Happy 60th, Dad

September 18th

Dad

My dad turns 60 today. So much of who I am is because of him. I am deeply thankful I won the dad lotto 35 years ago.

Happy birthday, Papi!

~K

 

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Celebrate!
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End of Summer Reading

September 17th

Life at the hacienda

I’ve been reading more than normal lately — which is nice. I’ve been carrying a paperback with me at all times, and having another book at my desk for breaks. A couple of these reads were so good, I was reading at stoplights.

Gone Girl: three out of five bananas. I enjoyed this one and could not get over the twists and turns. The characters are great in the sense they are dark, dysfunctional and will stick with you for days after completing the story.  I’m excited to see the movie. And I’m having a hard time not talking about the story. So, maybe it deserves more than three bananas. 3.5 then. Absoloodle. (Stoplight read)

Life at the hacienda

The Wildwood Chronicles: This young adult adventure story was recommended by a friend’s sons. They said it was one of their recent favorites, and I’d like the pictures. I took it thinking, “uh, huh. The pictures…” Sure enough, the illustrations — done by the author’s wife — are incredible. They add such another level of richness to the tale.

The author is also the lead singer of the band “The Decemberists,” who I happen to love.  I did think the last 100 pages were too much in regard to the detail of battle scenes. It didn’t keep my full attention. That said, I’d probably read the next one in the series. 3.5 bananas, absoloodle.

Life at the hacienda

The Scarlet Letter: I am tutoring a high school student this year. She is required to read The Scarlet Letter for English. While I appreciate this is a classic piece of American literature, I think the story being on the curriculum today smacks of a school district pussy footing around discussions of healthy sexual relationships. Sex and shame are one in the same in this story — for everyone involved. Of all the great books they could be reading instead… Two out of five bananas.

I spent a good bit of the summer reading The Cuckoo’s Calling, which I thought was okay. Again, I’d likely read the next one if I had it on hand. I’m currently reading, Gonzalez and Daughter Trucking Company.  It is fun and easy — about a woman who is in Mexican prison and is one of the few who is literate. As such, she starts a reading group but instead weaves a wild tale, pretending to be reading. It is left to the reader to decide if she is actually telling her story.

Next up: I am the Messenger, by the same author as The Book Thief. Very much looking forward to this story.

Life at the hacienda

What are you reading? What was your favorite book of the summer? Mine was, Where’d you go Bernadette? Loved it. (Stoplight read)

{Also: the sunflowers did well in the garden this year. Many of them tipped over from the recent heavy rains, but they did their jobs of purifying the soil nonetheless. Sadly, I’ll have to go without gardening anything significant for the next few months. My patio wall needs to be replaced and I’m not going to plant to have it ripped out for construction.}

~K

Posted in
Flora and Fauna, Media
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Knitting and Plotting

September 16th

My friend Adam (and I’m sure others quietly) has long made fun of my love for the holidays. I love Thanksgiving — the prep, family time, football, food, days off of work and cooler weather. And I love Christmas, although less so since my family has scattered and now it seems to involve stressful travel. All the same, the gift planning and creating is my favorite.

I’m not entirely sure why it is so important to me to make as many of the gifts I give for the holidays as I can, but it is. I enjoy combing through patterns and recipes and plotting gifts for family and friends alike. It truly brings me joy.

So, make fun — but the Christmas knitting has begun. (How can it not? Knitting is so time intensive. You’ve got to plan!)

First up: this orange cable scarf that seriously took 15 months to complete, but is ready for Christmas this year! Yay!

Christmas Knitting

Christmas Knitting

I am also really enjoying the Golden Pear beanie pattern:

Christmas Knitting

Christmas Knitting

 

Christmas Knitting

 

I first made this pattern for my friend’s new baby, Sawyer:

Golden Pear Beanie

Yep. Looking forward to the next 10 or so weeks of knitting and wrapping and spending time with those I love most. And yes, I know I am a dork. A knitting dork. And I’m totally okay with it.

~K

Posted in
Domestic Art, handmade, Happy Hippie, Heirloom Hacienda
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Writer School: Character Development

September 12th

Kelli Draper

How do you create characters who are interesting, fun, memorable and also human? It isn’t easy. There are plenty of examples of great characters in literature — those who are so unique you can’t help but remember the story because of the person.

A few examples from my favorite books:

Edgar Mint

Owen Meany

Garp

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Nancy Drew

Each of these personalities brings complexity to the story. For the most part (perhaps excluding Nancy Drew), the reader sees both the good and the bad in the person. If the person is all good, you are quite possibly writing a super hero story. But hey, even contemporary takes on Batman show us he isn’t entirely pure and good.

So, how do you create interesting characters? I cut ads out of magazines and answer a basic questionnaire for each of my major characters. I like having a visual, and I like to know what the character loves, hates, fears, is annoyed by, etc. I get into detail in the character interview that often isn’t included in the story, but is important to me to consider when I am writing. I organize these in a three ring binder and use it often when adding details about my characters long after I’ve started writing the story. It’s a memory cheat — did my character have blue or green eyes? Does she have siblings? Like dogs? Allergic to bees? It is important to your reader to keep the details consistent, at a minimum. And if you are writing a serial, I would guess those interview questions would grow exponentially as you get to know your characters more with time.

(Also: if you are writing a serial — it makes sense that your characters will change slightly with time. They will also have new faults.)

Who are your favorite literary characters? Do you have a difficult time with character development?

 

~K

P.S. A few favorite tv characters: Don Draper and Peggy Olson from Mad Men. Tony and Carmela Soprano. Leslie Knope, Parks and Recreation. Liz Lemon, 30 Rock.

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Writer School
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Mini Goes to the Circus

September 11th

Min's circus school performane

My friend Mini (or Elizabeth, or Liz, depending on how you know her) started taking classes at circus school last year. She has always been a dancer and was on the dive team in high school. The girl is flexible. She’s most recently been doing a bunch of those crazy relay running races, like Ragnar.

Min's circus school performane

She mentioned to a handful of us that the circus school was having a student show and, “would we like to come?” Uh, yes. Yes I would like to come. And I agreed even before she sent me the link with her costume, or ideas for face painting. I’d been listening to her talk about the characters at this circus school for months. And occasionally seeing her bruises from the routines. And I wanted to see what could possibly be so fun she’d be willing to drive 40 miles one way to play.

So, there we were on a hot Saturday afternoon in a cramped industrial park in north Scottsdale sitting on gymnastic mats. I played with her nephews and chatted with her boys. She had a strong showing of support, including her parents, sibling and family friends. We mingled among all the others, also sitting on gym mats, also sporting tentative looks.

Min's circus school performane

Min and her friend were the seventh act and they nailed it. They seriously nailed it. It was fun and exciting and scary in parts. (Those silks don’t come with a backup safety plan.)

Min’s always been my adventurous friend. (It is funny to write that because she is also my friend who is scared of windy roads, the dark and anything that has to do with planning related to death.) But she really is so adventurous — including getting over her fear of the dark by doing those ridiculous relay running races at 2 am. The day after her rather amazing circus performance on the silks, we were out hiking in the desert and it dawned on me how very proud I am of her.

Min's circus school performane

 

 

Min's circus school performane

Min's circus school performane

These photos don’t do these weirdos justice. Their performances were certainly strange, but also beautiful. And you could tell how passionate they were about their craft. It was fun to watch and hard to photograph.

 

It sounds silly, but that is the right word: proud. She is a hilarious mix of sarcasm, wit and gossip. And she’s also a great mom, super successful realtor, and writer. She’s fun to be around, and she also has a lot to teach me — a rather nice combination for a friendship that is pushing 30 years old.

Min's circus school performane

Proud of you, Mini Tolar/Liz Newlin/Liza Wildcat. You make one hell of a circus weirdo.

~K

Posted in
Arizona, Celebrate!, Happy Hippie
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Writer’s School: Story Arc

September 9th

Phew. Thanks for hanging in there with me. I apologize for the delay in this post. The last few weeks have included: a rather annoying bought of the flu, a ton of work including this week’s National Suicide Prevention Day!, the storm to beat all storms and a corresponding leak in the kitchen ceiling, having very little energy because of that darn flu.

Also: my garden died because I paid zero attention to it for a week while in bed sick. And my dog is all of a sudden fat. Seriously. Nelson is packing on the pounds thanks to warm weather and his gentile inability to walk more than a few miles with all that adorable permed hair. Subtext: COME ON FALL.

zebra

Now, where were we? The story arc. A story, regardless of size, should have at least two conflicts. These should not intersect, and ideally, they should not wrap up the same characters in both. They should both give the reader more information about your main character.

An example: remember the book and movie, “The Devil Wears Prada?” The primary conflict concerns the main character and her desire to work in the fashion industry. She doesn’t’ think she is thin, fashionable, cool or clever enough to get in with her boss, an Anna Wintour type. The secondary conflict concerns the main character’s relationship with her boyfriend and how things fall apart because she is chasing the first conflict with everything she’s got. If I remember correctly, there is also a third conflict that involves the main character’s best friend and a drug problem.

Conflict 1: main character struggles to meet the demands of the job.

Conflict 2: main character and boyfriend struggle to keep relationship together.

Conflict 3: main character’s best friend gets involved with bad stuff.

Insights to the main character include her willingness to change for the job, including time her boyfriend and best friend were used to receiving. If such a story becomes a cheesy movie, as it is in this case, there is also often a moral hammer that is dropped. Will she fight for her sweet boyfriend? Will she fight for her friend? Or will she succumb to the greed and gloss and fancy of a stylish New York life?

You get the point. Something to consider as a writer when plotting out your story is that these conflicts shouldn’t all peak in the same moment. And they really should all have something to do with giving your reader more information about your main character. (In fact, all dialog should. Don’t bother your reader with information that doesn’t lead the story, or give the reader new information about the main character. If you do, the reader won’t have the time or ability to connect with the character’s dreams, fears, wishes, etc.)

Structure your writing however you’d like, but I think strong stories have at least one minor conflict arc before the major conflict can be resolved. Other smaller conflicts may be resolved after. Think about this like waves — the main point to your story should be the largest wave.

Make sense? Questions?

Friday, we talk character development. Who are some of your favorite literary characters?

Cheers,

Kelli

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Writer School
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Pencil Pouches

September 9th

Min's circus school performane

Min's circus school performaneRemember that promise for pencil pouches? Completed and posted. I hope they have arrived and you enjoy!

 

~K

 

Posted in
Celebrate!
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Writer School: The Story Arc

September 5th

Please hold. I promise this is going to be good. I’ve been a wee bit busy this week on the road for work, and fighting the plague.

 

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Writer School
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Grand Canyon Prep

September 4th

Have I mentioned I am soon hiking from the north to the south rim of the Grand Canyon? (With two blissful nights at Phantom Ranch in between.)

Breath-taking every time

I am a little nervous, Interwebs. And I could use your help. I’ll be okay physically. And I’ve got the gear. But hey! I’m all ears if you have any advice on great, calorie dense, light weight snacks for 17 mile hikes? And any other long hike tips and tricks you’d like to share.

I’ve got good socks. And I plan on cutting my nails super short. We’ve also got a water filter and ample sun coverage. What else?

An average of 12 people die each year

I remember after running my first marathon watching men wander by with bloody nipples showing through their shirts. I couldn’t believe that was even a possibility. And each race after, there was some lesson learned by noticing someone else’s discomfort. So! Spare me this embarrassment and hit me with your best hiking advice.

Go.

And thank you!

~K

Posted in
Arizona, Happy Hippie
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Today’s Joy

September 2nd

I can’t read another story that includes the word, “beheading.” I’m recovering from a nasty bug and have far too little patience at the moment to deal with heavy worldly topics that actually matter.

{I know. I should be stronger. This week I just can’t. My heart is hurting for everyone and my nose is running and I just need a bit of mindless fluff to get through.}

Instead, may I present you with a few things currently making me very happy. Including:

Random IGs

A furry baby donkey. OMGTHECUTE

Random IGs

Random childhood photos my aunt found and keeps texting me. Check out those sideburns. Wow.

Random IGs

Lovely typography! I have been keeping examples of typography design I love and this is at the top of the list. So well done.

Random IGs

And I am on a “best of” hunt concerning carne asada burritos in the greater Phoenix area. What’s your favorite burrito?

~K

 

Posted in
Daily Sass
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