Let’s Start At the Very Beginning

64 Arts

I’ve heard it’s a very good place to start…

Now that I’ve gotten that stuck in everyone’s head, how about we move on to our topic, today:

32 The art of telling stories

Do you consider yourself a good storyteller?

As bloggers, we tell stories with each post. Simply put, a story should have a beginning, a middle and an end. Some masterful storytellers can tell a story by starting at the end and working their way back–but that takes a tremendous amount of skill.

Me, I can usually find a pretty good beginning (certainly better than the old dark-and-stormy-night trope), get in all the necessary details for the middle but by the end, I’m usually wrapping things up abruptly. I need to work on my endings.

This is probably why I found the comics for the cookbook more difficult to write and execute compared to my webcomics that can go on as long as they need to.

Even still, comics need a beginning and an end. The middle is fuzzy ground in humor, where the important parts are the set-up and the punchline. Still, a middle can draw out the anticipation a bit, so to overlook it would be doing yourself and your readers a disservice.

When working on longer stories–novel length, for instance–the best advice I’ve ever read was back in my NaNoWriMo days. If you ever get stuck, just ask yourself (or your character): and then what happened?

A fellow blogger that serializes her own stories, Miranda of A Duck in Her Pond, she could probably teach us all a thing or three about writing whimsical stories that keep us, the readers, asking just that question.

But now I have a question for you:

Who do you read when you want a really great story?

Why Creativity Matters to Me

Everyday Adventures
A corner of my studio, The Abyss; 3 shelving units stuffed to the gills with supplies.

One corner of my current studio, aka The Abyss; back when this story happened I had only a fraction of this.

Did I ever tell you the story about my second husband?

Without going into too many reasons he’s an ex, there was one moment in particular I wanted to share:

It was early 2005, we’d been married for just over 2 years, and that morning he was in a bad mood. So bad that it sorta permeated the house. And it happened even before I woke up that Saturday.

I admit, I was a bit chicken-shit and went back to bed to read until the storm-clouds passed or he’d had enough coffee or something.

Apparently I didn’t stay out the way quite long enough.

There was a fight. I don’t even remember how it started or what it was about, all told, but of the things I do remember, I remember him telling me I was absolutely forbidden from taking on another hobby or bringing another thing into his house.*

How many things are wrong with that sentence? I’ll let you figure that out.

That fight ended with him storming out. And in a couple months I’d moved out.

Not because of the hobby embargo, but because he’d come very close to hitting me that day, and it was closer than I really wanted to get.

I wish… I wish I was stronger back then. I wish I hadn’t let his idea that to disagree with him (or, heaven forbid, correct him) was a sign of disrespect. I wish a lot of things about me back then, but I also know that I was just trying to keep the peace and not rock the boat.

They say the biggest regrets are the things you don’t do.

So it was with not a little irony that I realized, a couple years later, with an entire second bedroom to house all of my “craft crap,” that I’d increased my income by 25% writing as the Arts & Crafts Expert for eHow.com. And that he who– despite the higher salary and not having to start over from scratch since it was, by god, his house and all–would call up whining about his lack of money, really shot himself in the foot on that one.

That contract ended in 2009, but the lessons I learned from it and the confidence it gave me to work on my own projects that much harder have stuck around.

Creativity, for me, is about exploration. It’s about doing something with my own hands and mind, of seeing ideas come to life because of something *I* did, because of something I dreamed up. It’s part instant gratification, part humiliation (because things don’t always go according to plan) and part further inspiration.

And it’s a way of looking at life, an I-can-do-that! mentality when so often what we hear is “no you can’t,”  “why bother” or, my personal ‘favorite’, “you’re just wasting your time.”

I’m not saying that by being a little creative each day you’re going to land a job at it or find any sort of fame and fortune–but you might. What’s most likely, though, is a better sense of self, of what you can do with your own two hands, and a helluva lot of pride in your own accomplishments.

So try something new, or something old. Dig out that crochet hook or paint-by-numbers set that’s getting dusty in a box somewhere. Pick up a new hobby, or half a dozen if you’ve got the time. Don’t be afraid to try.

Because the things you regret are the things you didn’t do.

Be creative today.

(*And just so you know, when those things were said I worked full time (like I have since graduating high school), paid my share of our bills and used only my own money for craft supplies, etc. And most of it was kept in the garage because the office we shared was already full of his desk, his computer equipment, and his aquarium. And don’t even get me started about how much closet space he had in 2 rooms and I didn’t.)

Best Of: Grilling Tales


Later today I’ll be announcing the winner of the What’s New, Cupcake? book giveaways over at Circle of Food (hope you entered when you had the chance). Since it’s a holiday and my schedule always gets a little screwy on these long weekends I thought I’d pull this post from last year on grilling to share.

However you choose to spend the day, I hope it’s a good one. We’ll be grilling brats and hot dogs and having Mom & Molly over for dinner.

* * *

Ah, yes, weather permitting (and even sometimes not), thousands (millions?) of grills across the country will be fired up to char something with family and friends.

My first tip for the grilling-minded is for barbecue chicken and it comes from Mom. She takes leg quarters and marinates them in Italian dressing (straight from the bottle into a large baggie and if you can let it sit overnight in the fridge, even better), to start, and then pre-cooks them a bit in the microwave. Now, don’t shriek, it’s actually an excellent idea since it’s SO tough to get the chicken to cook evenly on the grill without one part getting over cooked or it taking forty forevers. So you par-cook the legs in the microwave and THEN put them on the grill to finish cooking and get that lovely caramelized finish and a good brush with the barbecue sauce of choice.

Did you know that chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees? Now you do. Get out those meat thermometers and make sure the fleshiest bit is up to temperature before serving yourself or your guests. Pork should also always be cooked fully (no pink!) to reduce the risk of trichinosis. Beef and lamb can be cooked anywhere from 140 (rare) to 170 (well done) without too much worry (though why you’d want well-done lamb is beyond me!).

Most recipes suggest throwing out the marinade once it’s been used but you can actually use it for a sauce IF you bring it to a boil and keep it boiling for several minutes (5 is a good number) to “cook” any of the raw meat juices that are in there.

Finally, a true tale of grilling no matter what. It was my high school graduation party and the house was pretty full of guests. The plan had been to grill but the weather was atrocious: rainy and grey. But, the show must go on so Mom changed into her swimsuit and shorts and went outside with an umbrella to tend the grill as needed. Of course, if you’ve got the grill lid in one hand and tongs in the other, how are you going to hold the umbrella? In your cleavage, of course.

So don’t let a little water dampen your party this Memorial Day weekend.