Category: Art

Life of Fictitious Ink

In the summer of 2013, I started down the path of setting up my own publishing company, looking to the day when the rights to  some of my own novels would revert back to me. With baby steps, I went through the process of setting up my business, getting a licence, and registering my publishing company – FICTITIOUS INK.

In 2014 I published a little ‘test’ book called LIFE IS A HIGHWAY: ADVICE AND REFLECTIONS ON NAVIGATING THE ROAD OF LIFE.  The book was based on a speaking engagement I did at a women’s retreat, and I thought it would serve nicely as a giveaway.

I also decided to test myself further, and publish a children’s book – THE SLEEPYTOWN EXPRESS.  This was a very personal project, as I wanted to publish it as a tribute to my late mother, who often sang Haven Gillespie’s beloved song to us as children. I started painting the illustrations shortly after she passed away in 2007, but it took several years and much time getting copyright permission etc, before the book would be a reality.

In 2016, three years after getting my business licence, I decided it was time to publish something more substantial. I had learned a few things about formatting, various software options, and other best practices, and had the next perfect ‘test’ book in mind. I’d received the rights back to my NEIGHBOURS Series, so republished these as a  set of serialized ebooks along with a complete volume in both ebook format and paperback.  It was my biggest publishing effort to date. It basically took up most of that summer, but it was well worth the time and steep learning curve it took to get this book the way I wanted it.

Somehow, in the busyness of that summer, I also got the idea for a little prayer journal which I put together called THIRTY DAYS OF TARGETED PRAYER: A JOURNALING TOOL TO BOOST YOUR PRAYER COMMITMENT.  Again, my motivation was rather personal. I am a voracious ‘journaler’ and often ‘pray’ while doing so. I wanted a systematic way to pray for other people and this is what I came up with. (By the way, I’ve been using it myself ever since.)

The learning continues and in 2017  I reformatted and republished THE SLEEPYTOWN EXPRESS as a hardcover book, which is so much nicer than the paperback. I also published two children’s books as class projects, writing and illustrating the story books with my Art 7 and 8 students.  HOCKEY IN THE WILD and FIRE BEAR are the results.

The second in the NEIGHBOURS Series also came into being with another set of serialized novellas and a complete version called KEEPING UP WITH THE NEIGHBOURS.  And I finally got around to the impetus for this whole experiment, which was to republish my own work when I got the rights back. My first published novel got revised and republished under a new name: CONSPIRACY OF BONES (And the Beat Goes On)

 

When I actually take the time to write it all down, I feel pretty satisfied. Sometimes it is easy to feel like you aren’t getting anything accomplished, but I can see steady growth and forward movement. I have plenty of plans for Fictitious Ink for the coming years.

Check out the FI website here for more cool photos.

 

Passing On the Legacy – A Post Mother’s Day Tribute

This post was originally shared on my previous blog ‘Expression Express’. Since Mother’s Day has just come and gone, I share it here again. Enjoy!

My mother was a very vibrant and eccentric individual. She was known for her whimsical ways and inspired a family phrase that perfectly described the way she lived her life. The Doreen Method is our way of saying ‘make it up as you go along’. This applied to recipes, sewing, carpentry… just about anything. Mom wasn’t afraid to tackle tasks if she had no previous experience or skill, but the outcome might not be the norm. As an artist she loved to paint on any surface from canvas to rocks to whole buildings. When my sister and her husband moved into Mom’s old house they were faced with a dilemma.  There were lots of funny little murals she had painted in obscure nooks and crannies. How could one paint over them?

Mom was also a storyteller, and some of my favourite childhood memories include listening to bedtime stories and songs. We were well acquainted with Thornton W. Burgess’ Adventures of Reddy Fox, for instance. In fact, foxes and mice were the favourite characters in her repertoire of stories and songs. She shared them with her children and nieces and nephews, and the tradition was carried forward to her grandchildren and even her great-grandchildren.

Mom passed away in 2007 at the age of 80. Unfortunately, we lost her seven years earlier to dementia. It was so difficult to see such a formerly vibrant individual reduced to the shell that she became. I had the privilege of sitting with her during the hours before she passed away. Somewhere around four o’clock in the morning on January 17, 2007, she slipped away to be with Jesus, free from the mental constraints that had kept her trapped for those seven years.

While I sat with her, holding her hand, I sang some of those old songs. One particularly special song was an old Haven Gillespie tune written in the 1930s called ‘The Sleepytown Express’. (listen here!) This is the song that ushered her into the presence of the Lord.  Strangely, my sisters and my two female cousins all woke at around four o’clock, dreaming about the Sleepytown Express…

I decided soon afterward that I would like to publish a book illustrating the song as a tribute to my mother. It took several years to do the paintings and quite a bit of  research to obtain permission to use the lyrics, but finally, in February of 2014, seven years after Mom passed, The Sleepytown Express was published.

For me this project was so much more than another book under my belt. It was about sharing Mom’s legacy with the extended family and passing it on to the next generation. This is not a book to be kept in pristine or precious condition; it is a book to be sung and celebrated as we pass the memorial torch on to the next generation.

 

Art to Take Your Breath Away

Have you ever had your breath literally taken away by something beautiful or profound?
I have had that experience. The first time this actually happened to me. I had begun my University training in Fine Art, and although I had a love for Art and artists, being from a small town I had never really been to a gallery of substance before. I was in the middle of an Art History class and went for a visit to the Mendel Art Gallery. I remember walking up to an Arthur Lismer painting and gasping. There is was – the actual painting I had just been reading about in my Art History text.
Probably the most profound experience I ever had was many years later when I visited the National Gallery in Ottawa. I had been exposed to a fair bit of Art by that time, but for whatever reason, during my first visit there I turned . . . and then I saw IT from across the room. ‘It’ was a cubist painting by Braque and it literally took my breath away. My heart started to race and I felt flushed; my chest constricted like I might not be able to suck in the next breath. I walked trance like to the painting and just stood there.
I’m sure that many of you find this extremely ‘nerdy’. I know, I think so myself, but I can’t help it! These are not isolated instances. either. Shall I tell you about the time I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York? It was ‘The Bathers’ by Georges Seurat that did it to me that time.  Or what about going to an art gallery in San Diego? Here is a direct quote from my journal:
“I am struck by the almost uncontainable thrill I feel when visiting such a place. Stomach butterflies; warmth and tightness in the chest; forcing myself to breathe in shallow gusts; a feeling like I want to burst into tears. This is a silent exuberance; an oxymoron of emotion brought on by passion. Unlike the excitement of a football game or the joy at seeing a loved one after a long separation, this is different. This is AWE.”
I’ve often said that I am passionate about the creative process in general. I derive a huge amount of satisfaction from all my creative endeavours, especially my writing. But my love for Art is still a place of near reverence. It is the thing that I love simply because I love it. I do not need to strive, or change, or work harder. I simply come and allow myself to be inspired. Next to my relationship with God, and my love for my family, my love for Art is probably the deepest love of all.
 *I found this in the archives of my old blog “Expression Express” (which is sadly, no more…) Even though I am primarily a writer, my love for the visual arts came first, which is why I probably find such pleasure in viewing art of all types. 

Legacy of Words

Why do I love words?

I often cite the time as a young mother I borrowed my mother’s old typewriter and thus began my love affair with writing. I’ve also written about the time I wrote my first play back in Grade Four and how that impacted me to write and direct in the future. Or I’ve mentioned my high school English teacher who encouraged me to write and gave me that small seed of hope that I really could be a writer some day. But I think the love of words and beautiful language goes much farther and deeper than any of these incidents.

My grandmother loved reading and could quote long passages from the likes of Longfellow and Shakespeare. She was the ‘go to’ person when any member of the family needed a poem to recite for public speaking. (We did that in those days…) I can still see her, eyes closed, as she recited the first lines of Evangeline, Longfellow’s epic poem.

'Evangeline'

‘Evangeline’

“This is the forest primeval, the murmuring pine and the hemlock, bearded in moss, in garments of green, indistinct in the twilight.” 

The words were haunting and beautiful. She would then go on to tell the rest of the story in her own words, for it was a tale too long for little children.
The impact was profound. I read the poem to my own children one year when we homeschooled and were studying Canadian history. Then, a few summers later, we visited Nova Scotia and the fabled site of Evangeline’s tragic tale. I now have a granddaughter named Evangeline – not by coincidence, I suspect. (Here is a painting I did entitled ‘Evangeline’ which I gave to my daughter.)

Reading books to children and telling them stories has a huge impact. Never belittle the bedtime story or the importance of sharing words with your children and grandchildren. It has lasting effects.

An Artist Writes

I didn’t always consider myself a writer. My first creative love was drawing. I have very vivid memories of sitting with my nose to the paper, content to create my picture stories. It didn’t take much to make me happy. I was rarely bored because there was always drawing to be done. A pad of paper was my favourite gift, and I’m sure I got at least one every birthday and Christmas. Good thing, too, because I filled them all.

Back then I didn’t realize that I wasn’t just drawing pictures. My drawings were mostly of interesting characters that I had made up. They came with elaborate backstories and participated in all kinds of adventures. Of course, it was difficult to draw each and every scene, but that was okay. I had the stories in my head, and drawing portions of them was a wonderful creative outlet.

Writing came easily for me once I got to school, but it never replaced my love of art. I wrote my first play when I was in Grade Four and convinced my friends to rehearse at recess time. Our teacher saw us practicing and arranged for us to perform the play in front of the entire school. Several years later, my English 12 teacher suggested I attend a summer school for budding writers because he felt my writing held promise. I wasn’t really interested. I wanted to focus on my visual art instead.

I majored in Fine Art at University and after I graduated, I tried to make money with my art. I made prints of some of my more successful pieces and went to every craft fair and art show I could. I also did a fair bit of commission work in those days – portraits, architectural drawings, and even commercial signage. Even then, there was no way to actually make a living with my art.
By that time I was married and expecting our first child. We lived in a very small house and there was no place to set up my art supplies where I could leave them from one day to the next. Once the baby came along, I was lucky if I could spare a few hours each afternoon for something creative while she napped. Inevitably, she would wake at a most inconvenient time in the painting’s progress. Trying to pursue my artistic dreams became more of a frustration than an outlet. I was tired of setting up and cleaning up with very little art – or satisfaction – to show for it.

At about that same time I borrowed my mother’s old typewriter. If I couldn’t paint, perhaps writing one of the many stories in my head would be a good alternative. I sat at the kitchen table and began pounding away. Almost from the start, the words began to flow. (Surprisingly the clacking never woke the baby!) This new creative outlet was simple to set up, there was virtually no clean up, and I began to feel a deep sense of satisfaction after each writing session. Thus began a love affair with writing that has lasted for almost thirty years. (My daughter will be thirty this summer.)

I’d like to say that it was at that moment that I ‘knew’ I was a writer. It wasn’t quite that simple, though. I was almost ashamed of my writing obsession and no one beyond my immediate family knew anything about it for many years. I just didn’t know anyone else who loved to write the way I did, and there was no internet back then to connect with like minded people.

 I still love art, and I still paint and draw. The visual arts will always be my first love, even though it has taken a back seat to my writing. As I write this blog post, I am preparing a piece for submission to a regional art exhibit that is coming up in May. The piece is called ‘Veil of Tears‘ and I am quite happy with the way it turned out.

My ‘Eureka’ moment as a writer came through the backdoor of a different artistic pursuit. In my mind, however, writing is still art. So I suppose one could say that my aspirations have never really changed. I’m just using a different canvas.

This post originally appeared on the Inscribe Writers Online blog in March of 2015.

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