Friday, April 24, 2020

Ways to Nurture Your Creative Spirit

We all started writing because, well, we love to write. In a larger sense, most authors love to create. The problem is, sometimes life takes over and flips off that creative switch, at least temporarily. Maybe we're under immense stress or just dealing with the daily grind. Maybe we're sick or simply exhausted.

Maybe (and here's the big one), maybe we've turned our inspiring, creative writing outlet into a business with deadlines and commitments to readers, publishers, or both. Or maybe it's just self-imposed writing times and targets. I'm not saying these aren't useful. Goals are good. Habits are helpful. Schedule and structure can prompt inspiration.

But if writing has become a task on the to-do list or an obligation hanging over you, your creative spirit may need a little extra nourishing. Read on to discover some ways to rekindle your creative spark and feed that energy back into your true love--writing. You might just discover other loves along the way!

Know what inspires you

Start out by making a list of all the activities that nurture your creative spirit. Here's some of mine, to get you started. You'll notice some provide quick bursts of serenity and creativity while others require more of a time commitment.

Play a musical instrument: piano, guitar, harmonica.

I don't play all of these well. Piano is probably my best, but I've noticed when I try something I'm not so great at I experience a different surge in creativity. I also feel a stronger desire to create, possibly because my ability to create with that instrument is stymied by my lack of skill.

Paint or Draw

I've discovered I love to paint and draw. I feel a freeing of tension and a huge desire to create. I often explore my emotions through painting and drawing, even though I still don't really know what I've doing. Often themes from my stories creep into my art and vise versa, so the inspiration can build on itself.

Spend time in Nature

A walk, hike, bike ride, or run outdoors can do a ton to spark the creative spirit. Feel the wind rush over you. Listen for birds and for small animals scampering through crackling leaves. What do you smell? How does the sun feel on your skin? Try canoeing or swimming, too. Swing like you did when you were young. All these things can fill your spirit and feed your ability to be creative. Not to mention getting your heart pumping, which will sharpen your mind.

Mini meditation

Sometimes we don't have time for all the creative activities we need. Here's a quick meditation technique designed to relieve stress and fill your spirit. Pause, take a deep breath, close your eyes, and imagine what you would paint if you were painting. Feel the brush in your hand. Imagine it tracing across a huge canvas, filling in flowers or sky, whatever would be next in the creation. 

The important things is the deep, freeing focus of this meditation. Picture the painting in your mind. Imagine the changes unfolding as you make them mentally. Even if you don't have an active painting going in real life, this brief meditation can be an effective way to soothe your spirit and spark your desire to create.

Make Time for Nurturing Your Creativity 

It's easy to set your own needs on the back burner when there's so much going on in the world at large and so much to take care of in your own small corner. But you will have more energy and peace of mind if you take care of yourself. For many people, creating is an essential part of wellness.There's something exhilarating, freeing and balancing about expressing yourself through the arts. 

Make time for it. Pencil it in like you would a vital appointment with your doctor. Show up. It matters. Keep commitments to yourself. When you show up, inspiration will strike.

How do you nurture your creative spirit?

Monday, April 20, 2020

Creative Work in Stressful Times (or, It's Not Just Me, Right?)

I’ve been thinking about managing creative work in stressful times, and about the struggle to find creative focus, creative energy, creative purpose. (Surely I’m not the only one struggling?) I get snatches of focus from time to time, and dare to delight in feeling hopeful once again – I don’t mean hopeful in a whole existential or spiritual way… I haven’t lost that, by the grace of God. I mean simply feeling hopeful that I’ll be able to write, to do meaningful creative work once again. But you know, that hope keeps getting dashed.

As I finished my 12-hour shift at the hospital yesterday, I was hopeful – tired, but hopeful – because I have several days off ahead of me, and my work-in-progress is finally calling loudly enough again that I’m hearing it over the noise. The creative spark is there! Or, it was there. But then, news last night of a mass shooting, perhaps Canada’s worst ever. Such events are rare in Canada, and I’m far from numb to such horrors. (Does one ever become numb to such horrors? I hope not.) It shook me. So this morning, once again I’m looking for light, looking for focus, looking for the mental energy to create and the ability to believe creating is a worthwhile endeavour. So yeah, that’s my Monday morning so far…

I’ve no advice to offer, because what do I know about anyone’s struggles, but I thought I’d share what’s helping me lately, as I try to find my way back to reading and writing in these strange days. And so, a list! It’s all very specific to my own experience, and YMMV, but I offer it in the hope someone might relate to it or glean a little something helpful from it.

What I’ve Learned in 2020 So Far: A Personal List  
  1. Lowering my expectations doesn’t mean giving up; it means adapting.
  2. Change means stress, and stress takes energy; it’s okay to sleep late, to nap, to give in to insomnia and watch Doctor Who until four in the morning. See number 1 above.
  3. Books are written one word at a time, one sentence at a time, one paragraph at a time. Small steps forward are still steps in the right direction.
  4. Audiobooks and verse novels are portals back to my beloved habit of reading when I’ve been otherwise unable to focus long enough to engage with story.*
  5. Mental meandering is essential for me. There’s a difference between “filling the creative well” and clogging up my thoughts with constant input (social media and news apps refreshed at alarming rates, podcasts, audiobooks, music). I need to turn things off sometimes, and make space to wander in the quiet.
I do wonder how you’re all doing. Have you found something that works for you right now? Have you found the support you need? Are you struggling? Are you coping well and managing to support others? Are you able to focus on creative work? Are you reading, or are you longing for the time when you’ll be able to focus on reading again?

Sending love to you all. Stay well, my friends.

*I just finished listening to the audio of Joy McCullough’s MG novel, A Field Guide to Getting Lost (delightful—I loved it!), and I’m currently reading K.A. Holt’s Redwood and Ponytail (so good, and the structure is brilliant).

Monday, April 13, 2020

Interview with Tania del Rio, author of Warren the 13th

Today I'm thrilled to chat with Tania del Rio, author of the Warren the 13th series! Her latest book, The Thirteen-Year Curse, came out last month!

Let's dive right in. What should new readers know about the world of Warren the 13th?
The Warren the 13th series is about a hardworking boy who is the lone bellhop, fixer-upper, concierge, maid service, and manager of his family’s ancient hotel. He does it all, with no thanks to his lazy uncle and evil aunt, who may or may not be a witch. Warren starts off the series as a lonely boy who is trying to honor the memory of his dead father but through the course of his adventures he gains new friends—and enemies—and unlocks some surprising mysteries about his beloved hotel!

What should readers expect in this latest volume? Can you give us any scintillating details w/out spoilers?
It’s tough to say too much without spoiling anything, but I can say Warren’s adventures take him to uncharted territory upon the open seas. His beloved pet and best pal, Sketchy, is kidnapped and Warren must solve riddles and clues if he has any hope of rescuing his friend. Along the way he’ll contend with ornery pirates, sea witches, and circus clowns—not to mention an enormous beast known as The Great Eight!

What has been the best part of working on Warren the 13th?
I love the zany cast of characters and seeing where Warren’s adventures take him. Even though I work from a detailed outline, as I write new surprises often pop up and I find myself adding things in I’d never expect. Also, collaborating with Will Staehle, the designer and illustrator of the book, is a lot of fun.

Tell me more about the illustrator. You're also known for your amazing illustrations, so how did that partnership work?
Will and I have known each other since we were freshmen in art school, many years ago! We’ve had a lot of creative collaborations over the years, including creating a small press comic company, and editing a tutorial book on manga style art. Will originally conceived of the character of Warren in art school and shared the concept with me. I actually wrote the earliest draft of Warren’s story back in 2004! So it’s been a very long process bringing it to shelves. Even though I am also an illustrator, Will’s incredible design sense and his unique style is the only way Warren could ever be brought to life. My own art style just wouldn’t work for this project.

What are you working on next?
I’m currently working on a new middle grade adventure that is best described as Latinx Sailor Moon meets Coco. It’s about three friends who end up in a darkened world populated by alebrijes, colorful and folkloric animals. The girls must band together to restore the sun and find their way home, before all is lost.

How can readers get in touch?
I can be reached on Twitter, @taniadelrio and Instagram, @taniadelrioauthor. I absolutely love hearing from my readers, so please visit me online!

Tania Del Rio is a professional comic book writer and artist who has spent the past 10 years writing and illustrating, primarily for a young audience. Her clients include Archie Comics, Dark Horse, and Marvel; she is best known for her work writing and drawing the 42-issue run of Sabrina the Teenage Witch. She is also the author of the WARREN THE 13TH series published by Quirk Books. She lives in Los Angeles. Visit her online at

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Why We All Need to Read Children's Books Now

I'm two days late posting my scheduled post, mostly because I find the days are rolling together in such a strange way that I have lost complete sense of what day of the week it actually is!

I've also discovered that I can read and clean, but that my writing is slow and plodding. You might be like me, or perhaps you are writing the next great book. If that is the case, I salute you!

But today I thought I'd talk about why we should all be reading children's books now.

I recently read Katherine Rundell's wonderful wee book, WHY YOU SHOULD READ CHILDREN'S BOOKS, EVEN THOUGH YOU ARE SO OLD AND WISE.

Why You Should Read Children's Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise

Rundell is an amazing #mglit writer from the U.K., and she writes movingly in this chapbook about how adults cast aside children's books at their own peril:

Children's Books are not a hiding place, they are a seeking place. Plunge yourself soul-forward into a children's book: see if you do not find in them an unexpected alchemy; if they will not un-dig in you something half hidden and half forgotten.

As we isolate from one another in our homes, can there be nothing finer than rediscovering a long-lost friend who is just waiting to reveal some nugget of truth we might have missed as a child?

Can we not read the latest wonderful middle grade novel and learn some universal truth of life that reminds us that we are all in this together?


Do we not need to escape to fantasy worlds in which protagonists do slay their dragon, or where families work together to solve problems? Do we not need tales of other cultures and ways of living so we can live another's life if only for a few hours?

Do we not need to chuckle at the absurd, root for the underdog?

Do we not need to look at history and learn from other times through the questioning lens of childhood? Do we not need to walk in another's shoes?

So I beg you: find that old friend!

Call you local indie bookstore whose offering curb side pickup and ask them to recommend the best kid lit on their shelves right now and have it delivered to your doorstep.

Revel in tales told with a caring that only a children's author can bring. 

Delight in the messages of hope and honour.

And encourage every adult you know to do the same. 

You want comfort? Children's books have it in spades.

As Rundell writes so beautifully:

When you read children's books you are given the space to read again as a child: to find your way back, back to the time when new discoveries came daily and when the world was colossal. before your imagination was trimmed and neatened as if it were an optional extra.

And please, order Rundell's book. It is a gift!

Stay safe!!!