Think about Elephants

In response to my article about the abandonment of self, one reader left a beautiful comment:

I'm still in that desperate place. I try to give the book a rest, but it will not let me go. Sigh.
--Victoria Dixon


Those words are very haunting. "...that desperate place." I am very familiar with that place; it has gripped me many times. When I thought I was free of it, it'd snag my ankle. I'd shake it loose, and it would grab my arm.

And yet I know that the road of desperation always leads to destruction and despair. People who are so desperate to lose weight push their bodies past their limitations and then overindulge. People who are desperate to make money jump into one get-rich-quick scheme after another until their dreams burn up around them. People who are desperate to find romance scare off every possible love interest before they even get a chance to know them.

Or for another example, a friend of mine wanted children so badly that she and her husband tried every fertility treatment the doctor could offer, to no avail. The doctor finally said, "Stop trying, just relax, take care of yourself, and let's see what happens." So she joined my dance class and went from a size sixteen to a size four over the course of a year. She looked beautiful, and it showed.

One day, I asked her if she had danced for her husband. She got an embarrassed look on her face. "No," she said, "I'm afraid he'll laugh at me." I think my eyes just about bugged out. To even consider that anyone would laugh at her! Her dancing was mesmerizing! So I gave her my music and told her that was her homework assignment. Shortly after that, she didn't show up very often or sent me notes of being too tired. She was pregnant and didn't even know it. Three months later, she had a beautiful announcement to make, and I was overjoyed to find out that she was pregnant with their first child.

There is only one trick I know to fight desperation, and that is change of focus. If someone says, "Don't think about monkeys." Your mind will be filled with monkeys. How cute they are. How silly. How energetic. But if someone says, "Don't think about monkeys; think about elephants." You have something else to focus on.

So when you diet, don't think about the brownies you can't have. Think about what you can have: fresh strawberries over frozen yogurt drizzled with a bit of chocolate. Mmmmmm. Think about savoring each bite slowly as the flavors melt in your mouth.

And rather than thinking about your desperate desire to publish your book, instead think about loving life. Think about long walks in this wonderful autumn weather. Think about playing with your children. Think about dancing in your living room to your favorite music. Think about learning a new craft. Think about good books and movies. Write some poetry. Learn to love your creation for its own sake rather than a means to an end.

And oh yeah, make up a word and write a sentence / paragraph using that word and enter it in my contest. Then laugh with me over the wonderful entries people will come up with. For laughter is our best medicine.

Word Challenge

Randy

adj., -di·er, -di·est.
1. a. Lascivious; lecherous.
b. Of or characterized by frank, uninhibited sexuality.
2. Scots. Ill-mannered.


But is "randiness" a word?

This weekend, I had a fierce argument over this. I said no; he said yes. He won the argument--after gnashing of teeth and the flinging of daggers and the tossing of nasty words and the smashing of pottery. One never wins an argument against the great Carlos J. Cortes, Master Word-Guru.

On my side, I had Microsoft Word and Google; on his side were Merriam-Webster and Oxford dictionaries. I conceded the point when I finally found one site that contained a definition for the word. Besides, he had the better sources. Who can trust Microsoft Word on anything?

"Dear, I’m randy; not the randiest I’ve ever been, but randier than most days. If we don’t do something about it, this randiness will kill me,” she said randily.
--Carlos J. Cortes


This thought occurred to me: Does the argument really matter? Words hold the meaning that we give them. Words are tools to convey ideas and thoughts. If the listener/reader understands the meaning, then what's the issue? Perhaps "randiness" does not need to be a word. Perhaps it just needs to be used in a way that people can understand it.

Grammar gurus still debate over whether "alright" is a word, and I found "ain't" in the dictionary years ago. What about words authors made up, words like Muggles, dren, and frell? I still chuckle about coworkers swearing at their computers in Farscapian.

So my challenge to you is to create a sentence or a paragraph or two using a made-up word. The context must show the readers what this new word means without directly telling us.

1. The competition is open to a paragraph or two containing a made-up word. The meaning of this word must be apparent from the way the word is used.

2. Submit as many entries as you want.

3. All entries must be in English, original, unpublished, and not submitted or accepted elsewhere at the time of submission. CYA maneuver.

4. To enter the contest, post a comment with your entry and then email me your mailing address to rita@ritajwebb.com along with an author's bio. In case you win, I'll need this to send you your prize and to post some information about you.

5. Entries must be submitted by midnight Friday, October 16, 2009.

6. I will choose several of my favorite entries and allow readers to vote to determine the winners. Voting will start Tuesday, October 20, 2009, and run to midnight Tuesday, October 27, 2009.

7. Winners will be announced on this blog shortly thereafter.

8. The first-prize winner will be determined by the entry with the most votes. The winner will receive The Prisoner by Carlos J. Cortes, which is coming out in October 2009, as well as free publicity by having the winning entry and author's bio posted on my blog.

9. The runner-ups will be determined by any entry that I enjoyed but did not receive the top votes. All runner-ups will have free publicity by having their entry and author's bio posted on my blog.

The Artist's Abandonment of Self

Children dance without any thought to how silly they may look. They play with utter abandonment. I have been thinking about this lately as I consider how desperate to succeed I once felt. In facing lay offs, lack of employment, foreclosure, and failure, I turned to an old dream, hoping it would solve all my problems.

It didn't.

I have put hours into my writing, into studying how to write, in sharing my stories with others, in promoting and marketing myself, and I have earned nothing, not even a dollar in exchange for the time put into it. But over the last years, something has changed in me. My goals and desires have changed. I don't write because I want the money--oh, money would be nice--but now I write because I must. I have abandoned myself to the art of expression. I no longer seek book buyers; instead, I yearn for readers just as a child wants playmates.

It's a freeing change. I still wish I didn't have to work two jobs--software testing by day, writing by night--for it has taken its toll on me. But the anxious desperation is falling away, and in its place is passion and peace.

Heaven's Corner Zoo

A couple weeks ago, we took the kids to the zoo, but this was no ordinary zoo, built into someone's backyard. Heaven's Corner Zoo and Animal Shelter was started when one man took in an animal that the owner could not take care of any longer. The compound has since grown to hold wallabies, monkeys, turtles, snakes, lizards, cougars, leopards, jaguars, panthers, tigers, wolves...

The zoo keeper was our personal guide, and he made the experience quite memorable. When the girls wanted peacock feathers, he went inside the fence and collected some. He took us to the bears and fed them peaches. The boy stood up on his hind legs, and the zoo keeper put the peach in his mouth. It rolled to the back of his mouth, and I thought he was going to swallow the thing whole or choke on the thing. But then he spit out the core and placed it carefully on the edge of the fence.

When the big macho male bear refused to get out of the way for the girl, the zoo keeper said, "Get down," like he was talking to a dog. When the male didn't listen, he said, "You know she's going to get mad at you." The bear got down. He seemed to really understand what the zoo keeper was saying.



The nasty-tempered leopard gave us angry looks. "Good morning," the zoo keeper said in the happiest, sweetest voice. The leopard growled. The zoo keeper grabbed the cat's toe. The cat's voice was a deep rumble that I could feel vibrate through the air.



The girls got to hold some snakes. I love those proud little smiles.





My husband is a wolf man. From our earliest days of dating, I learned that his wardrobe consisted of wolf T-shirts and jeans and hiking boots. We stood outside the pen of a two arctic wolves, and TJ howled at the dark gray wolf. This wolf sang back to us a sorrowful song. It sounded as though his heart was in his voice. Like sorrow's song. All the other wolves joined in.





But the best part, for me at least, was the white tiger. He seemed to think he was a kitten, and he played a stalking game with the zoo keeper. The guy sat with his back against the fence, and the tiger crept closer. He lined itself up, crouched, backed up. He was ready to jump but decided the situation wasn't right, so he slunk away only to creep back five minutes later.

It reminded me of my own cat, how she crouches around the corner, waiting to pounce on us, the twitch of her tail, the tense muscles across her back, the way she moves backward to prepare for the final leap. Only the white tiger was 800 pounds; my cat is maybe 10. It was surrealistic to watch as though one image overlaid the other. Like when my friend's daughter smiled at me and it was her father I saw looking back at me.

Belated Talk-Like-A-Pirate-Day Celebration

Argh. Land ho, matey.

How many days ago was Talk Like A Pirate Day? Last Saturday? Sunday? And today is Friday. Yes, I'm a bit behind the times. The days have blended together this month like potato peel in the garbage disposal, and the end result is that this topic has come a bit later than I intended.

OK, I confess I slept through all of last weekend. That happens at times when I am exposed to a substance called gluten. Acting like a drug, it puts me to sleep. Like a drunk pirate in a brothel after months out on the high seas. Enough gluten, and it could knock me out for close to 24 hours. When I finally wake up, I'm a zombie.

Anyway, in belated celebration of Talk Like A Pirate Day, here's an article I came across a long time ago about the piracy of Intellectual Property.

Knowing copyright law is an important part of being an author.

Hope these sites are helpful.

And the best monkey is...

Thank you to everyone for your participation. All of you made this a fun contest, and the entries have made me laugh until I cried.

Congratulations to all the winners! You did a superb job. Wendy and Lauren, your prizes will be in the mail shortly.


1st Place Winner - Wendy S
Entry:
Renee watched the hot tub jets froth beneath the surface, a swirling toilet bowl of relaxation. Across the room, the Men’s room door opened and a massive man stepped out, like some fat guy who just arrived. As graceful as a walrus shoehorned into a tutu, his blubber rippled with every step. Unwrapping his towel, he let it fall to the floor, a discarded wrapper from the mother of all Twinkies. Slipping into the water, his limbs bobbed to the surface, his feet like buoys topped with a line of engorged maggots. The hot tub over ran like a cup that runneth over except for bigger, and with more water. Backing out in a hurry, like a person scared sh**less, Renee stared in horror at his chest hair, a waving mass of seaweed that floated out from his body like so many dead flies. Now, with the water having as much appeal as toxic waste, she hurried to the changing room and lay steaming on the bench like a fresh pile of manure.

Bio:
I have 5 small children and a farm to run so I keep busy. My home is full of books for both myself and my children, and I write in my spare- stolen moments. I have just finished my first YA novel, Cotote Dreams, and am starting on my next, Fire Bug. You can read the first couple of pages in my writing here on goodreads.



2nd Place Winner - Lauren Stone

Entry:
Dennis walked down the hall, like a man cruising a corridor. He reached the door, its hinges shining in the moonlight as if illuminated by a reflected glow. He grasped for the knob searching like a virgin lover. When he finally found the knob he let out a sigh like an asthmatic. He gently pushed on the door like a roll of toothpaste, and squeezed himself into the room as if being born. The room was empty save a small glass bowl that lingered tauntingly on the floor. A puddle of water purged like a bulimic from the bowls lip.

All the world’s a piss bucket and all the men and women in it merely a pile of excrement. They have their entrances and exits, and have somehow been processed and left decaying along the way. Were we to attempt an entrance through an exit we would be blocked by the flurry descending upon us, and pressed further into the bucket. The future for us is inevitable; we are to become a mass of putridity fit for a king.

Bio:
Lauren Stone is an accomplished musical theater actor who is transitioning back into a writer. Already a published poet, she has recently decided to go back to school to hone her skills as a fiction writer. To learn more about Lauren go to www.laurenstone.info.

Runner Up #1 - D.B. Pacini

Entry:
“Pantene,” she sighed apologetically, “to feel your smooth fingers weaving untangled through my silky manageable hair, like golden sunlight quivering through tree branches, to feel your moisturizing lips upon my scalp, like morning dew kissing a rose, to feel your thick richness dripping upon my shoulder, like jam on the chin of a toddler eating a piece of toast, to believe in your promise to make me as beautiful as a dove flying beside a purple lilac bush, to sleep with your intoxicating scent in my tresses, like the smell of nature’s breath in a meadow of wild flowers, it is simply not possible Pantene, my preference is L’Oreal, because I’m worth it.”

Bio:
D.B. Pacini, a California songwriter/vocalist, is the author of two novels, short stories, and poetry. Her youth/YA fantasy novel, THE LOOSE END OF THE RAINBOW, the first novel in her Universal Knights Trilogy, was published by Singing Moon Press, USA in March, 2009. Her contemporary novelette, STERLING COURT CUL-DE-SAC, was published by Turner Maxwell Books, UK in August, 2009. Her stories and poetry is published in Blue Moon Literary & Art Review, USA, and in other literary journals. Her contemporary mainstream novel, EMMA'S LOVE LETTERS, is seeking publication. She is currently writing a third novel, the second in her Universal Knights Trilogy. Pacini is a volunteer writing mentor to teen and young adult writers.

Website: http://www.astarrynightproductions.com

Free Creative Artists Community: http://www.astarrynightproductions.com/creativeartists.htm



Runner Up #2 - Phyllis K Twombly

Entry:
My simian simile is like a wee little monkey
With the jittery java jive of the capuchin, oh.
You'll be agog and agape and you might go ape
Once snappy words, like pooh, start to fly to and fro.

Bio:
My name is Phyllis K Twombly. My website slogan is 'putting fun into scifi.' I've been entertaining people by writing stories since first grade. As soon as I could spell enough words I wrote a short bit about putting one of my brothers on a rocket ship and sending him to the moon. A few years later my Christmas essay was recorded and broadcast over the local radio. I've done a few special interest articles from time to time but only recently began pursuing publication.

I'm the creator of the Martian Symbiont series, which begins with an advanced group of people who return to Earth because a space virus wiped out their women.There are three titles out so far, Been Blued (2007,) Martian Blues (2008,) and Martian Divides (2009.) I plan on publishing the fourth title next year.

Power of the Positive

"Mommy," Makani said, tears in her eyes, "Brandy (name changed of course) said I'm not as smart as she is."

How on earth Makani's intelligence ever came into question is beyond me. The girl was reading chapter books at the age of six and can recite science books about everything from bugs to extinct birds. I once caught her trying to memorize the astronomy facts from a CD that went with a slide show that she had. Anyone who knows Makani sees just how inquisitive and energetic about learning she is.

But ever since school started, Brandy, the girl who lives across the cul-de-sac, has been saying mean things. I'm not sure what is going on in school, but it seems to me that Brandy is feeling insecure. And as a result, she's bringing home an attitude problem. So Makani was reading this nature book instead of playing, and I guess Brandy felt left out.

"That really hurts, doesn't it?" I said.

"I feel like I don't matter," she said. "She was teasing me, and that's not nice."

I gave her a hug.

"Mommy, am I smart?" she asked.

This was one of those moments in a mother's life when everything hinges on what would next be said. Her security, her sense of self-worth, her motivation to learn, her connection to her friend--I held that in my hands.

"It doesn't matter who is smarter," I said. "It doesn't matter whether Brandy is smarter than you or not. What Brandy does has nothing to do with you. What matters is how you love to learn. I admire your inquisitive mind, how you love to explore and read, how you ask questions."

I was having a bad week, feeling really depressed, and here I was giving my daughter the pep talk I needed to hear. Every word I said seemed to slap me in the face. My mistakes, my failures, my misunderstandings don't matter. What matters is my inquisitive mind, my love of learning, my exploration of new things. And most importantly, my ability to get up and try again.

There are times as a writer when I have thought I could never achieve what others have. I'd think I could never fix my mistakes, never get to the point where my writing was good enough to be published, to please an audience. But I am certain that my worth is not in my accomplishments, but rather in who I am. My efforts in writing are for my enjoyment, not to prove my worth.

Communovella

As writers, trying to build a fanbase, we need to learn how to create synergy, relationships, and dialog with our readers. Personally, I think people care more about being heard than they do about listening. So one of the best roads to marketing yourself is to give people a stake in what you offer.

H. Scott Hunt does this on his blog Communovella, which is turning into a really interesting story. Readers determine the plot by making suggestions and then voting on the suggestions. Writer and blogger Hunt then writes the story based on readers' suggestions.

Check out the communovella here and join in the fun.

The Power of Words

When I was a kid, I thought my mom was fat. She always said she was, and I believed her. And I worried about it for myself too--skinny, underweight little girl that I was thought I had chubby legs instead of the bean pole legs I had. Her self-doubt filled me with self-doubt too.

The funny thing is that she wasn't really fat. I've looked at the pictures, and she was quite a beautiful woman. However, she is fat now. She prophesied her own destruction.

So yesterday, Rowena (my middle-child) asks me, "Mommy, are you fat?"

"No," I said. "Why do you ask?"

Rowena said, "Because you look a little fat."

"No," I said again, "I am not fat."

"Well, Mary (a friend of mine, name changed to protect the innocent) said she was fat," Makani jumped into the conversation. Both girls seemed very concerned about this. They were watching my face to see how I handled their questions.

It reminded me of when Makani asked me if I was old. Her grandmother had said she was too old--58 is not old--to play with her. That was four years ago, and today my mom seems much older than she really is. When she visited two weeks ago, she reminded me more of a woman in her late seventies than a woman in her early sixties. Once again, her prophecies came true.

Someone might say it is psychological. Someone else might say it is metaphysical. A Christian might quote the Bible where it says, "Life and death is in the power of the tongue." Someone else might say all of that is true. Whatever you think, words have power--power over our attitudes, power over our actions, power over our results.

If you say, "I'll never be a good writer," or "I'll never hit the best seller list," or "No one will ever read my stories," you might as well be saying, "I hope I fail."

Review of Speaker for the Dead

3,000 years after Ender destroyed the buggers, the human population has expanded to 100 worlds, held together by Star Congress. One colony on Lusitania has discovered the first sentient life form since the xenocide of the buggers. Thus begins a series of events that throws the entire universe into chaos and could lead to another xenocide.



It is so important for a writer to read. Why? Because you learn so much by watching a master at work, pulling the strings to create a dancing marionette right before your eyes. With Speaker for the Dead, Orson Scott Card dances twenty such marionettes in a dazzling display.

I recommend this book for any aspiring writer, but especially for those in the fantasy or sci-fi genres. Here's what I learned from his writing:

Characters
Card's characters are multi-dimensional, flawed, loveable, resourceful, full of emotions and agendas of their own. Every character that you meet has a life of its own. No one is there to support the plot; they all act and move and breathe like real living beings, each unique from the other.

I know in my own writing I try to do this too. But I have not achieved it to the scale he has. While I work with a handful of characters, he has worlds full of them.


Plot
Although it is a character-driven story, Card pieces the plot together as easily as doing a puzzle, putting in the proper information, the right detail, at the perfect--no, the crucial--moment to keep readers turning pages. Or fumbling to put in the next disc while driving down the highway, as the case may be.

Sometimes he interrupts his story--usually between chapters--to include a report from scientists or a dialog between congress men on another planet or a letter between friends. You, the readers, see things that the main characters cannot, and it leaves you in awe of the complexity of the world, the tangled web of sub-plots, the mish-mash of agendas from characters across the entire universe.


Technique
It's hard to see the use of techniques in Card's writing. Not because he doesn't use them, but rather he has created such a fascinating story that you forget to watch for them. But even if you are watching for them, they are subtle, hard to notice. Dialog, point of view, description--all handled like a master fisherman reeling in his catch.


So I highly recommend Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card to readers and writers who love excellent books.

Writing Software

What software tools do you use? I've settled on Microsoft Word--it gives me the most powerful formatting tools for shorter works. But for longer works, I have used a tool called Write It Now, an organizational software for storing information about plot, characters, scenes, and notes for putting together a novel.

I liked Write It Now for many reasons, one being that I am not a very organized writer and this helped me keep track of certain information. I wished it was a little more customizable, and I wished that the writing tool for organizing the chapters worked more like Word. But other than that, I loved it.

Recently--okay, it was today--a friend sent me a link to Scrivener, which looks very similar to Write It Now. It has a lot of great reviews from published authors and looks to be very versatile.

What do you use? And what do you like least or most about it?

Guilty of Dreaming

I am currently reading Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card and came across this quote:

"You had the examination ready," she said. "You were all set to go. You knew that you'd let me do it all along."

He shook his head. "I hoped. I believed in you. I wanted to help you do what you dreamed of doing. As long as it was something good."

She would not have been Nivenia if she had not found one more poisonous thing to say. "I see. So you are the judge of dreams."

Perhaps he didn't know it was an insult. He only smiled and said, "Faith, hope, and love: these three. But the greatest of these is love."

"You don't love me," she said.

"Ah," he said. "I am the judge of dreams, and you are the judge of love. Well, I find you guilty of dreaming good dreams and sentence you to a lifetime of working and suffering for the sake of your dreams. I only hope that someday you won't declare me innocent of the crime of loving you."
-- Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card


Note: I am actually reading this as a book on tape in my car, so these typed words are from dictation. The punctuation and name spellings may be different from what is in the actual printed book.

Pippo was questioning her motivations, forcing her to expose the very core of who she was, and out of that came some powerful dialog. And very intense. You can feel the characters' hatred, fear, anxiety. Card does an excellent job playing up the struggle between the two characters.

I wanted to share every word of this scene here in this blog. Partially, to analyze the dialog from a writer's perspective. But mostly to consider the wisdom of what was being said. Card seems to really be a philosopher at heart, and he's using his story to share something very profound with us without falling into exposition.

Dreams. Something that I crave to follow. And it is my hope in my writing to push people to find their dreams, to follow them, to give them hope, to reach into an empty place deep inside and make that place ache with longing for something more than this world has yet offered.

Which is the very thing that this sentence did to me: "I find you guilty of dreaming good dreams..."

So I want to ask you what Card's character Pippo was asking Nivenia: who are you?

"What I wanted to hear," said Pippo softly, "was the name of what you are rather than all the things that you are not. What you are is the Hive Queen. What you are is the Speaker for the Dead. It is a very small community—small in numbers—but a great hearted one. So you chose not to be part of the bands of children who group together for the sole purpose of excluding others, and people look at you and say, 'Poor girl, she is so isolated.' But you know a secret. You know who you really are. You are the one human being who is capable of understanding the alien mind because you are the alien mind. You know what it is to be un-human because there has never been any human group that gave you credentials as a bona fide homo sapiens."
-- Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card

Vote for Your Favorite Monkey!

I have 4 monkeys--er, I mean, finalists--and 5 entries for you to vote on. Voting starts Thursday, September 3rd and will run until midnight on Thursday, September 10th.

Everybody gets one vote, so use it wisely. If you think yours is the best, then by all means vote for yourself. The point is you do only have one vote, so please be honest. This is for prosperity after all.

Lauren's 1st Entry

Dennis walked down the hall, like a man cruising a corridor. He reached the door, its hinges shining in the moonlight as if illuminated by a reflected glow. He grasped for the knob searching like a virgin lover. When he finally found the knob he let out a sigh like an asthmatic. He gently pushed on the door like a roll of toothpaste, and squeezed himself into the room as if being born. The room was empty save a small glass bowl that lingered tauntingly on the floor. A puddle of water purged like a bulimic from the bowls lip.


Lauren's 2nd Entry

All the world’s a piss bucket and all the men and women in it merely a pile of excrement. They have their entrances and exits, and have somehow been processed and left decaying along the way. Were we to attempt an entrance through an exit we would be blocked by the flurry descending upon us, and pressed further into the bucket. The future for us is inevitable; we are to become a mass of putridity fit for a king.


Wendy S.

Renee watched the hot tub jets froth beneath the surface, a swirling toilet bowl of relaxation. Across the room, the Men’s room door opened and a massive man stepped out, like some fat guy who just arrived. As graceful as a walrus shoehorned into a tutu, his blubber rippled with every step. Unwrapping his towel, he let it fall to the floor, a discarded wrapper from the mother of all Twinkies. Slipping into the water, his limbs bobbed to the surface, his feet like buoys topped with a line of engorged maggots. The hot tub over ran like a cup that runneth over except for bigger, and with more water. Backing out in a hurry, like a person scared sh**less, Renee stared in horror at his chest hair, a waving mass of seaweed that floated out from his body like so many dead flies. Now, with the water having as much appeal as toxic waste, she hurried to the changing room and lay steaming on the bench like a fresh pile of manure.


D.B. Pacini

“Pantene,” she sighed apologetically, “to feel your smooth fingers weaving untangled through my silky manageable hair, like golden sunlight quivering through tree branches, to feel your moisturizing lips upon my scalp, like morning dew kissing a rose, to feel your thick richness dripping upon my shoulder, like jam on the chin of a toddler eating a piece of toast, to believe in your promise to make me as beautiful as a dove flying beside a purple lilac bush, to sleep with your intoxicating scent in my tresses, like the smell of nature’s breath in a meadow of wild flowers, it is simply not possible Pantene, my preference is L’Oreal, because I’m worth it.”


Phyllis K. Twombly

My simian simile is like a wee little monkey
With the jittery java jive of the capuchin, oh.
You'll be agog and agape and you might go ape
Once snappy words, like pooh, start to fly to and fro.

Kat's Monkey



It's wonderful having a friend who is an artist. Kat has given me many opportunities to study her work, and she always surprises and delights me. So much personality in her work. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do.