Procrastination and Creativity

I turned on a TED Radio Hour podcast while I was chopping onions to freeze, and found this one on how procrastination (or more precisely, leaving things unfinished so your brain is still working on them at some level) works to boost creativity. It struck me how this particularly applies to writing, and how putting your project away for a bit gives you a new perspective when you come back. And I'm not talking about just the ability to see errors and typos that you passed by before, but on a deeper, story-building level.

For me, continuing to think about a project while not actively working on it is how I come up with dimension and layers to both characters and plot. It's a way for me to set aside those obvious, linear plot devices and come up with an unexpected twist, or see relationship dynamics between characters that I hadn't even known were there.

Well, it seems there are actual studies that have shown this is true, and Adam Grant talks about them here

Cost of Books

I don't know what brought it to mind, but today I remembered going to a local swap meet when I was about 10 years old and finding an old journal at an antiques stand. Just a thin paperback, yellowed with age.

I breathlessly separated the pages, expecting treasure maps or something--but instead, someone had used it to record their shopping lists and how much they'd paid for the items in 1908. I could actually know how much things cost over a hundred years ago!!!

My eyes got really big, and I counted up the change in my purse as I took it to the seller. She turned the journal over in her hands, and looked at me with a funny expression. "You know this--this is really old, right?"

"I know!" I said. "It's full of time travel!"

In the intervening years, it got lost in one of a dozen moves (I wish I was exaggerating) and I've always wondered if some other child acquired that magical journal. It was one of the things that set me on my path to writerhood, so maybe it was magic!

Illustrator blogs

As a YA writer, blogs have been an invaluable source for me to learn craft and catch up on industry info. Now that I’m also my SCBWI region’s Illustrator Coordinator, I took advantage of the private Yahoo group for ICs and asked my peers for their favorite blogs—and I couldn’t resist sharing their recommendations with everyone through my blog!

Most of these blog links are illustrator-centric, but many offer writing advice also, so you author/illustrators and writers may want to take a look too. Happy clicking!

In no particular order:

The How To Be A Children’s Book Illustrator site has great features like Guest Critiques and an Illustrator Matchup service

The Kidlit Artists blog has an SCBWI connection, since it’s the group blog of recipients of the SCBWI Illustration Portfolio Mentorship Program (LA Summer Conference).

Illustrator and art director Guiseppe Castellano has some tips for you under his #ArtTips page 

Find interviews and inspiration on Chris Oatley’s site 

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast is a blog about books, that features heavily on picture books and illustration

Wow, you could really get lost following all the links and features on Kidlit411   

Kathy Temean’s blog features some great illustration examples and how-tos  

Art of the Picture Book is dedicated to “exploring design and illustration of children's picture books” and features some great interviews 

The Children’s Book Academy site has a blog “Mondays with Mandy or Mira!” 

Children’s Illustrators blog: be sure to check out the “blogging illustrators” links in the sidebar to make some new connections! 

Feel free to link your favorite blogs for illustrators in the comments!

On Coming Out and Reaching Out

Other than RTing some tweets and sharing selected Facebook posts, I haven’t reacted much publicly about the massacre in Orlando at Pulse nightclub. My default mode when I get overloaded with emotion is to withdraw and try to process things at my own pace, but the attack has deeply affected me—moreso than even the Boston Marathon bombings, because as a bisexual woman this one hit closer to home.

My bisexuality may actually be news to some family members and friends (though I’ve never made a secret of it), but I consider this post more of a reaching out than a coming out. Because in some ways over the years, I’ve acted more like an ally of the LGBT community than an active member of that community, and with this tragedy comes the impetus to stop minimizing my voice. And to reach out.

While I hadn’t always felt welcomed by the gay community as a bi woman in my 20s (I was once told that bisexual women are only gay when it suits them, and able to “pass” the rest of the time—with the implication that bi people can never understand what it means to be gay), I have been so encouraged by the strides that have been made in civil rights and for all LGBT people.

And especially among writers of YA, I’ve found a sense of belonging both within the pages they’ve written, and their openness about telling their own truths. They’ve helped me to feel more secure in my identity, even though as a woman married to a man, my own bisexuality felt like a less relevant part of my identity for a time.

And no, I haven’t been spared over the years from worries about how I would be perceived as a bisexual or lesbian—I was shocked when my otherwise-progressive Dad and stepmom hid from my younger brother that another family member was transitioning. Why was that so difficult for them to explain, and what did they fear would happen if they did? Speaking for myself, I am so heartened by my niece’s courage to live and love as she sees fit—but also heartbroken for her every time she gets harassed on a train or passed up for jobs.

And the water aerobics class that I attend with about 15 other (older) women, who have been so supportive through all my health challenges—will they feel differently about sharing a locker room with me as a bisexual? In spite of the fact that we’ve shared a locker room for over ten years and I’ve never hit on anyone?

Places like Pulse are havens for LGBT people to be themselves, and to not feel like an “other.” They will only become more important in the days to come, as all of us—all of us Americans—try to wrap our heads around the events in Orlando, and whether they will eventually yield positive changes for tolerance.

I’m still processing a lot of the heartbreak myself, but did manage to catch a guest on Capital Public Radio from Equality Florida, and he mentioned that his group has started a Go Fund Me for the families of the victims, to cover funerals and other expenses. If you’d like to contribute, it’s at

Pens for Paws Starts Today!

Just a reminder that this year's Pens for Paws Auction starts today! New items will go up through Fri the 6th, with bidding on the final items closing on the 8th. If that sounds confusing, please check out the How It Works page for a fuller explanation. I've included a flyer with all the items listed below (click on it for a larger image) or you can go to the Items Featuring page to see another list.

Also, I posted an album of more recent pictures of the Fat Kitty City residents on the P4P Facebook page. Enjoy, and please help spread the word so we can raise some much-needed funds for the kitties!

P.S. In  other news, I've taken on the position of Illustrator Coordinator for the SCBWI CA North/Central region--so expect some more art-oriented posts!

Introducing Crow And Pitcher Press!

I'm doing a spring cleaning of my writing and artwork, and most of it will be moving to my new project, Crow & Pitcher Press!

What does that mean, you ask? Crow & Pitcher Press will serve as the home of my independently-published books (such as more titles in the Faerie Crossed series, which began with Crow's Rest) and a range of gift items featuring my artwork (wall art, apparel, journals, etc).

I'll be sure to update you all on when new books are in the works, and the final links where you can find my writing and art projects. For now, I have a temporary website set up and you can see it here.

Pens for Paws Auction is happening in 2016!

It's official! Items in the Pens for Paws Auction 2016 will go up May 2nd through 6th! Look for critiques from agents, editors, and your favorite authors, plus signed books, jewelry, and handicrafts.

All proceeds go directly to support Fat Kitty City, a no-kill, cage-free, cat (and dog!) sanctuary in El Dorado Hills, California.

Feel free to explore past auctions to see the kind of items we've offered in the past. I'll be keeping a running list, too, as I get confirmation of donated items for this year's auction. If you'd like to donate but are not sure what we're looking for, go to the Donate page

Bean Counting for Authors

One of my original critique partners, Christina Mercer, has a secret identity as a CPA, and she's written a book especially with authors and artists in mind! She's taking over my blog today to tell you about it:

Authoring books is amazingly fun and creative and never, EVER dull . . . However, along with all that imaginative wonderment, Authors come closer to becoming mini-accountants than they realize. Why? Because once anyone becomes an official business owner, he/she crosses into the realm of accounting and taxes. 

Oh, the horrors of it, right? But never fear! 

When Authors Mean Business, they have propelled themselves from merely writing for “fun” to reaping well-earned monetary rewards. AND THAT IS A GOOD THING, RIGHT? Authors are not only wand-waving story weavers, but also real-world professionals running businesses that earn money. And, yes, along with that comes accounting and taxes. If that causes some of you Authors out there to squirm, just remind yourselves that it’s a sign of monetary success if your books are earning ENOUGH profits to generate said taxes. And you don’t have to figure it all out on your own!
In order to help fellow creatives with all of this business and accounting stuff, I offer a handy little guide with some important must-knows of accounting, taxation, budgeting, and planning for the future. Learn the differences between a hobby and a business; get a handle on different business structures; learn about proper bookkeeping, sales tax, common and complex tax deductions, retirement options and more!
Counting each and every “Bean” earned may not be the idea of fun and adventure for most, but having lots of beans in the bank is a pretty great way for Authors to keep on doing what they do love most—WRITING BOOKS! And understanding some important business and financial basics is a big step toward making that happen.

Once-upon-a-time, Christina Mercer worked as a CPA. Though she retired that formal hat, you can still find numbers buzzing around her head. She is also an award-winning author of fiction for children and young adults. She currently resides in Northern California enjoying life with her husband, sons, pack of large dogs, and about 100,000 honeybees.