There are collections, and then there are Collections

Pottery Mug

Mug brought back from Israel by my hubby in 1980

I’m not a hoarder, but I do like to collect things. Certain things. Like pottery. I had to sort through an outrageous number of pottery mugs recently, deciding which ones could be culled (to make room for more, of course).

In addition to mugs, I have pottery serving bowls, plates, casseroles, sauce dishes, jugs, vases and more. Not a huge number of items (except for the mugs), but enough to fill a few shelves and decorate the space atop our kitchen cabinets.

There are specific features that draw me to a piece. In mugs it’s the feel of the cup as I cradle it in my hands. Filled with coffee, it needs to feel right in my grip. ‘Right’ is a relative thing, I know, and now that I have arthritis in my hands, one criterion is that the handle be large enough to accommodate at least three of my fingers.

I also collect rocks.

Rock Collection

The criteria for them are similar to what I use to choose my mugs — stones need to hold meaning for me and feel ‘right’ in my hand. I have agates from the shore of Haida Gwaii, a stone from a roadside in Mexico, a piece of volcanic lava from northern BC, and  several more picked up as mementos of other places of significance. Many stones in my collection are ordinary-looking ones collected during walks along ocean, lake and river shorelines.

Rocky Beach

That’s about the extent of my collections. Well, it is if you don’t count all the Loons that appear around here, or all the snowflakes among our Christmas ornaments… but that’s different. No, really. It is. Everyone has a collection of special Christmas ornaments, don’t they?

One kind of collection has never appealled much to me, and that’s a collection of short stories. I’m not a big fan of reading short stories to start with, because once I get hooked by a plot and its characters, I want a long term relationship — hundreds of pages, please. I admit to having written a few shorts, but it was more as an exercise than as a chosen genre.

I believe writing good short stories is more difficult than writing good novels, simply because the writer must accomplish all the same things as in a novel, but with many less words. Nobel prize winner Alice Munro is said to have perfected the art of writing short stories. She always intended to write novels, but never found large enough chunks of time to do so. When she attempted them, they always ended up fragmenting into something shorter. I admit to not reading many of them. I intend to remedy that, not because I want to read short stories but because I think I ought to read hers. I’m curious about her writing. There are a number of her stories published online and I may start with them.

Last Christmas I read A Log Cabin Christmas because among its stories there was one written by Jane Kirkpatrick and I’m particularly fond of her writing. Others of my cyberfriends have joined up to produce two collections of Christmas novellas this year —  Hope for the Holidays Historical Collection  and Hope for the Holidays Contemporary Collectionand I’ll be reading those, too. Hey, don’t be calling me inconsistent. Like snowflake ornaments, Christmas collections are different!

Do you have a preference when it comes to the length of your fiction? What do you see as the pros and cons of collections?

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Dealing With Our Limitations

Grumbling is a constitutional right, isn’t it? Everyone complains occasionally. It might be about the weather, the stack of month-end bills, or a mother-in-law’s upcoming visit. Some people don’t like their lot in life, or they don’t feel they get the breaks they deserve. Or they may justifiably resent having to deal with more serious problems, like illness, or incapacitation, or unemployment.

I can think of many reasons why people are discontent, but there are people who have a legitimate cause to complain… and don’t. In her weekend blog post Ann Voskamp included the following video of a KING-TV interview. It blew me away!

 

 

We can’t always manage to do what we wish? The message is: find something else that we can do and then get on with it.

From now on, whenever I bemoan my trivial limitations, the remarkable Paul Smith will come to mind.

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Cover Design in Less Than Two Minutes (a reprise)

We’ve been sharing information here on the designing of book covers and I remembered a related post I wrote three years ago that I thought you might enjoy seeing again. (More accurately, I seized this opportunity to use something from the archives because I forgot to write a post last night. There! I’ve admitted it… but it fits in so well with my last few posts that I don’t feel one bit guilty.)

Here’s a time-lapse video that cleverly utilizes the process, condensing a six hour process into less than two minutes. It’s fascinating, albeit dizzying. In it, the Creative Director of Orbit Books, Lauren Panepinto,  displays her process for designing the cover of Gail Carriger’s Blameless. While vampires and werewolves aren’t my genre of choice, I thought the resulting cover was a good example of what Rachel Cole said in Friday’s post, that the cover design must reflect the genre, or potential readers won’t pick it up.

There’s more about the the making of this video on the Orbit Books website, and a further detailed commentary by Lauren Panepinto on the Design Related website.

It all goes to show that creating exactly the right cover isn’t a simple process.

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Collections… or, why I have rocks and wood in my house

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DSC00866Different things fascinate different people. I lean towards items with textural appeal, like rocks, wood, and pottery. I have a collection of handmade pottery mugs… singletons, each chosen as a memento of a special place. This one came from Israel as a gift from my hubby when he visited there many years ago.

The bits of wood are from two very different locales. The one piece riddled by gribbles and shipworms with a small seagull feather caught in it, came from the ocean’s shore on Vancouver Island. The other, barely two inches long and with minuscule bits of almost-petrified leaves, came from the tundra of the northern Yukon. I probably should have left the latter where I found it, but….

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Rocks are something else. It’s not their geological aspects that catch my attention, but interesting shapes, designs and textures. One of my young granddaughters is attracted to rocks — she had one in her pocket to take home on the airplane yesterday — and my BFF’s husband used to regularly pick up a rock on his daily runs. Their front garden displayed an impressive collection!

DSC00861I’ve taken to using a felt pen to print the source of many of mine on their undersides. It’s impossible to recall where all of them originated so you might wonder why I bother to keep them. I may not remember the exact occasions, but I know I would have been enjoying a stroll along a rocky shore, or wandering a wooded trail, visiting a special holiday location or perhaps marvelling at an awesome view when I stooped to gather the stones. Their existence is a pleasant reminder of my past and in an obscure kind of way they make me happy just by having them to admire.

In one of my novels a character dries and presses flowers to create a collection that preserves her memories of a place that was special during her childhood. Collections are distinctive and represent a person’s interests. They tell us something about that person without the need for a narrative description. (I admit to not wanting to know what my collections say about me!)

Are any of your characters collectors? Are you?

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Finding the bright spot

Daylight Saving Time wasn’t a problem for us. My hubby systematically turned all the clocks ahead during the previous evening and we went to bed an hour early without really noticing. Judging by the attendance at church on Sunday morning, however, not everyone fared as well.

There were a number of empty seats, and I overheard a lot of mumbling about lost sleep, the struggle… the reluctance… to get moving in the morning, and more than the usual grumbling about the drizzle after a much-too-brief sunshiny Saturday. Then in the sanctuary I found this exquisite bouquet on the chancel. A small note in the bulletin said it was placed in celebration of a child’s first birthday. I don’t imagine those parents got any more sleep than the rest of us, but they had found a reason for joy and shared it.

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The news broadcast last night told the story of a young woman whose joy was to sing. She has developed a rare form of throat cancer and yet she’s found a way to make the best of the situation while she waits for surgery.

I know people who are discouraged and/or depressed for many different reasons, but I also know others who are in equally difficult circumstances but still manage to find something, however small, on which to focus and glean joy. Ann Voskamp, author of ONE THOUSAND GIFTS, has suggested the answer to surviving our bad times is to express thankfulness. It sounds outrageous, I know, but she’s right.

“Eucharisteo—thanksgiving—always precedes the miracle.”

“…life change comes when we receive life with thanks
and ask for nothing to change.”
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Joy isn’t an emotion, it’s a choice. I remember first hearing that from Sara Frankl. If you don’t know Sara’s story I hope you’ll take the time to check out this Dayspring video, Sara’s Story – Final. For years before she died Sara kept a blog. At a time when she needed much, she gave of herself to everyone she encountered. Her blog is still being maintained by her family, but on its sidebar you’ll find Sara’s own words:

I’m just a girl who used to write for a magazine to make a living, and now writes a blog to make a life. Extremely blessed, well-loved and choosing joy while learning that homebound doesn’t limit your life, just your location.

Ann Voskamp talks often about choosing joy, too, and has created a Joy Dare Collection of little cards that you can print out for each month with reminders to search for specific joys each day… to help us make a habit of looking for the tiny moments of joy that otherwise may slip past unnoticed.

As I step into this new week I am once again aware that no matter the circumstances, there is always joy. The choice is mine whether or not I will look for it and be thankful.

How about you? Can you think of at least one thing for which to give thanks today?

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“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart.”

Psalm 9:1a

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* Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

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