Felix

Today was like a second Christmas for me. My husband’s aunt sent me a lovely card from their family for my birthday with the express wish that I buy something for myself. She knows that I would have spent it all on bills, but her request allowed me to give myself permission to do something I have been wanting to do for a very long time.

I bought myself a drafting desk.

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 10.34.38 PMThose of you who know me, or found this site through ArtfulLE, know my story. Most of my time is spent either in bed or in a large overstuffed chair in our living room with my feet up on a matching ottoman. Having LE is a daily challenge; even more so, not wrapping makes it mandatory for me to have my legs up when I’m not on them. This chair is where, even right now, I do most of my work. I have a desk, but I can only sit at it so long. Sitting at a 90 degree angle makes my legs worse, and I dream for some space-age looking recliner with an overhead computer to solve all my problems. Till then, I needed a desk that inspired me, that had room to spread out, but that wouldn’t become just another flat surface to set stuff on.

I brought it home a couple days ago and spent most of today putting it together. Slowly savoring it. My daughter helped get it into the studio and I just sat there, running my hand over the surface. It was really overcast today, but the little bit of light that came in from outside was all I needed. That spot will be perfect as it gets a lot of morning sun, just what I need. I may even get a plant.

Sitting there, I kept getting the urge to name it. I dismissed it at first, but this was something special: Possibility. Passion. Motivation. And for some reason it felt “male”. It’s a rustic, vintage style (faux) oak drafting desk with black metal fixtures, it’s soft, smooth, satin surface cool and comforting to the touch. It began to nag at me, though, so I finally entertained the thought.

Felix…(laugh) nah…hmm…a name, a name…Felix…that’s kind of an odd name…FElix. Hmm. FEE.LIX. Felix?

I laughed and my husband asked me what was funny. I told him that I had the urge to name it, that it was kind of nagging me (to which my daughter chimed in and told me I should then) and told him that the same name kept popping up in my head, but it was kind of a weird one compared to most of the names I typically come up with.

Val: “What name?”
Me: “Felix.”
Val: “It means happy in Latin.”

I could feel the smile creep across my face even as the tears came.

Felix it is.

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 10.29.50 PM Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 10.30.20 PM
 

Mrs. Claus is on her way!

Hit a slight hiccup in our internet connection last night. Mrs. Claus is waiting to meeting you all, though, and will be bringing one of her recipes with her!

Day Two

Every year there are certain traditions we’ve carried on. As with anything, we evolve over time. Here’s our top 10 for this year:

  1. Nothing Christmasy till after Thanksgiving.
  2. Youngest family members play elf.
  3. Nog, Apple Cider, and Hot Cocoa with marshmallows become part of our food vocabulary.
  4. At least one White Elephant Ornament Exchange party must take place.
  5. Handmades heavily influence both tree theme and gifting. This year knitting is the theme.
  6. Ria designs and hand-renders our Christmas cards. This year I’m collaborating with #myscoleoptera aka Rock Paper Fox.
  7. Christmas Eve is spent at my mother’s where we share wine and tapas buffet-style. We can bring one mutually agreed on present from home and open it there. We can also open one thing from mom. Anything else she brings later.
  8. Christmas morning we get up early, open gifts and drink cocoa, then have breakfast. Mom comes over in the afternoon to open her presents.
  9. We try to do at least one daytrip to see the lights with mom in St. Augustine. This year we’re hoping to do an overnight with mom in St Augustine. We are also mailing our cards out from Christmas, Florida this year so I can take my family to see the fort.
  10. New this year: Christmas letters! My cousin Sandy and her husband Ron do a Christmas letter each year that we always look forward to. I’ve been wanting to do one, but I wasn’t really inspired till this year. I’m designing self-mailers and having a blast.

What are some of your holiday traditions? Do you have decorations that have been handmade or handed down? Tag me on Instagram @renmeleon so I can see them!

Don’t forget to download your free digital-Advent paper crafts!

Day One

renxmas_Frenchnutcracker_seethroughSome of my favorite things to do each year are make ornaments and decorations for our home. I love the hand-me-downs that I’ve gotten from family and friends over the years, but to be able to make something that I can hand down to my own daughter to build her own traditions with is very special to me.

This year, my daughter and I have been doing a lot of knitting so our tree reflects that. Garlands of finger-knitted bulky yarn with a flurry of new snowcapped, hand-made ornaments over white tree lights. I’ve also made it a point to weed out the decorations that no longer suit us and either gift them or recycle them in some creative way, giving them new life.

So are you ready? Check out the Advent page for today’s artsy freebie! And if you would like to share the page with friends, just click on the image at left and save it to your computer. From there you can post it to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest!

Defining Passion

I’ve been watching a free series that has been offered by the ever fabulous and thought-provoking Michael Hyatt on platform tweaking. Even if you are pro, I recommend taking a look at the series. He posed a question at the end of the first video that was a lot harder to answer than I had expected or should have been.

What Are You Passionate About?

Once people find out that I have created my own career path and work from home, it is not uncommon for me to get into a discussion with them about how they are not happy with where they are and what they would really like to be doing. In every conversation so far, there has been one common theme: Their goals don’t match the end result of the path they want to be on. The question that I pose to them is this:

If there were no limits to money or location, what is the one thing that you could spend the rest of your life doing and be happy?

Most of us have a difficult time seeing past roadblocks and ruts we have fallen into, the thought of having that kind of control, so it takes a minute to recover before we can even begin to answer that. There have only been a couple of people that I’ve spoken to that know exactly what they want and have a clear focus. Michael’s question put me on the spot as well and I had to answer this for myself.

My end goal: To be able to travel with my family, write, create, and teach while experiencing the world through art, food, creative and cultural interaction as we share the expanding of our own eco-centric views of the world.

Spelling this out, I see a definite need for some self-alignment within my own path. We live a creative life but, while we have traveled a little more this year than most, my husband is still trapped in a 9-to-5 job that doesn’t align with his own desires. As his wife and best friend, I want a lot better for him and for us as a family.

Moving Forward

What am I passionate about? This was my turn, and it wasn’t easy.

I am passionate about a number of things, which is good and bad. In the past I would head in several directions, keeping my interests separate instead of integrating them. I thought that keeping them compartmentalized would help me to stay organized. It did for a bit, but if I hit a bump with one or, with my health more often, it would throw everything off. From there I overlapped my projects in an effort to go in one main direction. Progress. Finally, I cleared my plate and started getting more focused on what I wanted. I stopped taking clients and dug into my own projects that had been neglected for so long. I’m much happier now and have made great advances, but I am still whittling away at what we don’t need in our lives in order to focus on the more meaningful.

Finding balance when you work from home is a unique challenge, but it’s doable with a direction and a plan.

Death means change

Yes, a rosary AND tarot.*No, nothing is wrong, outside of the normal. I pulled the Death card this morning, which would have the untrained freaking out. It doesn’t mean death though, that is usually the Tower card aka cataclysmic, not-so-happy change. But the Death card is a motivator. It means change is coming…which is why I pulled it.

I got wind of a job lead in the UK yesterday and am applying for it today. I pull the cards when I’m led and one always, quite literally, jumps out at me. Writing for gaming was one of the reasons I took the Creative Writing MFA from Full Sail. The job is a script writing position, one of two, with a game developer. I glanced over it, a pipe dream, till I read that they valued talent over experience. I’m not sure if I am talented enough in that industry, but I’m a quick study and I’m giving it a shot. It’s all a leap of faith. Let’s hope they would allow me to work remotely, otherwise it’s beg to be relocated.

“You are entering a growing phase. Acknowledgement comes slowly. No one will offer a helping hand unless you beg for it. Don’t take no for an answer. Avoid self-pity.”

The idea of moving isn’t a new one. We’ve wanted out of Florida for a long time. My health cannot take the heat or the allergies (bugs mainly) and I miss having a change of seasons, especially this time of year. We have been eyeing three places; Western North Carolina, Colorado (Denver-ish), or Eugene, OR as I have family there. We would need to be relocated via an employer to be able to afford it, so I’ve been looking. If we had to stay in Florida, Jacksonville. My dream home, though, honestly: New York.

“Get rid of some old habits. Stop doing anything that doesn’t feel right for you.”

This has been a theme for a while. I cleared my plate at the end of 2011, already a year of big changes for us with claiming our home, our wedding, and a clearing out of anything that didn’t influence us in a positive way. I took 2012 to regroup, refocus, get my Masters and complete a graduate certificate. I’ve been writing on an almost daily (more-so lately) basis and long for a job where I can use my talents. I’m focusing on the things I love that can help enrich our lives – getting my book(s) finished and uploaded to CreateSpace, designing products for Etsy, and working with hand-lettering (10.00 off a class with link) as well as an ongoing book design gig. I’m also submitting work to a couple of publications and a Christmas greeting card contest.

So we’ll see if the job and a move are in the cards for us. It is all in God’s Hands as to where He wants us, so we’ll just keep praying with an open mind and be ready for the challenge if I’m called. Speaking of motivator, time to consolidate so more and attack my studio! Artsy supply grab bags on Etsy soon…
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The tools of the trade for a Christian-based pagan, I love this little deck. The artwork is fabulous, it reminds me of an old gypsy deck.

Starting Over

press-start-fa915ffe8a6fb32bb3eabf7f771620b44782 became 2517 about 5 minutes ago.  I’ve started over.

With a 1700 per day daily average, NaNoWriMo is a wonderful challenge if you want to make your writing a daily practice. If you beat it, you can look back on it and say you’ve written a book. It may not be a very good book, but that doesn’t matter, you can always edit later. You aren’t pulling the trigger yet, you’re just loading the gun.

The Junk Maiden is a short story I have had rummaging around in my brain for a while now. I didn’t do any writing, not much anyway, the first couple of days, but busted out 4782 over the course of a couple late night oil sessions. My heart wasn’t in it though, she was calling. You know, that one character that just won’t leave you be. She had other plans you see and, a different story, so I decided to listen. After all, she wasn’t going to shut up until I did.

Beyond Sleep (working title) is up to bat now. The 2517 came from a session this afternoon and I already like where I’m heading with it. I’ll be working on a synopsis and log line, always seemingly the hardest part. It’s like writing an author bio. It is always easier to write one about someone else.

So 4782 became 2517 today and I’m looking to watching that number grow over the course of the month.

On Donating Work

Cancer Sell donationA few months ago I was involved with a project that left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. It wasn’t the project itself, or the committee I was on, they were both fabulous. It was the reaction of the artists that were involved.

Charity Begins in the Heart

One of the best things about being an artist is knowing that my work can impact the world. It may only be in a small way, with just one person, but even just one drop of water can make a ripple across a lake. So when I see the opportunity to donate some of my work in support of a good cause, I typically jump at it.

What goes through my head in a situation like that is from an attitude of service. How can I help them? What kind of work will bring the greatest good?

What doesn’t go through my head is, “How much commission am I getting?”

A Fundraiser By Definition

When someone puts out an open call for submissions for a fundraiser, in my opinion, all of the money should go to the fundraiser. I don’t ask for money from it. That defeats the purpose to me. It is especially true if the fundraiser is for an organization that I belong to that supports my needs in some way. If I am not the one running it and it earns me money personally – it’s not a fundraiser, it’s a sale.

If I am offered commission, I tell them that I would like to donate it back into the fundraiser; that’s what fundraisers are for, raising funds. I don’t ask for more. I was appalled when I’d heard that the artists the call went out to had refused to be involved, in support of their own arts organization, because they weren’t getting enough commission and had asked for 50%.

I don’t get it and I am happy to say that I do not think like that.

Recycling for Art

The Economy Made Me Do It

If I, by current financial situation, cannot afford to create something because of a lack of supplies – i.e. canvas or watercolor paper – I usually don’t let that stop me. I’ll recycle cereal and food boxes into canvas, whatever it takes. There is always something I can use and art is, by its very nature, invention.

Professional artist or not, I cannot look at an opportunity to help someone and say no because I put too much work into a piece to not make money off of it. My brain doesn’t work like that. I’m an artist. Creating is, thankfully, not a finite thing.

If I run out of canvas, I use paper.
If I run out of paper, I recycle boxes.
If I have no more food boxes, I’ll recycle plastic bags into plarn and knit something.
I’ll draw, paint with nail polish, make dye from plants, whatever I can get my hands on.

But I will NEVER allow money to dictate my creativity. Never.

Money, or a lack thereof, controls everything else in my life. I’ll be damned if I am going to let it keep me from doing what I love.

Work Ethic

I think what it all comes down to is that I apparently have a different outlook on my art and being an artist. I love what I do. I don’t do it for money. If I get money out of it, WOOT. Bonus. If I can bring in enough money to help support my family, DOUBLE WOOT. But money doesn’t motivate my creativity. It just isn’t why I do it.

What about logos and other gigs that are paid work? That’s different. I do get paid for my time, when I’m lucky, but that is contract work and a whole different kind of animal.

Work that I make out of love, I do that to make people smile and maybe brighten a little corner of their world.

abandon_tagv1Create with Abandon

One of the things that I love to do, and am doing more of lately, is abandoning my art.

I joined a group recently on Facebook created by Michael DeMeng called Art Abandonment. The group’s members have been incredibly inspiring and I am proud to be a part of it. I have abandoned art out in the wild before, leaving inchies and art cards in random places or our favorite hang outs. This group has displayed a kind of compassion for others and a passion for their work, though, that I want to help nurture and am looking forward to being involved with.

And making art to give it away to the happiness of others is, in my opinion, by far the greatest payment in itself.

Finding Your Story’s Voice

Photo Credit: Etamar Laron via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Etamar Laron via Compfight cc

Have you ever written a story in one format, only to decide that it just didn’t sound like itself? As though it had a frog stuck in its throat, hidden behind an ornate mask at a masquerade ball, trying to act like something it’s not.

Birth

I graduated with my Creative Writing MFA in October of 2011. My thesis, a 124-page cross-genre script was the first really complete piece I’d done in a long time. When it was done, I had to see it in print to make it real. I remember how it felt holding it in my hands for the first time. That new baby sensation, as the piece that you’d poured your heart and soul into through sleepless nights and obsessive writing sessions had finally ceased to take over every waking thought, and you had given birth to this I-can’t-believe-I-did this piece of art. You were, of course, required to carve into it several times during the process, shucking away the chaff, leaving it bleeding and bare on the floor, but you were used to that part of the process. You had long come to grips with it and knew that, worst case, if there was anything you absolutely couldn’t bear to incinerate, there was a revision copy of it living somewhere, waiting to be reused or reinvented. Having that in your mind holds a kind of solace for you; that it won’t be forgotten and that the open wounds will be fertile ground for something new, something incredible.

Thrill aside, I knew even then that its journey wasn’t done. I was enthralled with my newfound skill at writing screenplays, the Final Draft software having been the bane of my existence the first few days as I learned to use it. It is old hat now to an extent, though, the software and I having simply reached an accord, as it were, and not quite intuitive level for me yet. The story still had another journey to make, though. I couldn’t put my finger on it – it was good, probably some of the best I’d written in a long time – but it didn’t feel right.

I’ve let it sit for the last few months, percolating in the back of my mind, and I now know where I want to take it: Novel. It’s not a script, or game as I’d once intended. The game can come later as a spin-off of the movie that will be optioned from it.

I can’t quite say that without laughing, it doesn’t even sound like me saying the words.

Fake It Till You Make It

It seems incredibly arrogant and very forced for me to think that way. I don’t. I look at it all, this completed script, as a growth process. This incarnation only being a stirring of the ground, making room for the real story to emerge from the roughed up dirt. But as a writer you have to adopt that kind of attitude, that forced positivity when it comes to your work. If you don’t have confidence in it, no one else will, and it will sit for months collecting dust only to become a trivet for a bedside water glass. So you put on your game face, you straighten your posture tits high, and you put it on the pedestal till you can take a few knockdowns, pick it up, and put it on the next.

Reinvention

Having begun the transformation from script to novel length fiction, I already knew how I was going to handle it:

  • Copy the entire script out of Final Draft and paste it without the formatting into MS Word.
  • Select all and convert it to grey-colored font.
  • Keep it single-spaced, for now, and set it in 12pt Times New Roman.
  • Save it as, in this case, “novel_AMSelvaggio_Stalemate_revision1”.
  • Rewrite in black, sectioning dialogue and narrative. Small bite, baby steps. Focus.
  • Save. Save. Save.
  • Revision 2: Delete anything in grey and read through what’s left to flush it all out so it flows.

Resaved in its new form, no blank lines without the formatting, the document was just under 29,000 words at 78 pages at letter-sized 8.5”x11”. Out of curiosity, I changed the page size to half-sheet. I learned this trick a long time ago, a kind of pep talk that I’d actually written more than it looked and that day-dreamy visualization of seeing it as a trade paperback.

At the smaller layout it was roughly 160 pages; just an approximation, but not too shabby. It’s a nice little mind trick to combat any crest falling and it keeps the internal monkey off your back for a bit. Especially knowing that once I start flushing it out it will be much longer.

The Journey

I am enjoying the process quite a bit, revisiting old friends and devising new ways to essentially torture them, throwing them into newly freshened devices.

I had toyed with the idea of making the entire story into a tablet game. Something akin to the likes of the MYST legacy that devoured me whole years ago, or Syberia and its sequel, with the tablet-driven sensibilities of Drawn or my newest love, The Guardians of Imagination, and it’s storyline driven interaction. It is more than that, though I will use the game as a device to tell the collection’s stories.

A collection, says you? Wait for the book, says I.

 

Getting with the program

My new sunshiney writing spot.
It’s been my goal for a long-time to blog more. Setting down ideas, sharing the projects of myself and others, making my writing more of a daily practice again. Life tends to sideswipe me, though, and I get distracted. Not hard when you are ADD and self-managing. It’s time to give it a try again, though.

The goal is to blog Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; not only here but on Art for Cures, ArtfulLE, and Kraft Paper Muse. Why so many?

Different crowds, different subjects. 

Art for Cures has gone through the fire and back. Rebuilding slowly from the ashes, it’s going to take a while to recover from my previous mistakes. I know the group has great purpose and potential, though, so I am not yet ready to let it die while there is still interest. The local interest that we have gathered over the years will start meeting once a month at the local library. I am looking forward to an influx of new artists into the group, hoping it will rejuvenate our veteran members, and it give me a chance to be more hands on with everyone.

ArtfulLE is a more personal project for me. I wanted to focus solely on my wellness journey without bogging down my main blog. I had posted a few times, not thinking anyone was even reading it, then someone in New Zealand (!!) posted a comment thanking me and letting me know they had shared the post on Facebook. Next thing I knew, I had a following.

Kraft Paper Muse is a culmination of my loves of publishing, tech, and art. The hardest to keep up with by far, solo, the Muse has high and lofty dreams of what it wants to become when it grows up. Being able to see your work in print, even digitally, and offer that opportunity to others is a thrill to say the least. It requires a discipline that I am having to relearn, though, as well as some major ADD management.

Renmeleon, up until now, has been the catchall. A conglomeration of random tidbits and the odd afterthought or soapbox. My goals with this site are to bring it back to its originally intended purpose: My freelance work, sharing what I’ve learned over the years, what inspires me, and forming a jumping off point for all of my other projects. I’m very eclectic in my interests and hope to share that diversity here.

Overall

All-in-all, the purpose of all of this is to get me writing again on a daily basis, get me “arting” again, and get myself back on a schedule of management (not as easy). I’m using my Monday, Wednesday, Friday as my “public” writing days (blogging) and my Tuesdays and Thursdays for project days. As I did today, I spent the morning hand-writing my posts in a spiral bound notebook, 11 pages for today’s, then transcribed them in the evening after I’ve had the day to reflect on all of it.

We’ll see how long I can pull it off. /fingerscrossed See you in two days!

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