Tag Archives: for fun

Inspiration and Creative Expression

People often ask me where I get my story ideas. Some assume they are ripped from the lives of my family and friends, to which I reply, “Of course!” I say this because, in some form, my experiences certainly influence my work. However, I also find inspiration in a good song lyric, a wonderful quote about love or life, interesting documentaries, and art.

This week, I had the opportunity to visit the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. Wow! I am awed by the creative genius of so many people, who combine every day things (including trash) to make something that is both visually exciting and often educational.

When I sit down to write, I try to do the same thing with words. I think, however, that as powerful as words are, and as much as they can stimulate the imagination of readers in infinite ways, when words are combined with other art forms (like music or paint or video), their power multiples exponentially.

 

 

     

Perhaps one day I’ll take on the challenge of writing a screenplay so I can create something that combines words, photography, and music. The trifecta! For now, I have to settle for Pinterest boards and Spotify playlists to give my readers a multimedia experience of my stories.

If you’re interested in seeing and listening to my vision, check out my extras page!

XO-Jamie

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Summer Reading Recommendation

I haven’t offered a reading recommendation on my blog in quite some time, but I’m inspired to do so today. I spent the better part of my free time this past weekend reading Elinor Lipman‘s On Turpentine Lane. This author had been highly recommended by many, but I’d never actually read her work until now.

To orient you, here is the book blurb:

At thirty-two, Faith Frankel has returned to her claustro-suburban hometown, where she writes institutional thank-you notes for her alma mater.

It’s a peaceful life, really, and surely with her recent purchase of a sweet bungalow on Turpentine Lane her life is finally on track. Never mind that her fiancé is off on a crowdfunded cross-country walk, too busy to return her texts (but not too busy to post photos of himself with a different woman in every state). And never mind her witless boss, or a mother who lives too close, or a philandering father who thinks he’s Chagall.

When she finds some mysterious artifacts in the attic of her new home, she wonders whether anything in her life is as it seems. What good fortune, then, that Faith has found a friend in affable, collegial Nick Franconi, officemate par excellence…

Ms. Lipman has drawn a wonderful, kooky cast of characters and combined it with great wit, snappy dialogue, and a nice little mystery to keep you guessing. This is the first book I’ve read in a while that I resented having to put down throughout the day in order to attend to chores and other matters.

My only quibble with the story is the fact that, at times (especially the first half), Faith could be somewhat dim-witted when dealing with Stuart (although she did wise up before the halfway point in the story). In all other regards, she was quite worthy of affection for the way that she handled her family and co-workers. Her neuroses made her quirky in the best way.

I thoroughly enjoyed the story’s secondary characters, all of whom were well-developed and interesting. The Frankel family certainly encountered its fair share of drama–some manufactured, some real, and always portrayed with real warmth and endearing peculiarity. There were several moments when I laughed aloud and recognized some of my own family dynamic being played out on the page.

If you enjoy humorous fiction with a hint of romance and mystery, I highly recommend this book. If you grew up in a big, nosy family, I also recommend this book!

And although it wasn’t a romance, Faith’s friend/crush Nick will make your heart flutter with his humor and thoughtfulness. Without spoiling anything, let me also add that I was extremely glad with how Faith’s mother ultimately handled her marital woes!

Now I’m off to decide which other of Ms. Lipman’s other books I should read next.

xo-Jamie

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Summer: Bring It On!

Here comes summer!

Temperatures have jumped dramatically. My kids are currently taking finals. And the gardens are in full bloom. Yes, summer is officially here. As usual, our family calendar is stuffed with various out-of-town sports and leadership camps, as well as pleasure trips and family visits. My car will gain thousands of road-warrior miles, along with plenty of battles for control of the radio. But wait! This is supposed to be a season to kick back and relax, right? Yet you can probably feel my anxiety tripling because I’m unconvinced I can balance family time with my work obligations. Add to that the pressure to “have fun” and all of the hiding from the sun to prevent skin cancer and premature aging, and summer can be anything but relaxing.

This year, I’m determined to map out a daily plan so that I can both accomplish my work and enjoy my kids’ time off. They’re teens now, and I know I only have a few precious years left before they no longer spend their summers in this house. That thought forms a lump in my throat, so I won’t dwell on it.

I look forward to reconnecting with my cousins in Virginia, Maryland, and on Hilton Head Island. I also look forward to hearing about my kids’ adventures at camp (which hopefully won’t be tales of misadventures!). I have a lengthy “to be read” list that I hope to tackle at the beach. Grilling and eating outside is always one of my favorite things about summer evenings. And I’m particularly fond of the summer day dress. Is there anything more comfortable on earth? I doubt it.

So I’m breaking out the bright nail polish and reminding myself to smell those gorgeous roses in my yard.

What’s your most-anticipated summer activity? And tips for keeping cool on a hot, busy afternoon?

xo-Jamie

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April Fool’s Pranks

Happy April Fool’s Day! I’m not much of a prankster these days, but when I was younger, my stepfather and I used to try to sneak up and surprise the other. I’ll admit, he won the best “scare” attack of our ongoing battle.

One school night in the early-mid 80s, my mom and he went to bed about thirty minutes before I did. When I finally got sleepy, I climbed the stairs–arms loaded with school books–without turning on the lights, as was my custom. On the left side of the top of the stairs was a set of double doors that opened to a hallway that led to two bedrooms (including mine, which sat at the far end of that hall). The right wall of that hall had a built-in set of drawers with a marble top for folding things, which unit was flanked by two sizable closets. That particular night, unbeknownst to me, my rather large and clumsy stepfather had crawled up onto that slab and huddled in a ball–hidden by the closet walls–and was quietly waiting for me to appear. If you could see that space and know his size, that feat alone is remarkable. When he heard me come through the double doors and start down the hall, he screamed and flailed his arms about, nearly toppling off his perch. My books flew into the air and I fell to the floor, heart pounding, flopping like a fish on dry land, spitting out the words, “That. Was. The. Best. Scare. Ever!” My mother came rushing through the house, yelling at him for giving me a heart attack. He was laughing so hard, he was bent over, unable to breath. Good times, I tell ‘ya.

Yes, we were a bit twisted, and I probably wouldn’t enjoy that kind of scare today nearly as much as I did back then. But I still smile when I remember that prank.

He died almost fourteen years ago, and I haven’t engaged in any kind of real prank in at least a decade. My kids are teens now, so maybe it’s time I did. It’s not child abuse to torment your kids a little, is it?

To prepare, I did a little web browsing, hoping to poach a clever idea from people with more practice. Some good pranks I discovered include: putting tape over the sensor at the bottom of a mouse or the TV remote, making caramel covered onions and watching that first bite, turning someone’s clock ahead by an hour while they are asleep, putting a donut box with veggie snacks on the table, and texting someone “What’s your ETA?” when you have no plans.

While cute and not too time consuming, none of those ideas strikes the right chord for me and my family. I’m hoping you might have a suggestion. Make it quick, ’cause I’m running out of time!

xo-Jamie

 

Losing Control vs. Letting Go

I confess, I like to control my environment. In fact, one of my favorite things about writing is that I can dictate every single aspect of my characters and their lives. If only my children and husband would give me that same power!

Since my 50th birthday this past fall, however, I’ve begun to accept that I can’t actually dominate anything but my own thoughts and actions, and that attempting to extend that reach is exhausting. I finally see the difference between losing control and letting go. I can’t exactly “lose control” over things I never truly governed in the first place, right? Meanwhile, “letting go” means having faith that, even without my interference, things will eventually work out for those I love.

It’s not easy. I’m not always gracious about it, either. It’s hard to bite my tongue. Sometimes things like “Try it this way” slip out. Why? you ask. Well, in my mind, I’m deeply invested in the people I love, and trying to help is one way of showing my love and commitment. But I understand that my habit can be annoying—or worse, insulting—to others. In other words, it has the opposite effect of my intentions. Thus the newfound attempt to “roll with it.”

A potential bonus of my new attitude is that a more flexible approach should also help me remain happy in my career. The publishing industry is in constant flux, which is difficult for someone with my preference for structure. And unlike my former legal career, where you could rely on hard work to achieve certain results, in publishing, you can work extremely hard and still not get to where you are trying to go. Opportunity, luck, and subjectivity play important roles in this profession, none of which are in my control. So, like the beloved Dory advises, I “just keep swimming.”

I assume some of you are like me (controlling) and others are more relaxed. I invite those who fall into the latter category to offer me some advice on how to chill out!

xo-Jamie

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