...for readers who love animals, and animal lovers who read!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

How Photos Can Inspire Writing

What's happening in this photo? How
might I use this image to inspire writing?
We've all heard that a picture is worth a thousand words. Here's another angle on that old saw: a photo (or other visual image) may also help inspire and expand ideas. I'm teaching a memoir-writing class right now, and each week I have offered my students some new tools to help them access memories and to enter deeper into the events they want (or need) to write about. Last week, I had everyone bring a photo to "explore" through some questions.

This exercise will work, too, for writers in other genres. For the poet, digging into an image, whether a personal photo or a found image, can pull up fascinating connections and inspirations. For the fiction writer, images of settings, people, animals, or objects can serve to inspire short stories or scenes in longer works, especially when the narrator or a character answers the questions. An image might even provide the kernel for a longer piece of writing. For nonfiction writers who work outside of memoir, images can inspire deeper explorations.

So if you're looking for a way to go deeper, or wider, or to find new ideas, try "interrogating" a photo or painting. Start with these questions:
  • Where is this?
  • When?
  • Why were you there?
  • Who else was there?
  • Did you go there more than once?
  • Did something special happen there?
  • Is some object in the photo significant to you?
  • Is a person or animal in the picture significant to you?

What about this one?
Now dig deeper:
  • What do you hear?
  • What do you smell?
  • What did you eat or drink?
  • What does it taste like?
  • What’s the weather like?
  • What time of day is it?
  • What are you wearing?
  • Who else is there?
  • What do you feel with your hands, your feet, your skin….
  • What emotions do you feel?
And so on....

Give it a try. Let me know how it goes. Send a picture of youself writing!

Key to the photos.... The one at the top is of Sheila and Katy giving a presentation on how to be safe with dogs at a school in Hamilton County, IN. The bottom on is Sheila and Sage making their weekly visit to a special ed class in Noblesville, IN. Sage is thanking a friend for brushing her. That's Sage at the left during another school visit. 

Another memory - Kitty inspects
Sheila's needlework in 1994.
Sheila Webster Boneham writes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, often focusing on animals and environment. She is the author of the Animals in Focus Mystery series. Drop Dead on Recall, the first in the series, won the 2013 Maxwell Award in Fiction from the Dog Writers Association of America Award, and The Money Bird was a 2014 finalist. The fourth book, Shepherd's Crook, will be out this fall. She is also the author of 17 nonfiction books, six of which have won major awards from the Dog Writers Association of America and the Cat Writers Association as well as a number of essays, short stories, and poems. Boneham has shown her Australian Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers in various canine sports and participated with them in canine-assisted therapy. She has bred top-winning Aussies, and founded rescue groups for Aussies and Labs. Boneham holds a doctorate in folklore from Indiana University and an MFA in creative writing from the Stonecoast program at the University of Southern Maine. For more information, visit SheilaBoneham.com.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

5 Surprising things about Santa Cruz, California

by Jennifer Caloyeras, author of Strays

For the backdrop to my novel, Strays, I wanted a serene scene to juxtapose against all of the tension in my novel about a girl with anger management issues who gets sentenced to a summer rehabilitating aggressive dogs. I chose the beautiful city of Santa Cruz, California, located on the coast just above Monterey and just below San Francisco. Here are some things you might not know about this wonderful city!

  1. I went to college there. Yup! I attended U.C.S.C. and majored in literature (no shocker there.) But did you know that U.C. Santa Cruz’s mascot is a banana slug?

  1. Want to play? The Santa Cruz Board is a famous landmark built in 1907, filled with rides and games. It was also the backdrop to the movie The Lost Boys.

  1. Surf’s up! Santa Cruz is often voted number one for best surf spot in the United States . It boasts more than 40 miles of coast and at least 70 places to surf! (I never surfed, in case you’re wondering – I’m too afraid of sharks.)

  1. The trees are incredible! Santa Cruz is nestled in the middle of Redwood forests, which makes is such a beautiful city with great hiking just a few miles away. Big Basin Redwoods State Park is home to the largest collection of Ancient Coast Redwoods south of San Francisco.

  1. Monarch Migration. Hundreds of thousands of monarch butterflies choose to rest in Santa Cruz during their fall migration. Every year, they stop at Natural Bridges State Beach and rest from fall to winter. I’ve visited them before and it is truly a magical site! On cold days, they cover the nearby eucalyptus trees like a blanket. But when the fog lifts, it’s like a butterfly explosion!

Jennifer Caloyeras is a novelist and short fiction writer living in Los Angeles. She holds a B.A. In English from the University of California at Santa Cruz, an M.A. in English Literature from California State University Los Angeles and an M.F.A. in creative writing through the University of British Columbia.            

Her short stories have been published in Monday Night Literary, Wilde Magazine, Storm Cellar and Booth. She has been a college instructor, elementary school teacher and camp counselor. She is the dog columnist for the Los Feliz Ledger and the Larchmont Ledger.
Links of interest: 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Straight from the Parrot’s Mouth

by Lois Winston

Greetings! My name is Ralph. I’m an African Grey parrot, the most intelligent of the species. Anastasia Pollack’s great-aunt Penelope Periwinkle willed me to Anastasia. Penelope was a professor of Shakespearian literature, and I’d regularly accompany her to class. After decades of sitting in on her lectures, I became somewhat of a Bard scholar myself.

I’m also the only pet that truly belongs in the Pollack home. The other two are deadbeat interlopers. Catherine the Great is a corpulent white Persian cat owned by Anastasia’s mother, Flora Sudberry Periwinkle Ramirez Scoffield Goldberg O’Keefe Tuttnauer. Flora claims to descend from Russian nobility on her mother’s side and is a proud Daughter of the American Revolution.

Unfortunately, Flora has had some rather rotten luck when it comes to husbands. Aside from her first husband, Anastasia’s father, who drowned while scuba diving off the Yucatan on their twenty-fifth anniversary, all of Flora’s subsequent husbands have met with untimely deaths shortly after the weddings. When Flora is between husbands, she and her nasty fur ball move in with Anastasia and her family. Luckily, Flora’s latest husband survived the honeymoon, and she and fur ball now live elsewhere. I’m keeping my beak crossed for a long, happy marriage.  

Then there’s Mephisto the Devil Dog. His real name is Manifesto, but who names a French bulldog after a communist treatise? Only Anastasia’s communist mother-in-law, that’s who! Unfortunately, we’re stuck with him and his Bolshevik owner because, quite frankly, Lucille Pollack is an idiot. Last year an SUV ran her down as she jaywalked across a busy intersection. While recovering in the hospital, her apartment building burnt to the ground. Since she doesn’t trust the government and by extension, the banking system, she kept her life savings in shoeboxes under her bed.

After a stint in rehab, she and her mutt moved in with Anastasia and her family to finish her recovery. Anastasia’s husband had promised to foot the bill for a new apartment for his mother, but then he dropped dead in Las Vegas when Anastasia thought he was at a sales meeting in Harrisburg, PA. And that wasn’t the worst of it. Seems Karl Marx Pollack had a hidden gambling problem that left Anastasia not only with debt equal to the GNP of Uzbekistan but also with Lucille and Mephisto.

Anyway, Mephisto and Catherine the Great get along as well as capitalists and communists—or Flora and Lucille. In other words, they fight like cats and dogs, as does Flora and Lucille. I usually sit atop the bookcase and offer play-by-play. Chaos usually rules in Casa Pollack.

And then there are the dead bodies. Did I mention the dead bodies? They’re popping up all over the neighborhood lately.

An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 5

The adventures of reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack continue in A Stitch to Die For, the 5th book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series by USA Today bestselling author Lois Winston.

Ever since her husband died and left her in debt equal to the gross national product of Uzbekistan, magazine crafts editor and reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack has stumbled across one dead body after another—but always in work-related settings. When a killer targets the elderly nasty neighbor who lives across the street from her, murder strikes too close to home. Couple that with a series of unsettling events days before Halloween, and Anastasia begins to wonder if someone is sending her a deadly message.

Buy Links

USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and non-fiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry. Visit Lois/Emma at www.loiswinston.com and Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog, www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com. Follow everyone on Tsu at www.tsu.co/loiswinston, on Pinterest at www.pinterest.com/anasleuth, and onTwitter @anasleuth. Sign up here for hernewsletter