Saturday, April 27, 2013

Research Time

This morning I dusted upstairs, vacuumed downstairs (that's dividing and conquering, no?), changed the sheets, swept the deck, started the laundry, brushed the dog, cleaned the dog's ears, and brushed the dog's teeth. I'm sensing a theme here.
and that's just the ears...
But that's not the point. I also created a few more product in my Zazzle store. 
Swallowtail Redux Plates
Swallowtail Redux Plates by artinphotography
Find other Abstract Plates at

I LOVE this Swallowtail Redux art! I made it from one of my original photos of a swallowtail butterfly's wing. Sometimes a design hits you just right - the colors, the lines, the motion - your eyes and heart suck it in and can't leave it alone, and you know that for whatever reason, it's just right. But that's not the point either.

The point is, I have rushed to get all these things done so that I could get to my research for my writing. Right now, I'm reading Indian Slavery in Colonial America, edited by Alan Gallay, and it's really enlightening. I never thought about (or was taught) the differences between societies that enslaved individuals as a by-product of war and slaving societies that initiated wars to obtain slaves. Or those in which slaving was a foundation of the economic base and those which it was not. 
I never thought about (or was taught) the colonial viewpoint of slaves, no matter what race. Or the different cultures from which slaves came as a contributor to enmities and alliances that may have prevented uniting against slavery. I never gave much thought to the erroneous assumption of equating the word "African" with "slave". 

I'm hoping more education on the topic will equal better writing about that time period.

Light reading? No. Enlightening? Very. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

If you have to detour . . .

This past week was not a good one for writing or research. Every night I either worked late, or had something I had to take care of after school and so didn't get home until late. I don't know about you, but when your alarm goes off at 5 a.m. every day so you can leave the house by 6:30 to be at work on time, 5:30 p.m. is L-A-T-E to get home. Because then you have to take care of the dog, cook dinner, and all that stuff that we do to keep a semblance of a functioning life. And then you fall into bed exhausted at 9 p.m. if you are lucky.

So, no. Not a good week for writing. And then I worked all day yesterday on a different project. But I enjoyed it and I learned something! I have been working on a project to show certain native nuts and berries that are being planted at our tribal center. Here are some of the yummy photogenic yummy props I worked with:



I eat props, by the way.

I have never used my Photoshop CS5 to make a collage before, so this was a challenge, to say the least. But here is what I came up with to include the fruit/nut, the leafage and the nutrition of each (and yes, I had to type each of those Nutritional Information labels):

And now I will get back to my timeline research for my book!

Happy writing, and if you have to take a detour, at least learn something from it.

*For more information on the Sappony, please see the official tribal website and this guide.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

What is Your Story?

In this post, in which I have finally given myself permission to write, I wrote that I was inspired recently by author Ruta Sepetys, and hinted that I would reveal more later. It's now later!

Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the North Carolina Reading Association Conference. There were a number of well-known and fabulous authors there, including Jack Gantos, John Claude Bemis, Andrea Davis Pinkney, Steven Layne, Sheila Turnage, Allan Wolf, Ruta Sepetys and plenty of others I am sure I'm missing. 

However, Ruta Septys had the biggest impact on me. Not just because she clearly wove her presentation around the conference's theme, and not just because she was a riveting speaker - but because of her guiding question, "What is your story?"

Ruta has written two books, Between Shades of Gray, a historical fiction novel set in Lithuania and surrounds, based on true facts, real events and her own family's history, and Out of the Easy, set in 1950s New Orleans, also with an incredible amount of (real-life, up close and personal and at times, scary) research. At the conference, she spoke about her research for her writing. In addition to 'paper research', she went to both places - Lithuania and New Orleans, met and interviewed people at length, and in Lithuania, even put herself in the position of the survivors in her story in order to better understand and be able to write about . . . the truth. I won't tell you all the details - you must, simply must, click on the Between Shades of Gray link and watch her trailer. And then read the book. Warning: the trailer is 12 minutes, which is an anomaly in our three-seconds-or-less-to-grab-audience-attention world. But you must. So set aside a very worthwhile 12 minutes (after all, you just spent 12 minutes on Facebook, right?) and then read the book.

Not only was I struck by the depth of Ruta's research and desire to have Between Shades of Gray be as close to true events and history as humanly possible, but by her perseverance. She had been told by several people in the industry that "historical fiction doesn't sell", yet she persevered because her story, the story of those real people, needed to be told. The world needed to know the unimaginable truth of that history. The story needed to be told. It was finally bought in 2007 and released in 2011. Perseverance. 

And it got me thinking: what is my story? We all have multiple stories, but right now, what is the story that deserves to be told, that needs to be told, that the world needs to know the truth of that history? Who are the real people who visit your dreams until their truth is told? And I knew (see hint).

Ruta also spoke about her realization after writing Between Shades of Gray, that it was not necessarily about what she thought it was about. Each person she spoke with had a different idea of what her book was about: courage, survival, identity, perseverance, preserving memories, in times of adversity the "I" disappears for the "we", love. And that's okay. As long as we tell those stories as faithfully as possible.

Meeting Ruta Sepetys and hearing her presentation inspired me to complete my research and tell the story of people and events from over three hundred years ago - as faithfully as possible. Their story needs to be told.

So what is your story?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Recipe Break

Warning: this post has nothing whatsoever to do with writing or photography. But God knows, I love a good recipe. So I'm sharing this yummy one my kids and I loved this Easter. Except I'm mostly sharing it with my daughter, since she packed up the rest of the salad and took it with her. Okay, okay, I told her she could and then regretted it.

Easter Melon & Prosciutto Salad with Parmigiano-Reggiano

This colorful appetizer or picnic fare is light and tasty. The Parmigiano-Reggiano provides nutty contrast to sweet melons and mirrors the taste of salty prosciutto.

Makes 8 servings

3 cups (1/2”) cubed honeydew melon (about ½ medium melon). Buy the whole melon, let it get nice and ripe for a few days, then make sure to peel the rind deeply enough to get the soft, ripe innards.
3 cups (1/2”) cubed cantaloupe (about 1 medium melon). Make sure it is ripe.
2 Tbs thinly sliced fresh mint
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into thin strips
½ cup (2 oz.) shaved fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (you can use the fresh shaved from the deli but don’t use the dried canned kind)
Cracked black pepper (optional)
Mint sprigs (optional)

Combine the first 5 ingredients, tossing gently. You can do this part a day ahead of time, if needed. Arrange melon mixture on a large serving platter. Arrange prosciutto slices evenly over melon mixture; sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Garnish with cracked black pepper and fresh mint sprigs, if desired.

Fast, easy and delicious - my favorite kind of food!