Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Deepen Your Writing with Symbols

February 11, 2014

I turned the page of my book, soaking in the story, silence, and reveling in peaceful solitude. Not total solitude, since my Yorkie, Zoie’s rhythmic breathing relaxed me as she slept in my lap.


Straightening up with a jerk, I woke my deaf dog.

What was a mooing cow doing INSIDE this room?

Could it have been from an electronic device? Perhaps my husband neglected to take his phone with him. I smiled at the irony of this sound in my suburban California home. Maybe Dad was saying hello from the other side? He spent the first half of his life farming with dairy cows in southeastern Wisconsin, and as a baby and toddler I lived on that family farm, too. Hi Dad, I thought, glad he’d retained his sense of humor.

As I settled back into my story, Zoie, reassured by my calm demeanor, snoozed again.


The realistic animal sound came from our family room cupboard. I got up to investigate. Nothing in the stacks of paper, pens, and recipes gave a hint to the mystery. Old video tapes didn’t look as though they’d moo, either. But when I reached Zoie’s dog toys, I knew the puzzle’s answer. A black and white fabric ball must contain the noisemaker. Although it hadn’t worked in years, and I didn’t know it had held a noise device when I threw it in the washing machine, that process could have reactivated it.


Dad greeted me.

I prefer this answer.

Whenever we try to make this ball produce sound effects, nothing happens. But on its own . . .


Writing Prompts:

1. What signs or symbols can you discover within the book you’re reading? Through their repetition, what is its underlying meaning?
2. What sign or symbol can you develop within the project you’re writing? Through carefully placed repetition, your motif may strengthen your theme, characters, and/or plot.
3. Create an artistic representation of your symbol. How does it relate to you? Perhaps this may become another layer of its meaning.

Five Ways to Share Creativity This Holiday Season

December 23, 2013

Seasons Greetings from Oxford University!

Liz’s Artful Prompts:

1. If you are giving gifts this holiday, remember your local independent bookstore, music and art stores. Give imaginatively inspired gifts to everyone on your list.

2. Make time for an artist date. Take yourself and your loved ones to a dance performance, play, art museum, and musical concert.

3. MAKE a present for your loved ones. Homemade is the BEST ever.

4. Joining together with family and friends? Sing together, share poems, and discuss everyone’s creative goals for the next year.

5. Take photos of people and animals at your gathering. Use your inventiveness in your style of presentation of the photos for the participants.

Happy Holidays from me to you!

Holidays Zap Your Writing Time? Discover How to Write during December

December 5, 2013

Looking for the perfect gift for Aunt Edna, Uncle Irving and your mother? Search no more!

Write individual poems, stories or create personal art work for your friends and relatives. A gift made especially for the recipient will be long-appreciated.

In my circle of friends, K crochets me beautiful scarves; W makes jewelry. My son oil paints and takes photographs.

Which creative endeavor will you choose for each person on your list?

**Another creative idea for the people on your list: an autographed copy of an author’s book. If you can’t attend the author’s talk or book signing, find contact information on the web and ask if the author will sign a label for your recipent.


Visit this site for a definition of modern authors!

What secret elements make a quest/adventure book great?

November 25, 2013

If you’d like to read a great new middle grade, choose Clare Vanderpool’s Navigating Early, a quest adventure story about a boy dealing with his mother’s death after WWII. Sent to a Maine boarding school, protagonist, Jack, is unhappy and feeling friendless until he’s intrigued with Early Arden, a unique character with a fascination about pi, who leads him through Appalachia.

Vanderpool’s poetic style lures the reader forward. Here is a scene where they fish with Gunnar, a minor character they meet on their journey. Gunnar carries an emotional, heart-wrenching past.

“You have a fine cast,” called Gunnar.

“I know. My brother taught me before he went to the war.” Early swished his line back and forth. The motion seemed to take him away somewhere.

Gunnar’s expression registered what he knew, what we all knew, of the fate of so many of those brothers who went to war. He looked at me, asking the question he didn’t want to say out loud. Did Early’s brother make it back?

I shook my head in answer. No, Fisher was dead.

Gunnar allowed the quiet to take over as Early moved farther out into the water and into his own thoughts.

Finally, Gunnar spoke, his voice so fluid and moving, it could have come from the river itself. “I once hear a poem about angling. It say when you send out your line, it is like you cast out your troubles to let the current carry them away. I keep casting.”

I liked the sound of that. The river pressed and nudged, each of us responding to it in different ways, allowing it to move us apart and into our own place within it.

Notice the unique dialogue of Gunnar, creating a fully formed person in just a few lines and a second layer of meaning within the words, so you’re not just reading a scene about fishing.

Another aspect which is fascinating about this book is how this Newbery Medal-winning author broke the rules. (In order to break the rules, you must first establish that you know them.) Although in writing adult novels (and nearly always in the movies), authors (and screenwriters) are allowed to fictionalize history for the sake of character and plot. In children’s books, this has been a distinct no-no. Why? We don’t want to confuse nonfiction facts with untruths for kids. But at the end of this book, Vanderpool has a page: PI: FACT OR FICTION? Here she lists the truths about this captivating number, since she has bent the truth within her story.

Writing Prompts:

1. Write a quest/adventure short story with the above elements in mind. Before you begin, think and wonder about your story, developing the plot and characters within you. Daydream, jot notes, and free write about the back story of each character first.

2. Can you write a quest poem? Any style you choose!

3. Create a piece of art with a quest/adventure theme.

4. As you begin reading a book, use post-it notes to mark the scenes that are evocative. Why do they work so well?

US Mint Contest for Artists: Design Coins & Medals

November 20, 2013

The United States Mint is seeking artists interested in taking coin and medal design in new directions and trying new approaches as part of our endeavor to ensure that the designs on United States coins and medals are of the highest quality to best represent our country for years to come.

Application Deadline: Jan 10, 2014

Work Samples to be uploaded by: Jan 28, 2014

Applicants Notified if Selected to Submit a Paid Drawing Exercise: by Feb 28, 2014

See more at:

Dogs In Mourning: Writing About Animals We Love

November 19, 2013

My friend S and her husband X were owned by two adorable Westies, Dolly and Duncan, buddies and comrades in squeaky toys, chew bones, running races in the park and protecting their home. Romping after squirrels, cuddling on the couch and greeting guests with snuggles and kisses, the two were inseparable.

A month ago, twelve-year-old Duncan fell ill with pancreatitis and never recovered. Losing him was a terrible blow to S and X, but even worse on poor Dolly. Instead of her usual zip and zing, Dolly mopes around the house, ignoring outside critters, her sad eyes staring out the window, far into the distance. Is she remembering happier times with her friend, Dunc? How long is mourning for pups? Should they take her to a doggy shrink?

The other day they did take her next door for some r & r to play with her two vivacious pooch friends. The morning after, S answered the phone. The dog’s owner called to describe one of her dogs’ behaviors once Dolly left.

His eyes and tail drooped; he hunched over, refusing his treats. Instead he crawled straight into his dog bed. Placing his head on his paws, an aura of sadness encircled him. No amount of love or comfort helped.

We shouldn’t assume our superiority over all species.

Writing Prompts:
1. Have you ever seen an animal express emotion? How? Communicate with another animal? How have you connected with another species? Write a personal narrative about your experiences.
2. Write a poem or short story with an animal as a major focus.
3. Create a piece of art or shoot photos with animal communication as a theme.

Stories and Art by Students Under Age 12

September 17, 2013

Fridge Flash–Fiction and Art by Kids

SmokeLong Quarterly is excited to announce a new series called Fridge Flash—flash fiction written and illustrated by kids. We are continuously struck by the wonderful spirit and imagination of children’s art and writing, and wanted to celebrate that by pulling those creations off the refrigerator and publishing them here.


Stories, art or a combination of such must have been conceived of and written by someone under the age of 12. However, we would ask that an adult over the age of 18 please submit this work to us with permission to publish it online.
If the piece is a story, whenever possible we would like to see a photograph of the writing itself (scrawls, misspellings, colors and all). Where necessary, the parent or guardian can also provide a “translation” for us!
Please send all attachments as .jpg files.
Please include a short bio and photo of the child (if you prefer us not to use the child’s full name or photo, that’s fine, too—just let us know).
Stories we select will be published here on SmokeLong Quarterly‘s blog.

Submit here:

Summer Cartooning Classes for Kids and Parents

June 12, 2013

Cartoon Art Museum Classes  

Wednesday, July 3, 2013, 11am-1pm – Parent/Child

Class: Superheroes and Supervillains

Wednesday, July 3, 2013, 2-4pm – Parent/Child

Class: Crazy Cut-out Animation

Wednesday, August 7, 2013, 11am-1pm –

Parent/Child Class: Magical Adventures

Wednesday, August 7, 2013, 2-4pm – Parent/Child

Class: Mini-Comic Making

Celebrate the summer with fun classes that will have adults and kids teaming up to create their own cartoons at the Cartoon Art Museum!  The cost of materials and Cartoon Art Museum admission is included in the tuition fee.

Tuition for these classes can be paid through Guestlist.  Space is limited, and advance reservations are recommended:

Wednesday July 3, 2013 – Parent/Child Class: Superheroes and Supervillains

Ages: Parents/Guardians and Children (7 to 12 years old) recommended
Time: 11am to 1pm
Cost: $10 per person (all children must be accompanied by an adult, ideally no more than two children per parent)

Reserve your space:
BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND! In this Adult/Kid combo class we will create our own Hero and Villain characters while learning some of the basics of cartooning.

Wednesday July 3rd, 2013 – Parent/Child Class: Crazy Cut-out animation

Ages: Parents/Guardians and Children (7 to 12 years old) recommended
Time: 2pm to 4pm
Cost: $10 per person (all children must be accompanied by an adult, ideally no more than two children per parent)

Reserve your space:
Get hands-on experience with animation in this class for Parents and Kids featuring stop-animation with paper cut-outs. Participants will break into small groups and be able to create a few simple ‘crazy’ moments under the camera. The final results will be posted on the Cartoon Art Museum’s website the following week.

Wednesday August 7th, 2013 – Parent/Child Class: Magical Adventures

Ages: Parents/Guardians and Children (7 to 12 years old) recommended
Time: 11am – 1pm
Cost: $10 per person (all children must be accompanied by an adult, ideally no more than two children per parent)

Reserve your space:
Create your own world of wizards, monsters, elves and brave heroes! Adults and Kids team up to create their own fantasy characters in this fun interactive cartooning class.
Wednesday August 7th, 2013 – Parent/Child Class: Mini-Comic Making

Ages: Parents/Guardians and Children (7 to 12 years old) recommended
Time: 2pm to 4pm
Cost: $10 per person (all children must be accompanied by an adult, ideally no more than two children per parent)

Reserve your space:
This Parent/Child class teaches how to write and draw a simple comic book story and then to assemble it into a book you can take home with you.

All classes are taught by longtime CAM instructor Brian Kolm of Atomic Bear Press

Cartoon Art Museum • 655 Mission Street • San Francisco, CA 94105 • 415-CAR-TOON •
Hours:  Tues. – Sun. 11:00 – 5:00, Closed Monday
General Admission: $7.00 • Student/Senior: $5.00 • Children 6-12: $3.00 • Members & Children under 6: Free
The Cartoon Art Museum is a tax-exempt, non-profit, educational organization dedicated to the collection,
preservation, study and exhibition of original cartoon art in all forms.


Inspiring Creativity

May 25, 2013

The Landfillharmonic Orchestra

Writing Prompts:
1.  Listen to classical music.  What does it inspire you to write or draw?  Let the sound lead your imagination away!
2.  Choose recycling material.  What art can you create?
3.  Write a poem, song or short story based on something re-created from another object. 
4.  See if music playing while you make your art helps your originality.  Some authors choose one piece of music or one composer to listen to for each project.  Then when they hear that particular song, their brain immediately begins work in that world.  Choose music for the art you are working on now.   

March 21, 2013

The other day we attended an art exhibit from the Dutch masters.  Knowing very little about art history, we soon tagged along with a tour in session to discover the story behind the story.  It turns out one painter, Meindert Hobbema, couldn’t paint people.  In one of his lovely woodland landscapes, there were several farmers and local villagers in the scene.  So what did he do?  He contracted out.  Paid them a fee and that was the end of their services.  No credit at all. 

Reminds me of the world of ghost writing in publishing, or work-for-hire.  One example in children’s books is The Babysitter’s Club.  Although Ann Martin began the series, soon she went off and wrote her own books and other writers penned them.  They did get some credit, however.  Just check the dedication page.  That’s the author. 

Art is also similar to literature in how we read a painting.  On first glance of one shown at the museum, we saw a family seated around a table celebrating a baby’s christening with wine.  One man was lighting a very long pipe.  But to hear the story behind the story, we discover that this pious occasion wouldn’t have been a time for such inebriation. The pipe symbolized something else entirely. The adults in the picture looked like they were having way too much fun.  The woman’s clothing dipped lower than it should have, and her seating position invited more than friendliness.  Who knew?  Today we wouldn’t think twice about it.   In the corner a parrot perched.  It wasn’t merely the family pet, but a symbol.  The artist was saying the children in the picture would learn from the adults’ wild ways, or parrot by example.

Writing Prompts:

  1. Pick up a book you love and parrot or model what you admire about this writer. 
  2. Make a goal of an artist date for yourself once a month.  Or once a week if you can.  See a play or attend a writer or artist event.  Keep a journal of details that impresses you. 
  3. Choose a painting from a book, online or from an exhibit.  Without knowing anything about it, write a short story or poem to go with the art work.