Friday, November 24, 2017

I'm Thankful For...

Happy Day After Thanksgiving!
Me: "I'm going to take a picture."
Dogs: "You're gonna kick us off the couch, aren't you?"

This was Cassandra’s and my first Thanksgiving without Robert. And even though it’s been nearly a year since he passed, every new day only underscores the importance of making the most of the moments we’re given.

Our Thanksgiving was a small, quiet one with just Dad, Cassandra, and me. We had several wonderful friends who invited us to share the day with them, but instead opted to stay home. I spent the greater part of the day hanging out with my dogs on the couch, watching videos when I should have been writing.

One of those videos included the great Thanksgiving PSA earworm of William Shatner “singing” about the dangers of deep frying turkeys. "Dingle dangle." You’re welcome...

Some things for which I am especially grateful this year:

  • My family. Dad lives just down the road and eats dinner with us every night. The other day he said, “I just realized how lucky we are that we all like each other. Not every family can say that.” True. True.
  • Caregivers. My mother is an elder care facility in the strange, gray purgatory of debilitation and dementia that requires Hospice care. She is surrounded by amazing people who make sure she gets three home-cooked meals a day and all the medical care she needs. Dad visits her every day for several hours. I am eternally thankful for those dear souls who are with her 24 / 7.
    Major: the Earred Wonder
  • Friends. After Robert passed away last December, my friends stepped up to the plate and did their best to fill the gaping hole in my life. We’re not guaranteed tomorrow. Today is all we’re given. Today, I am grateful for those who count me as their friend.
  • The animals that make up my extended furry family. This especially includes Major, of the tiny body and enormous ears, who was abandoned at Animal Control at the end of last year, and who came into our home in January for the sole purpose, I believe, of making me laugh.
  • Coffee. Pecan pie. Freshly laundered sheets. Thunderstorms. A hot fire on a cold day. And so much more...
Click to download the full-page .pdf file.
Last year, I had the amazing Karina Dale design a color-it-yourself mandala that I could share with my readers. It was such a huge hit, here it is again -- just click to download the full .pdf file. Enjoy!

Beginning in January of 2018, in addition to the blog, I’m going to send out a short monthly note.

(I don’t want to call it a “newsletter.” That sounds so... stuffy. I’m envisioning it as something more fluid, that shares some of the cool things I’ve run across, helping us stay better connected.)

If you'd like to join me in my monthly "Muse"letter, freshly delivered at no charge in your in-box, please fill in your information in the form provided. Let's stay in touch!

I'm especially thankful that there are things still unexplained and undiscovered. To illustrate: here’s my most recent favorite thing that makes me go “huh?”

May you find something every day to be thankful for.

(Updated 11/26/17: The newsletter sign-up is on the MuseInks blog homepage. If you have blog updates delivered via email, please click link at the bottom that says "You are subscribed to email updates from MuseInks." It will take you to the main page, with the aforementioned form. Thank you!)

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Of "Characters," Composition, and Fierce Creativity

Lately, I've been bemoaning the loss of pre-political social media, when my feed was full of creativity and art rather than outrage. However, something happened recently that made me realize the creative community hasn't vanished.

Stan Stewart (), one of the creatives I connected with on Twitter, is a gifted improv musician.

A few years ago, I tried something new with my writing and created a blog in which I serialized a young adult novel, releasing it in pieces online throughout a school year. I didn't know if anyone would end up reading it.

Well, Stan did, and he liked it. He'd weigh in in the Comments sections from time to time and tell me how much he was enjoying the read. He even recommended the book blog to others.

He wasn't my target audience. I didn't care.

I eventually took the book offline and revised it. An editor for a new publisher read it, liked it, and offered to publish it. I contacted Stan shortly after signing the contract to ask if he'd be willing to do some improv pieces as a cross-promotional thing.

He agreed, then promptly *composed an entire freaking album* as a companion piece to my book. I was thrilled!

The pub date loomed. We planned promos. Then--


The publisher went through growing pains. My acquiring editor left. My book endured four editors, with each edit growing further removed from my original story.

Eventually, the publisher and I parted ways. It was 2015. We didn't yet know that Robert was terminally ill, but we knew he was having serious health issues. So I took care of him and shelved the YA project, which was in pieces.

I felt awful, because Stan got left in the lurch. Time passed. So did my husband. Then, earlier this year, Stan said he'd like to release the album.

In the meantime, I had signed with Agent Awesome. I toyed with self-publishing the YA novel to coincide with the album, but AA seems to think the book may have a future in traditional publishing. So we waits.

In the interim, "Characters," Stan's beautiful, haunting album inspired by my book, is now available. Thirteen gorgeous tracks, each providing the score for a particular character or scene in "Dear Alderone."

Thanks to Stan, I am reminded anew how much I love the vibrant, creative people I meet online. Their generosity, their talent, and their fierce creativity never cease to inspire me.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Kudos to an Early Childhood Heroine: Sesame Street's Joan Ganz Cooney

A note from Ami: My friend, Denise Fournier, is getting her certification in Early Childhood Education. One of her class requirements was to write about one of her heroes in early childhood education. She chose Joan Ganz Cooney. 

Today, as Sesame Street celebrates its 48th birthday, I got Denise's permission to post her paper here:

My early childhood heroine is Joan Ganz Cooney.  She is the primary founder of Sesame Street and is a true early childhood heroine in my eyes.

Joan was born in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1929. She was the youngest of three siblings and was born in an upper middle class family. Her parents were Sylvan, a banker, and Pauline, a homemaker.  She attended Dominican College before transferring to University of Arizona.  She wanted to major in acting but her father did not think this was an acceptable major so instead she studied education because being a teacher was considered an acceptable career for women in those days. She graduated in 1951 and began working as a typist for the state department.

She worked here for a few years before taking a job as a reporter and later a job as a publicist.  While doing this she became involved with educational television.  This topic really interested her and she was surprised to learn it existed.  She later became a producer and produced a number of educational programs.  In the winter of 1966 while hosting a dinner party, Joan and some friends discussed the possibility of creating an educational television program for preschool aged children.

Sesame Street premiered on November 10, 1969 and took the nation by storm.  Children’s television existed at this time but never before had their been a show like this that not only entertained children but also set out to educate them and to help children be prepared for school.  Studies done over the last 35 plus years have shown that children ages 3-5 who watch Sesame Street come to school ready to learn and already knowing many skills that they had not previously knew before Sesame Street premiered.  Teachers have actually had to change how they approach teaching young children due to Sesame Street.
I really feel that Joan Ganz Cooney is an early childhood heroine.  She pioneered something that didn’t exist at her time during a time when women were often not taken seriously.  She saw a need and was not afraid to speak up and point out that need to people who were in control of television and its programs. She revolutionized the way young children view television. Sesame Street prepares children, especially low-income children, for school in a way that no show ever had before. Of course we have educational programs galore now but nothing will ever compare to Sesame Street.
Sesame Street is a show that recognizes that the world is full of all sorts of types of people and these people are featured on the show at any given time.  There are people with special needs, people with various different ethnicities and cultures and families of all different kinds on Sesame Street. Children can always find someone that they can relate to.  When children feel they can relate they are more likely to be receptive to the lessons that are being presented to them.  This and many other things makes Sesame Street an awesome show and makes Joan Ganz Cooney a true early childhood education heroine.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Musings on a Movie Biz 'Do at the French Consulate in Beverly Hills

Last night I attended
What those in the movie business
Call a "party"
At the French Consulate in Beverly Hills.
I, and the other clients of my agency,
Which is hosting a writer's retreat at the Beverly Hilton,
Were invited so that empty seats might be filled
While major French publishers
Touted their wares --
Often in labored English --
To Hollywood, hoping for a movie deal.
Or at least a TV series.

Mingle, we were told.
This is a golden opportunity to meet people.

So --
Though what I really wanted to do
Was return to the hotel
(Hosting its own limo-encrusted extravaganza)
And hole up in my overpriced room,
Lacking both coffeemaker and refrigerator,
And maybe soak my tired feet
In the thimble of a tub
In its pocket-sized bathroom --
I mingled.

I sipped Perrier,
Listening for those fluent enough in English
To be able to strike up a conversation
Without making things more awkward
Than they already were.
I spoke with one producer who was happy to chat with me
Until someone more famous happened along.
But I always ended up being drawn like iron
Back to the magnet of the people I already knew --
Friends of a few hours:
Fellow agency clients.

And then,
Standing around a table,
Backlit by the glow of the swimming pool that
Vainly beckoned for someone --
Anyone --
To make a splash by falling in,
I met a wonderful woman,
Charming. Graceful. Authentic. And real.
She owns a flower shop --
Has owned a flower shop in Beverly Hills
For decades.
We fell into conversation and instantly felt
As if we had known each other

She wore earrings of silver angels
Which had been made in Oxaca
And bestowed upon her by a dear friend,
Now long gone.
We paid homage to loved ones who have left us too soon,
Sang the praises of children we loved who loved to read,
And sampled delicate pastries presented on silver platters.

The world, with its forced minglings, fell away
As she captivated me with photos of the floral art she creates
For clients, well-known and unknown, who love her designs.
And for the first time in all my visits to this part of the country,
I thought, "I love it here."
Because of this lovely soul
Who beautifies the world every day
And who agrees with me that the strawberry-topped lemon cookie wedges
Are just divine.