Tarot for Writers

Hello! Today I am guest blogging at Writers in the Storm and the topic is: using tarot for writers!

I’ve made a free downloadable worksheet for you, which accompanies the post. It’s the Hero’s Journey in Tarot Worksheet, with spaces to write out what you draw.

Download the Hero’s Journey in Tarot Worksheet (PDF)

Update: This download has had such a great response as a result of the post that I’ll be making more of these for tarot – please check back soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also have more downloadables on various writing topics for you if you’re interested. All free! No sign ups required!

Fall to-do list

There is a tree next door to my house that is super tall and towers over both my backyard and the neighbor’s.

The tree is very seasonal, and it dropped its first leaf on September 1.

I have tried to tell it that California always enjoys an Indian Summer, and it will be quite hot yet before fall coolness settles in, but the tree wasn’t having any of it.

And let’s face it, I can’t WAIT for fall to start. In honor of that, I’ve created a Fall Bucket List printable for you!

Download now

Summer Atlanta Trip

I haven’t been to Atlanta in nearly seven years, so I’d forgotten the lushness that greets you—the kudzu that climbs up everything, the thick green of the trees bordering every road, the feeling that it’s about the rain.

It was hot and muggy, when I arrived, with a thunder storm threatening. It made me vaguely uncomfortable; tense in the waiting. Atlanta is now an Uber city and that was extremely apparent at airport pickup where every 2 out of 3 pickups, it unscientifically but probably accurately seemed, were Uber or Lyft pickups. There was nary a taxi. My dad picked me up and by the time we arrived in his town, I’d been traveling all day and was ready for a dinner. A light and refreshing salad with chicken is about the most perfect meal possible when it’s late and you’re tired. I ate and then sank into bed because the older you get the worse jetlag is.

Naturally, that meant a bout of hideous insomnia so I pretty much didn’t sleep until 2 am

The next morning, Thursday, we visited the High Museum of Atlanta, which houses the city’s fine art. I’d last been during the 1996 Olympics, during which I’d seen a spectacular exhibit at the High Museum called the Rings: Five Passions in the Art World, which tied into the 5 Olympics rings. The Rings exhibit gathered art from all over the world demonstrating a ring of passion (love, anguish, awe, triumph and joy). It was the kind of exhibit you’d have to travel the world to see and I feasted my eyes on the likes of Caravaggio’s Diana and Rodin’s The Kiss. Munch’s The Scream was also there, and that was a treat. According an exhibit book, “The 129 works include pieces by Rembrandt, Titian, Caravaggio, Van Gogh and Picasso, as well as a Persian manuscript illumination, spirit figures from Polynesia, Japan and Africa, a Byzantine icon, a Nigerian bronze relief, and a Greek trophy amphora showing an athlete crowned by Victory.”

This visit, however, was to see the Andy Warhol exhibit.

Warhol’s Mao series asks you to look at a dictator in a different way. He thought it would be “fun” to play with his image. And you know what? It is! It adds an element of playfulness that the man in reality most certainly did not inspire.

I was an undergraduate art major so I’m familiar with most major artists, but never had a special feeling one way or another for Warhol. If anything, I reject what everyone else gloms onto, which is hilarious in the case of Warhol because that’s precisely what he explored through his work: what people find popular and no longer see. Say what you want about Warhol, and there’s plenty to say, but the man makes you look at something differently, and to me that’s one of the major tenants of excellent art.

On Friday, I was flying out to Miami, but first I dragged my dad to the Georgia Aquarium to visit their great Pacific octopus. I say dragged but he was a great sport. In fact I dare say I think he had a little octopus fever, too, after I waxed on about them. The Georgia Aquarium is one of the largest aquariums in the US with over 100,000 animals, and it’s organized really as more of a family amusement destination with more emphasis on going “ooh” and not so much on the science. It has several areas of exploration (piers, cold water, etc), with massive whale sharks and manta rays in one tank, beluga whales in another. To be honest, I had one mission and it was that octopus.

But the octopus gave zero fucks about anyone and sat up in the corner of her tank, resolutely ignoring everyone. She was hard to see and definitely not coming down. That’s not unexpected, but it was disappointing. Below, you can JUST make her mantle out in the corner.

Perhaps most disappointing, though, was the utter failure on the part of anyone working for the Georgia Aquarium to answer my questions about the octopus, or to connect me with one of their biologists or handlers. It has become clear to me that major aquariums are not set up to deeply engage you—and they’re not wrong in this; they know their audience, which generally consists of people swinging by, going “ooh, lookit” and then leaving.

That was Atlanta! Next up is Miami.

Relaxing things because things are bad. Like really bad.

Nuclear war and evil protests — it’s a hot bed of panic attacks these days.

We all know what  self-care involves, but sometimes doing some of the things on the list is too much energy.

But clicking is not!

So I give you:

Meeting an Octopus

In my last post, I talked about how amazing the octopus is, and how I’ve been learning about it. There was such an incredible response from you guys that I knew I needed to do a follow up post.*

*Untrue, no one responded, but the follow up is quite necessary.

Bottom line: I needed to spend time with one.

I went to my local aquarium, the California Academy of Sciences and Steinhart Aquarium in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. There are two octopuses there, a Day octopus and a rare Pacific striped octopus. I got to spend time with both. Here’s what happened.

First, I spent a long time with the Pacific striped. Neither octopus has a name at the aquarium because the biologists don’t like to anthropomorphize them, but I already had done so before I arrived, so let’s call the Pacific striped Pat. (He is a he.) While I was spending time with him (which was me looking at him for a long time), here is what I heard from people coming by:

“Oooh! Octopi!” (Wrong. The plural of octopus is octopuses. It is a Greek root, not Latin.)

“OMG! He’s STUCK in the JAR!” (So wrong. He likes it in there and octopuses can get into the teensiest of crevices. They don’t have bones.)

“Awwww, lookit the squid” “It’s not a squid.” “Looks like one.”

“Ewwww!”

Now let me tell you what happened when no one was around except me and my 10 yo son, who was patient and sweet with his crazy mother while she sat in front of the tank. Pat was watching me the whole time. I imagine he watches people all day and suffers very few of them. But I put a finger on the glass and kept it there. Pat, with eye on me, slowly unfurled a tentacle from the jar. He reached out and ever so gently touched my finger on the glass.

This picture doesn’t show him reaching out to me, but this was the set up.

Then he recoiled back into his jar.

He hadn’t “tasted” me, you see. The glass was in the way. Obviously. But the fact that he wanted to know me in the way octopuses like to know others was so excited. We were thrilled.

Then, I moved on to the enormous Day Octopus at the aquarium. The Day is notable for his size and his ability to change colors at whim. He did this several times while I watched him, going from pale, smooth white to rocky (complete with raised bumps to mimic rocks) and mottled. He also went deep orange and then all black. It was fabulous. The Day is particularly active (unlike Pat, who prefers the comfort and safety of his clear jar), and has several toys he plays with in front of visitors.

Here you can see that the Day has stuffed rocks into his toy helicopter. I think he thinks this is funny. You can also see in this photo the raised skin on him, and slightly mottled (but starting to turn back white) skin.

Now here he is in the back of his tank. See how white he’s gone? Look at his eye. It looks like he’s peering from a slit, but it’s not true. His eye is white and the pupil is a thin black line. His eye is wide open, watching.

Watching the Day undulating, flowing, and furling was a beautiful treat. I was a lucky girl, and it was a good day.

 

 

The Octopus

One the absolutely BEST books I have read this year is The Soul of an Octopus by the incredible naturalist Sy Montgomery. The octopus, I learned, is incredible intelligent. But there’s so much more: the octopus is emotional, empathetic, and highly individual.

You might be one of those who thinks the octopus is disgusting. Literature and movies have done it no favors. There’s merit in thinking it’s gross, but that comes from our difficulty in relating to it. It is so unlike a human in every way. After all, the octopus has no bones, its head resembles a gross skin tag, and its arms are swoopy and all over the place (possibly you). Its bite is poisonous and its strength is unreal. There simply isn’t anything about it that we have a frame of reference for.

And yet, the octopus is so amazing, so sensitive, so intelligent that aquarium keepers have to devise toys and puzzles for them in order to keep them from getting bored! They name them and they all have their own personalities.

As I read the book, I realized I have always admired this creature. I have a gorgeous white octopus figurine that I’ve had for years:

I am fascinated. I want to touch one. I know where one lives. And I want to meet it, and find out more. I know it must have a name. I want to know everything about it. Here it is, a Pacific striped octopus, hanging out in its jar. I took this photo of it at the California Academy of Sciences.

Here is a live octopus cam at the Seattle Aquarium (note that it’s only operational during aquarium operating times).

Here is a live octo cam that is on 24/7 at the Hatfield Marine Science Center at Oregon State, which features Opal, a giant Pacific octopus. Opal was all “pshaw, I’m not performing for your cam!” when I looked.

This is a nice documentary on how amazing the octopus is:

Stay tuned.

Summer 2017 Playlist and Holy Cow

I have not blogged in a long time!

 

Pretty sure no one cares!

But here is my summer playlist, ever-growing and listened to EVERY DAY.

 

 

Spring Playlist

I get a lot of hits on my website for my Playlist page, which is cool. I think people are finding it because of some of the artists I mention there. I tend to get hits from all over the world for that. Anyway, it’s been a while since I posted a new playlist–which I use exclusively for dog walks, writing, and my freelance work. That’s because I stopped using You Tube because of all the ads.

Now I use Spotify, and frankly I don’t know what took me so long. Furthermore, I went Spotify premium because it’s SO GOOD. For a girl who sits at her desk all day, it’s a necessary tool.

Also, you can’t beat the playlists to embed in your website!

So here’s my Spring 2017 playlist. It’s fairly heavy on the electronica, fair warning.

P.S. For a collection of all my playlists, see here.

 

2017 Goal Setting: Planner Reviews!

I have never –NEVER!– set goals for the year ahead in my life. Ever! I haven’t lived my life in total darkness and I count myself as a fairly organized person BUT I also think I could probably be doing much better. Or something.

Anyway, as we faded into 2017, I was very willing to see what goal setting does for me.

Naturally I turned to help in the form of guided goal setting planners. Of course, I didn’t stop at just one because these things are a madness, and anyway I didn’t know what was out there when I started getting them, so I chose four.

As one does.

They are:

  1. My Bucket List
  2. The Rituals for Living Dreambook and Planner
  3. Your Best Life 2017 Goal Planner
  4. PowerSheets

All four are reviewed below. And yes, there was a clear winner.

 

1. My Bucket List

I picked up this pretty cloth-bound book (that’s fancy talk for no book jacket) at Anthropologie, because I am unable to resist that store’s frippery, and let’s face it, it’s ALL frippery there.  This book is simple and clear–it’s space for 101 bucket list items. And it has pages to journal about each of them, with guided questions. Could I do the same thing in a bullet journal? Yes! Do I want to? No!

Now, bucket lists aren’t necessarily year goal setting–it’s 5, 10, or life time goal setting, but already I found that by writing down a few –and I have only written down 16 items out of 101 — I am already focused on them. I also wrote down some that I had already accomplished this year like attending a European Champions League match. That’s huge, so it got an entry.

I think what sold me on this book was that it has inspirational stories every so often and quotes, including a story about a guy, Sebastian Terry, who created a list of 100 things, no matter how silly, that he wanted to do, and then did them. He’s a single adventurous guy (the opposite of me) and could do this, but I found that reading about crazy things helped me realize that I needn’t limit my bucket list to things that were, to me, reachable. (Check Seb out here; his thing has become a book anbd a show, etc.)

Here’s one of the pages (click for a bigger look):

So, this is a great investment in terms of long term goal setting. But not for your year.

Buy it here: 

I am not sure why the price difference is so silly.

 

2. The Rituals for Living Dreambook and Planner

This planner caught my eye a few months ago and I ordered one because at the time, I was looking for goal setting help and this one really seemed good, even though “rituals for living” scared me off (rituals, what?) and I had no need of a planner since I already use my Day Designer planner plus various bullet journal things. And it took two months to ship, so I was slightly annoyed. And when it did arrive I thought, ugh, that’s a LOT of reflecting and filling-in nonsense I’ve got to do.

Also, I was 100% suckered in by the name “Dreambook.”

But! It turns out, the Dreambook is actually one of the best goal workbooks. Working through thoughtful questions in six main areas of life: (1) physical wellness, (2) psychological and spiritual health, (3) creation, exploration and play, (4) community connection, (5) livelihood, career, and influence, and (6) relationship and family. With those, you really start to think about what matters to you.

Focusing on those six areas means that if you have a hard time thinking through the answers and therefore seeing the bigger picture, it’s okay– your answers start revealing patterns about what you want. For example, in the community connection section, what came up for me was that I was getting a lot of nourishment (I apologize for that goalsy word) from a certain few people and not so much from others. And that allows me to make better decisions about time and energy and people.

So I do recommend the Dreambook. I like the quarterly reviews and the monthly and weekly goal setting. I think it’s really well-rounded for life and covers all the bases, not just work. I don’t know if I’ll stick with filling it out all year, but that’s my fault– I’m the one who got FOUR GOAL SETTING PLANNERS.

Update: it’s March and I have not stuck with this planner. Major reason: it doesn’t lay flat and it’s not pretty. It’s just black and white. See the Powersheets review below.

Here’s a look at the inside with some annotations. And for a great look at how people are using this, check Pinterest. (click image for a bigger look)

Buy it here: 

http://dreambook.vision/

I have dug through all the stuff for you and found the price, since they hide it, and it is $48.00 Ouch.

3. Your Best Life 2017 Goal Planner

I’d seen this one on various sites. You can buy it as a binder or as a download –I bought the download and printed it, which was a lot of paper, so buy a ream! This is a great planner for an oline business but honestly it was a LOT of text and my binder has been sitting in a dusty corner since January 🙁

But there are some nice charts and at $9.00 for the download, it’s a deal. (Click image for a larger view)

But it here

Your Best Life 2017 download $9.00

Your Best Life 2017 paperback $11.00

 

4. Powersheets

Courtesy cultivatewhatmatters.com

The winner!

I made the investment in this after reading rave, rave reviews. And I haven’t regretted it. Of the four goal planners, this is easily the one that wins for me. I come back to it each month and I actually use it.

Here’s why I think this one wins:

  • Colorful, pretty to use
  • Quality paper, foil stamping, and nice ring binding without being too big
  • The exercises are easy and can be done in a sitting
  • Comes with some stickers
  • Has tear out sheets so it goes beyond the actual planner

It’s just simple and effective. It focuses around a yearly word, being grateful for what’s already happened, a clear action plan for goals, and gives you space to “clear the mental clutter.” Also, it allows you to decorate it any way you wish, with watercolor or paint or pens or whatever, or if you’re like me and just want to work with a black pen, that’s fine too. Best of all, Laura Casey the creator, makes it clear more than once that if you don’t fill out everything, it’s fine. It really is.

The price point is $55 which is steep but given how much I’ve already used it, it’s a decent investment if it keeps me straight on my goals. It also sells out fast but she’s addressed that with 6-month versions. (click for a bigger view)

p

Buy it here

Powersheets

That’s it! If you have used a goal planner, I’d really like to hear about it. Leave a comment and tell me!

For further reading, see this post that Roni Loren did.

Bookstores, Present and Future

Agent Laurie McLean at Fuse Literary does a Publishing Predictions post over at Anne Allen’s blog. Her 2017 predictions post is really interesting for many reasons, but I wanted to call out the predictions for physical bookstores.

It’s no secret bookstores are on the decline, or that Amazon sells most of the ebooks. When was the last time you were in a bookstore? Well, for my part, I go to my local B&N quite a lot, but only for my kids. Never for me. I wouldn’t buy an adult fiction book there because I read fiction on tablet (using the Kindle app). I do check out a lot of ebooks from my local library, or I buy them. But yeah, I’m not purchasing hard cover new releases.

This is terrible.

Laurie says that new fiction will move faster to ebook, and I think that’s correct. But here’s what I also think: there should be large bookstores devoted to picture books, MG, and YA titles.

Think about it. All the board and picture books. Regular reading hours. Puppet shows, even. Mix it with education. The line of educational books and nonfic (especially parenting nonfic) can stay. Expand the shit out of the YA sections.

Interestingly, I just got a client who is launching a YA-specific bookstore. I’m doing her logo.

This is the future of bookstores. What do you think?

Here’s a list of independent kid bookstores in San Francisco, btw.