Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Magic in a Manual Typewriter

It's entirely possible that many of you have never used or possibly even seen up close a manual typewriter.

To me, a manual typewriter is the main character in the fantasy of being a writer.

Oh sure, I type this blog post on a computer, but my first love was a manual typewriter...because that's what the real writers in old movies used...and old movies were my reality as a child.

Lately, I have found myself very resistant to writing on the computer...which is usually fine, I hand write most of my new projects first anyway, but I didn't want to do that either.

I needed some magic...and the Universe sent me the answer through a great book, "The Help." The book is beautifully written, engaging, compelling, everything you want in a good thought-provoking read...and even more, it gave me the of the main characters was an aspiring writer who lugged around a manual typewriter.

And so inspired, I got my little manual typewriter out of her box and set her up to work.

I am a writer again.

The typewriter satisfies my senses. I feel the keys working with me, hear the words going onto paper, smell the old typewriter and ink, see the stack of pages pile up (I repurpose the blank sides of old script pages).

The history of being a writer exists with me in these moments...the old newspaper people working toward deadlines, the writers who typed up the classic novels that we love...myself when I wrote my first complete book - a dog training manual - in 3rd grade...and then, in my 20's when I wrote my first play on a manual.

My current typewriter was saved from the streets of New York. She sat on a pile of trash bags by the curb. I couldn't leave her there. Now, she returns the favor by bringing back the magic of being a writer to my life.

What brings out your magic?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

When You Think You're Done, You're Just Beginning

"When you think you're done, you're just beginning," holds as true for writing as it does for artwork.

In the process of illustration it's visually obvious. I start with rough sketches and then do a sketch that I predict will be 'the one.'

For a few minutes, maybe even a day or two...I believe it is 'the one'...that I've gone as far as I can...

But then I see...I could do better and more ideas start to come...and then I push myself.

New sketches evolve and a new 'the one' is almost always obviously better than the previous versions.
This process continues until it's just time to get it out into the world.

I use illustration as the example here because it's obvious at a glance the improvement that comes from pushing oneself further...of enlisting the critical eye in yourself and other people that you trust.

This same principle applies to writing, but you have to sit still and read to see it...but just the same, you do rough sketches and write that initial first draft.

It's important to remember first drafts are rough and not precious...they are the achievement of the first step...then the process begins of pushing oneself further into the story...again enlisting readers that you trust to give you honest feedback...honest...okay, you can have someone read it who will love it and stroke your ego...but know that that's all that person is really want the people who will give you the pros and cons of what you've written...people who will "push you to be your best possible self."

The more I write, draw, paint...the more I see it's all about doing doing doing...working on the craft, delving deeper into the issue at hand, working on clarity, being honest about who you are and what you want to accomplish through the piece...and then continuing this process over and over.

We are lead to believe that any art form just flows out looks that way in movies...books...etc...but that's not true...every artist of any kind puts in the's not one's's not one's many, etc.

Once I understood this, my process got easier...I stopped judging myself on first drafts that were far from ready. Now, I understand that stinky first drafts are just step one...and I appreciate them for that.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Million Ways

The more I read, the more movies I watch, the more artwork I view, the more I see that there is no right way.

Yes, there is a structure at work underneath these artforms...but what covers that structure can be far reaching...with limitless possibilities.

The more I see...the more I become secure in who I am as an artist, writer, creator.

I see that the most important thing is to do my work in a way that is me...not me imitating someone else or me trying to figure out what someone else would want.

A friend told me once, "Write the plays that you want to see."
That applies to all the work that you want to see. The work only you can do.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Feel Better - Read a Biography

A sure cure for a self pity party is to read a biography...anyone's.
Reading or watching any biography or autobiography reminds me that everyone, no matter how successful, has a life of ups and downs, of near misses, of successes and failures, of happiness and sadness, etc.

It reminds me that perserverance is the key to a successful life.
The most important thing is to believe in what you are doing, love what you are doing, and have faith that moving forward will bring you the life you want.

I just finished reading this inspiring autobiography/biography of the dynamic and talented Stan Lee. I highly recommend it. It's a perfect example of someone who never stopped to dwell on anything distasteful, he just grabbed life and still keeps riding the wave.

Biographies remind us that everyone struggles. No one is handed an easy life on a platter, it only seems that way from the outside.

It's important to remember that just like teachers told us, it's not the smartest or most talented who succeed, it's the ones who keep their focus, work the hardest, and want what they are after the most.

Sure you can do all these things and still hit killer potholes in the road, but not letting yourself get stuck in those potholes is the secret.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Surround Yourself with People who Believe in You!

I just finished this painting of Kevin Bailey, founder of
'Anthony Cares for Kids.
' Here he is surrounded by the characters he created for his book.

Looking at the painting, I am reminded of how important it is to surround yourself with people who believe in you and your talents.

And how important it is that you believe they are right.

Look at their confidence in you as fuel. It will help you get through shaky moments in your life and career.

When I doubt my big dreams, I think of the people who believe in me. I realize that if I just believe in myself half as much as they do, I can accomplish anything. This knowledge provides me with a needed boost of energy and inspiration.

Allow yourself to believe -- the people who believe in you are right.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Billable Hours

At lunch this week, I sat next to two gentlemen discussing billable hours for their company.

They talked about the importance of knowing how each employee spent their time, not just the time that would be billed to the customers.

They also discussed how hard it was to get many of those employees to turn in their time.

I do know that it's a pain to keep track of what you do all day, but I also understand the importance of knowing this information.

I realize that my own work load might improve if I keep track of how I spend my day.

It would be nice to know:

How many hours I spend on a particular project?
How many hours I spend organizing?
How many hours preparing for a school visit?
Cleaning? Painting? Watching movies? Writing correspondence? Updating my website?
etc. etc. etc.

This information will be valuable to me.


By seeing where I spend my time, I can change things that don't make sense in terms of where I want to go in my career and life.

Perhaps I will see ways to save time so I have more time to do the things I enjoy.

By having my activities and time written down, I can also give myself credit for all that I do do.

(I love it when do do ends up in a sentence.)

So, starting tomorrow, I'm going to insist that all my keeping track of billable hours.

After I master keeping track of hours, I'll move on to keeping track of money. : )

Monday, April 5, 2010

Don't Think Too Much!

Okay, it's been a long time since my last entry...why?

I've been thinking too much...

wondering, 'what should I write?' 'Should I change the name of the blog?' 'Should I change this?' 'Should I change that?'

Spending so much time worrying about details that I stopped the blog process.

This is common for many people. It's easy to get bogged down with details and then stop writing, or painting, or auditioning, or doing any of the number of things that one loves to do.

The truth is, I have many things to blog about. Each is as valid as any other. And, when it's time to change the focus of my blog and the name, I shall, because it will be obvious.

But right now, it's important to write the blog, because it keeps me writing and connecting.

It's the same for any of you. What is it that you want to be doing?
Do it.
You don't need to think that hard about it.

You want to paint?
Grab some paints, any paints, and start painting.
Don't stop and wonder, 'what should I be painting?' 'where should I be painting?' 'what materials do I need?'

Use what you have, paint where you are, and paint whatever pops into your head.

If it's not painting that you want to do, exchange the word 'paint' in the above sentences with your secret desire.

Go for it!

Just typing this has put me back on track, back to the blog keyboard...and boy, does it feel good!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Trouble with Cookies

yes, I know, that is a surprising title coming from me.

I love cookies...homemade cookies, good bakery cookies, but not just any old cookie, not store bought or day old bakery cookies.

But I digress.

For me, the trouble with cookies is that if there is a cookie in my house, it's like I have job --to eat every cookie until they are gone.

Tonight, I came home with new cookies...a local lady bakes them with potato chips inside...
but before I could eat those cookies...I had to eat the last two cookies from a delicious batch I had baked yesterday, plus a tiny bit of supper, then I started eating the new cookies.

The problem? I'm full, and there are still cookies to eat.

It's night. If it was morning, I would have an entire day to eat the cookies.

Maybe I need mental assistance...hmmm?

Ahhh...this writing has helped...I write a bit...get up-eat a cookie...write a working pattern has kicked in.

The cookies might be a blessing. I can use this momentum of cookie/writing to start working on the new proposal for Brave Little Hen webisodes.

What a relief! Cookies aren't trouble for me afterall.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Everywhere I GO...TV!

Like a spreading virus, television is invading all the places that I want to be quiet or read...

the NYC taxis now have a television in the back seat...but thank goodness it can be turned off;

the airport waiting area has a television. There's enough chaos in waiting areas. I don't want to listen to CNN and destruction around the world while I'm waiting to get on an airplane. I want to read something escapist.

But worst of all, the television has invaded doctor's office waiting areas...

Oh wait, worse than that...the actual doctor's exam room...

This past week, I went to my dentist...a television hung up in the waiting room, but 'thank goodness' the sound was off.

Then I went into the exam room, got into the lounging dentist chair...saw a huge television on the wall...thought, "oh, maybe that's how they show you what's going on with your teeth these days."

But no! They turned on the huge annoying thing.

Then to make matters worse and to the point of unbelievable...the dentist comes in...and she is lovely...but she was watching television while she cleaned my teeth!

and I use cleaned my teeth loosely, because I think she missed a few spots when she had her focus on Tiger Woods.

Luckily, I have really good teeth and there wasn't anything wrong with them...but still...

when I go to the dentist or doctor or when I'm having a discussion with someone...I want them to pay attention to me. Who doesn't?

and I guess the dentist doing such an extreme thing made me think again about how crazy it is to watch television at a family meal. Shouldn't we give each other attention?

Nothing bad is going to happen to us if we miss a little television.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The "Eat What's in Your Pantry" Challenge!

If you're like most people, or most people I know, you buy lots of food and you throw away lots of food.

Because you don't want to eat your leftovers, or your food has spoiled or expired before you got around to eating it.

Like most people, you've probably gotten into the habit of buying more food each week whether you needed it or not.

Honestly, I throw away too much food.

So, I challenged myself to start using the food already on my shelves and in my icebox and to severely limit my grocery shopping.

As you can see, I had stored up a variety of tasty items including: grains, flours, pastas, medication for my dog, honey, and some frosting.

The resourcefulness of my twenties has awakened. A time when I had no money, but still needed to eat. (Thank goodness my mom and dad lived close by.)

Take the challenge:
How much of that food in your pantry and icebox you can eat up?
How few items can you purchase at the grocery store?
How long can you go between grocery visits?

I'm on the 2nd week of my challenge.

It's empowering.
It's survival.
It's fun!
And I'm saving a nice chunk of money.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Who Benefits from Your Fears?

Who benefits from your fears?

Because it's certainly not you.

We live in a society that continually bombards us with things to be afraid of...the news is SCARY!

But it's not in perspective.

Yes, bad things happen...but what we see on the news is out of proportion with the good...if you watch the must think that by living in New York, I'm in constant danger for my life...but I'm not...New York City is actually safer than Kansas City... topic.

Reality...great people are everywhere, doing amazing things...and you are safe...statistically...

Here's something else to chew around in your brain...the news is paid for and approved by the are all the television shows...reality and fiction...the advertisers...hear that? The advertisers...if they don't want you to know something, you'd don't...and if they want you to be afraid of probably will be...because if you're afraid...they win...they financially benefit from your fears.

Who would really want 46 million Americans to live without healthcare? But daily we are fed fears of what those people being taken care of will do to hurt the rest of us. It's not reality.

By remembering that all media is bought by an advertiser, I am able to keep what I read and view in perspective. I also do research to find some shred of the truth...this can be very hard. But one well-known example...reality: No one ever found a razor blade in an apple at Halloween...yet, almost all of us had our Halloween trick or treating curbed over that fear.

Live your life...the end result is same for everyone...only the journey is different. Wouldn't you like yours to be free and fearless?

That's what I'm aiming for.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Virtue of Handerkerchiefs

For years, I wanted to use handkerchiefs, but worried that they wouldn't work as well as kleenex or toilet paper for blowing my nose.

I loved the idea of them. They harkened to a time when everything was reusable and thus, time was taken to make them pretty or interesting.

In Antique stores, I admired them, but got caught up in the idea of someone else's snot.

I even bought some new ones, but they just sat in my cabinet for several years until my brain took over and said, 'Just use a handkerchief! Get it over with!"

So, I bought a selection of pretty handkerchiefs at an Antique store and washed them in HOT water.

I'll admit I was nervous the first time I blew my nose on a handkerchief. But once I did, I was hooked!

* No more fingers popping through the tissue when I had an especially wet blow.

* No more tissue melting away as I blew my nose in the rain or snow.

* No more lack of tissue in my bag because I'd already used the one I had and threw it away.

* And best of all, no more used tissues lying around my house, then making their way to a landfill.

My love for the handkerchief goes beyond practicality, they link me to the past.

Almost all my handkerchiefs belonged to someone else before me. Through my nose blowing, I feel supported by their past owners. Okay, sounds icky...but it's actually lovely.

One of my handkerchiefs belonged to my partner Bill's grandfather. Every time I go for a hike, I think of him as I put his large handkerchief in my pocket. I know it will last me the entire day, and if I break an arm, it can double as a sling.

In response to anyone who thinks handkerchiefs are germ carriers, I did some research on the Internet. It turns out they are not. Cloth handkerchiefs dry out very fast and germs need wet to live. Also, you use a fresh handkerchief each day.

And an interesting fact: When it's cold, handkerchiefs are gentler on the nose than tissues which will scratch.

Ahhhhh handkerchiefs! I love you!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Embrace Who You Are!!

I originally selected this picture to go with a blog post entitled:
"What do you Love?" Because I love these kids...they're my nieces and nephews.

As I looked at this picture, I thought beyond the fact that I love these kids to why I love them...their personalities.

Sure, they are all the sweetest, most wonderful people you could meet. Good genes and upbringing. But it's more....they are individuals. Just looking at this photo, you get an idea of their differences.

Now I understand when parent's say they don't have a favorite child. Each child is so different and wonderful in their own way.

Today, I was talking with a group of third graders on writing and illustrating style. About the fact that there are as many ways to do something as there are people. That no way is better than any other, because we all prefer different things.

I continued that the most important thing you can do is to be who you are. Sure we can all try to be someone else. Many of us do for at least part of our lives. But if we're lucky, we figure out that the real gift we have to give the world is being ourselves. We have something to offer that no one else does.

It's taken me a good number of years to embrace my own illustration style. It's easy to compare myself with others, especially illustrators that are getting alot of work. Then I started realizing that styles I couldn't stand were getting work as well as ones I liked. That all creative work is incredibly subjective.

The best thing I can do is to draw free and have love what I am doing...embrace my work...embrace who I the best Susanna I can be.

It's easy to lose sight of this in a world that plays favorites...but really all I have to do is look at kids...the kids in this picture or today's 3rd graders...they all have an individual begins their journey of figuring it out and embracing it.

Embrace that you are a gift for the world. You may not know your gift. We rarely do. But if you are true to yourself, I'm pretty sure you are giving the gift that is yours.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What are You Afraid of?

When I was in high school, I saw my first vampire movie. For the next 3 years, I wore a cross around my neck, put homemade crosses on every corner of my bed, and one on the window.

Obviously, this kid is not a real vampire. Although, he might bite if provoked. Really, it's my nephew Luke at his 8th birthday party.

Over the past year, I've been afraid to send manuscripts to publishers. I wasn't consciously aware of this fear. In my mind, I was just busy writing plays and illustrating books.

Then it hit me, I was holding onto several newly completed book projects. The only reason I could imagine for not sending them to prospective buyers was because I feared another rejection.

Rejection is a BIG part of the creative person's life. This is why it's so important to love what you do.

After a certain number of rejections, I think one needs a break. Now, I've had mine.

This month, I completed a new picture book manuscript. I polished it up and sent it off to my publisher last night. I'm back on track. I feel brave again. I'm ready to work on the next book project and to send out the ones that I've already completed.

Okay, I'll probably get rejected on some or all of these projects, but maybe I won't. I was never actually bitten by a real vampire.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, "Do one thing everyday that scares you."

I'm working to live up to that.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

What is Your Carrot?

Just like the person who hangs a carrot in front of the donkey to get him to move forward...I place a bag of cookies on my kitchen table as the motivator to get my work done.

Whenever I have a big deadline, whether a script or an illustration project, I place cookies on the kitchen table...which is about 5-7 steps from my work house is tiny.

I can only take one cookie at a time...

So, let's say I'm working on a script...I write a bit...get up and get a it as I look over what I've written...then write some more...then get up for another cookie...and usually by the time I've finished the last Geneva in the Pepperidge Farm bag...the story is complete...

For me, the cookies are my carrot...they keep me continually moving forward...every time I move to get a eyes get a fresh look on my work because I've focus stays alert because I want to get more work done so I can have another cookie...

I have multiple 'carrot' tricks that I use to get work done...but this cookie way is by far the sweetest.

Okay, time to finish my new book project...better place cookies on my table.

I'd love to hear what 'carrots' work for you.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Fans are Priceless

It's great when people support what I'm doing and believe in me.

I feel I'm on the right track.

The biggest benefit of having good solid fans is that when I have any doubts about being a writer/illustrator/playwright/etc. ... I think, "If I can just believe in myself half as much as other people believe in me, I can do anything."

I've always had a very hardy sense of power, drive, and confidence, thanks to my first set of and dad.

Yes, you may not know this, but I hung the moon.

But even I get occasional moments of "What am I doing?"

Then as if on cue, the world sends a fan, like my sister Jennifer. Jennifer is my head cheerleader. She should win awards for her over the top cheers and promotion of everything I do.

It's not lost on me that having these supportive voices of family and friends makes my journey to accomplish tasks much easier.

It saddens me that many people didn't grow up with such fans.

Because just like I have supportive voices inside and outside my head encouraging me, these people have negative voices.

The good news is that with some work, those negative voices can be replaced with new supportive ones.

It's important to surround yourself with people who believe in and support the great things you can and want to do.

Everyday, I meet new people. And everyday, I am in awe of what these people are capable of. But almost every one of them totally underestimates their gifts.

My hope is that I can be a supportive voice to others, like others have been for me. That my positive voice will drown out any negative ones.
To everyone reading this..."You are capable of great things! Believe it."

Monday, February 1, 2010

Resist the Temptation

In the interest of complete disclosure, I must admit 'I love television,' especially BBC Crime Dramas and old movies.

However, it has not eluded me that I get MUCH more work done if I don't turn on the television.

Sure, I can think, 'Oh, I'll just turn it on and find something I don't need to watch, so I can have some sound.'

Right. After 15-20 minutes of searching channels over and over, I find that there isn't anything on that can be my background sound. And many times in the searching process, I've gotten sucked into some show that I didn't plan to watch.

And let's just say I did find that background show...invariably, I have to stop what I'm doing off and on just to watch a 'little'.

On the days that I leave the television off, I get so much work done that by 4:00 or 5:00 in the afternoon I feel like it is late in the evening...but it's not...I still have hours before I need to go to bed.

Today, I left the television off.

Because of that, I got through most of my to do list...#1 being 'dust the television.'

Friday, January 29, 2010

Be Kind to Yourself as Well as Others

Today, through the Behind the Book Program, I did a school visit in Queens with a delightful group of 3rd graders.

After reading aloud my book, "Not Afraid of Dogs," the students and I worked on writing a new story.

First, we came up with a list of possible main characters...dinosaur, snake, teenager, baby, adult, cat, dog, chicken. We finally agreed on a dog named Charlie.

I started to draw different kinds of dogs on the board so we could chose what Charlie looked like.

The dog shown here was one of the options.

As I began to draw this dog, one of the students said, "That looks like a chipmunk." To which a fellow student replied, "She's trying her best."

I loved that!
It was heartwarming and hilarious.

It made me think of how important it is to give each other credit for just trying things...and also to give ourselves credit for trying things.

Write, Draw, Paint, Act, Do Math, Fix Bicycles, Read History, Create Inventions, Make Films, and everything else that pops into your head because you love the idea of doing it and you want to try it.

Give yourself credit for trying and growing.

So many people in the world think of something they would love to try, then immediately shoot down their own desire with all the reasons they can't.

Be kind to your dreams and the chances you well as those of others.

When we try things, we set a good and brave example for others to try there a better gift than that?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Keep Walking through the Snowstorm

As I do the pre-pre-production for my new web series, I see more and more things that need to be done...
the treatment, the scripts, the storyboards, to say nothing of equipment, lining up actors, technical people, etc.

Projects get really bad snowstorms where you have no idea what's around you.

In college, this happened to me. It snowed so heavily that all I could see was white. I walked up a hill knowing my class building was there. But I couldn't see anything. I couldn't hear anyone. I was freezing. The snow hurt my face. I was tired, scared, and sad. I wanted to give up and lay down in the snow. This seems really dramatic, I know, but it did seem hopeless.

But I kept walking, one step at a time. Trusting I would find my building...or a building...and I would be safe.

Sure slow step after another lead me to the building, to the class, to the teacher, who had canceled class because of the snowstorm.

Okay...getting to class turned out not to matter. What mattered was how the experience affected me. From that point on, I profoundly understood the importance of not giving up...of moving forward toward one's step at a time.

Right now, there is a snowstorm of work that has to be done before my web series will be complete. Most of what I have to do, I haven't even thought of yet.

I trust that if I keep walking forward handling each step as it comes, careful to not get overwhelmed by the whole of the journey, I will make it to my goal destination.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Who Are Your Heroes in Aging?

The truth is ... everyone who lives gets old.

So choose wisely your examples of how to handle aging.

Do you want them to be people fearful of each new wrinkle? Or people who embrace the benefits of each new decade?

I've been lucky to have a mother who ages with no drama. And I don't underestimate the benefit of this.

Oh yes, I have a pretty mother, this is her in her late 40s - early 50s.

Being pretty, she could have obsessed over her looks and been afraid to get older. In turn, she would have set that example for me. But she didn't.

My mother has embraced each decade...gotten more confident, kept her lively sense of humor, focused her attentions on learning new things, working, taking care of family, volunteering, gardening, eating healthy, taking her vitamins and now at 70, she's still in great shape, physical and mental, and having a good time.

Whenever I hear someone say, "oh no, I'm going to 30!" or "40" or "50," I think how lucky I am to have my mother who didn't place that drama of aging inside me.

Each new decade, each year, each day, provides endless possibilities.

When people ask if I would want to be younger, I always say "no, not a even a day," because my best life is now and ahead.

Thanks Mom!

What Can You Learn?

In yesterday's post, the 'Going to Court over a Speeding Ticket' was my sister Jennifer. She needed to contest her first speeding ticket. (Her photo from that time period on left.)

Jennifer felt that the judge would understand that she needed to speed going down a hill in order for her car to make it up the following hill.

She was nervous about going to court. My father reminded her that it would be a good way to adventure and a learning experience.

After her 'logical' explanation of speeding and many nervous tears, the judge still made her pay the fine. However, Jennifer will tell you that it was a good learning experience. It made her braver in the future when dealing with serious issues.

Sometimes we are put to the test with smaller things so when the bigger ones come along, they don't seem so big.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Adventure Inspiration

My father's answer to any crisis or fear in our lives was to 'Think of it as an Adventure!'

He said this with such confidence that there could not possibly be any other way for us to think of things.

"But I'm scared to talk to the principal!"

"Think of it as an adventure."

"I really don't want to go to the dentist!"

"Think of it as an adventure."

"I have to go to court for a speeding ticket."

"Think of it as an adventure."

Now, his voice and philosophy are firmly imbedded in me.

Whether a good or bad situation, all can be made into an adventure. By doing so, I am the hero of my story...I can face anything because "It is an Adventure."

Who would want to watch "Indiana Jones" if he wasn't faced with exciting challenges?

The next time something comes into your life that you don't want to deal with "Think of it as an Adventure." You'll find you've become the star of quite an interesting tale. You are no longer at the mercy of fear, anger, or nervousness, you are now a confident, brave hero.