Saturday, March 31, 2012

Winners & Outside the Lines

The winners of the 2 How-tos giveaway are:

Robin Bayne, who wins Laura Oliver's The Story Within, and who likes Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain.

Samantha, who wins Bonnie Neubauer's Take Ten for Writers, and whose favorite writing how-to is Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Debra Dixon.

Ladies, when you have a chance please send your full name and ship-to information to, and I'll get these prizes out to you. My thanks to everyone for joining in.

The first quarter of 2012 is coming to a close today, and I've been looking back to see how well I've done with my theme of coloring outside the lines this year. I think I've gotten off to a good start; I did a lot of new-for-me things as well as things I love with the release of Nightborn, and the results were positive and fun. On the diet front I've successfully given up sugar altogether and (combined with the fallout from the jaw problem) have lost 15 pounds since January. My 1000 cards project stands at 277 finished to date, so I've been keeping up there.

As for the immediate future, I signed up for an online art class that starts in mid-April. I wanted to do this for several reasons: 1) it was inexpensive, 2) the instructor is teaching techniques in a medium I love, 3) I've never taken an online class, and 4) this is really coloring outside the lines for me.

The last time I was an art student I was regularly sent to detention (not by the art teacher, who actually liked me, but by every other teacher I had.) I have since learned to shut my mouth -- well, most of the time -- but I've never gotten over my aversion to teachers and classrooms. It's a stupid attitude for someone who loves to learn, and it's time I moved past it, which is another reason why I'm dipping my toe back into the educational waters.

If this wasn't enough stress, I'm also entering a piece in an upcoming art quilt challenge. I didn't pick an easy one because of course that would be the smart thing to do. If it were a traditional quilting challenge I would feel confident; I've been making patchwork quilts for twenty years and I'm pretty good at it. But I've only recently gotten into art quilts, and to date I've made only about a dozen. Half of those were failures ranging from pitiful to spectacular.

Thing is, I've come up with a simple technique to solve a major headache with traditional and non-traditional quilting, and I want to share it with other quilters. There's no better way to do that than by using it in a piece and entering a challenge.

I'm cautiously excited about taking the online art class. I started assembling my supply list yesterday and I didn't cave into the urge to cancel my enrollment. Also, I know if I can handle a virtual class without messing up or being kicked out of it, then the next step would be to try taking a real-world course. Maybe a beginner's class in photography, since I really know nothing about it other than what I've taught myself with a point-and-shoot. So while I'm suffering through the inevitable pre-class nerves, I have a more distant goal in mind to keep me moving along.

The art quilt challenge is a bit worse. I'm up against the best art quilters out there who have been doing this daily for years, so the odds are extremely good that I'm not even going to be noticed. I think about that, and all my past failures, every time I sit down to work on my piece. While it seems kind of pointless to try, I really believe in this technique of mine, and the results are pretty cool. If I don't place in this challenge, the next thing I could try is a more traditional one, where I would have more of a shot at getting some attention.

When a writing sub op catches your eye, or you consider preparing a novel proposal for a publisher, you'll think of a million reasons not to do it. There are so many writers out there, and at least half are better at it than you. The odds are most definitely against you. You've probably racked up enough rejections to feel beaten before you even start counting words or composing that cover letter. Sanity dictates that you stick to what you know and don't cross any lines into unknown territory. I understand. Been there. Done that. Ten years in a row.

What always kept me going back to the submission list -- and still keeps me at the keyboard every day -- is the thought of all the great writers who never were. How many wonderful stories have we lost to fear and self-doubt? I believe for every Stephenie Meyer and J.K. Rowling on the market there are a dozen just like them who will never be known or their work read. The manuscripts for their amazing novels will sit on a hard drive or gather dust on a shelf until they're deleted or tossed out. This because they didn't think they were any good, and/or they were too afraid to try. Or they tried a few times, and failed, and gave up.

On a more personal level, I also think about a writer of mine who spent years getting ready to write his first novel. We talked about it a lot, and he had the kind of talent and ideas it takes to get into print. I knew he would make it. I just knew. He saved every penny, thought it through, organized, took off from work and prepared to go the distance. He was well aware of his competition and the odds against him, but he was ready. He was so happy, so excited . . . and then he died in an accident, and his novel died with him. So when I think about giving up on writing (or anything) I can almost hear him in the back of my head saying, "You're kidding me, right?"

What are you doing to color outside your lines? What would you like to do? What's keeping you from doing it? Let us know in comments.


  1. It's heartbreaking about your friend, on many levels.

    Um, considering the kicks I'm getting lately? I'm just trying to keep on trying. ;)

    One of these years I shall take photography classes. That's not outside the lines, but I wanna do it.

    1. He was a great guy, and he deserved better than to check out before he had a chance to live the dream. That motivates me to get through a lot of things that might otherwise make me give up.

  2. Yay! Great news for a dreary Saturday, thanks!

  3. Always good to hear about the progress you're making PBW. You're a true inspiration to all of us. :)

    If it's not too secret, would you mind sharing the details of the online art class?

    1. Thanks, S.J. It's already been a very interesting year, and I feel like I'm beating a lot of the blues that would otherwise drag me down.

      After I've completed the online class I'll share more details. That way the trolls who occasionally lurk here can't crash it and cause trouble for me.

  4. Like you, I'm planning to take an art class. (You're to blame for this decision. ;) Had you not posted that 'create your own comic' years ago, I would've never gotten interested in creating my own three panel series. Between writing YA's and the art class, I'm sufficiently scared. I think those two things are enough out of my comfort zone to tied me over for at least a year or two. *ggg

    1. Good for you, Jordan (and I'm happy to accept the blame.)

    2. That should be 'tide', not tied. The Freudian slip is telling though. LOL!

  5. You've had an awesome year so far! And I think you underestimate your abilities as far as your art goes. I've seen your quilting. It's wonderful. So enter and be confident. You can hold your own.

    I don't do well with online classes. At least not any of them I've tried to take so far. Maybe it's the format. I hate those yahoo loop classes. I hope you do well with them.

    I'm so sorry about your friend. Such a sad situation.