Make No Mistake: Take the Next Step

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I’m here. Stuck in this place where I’m afraid to make a mistake.

It drives me crazy.

I’m not allowed to touch anything. What if I break it?

I’m not allowed to play. I might make a mess of things.

I’m not allowed to explore. I might get lost and not be able to find my way back.

It’s no fun. There’s nothing to do, but nothing.

Bird's Nest by Kelly Dycavinu

A work in progress

What am I talking about? This painting.

My daughter and I began to work on it during our season of slow. I like what we’ve done so far. And I know what I want to do next. But something always stops me from starting on the next step—the fear of making a mistake, the fear of messing it all up.

Do you ever feel this with your art? Your writing? Your life? Do you ever find yourself stuck in one place, afraid of making a mistake?

The irony is… most of what I love about this painting is the unplanned and unintended parts, the mistakes so to speak. So I guess I should stop stalling, get out the burnt umber, and start defining the twigs and branches of this bird’s nest.

How about you? What’s the next step you’re going to take?

***

Good news! A painting of mine has been selected for use in a calendar. I’ll let you know the details once the contract is finalized :)

Novel update:

New grains of sand: 8,285

Current status: 49,096

I’m going to write this novel. Word by word.

***

© Kelly Dycavinu and Popcorn with a Spoon, 2011-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kelly Dycavinu and Popcorn with a Spoon with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Step by Step: Learning to Enjoy the Journey

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I don’t travel well. It’s getting from point A to point B that derails me. If I could just snap my fingers and arrive in Paris… perfect! Or teleport to Turkey… great! But, no, it’s never that easy, is it? Consider all the cost involved, the expenses incurred. Consider the fears to overcome, the fear of flying, the fear of the unknown, the fear of disappointment. Consider all the delays and detours, the lay-overs and lost luggage, the lack of sleep…

But I’m not just talking about travel, am I?

It’s the same situation with most of life’s worthwhile endeavors. Getting from where you are (point A) to where you want to be (point B) is rarely an easy effort. And this is why I appreciate those who are willing to share their journeys, step by step, with others. It’s one thing to announce to the world when you’ve arrived, and it’s another to assist others along the way so that they may arrive (eventually) as well.

Thank you to all those who have gone before and who have stopped to consider those who follow after.

***

Artist, Sandrine Pelissier, is someone I appreciate. Check out her step by step painting demos and tutorials. There are many inspiring ideas for your painting projects–not to mention gorgeous artwork–over at her site.

Here’s my attempt to follow the trail she’s blazed:

Red Flowers by Kelly Dycavinu

My experiment with zentangles and negative painting (painting the negative space rather than painting the subject directly). My zentangles need some work, but I enjoyed the learning process.

 

Red Flowers Detail by Kelly Dycavinu

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Marriage, parenting, writing, art, education are a few of my worthwhile endeavors. What are yours?

Novel update:

New grains of sand: 4,221

Current status: 40,811

I’m going to write this novel. Word by word.

My Son Wears His Sister’s Jewelry… and Why I Encourage It

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A Fist Full by Kelly Dycavinu

Don’t be fooled by the grinning green bear’s shiny smile or you’ll be whisked away on wild winds. This ring creates tornados.

The compass maps both time and place. It sends a blast that warps you to whenever or wherever you want. It’s often used to send the enemy to the moment of his/her destruction and demise.

The beaded ring with pink flowers offers the power and ability of every single animal.

The mood ring shoots water, ice and snow. You can freeze things with this ring.

The purple dinosaur harnesses the power of all dinosaurs and can summon them back to life. These prehistoric pets are very loyal and will listen only to you. They can’t be controlled by others.

The blue and silver beaded ring? Well, it gives you the power of all super heroes, even the ones you’ve invented yourself. (If you were forced to choose just one ring to wear, this would be your best bet).

And then there’s the rainbow bracelet. When thrown, it electrocutes what it hits. The four multi-coloured metal bracelets are so sharp and spin so fast they can cut through anything–even a house. But don’t worry, these bracelets only activate when spinning at super speed and there’s only one who can wield them with such strength (that would be my son, my super hero). Rest assured, the bracelets are in good hands.

My son doesn’t need to hear Boy, take off those girl’s things. He doesn’t need to hear that he shouldn’t wear them to the park. He doesn’t need to hear that it’s okay if he wants to explore further the world of women’s dresses and make up. And he doesn’t need to hear that it’s not okay. What he needs to hear is: Awesome, buddy! Tell me what would happen if you activate the electrocution device while time travelling. Can the mood ring shoot water and ice at the same time? What animal’s power would be best to summon if I was trapped in quicksand?

It’s imagination! It’s not always about gender identity.

But I wonder if, in today’s world, we’re too quick to make kids question it.

 

Rings and Things by Kelly Dycavinu

***

Novel Update:

New grains of sand: 5,689

Current status: 36,590

I’m going to write this novel. Word by word.

Novel Ideas: Positive Affirmation

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Belinda WitzenhausenWhen I set out to get serious about writing my novel, I was asked to make a list of all the potential obstacles that would keep me from achieving my goal. Any beliefs, bad habits or barriers were to be written down.

Here are three of my twenty-plus obstacles:

Obstacle: I have young kids who demand my time and attention.

Obstacle: Doubt. Am I a good enough writer?

Obstacle: I get easily side-tracked and caught up in other projects.

Then I was asked to take these obstacles (or negative statements) and write, on a separate sheet of paper, a positive and present-tense statement that would affirm what I want. The following affirmations directly correlate to the obstacles I listed above.

Affirmation: My children inspire me to write. They are so easy-going and wonderful that it’s easy to fit my writing schedule into our day-to-day lives.

Affirmation: I’m capable of writing my novel and of writing it well. I can write a word. I can write a sentence. I can write many words and sentences put together in an intriguing manner. I have poems, short stories, publications, and prize money to prove it.

Affirmation: I’m committed to my writing and especially committed to telling [this] story. For the next six months I’m free to focus on my novel–other non-home based commitments will wait.

I must admit, at first I scoffed at the process. I worried that it would chalk up to nothing but empty and shallow ‘positive thinking’. I was wrong. Here’s what I learned:

  1. I was trying to overcome and break through obstacles that didn’t exist–or ones that I made for myself. You see, my kids do inspire me. Their creative minds amaze me. And they are easy-going. I didn’t have to make that up. It’s not wishful thinking. My kids play well together and they each play well on their own–and for extended periods of time. A box of Lego and a bunch of Strawberry Shortcake dolls and they are occupied for hours. My negative belief was simply wrong. It was false to assume that because I have young kids, I have less time/ability to write. Stopping to consider a positive affirmation to my negative belief helped remove an obstacle that shouldn’t have been there to begin with. (And it improved my attitude and relationship with the kids–of course they are an inspiration and not an obstacle!)
  2. Doubt can be dangerous and it should be subjugated to evidence. We all face doubts. Doubts about ourselves, our abilities, our future, our relationships… the list goes on. Again, to deal with doubts about my capability as a writer, I didn’t need to make up my positive affirmation. I just needed to consider the evidence. And there’s more than enough to commend my capability and support success.
  3. Obstacles will come, be prepared with strategies to overcome.
      1. When I re-encounter doubts about my ability (and I will), I can pull out my favourite short stories or read through certain sections of my novel that demonstrates my capability. This ‘evidence’ is also a tool for future use.
      2. Knowing that I like to get hands-on and involved with a wide variety of projects, and knowing that this behavior of mine will easily side-track me from my novel, my third positive affirmation is backed by a strategy. For the next six months I’m free to focus on my novel–other non-home based commitments will wait. I will not commit to anything new in the next few months. I’ve wrapped up some outside projects and commitments and I’m prepared to say ‘no’ to the many good and wonderful opportunities that will pop up in the meantime. Why? I’m convinced that finishing my novel is an even greater opportunity for me than any of the others combined.

So there you have it. A brief look at how articulating positive affirmations– rather than dwelling on negative beliefs, bad behaviours, and barriers– helped clear the pathway to my goal. Not every obstacle can be removed, but at least I’m better prepared for when I encounter them.

Please join me on the journey. Follow/subscribe to Popcorn with a Spoon for weekly updates. Leave comments. Share your goals and experiences.

***

Credit Where Credit is Due

Two resources shaped my experience above:

  1. A novel writing workshop led by Andrew Jobling. It’s a useful resource to help overcome the obstacles most of us face while writing a novel. It’s not so much about the craft of writing as it is about the internal and external inspiration and motivation to write.
  2. Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think by Dennis Greenberger, PhD and Christine A. Padesky. PhD. You don’t need to suffer from a mood disorder to benefit from this book. We all face negative thoughts, emotions, situations, and behaviours. This book equips the reader to deal with them effectively and appropriately.

***

I’m going to write this novel. Word by word.

New grains of sand: 4,652

Current status: 30,901

It all starts here.

Novel Ideas: Research versus Writing (and Pottery in Ancient Palestine)

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We possess more information about the pottery industry than any other ancient industry in Palestine.

–B.G. Wood

Research. It’s fundamental to novel-writing, but it also can be one of the most daunting aspects. Where does one begin? Do I research first, then write? Do I research as I write? Or do I write what I know now and then flesh it out with the facts later? I’m interested to hear how you approach your research-versus-writing phases.

My current work-in-progress is set in ancient Palestine. My approach to the research has been a combination of the above. I spent a good chunk of time studying and learning and finding out information first, but as I read, the story also formed and took shape in my mind. Now I feel I know enough to do justice to the first draft, but I also know that once the first draft is done, I’ll have much more research ahead. It can be overwhelming if I let it. However, I’m choosing to enjoy the process, to respect the knowledge I gain, and to accept the gifts the research gives.

One of these gifts happens to be a character for my story. Reading about pottery in ancient Palestine I discovered:

  1. Pottery production (as a full-time subsistence activity) was a male-dominated industry
  2. It was viewed as undesirable ‘dirty work’
  3. Pottery workshops, due to smoke, fumes and fire-hazard, were on the outskirts of urbanized areas

A male potter, outcast and on the outskirts of society is a perfect fit for my story. He’s there, given to me by the research. And when it’s time for him to meet my main character, well, she and I will meet him together– as I write.

Bryant G. WoodFor those interested, here’s my complete annotation. I have pages of the following descriptions in my file:

Wood, B.G. The Sociology of Pottery in Ancient Palestine: the Ceramic Industry and the Diffusion of Style in the Bronze and Iron Ages. JSOTSup 103. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1990.

In the first section, Wood describes the nature of pottery production in ancient Palestine including a description of single and double potter’s wheels, vertical and horizontal kilns, potter’s tools and workshops. Pottery production is a male-dominated industry, viewed as undesirable ‘dirty work’. It largely takes place in urbanized areas, involving mass commercial production. The second half of the book uses ethnographic evidence to suggest that the diffusion of ceramic style is fairly rapid and complete throughout ancient Palestine as a result of markets, itinerant merchants and movement of consumers (women transporting wares to another location when married, etc). Large pots, pots of high value and cultic pottery are not subjected to the same strain as everyday ware and may last for generations—caution is required when dating these.

***

So how do you approach your research? Any tips? Have you made any lovely discoveries? Any unfortunate ones that dismantled your story?

This week I signed up for the Clarion West Write-A-Thon. Feel free to check out my profile.

***

I’m going to write this novel. Word by word.

New grains of sand: 4,077

Current status: 26,249

Novel Ideas: The Writing Ritual

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Do you have a writing ritual?

You know, that ‘thing’ you just have to do before you can get going on your writing. Like rotating the hands of your clock until the time reads 8 am? Or turning around all your photos and figurines so that there are no eyes watching you while you work? Maybe you’re among the more sane and simply can’t work without your cup of coffee or tea at your side? Or perhaps you sit in a special spot?

I have a writing ritual. And (this may come as a surprise to those who know me) it’s not in the form of an obsessive compulsive behavior. Mine’s more Pavlovian in nature.

When I sit down to write, I play the theme song to Azrael’s Stop. Close your eyes and listen to this:

The moment I hear that first chord played on the piano, a part of my soul springs to life. Then the guitar grabs another piece of me. The strings soothe the anxious parts while the bass beckons my entire being forward. By the time the electric guitar erupts, I am inspired. I have entered a realm where one is meant laugh and tease, sing and dance, and tell stories. Through this music I meet my Muse. Always and without fail.

I can’t RAVE enough about Azrael’s Stop by Lucas J.W. Johnson and the team at Silverstring Media. It’s solid and sophisticated storytelling accompanied by a soundtrack of outstanding quality. Not to mention that it’s a purely unique experience to participate in a story told across multiple platforms.

Azrael’s Stop is an experimental fiction and music project, about life, death, and friendship. It is the story of a mystical tavern and how the people who go there develop over the course of a year: Ceph, the seventeen-year-old bartender who has seen all his loved ones die; Tom, the depressed old man, whom death will not take; Rye, who visits every day, though he died a year ago; Nael, the blind minstrel who saw war too young; Lona, the mysterious hunter of the dead; Trin, the girl who refuses to deal with her past; and the crow who watches over it all, cawing only when someone dies in Azrael’s Stop.

I appreciate the tone, sensitivity and maturity with which Johnson handles the topic of death. What each of the characters struggle with are very real issues. Nothing is trite or gratuitous, even when Johnson uses humour and irony. It is an intriguing story that captivates and, in my mind, compels the reader toward living and loving life.

I hope you’ll head on over to Silverstring Media and check it out. Both the ebook and soundtrack are available at 50% off the $9.99 total, if you subscribe. It’s a deal I can’t refuse.

Enjoy more great music by Devin Vibert:

So tell me, what’s your writing ritual? And how’s it going with your writing projects?

***

I’m going to write this novel. Word by word.

New grains of sand: 4756

Current status: 22,172

Novel Ideas: Faulty Metaphor and Character Alignment

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I must be honest… I’m working with a faulty metaphor.

It’s the whole ‘shitty’ first draft thing. Lamott isn’t the original or only one to say it. Hemingway does, too. “The first draft of anything is shit,” so he says. And then along comes me, thinking I’m fairly clever, calling my first draft a diarrhea draft! What have I done!?

I certainly appreciate the freedom a ‘diarrhea’ draft offers. It helps to know it’s okay if your writing stinks, for now, because it’s not really about writing well. It’s about getting it all out of you. It’s about dumping words and ideas onto the page. Yes, all this about my diarrhea draft has been very relieving.

But from there, all too quickly, the metaphor fails me. You see, I’m a very visual person and I tend to perceive my metaphors quite literally (it’s a lovely oxymoron, isn’t it? to be metaphorically literal?) So as I’m writing away I’m 1) excited that I’m writing away 2) thrilled that I like what I’m writing and 3) bothered at the thought that, in the end, it’s all labelled ‘crap’.

My intent with this first draft, once it’s done, is not to flush it all down the toilet. I want to pull from it all the pieces that are promising… this is where <gag gag and more gagging> the ‘shitty/diarrhea’ draft metaphor explodes (as in, I vomit). <still gagging> I can’t handle the image of me ‘playing with poop’ once this diarrhea draft is done.

So I’m adopting a new metaphor for my current first draft. Thank you, Shannon Hale, you’ve put an end to my over-active gag reflexes.

Shannon Hale QuoteHow lovely!

Now as I shovel, I grow more and more excited. Blueprints and designs for the most amazing sandcastle are forming in my mind. But the best part is the people I imagine living in this castle. That is to say, I’m finding, discovering, understanding my main character. We’ve stumbled upon some remarkable moments and created some beautiful memories together. She and I have aligned.

Here’s a glimpse at the first of my favourite moments with her. Remember, it’s a first draft and I’ve even resisted the urge to edit (repeated words, quirky commas, bumpy bits remain as they are):

My thoughts are interrupted by a pack of dogs howling in the distance. It seems I hear their song often these nights. I try to estimate how far off in the distance they may be. Are they roaming the foothills? Are they across the Jordan? No, not that far. Perhaps by the old altar. I think of them pissing on the Running Maiden and my blood seems to run hot and thick in my veins. They wouldn’t, would they? Surely those creatures would sense the sacredness of that tree. I sit up, agitated with my thoughts and afraid that my blood will congeal if I lie still any longer. My body must move. My mind must find rest. Risking discovery, risking waking Bilshah, I pull last night’s dress over my head and slip out of the tent. I head to the Running Maiden. Something within me wants to know that she is well, undefiled.

When I arrive at the altar I am alone. The Running Maiden whispers in the wind that all has been well. Not wanting to doubt her, but wanting to be sure she has been safe, I sit among her roots which are half exposed above the surface of the earth. I feel up and down their length. The bark is crisp and it rubs against my fingers until they begin to grow numb. Nonetheless, I check over every inch around the circumference of the tree. The earth, the grass, the bark, it’s all dry. No dogs have been here tonight.

Relieved, and somehow settled in my spirit, I lie down, nestled between two long roots that rise on either side of me. I sleep.

(excerpt of a novel-in-progress © 2014 by Kelly Dycavinu)

So what do you think? Am I over-the-top with my metaphors? Do you remember the moment you aligned with a character? Does favourite look weird to you spelled with a ‘u’? (Not to me, I’m Canadian). Are your gag reflexes as sensitive as mine? Your comments are welcome!

***

I’m going to write this novel. Word by word.

New grains of sand: 5150

Current status: 17,416 words

***

© Kelly Dycavinu and Popcorn with a Spoon, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kelly Dycavinu and Popcorn with a Spoon with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Novel Ideas: Doing the Math

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 I believe the first draft of a book–even a long one–should take no more than three months, the length of a season.

–Stephen King, On Writing

On Writing by Stephen KingI’m no Stephen King–nor do I aspire to be– but when you want to write a novel it helps to look to those who have already succeeded at the task. And King, with more than fifty-five novels in publication, certainly fits the description.

Today we’re talking numbers:

King aims for his novels to be approximately 180,000 words in length. Thus, within in a three month period, he commits to writing 2000 words a day. He writes every day and doesn’t stop until he has those 2000 words.

Once I start work on a project, I don’t stop and I don’t slow down unless I absolutely have to. If I don’t write everyday, the characters begin to stale off in my mind–they begin to seem like characters instead of real people. The tale’s narrative cutting edge starts to rust and I begin to lose my hold on the story’s plot and pace. Worst of all, the excitement of spinning something new begins to fade. The work starts to feel like work, and for most writers that is the smooch of death. — Stephen King, On Writing

And why three months? For King, any longer and “the story begins to take on an odd foreign feel.”

You and I may have different goals, personalities, and experiences while writing than King does, but I find his overall approach to be very helpful. Most writers face the dilemma of finding making, no, taking time to write (Time is not missing. Nor do we create it. Time is there, right in front of us and all around us. How do we choose to use it?).

If I want my first draft (aka my diarrhea draft) finished by September 1st and I’m aiming for 70,000 words, then I must commit to writing approximately 750 words/day. My calculations take into account what I’ve already accomplished and are based on writing six days a week. (I figure if the Author of our universe took the seventh day to rest and enjoy all of creation, then so can I take the time to rest and appreciate the world I’m creating).

But let’s say you don’t know how long your novel should be. And let’s say you’re not particularly driven by a deadline for completion. Let’s do some math:

If you commit to writing 300 words/day, five days a week, you will have a 78,000 word manuscript within a year.

Commit to writing 300 words/day, six days a week, and you’ll have a 94,000 word manuscript within a year.

Commit to 400 words/day, six days a week, and you’ll have a 86,500 word manuscript in 9 months.

I don’t know about you, but I find that encouraging. 300 words a day is very do-able. And to have a complete (albeit first) draft is nothing short of wonderful.

Really, the numbers thing– the math– is about taking the overall dream of writing a novel and dividing it into day-to-day reality. Commit to these numbers in day-to-day life and then the moment will arrive when you wake up to your dream come true.

What do you think? Do you find encouragement in this number-crunching? What goals or deadlines are you working towards? Have you ever read a Stephen King novel?

***

I’m going to write this novel. Word by word.

Current status: 12,266 words

Novel Ideas: Diarrhea Draft

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Bird by Bird by Anne LamottIf you’re a writer or creative-type, you’re likely familiar with Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, a book that offers “some instructions on writing and life”. Bird by Bird is discussed and recommended so often in workshops, writing circles, and writer-to-writer that, even if you haven’t read the book, you’re likely familiar with two-thirds of its contents.

I must admit, reading the book was a bit of a let-down for me. All of its gems had reached me word-of-mouth and what remained were the narcissistic bits, which I could live without. Don’t get me wrong, Lamott is certainly entitled to her personal anecdotes, so please don’t hear me disparaging her (wouldn’t I love to write a book that people don’t have to read because everyone talks about it so much!).

Among her most notable advice is the concept of the “shitty first draft”:

All good writers write [shitty first drafts]. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts…. Almost all good writing begins with terrible efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something–anything–down on paper.

Well friends… and strangers (strange friends or friendly strangers), I’m about to take this advice to heart. And I’m about to take it to a whole new level. I’m calling it my diarrhea draft. 70,000 words by September 1st.

Why so extreme? Well…

  1. I’m a person of extremes. It’s all or none, love or hate, stop or go, with me.
  2. I start my Masters program in September. I need to empty everything inside my head (concerning this novel) onto paper.
  3. A literary agent wants to see the full manuscript when it’s complete. She read one of the early chapters and said “the quality of writing is ready to go to a publisher” (ha! I have some writing to do).
  4. I tend to be a perfectionist.

Perfectionism… will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and your shitty first draft. –Anne Lamott

I need this extreme measure–this diarrhea draft– to break free of the insanity and delusion of perfectionism.

Here’s where you come in. I’d like to enlist your support and encouragement– or better yet, your company! Are you working on a writing project? A first draft? Leave comments. Tell me about your progress (your goals and deadlines don’t have to be the same as mine). I’ll cheer you on and, please, do the same for me!

By the way, I was reading through some of my previous posts… I think you’d like these ones ;) Textual Frustration and Co Violet by R. Dycavinu: The Literary Lessons I Learned

***

I’m going to write this novel. Word by word.

Current status: 9,578 words

 

 

 

 

A Little Sheepish… Chalk on Dirt

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Previously I shared a recipe for making paint out of dirt and egg yolk. Once dried, this dirt-paint provides excellent texture to work with chalk or charcoal. Below is the end result of that springtime/Lenten project:

 

My three-year-old daughter asked for a sheep on her 5 x 7 canvas. (The blue sky is a little washed out in this photo)

 

I quite like the texture and effect, especially for the grass and wool.

 

And here’s mine:

 

Oh, Jerusalem! 2014 by Kelly Dycavinu Chalk, dirt and egg yolk on 11 x 14 canvas board

Fictional Friends

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It has been quiet around here. I was off on adventures learning about leadership, determination, strength and justice. Keladry of Mindelan is a fine teacher and I was loathe to leave Tortall. (Yes, me and my books ;) )

My third time reading through Tamora Pierce’s Protector of the Small series (with two- and seven-year gaps between) and they remain page-turners. You might like to check them out, especially if you’re interested in writing YA fantasy novels.

First Test by Tamora PiercePage by Tamora PierceSquire by Tamora PierceLady Knight by Tamora Pierce

And then, on my way home, my husband joined me at Pemberley where we shared lots of laughter with some old friends. Mr. Collins, in particular. He’s exceptionally good for the giggles.

Rarely does a film adaptation equal the experience of reading the novel, but BBC’s Pride and Prejudice is one of the exceptions. My husband and I love to laugh at Mr. Darcy’s socially awkward stare or Mrs. Bennett’s overly embarrassing behavior. Not to mention that Austen crafts one of the most compelling romances of all time. I never tire of watching Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett’s relationship as it unfolds. <sigh>

Honestly though, I suspect it’s my affinity with poor Mr. Darcy that sparks my affection for this work of fiction. Poor Mr. Darcy doesn’t dance. Poor Mr. Darcy stands aloof and awkward. Poor Mr. Darcy makes assessments and assumes they are always accurate. Here’s where he and I align the most:

“I have faults enough, but they are not, I hope, of understanding. My temper I dare not vouch for. It is, I believe, too little yielding— certainly too little for the convenience of the world. I cannot forget the follies and vices of others so soon as I ought, nor their offenses against myself… My good opinion once lost, is lost forever.” 

He’s proud and set in his ways, but he’s also misunderstood and misrepresented. Mr. Darcy is cautious, yet compassionate. He’s concerned for the well-being of his friends and he regards his responsibility to them quite highly.

 I’m okay identifying with poor Mr. Darcy. We come out all right in the end.

How I know I married the perfect man: he watches and endorses this production among his friends and colleagues. No coercion necessary.

 

And now I’m back home. Much else occurred while I was away, but Tortall and Pemberley were the restful and relaxing bits. Future posts here at Popcorn with a Spoon may begin to take on a particular focus… my novel-in-progress is finally beginning to, well, progress.

Tell me, which Pride and Prejudice character do you most identify with and why? Or is there another fictional friend of yours? How are things going with your writing?

Birds and Butt-Kicking

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My inner ninja’s kicking butt these days. And, let me tell you, it’s much more exciting to roll with the punches than to constantly question one’s capabilities.

Here’s a little peek at a project my daughter and I have on the go:

Wren by Kelly DycavinuSONY DSC

This grumpster is my favourite. He’s hard to please, but who can fault him for wanting the job done well?

Feathered Friends by Kelly Dycavinu

 

These beautiful birds will be incorporated into a larger painting we’ve been working on since our season of slow.

First Test by Tamora PierceSpeaking of birds and butt-kicking, I’ve just finished re-reading First Test by Tamora Pierce. It’s the first book in the Protector of the Small series and, by far, one of my favourite YA novels. Ten-year-old Keladry is a young girl who wants to be a knight. She shows strength, determination, leadership, and honour as she fights for justice. She’s a hero worth having and First Test is a book worth reading (and re-reading).

How about you? How’s your inner ninja? What projects are you working on? Who’s your favourite butt-kicker?

***

© Kelly Dycavinu and Popcorn with a Spoon, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kelly Dycavinu and Popcorn with a Spoon with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Your Inner Ninja

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Do you ever find yourself wanting more?

More time?

More money?

More resources?

Do your wishes ever begin with if only?

If only I was a morning person and could write in the pre-dawn hours. If only I had a new laptop, one with a battery that charges properly so that I’m not always tethered to the wall. If only I wasn’t dragged down by depression. If only I had my own studio and space to create. If only I was more like so-and-so.

I wonder how often our grasping for more leads us to overlook what we already have? And is it possible that our wishful thinking misleads us, suggesting that who we are (in this moment) and what we have (right now) is not enough?

Find your inner ninja. Write, create, work with what you’ve got. The results might surprise you.

But, guaranteed, there will be results!

Inner Ninja

Paper, tape, dental sticks, marker and a balloon… the inspiration for me to find my inner ninja, courtesy of my son.

Writing Contests Galore & Calls for Submissions

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Write!

Good day, fellow writers. I thought I’d pass on these opportunities…

March 31- Royal City Literary Arts Society’s Write On! Contest

  • 3 categories: fiction (1500 words max), non-fiction (1500 words max), poetry (1 page single spaced max)
  • Fee: $10 per entry for members, $20 per entry for non-members
  • Prizes: cash of an undisclosed amount
  • Previously published work will be accepted as long as author retains copyright. Multiple entries are allowed
  • Open worldwide

March 31- The 13th World Children’s Haiku Contest

  • One unpublished haiku for the theme of “DREAM” in English or French and an illustration on a 8 1/2 x 11 size paper
  • Prizes: Winning entries will receive certificates signed by members of the JAL Foundation, with prizes including “Haiku by World Children”
  • Open to children up to age 15

April 1- Grain Magazine’s Short Grain Contest

  • Judges: Ken Babstock, Author of Methodist Hatchet (Poetry) and Kathleen Winter, Author of Annabel (Fiction)
  • Categories: poetry (to a max of 100 lines) and fiction (to a max of 2,500 words)
  • Fee: The basic fee for Canadian entrants is $36.75 ($35+GST) for a maximum of two entries in one category (Poetry or Fiction). The fee for US entrants is $47.25 ($45+GST) and the fee for international entrants is $57.75 ($55+GST), payable in US or Canadian funds
  • Prizes: 3 prizes will be awarded in each category (1st = $1,000, 2nd = $750, 3rd = $500)
  • Each entry must be original, unpublished, not submitted elsewhere for publication or broadcast, nor accepted elsewhere for publication or broadcast, nor entered simultaneously in any other contest or competition. Work that has appeared online is considered published and is not eligible

April 15- EVENT

  • Creative non-fiction (under 5000 words)
  • Fee: $34.95 (includes one-year subscription)
  • Prize: $1500
  • No previously published material, or material accepted for publication elsewhere, either in print or online. No simultaneous submissions

April 25- CANSCAIP’s Writing for Children Competition

  • Non-fiction and fiction from picture book to young adult (YA); up to 1,500 words, English language and not previously published in any format
  • Fee: $25
  • Prize: $1500
  • Open to Canadian citizens or landed immigrants, all writers who have not been published in any format (including self-published), in any genre and who do not have a contract with a book publisher at any point before the competition winner is announced

April 30- Bristol Short Story Prize

  • Short story (4000 max). Stories can be on any theme or subject and are welcome in any style including graphic, verse or genre-based (Crime, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical, Romance, Children’s etc..)
  • Fee: £8
  • Prizes: 1st £1000 (about 1800 CAD) plus £150 Waterstone’s gift card; 2nd £700 (about 1200 CAD) plus £100 Waterstone’s gift card; 3rd £400 (about 700 CAD) plus £100 Waterstone’s gift card; 17 further prizes of £100 (about 180 CAD) will be presented to the writers whose stories appear on the shortlist. All 20 shortlisted writers will have their stories published in the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology Volume 7
  • Open to all published and unpublished, non-UK and UK based writers over 16 years of age

May 31- Burnaby Writers’ Society 2014 Contest

  • One page of writing on the theme of ‘Wood’  (poetry, fiction, non-fiction or unclassifiable)
  • Fee: $5 per entry or 3 for $10
  • Prizes : 1st = $200, 2nd = $100, 3rd = $50
  • Previously unpublished entries
  • Open to residents of British Columbia, Canada

June 30- Canadian Authors Vancouver 2014 Short Story Contest

  • Short stories (1,000 to 2,000 words), any genre, in English
  • Fee: $15 for national Canadian Authors Association members, $20 for non-members
  • Prizes: 1st = $300, 2nd = $200, 3rd = $100
  • Unpublished complete short stories
  • Open to all Canadian writers

August 31- Aesthetica Creative Writing Competition 2014

  • Categories: fiction (maximum 2,000 words each), poetry (up to 40 lines each)
  • Fee: £10 permits the submission of two works into any one category
  • Prizes: 1st in each category = £500
  • Entries can be sent that have been previously published elsewhere, but please include information on previous publications with your submissions
  • Open worldwide, entries must be in English

Calls for Submission

Authors Publish Magazine

A free resource that lists publishers currently open to submissions. Today’s list includes these markets: All Genres (3) Children’s Books (4) Christian (2) Cookbooks (2) Erotica (3) Fantasy (6) Fiction (8) Gift Books (2) Historical Fiction (1) Humor (1) Literary Fiction (4) Mystery (1) Non Fiction (7) Paranormal (2) Poetry (4) Romance (10) Science Fiction (6) Self Help (2) Western (1) Young Adult (8)

You may want to check it out!

BareBack

We are a quickly growing literary and arts magazine dedicated to publishing BareBack writing, that is writers who aren’t afraid to take off their gloves when creating. We publish at least four short stories, ten poems, one featured artist, and a featured poet per bi-monthly issue. We are always looking for new talent and authors who fit in, or don’t fit in, with what we’re doing. If you have any other questions please contact Peter Jelen bbeditor@barebacklit.com

Nat. Brut

Nat. Brut is currently accepting submissions of poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, reviews (books, film, and other media), satire/humor pieces, short screenplays and theater scripts, and creative nonfiction/literary journalism. Please submit though Submittable (see website).

We are also accepting visual art, comics, short films, and audio content. To submit in those mediums, please email editors@natbrut.com

Two Serious Ladies

This small online magazine exists to promote writing and art by women. It was founded in February 2012 by Lauren Spohrer and publishes fiction, poetry, essay and visual art.

Room

Room is Canada’s oldest literary journal by, for, and about women. Published quarterly by a group of volunteers based in Vancouver, Room showcases fiction, poetry, reviews, art work, interviews and profiles about the female experience.

Room Magazine invites polished, unpublished writing on any theme for our upcoming issue, 37.4, edited by Christina Cooke and Taryn Hubbard. Before submitting, please read their About section to see if your work fits within Room’s mandate, then refer to the Submission Guidelines on how to format your work.

Deadline: Wednesday, April 30 2014

Crack the Spine

An online and print journal. Accepts flash fiction, short stories, poetry, creative non-fiction and photography/art.

Caboose

“The end of poetry as we know it.”

We are currently seeking submissions of outstanding and audacious poetry and art for our inaugural issue. We hope to see work brave and bold enough to say what hasn’t been said before, in ways never before imagined, and with image and language that others have shied away from. Caboose Journal seeks work that other journals have been afraid to publish, poems and artwork that step wide of the conventional path, that eschew what others deem “good taste.”

***Disclaimer: While I have presented this information as accurately as possible, please refer to the individual websites for complete contest rules and submission guidelines. With the exception of the Burnaby Writers’ Society, I am not associated with the administration or operation of these entities.

I Am Made of Clay

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A poem (in progress):

I am made of clay
Of clay and bone,
Breath and thread
Woven, whispered, wedged
First formed by the First
and Last

I am made of ash
Of sinew and soot
Dust and dirt
Sewn, sifted, swept
My name in a grain
Of sand

I am made of earth
Of rocks and moss
Sinter and cloth
Grown, gathered, gowned
In glorious
Flowers

I am made of clay
Of ash and earth
To these I return
Yet always to remain
is that

I am made.

***

© 2014 Kelly Dycavinu, Popcorn with a Spoon. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © 2014 Kelly Dycavinu, Popcorn with a Spoon http://kellydycavinu.wordpress.com/

Dirt: A Recipe for Paint

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The kids and I have been playing with dirt. It’s a very earthy season during Lent, and with the approach of Spring it makes sense to get mucky. If you have young kids, you’re likely familiar with the treasures always amassing on your doorstep.

"These can't come in the house," says Mom.

“These can’t come in the house,” says Mom.

But why not bring the dirt indoors for once?

Here’s a recipe for paint using only egg and dirt (yep, you read right).

Ingredients/Materials:

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3/4 cup (approx.) of sifted soil/dirt
  • Metal sieve ($1.25 at your local dollar store)
  • 2 small bowls (bucket, yogurt container, disposable cup, etc)

Additional Project Materials:

  • 1 white Bristol board or canvas board (any size, but you’ll need more paint for anything larger than 11 x 14 in. Again, check your dollar store)
  • Sandpaper
  • Paintbrush
  • Chalk (various colours)

Directions:

  1. Use the sieve to sift out large or unwanted pieces from the soil/dirt. Repeat two or three times as necessary
  2. Separate the egg yolk from the egg white as thoroughly as possible
  3. Mix the sifted soil into the egg yolk until desired consistency is achieved

And voila! You have a mocha/espresso coloured paint.

What’s next?

  1. Apply the paint to a canvas board or white Bristol board
  2. Let paint dry overnight
  3. Once the paint is dry, use sandpaper to smooth out the surface. Or you can just leave it if you want more texture (please note: sanding the paint will lighten the colour, but only slightly)
  4. Chalk is an excellent medium to use on the dirt-paint. Have fun!

You might like to know:

The egg yolk is the binding agent.

The dirt is the pigment (colour).

Feel free to explore with other pigments (coffee grounds? Kool-Aid?).

I’m told this paint will last for five centuries.

It’s not as messy as you may think (and this coming from a clean-freak).

Now, I know some of you can’t ‘picture’ the end results. We’ll post ours once we’re done. In the meantime, if you give this a try I’d love to hear about your experience with it. Feel free to ask questions or offer suggestions.

A Song for Melody

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My daughter and I have a friend. Her name is Melody and she’s ten years old. We made this card for her as a thank you for one of the many kind and generous things she has done for us.

We want Melody to know what we see in her. And I want you to know as well.

Melody is nice, kind, loving, fun, gentle, generous, smart and sincere. If you meet her, you’ll see it for yourself in an instant. You’ll also see beauty, compassion, thoughtfulness, resource and creativity. She is remarkable and she is wonderful.

What you won’t see or suspect are the inner voices telling Melody otherwise. Depression and Anxiety take these truths from her and they twist them until it hurts her to be herself.

Our thank you to Melody is also a prayer. May she recognize the words on our card and see them inside herself, as who she is. May she hear the lyrics her life sings.

Melody Butterfly Ink Sketch

Melody, you are a sweet song carried on the wings of a butterfly. Your family and friends are listening closely and carefully. If you cannot hear your own song, we’ll sing it back to you.

You are absolutely lovely.

***

© 2014 Kelly Dycavinu, Popcorn with a Spoon. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © 2014 Kelly Dycavinu, Popcorn with a Spoon http://kellydycavinu.wordpress.com/

Sunglasses at Night: A Weird Writerly Woe

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It’s 8:30 pm and my three-year-old daughter comes to my office for a goodnight kiss. However, she stops in the doorway and starts laughing at me.

What? I wonder. What did I do?

“Mom! Why are you wearing your sunglasses?” she exclaims.

Oh. Yeah. I forgot about the sunglasses.

Even a three-year-old knows it’s ridiculous to wear sunglasses at night, but what’s a blurry-eyed editing-mode mom supposed to do? No amount of eye drops or tinkering with screen settings seems to help my agitated eyes. So… Corey Hart meet Maui Jim meet mom-on-a-mission.

It’s now 12:45 am.

I wear my sunglasses at night.

***

Contests! Here are a few coming up:

  1. February 28th. WOW! Women on Writing Winter 2014 Flash Fiction Contest. Details here.
  2. February 28th. The Manchester Writing for Children Prize 2014. Details here.
  3. March 1st. The Writers’ Union of Canada Short Prose Competition. Details here.
  4. March 3rd. 2014 Askew’s Foods’ Word on the Lake Writing Contest (Shuswap Association of Writers). Details here.
  5. April 30th. 2014 Bristol Short Story Prize. Details here.

Write away! Write now!

Wielding Words Wisely

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Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.

–Philo of Alexandria

Communication. It can be complicated.

These days, I often feel foolish, mostly misunderstood, and even chastised in my attempts to address issues. I regret ever offering my insights. Irritated and edgy, I want to lash out. To use my words as a whip. To slap so-and-so with all the sarcastic sentences seething inside. A war rages within.

Alone in the Orange Room © by Kelly Dycavinu

Then I open a letter sent to me by a sweet stranger. In it I read: Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.

Immediately I’m taken out of my own inner turmoil. I imagine the struggles, the conflicts, the complications of those around me. Those well-meaning and wonderful people. We all fight a great battle, but it’s not really against one another, is it?

Philo of Alexandria’s words are a gift I receive centuries after he speaks them. Rather than use my own words as a weapon, I wish to wield them as wisely, to give them as gifts.

Communication. It can be a kindness.

A complicated kindness.

Vulnerability: The Very Scary Thing

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He who conceals his disease cannot expect to be cured.

– Ethiopian Proverb

Vulnerability. It’s a hairy, thirteen-legged, monstrous beast that bites through bone, eats eyeballs and twisted intestines, and is most happy playing hacky sack with the heart.

A bit too dramatic or disgusting for you?

Vulnerability. It’s a scary thing!

No matter how deep or desperate our desire is to be known, we’ve learned from life that very scary things are bad and to be avoided at all costs. Self-preservation and protection takes priority.

But what if we’re wrong? What if our sensitivities are skewed?

Recently I’ve been reflecting on relationships and some specific circumstances in which I’ve seen relationships thrive or die. And I’ve come away with some (mostly personal) insights.

Do you ever find it easier to advocate on the behalf of others, to negotiate for needs that are not your own? I do. In fact, I feel quite competent in this capacity. But then, when it comes to advocating on my own behalf, all my strengths and sensibilities seem to slip away. It’s a very scary thing to ask for something good for myself, for something I need or want. Why?

Well, for me, expressing a need or desire is a vulnerable thing. It gives power to the other person. The power to reject the request, to disappoint, to deny. The power to control. The power to manipulate. The power to abuse or misuse. Knowing what a person needs, wants, or desires is knowing how and where to hurt them, to cause pain.

I’ve held this view of vulnerability for decades. Only recently did I come to realize the incomplete picture it portrays. Here’s the rest of it…

Expressing a need or a desire gives power to another person. It gives them the power to provide, to grant the request, to satisfy, to comply. The power to serve. The power to guide, shape and nurture. The power to please. The power to equip. Knowing what a person needs, wants, or desires is knowing how and where to help and to heal.

Vulnerability. What if the Very Scary Thing is actually a Great Good Thing? It’s a notion I’m just beginning to embrace.

How about you?

Any other insight to offer? Or experience to share?

Comments are welcome.

© 2013 Kelly Dycavinu, Popcorn with a Spoon. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © 2013 Kelly Dycavinu, Popcorn with a Spoon http://kellydycavinu.wordpress.com/

To Quote Myself (Write to Discover)

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I write to discover – Kelly Dycavinu

There’s nothing so silly, yet sweetly satisfying, as quoting oneself. Isn’t it nice to know you like what you have to say? Enough to say it again. And again? Today’s quote originates from here, but more recently I quoted myself as saying it here. (Alright, I admit it’s a little odd, but I won’t do it so often as to annoy. Or so I hope.)

Here’s a poem I wrote:

Watching, scanning,
Flying, spying,
The peregrine falcon

In skywater, diving

And here’s what I discovered…

  1. Peregrine falcons have a system of bony tubercles (nodules) in the nostrils, called baffles, that slow airflow through the nose during dives. This helps prevent the high pressure dives from damaging their lungs.
  2. Feak, verb– (Of a raptor) To clean the beak, usually by wiping it on a piece of wood or rock.
  3. Mantling, adj.– Used in reference to a raptor with its wings spread out low and in front, usually covering food to keep it from being seen.
  4. Mute, noun– A piece of raptor’s excrement.
  5. Pefa, noun– a peregrine falcon.

There’s more, but those are my favourites.

All this came about when I encouraged my son to write a poem to submit in a poetry contest. He chose to write about peregrine falcons. And here’s one of his poems (not the one submitted):

Birds of Prey by R. Dycavinu

Skies full with wondrous birds
Screeching screaming magical words

So… What did you write this week? And what did you discover? Do share!

***

© Kelly Dycavinu, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kelly Dycavinu with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Dragons Are Singing Tonight

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If you don’t believe in dragons,
It is curiously true
That the dragons you disparage
Choose to not believe in you.
 

– Jack Prelutsky

 

Jack Prelutsky joins Arnold Lobel on my list of Top Ten Creators of Children’s Literature. Prelutsky’s poetry is engaging and inventive, easily accessible and comprehensible without being dumbed down. His words are full of wit and wisdom. Oh, and did I mention, it’s poetry!

I have sensed fear–and a fair share of despair– among authors and educators that children’s poetry is going the way of the former planet Pluto. Let’s face it, how often do you see young boys gravitating toward a book of poems? Well, I say pull out the Prelutsky and get set for take off!

There are two books in particular to recommend. The first is The Dragons are Singing Tonight (illustrated by Peter Sis). The Dragons are Singing Tonight is one book, seventeen poems, and endless wonder. We have many favourites in this collection of poems about dragons, but our favourite favourite is I AM BOOM!

Enjoy the first of its three stanzas:

I am Boom the thunder dragon,
Taller than the tallest trees,
I stir whirlwinds when I whisper,
Mighty cyclones when I sneeze,
Fishes shiver in the ocean
When I tread upon the shore,
I make earthquakes and volcanoes
When I roar roar roar!

 

Remember, a reader contributes much to the experience of a story or poem. For instance, we discovered Boom’s thunderously loud voice that echoes as we read: I am Boom (BOOM!) the thunder dragon… Then, not much later, we discovered Boom’s teeny tiny voice. It has a slight lisp. The irony of an itty bitty voice with the thundering and electric phrases in the poem makes for much laughter. Have fun and enjoy your experience.

The second book, The Beauty of the Beast: Poems from the Animal Kingdom, is a substantial collection of poems selected by Jack Prelutsky and brilliantly illustrated by Meilo So. The contents are divided into five sections: In Trillions We Thrive; Jubilant, We Swim; Dragons in Minature; Hollow-Boned Singers and Wrapped in Coats of Fur.

I love that we can turn to a page a read five poems on the antics of ants. Or turn to another, this time holding our breath in an underwater world of oysters, eels and octopodes. Or to yet another and discover that there are at least three others who know Crow as I know Crow.

I like to walk
And hear the black crows talk.
I like to lie
And watch crows sail the sky.
I like the crow
That wants the wind to blow:
I like the one
That thinks the wind is fun.
I like to see
Crows spilling from a tree,
And try to find
The top crow left behind.
I like to hear
Crows caw that spring is near.
I like the great
Wild clamor of crow hate
Three farms away
When owls are out by day.
I like the slow
Tired home-flying crow;
I like the sight
Of crows for my goodnight.

–Crows by David McCord

Reading through The Beauty of the Beast: Poems from the Animal Kingdom is like catching God in the act of creation and then God saying, Come join the fun!

Check out more from Jack Prelutsky at his website. It’s stellar stuff!

Now it’s your turn. What’s your favourite poem? Do you think children’s poetry is going the way of Pluto? Do you like crows? Why or why not?

 

My Soul’s Symphony

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Symphony of the Soul by Sharon Cummings

Symphony of the Soul by Sharon Cummings. Used by permission.

It’s New Year’s day and my soul is a symphony… life doesn’t get any more orchestrated than during this time of year. But rather than dive into a discussion on resolutions or goal-setting, I want to share notes from 2013 that I’m carrying forward into 2014. Perhaps some of what’s resonating with me will also strike a chord with you.

70 is the new 100

A credentialed individual recently counseled me with these words: 70 is the new 100. If you’re like me, and operate under a standard that expects no less than 110%, this will be hard to hear. How can lowering one’s expectations be a good thing? To be honest, my mind was reeling with a dozen other doubts and questions about the comment and I didn’t fully hear the response, but in essence it was “less is more.” Just imagine what you might accomplish or become when you’re free of the overwhelming pressures, performance anxieties, and the ever impossible perfectionism. Or, to bring it back to my symphony: with space to breathe, a note can be held longer and be made to ring more clear and true.

What do you think? Can 70 be your new 100? Will you score closer to 100 than if you were aiming for 110?

Commit to finish

In the beginning, when you’re first starting out, there are a million reasons not to write, to give up. That is why it is of extreme importance to make a commitment to finishing sections and stories, to driving through to the finish.

–Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

I’m good at beginnings, a great starter. I haven’t always been as good with endings, but that’s changing as time goes on. A part of what makes it easy to embrace a commitment to finish, though, is when you get a taste of an happy ecstatic ending.

In Re-Creating Kokopelli I mentioned a short story that came out of the experience. Even though this story was one of the ‘easiest’ and most ‘inspired’ pieces I’ve written, I recall some crazy-making moments. Only a few paragraphs from the finish I wanted to walk away. How could I tame all the thoughts and ideas bouncing around and bashing on my brain? But I’m glad I kept going and pushed through the pain. It is finished and, oh, the euphoric joy! I’m so proud of this baby. You’ll likely hear more in the months to come.

So, if this is my experience with ‘easy’ and ‘inspired’ writing, just imagine the cause to quit when the writing’s not working! I’m taking to heart a commitment to finish.

How about you? Have you ever walked away? Are there any stories that need to come out of the drawer? Have you ever pushed through to the finish and how did you feel?

Don’t Get Depressed

One of the highlights of 2013 was editing and co-writing a family-friendly book of Advent reflections, Face to Face. The print publication was one process, but I also posted the daily reflections here on my blog. Along the way, I met Hyatt Moore and now I share his words of wisdom:

Don’t get depressed

Why would I tell myself that? Because I know how I am. I’m quality oriented; I want to get good, and I want to get good fast. Just like you.

The thing is, growth is incremental; we hardly see it. In our mind it can seem like we’ll never get there. And that’s not an encouraging thought.

Discouragement, nurtured, leads to depression, and depression leads to quitting. Once we quit, that kills all chances of ever getting good.

So: Don’t get depressed.

There’s more from Hyatt Moore:

Don’t Make Paintings, Just Paint

Whatever your particular new interest is, I recommend this approach…

Just get painting.

Or writing.

Or learning.

Or serving.

Or whatever it is that’s on your heart to do.

The reason you haven’t done it yet is because you haven’t started.

And you haven’t started because you’ve made it too important. Too scary. Don’t you know the hardest step on a thousand-mile trek is the first one?

The results of your labors won’t be grand for a long time. But they won’t be anything at all if you don’t start.

So, whatever your art, whatever your contribution . . . to yourself or to others: Don’t worry about the masterpiece; that’ll come later, much later. For now, just get painting!

Whatever happens, it’ll happen because of that.

Writing is discovering

We write to discover what we think. — Joan Didion

You’re likely familiar with this quote. If you’ve ever written an essay, a story, or a letter, you’re also likely familiar with the truth behind it– we discover what we think when we write. When we capture the chaotic thoughts and ideas that bounce around in our brains, when we wrap them in words, tame them, our thoughts become our own–readable, understandable, shareable.

I write to discover. — Kelly Dycavinu

I write to discover what I’m capable of; I write to discover who I am, the state of my soul; I write to discover others, to learn empathy and compassion; I write to discover details, to learn words and meaning; I write to discover the story; and, mostly, I write to discover the Storyteller.

It seems I have a lot more writing to do.

In the meantime, here are a few moments where I was acutely aware of the act of discovering as I wrote:

The Ways We Say ‘I Love You’

To My Son– My Superhero– Age 6

The Stranger’s Friend: The Refugee

Co Violet by R. Dycavinu: The Literary Lessons I Learned

How about you? Why do you write? What have you discovered?

It’s out of our strengths we can change

You have weaknesses. I have weaknesses. We certainly don’t need anyone to tell us of this fact–we know it already! And while our weaknesses may indicate a need for change, while they may spark a desire for change, they don’t help us create that change. That’s what our strengths are for– or so I’m told. I’m still in the process of figuring it all out.

You have strengths. Do you know what they are?

I have strengths. I know some of them. I’m about to pay attention and discover what the others might be.

Going forward, as you resolve to make changes– to finish your novel, get in shape, be happier or more kind to others, to run a marathon, get out of debt or fix a relationship– don’t focus on weaknesses. Don’t ignore them, but don’t give them the last say. Let your strengths do some talking.

Know your strengths and you’ll know change.

All the best to you in the New Year! I leave you with Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf–a stunning symphony where every character is represented by its own instrument.

***

Symphony of The Soul © by Sharon Cummings. Used by permission. Follow her on WordPress, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest

Face to Face with the King of Love: Impossible Gift

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Face to Face

Christmas Day (Love Came Down at Christmas)

Impossible Gift

ancient bones, wrinkled skin

revived, enlivened, transformed

by new life,

this life inside

.

weary spirit, broken heart

surprised, thrilled, healed

by Holy Spirit,

God’s Spirit within

.

desperate dreams, fragile hopes

offered, prayed, answered

by only God,

only God Almighty

.

mind boggled, soul tickled

laughing, embracing, rejoicing

by this son,

God’s Only Son

by Linda Smythe

***

Question: What words in this poem do you relate to?

Together: Share how Jesus has changed your life. Sing Love Came Down at Christmas. Or enjoy this version:

Prayer: God, thank You for sending Jesus. Jesus, thank You for coming! Holy Spirit, thank You for filling our hearts with love. Amen.

Love came down at Christmas
Love all lovely, love divine
Love was born at Christmas
Star and angels gave the sign

Worship we the Godhead
Love incarnate, love divine
Worship we our Jesus
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token
Love be yours and love be mine
Love to God and all men
Love for plea and gift and sign

***

Introduction to Face to Face: Advent Reflections

Impossible Gift © by Linda Smythe, 2013. Used by permission.

© Kelly Dycavinu, Popcorn with a Spoon 2013. Excerpts and links may be used, provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Kelly Dycavinu, Popcorn with a Spoon 2013 http://kellydycavinu.wordpress.com/

Face to Face with the King of Love: On Being Loved

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Face to Face
Fourth Tuesday: Mary

Read: Luke 2: 16-20

On Being Loved

Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

As I think about Mary and the first time she held Jesus in her arms, I can’t help but recall when I became a mother. I remember holding my newborn son. I remember watching him sleep and studying his face, his nose, his lips. I remember the overwhelming love I felt for him. I marveled, not so much about the extent of my capacity to love another, but about the nature of the love itself. It was a love centered entirely on him, who he was, his very being. It was not associated with any aspect of behaviour or what he had done (how could it be?). For the first time in my life, I felt I had a glimpse of the unconditional love God feels for us—love that is directed toward our very being and completely disconnected from our doing.

How often do we seek to earn His love? How often do we rely on our own actions to gain acceptance? How often is our best behavior really about begging to belong?

God’s love is unconditional. It can’t be earned. It can’t be bought. It can’t be bartered or sold. Period. Yet, while we cannot earn His love with our actions, we can honour it with them. First, by receiving His love and, second, by sharing it.

by Kelly Dycavinu

My Son © 2007 by Kelly Dycavinu. All Rights Reserved.

My Son © 2007 by Kelly Dycavinu. All Rights Reserved.

***

Question: Did you know that Jesus loves you as much as God loves Him?

Together: Read John 15:9. Share with your child(ren) about the moment you first met them, about the first time you held each of them in your arms, and about how you felt.

Prayer: Thank you, God, for making us perfectly wonderful (Psalm 139:14) and for loving us the way You love Jesus. Amen.

***

Introduction to Face to Face: Advent Reflections

© 2013 Kelly Dycavinu, Popcorn with a Spoon. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © 2013 Kelly Dycavinu, Popcorn with a Spoon http://kellydycavinu.wordpress.com/

Face to Face with the King of Love: Praise Jesus! He Really Loves Us

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Eyes that Smile © 2013 by Kelly Dycavinu

Fourth Monday: Anna

Read: Luke 2: 36-38

Praise Jesus! He Really Loves Us

The moment old Anna saw baby Jesus, she began to praise God. I wonder how she expressed her thanks to God for loving us so much. Did she dance her praise? Did she sing her praise? Did she use an old familiar psalm that fit just right? Or did she make up a song of her own?

Once I made up a praise song to the tune of “I Am Slowly Going Crazy” by Sharon, Lois and Bram. It has actions too. You put your right hand on your cheek and your left hand on your right elbow and sing:

Jesus really, really loves me. 1-2-3-4-5-6 switch. (put your left hand on your cheek and your right hand on your left elbow)

Really, Jesus really loves me. 6-5-4-3-2-1 switch. (switch back)

by Esther Hizsa

***

Questions: How do you praise God? Talking, singing, dancing, drawing?

Together: Choose a song you all know and add your own lyrics of praise to Jesus.

Prayer: Thank you, God, for giving us fun ways to praise You.

***

Introduction to Face to Face: Advent Reflections

Praise Jesus! He Really Loves Us © 2013 by Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim. Used by permission.

© 2013 Kelly Dycavinu, Popcorn with a Spoon. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © 2013 Kelly Dycavinu, Popcorn with a Spoon http://kellydycavinu.wordpress.com/

Face to Face with the King of Love: Bewildering Words

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“Eyes to See” Simeon ii © 2013 by Kelly Dycavinu

Fourth Sunday: Simeon and Mary

Read: Luke 2: 25-35

Bewildering Words

When Simeon prophesied about Jesus, Mary and Joseph were amazed. Then Simeon felt the Holy Spirit fluttering inside him again. The Holy Spirit had more to say. Simeon heard these words come out of his mouth, “This child is destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your soul too.”

Mary and Joseph must have looked bewildered and wondered what Simeon was talking about. Simeon was bewildered too. But in time the Holy Spirit would explain it. When Jesus grew up He said many things that made people love Him or hate Him and that made it very clear whether they were really God’s people or not. It made them see the state of their own hearts and if they realized they did hate Jesus, it gave them a chance to say sorry and join God’s people.

But what about that last bit about a sword piercing Mary’s soul too? What did that mean? When Jesus grew up and began preaching and doing mighty deeds, Mary saw peoples’ reactions to her Son. And when she saw that some people hated Him enough to kill Him it felt like a sword had pierced her soul. But she would also see that their hate was not bigger than Jesus’ love. There would come a day when she would see just how big and unbeatable Jesus’ love really is.

by Esther Hizsa

 ***

Question: Do you have a friend who doesn’t know or like Jesus? Perhaps he/she even says bad things about Him.

Together: Cut a heart out of a piece of paper and write that person’s first name on it. Tape it where you will see it every day so you can pray for them.

Prayer: Jesus, I feel sad when people don’t know You very well. Please help my friend (fill in name) get to know how much You love him/her. Amen.

***

Introduction to Face to Face: Advent Reflections

Bewildering Words © 2013 by Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim. Used by permission.

© 2013 Kelly Dycavinu, Popcorn with a Spoon. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © 2013 Kelly Dycavinu, Popcorn with a Spoon http://kellydycavinu.wordpress.com/

Face to Face with the King of Love: The Wildest God-Thing of All

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Third Saturday: Zechariah

Read: Luke 3:1-19 and Luke 7:18-23

The Wildest God-Thing of All

How Elizabeth and I rejoiced in our Johnny, our walking, talking taste test of God’s insane graciousness! How we thrilled to hear it, the thrum of God’s Spirit, pulsing ever louder in his life. And then, too soon, it was time to surrender him, released into his future.

It is said there is a place of stillness in the eye of every storm. Perfect love can draw us in, shield our hearts, free our spirits, and allow us to ride the waves with audacious confidence.

For years I struggled, trying to love enough, trust enough, obey enough to get into that place. It’s taken long years of journeying for me to finally see that it is not my love or strength or obedience that will ever hold me in that eye of rest. The perfect, fear-casting love is God’s, not mine.

My son will do great God-things, for so it has been promised. Oh that he may also discover the greatest, hardest, wildest God-thing of all: surrender into the vortex of God’s love.

by Susan Horikiri

Vortex of Love

 ***

Question: What makes it so hard sometimes to surrender fully into God’s love?

Together: Look one another in the eye and say: God loves you.

Prayer: Jesus, we pray for ourselves in the future, for our children, and for the generations to follow, that we would discover the greatest, hardest, wildest God-thing of all: surrender into the vortex of Your love. Amen.

***

Introduction to Face to Face: Advent Reflections

The Wildest God-Thing of All © 2013 by Susan Horikiri. Used with permission.

© 2013 Kelly Dycavinu, Popcorn with a Spoon. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © 2013 Kelly Dycavinu, Popcorn with a Spoon http://kellydycavinu.wordpress.com/

Face to Face with the King of Love: What Kind of King?

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Third Friday: Herod

Read: Matthew 2: 1-8; 13-20

What Kind of King?

King Herod. Who was he? He is often called Herod the Great, but take a look below and see what you think. What kind of king was he? How does he compare to Jesus, the King of Love?

King Herod Jesus, King of Love
Appointed king of Judea by the Roman Senate Appointed and sent by God
Non-Jewish, an Idumean: no claim to kingship through David’s line Both earthly parents, Mary and Joseph, from the line of David; God’s Son
Reigned 37-4 BC Reigns forever
King over Judea, Galilee, Iturea, Traconitis King over all creation
Destroys his family: murdered his wife, three sons, and other family members Grows His family: invites us to become children of the Father and share in His inheritance
Killed innocent babies to maintain power and control (vs. 16) Sacrificed His life so that others may live
Rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem Established our bodies as God’s temple
Secretive, sneaky and deceptive The Way, the Truth and the Life
Died (vs. 19) Died and rose again

When the Magi asked for the “one who has been born king of the Jews,” no wonder Herod felt threatened! He had done many horrible things to become king and it was tricky trying to maintain that power. If only Herod would have realized that Jesus was much more than king of the Jews. If only he would have realized that Jesus is King over a much bigger territory, that Jesus is Lord of All. If only he would have realized Jesus, the King of Love, came to love him, too.

 by Kelly Dycavinu

***

Question: What might have happened if Herod swallowed his pride, went with the Magi, and worshipped Jesus? What did he stand to lose? What did he stand to gain?

Together: Share with one another about how and when you became a Christian, about when the King of Love first reigned in your life. Are there any ‘territories’ in your life you want to keep and rule for yourself?

Prayer: Jesus, you are the King of Love. Help us receive and share Your love. Amen.

***

Introduction to Face to Face: Advent Reflections

Image credit: The Story of Christmas illustrated by Jane Ray.

© 2013 Kelly Dycavinu, Popcorn with a Spoon. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © 2013 Kelly Dycavinu, Popcorn with a Spoon http://kellydycavinu.wordpress.com/

Face to Face with the God of Joy: Soon We Will Be Free

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Joy Snowflake
Third Thursday: Anna

Read: Luke 2:36-39

Soon We Will Be Free

When Anna saw Simeon and Mary and Joseph with their baby boy, her old heart did a double flip. She knew without a doubt that she was looking at the promised Messiah, the King, the Saviour of the world. Just like Simeon, her joy overflowed into praises to God.

Now it was time. After eighty four years of fasting and praying in the temple, Anna went out into the streets. Everyone must have wondered if their eyes were playing tricks on them. Was that really Anna? And could she really be over a hundred? She looked so young!

Anna herself was surprised; she hadn’t had this much energy in eighty-four years. Tirelessly she went everywhere telling everyone about the child Jesus. “He’s here!” she told them. “God has sent his Messiah, The King, the Saviour of the world. Soon we will be free!”

by Esther Hizsa

***

Question: How do you express your joy?

Together: Take turns listing as many different expressions of joy as possible (e.g. yippee!). Have fun saying them loud and joyfully.

Prayer: Jesus, we celebrate and rejoice in knowing that You are with us right here, right now. Amen.

 ***

Introduction to Face to Face: Advent Reflections

Soon We Will Be Free © 2013 by Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim. Used by Permission.

© 2013 Kelly Dycavinu, Popcorn with a Spoon. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © 2013 Kelly Dycavinu, Popcorn with a Spoon http://kellydycavinu.wordpress.com/

Face to Face with the God of Joy: Uncontainable Joy

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Simeon's Moment by Ron DiCianni © 2013.  Image used by Permission www.TapestryProductions.com

Simeon’s Moment by Ron DiCianni © 2013. Image used by Permission http://www.TapestryProductions.com

Third Wednesday: Simeon (Joy to the World)

Read: Luke 2: 25-33

Uncontainable Joy

Simeon had no doubt when he saw Mary and Joseph holding their first born son that this baby was the Saviour-King God had promised. He knew because the Holy Spirit that had been resting on him was now dancing inside of him. When Simeon took Jesus in his arms, his joy and the Holy Spirit’s joy were so great that he could hardly contain himself. Their joy burst out in praises to God. Joy came in wondrous words, through a laughing mouth with hot tears rolling down Simeon’s cheeks. He praised God saying, “My Master my job is done; You can dismiss me in peace, for I have seen with my own eyes the King You sent. This child will one day invite all people, the ones who know You and the ones who don’t, to see who You really are, receive God’s love and share God’s love the way you do.”

When Simeon heard what he had just said, he knew those words were not his own. The Holy Spirit gave them to him. And that made Simeon all the more joyful because then he knew they were true. This King, this Jesus, was going to do it.

by Esther Hizsa

 ***

Question: Have you ever felt so much joy you thought you would burst? When? What made you feel so joyful?

Together: Sing Joy to the World.

Prayer: Give three cheers for Jesus! Hip, hip, hooray! Hip, hip, hooray! Hip, hip, HOORAY! AHHHH-MEN!

Joy to the World, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love

***

Introduction to Face to Face: Advent Reflections

Simeon’s Moment by Ron DiCianni © 2013. Image used by Permission www.TapestryProductions.com

Uncontainable Joy © 2013 by Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim. Used by Permission.

© 2013 Kelly Dycavinu, Popcorn with a Spoon. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © 2013 Kelly Dycavinu, Popcorn with a Spoon http://kellydycavinu.wordpress.com/

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