life. This is something, isn’t it? Being human? Let’s figure out a way to make the most of the time we have.”

But I hardly ever get to do that, be part of something that puts something meaningful out into the world and puts food on my table. There are always road blocks, obstacles, big huge boulders in the way. And after 20 years I’m looking at this and thinking, “What the fuck? Why am I beating my head against the wall? I have something to offer this world. And I’m not getting any opportunities to do it, no matter how hard I try or how many different roads I try to go down.”

Which got me thinking about the idea of finding the path of least resistance. If I keep pursuing the same thing but don’t move forward, shouldn’t I try to find a path with less resistance? Shouldn’t I be more like water in a stream, diverting around obstacles with ease and grace and going off in a different direction? Is there any real merit in continually pounding the same obstacles until I’m thoroughly exhausted?

I don’t think there is. And I find tremendous freedom in that. But to others it looks like giving up, and it can be hard to manage those expectations.

Yes, acting was my first true love. But there are so many different outlets for my creativity, there is no reason I can’t set acting aside and find a path that offers less resistance. I just want to put my story out there, to pay attention to the world and to share my observations about it. I want to help illuminate this journey we’re all on by being honest about my own. I want to connect with people and hopefully in the process make my life and yours richer and more meaningful. Wouldn’t staying on the path that is going nowhere be counter-productive to my end goal of not only living a well-observed life, but also sharing it?

I studied the Michael Chekhov acting technique with the brilliant Lenard Petit many years ago. One of the biggest take-aways I got from it is the idea of working with the Four Brothers – a sense of form, a sense of beauty, a sense of the whole, and a sense of ease. Can’t we apply that not only to creating a character, but also creating anything? To creativity in general? I think so.

I want to create with a sense of ease. And I haven’t found that ease with acting, but I have found it with other mediums, like writing. Sharing with you on this blog and in other venues provides the same connection I seek with acting. So like the river, I will flow around the obstacle and find a new, unobstructed path.

I will find the path of least resistance. I will find my “yes” in a sea of “no”. And I will find a way to deal with the fact that to some it looks like giving up, although to me it feels like being honest about who I am, where I am, and what I need to do to live the life I feel compelled to live.

H.G. Wells said, “The path of least resistance is the path of the loser.” 

I disagree. If there is another way for me to achieve my goals and to be of service in this life, a way that provides less resistance than the path that I originally chose, would I not be a fool to say no to it? As long as I am not sacrificing who I truly am inside? Doesn’t it take strength of character to admit you may be going the wrong way and that you need to alter course? Can it not be both exciting and rewarding to take a breath, let go, and see what happens? To see what flows into that space you have created when you let go of the death grip you had on the things you thought you wanted? To understand that maybe all the choices you’ve made along the way were preparing you for something other than what you at first intended?

Have you encountered this? A feeling that there might be another way for you, if you can set aside other people’s expectations, and focus more on what feels right for you personally? How have you dealt with it? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Want To Know the Secret To Feeling Joy? It’s Really Simple If You Do This.

 

You want to know the secret to feeling joy? Spread it.

No, really, it is as simple as that. Be the instigator.

I experienced this phenomenon firsthand a couple of weeks ago. You see, I had an item I needed to return to a friend of mine. She had accidentally left it at my house. Here is the item:

Aloysius (now Hoots), wearing a sweater and packaged up for his journey.
Aloysius (now Hoots), wearing a sweater and packaged up for his journey.

That friend happens to be in Kindergarten. Instead of simply handing said item back to her, I devised a plan to make the return a bit more, let’s say, dramatic than that. The more I thought about it, the more excited I got. So I sat down and wrote this letter.

 January, 2015

Dear Miraculous Miranda-

This owl informs me that he belongs to you and he would like it if I returned him to you, thank you very much. He tells me his name is Aloysius, and that he comes from a very long line of very rare and very special owls. That is why he has blue eyes, because he is rare and special.

(Or so he says. I, myself, have never really trusted owls.)

He wants to apologize to you, Miraculous Miranda, for getting himself lost. He was trying to fly, you see, but isn’t very good at it. His wings are bejeweled and that makes them very heavy! He landed under my bookshelf, and nobody heard his cries. He has such a very tiny voice, after all. I found him when I was cleaning out the dust bunnies, who had been keeping him company for several months, and boosting his morale. They never let him give up hope that he would find you again.

But his adventure did not end there! Oh, no. You see I must apologize to you as well, Miraculous Miranda, because I meant to give him back to you on Thanksgiving. I had put him in a special place of honor on top of my dresser, on the very top of a pile of very shiny, very old brooches. Do you know what a brooch is? It’s a very fancy way of saying a pretty pin for your shirt or dress. Anyway, all of the brooches are very shiny and bejeweled, just like Aloysius. I forgot he was there! Oops! My bad.

He was very irritated with me for leaving him with those brooches for so long. They are very chatty, and all they want to talk about is The War and how kids today don’t know how to dress. He wants you to know that he defended your fashion choices to them to the very end!

Anyway, Aloysius is very anxious to be back in your care, so I promised him I wouldn’t wait another moment. I am now sending him on an adventure all by himself through the mail. I suspect it will be very exciting! There will be so many letters for him to talk to, from far away places like England and Van Nuys! Think of all the things he will learn!

After you read this, and after you’ve given proper attention to Aloysius and fussed over him and told him how happy you are to see him (he really likes that, he’s just the tiniest, littlest bit insecure), please send word of his safe arrival. The brooches are ever so concerned about his safety on this voyage, and it would help to settle their minds to know he is finally back home.

Ever Yours-

Amy

P.S. – I put a sweater on him because he was very nervous that he was going to be cold during his travels. He can keep it to remember me by.

Oh my gosh, the delight I felt in writing this letter, the excitement of dropping the package in the mail, and the anticipation of the package arriving at its destination!

I mean, c’mon folks – it’s just a letter. All it takes is penning a letter to a friend, for the purpose of having some fun, to put joy in your heart. I rode the high of it all day.

And THEN the joy came back to me again when I received my own response in the mail!

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Feeling a little low? Want some joy in your heart? Then spread that shit like peanut butter! Seriously, just give it a try. I bet it will work.

You Can Be Creative, Even In a Tiny Space (Like Mine!)

 

You don’t need a ton of space to be creative.

Now, that isn’t to say it wouldn’t be nice to have a sprawling studio in which to exercise your creativity, but it isn’t necessary.

I live in an 850 square foot house. We have two bedrooms that are busy being bedrooms. I’m steadfast in my conviction that a bedroom’s sole function is a place for rest. I don’t want it to be a room that I associate with work, or I won’t be able to sleep through the night.

My husband and I were a little concerned when we first looked at our house that it would be too small for our needs. But it has an expansive back patio and a saltwater pool and spa, so we decided we could compromise on space in order to have this backyard paradise.

I had to get creative about my creative space. I work primarily from home, so I’m adamant that I have a space that is all mine – nobody else is allowed to put their stuff in it! I have managed to carve out my own little place in our living room that is 25 square feet.

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And it even feels private, like I’m in my own little room! It just needed a couple of well-placed bookshelves to create the desired effect.

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That’s my office/studio behind there!

I work in here every day, and even recently completed the first draft of my first novel from this space. I blog from here, I make art from here, I daydream in here.

Would I rather have a space like this?

The Home of Marianne and Kore Yoors... Photographed by Leslie Williamson
The Home of Marianne and Kore Yoors… Photographed by Leslie Williamson

Or this?

Isabelle & Brandon's Lovely Los Angeles Cottage on Apartment Therapy
Isabelle & Brandon’s Lovely Los Angeles Cottage on Apartment Therapy

Or this?

Needlepoint Haven - Kaffe Fasset Studio
Needlepoint Haven – Kaffe Fasset Studio

You bet. And I’ll keep visualizing those things until I have a dream studio space one day. But I’m not going to let my lack of space get in my way of being creative now.

Think you don’t have the space to carve out your own little sanctuary? I challenge you to reconsider. I suspect that you have a nook or cranny somewhere that you can claim. A closet? Underneath a stairwell? A corner in the kitchen? Let your imagination go, you never know what you’ll discover.

Do you have a tiny creative space that you love? Please share! It’s wonderful inspiration to see how everyone else makes use of the space they have.

The Benefits of a Lazy Crafternoon

 

This weekend, I invited one of my favorite people, Kristina, over to my house for a crafternoon. What is a crafternoon? Well, it’s just like the name suggests – it’s an afternoon spent making something crafty.

I find crafternoons can be most enjoyable when done with friends. Not only do you have some lovely little thing to show for your time, but you also get to chat and catch up with your pals. It can be better than a night out drinking with your friends, where all you may have to show for it is a hangover and some fuzzy memories of behaving inappropriately.

I hadn’t seen Kristina since the holidays, and I was itching to make something with these little hands of mine, so I figured it was time to host a crafternoon. Kristina had a half-finished painting in my shed she had been working on over the past two years of crafternoons at my house. I was excited for her to finish it.

Hosting a crafternoon is easy. I set us up on my patio outside (my husband was awesome and set up a couple of heaters for us so we wouldn’t freeze, it was actually a cold and rainy day here in Los Angeles). I covered the table with newspaper, gathered up all my paints and brushes, set out a couple of recycled jars filled with water, put out some paper towels, and we were ready to go. You don’t need anything fancy. Some of my paint is ten years old, purchased at Michaels for some project or other. I think some of my brushes came from the dollar store. Sometimes crafternoons also include wine and snacks, but since both of us are on a clean-eating kick for the New Year, we sipped juice and water.

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You can do whatever kind of creating you want, but since Kristina was going to be painting, I thought I would paint as well. It’s not a craft I participate in frequently, as I don’t have any real skills or training in it. But I find it so therapeutic. I found a simple picture of a lotus flower on Pinterest that I liked and thought was doable with my limited ability, and saved a pleasing square of cardboard on which to paint that had come with a wall calendar my stepdaughter had received for Christmas from my parents.

Even if you have no creative skills whatsoever, I highly recommend setting aside some time every once in awhile just to craft. In fact, people are beginning to study the positive effects crafting can have on your health. It’s a mood-boosting, stress-reducing, drug-free way to feel better.

I think I get the most enjoyment out of painting, and here’s why:

  1. It forces me to slow down. It’s impossible to paint detail if you are racing around like a maniac. I can simply sit in one place for a couple of hours, breathe more deeply, and relax.
  2. It soothes me. I find the physical act of putting a brush full of paint onto canvas, paper, cardboard, whatever, so calming and satisfying. There’s something about that gooey, colorful stuff spreading out before me that lights up my brain in just the right way.
  3. It allows me to look at something with purpose and intent. Have you ever looked at a flower, I mean, really looked? Have you noticed how the light hits the petals? How each petal has its own unique, subtle coloring? How sometimes the stem doesn’t grow straight? Really noticing these things allows me to look at our world with different eyes, and consider the circumstances which brought this object to this space in time. What causes those color variations? What environmental factors caused the stem to have a bend in it? How does this flower turn to face the light?

Do you have a favorite type of craft you enjoy? How do you allow your creativity to enhance your health and well-being?

My finished lotus flower, now sitting pretty over my desk.
My finished lotus flower, now sitting pretty over my desk.
Kristina's beautiful peacock
Kristina’s beautiful peacock

 

 

What Kind of Facebook Quiz Are You?

I can be pretty hypocritically judge-y sometimes.

Like when I scroll through my Facebook feed, and I see that one of my friends has not only taken but also posted the results to one of those inane online quizzes. Something along the lines of What Color Is Your Aura/What Russian Aristocrat Were You In a Former Life/What Kind of Sandwich Are You/What Would Your Drunk Game of Thrones Porn Star Cat’s Name Be?

When I see that someone has touted to all in cyberspace that they are, indeed, a ham on rye – just like they knew they’d be! – I’ll admit to a little eye-roll here and there. I might even smirk or let slip a “Heh, sucker!” under my breath while my cat looks on in uninterrupted boredom.

And then I gleefully take the quiz.

I might even post the results. Because who doesn’t want to know that I am really Alice in Wonderland and I should live in Paris and also in a cottage by the sea with no children and three cats?

So color me surprised when I happened upon a quiz the other day where I actually learned something not only useful but also inspiring – What Famous Poem Was Written About You?

Full disclosure – I’ve never really liked poetry all that much. I try, I really do. I really want to like it. I’m an actor and a writer, after all. I’m supposed to like it. But often I don’t get it. I read it, and it makes no sense. Like Shakespeare. I’ve been studying Shakespeare for 20 years. I’ve performed in many Shakespeare plays. I know what a spondee is. Hell, I’ve taught the stuff. But I didn’t really get it or like it until a few years ago when I played Olivia in Twelfth Night. In the span of a few short weeks it all kind of clicked together for me and I had one of those “Aha, Come to Jesus” experiences. The words suddenly made perfect sense and so beautifully articulated the soul of this character it felt like a gift to be able to say them out loud every night. So I like Shakespeare now. And I get it (kind of sometimes).

I saw this quiz and I thought, okay, let’s just see what kind of poem the programmer’s algorithm comes up with. After answering all the usual things like “What kind of writing utensil would you use?” and “What decade fascinates you?”, the quiz did it’s little bubbly, calculation-thingy as though it was actually thinking, and it spit out this:

Invictus by William Ernest Henley

It’s embarrassing to admit that I did not know the poem or the poet, and that I had to look it up. Go ahead and judge me, I deserve it.

Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

 

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

 

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds and shall find me unafraid.

 

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate,

I am the captain of my soul.

I was transfixed reading it. This poem speaks to me so clearly and straight to my heart. And while I’ve heard the last two lines before, I did not know the whole thing. I felt pretty stupid, but also like I was just given this huge gift. I’m eager to explore more of Henley’s work, and endeavor to learn a little bit more about this unconquerable soul of mine.

So, yeah. I’m the “quietly judging you but still taking them” kind of Facebook quizzes. What kind are you?

Portrait_of_William_Ernest_Henley
I see you judging me, William Ernest Henley.

 

Showing My Work

(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 11/16/14)

I’ve been anxiously waiting for a book that I’ve had on hold at the library, and finally got it into my hot little hands yesterday afternoon, after a wait of about three months.

I’m already finished reading it.

In fairness, it’s a short book, easily digested, but it is FULL of GREAT and USEFUL IDEAS. That book is “Show Your Work” by Austin Kleon.

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Do you know him? If not, you should check him out. Particularly if you are a creative type person. His first book, “Steal Like an Artist” is also right on the money. You can find out all about his books and his blackout poetry at www.austinkleon.com.

I’ve been thinking about this concept – showing my work – for a few months now. Ever since I started on the journey of The Artist’s Way, back in August. A journey which is coming to an end this week. I’m a changed person because of it.

I’ve got lots of ideas brewing in this brain of mine. I’m smack-dab in the middle of working on a Young Adult novel – called “New Summerland” – as part of NaNoWriMo. This very blog you’re reading right now is scheduled for a New Years overhaul, and I’m pretty excited about it. I’ve got a better idea of what direction I’m heading in, and I’m excited to share it with you.

I’ve been enjoying this new process of showing my work on a regular basis. I thank you for going on this ride with me, and sharing your work with me. We’re all in this together. We are all students and teachers, simultaneously.

Go forth and create! And show me what you’re working on!

NaNoWriMo 2014 – Am I Crazy?!

(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 11/2/14)

I’ve been talking about writing a book. For YEARS. Have I done it? Nope. It’s really easy to put off writing a book. Staring at that blank page, thinking about all the words you still have to write, trying to figure out how to structure the damn thing, looking for some kind of divine intervention…yeah, way easier to clean the bathroom and re-organize the garage than get started on that novel.

In an interesting bit of synchronicity, I have been lately thinking again seriously about writing a book, and stumbled on this little thing called National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. Basically, it is a challenge to write 50,000 words during the month of November. If you finish, you win. Approximately 250,000 people take the challenge, and only 33,000 win.

Well, crap, if you make it a competition of course I want to win!

So, I threw my hat in the ring. I had an idea for a Young Adult novel in October, so I decided to run with it. Flying by the seat of my pants. I’m two days and 4,426 words in. It is extremely helpful to have a deadline and to know that the most important goal is to just get the words on the page. Keep typing. Don’t get mired down in details. Start and JUST KEEP GOING TIL YOU FINISH.

This is the perfect set-up for me.

You may not hear from me quite so often this month, as some of my dedicated blogging time will now be novel-writing time, because I am determined to finish this thing. I want to be able to look back at the end of the year and think I WROTE A BOOK. A WHOLE BOOK!!

Anyone want to join me?

Participant-2014-Twitter-Profile