Monthly Archives: January 2017

Guest Post: Proofreading Top 10 checklist by Suzanne Rogerson

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Guest Post: Proofreading Top 10 checklist by Suzanne Rogerson

A big thank you to Suzanne Rogerson for this wonderful article, which appeared previously on her own blog.

Suzanne Rogerson Fantasy Author

Proofreading is one of the hardest stages of writing for me. I love drafting and editing, but to read each word and sentence and analyse it’s components is difficult. It’s too scientific for my creative brain, but an important process that needs to be done before considering publication.

Back in August last year, I devised a checklist to tackle the final proofread of Visions of Zarua. My original post was here.

Looking back, I’m quite pleased with it as a ‘how to’ guide. It worked brilliantly for me, but I do have to warn you that a couple of tiny errors still slipped past this stage (slap wrist). Luckily with KDP & Createspace it’s a simple matter of updating the corrected file and within 24 hours the revised book is on sale. However, we should all aim to produce the best book we possibly can from the start and there really is no…

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Video of the Week: Quadruple Spiral

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Tuesday Photo Challenge – Abandoned

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Tuesday Photo Challenge – Abandoned

Ooo…a new photo challenge (new to me, anyway). And I love the prompt! (Even though I’m responding on a Wednesday…)

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Wordless Wednesday: Palo Verde

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Wordless Wednesday: Palo Verde

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Photo by ARHuelsenbeck.

TUESDAYS OF TEXTURE | WEEK 4 OF 2017

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TUESDAYS OF TEXTURE | WEEK 4 OF 2017

My offerings for De Monte y Mar’s Tuesdays of Texture challenge:

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Photography by ARHuelsenbeck.

For Bloggers: How to Post Every Day

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For Bloggers: How to Post Every Day

In 2016 I published at least one post on ARHtistic License every day.

I’m not bragging. I’m just saying it’s doable.

Is it necessary to post every day? No.

Then why do it?

  • Because I’d like to reward my loyal followers by giving them something new to see every time they show up.
  • Because meeting a daily deadline documents an established consistency.
  • Because posting everyday has made me a content-generating ninja.
  • Because I want my blog to stand out. (Most of the blogs I love and follow regularly—see “Blogs I recommend” in the right-hand sidebar—post new articles daily.)

Isn’t it time consuming? Yes, but you can learn to work efficiently.

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Steps to daily posting:

  1. Determine the purpose of your blog. The innovators who invented the web log (blog is a contraction of those two words) in the early days of the internet conceived it as an online diary. However, bloggers soon realized that the medium has limitless potential. It can be used to transmit ideas, information, and opinions. It can also be used to sell stuff. In my case, I use ARHtistic License to connect with other creative people. Also, I’m hoping to establish a following of readers who enjoy my writing and might want to buy my future books.
  2. Kristin Gallant color-creative-ideas-design-illustration-brain-colorful-7c6fc3d21551e01f7804e2e675f2a63e-h

    design by Kristin Gallant

    Choose a theme. What is an area that interests you, that you wouldn’t mind working on to achieve a degree of expertise? Although you can post about anything you want, even if it doesn’t apply to the theme, having a focus will help “brand” your blog, and can attract the readers you’re hoping to reach. ARHtistic License’s theme is the arts and the creative process.

  3. Create an editorial calendar. Here is the first secret to daily posting: not every post needs to be a major undertaking. A post can be 10 words—or 2000. 500 words is a good length—quickly readable, and long enough to achieve some depth. Occasionally a topic might call for 1000 words, but online attention spans are short, so don’t make long posts a habit. That said, how many major posts a week do you want to write? For ARHtistic License, it’s two. That keeps me challenged, but leaves me a little bit of time to work on my book projects.

On other days, I post a photograph I’ve taken, or a quote, or a meme, or a video. Many other bloggers are happy to share their work as a guest post if you give them proper credit and include a link back to their site (check with them to make sure). If you can’t reach the author, most bloggers appreciate links to their work being included in your related posts, or in round-up articles.

Here is the editorial calendar for ARHtistic License:
Sunday—Weekly feature: From the Creator’s Heart (a scripture quote); also, a snippet of my work in progress for Weekend Writing Warriors.
Monday—Weekly feature: Monday Morning Wisdom (a quote, usually relating to the arts or the creative process)
Tuesday—my first major article of the week
Wordless Wednesday—a photograph
Thursday—Video of the Week; also, a guest post
Friday—Weekly feature: In the Meme Time (it used to be one I found on social media; now, I usually make my own); Weekly feature: Creative Juice, a round-up of interesting articles about the arts and creativity I found online
Saturday—my second major article of the week.

You know those calendars businesses or charities give you? Devote one to your blog. (If you don’t have one, buy one, or google printable calendars and print one.) Use it to keep track of what you’ve already written and scheduled for your blog. It will help you quickly see what you still need, and help you plan your writing time wisely.

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  1. Work ahead. This is the second secret to successfully posting every day. It takes a lot of pressure off you if you don’t have to come up with something for the next day. I try to work a month ahead. For example, I started this article on December 28, 2016.

And those little quickie features, like photos and memes and quotes—I create those posts as soon as I come across them, and schedule them for a future date (you can do that on WordPress; I don’t know about the other platforms). I also save links to articles I read online that I like, and then I use those for guest posts and round-up articles.

I actually already have some posts scheduled for every month in 2017…

So, you see, using these strategies, you really can post on your blog every day without losing your sanity.

What do you think? How often do you currently post? Are you satisfied with that frequency, or do you want to ramp it up a little? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Monday Morning Wisdom #86

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Monday Morning Wisdom #86

Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets. –Ludwig van BeethovenMMW

From the Creator’s Heart #82

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From the Creator’s Heart #82

You who ride on white donkeys,
sitting on your saddle blankets,
and you who walk along the road,
consider the voice of the singers at the watering places.
They recite the righteous acts of the Lord,
the righteous acts of his warriors in Israel.

Then the people of the Lord
went down to the city gates.
“Wake up, wake up, Deborah!
Wake up, wake up, break out in song!
Arise, O Barak!
Take captive your captives, O son of Abinoam” (Judges 5: 10-12).

Weekend Writing Warriors: Andrea’s Snippet #38

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Weekend Writing Warriors: Andrea’s Snippet #38

Every Sunday, the Weekend Writing Warriors share 8-10-sentence snippets from their works-in-progress on their blogs for others to read and comment on. Join the fun! Click on the link to see the full list.

7. The Unicorn in Captivity

The Unicornologist ~ High school freshman Hillary Noone, on a field trip to The Cloisters, receives a prophecy: she is destined to save the unicorn. Though she shrugs it off as being preposterous, soon life imitates art, and she finds herself in mortal danger.

We return to Beth and Dave, who in last week’s snippet tried to cut off the unicorn’s horn, earning a nice goring for Dave. We pick up a few moments later.

“I’m taking off your shirt,” she said, starting to undo his buttons.

Dave shook his head no.

“You need a bandage, and I’m not taking off my shirt.” She finished unbuttoning him and stripped the shirt off. She folded up the body of the shirt, centered it on the puncture in his chest, and tied it around him with the sleeves. “Put pressure on that.”

Obediently, Dave pressed his hand over the wound.

Beth put his other arm around her neck. “Now stand up–I’ll help you.”

Dave struggled to his feet, crying out in pain.

I know it’s short (the limit is ten sentences), but what do you think of this small excerpt from Chapter 20? Any suggestions on how I can make it better? Please comment below.

 

How to Practice the Piano: Doh! Dohnányi

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How to Practice the Piano: Doh! Dohnányi

A few months ago, while excavating long-unseen boxes in the garage of doom, I found a book of piano exercises I forgot I even had. I suspect I bought it at the suggestion of my piano teacher at Duquesne University in 1971, shortly before I transferred to a different school. I have vague memories of trying the first few exercises and being totally incapable of playing them.

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The book is entitled Essential Finger Exercises for Obtaining a Sure Piano Technique by Ernő Dohnányi (1877-1960). The author, a Hungarian composer and conductor, was also a noted pianist, and became a United States citizen in 1955.

 

I’ve written about preparatory exercises before. I spent my childhood working through the books of Schmitt and Hanon. So I was very distressed to read the preface to Dohnányi’s book of exercises. He says,

In music-schools piano tuition suffers mostly from far too much exercise material given for the purely technical development of the pupils, the many hours of daily practice spent on these not being in proportion to the results obtained… far too many studies and exercises are given from which only little value can be gained… before all else the amount of studies (“Etudes”) must be reduced and this can be done without harm if they are replaced by such exercises which, in lesser time, bring forth the same benefits. Finger exercises are preferable to studies (“Etudes”), if only for the reason that they can be practiced from memory, and consequently the whole attention can be concentrated on the proper execution, which is most important… a judicious choice of studies by Cramer and Bertini suffices; later, a selection from Clementi’s “Gradus” with the subservient exercises, is sufficient for obtaining a reliable technique. Everything else—even Czerny, dohnanyiis superfluous; it does not contain anything of essential importance which might not be acquired through finger-exercises, or by conscientious practicing of appropriate passages of pieces. The Etudes by Chopin and Liszt belong of course to the category of concert-pieces, and play a role as important, for higher and highest stages, as Bach’s Two and Three Voiced Inventions in connection with Bertini and Cramer, and the Well-Tempered Clavier with Clementi.

Thus, by diminishing the amount of studies (Études), time is won for repertory music, and this time can be utilised still better, if only some of the pieces (“concert pieces”) are practiced up to finishing stage…

So, according to Dohnányi, all that time I spent on Schmitt and Hanon was wasted. Funny, I found those exercises easy to memorize, due to their repetitive nature. Some of Dohnányi’s exercises, however, require me to do some analyzing in order to figure out what the pattern actually represents.

The exercises also force you to do things with your fingers that you normally don’t. For example, No. 1, one of the “easy” exercises, requires you to hold keys down with three of your fingers (on each hand) while trilling with the other two. (Schmitt also has exercises like this one.) It’s incredibly awkward at first (and for a while, until certain muscles strengthen), but it develops independence of the fingers (the ability to strike with one finger without moving another, and with any finger instead of relying on the naturally strong ones).

Piano 3One point Dohnányi makes really hits home. He says, “When playing, even the simplest of finger exercises, the full attention must be fixed on the finger-work, each note must be played consciously, in short: not to practice merely with the fingers, but through the fingers with the brain.” When we practice Dohnányi’s impossible exercises, we are building new neural pathways.

 

I used to teach elementary general music, and as a way to introduce music of other cultures and explore it more physically, I also taught my students folk dances. The fifth and sixth grade boys were less enthusiastic until one bragged he could do the grapevine step (used extensively in Greek dances) very fast, and proceeded to demonstrate. (If you don’t know what the grapevine step is, watch the video below.)

When I asked him how he learned to do that, he explained it’s a drill he learned at football practice (and all the other boys’ ears perked up). It makes sense, doesn’t it? If you can move like that, you have greater flexibility to evade those who want to tackle you.

When I returned to folk dancing about eight years ago (after a 30-year hiatus since college), I felt as though I had two left feet. I just didn’t have the coordination to do the steps. Each dance session overwhelmed me; there was so much to learn, and it was all so hard to remember. Every time I returned, I felt like I was starting all over again. But after several years of regular practice, I began to feel competent.

Until a few weeks ago.

A young woman who’d recently joined our dance group tried to teach us a portion of an Indonesian welcome dance that used mostly arm movements and claps, like this one (the video has a long intro; you may want to jump to the 2:00 mark; the segment she taught us runs from 2:25 to 2:33):

Even though she patiently showed us the motions just a little at a time, and at a greatly reduced tempo, over and over again, we very experienced dancers had great difficulty executing the motions. Why? Because it’s so different from what we’ve ever done, and it requires using portions of the brain that we don’t often utilize.

Playing an instrument is also a physical task that involves harnessing brain impulses. When we struggle to learn a challenging piano exercise, we are literally exercising the portions of the brain that transmit instructions to the specific muscles whose actions are required. We are training the brain as we train our fingers, increasing our fine motor skills, enabling the necessary coordination between the mind and the fingers that translate the notes on the page into the desired sound. The payoff for perseverance is that when we encounter a similar passage in a repertoire piece, we have a facility for mastering it.

Piano 9So is it worth it to practice exercises like Dohnányi’s, which are beastly? Yes. But I will also practice my other exercises and etudes, because I believe they are also valuable, even if Dohnányi doesn’t.

I was happy to discover that other pianists find this book challenging. Check out this forum on Piano World.

What about you? Have you used Dohnányi’s Essential Finger Exercises? What do you think about them? Share in the comments below.