Creative Spotlight: Tori O’Shea, Photographer of Storms, Nature, and the Macabre

What is your vision of the perfect life? Would you like to blend all of your favorite interests, pastimes, and talents into a profession you love waking up to? That is exactly what today’s guest is doing!

Please meet artist, photographer, and meteorologist Tori O’Shea: a fun-loving twenty-something who is combining all her favorite things into one amazing, creative life. She’ll be sharing five tips for taking up photography as a hobby, and we’ll tell you how to purchase her prints!

roofchase2WMDAbout Tori:

I am a 25 year old meteorology student. Severe weather and art have both been my passions since I was a very small child; so small, in fact, that I don’t even remember when I decided that I wanted to chase storms. It’s been ingrained in my blood since before I formed memories. At two years old, I began drawing. I was always drawing; in fifth grade I got a detention for drawing in class. At twelve, my interest in photography came about. Throughout high school I took photo classes and my passion for it was set in stone. I realized that, of course, I could fuse my love of the lens in with my love of severe weather, and I’ve been chasing storms casually for photography purposes (and for my own love of simply watching them, of course) for almost eight years; however, I’ve been chasing seriously (with the intent of paving a road to a real career) for a little under a year now. I went full-on into it last year after I met a group of local storm chasers- new friends with the same passion as mine (this was amazing, as I have been so accustomed to being the only person I’ve ever met who’s wanted to do this with love for it since early childhood- and now I have a group of amazing, talented friends with the same love- a big shout out to Bryan, Mike, Christian, Andy, Corbin, Trey, and everyone else! The list is a tad too long to include in full here, but these people really lit a fire within me and inspired me to take myself to the next level) and I haven’t looked back since. In the future, I hope to be published in Arizona Highways and National Geographic, and I hope to work for a storm tour company or, at the very least, be able to work storm chasing into how I make a living in some way. To live entirely off of my passion is my aim and major focus right now for sure.

Museiddity: Hi Tori. In your opinion, how important is creativity in regards to daily life?

Tori: It is crucial. Sure, there’s a lot of times where all it takes to get a good shot is to set your camera up, make sure the settings are all correct and get to shooting- but this won’t help you make your “good shots” interesting. Creativity is where the human element meets the technicals; how does one go about combining their technical knowledge with their desire to make a beautiful piece of work? This is where the creativity comes in; without it, everyone’s work would be similar and in no way truly their own. It is our creativity that makes us individuals, from the way we dress to the way we choose to express ourselves. Without it, we’d all simply be cogs in a machine. A boring, boring machine.

Museiddity: How has the camera lens changed your view of the world?

Tori: I’d have to say that it has made it more beautiful. I can see art and beauty in things that many people see only decay or danger in. I have a love for things like abandoned buildings and weather that can kill, a love for the darker side of human expression (like an image I 216710_10151613267710087_1534070582_nshot in an abandoned jail cell in Jerome, Arizona in which someone had spray-painted “IT WAS MORE FUN IN HELL” on the wall, or an image I shot that people continually tell me is “unsettling” of a brilliant piece of graffiti in Flagstaff of a small child staring upward at a large boulder hovering above their head), and I love it. Without the eye of an artist, I’d still appreciate beauty like any human being, of course- but I do feel that art and photography has turned an appreciation of beauty into a untitled (1 of 6)deeper understanding of why something is beautiful, even if it’s morbid or revolting. To someone else, it might be creepy, or weird, or even totally crazy, but as said by Hunter S. Thompson, “‘Crazy’ is a term of art; ‘Insane’ is a term of law. Remember that and you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble.”

Museiddity: Many of the “masters” walked that gray line! It takes courage to share uncommon visions. What message, if any, are you trying to convey through your art?

Tori: I seldom try to convey any singular messages in particular, honestly- what I try to achieve is to tell a story that begins and ends in the same image. I want it to suck you in, draw you through, and safely drop you off at the end after ruffling your hair a bit.

Museiddity: I love that last line! You stated your work has been featured in a tattoo? There must be a story behind that!

Tori: Oh man! That IS a funny story in the sense that it was so unexpected; my senior year of high school, I was at Denny’s with a group of friends and I was drawing (as usual) on a napkin. It was the only thing available. Well, when I was younger (and admittedly, still now) I was a fan of a morbid cult comic book series called Johnny the Homicidal Maniac; in one particular issue, the main character says the phrase “Immortalize the moment!” while brandishing a pair of large knives at his date (I know, I know, don’t judge). I drew a machete-style knife with that phrase embedded in it, and set the napkin aside to draw on another one. I didn’t think much of it at all until my friend Matt showed me that he’d gotten that napkin drawing tattooed! He liked it so much that he put it on his body permanently- how cool is that?

Museiddity: Wow, I can’t even imagine how you felt when you saw that! Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us today. IMG_0251WMD

Tori’s Five Tips for Taking Up Hobby Photography:

1. Learn, learn and learn some more. I can’t state this enough. If you know the ins and outs of how your camera works, what each setting is and how it relates to each other setting, it will absolutely make all of the difference in your final work.

2. Once you’ve learned about the technical aspects- practice them! You can ace every test in your photography class, but without actually going out and working through real-life scenarios in studio and on site, you’ll never really know anything despite having learned it.

3. Watch your ISO. This is your film speed (in both digital and film photography), and it is one of the factors that determines how sensitive your lens is to light. This ties in with the above two, but for me, it’s worth mentioning alone. I call myself the queen of noise- many of my final images have a flaw, at least to me: they’re noisy! You ever notice the dull but colorful “fuzz” in some photos that were taken in low light? That’s noise, and with many of my weather images having been shot at night, I’m still learning about reducing noise. One of the major keys is to work on a low ISO and adjust your other settings to compensate for the slow “film” speed. Sure, you might have to finagle it a bit, but once you’ve nailed your ISO settings- it makes an enormous difference.

4. Always. Carry. A spare. SD card. Always. Carry it in your camera bag, or anywhere that isn’t inside your camera. Seriously. This is probably the most important tip I can give from personal experience. One time, I drove 45 miles out into the nothingness of the desert for a beautiful lightning storm only to be infuriated to discover my SD card was not in my camera. A few of my friends jokingly bought me several extra cards that year as a gift. Thanks, guys.

5. Always, always, always make sure your battery is charged. Always!! You never know when you’ll be on the move and you’ll need your camera. There’s nothing more disheartening than discovering your battery has 14% juice left and you’re shooting a wedding for the next five hours.

Connect with Tori O’Shea on Facebook
View her art at DeviantArt and RAW Artists
Buy Prints: To purchase Tori’s art, just contact her through Facebook or email her at copperstatestormchasing[at]yahoo.com.

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Creative Spotlight: Haley Smith, Glass Bead Artist and Owner of BuckleBottom Beads

At The Torch with Haley SmithMuseiddity: Hi Haley, I’m so glad you could join us today!

How did you get involved in lampworking?

Haley: Oh, that’s easy. I was bored. Ha! Seriously, though. I was living in an apartment with my husband and one year old daughter, waiting for our house to be built. I felt confined in such a small space during the day, being that it was a typical, HOT Arizona summer, and spent waaaay too much time perusing Ebay and the internet for something to spark my interest. I wanted to make and sell something. While seeking that pastime, I came across beautiful lampwork beads by some very talented artists. Goodness, they were quite pricey! I found myself looking specifically at these individual pieces of art, curious as to what was under the layers of glass…. More glass!! While I examined (and drooled over) them, I came across a couple websites and forums that had tutorials and illustrations as to the HOW of making these beads. I was completely intrigued and just had to learn how on my own.

I found a gal who lived quite close to me (serendipitous!) and she gave me a two hour demonstration, allowing me to create two little, very uneven beads. I came home and bought my first bead making torch and the glass to melt!

Museiddity: What do you most love about making beads?

Haley: Like lots of gals, I love sparkly things. And colorful things. And pretty things! Glass is all of the above…..and more! Just being able to mess around with colors and combinations helps with my creative urges, but watching that glass melt into shape has almost a therapeutic feel to it. Mesmerizing. Yet, frustrating at the same time. It’s not an easy task to make that glass go in the shape you want it. Not for me, anyway. But that tension between peace and agony is what makes it fun and challenging. I can easily get swept up trying to create the perfect bead, but when I just relax and enjoy the process is when I make, what I feel are, my best beads.

Museiddity: Ahh…, I call that “going into the zone.” You obviously found your niche! What did your family think about your new fascination with fire?

Haley: I thought my husband was gonna think I was crazy! But, honestly, he’s been nothing but supportive. I’m still more of a hobbyist than a business woman, so he, uh, has been monetarily supportive, as well. He has helped me create the perfect environment for this creative outlet and makes sure I have time to create, too, seeing we have two very busy kids. My daughter, who is now 10, can’t wait to learn how to lampwork, but is satisfied with making kid-friendly jewelry with my beads. She is a budding fashionista, so I do take her advice to heart when it comes to turning my beads into wearable items. My son grew up with me already creating and playing with fire, so he doesn’t really think much of it. I just make sure I preach fire safety–all the time–because, ironically, fire is my biggest fear!

Museiddity: But you took something that frightened you and turned it into art, what a way to slay your demons! Speaking of demons, what are some of the struggles you’ve faced pursuing your creative vision?

Haley: That could be a really long answer. But I will just say TIME is the biggest struggle. Finding time, mainly. As I said, I have two busy kids and a family that comes first. I don’t have an “out-of-the-home” job to occupy my days, so then time becomes a procrastination tactic, as well. I’m not necessarily self-motivated. I almost do better in a time-crunch. Does that make sense? When the pressure is on, I make better use of my time. And then I have the problem of not enough time again. It’s a vicious cycle, I tell ya. Maybe I need a little fire UNDER me instead of in front of me!!

Also, like most artists of all kinds, the muse disappears sometimes. Occasionally, it’s for long periods. Finding that creative energy and that spark is difficult. I used to have to pretty much stop making beads in the summer because I work out of my garage. It was way too hot out there without the added heat from the torch and kiln. When that physical block is put up for months at a time, the creativity gets stunted, too. Trying to pick up in October, or whenever it would start to cool down, would be extremely difficult.

Museiddity: At least you won’t have to worry about the heat anymore now that you have that new, air conditioned studio space.

I’ve watched you grow from hobby to successful small business. What tips do you have to share with other “creatives” embarking on similar journeys?

Haley: Stick with it. Stick with what you love. Stick with finding that creative spark. If you’re doing something you love, then it won’t truly matter if you’re monetarily successful or not. Your heart will be satisfied. I don’t ever want it to feel like a job. If it starts feeling like work, then I take a step back and figure out a way to bring the heart back into it.

Museiddity: Oh, staying true to your heart really is the most important lesson. I think I need to print that response and tape it above my desk!

I have fond memories of the day you graciously spent giving me my first lampworking lesson; I keep the beads we made that day hanging in my office as inspiration (smile). For those who are considering taking up the torch, what basic tools will they need to get started?

Haley: I have to caution anyone who wants to melt glass to first look up all safety measures. There really are a lot of measures that need to take place before you can just start making beads over an open flame. I won’t go into all the details of it right now (SO IMPORTANT), but those things need to be sorted out before you even think about melting a rod of glass. Of course the first safety measure is ensuring your torch isn’t going to catch something on fire! That should be obvious. But, there are other measures that are less obvious. Things like eye protection, proper ventilation and working near fire-retardant surfaces are just the start.

But, as for the materials, you will need glass rods, a small basic lampwork-specific torch, mandrels (which are the steel rods you wrap the melted glass around) and bead release, which is a cement-like substance that keeps your beads from sticking to the mandrels. You will also need an annealing blanket so your beads don’t all crack into bits before you can get them in a kiln. All these little gems need to be kiln annealed so that they don’t break easily. Basically, you can do the simplest set up for about $100.There is a little torch called a Hot Head that attaches to Mapp gas canisters. It’s what I started with and it’s only about $35. Almost all lampworking online stores have a great kit with all the basics to get you started. I definitely recommend just buying a small starter kit.

Lampworking, although I made it seem like I just dove in headfirst, isn’t something to pursue lightly. Even with the safety requirements you can still proceed fairly inexpensively, but my recommendation is to do plenty of research before you begin to purchase anything. And my biggest tip? Take a class or get a demonstration from an experienced bead maker before you begin.

Museiddity: Great advice!

In addition to making custom order beads you also have a beautiful line of jewelry; can we share some pics of your favorite pieces?

Haley: Sure!

Beads - 045 copy   Beads - 150  Ribbon Set Beads - 326

 

 

 

Museiddity: They’re all so beautiful! Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Haley.

Connect with Haley:
Store/Website: BuckleBottom Beads (www.bucklebottom.com)
Keep up with studio talk at BuckleBottom Blab (http://bucklebottom.blogspot.com)

Have you ever made glass beads? Do you have a story to share or a question for Haley? We’d love to hear from you!

Creative Spotlight: Interview with Sarah Sequins, Designer of Wearable Art

Today we’re visiting with Sarah Sequins, “a jewelry designer and artist obsessed with all things sparkly.” Sarah hosts the popular blog Saturday Sequins, where she shares her works in progress, creative inspiration, laughs, and smiles. She is also writing an ebook, but we’ll get to that in a minute. First, let’s talk about bead weaving, bead embroidery, and working with sequins.

Museiddity: Hi Sarah! I’ve been happily following your blog for awhile now; eagerly awaiting each week’s inspiring post and pics of your latest masterpiece. How did you become interested in sequins and beading?

Sarah: Hi, Robyn! Thank you so much for featuring me! I’m excited that you’ve started this new blog.

When I look back, I can’t think of a time when I wasn’t interested in sparkly things. I started collecting them before I even knew what to do with them!

The first time I thought of sequins for jewelry making, I was eight or nine years old, and I wanted to reproduce a pair of sequin earrings I’d found at the mall. I taught myself how to work with sequins and chain without any special knowledge or tools – just my little fingers!

Around that time, my sister, who’s interested in Native American beading, taught me my very first, simple bead embroidery stitches. She helped me make my own leather moccasins one weekend and let me embellish them with beads. She was the one who introduced me to bead weaving, too – I owe her a lot!

Museiddity: I’ll bet they were beautiful!

You’ve often used the terms “bead and sequin embroidery” and “bead weaving,” what is the difference?

Sarah: Both types of bead work involve a needle and thread. The difference between bead embroidery and bead weaving is that embroidery involves passing the needle through a backing – usually some sort of fabric or felt. Bead weaving, on the other hand, doesn’t use a backing; jewelry and other items are made by passing the needle through the beads themselves, and sometimes the thread.

Both bead embroidery and bead weaving have different stitches and variations. They overlap in a few places, though, which makes it a lot of fun to experiment with combining them.

Museiddity: Many of your beading designs include sequins, what skills and materials do we need to work with them?

Sarah: For very basic sequin embroidery, you really don’t need much. Some sequins, a beading needle, some thread (I like Fireline, but mercerized cotton is fine, and so is nylon thread, or Nymo). Something to sew them to. If you can pass a needle through it, you can sew sequins and beads to it!

I suggest something stiff like craft felt, buckram, Lacy’s Stiff Stuff or Nicole’s BeadBacking when you start out, though, just because fabric can pucker if you pull your thread too tight. Stiff material prevents that.

As for skills, if you can sew a simple stitch with a needle and thread, you can sew a sequin! After that, the stitches tend to build on each other – if you can do one, you can figure the rest out.

Museiddity: Some sequins have no hole, how would we apply them?

Sarah: Most, if not all, of the sequins I buy have holes – I’d love to find some without holes and play around. But! There are plenty of times when I find shiny, sparkly bits of confetti in craft and hobby stores and want to turn them into sequins. To do this, I use a 1/16 inch circular hole punch, especially the Fiskars brand.

I’ve also drilled sequins with a hand-held drill before, with mixed success. It’s hard to drill more than one at a time because they tend to slide around, even when I used a vise or tape them together in a bundle. I’m still trying to figure things out – but that’s part of the fun.

Museiddity: I’ve seen the one without the holes labeled as sequin discs. I’m thinking of using them with a two-part epoxy jewelry clay…

It sounds like this has been quite a journey for you! What surprising things have you learned about yourself by beading?

Sarah: I’ve learned a lot about my own learning style. I used to call myself a verbal learner, but really, I’m a tactile learner. I learn by diving in with a basic, bare bones knowledge, making tons of mistakes, and then coming back to books, tutorials and classes when I need to refine my technique. When I let myself learn this way, I’m a fast learner, too – which is really exciting!

I’ve also learned that I’m surprisingly patient and detail-oriented while I bead. I would have never used those words to describe myself in other aspects of my life! Now that I know they exist, I’ve started to apply them to other areas, including non-creative ones.

Museiddity: That’s the beauty of art, it reflects back to us parts of ourselves we don’t normally see.

Sarah, if someone is interested in working with sequins, how would you suggest they begin?

Sarah: I have two answers to this question. This first is to dive in, play around, and see what happens. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a great way to come up with your own innovative techniques – especially if you’re familiar with other types of arts/crafts. You can always bring your past experience to your work.

Not everyone learns the way I do, though. For people who need a little more direction, Stanley Levy’s book Bead and Sequin Embroidery Stitches is the best I’ve found. It’s very, very thorough, and the photos are absolutely gorgeous. His book is more for garment-makers, but most of his techniques translate to jewelry making.

Museiddity: Will you share a picture of one or two of your favorite pieces?

Sarah: Of course! Here are two photos of some of my favorite pieces. The one Floral Fiestawith the red flower is called Floral Fiesta, and it’s a mix of bead embroidery and bead weaving. The second one, the bracelet, is called Goth Birthday Goth Birthday CakeCake because when it’s fastened, it looks just like a birthday cake for Morticia Adams.

Museiddity: They’re both so beautiful…and the necklace is so intricate! You weren’t kidding when you said you were patient.

Thank you, Sarah, for visiting with us!

Connect with Sarah: You can keep up with Sarah Sequins at her blog, Saturday Sequins, or at her Etsy shop.

Sarah is writing an ebook!
Embracing your creative side can sometimes be a struggle, especially if you desire to support yourself with your gifts. To help, Sarah’s book addresses the emotional side of making a creative living. Modeling the book after some of her most popular posts like Don’t Give Up and Instead of Giving Up, Sarah offers much needed inspiration to keep on truckin’.

Sarah says, “It’s about some of the silly reasons people come up with for giving up on the things they love and the one and only reason to run away from your creative work like you’re being chased by raisins (which, if you remember, are evil). It features my oddball sense of humor, and tramples some popular ways of looking at things. And like all the things I write, it’s based on a problem I had and the way I solved it. Also, there’s going to be a fun workbook section.”

The book is scheduled to launch on July 6th; visit Sarah at Saturday Sequins for more information.

Do you love sparklies, beads, or raisins? If so let us know; we love comments and questions!

Creative Spotlight: Destiny Allison, Artist and Author–Guest Post and Book Launch Announcement

Destinyl__3964Today I welcome metal sculpture artist and author Destiny Allison. I first “met” Destiny while managing a WOW Blog Tour for her memoir, Shaping Destiny. Her book, and her sculptures, connected with me in a deep way. Destiny has recently finished her first novel, Pipe Dreams. I’ll share more about that in a minute.

Destiny possesses a compelling “voice”; I find it strong, intelligent and poetic. To give you a taste of her writing I’ve invited her to share an essay about her own creative “awakening”.

Destiny Allison on embracing her creative spirit…

After I discovered my voice, I was quiet. No shout of joy or cartwheel whoop issued from my pressed lips. Hands on hips, eyes narrowed, I contemplated the tiny, regal figure who had freed me. Her brown skin, slick with my sweat, glistened in the morning light. She did not meet my eyes, care for my interest, or notice me at all. Instead, her gaze was to the horizon, focused on something I couldn’t see.

I hungered after her, oblivious to the demands of happy children sticky with juice. Ignoring dishes, spilled cheerios on the breakfast table, and the guttural snores of a sleeping husband, I stroked her hair with a fingertip, pushed my nail deep into the line between her lips, and cemented her expression. She did not mind the pain I inflicted or acknowledge the ache she had kindled in me. I added a bit of clay to her arm, defining and strengthening. Then she looked wrong, unbalanced, and artificial. I tweaked, smoothed, and adored until I destroyed her, my image of who I wanted to be.

I pushed her away, furious with myself, and turned my attention to my youngest. Runny nosed and crying, he had tripped chasing his brothers. I pulled him into my arms, rocking, and as I did my eyes drifted toward the horizon. It shimmered, taunting me with hope, possibility, and dreams.

When my child’s sobs ceased, I set him down and picked up my ruined sculpture. Somewhere in that soft, awkward form was my future. A tiny hand grabbed my leg, but I was intent. He tugged again, asking for a drink. I sighed, stepped into the kitchen, and handed him his cup. Then, for the first time and without regret, I said, “Go play, sweetheart. Mommy’s working.”

Coming June 3rd–Pipe Dreams, A novel by Destiny Allison Pipe_Dreams_preview.1

Destiny’s first novel is a fast-paced dystopian sci-fi made all the more horrifying by the feeling that this scenario could very well happen at any given time. If you like The Handmaid’s Tale you’ll love Pipe Dreams. Here is the author’s description:

Beneath the park bench, a young girl cries for help, her voice a cold hand on Vanessa’s throat. Bruised and ravaged, the naked girl is Vanessa’s mirror twin, but compassion for the Fallen won’t be forgiven. “Please,” the girl whispers. In the empty square, a piece of trash tumbles. A bird settles in a tree. Then there is silence. No voice, no wind, no movement. It’s as if the world is waiting.

Vanessa’s hesitation is her undoing. Unbeknownst to her, Lewis seeks his revenge. The virus, originally developed to save mankind from itself, will be his tool. Once airborne, it will create a slave race and retribution will be his. Vanessa is the symbol of everything he hates. She will be his unwitting pawn. Haunted by her thick, auburn hair, serious eyes, and mocking laughter, Lewis is determined to quiet her once and for all.

As his plan unfolds, Vanessa is forced to flee. Escaping through the sewer, she finds love, heartbreak, and the red beam of a gun sight dancing on the slick, black wall. In the deep dark of the foul pipe, Vanessa also discovers she has been betrayed. That’s when she learns Texas is real.

One reviewer stated, “Pipe Dreams is a dystopian novel set in the near future. If gene splicing could merge Margaret Atwood and Suzanne Collins, the resulting author might write this book.”

To download the first two parts FREE, and get updates on the full release, sign up for the mailing list.

TO PREORDER THE PAPERBACK VERSION OF PIPE DREAMS, CLICK HERE.

Destiny is “paying it forward” by donating 25% of her first month’s sales towards another artist’s goals. Visit her blog for more details.

Creative Spotlight: The Award Winning Poetry of Carolyn Howard-Johnson and Magdalena Ball

There are different types of poetry. There is the kind that paints a pretty image, and then there’s the kind that causes pause and ponder. I love the latter kind. For me, poetry offers respite, and good poetry marries my heart to my mind.

Magdalena and Carolyn write beautiful poetry—the type of poetry you’ll want to slowly savor…and then share with others. I recently read, and am re-reading, Sublime Planet. This is just one book from their Celebration series. After savoring just a few of these poems I knew you would want to meet these amazing ladies! Please enjoy the following interview and poetry samples.

Hello Carolyn and Magdalena, welcome to Museiddity!

To begin…I’m interested to hear about what place poetry holds in your life. How has writing poetry influenced your life, your outlook on life, or your sense of self?

Carolyn: I love poetry. It’s everywhere in my life. On signs I pass when I’m driving. On scraps of paper floating around my desk. It shows up in my fiction and—yes!—sometimes even in my nonfiction.

Magdalena: I’ve been writing (and reading) poetry for as long as I’ve been reading (say, around 4 y/o), so it has been a key part of how I look at the world, how I view myself and how I communicate with others.  I try, wherever possible, to look at my own life and the world in which I live in a poetic way – that means the use of symbolism, metaphor, and trying to keep my perspective fresh and novel.  I think I’m definitely a poet first as a writer, and that my fiction will grow, sometimes painfully, around my poetry.

You are both strong, successful, award-winning writers on your own. How did you come about collaborating on the Celebration series?

Carolyn: I’ll like to speak to this one because it will save Magdalena from bragging about her own site. My first chapbook of poetry was published by Finishing Line Press and I requested a review of it from Magdalena’s highly respected book review site The Compulsive Reader (http://CompulsiveReader.com/html). I was grateful that she said yes and I did my usual thank yous (part of any great marketing campaign—maybe even more important for poets!) and then more or less forgot about it. There is always so much to do! Then my poetry chapbook “Tracings” (http://budurl.com/carolynstracings) was listed on The Compulsive Reader’s 10 Best Reads List for the year. That set my little marketing brain to work. I realized I needed to know a whole lot more about this talented writer and business woman who lived a hemisphere away from me. Her name is Magdalena Ball and, I’m proud to say, we now have coauthored five chapbooks and one full book of poetry together. And we’re working on our next—also a full book. This one will have poems about (or inspired by) food.

This question also gives me the opportunity to say that, though many caution against the pitfalls of coauthoring (and I tend to agree!), I found the perfect partner in Magdalena. Our literary tastes are very similar, but our poetry is different enough to offer a reader variety. But mostly, she is an angel to work with.

Magdalena:  I’ve been migrating The Compulsive Reader to a new platform and have had to hand set up each review, so I was reminded of the first review I did for Carolyn, otherwise I might not have even remembered how we met.  It felt like serendipity.  Somehow we’ve always managed to support one another, promoting in concurrent, effective ways, and critiquing each other’s work.  Working together has had so many benefits, not least of which has been egging each other on to finish our projects (mostly Carolyn egging me on!).

In an attempt to describe your poetry I find myself using the words “intelligent” and “thought provoking.” How would you describe your poetry?

Carolyn: Absolutely. “Intelligent” and “Thought-provoking.”  May I use that quote in my media kit? LOL.  Magdalena?

Magdalena:  Who am I to argue?  Of course we’re always aiming towards provoking thought, but maybe more than that too.  In “Man Carrying Thing”, Wallace Stevens said “The poem must resist the intelligence / Almost successfully.” I like this idea of the poem and the reader working in sync with each reading towards a new shared sense of meaning, of perspective, of connection. That sense of the poem’s individual performance each time it’s read is something that excites me.

Yes! Each reading reveals a new facet, because the reader is in a different place.

Your most recent collaborative work is Sublime Planet. You mentioned that the proceeds go to World Wildlife Fund; can you share more on that?

Carolyn: We wrote this book to celebrate Earth Day. We already had books celebrating everything from Valentine’s to Christmas but celebrating Earth Day seems like a commitment to something larger. We thought about it for a bit and decided that we wanted an organization that most readers would feel comfortable supporting—indeed that they would want to help support.  But we also wanted something that would have worldwide appeal because the authors (that would be Magdalena and me) came from such different parts of the world. Our diversity is part of what makes this book on Earth and the Universe so special.

Magdalena:  We decided, right from the start of this book, that we would find an ecological charity and donate our profits.  Initially we thought it might be a proportion, but poetry isn’t known for being super-lucrative, so in the end we decided to donate 100%.  I suspect it may end up being more like 150%, but either way, the idea of using our writing to actually help a real live ecological charity, and WWF was a global one that we both felt good about, was something that felt absolutely right.

I want to thank you for that. By the time you add in the costs involved with publication, etc… this is a very generous donation to a respected, worthwhile, and much needed organization.

I’d like to take this opportunity to share a couple of my favorite poems from Sublime Planet: Transparent Love Song by Carolyn Howard-Johnson and The Immeasurable Sea and the Boundless Earth by Magdalena Ball.

Transparent Love Song By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

The amazing glass frog shows her eggs,

innards, and what she had to eat

that day to fellow Venezuelans

and anyone else who cares to look.

The barreleye fish her brains

to those who swim in deep dark

waters to find her. Down in Antarctica’s

ocean depths the crocodile icefish

has an oyster-white heart—not red—

a secret she does not mind sharing

with passersby. Somewhere in a valley

of a deepsea mountain range lives Phronima

whose invisibility protects her from diners

with a taste for the exotic, but not from scientists

who found her anyway, and out Hawaii

way a transparent larval shrimp hooks

a symbiotic ride

with a see-through jellyfish. The glass

squid lives down under, invisible

to passing whales and goblin sharks,

and—when that doesn’t work—rolls

herself into a ball hedgehog style.

A laboratory-designed zebra fish

willing to let scientists watch her cancers

grow, the glasswing butterfly reveals

only flowers beneath her wings. You, my dear,

the one who lives in my own domain

opaque

because, as they say,

Men are from Mars.

The Immeasurable Sea and the Boundless Earth by Magdalena Ball

A knife’s edge boundary

you can’t cross

no matter how loud

your song pressing

boundless earth.

It isn’t really the bountiful, beautiful

Earth you want

not the ocean rich

with mysterious kelp

you’d like to cross.

There’s nothing you’ll find

in your ragged quest

for life

digging dirty fingernails

against pica hunger.

Nothing there

in the uncharted horizon

your life spent mapping

dizzy with knowledge

and misunderstanding

you don’t already know.

Thank you, Carolyn and Magdalena, for visiting with us today and allowing me to reprint two of your marvelous poems.

The Celebration Series by Magdalena Ball and Carolyn Howard-Johnson offers both greeting card alternatives (at a greeting card price) and gift alternatives for holidays–using poetry. Carolyn says, “We think of it as a way to popularize/commercialize “real” poetry.”

Mother’s Day (and Father’s Day) will soon be here and these books are perfect little tuck-in gifts!

Following ate the titles included in the series so far are. All are available as paperback and e-books.

clip_image002She Wore Emerald Then: Reflections on Motherhood (http://budurl.com/MotherChapbook)

 

Cherished Pulse: Love Poetry for the Rational
(http://budurl.com/CherishedPulse) clip_image004

 

clip_image006Imagining the Future: Ruminations on Fathers and Other Masculine Apparitions

(http://budurl.com/Imagining )

 

Deeper into the Pond: A Celebration of Femininity

(http://budurl.com/DeeperPond) clip_image009

 

clip_image008Blooming Red: Christmas Poetry for the Rational
(http://budurl.com/BloomingRed)

 

 

And, of course, Sublime Planet in celebration of the Earth and Universe

(http://amzn.to/SublimePlanet) clip_image011

To hear Magdalena read the title poem: http://magdalenaball.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/SublimePlanet.mp3

 

Carolyn Howard-Johnson  Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s several careers prepared her for promoting her own books and those of others. She was the youngest person ever hired as a staff writer for the Salt Lake Tribune—“A Great Pulitzer Prize Winning Newspaper”—where she wrote features for the society page and a column under the name of Debra Paige.

Later, in New York, she was an editorial assistant at Good Housekeeping Magazine. She also handled accounts for fashion publicist Eleanor Lambert who instituted the first Ten Best Dressed List. There she moved from reading effective media releases (then called press releases) to writing them for celebrity designers of the day including Pauline Trigere, Rudy Gernreich, and Christian Dior, and producing photo shoots for Lambert’s clients.

Carolyn’s experience in journalism and as a poet and author of fiction and nonfiction helped the multi award-winning author understand how different genres can be marketed more effectively. She has been an instructor for UCLA Extension’s renowned Writers’ Program since 2003 and has studied writing at Cambridge University, United Kingdom; Herzen University in St. Petersburg, Russia; and Charles University in Prague.

She turned her knowledge toward helping other writers with her HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. Her marketing campaign for the second book in that series, The Frugal Editor won the New Generation Indie Best Book Award. You can connect with Carolyn at her website.

Magdalena Ball  Magdalena Ball is the author of the novels Black Cow and Sleep Before Evening, the poetry books Repulsion Thrust and Quark Soup, a nonfiction book The Art of Assessment, and in collaboration with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Sublime Planet, Deeper Into the Pond, Blooming Red, Cherished Pulse, She Wore Emerald Then, and Imagine the Future. She also runs a radio show, The Compulsive Reader Talks. Find out more about Magdalena at www.magdalenaball.com.

What is your favorite poem? Share your thoughts with us!