Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Coming Up for Air. Making Lists.

So many folks out there can narrate their journey on every portal that social media has to offer.  I wish I could.  I can't even put my earphones in while on my morning walk anymore; it interrupts my "thoughts".  (Insert eye-rolling here.)  Where have I been?  Working.  Claywork.  Wordwork.  A new gig as a real estate copywriter. Mommy-ing.  I find that the quieter I am out here, the louder my work.  Anyone else find that?  Head down, lost in the process?  Working begetting working?  Anyone?

I came up for air over Thanksgiving.  Spent my birthday in my favorite place, Martha's Vineyard.  I brought my laptop and didn't log in once. I read a book with pages.  Ate lemon rosemary shoestring fries at a food truck and dark chocolate at Chilmark Chocolates. Hiked the Moshup Trail in Aquinnah.
Went to bed before 10 every night.  Walked and walked.  And it was like coming up to the surface after being underwater for too long. You know that feeling?  When you've held your breath for so long that it's as if your lungs will explode?  And that sweet air at the surface - been waiting there all this time.

Now there is clean laundry in the drawer and eggs in the fridge. I'm back to my lists. All my boys hate them.  Post-its everywhere, spiral notebooks piled on bedside table.  But it makes me feel as if I can see all four corners of my "room".  Here's a little look in my brain/notebook.

1) Mommy/Home (truncated for time's sake :)

submit doctor bill
make appointment for orthodontist
new outdoor table and grill cover
store umbrellas
clean baseboards
bday card for Mom
mail nephew's bday gift
baby gift
return blouse
indoor soccer shoes
organize holiday party

2) Mudstar Ceramics:

replace 365 Grolleg
glaze: aqua, opal and sapphire
roll out cheese boards
make angel template
two dozen bluebirds large
3 dozen bluebirds small
poinsettia ornaments
3 dozen tweets
deliver owl
start hydrangea lamp

3) Copywriting list:

submit bill (yay!)
find American Architecture book
ideas for agent bios
filing system

4) Manuscript list:

check out Booktrope
six word stories
find list of Cape towns
write chapter about faith.

xo love, rae

Monday, October 6, 2014

Every Problem Is Just Fear.

Every problem is just fear.  I heard this sentence this morning and it sort of lit up the room.  I started doing that mental test you do when you hear something that rings true but rattles you at the same time. "It can't be that simple," you think. You start running scenarios through your head to prove it's not the real deal.

But guess what?  I might be making a case of t-shirts. Get ready.

Why can't I finish this book?  Because I'm afraid I'm not a good enough writer.  Because I'm a perfectionist. (As Elizabeth Gilbert says: "Perfectionism is just fear in really good shoes.") Because I'm afraid of putting myself out there for all the world to see (and judge.)

Why can't I lose weight?  Because I'm afraid of how hard it will be.  Because I'm afraid I'll miss cookies and cheese. (Duh.) Because I'm afraid of attention, which I hate.  Because if I'm afraid that, if I'm not this size, which I've been my whole life, then what am I?

What do I want to be when I grow up?  I don't know, and I'm afraid that I don't know.  Not knowing at 24 was scary.  Not knowing at 44 is terrifying.  I'm afraid the thing I want to do isn't big enough.  I'm afraid I'm running out of time.  I'm afraid of leaving this earth having not made a dent.

You get the picture. See if this isn't true.  Think about a problem you have in your life.  And then think
about what that problem looks like if the fear surrounding it were removed.  I'm gonna guess…

So how to conquer the fear?  Gilbert suggests we don't tell it to go away, because it will never go away.  Instead, mother it.  Crazy?  I don't think so.  We mother everything and everyone else. So we acknowledge its presence.  We acknowledge it for the wicked little tyrant it is.  I envision fear as a cranky toddler.  Then we tell it: shhhhh.  It's okay.  I hear you.  You've been so busy today; it's time to rest.

Here you go: here's your milk; here's your teddy.  Let me tuck you in.  Close your eyes.  I've already checked under the bed for monsters; it's all clear.  Quiet now.  Sleep as long as you like.  Mama has things to do.

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Mild Antidote to September's Melee.

There's an over-scheduling melee that happens in September.  It can be not so swell for ideas.  I'm trying to let the summer exploration and noticing still lap at the toes.

Crushing on the band Isbells.
Try the song "Reunite".

Writing things.

Making things.

Finding broken, perfect things on my walks….

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Why I'm Crushing on Summer

Don't faint: this week I might be crushing on summer. I don't know what happened. Up is down. Left is Right...

Ten Reasons:

1) Writing on the porch, tucked behind a giant hydrangea bush.  There might be an ice cold Angry Orchard cider involved.

2) Middle of the day hugs from all my boys.

3) Biking in the dappled shade on the Hopewell Valley Trail.

4) No rushing to get to school, to tutoring, to soccer practice.  No rushing period.

5) Reading more because it's just so nice outside.  That's what dvrs are for.  Current obsession is food writing: Blue Plate Special by Kate Christensen, (check out her blog here,) a re-read of Blood, Butter and Bones by Gabrielle Hamilton, and bathroom reading of MFK Fisher.  (Sorry, MFK, you deserve much better than the potty.  I shall move you to the nightstand, posthaste.)

6) Grilled EVERYTHING.

7) No helping with fifth grade math that I am too dumb to do.

8) ICE CREAM.  I'm democratic.  Ben and Jerry's, the locally-sourced small batch gelatos at Bent Spoon, frozen yogurt with rainbow sprinkles.  It's all good.

9) Always being just a few weeks away from my paradise on earth.

10) Evening walks because it's still light out, looking for owls.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Don't Feed the Bear.

Summer is when everything is at its peak: fruits and vegetables, nights filled with friends and gin and tonics and grilled fish and cool swims, trips whose suitcases come back filled with sand, bright clothes and bicycles, long days punctuated with popsicles. Summer is not the time for hibernation. No. Decidedly not. That would make no sense.

And yet, I've had a sleeping bear within me these warm months.  Nestled in a forest den, deep in the cool earth, trees keening in the wind.  A bear with a lot on her subconscious mind, a bear that is doing the sleeping work of dreaming what's next - that strange work that is somehow very easy and very difficult at the same time. And a bear that has chosen sleep over dealing with some things.

Not so long ago, and for not the first time, WHAM, out of nowhere, someone decided to sling an arrow straight to my heart.  I used it as an excuse to hibernate, go dark, and worse, to separate myself from my true people, and avoid doing the work.

I don't know why the people who are supposed to love you the most are able to sling the deadliest arrows, but sometimes they are.  Crack shots. Ouch. And being the walking wounded is not fun. After licking my wounds, feeling sorry for myself, I had a small epiphany: maybe I wasn't shot by this one person?  Maybe I had forgotten why I am here, and instead, it was the Universe who poked the bear.  Though it really, really hurt, today I woke up grateful for that nasty arrow.  And woke up in general.  I realized that making excuses because I keep getting hurt by someone who is too scared to do the right thing, means I am acting out of fear, too.  Unacceptable.

This morning finds the bear out of bed, barefoot, in a flowered skirt, hair tangled, listening to towhees ask her to drink her tea, turning her face to the sun, stringing words together. She's realized that Summer is here. She's awake, ready to start again, though she's a little slow to wake up, so might I offer just one piece of advice?  Until she's fed and healed, and showed you what's what, please don't feed the bear.

Sunday, July 6, 2014


Noise.  Lots of it. The cute squeals of little boys have been replaced by FIFA games cranked up until the room thrums, a new PA system "for the band, honey", weird Minecraft sounds, Foster the People on a loop, and the incessant pinging of my teenager's phone.  Guitars, a bass, and a keyboard play non-stop.  And have I mentioned the rebounding WHACKS of a soccer ball against the garage door for hours on end?

The noise is problematic as I have pages due to an editor friend, to see if she'll take me on as a client.  In my noisy alcove I write; I re-write, and I can't see that this will ever be finished.  Non-writing friends ask how it's going; writing friends know better.  Almost, I say.  I'm getting there, I say.

Quiet Austin sky.
So, back from some well-spent time at the Writers' League Conference, I return now to the noise in my head, and it's louder than any soccer game or electric guitar. The experience at the conference was overwhelmingly positive: a lot of publishing, public relations and revision questions were answered.  And my pitch session went as well as it could, considering I was a Jell-o mold in teal gladiator sandals.  Send me 100 pages and a synopsis, the agent said, handing me her card.

Here I am, my mind wanting me to cook because it needs to quiet itself.  It's like any artwork I have done.  I vacillate between it's not so bad, hey - chapters 3 through 7 are good, and let's just set fire to the whole thing.

Think I'll go make some gazpacho.  And jack up the Vitamix to 7 so I can't hear my own thoughts.

What do you all do when you can't find "the quiet"?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Yee-Haw, Austin!!

Walking down SoCo is like walking on the surface of the sun.  A weird, colorful, super-hipster sun, but a sun just the same.  I'm on my second shower of the day and it's 4pm.  Oh.  And I just ordered a margarita.  Is that wrong?  Seems like the thing to do here to balance out the delicious salty/fatty offerings of food trucks parked on every corner: at gas stations, wedged between restaurants, or just hanging out by the side of the road.  Thai.  BBQ.  Pulled Everything.

The light's different here.  I thought it'd be like the light in California, but it's different altogether.  It's hard, unforgiving - the kind of light that angrily blasts off your husband's watch, directly into your eyes, as you drive your car in the late afternoon.  Aggressive light.  The kind of light that keeps you honest.  No shade to hide in here.

South of Congress (SoCo) is full of vibrant, independent-minded shops, lampposts plastered with a lasagna of music posters, and food, food, glorious food.  I'm not sure I was cool enough to walk down the street, but one green-strawed sip from my Tropic Thunder (lime, grapefruit, orange and ginger) and I didn't care.

I'm here for the Agents and Editors Conference.  Just checked in.  Have my spiffy badge with its pale blue "Finalist" ribbon, hanging from a decidedly un-hipsterlike lanyard, but I don't care.  I'm wearing it with pride.  Folks from home have been so supportive with surprise flowers and notes and texts.  I'm a lucky, lucky girl.

I can't wait until tomorrow to listen to all these smart folks talk on topics like "Dynamic Duos: The Author-Agent Relationship" and "Finding Your Creative Tribe".  I'm going to soak in every last word, take copious notes, and pray I don't pass out during my consultation with an agent.

Stay tuned - Hope to give you the low-down on all the info that is gleaned from the non-stop panels/workshops/presentations tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

TWL Finalist! Isn't It Romantic...

I'm creeping up on the end.  I see you, The End…I can alllllmooooossssttt reach you…!!  It has meant getting cramps in my fingers, angrily deleting as much as writing, and reading/writing/deleting so much this past year that I now need readers.  (Which is fine, because I think librarians are hot.  Smart girls in pencil skirts?  Nuff said.)  It has meant ignoring dust bunnies, packing bananas and goldfish crackers as ersatz lunches for the kids because I haven't gotten to the store.  It has meant banging my head against the wall more days than not. I am apparently able to write only 5 to 7 good pages a day.  It does not sound like a lot because it is not a lot. But it's like losing weight: a half pound isn't much per week, but after a few months, you have to buy new jeans.

Happy to say the work seems to be paying off.  Just got the word that  I am a finalist in the Romance category for the Writer's League of Texas Manuscript Contest!

I'm heading to Austin at the end of June, for their 21st Agents and Editors Conference.  The line-up for faculty and workshops sounds amazing and I cannot WAIT to meet other writers and to learn more, more, more about writing craft and business. (Sidebar: why is EVERYTHING I do a hybrid of craft and business?  Note to self to examine that sometime…)

All the winners and finalists will be announced at their keynote address and the biggest thing is that I will have the opportunity to meet with an agent.  Gulp.  Crafting the elevator pitch might be the toughest two sentences I've ever written.

I'll take any kind of luck y'all can spare.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

New Work

So glad to be back in the mud!  I'm working on a series that I've had in my head for a long time - I call them ceramic quilts.  They will be a framed combination of ceramic pieces and stitchery.  Here's a detail from my first go-around from today.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

This Week's Simple Truths

1) Writing modern, original sex scenes is really, really difficult.  (Please compliment my restraint.  I used the word "difficult" instead of "hard".)

2) Smoked paprika is not good in anything.  ANYTHING.

3) Walking a 12 minute mile is JOGGING.

4) Weight Watchers is the only reasonable way to lose weight.  It just is.  Please don't cleanse anything.  All it does is make everyone angry.

5) Teenagers smell worse when they're in a pack.  It's exponential.  Add one more teenager, increase smell factor by 10%  Add two more, increase by 50%.  You get the picture.

6) Hot tea cures all things.

7) Sometimes, not often, I get tired of listening to other people's worries.  But then I realize that I love these people and they have so many worries that they actually spill out their very selves.  It is in another person saying: I hear you, that the flood level goes down.  So I listen.  I sigh, but I listen.

8) Wearing readers isn't as painful as I thought.  I always wanted to be a librarian.

9) Coffee, popcorn, toast and caramelized onions ALWAYS smell good.  And there is always room for these things in this belly.

10) There is always something to be grateful for.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Where I've Been.

Where've I been?  I've been writing.  And fixing my back. (Herniated disk and dislocated pelvis.  Ceramics.  No joke.)  So mostly fixing my back, but then writing.

I'm closing in on the end of this piece I've been working on.  Hallelujah, brother.  I have a May 5th deadline for myself.  (Signed up for a book marketing class that starts on the 5th, ergo…)  I've been writing every day that I've been able to sit in a chair or stand and type on a bureau. 

It's been weird not touching clay for three months.  THREE MONTHS!!  Longest I've gone in almost seven years.  Changing gears has been humbling, I must say.  When folks used to ask me what I did for work, I'd say: "I'm a potter."  People still ask, and I still say it.  Are those words still true?  It doesn't feel right yet to say: "I'm a writer." And I wonder: will I be able to answer that way someday?  

At any rate, I cannot continue Mudstar Ceramics in the way that I began it.  My body cannot do the intense, repetitive work it used to do.  But not touching clay has been…what?  Disconcerting?  Unfamiliar.  No label with which to define myself.  Leaving me untethered, in a way.  A ship without a port.  I'm not someone who looks back all that much, which is both good and bad, but I will miss Mudstar, the way that it was.  But there is so much truth in the idea that you need to be pushed out of the nest, past your comfort zone, into the unfamiliar, in order to grow, to make new ideas and new work.  I'm there now.  Not going to lie: it's itchy out here.

Once you've had validation doing work that was appreciated and "successful" (whatever that means to you,) you feel obligated to continue in that same vein.  It's safe doing that kind of work.  Gratifying, too, in a way, because you could found validation through the dollar, through compliments, through recognition.  It's really hard to switch gears. It's hard when people ask: what have you been making, what's Mudstar doing?  And I feel sheepish in the way I've been answering currently. 

I'm lucky I've been able to listen to my gut about my creative work - I'm really grateful for that.  It's time to be stretched to the edge of uncomfortable.  To put myself out there again.  To write.  To make some framed work.  (See?  Can't stay away from clay too long.  I'll get grouchy.)  To see what else is out there for me.  

I watched the finale of Girls last night, and Hannah had a perfect way of describing her search for creative fulfillment: 

"I want to find a hole in the world in the shape of me and just fill it up."

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


Alabama Chanin's Star Quilt
Ideas for new framed ceramic work are percolatin'….and today's "notions" are from fabric, sewing, and especially the craft of quilt making.

Imogen Lovely
There's so much inspiration for ceramics in quilt making: the colors, the piecing, the folding, the stitching, the designs.  This kind of work is old work; it's been around forever.  There are some artists and makers out there who are taking a modern approach to things related to the home - new ways to caretake their home-life, and they really speak to me, whether that be in cooking, care taking, growing and making things...

If you have a moment, check out the Imogen Lovely blog - Jenn Finn has such a pretty, loose-limbed, organic approach to needle and thread.  
I also am a long-time fan of Alabama Chanin, who, ironically, also has a line at Heath Ceramics.  (I sure love me some Heath tile.  That ever so subtly beautiful iridescence they achieve with some of their glazes…so deft.)

Inspired by these makers and others, such as ones that are documented in the splendid Kinfolk Magazine, I spent part of my day noodling with a little leftover porcelain and some drawing...

Monday, February 3, 2014

Looking Where I Eat

Okay.  That's enough snow days.  It used to be adorable, like we were on Little House on the Prairie: using words like snug and holed up, chopping wood for that great-smelling fire, wearing flannels, maybe using our red snowshoes.  Now, as they say, the bloom is off the rose.

We're making the best of it.  Husband working from home because the commute is a disaster.  Kids are still in pajamas at noon, reading in bed, playing FIFA, bellies full of gluten free pancakes and strawberries.  My house is a little louder than normal, so finding a quiet place to write is challenging.  With my back-imposed moratorium on ceramics, (poor lonely studio...crickets...) I have to get my creative kernels somewhere else.  So I'm looking where I eat.  Literally.

EARS: I'm a long time fan of the
Good Food radio program hosted by Evan Kleinman
 - a good, good chef who's also a brilliant interviewer with a giant vocabulary,
 and enormous breadth of culinary knowledge?  I'm IN.  

HANDS: Today I'm trying my hand
at the
 GF Cauliflower Fritters
featured on Gluten Free on a Shoestring.
EYES: The pics from
What Katie Ate
make me oh so happy. 

BELLY: It might be lowbrow, but I don't give a rat's ass.  Cashew Lovers Poppycock.  It's RIDICULOUSLY delicious.  Somehow I've only been able to find it in a small BARREL size.  Oh, well, too bad so sad.

Keep warm, butterbeans.  Go make a snack. :)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Snowy Beehive

Zero degrees.  Ten inches of snow.  Everyone around me grumbles about the winter, but I'm happy as a bear in her den, a bird in her nest, a bee in her hive.

I baked gluten-free, low-fat banana cake with a vanilla sugar drizzle.
 I cooked pan-roasted halibut with sauteed spinach, cauliflower-potato puree and a lemon tarragon sauce avec roasted pecans. (Try saying that ten times fast.)

I happily did the laundry. (Yes.  I said happily.  Tide smells nice.)  I made sketches and added a whole slew of virtual pins to my Pinterest boards, which make me worked up and inspired for some new framed ceramic work.  (Even though I saaaiiiidddd I was taking a break....)

I started a photo blog on Tumblr.  AND wrote three chapters. (Small Victory!)  I helped older son with mid-term studying and cuddled younger son for longer than usual at bedtime.  Also: I've drunk an average of five cups of tea per day: English Breakfast, Super Antioxidant, Chamomile, Hibiscus and Decaf Green, though not necessarily in that order.

Being inside when it's unnecessary and unwise to be outside makes me feel tucked in and like our house is a crockpot of creativity, documentaries, good food and beehive mentality.

Stay warm, muffins! xo Rae

p.s. What did YOU do today?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

To Begin Is Easy. To Persist Is Art.

Show up.

Write gibberish if you need to, but WRITE.

Trust and respect the process.

Take tea breaks. Lots of them.

You are not your characters.

There will always be more water in the well, even when your first bucket comes up empty.

Writing in your bathrobe is only acceptable if you're as mighty as Carver.

Wake early; write early.

Sometimes a kettle takes a long time to boil.

Keep going. Through unease, through self-doubt, through crappy writing. Nothing worthwhile is easy.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Unravelling the Year Ahead

Hmmm.  2014 hasn't started out the way other years have. That clean slate thing isn't happening.  I usually am full of vim and vigor at the start of new year - ready to attack!  Instead I found myself wrapped in a giant sweater and fingers frozen into claws, over the keyboard.

So I thought to myself: have I not let go of 2013?  Do I need to sign off on last year, before I can turn over a new page in a new notebook?  So I found my way to Susannah Conway's website.  Lo and behold, she has a FREE downloadable packet about "Unravelling the Year Ahead:  2014".  It's a thick packet, friends, I'm not gonna lie, but if you have an hour, then DO the workbook.  Just Nike that thing.

It's a place to say goodbye to those things in 2013 that held you back.  (Self: churning out artwork without intention, not making enough time to write, not finding enough patience with my children, not taking good enough care of my health.)  And it's about putting forth the INTENTION for 2014: what you want to accomplish in your head, heart and body.  (Self: finishing my manuscript, getting my back healthy, surrounding myself with good-hearted folks, painting my study.)

By putting 2013 to bed, I was able wake up 2014,  unravel it, crack it open so I could see where I really want to go.  It's revelatory, I tell you.

So I lit my candle (Paddywax's White Spruce Cassis - delish,) drank my Small World, and finished my intentions.  I feel WAY better.  Not overwhelmed.  Focused.  What a revelation to take stock in where I've been and where I'm going.

What's on your list for 2014?  Not your resolutions.  Your intentions.  Find myself surprised today as to how different those words actually are.