Illumination: More than Just an Illustration

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I have always enjoyed the arts of calligraphy and illumination. Just as an icon is meant as a means of seeing through to a reality, an illumination allows the reader to see more deeply into a text. One of my favorite illuminated manuscripts is the Book of Kells, a collection of the four Gospels written in Latin and richly illumined. It believed to have been created in a Columban monastery in Ireland, c. 800.

KellsFol114rArrestOfChrist

The page above is known as The Arrest of Jesus. Be sure to note the stylized postures, richly detailed borders and symbols, and the ornate text. According to Wikipedia, “Figures of humans, animals and mythical beasts, together with Celtic knots and interlacing patterns in vibrant colours, enliven the manuscript’s pages. Many of these minor decorative elements are imbued with Christian symbolism and so further emphasise the themes of the major illustrations . . . The leaves are on high-quality calf vellum, and the unprecedentedly elaborate ornamentation that covers them includes ten full-page illustrations and text pages that are vibrant with decorated initials and interlinear miniatures and mark the furthest extension of the anti-classical and energetic qualities of Insular art.”

That’s what makes illumination so meaningful for me. It’s both illustrative and symbolic, and every feature of it points directly toward its subject. I think of the hardworking monks bent over the big vellum pages, working during the short daylight hours and possibly by candlelight, and it reminds me that beauty and creativity are never dependent on perfect conditions. May I remember that when I’m tempted to complain about the lighting in my office!

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and labeled as Public Domain in both its country of origin and the  United States.

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Publishing Frontiers and Fundamentals and Other Take-Aways from TAP2013

Technologically Advanced Publishing (TAP2013) Conference: Digital publishing, e-publihing, electronic publishing, and more.

NAIWE was a media sponsor of TAP2013 in Orlando.

I’m just back from the Technologically Advanced Publishing (TAP) Conference with a light sunburn and a head full of ideas for using what I learned.

For this event, I focused on learning in a completely new-to-me area– the publication of apps for iPad and iPhone, but absorbed information about many other aspects of the business of electronic publishing in workshops such as:

  • How to Start and Finish Writing Your Book – Richard Harrington (“Use the sticky note program on your computer to do informal mind-mapping before you start to write. You can drag notes around until you have an outline.” JPC note: I do the same thing in the slideshow view of Keynote.)
  • Design & Digital Publishing Essentials – Terry White (“When creating an app, be sure to indicate navigation points– tap, swipe arrows, etc.”)
  • Establishing Your Brand and Visual Identity Across Multiple Social Media Platforms – Rod Harlan (“Be consistent in how you present your brand. Coca-Cola has done a great job of telling its history through its Facebook timeline.”)
  • Copyright Still Means Something for Digital Publishers – Jeff Heninger
  • iBooks Author Fast Start – Richard Harrington (“An iBook is a container. It can include media widgets with slide shows, tutorials, etc. Short is good.”)
  • ePub, pPDF, or DPS: Which Format to Choose? – Colin Fleming (“The format– print book, ebook, app– is simply the container for information or story. Choose which will best fit your audience and content.”)
  • Hypersyndication: How to Deliver Your Content to Multiple Platforms – Richard Harrington (“I am one of the laziest but most productive people on the planet.” and “Give away 25% of everything you do.”)
  • User-Generated Content is Great (and full of Legal Problems) – Jeff Heninger (“In social media you’re one click away from forever.”)
  • Creating a Video Trailer for Your eBook or App Using Photoshop – Rod Harlan
  • Getting Started with Digital Publishing Suite (DPS) – Colin Fleming
  • Creating ePUB files with Adobe InDesign – Colin Fleming

In addition, there were five memorable keynotes:

  • Guy Kawasaki – Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur
  • Scott Kelby – View from the Inside (“You self-publish to take control your content. Do it because you want to change the world, not because you think it’s the next big thing.”)
  • Skip Cohen – It All Starts with a Blog (Your blog is your home on the web. Build it and develop an audience now.)
  • Debbie Bates Schrott – Digital or Die: The Case for Captivating UX & Design to Bring Your Content to LIfe (“Use a flow chart to space out interactive elements such as slideshows, video or audio elements, quizzes, feedback forms, etc., when planning an app.”)
  • Jessica Meher – Inbound Marketing: The Secret to Your Success (“The businesses that the best educators will most successful.”)

And finally, there was an exceptionally creative idea implemented one afternoon– an UnConference with short, 15-30 minute presentations on a single, narrow topic. I presented “Write Your Way to Multiple Streams of Income: The 15-Minute, Five-Stage Business Plan,” and attended:

  • Creating Synergy Between Blogs, Books, and Workshops – Syl Arena
  • The Marines Magazine App: How We Did It – Debbie Bates Scrhott & Darrly Sebro
  • TAP into Actual Returns from Social Networking – Levi Sim (“Be a person; be a good one. Ask “what would grandma do?”)
  • Digital Sustainability – Alan Brusky

APE: How to Publish a Book by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch - Author, Publisher, EntrepreneurIn addition to a pocketful of business cards, I brought home a copy of APE: Author, Publisher, and Entrepreneur: How to Publish a Book by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch. It’s not only practical, straightforward, and well-written, but it also gets specific about the technology and services you will need. With a copy of APE at your elbow, you’ll be able to transform the manuscript in your desk drawer to a new stream of income. I recommend it.

Do I remember everything I learned? Not a chance. But I took lots of notes and plan to visit many of the links and websites that were referenced. You’ll find those links, along with a selection of other resources I think are essential for learning more about digital publishing, electronic publishing, or whatever you want to call it, in the next post. Enjoy!

The NaNoWriMo Song

Every event needs it’s own song, so here’s the soundtrack for National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo. Vocals, Electric Guitars, Bass, Irish Bouzouki, Glockenspiel, Organ, Drum Programming– it’s all by John Anealio, specialist in geeky anthems, for NaNoWriMo 2011.

NaNoWriMo
John Anealio

Writing Advice from Ray Bradbury

Author Ray Bradbury has done it all– novels, non-fiction, short stories, and more. In “Telling the Truth,” the 2001 keynote address at Point Loma Nazarene University’s Sixth Annual Writer’s Symposium by the Sea, he shares frank, practical writing advice. He’s laugh-out-loud funny, occasionally profane, but his advice is profound and well worth absorbing.

Here is a quick outline of a few primary points. Don’t miss his talk, though. It’s peppered with wonderful anecdotes, interesting people, good humor, and vivid language.

  1. Write short stories, not novels, first.
  2. You may love another author, but you can’t be them.
  3. Study high-quality short stories by classic authors (he provides specific recommendations).
  4. Stuff your head with good stuff.
  5. Fire the friends who don’t support you.
  6. Live in the library, not in front of a screen. He “graduated from the library.”
  7. Fall in love with old movies.
  8. Do what you do with love, and write with joy. If writing starts feeling like work, scrap it and start something else.
  9. Don’t focus on making money, but on writing. The story of his trip to New York City and the sale of his first two books is inspiring.
  10. You can deal with the ten things you love, hate, fear, or almost remember by writing them into stories.
  11. Surprise yourself. Type what comes into your head–intuition and word association can spark many ideas. You don’t know what is in you until you test it. Bradbury said his first film wasn’t good, but it was a beginning.
  12. You write for readers. What you’re writing for, even if you don’t know it, is for at least one person to love what you do. And you must love it too.

I love his opinionated commentary about short story writers, perhaps because he shares my taste for classic authors, metaphors, and stories that go somewhere.

If you've never read anything by Ray Bradbury, my pick for "must read" is Fahrenheit 451.

My favorite tip is to “stuff your head with good stuff.” He suggests that if you read one short story, one good, classic poem, and one essay before bedtime for the next one thousand nights, you’ll have a wealth of material to work with. I’ve been teaching for years that “input must come before output,” and Bradbury offers concrete examples of how to make it happen.

Bradbury’s joy in reading and writing are contagious, and mental snapshots of dandelions, King Kong, Bill Gates (“I don’t do Windows”), an enthusiastic barber, a destroyed face, and Gene Kelly are vivid reminders of his gift. This video is part of the University of California Television (UCTV) series.

Libraries raised me. I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries . . . I went to the library three days a week for 10 years. (Ray Bradbury)

How to Find What You’re Meant to Do

Sometimes it’s not a lack of skill or motivation that keeps freelancers stuck, doing mundane jobs and wondering why they haven’t discovered their ideal business focus. Sometimes it’s just that they haven’t considered linking their personal passion with the work that they do every day. Here are three simple questions you can ask that will help you clarify where you’d like to take your career.

Time to “Do the Next Thing”- My New Year’s Resolution

I’m not inclined to get too detailed with my New Year’s Resolutions, and this year is no exception. Four words is all it takes to sum up my intent for 2011. Here’s what it’s all about:

Do this. Don’t do that. Be this. Don’t be that…

New Year’s resolutions sometimes sound like the barking of a Marine sergeant dealing with raw recruits on a sub-zero morning. Personally, I’m a fan of warm covers on sub-zero mornings, and I tend to ignore barking of any kind (just ask my terrier). But I still like to go through the process of thinking back over the previous year, considering what went well and didn’t, and focusing on what I’d like to make happen in the new year.

I’ve discovered that simple is usually better when it comes to resolutions, so I try to boil down what I want to accomplish into one sentence. This year…. Read more….

5 Good Reasons to Go to a Writers Conference

I enjoyed the James River Writers Conference in Richmond last weekend, and am combing through my notes for all the good ideas I wanted to apply. There are a lot of them, but they’re all lining up after the non-fiction proposal I have to finish and send. The best part of the conference was just being around so many other people who loved to write. We could talk writing morning, noon, and night, and no one started yawning after the first sentence!

Whether you’re an established writer or just getting started, a writers conference is a great place to be. Here are five good reasons to go: (Read more…)

Final Thoughts on the SCBWI Winter Conference 2010

I enjoyed my first national SCBWI conference in NYC a couple of weeks ago. It was exhilarating to be in the same room with so many creative people–writers, illustrators, publishers, agents, editors, and other children’s book enthusiasts (Jane Yolen!!!). While there, I was conscious of the fact that just being there conferred an advantage on each hopeful writer or editor in attendance. There’s nothing quite like the synergy of being present, networking in person, and hearing first-hand from others in the field.

I tweeted many of the tidbits I picked up during the conference, but several things have lingered with me. Here are a few of them: Read more…

The Freedom to Write

I was captivated by some thoughts on freedom and writing that Moira Allen, editor of the Writing-World.com newsletter shared in her most recent issue. This excerpt is reprinted here with her permission .

She writes:

“…Writing is, at the most fundamental level, about freedom.
Countries that wish to restrict the freedoms of its citizens
invariably get around to restricting the freedoms of writers.  One
of those things that I DO take for granted is the freedom to write
what I want, without fear of having someone knocking on my door
late at night — or worse, without the fear that someone has a
right not only to knock but to enter, without a warrant or anything
resembling “just cause.”

Governments that don’t like freedom don’t like writers — because
writers have this nasty tendency to tell the world all about what
their governments are doing.  Frankly, I sometimes get tired of our
press complaining nonstop about our government — but I will never
get tired of the fact that the press CAN complain!

There is no power on earth as important as the freedom to be able
to say, and write, whatever you wish.  There is no gift so great
for writers to celebrate in this holiday season as the freedom that
we have, at least in this country, to WRITE.  That freedom means
that we have the power to speak up about things that we don’t like
– and the power to demand and make changes to the world in which
we live.  It is the gift that makes the difference between being
“citizens” rather than “subjects.”  Many of us may never feel the
need to exercise the full power of this gift, but we should never
forget that we have it.  And we should also never forget those who
don’t.

It’s also something that we can pass on.  Whenever you help someone
develop their writing skills — whether it’s your own child, or a
total stranger that you’ve met through an Internet writers’ group
– you’re passing on more than just the ability to craft a better
sentence.  You’re passing on a gift of freedom.”

Moira Allen is the editor of Writing World newsletter, and the manager of the enormous Writing-World.com website. I’m grateful for the opportunity to reprint her thoughts here.

Guest Blog: “The Practice of Gratitude” by Songwriter Christine Kane

I wish you a joyous Thanksgiving, and hope you enjoy the post from guest blogger Christine Kane. I believe that gratitude can change your life by changing your thoughts, and I want to practice it every day! JPC

Wishing you a joyous Thanksgiving!

The Practice of Gratitude by Christine Kane

Gratitude is more than being thankful one day a year. Gratitude is a practice. For some, it’s a way of life.

Why do some people swear by the practice of gratitude? Why do these people have joy-filled and abundant lives?

In other words, why does gratitude make you happy and wealthy?

• Because gratitude is about presence.

It’s about waking up in this moment and being here – really being here – and noticing what’s around you. Most people are so busy thinking about the next thing, or about their horrid past, that they don’t wake up and look around at their present moment – the only moment there is.

• Because gratitude is about honoring YOUR precious life.

Do you ever compare your life with someone else’s? Do you ever wish your life were better and more like [insert famous person’s name here]? Sometimes we can lose ourselves in wondering how we “measure up” to some standard set by our families or by the media. Comparison is the mind killer. The antidote is gratitude.

Gratitude requires that you validate your own life. (And you really don’t have any other life, do
you?) It forces you to say YES to the gift that is you. The choices you’ve made and the changes you’ve gone through – they have brought you here. Even if here is a place that needs a little adjustment, that’s okay. There are always gifts in any present moment.

• Because gratitude is about attracting.

It’s difficult to attract abundance and joy if you are constantly saying “no” to what IS. You say “no” each time you focus on the future or past, or when you criticize something that is in your present moment.

Attraction is about saying Yes. When you say Yes, you shift.

Gratitude says, “Yes, I love this!” And then more of this is attracted, because the this is what you’re focusing on.

• Because gratitude is about choice.

How you translate any situation is the situation. What you choose to see is the truth (for you).

This isn’t proposing that you live in denial or phoniness. It’s reminding you that your translation of any life situation is your choice. We’ve all heard stories of people who have ignored others’ translations of their talent, their projects, their art, their looks, their lives. These people chose their own translations and succeeded. You always have a choice when it comes to how you look at things. Choose to choose gratitude.

• Because gratitude is about wisdom.

I think people believe they’re being smart if they criticize, complain, and focus on the problems of the world around them.

Smart? Maybe.

Clever? Sure.

But not wise.

It is wise to look for and find the knowing place in your heart. It is wise to choose joy. It is wise to honor your riches. It is wise to focus on and grow the blessings of your life.

• Because gratitude is about recognition.

Use your power of focus to hone in on beauty and on what makes your heart sing. Recognize the spirit in your life. It’s all around you waiting to be noticed. In the words of Franz Kafka, “It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”

• Because gratitude is about receptivity.

Gratitude makes you receptive. It makes you a vessel, waiting to be filled.

I carry a tiny notebook with me everywhere I go. In it, I write down song ideas. I write down quotes I hear. I write down ideas for stage stories. As I do that, I become more receptive, and more ideas and songs come to me. It’s a tool that says to my subconscious, “Send more my way!” And the subconscious always responds.

Gratitude is the same way. It says, “I am receptive! Send more!” And more arrives.

• Because gratitude is about creativity.

Creativity is really all about attention. (So is genius.)
When I write a song, I build a relationship with that song. I spend time with it. I get to know it. I pay attention to it. Artists do the same thing with drawings. They spend time in rapt attention, and the drawing is born.

Gratitude is how we Live Creative. It is a creative act to notice and pay attention to the moments of your life. Some days it’s an enormous act of creativity to find things for which to be thankful.

Start today.

And have a Thanksgiving of presence, creativity, and gratitude!

Performer, songwriter, and creativity consultant Christine Kane publishes her ‘LiveCreative’ weekly ezine with more than 8,000 subscribers. If you want to be the artist of your life and create authentic and lasting success, you can sign up for a FREE subscription to LiveCreative at www.christinekane.com.

*Don’t miss our Annual Thanksgiving Membership Drive! Use Coupon Code 9A4DEC0 to get $27 off dues when you join before November 30, 2009.