Wow, what a bummer of a day.  I was so depressed I cried tears THROUGH my yoga mat.

Then I couldn’t get into writing.  In a way that was a blessing because I did some clean-up work on the entire manuscript.  Stuff like fixing headers and capitalizing chapter titles, making it all the same font again.  (The diary entries were orignally written in a different font.)

Hopefully the housework is all done.

I also did a fair amount of reading over some printed pages of the manuscript.  I hit a snag spot though.  It’s a place I keep running up against and it’s a stubborn problem.  I knew it needed individual attention and I wasn’t up to it today.  So I skipped those chapters and read ahead.

Eventually the much-needed nap came on.  After two hours of freedom, I woke up and faced the music again.

I felt able to take it on.  I fiddled with my library of writing books, tried looking for answers in other children’s books.  It wasn’t till I sat down and started writing about it that I came up with two good old standby pieces of advice:




As I wrote about the problem (I love it how writing problems are often best dealt with in writing–although talking them out is also helpful) it became clear to me that this problem would be solved by addressing earlier issues in the manuscript.  It’s like, I had my kids accept their situation too readily.  I had to sow seeds of doubt in their minds in order to keep the action moving forward at this perennial snag point.

That means I’ve got some serious rewriting, but it can be done.  What a relief.  The other beauty of it is that it can come back up again at the end of the book for a nice little twist and resolution.


Someone asked me if I have any tips on writing.  The brief answer is yes.

But you know me by now, I can rarely be brief.

As I thought about it over the past few days (it’s more efficient to think than to act sometimes–perhaps all the time), I realized that my writing tips were very similar to my drawing tips.

Since I’ve already written them– I made a list of drawing tips for the boys when I was teaching in the prison–I will be an efficient act-er and not reinvent the wheel.

Here are my drawing tips and you can adapt them to the art of writing:


by Sue

31 August 2011

1) PRACTICE! Draw daily if possible.

2) Keep it simple. Eliminate unnecessary details.

3) Plan ahead. Map out the subject – make sure the drawing will fit on the page.

4) Don’t focus on details first. Work on different areas of the drawing to make sure you have angles, sizes, and spaces correctly placed before going on to details.

5) Pay attention to directions, sizes, angles, negative spaces around the subject.

6) Pay close attention to direction changes – like fur, hair, and feathers.

7) Draw what you love and draw it often. If you like birds, draw them all the time.

8) Warm up before beginning “important” work. Your first drawings of the day may not be your best work. You don’t have to love every one of your drawings.

9) Get to know your reference material. In a way, you should build a relationship with the subject. Learn to observe accurately, i.e. where light, shadows, and reflections are. Learn how things grow, like hair and tree branches.

10) Remember that you are the artist. Often you will want to stick close to your reference material, but your drawing should be your own expression. It doesn’t have to be a reproduction of a photo. Make the drawing look good on its own, independent of the photo.

11) Learn from other artists’ work. Be inspired by new and old masters. By imitating others’ work and techniques (and with practice) your own style will emerge.

12) Your response to your world is a personal thing. If others like your art – great! Be careful with whom you share your art. Learn to love your own marks.

If it's too clean it means you didn't use it.

If it’s too clean it means you didn’t use it.

I have hundreds of art supplies, but I usually only use a few of them.

This box is perfect for travel, but I end up using it around the house all the time.

I use a pencil to draw the initial picture, then I use watercolor pencils throughout the process.  At the end I use them to accentuate the details.

Most of my work is done in little sketchbooks, so I don’t usually need my large palette full of colors.  But when I do larger works, I love to use my Robert Simmons Sienna brushes.  These little Niji waterbrushes are excellent for small works. 

Today's face.

Today’s face.

I don’t know why I always draw and paint faces.  I think it’s because I’m trying to figure life out and I’m looking for answers or insight in the faces I draw. Maybe that’s it; maybe not.


In March I always think of my artist journals and my dad’s birthday.  I remember the weather.  And I often write poetry in March . . . 


Which brings me back to writing.  I’m supposed to be on a marathon “write” now, so I shall return to it.


The pine tree before Maggie broke off its lower branches chasing the squirrell.

It’s gone for the moment, but it always comes back.

I took this picture about two months ago.  When I went out in the morning there was all this hoar frost all over.  It’s the coolest frost I’ve ever seen.

Close-up of empty bird feeder (just before I re-filled it) covered with hoar frost.

Close-up of empty bird feeder (just before I re-filled it) covered with hoar frost.