creativity, learning, life, research for new book, writer's conference, writing

~Creativity Calling~

“Each person has a unique creative sensibility, but that can so easily become buried beneath the stresses and responsibilities of adult life. Sometimes a re-awakening slowly occurs by one taking hold of a thread of something that’s linked to something that remains pure inside each of us, a longing for expression, safe from the judgments or order imposed by the external world.”- Eileen M. Clegg, in “Claiming Your Creative Self”

Some writers avoid reading anything related to their current project. I’m the opposite, immersing myself in the topic for weeks as I delve into what has already been written, taking copious notes, and printing out page after page of pertinent research. The reading and research not only helps me narrow down my broad outline, clarifying what I want to include as well as exclude from my own book, but also helps me write my book proposal. Perhaps some of these authors will be approached for a blurb endorsement, or the book’s forward.

I began research for Coupon Crazy in 2009, reading books about couponing, marketing, branding, and ethnographic research on related topics. I needed to unearth archived newspaper and journal articles to dig deep into the history of refunds and rebates. I interviewed 50 avid couponers from all over the United States. By the time the manuscript was complete, I had 20 file folders, as in actual paper file folders, packed with research.

creative books2.jpgA few of these creativity books were shelved on my desk for four years, waiting to be plucked from the “to-read” stack. Some I recently purchased might end up as keepers. Others will end up being turned in for credit at HalfPrice Books. An especially observant reader of my blog might realize a couple of books have already disappeared from my generous research stack, while new ones have magically appeared. One book that disappeared greatly disappointed me when the author’s real secret to creativity in women seemed to depend on three things: #1) a discretionary income of some means, #2) copious amounts of solitude, and #3) either have no children, or one child. My book’s intended audience is more the woman at home with young children, a woman wishing to hone the lost domestic arts, or the empty-nester who thinks it is too late for her to do anything creative.

Maybe a woman whose desk looks something like this:

mom writer deskI bravely shared this horrifying 1996 photo on my Facebook page a few days ago. I also plan to incorporate it into my power point on utilizing creativity in the everyday. While some might see a mess, I see an extremely creative period in my life. I’d had my first book, Homeschooling From Scratch, published a few months before, had recently been paid $200 for a Chicken Soup essay, and wrote regularly for several national magazines, such as “Backwoods Home” and “Home Education.” I was an avid couponer and refunder, sending for cash and gifts through the mail and saving hundreds of dollars at the grocery store. I ran a home business selling used books and helped my husband operate a bookstore. I was also into bartering, trading used books with women all over the country, in exchange for educational materials and high-end brand name clothing for my toddler.

What I didn’t have was money, solitude, or obviously, since toddler Emily was our sixth, a lack of children. Yet I managed to utilize my creativity, even if it wasn’t in the domestic arena.

An extraordinary thing can happen when you immerse yourself in an interest. The process can ignite your own passion for the topic. I was never so involved in couponing as I was during those years I worked on a book and developed a coupon workshop.

Being around other writers does the same thing for my writing. I know from experience that a writer’s conference or a room full of students eager to learn about getting published energizes my own writing. Members of a group can feed off each other’s creativity. For a long time, I’ve talked about either joining, or beginning, a lifelong learner’s group of some sort. While I am a member of the Iowa City branch of the National League of American Pen Women (NLAPW), an organization of professional women artists, musicians, and writers, I don’t make it to the meetings that are mostly held on Saturday mornings or a weekday in Iowa City.

As a reporter for 18 months, I had the incredible opportunity to interview a lot of creative people; writers, artists, quilters, a yoga instructor who also held journal-making classes, a fiber artist, and countless others who fascinated me in their endeavors. That I was paid to sit down and talk to them never ceases to amaze me. I’ll never forget the woman who came to our interview with sheets of notepaper in her hand. She’d prepared for our interview on lifelong learning by jotting down a long list of simple things that brought her joy.

In my new job as a Senior Services librarian I’m responsible for planning, and presenting, programs for a “certain age.” I’ve spent the better part of two weeks working on a power point to present at a local retirement center, on a topic I’m already well-versed in, the lost art of letter-writing.  In the process, I’ve done a lot of research on the history of the postal service, unearthing facts I was unaware of that I am sure will fascinate and entertain. The “lost art of letter writing” morphed into “Mailbox Memories,” a program I’d love to present elsewhere.

It occurred to me as I’ve been researching creativity that my new position also offers me the opportunity to begin the very group I’ve been yearning for at the library where I’m employed. This means the reading and research I’ve been doing now serves three purposes; #1) for my book project #2) for a power point that can be presented at libraries and women’s groups, and #3) as background and inspiration for the lifelong learners group I’ll soon be forming, a creativity co-op of sorts.

Now, back to the books~ I expect our first meeting might involve reading one of these books and discussing the concept of creativity.



creativity, writing

At My Mother’s Table

This brings me joy.


My mother’s table in my kitchen. When Mom died, my siblings and I went through her house, choosing which of her things we would like to take home. We did it in a dignified and friendly manner. If two of us happened to put our name on the same item, we’d sit down and discuss it, making a decision who would take it home. My sister Jane and I both put our name on this table. For Jane, it signified the essence of Mom. This was the table Mom rolled out her biscuit, bread and cookie dough on. It was where Jane sat as a little girl, eating a bowl of cornflakes or oatmeal.

For me, it signified the evenings I’d come home from babysitting or get up to go to the bathroom to find Mom writing at the table. She’d fill notebooks, write letters, or take notes from the books and magazines she read.

This was the table I utilized the winter after Mom’s death for private writing retreats. For three months I sat at this very table, finishing up a manuscript that would become Coupon Crazy. It was at this table I worked on a power point presentation for a homeschooling mother’s group, one in which I used photos of my mother’s art to demonstrate how a mother of ten could utilize her talents in her everyday life in the rag rugs, quilts, and teddy bears she made. Her gardening, canning, and sewing. How this creative woman found ways to brighten her home and make an income selling her woodcarvings and paintings.

I got more writing done in those three months using my mother’s house and her table than I’d completed in the previous three years. I worried that my creativity would dwindle when I lost the house and table. It didn’t. If anything, the act of utilizing and nurturing my creativity, begat more creativity.

As I’d mentioned on this blog recently, unearthing one of those journals I’d begun filling with quotes about creativity got me to thinking about the book I’d once considered writing.


The book would expand on the ideas in the presentation I’d done for that group of young mothers and another group comprised of empty-nesters who thought it was too late to do anything creative. Pictures of my mother’s artwork would illustrate the pages. I e-mailed my publisher to see if he’d like to look at the book proposal when I finished it, and the reply was yes. That very afternoon, my sister called. She’s moving soon. She made small talk for awhile before asking if I wanted Mom’s table.

“I don’t know why, but it wants to stay with you.”

I could hear the catch in her voice. This wasn’t an easy decision.

Stunned, all I could blurt out was “Uh. Yeah!”

It was only after I got off the phone that it occurred to me; I would be working on a book about creativity, in honor of my mother and with photos of her art in, AT HER TABLE.

So it begins.

creative books

The research, the interviews, a book proposal, and thanks to my sister Jane, the writing at my mother’s table.

book review

Book Review: English Lessons

I wanted to love this book. I expected to love it. Because of the author’s father.

After my husband’s death in 2012, Max Lucado’s inspirational writing lifted me nearly every morning and evening in the devotionals I devoured, searching for answers.

So it is with some embarrassment that I admit I didn’t finish English Lessons: The Crooked Little Grace-Filled Path of Growing Up.

english lessons

In fact, I ended up just skimming the last half of the book, enough to see that while she does get into some soul-searching regarding her faith, the author’s writing didn’t have the depth that her father’s does. I should admit I’d chosen this book from BloggingforBooks because of her father, and realized after I began it, I have no real interest in reading about a 22-year-old preacher’s daughter attending graduate school in Oxford. While the book was well-written (attributed to the Masters in English, no doubt), it is missing the down-to-earth “realness” of her father’s books. Perhaps that will come with age and experience.

I particularly disliked the section of the book where she relates, in script form, conversations she had with a young man. Mine was an uncorrected proof, so I don’t know if that changed with the final copy.