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Creative Juice #137

Creative Juice #137

Inspiration for your creative soul:

Z is for Ziggy Marley

Z is for Ziggy Marley

When I taught elementary general music, one of the songs in our series was Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, and it was often requested by my students. Here is Ziggy singing his dad’s song.

David Nesta “Ziggy” Marley (born 17 October 1968) is a Jamaican musician and leader of the band Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers, and the son of reggae icons Bob Marley and Rita Marley.

In 1979, Ziggy and his siblings Sharon, Cedella and Stephen formed the Melody Makers – named after the British weekly pop/rock music newspaper, Melody Maker – and made their recording debut with “Children Playing in the Streets”. The track was written for them by their father, who had composed the song for them four years earlier and wanted to share this gift with children around the world. All royalties from the single were pledged to the United Nations, to aid its efforts during the International Year of the Child.

In 1984, Ziggy Marley got back into the studio with his siblings and English producer Steve Levine for what became the single, “Lying in Bed.” The following year, they released their debut LP, Play the Game Right. The album was produced by their mother, Rita Marley, and featured Aston and Carlton Barrett, who were originally the rhythm section for Bob Marley’s Wailers, on bass and drums, respectively.

Skipping forward to 1995, the group signed a record deal with Elektra and released “Free Like We Want 2 B” accompanied by the group’s own recording label “Ghetto Youths United”. The album charted at #170 on the Billboard 200 chart and #3 on the Top Reggae Albums chart. The single “Power to Move Ya” charted #13 on the Dance Music/Club Play Singles.

In 1996 Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers released a song called “Love Power” for the Jim Henson soundtrack movie Muppet Treasure Island with the composers Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil. He also performed the song “Hey What a Wonderful Kind of Day” which was later released as the theme song to the Arthur TV Show on PBS.

Here’s a more recent version of “Hey What a Wonderful Kind of Day” with friends Jon Baptiste and Chance the Rapper:

In early 1997, the group performed at the tribute concert “Marley Magic Live” in Central Park, New York on the Summerstage. They also released their second best-of album “The Best of (1988-1993)”. Later that year, the group released their ninth album “Fallen Is Babylon“. In 1998, the second single “Everyone Wants to Be” charted at #16 on the Dance Music/Club Play Singles chart. The album earned the group their third Grammy award.

The YouTube video below of “Everyone Wants to Be” has an annoying crackle. Another YouTube video was redubbed directly from the album, without the crackle, but after a while it doesn’t sync correctly. I’d say watch this one until the crackle starts.

In 1999, the group released their tenth studio album, “The Spirit of Music”. The album peaked at #1 on the Top Reggae Albums chart. The album spawned the singles “Higher Vibration”, “Jah Will Be Done”, and “One Good Spliff”.

Ziggy Marley’s debut solo album, Dragonfly was released on 15 April 2003. The album featured the single “True To Myself.”

Something more recent, Rebellion Rises, which came out in 2018:

AtoZ2019tenthAnnMuch of the text of this article was excerpted from Wikipedia.

Photograph of Ziggy Marley by John Mathew Smith, used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

X is for Xu Wei

X is for Xu Wei

Xu Wei (1521–1593) was a Ming dynasty Chinese painter, poet, and dramatist famed for his artistic expressiveness. He is considered the founder of modern painting in China.

Xu, a child prodigy, was raised by a single mother who died when he was 14. At 21, he married a woman surnamed Pan, who died five years later.


Chrysanthemums and Bamboos

Though he passed the county civil examination at age 20, Xu was never able to pass the provincial civil service examinations, even after attempting it eight times. Nevertheless, Xu found an unspecified job working with Hu Zongxian, Supreme Commander of the Jiangsu-Zhejiang-Fujian coastal defense against the wokou pirates.

During the 1550s and ’60s he succeeded in gaining a reputation as a poet and painter, but as his reputation as an artist grew, so did his infamy as a drunkard and a madman.

When General Hu was arrested and lost his position, Xu Wei feared a similar fate for himself. Xu became mentally distraught and attempted to commit suicide nine times, such as by axing himself in the skull and drilling both of his ears. His mental imbalance led to his killing of his second wife Zhang after becoming paranoid that she was having an affair. He was jailed for seven years until a friend managed get him released at the age of 53 by reason of insanity.



Xu spent the rest of his life painting, but with little financial success. However, his paintings are highly sought after in modern times.

Xu Wei wrote a play based on the Ballad of Mulan. Yes, that Mulan, Disney lovers. She may have been an actual female warrior between 420 and 589 AD. He also wrote three other plays with women’s themes. Xu was an early women’s rights advocate.

Xu Wei was also an accomplished poet. Xu’s collected works in 30 chapters exists with a commentary by the late Ming writer Yuan Hongdao.

Of the various arts Xu Wei practiced, he held his calligraphy in highest esteem. Next was his poetry.

It’s ironic that a scholar who could not pass the civil service examination is remembered today for his achievements in the realms of literature and art.

Bamboo 624px-Hsü_Wei_001


You can see more of Xu’s paintings here.

Information for this article came from the Encyclopaedia Britannica and Wikipedia.


Creative Juice #136

Creative Juice #136

Great offerings today:

Guest Post: How To Become A Better Poet Without Emptying Your Wallet For An MFA by Writer’s Relief


This article has been reprinted with the permission of Writer’s Relief, a highly recommended author’s submission service. We assist writers with preparing their submissions and researching the best markets. We have a service for every budget, as well as a free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit our site today to learn more.

There are many ways to improve your poetry skills. You could spend tens of thousands of dollars on an MFA in poetry. You could enroll in classes at your local community college. You could even take classes online. But there are also ways to become a better poet without emptying your wallet! Here’s how you can improve your poetry-writing skills without spending a fortune.

6 Totally Free Ways To Become A Better Poet

Listen to yourself. Sometimes, a poem begins with a spark of curiosity, intense feeling, or the desire to express a thought not easily captured or explained by prose. By tuning in to your own thoughts, you’ll be able to effectively capitalize on your poetic urges and instincts. Cultivating deep self-awareness is the first step to becoming a better poet.

Get a library card. Your teachers may have guided your poetry reading choices to include well-known and canonical literary figures, but you may be more intrigued and challenged by the poetry your peers are publishing. To find examples of excellent contemporary poetry, start by reading literary magazines.

Connect with other poets. Although it is entirely possible to write amazing poetry without ever speaking to another human being about the craft, you may find that your poetry improves if you reach out to others who share your passion. Join a local poetry writing group. Attend an open mic night in your area. Buy poetry books at reading events — and talk to the poets!

Volunteer at a literary journal. One of the best ways to learn what makes a good poem is to read poetry submissions that run the gamut from excellent to awful. Reach out to literary magazine editors and offer to volunteer to read submissions. Although it may be easy to distinguish between a poem that’s obviously competent and a poem that’s terrible, the line separating “good” from “bad” becomes blurrier when you reach the highest levels of talent. By volunteering, you’ll not only start to understand what distinguishes a great poem from an even better one — you’ll also cultivate a deeper sense of your own poetic preferences.

Schedule time for writing. Some people believe that the art of writing is essentially autodidactic — that the core work of learning to write happens when a writer is alone. Writers can be guided by good teachers toward a deeper understanding of their own talents and preferences, but it is the writer’s job to forge his or her own unique way. Every time you sit down to write, you are both teacher and student. Although you may not be able to fork out thousands of dollars for a poetry MFA, your dedication of time, focus, and energy can still improve your poetry.

Submit poetry for publication to reputable literary magazines. Don’t let a fear of believing that your poetry is “not good enough” hold you back from making submissions. By submitting your poetry to literary journal editors, you can test the waters to discover how your writing will be received. Initially, you may get a lot of rejections. But if you know how to interpret your rejection letters, even a nice “no thank-you” can be incredibly instructive. You might also get some personal feedback to help you hone your skills.

One Final Warning For Poets Who Want To Improve Their Craft

Unfortunately, there are many people out there who will take advantage of a poet’s natural enthusiasm. Poetry author mills, “fake” poetry contests, and even some poetry writing conferences often look like excellent opportunities on paper — but they’re actually profit-generating machines that don’t carry much weight in professional publishing circles. While some legitimate literary journals must now charge minimal admin fees in order to stay afloat, always do your research before you write that check.

T is for Theme

T is for Theme

Simply stated, the theme of a story is a universal truth about the human condition that your story illustrates. Your theme may be as general as love, or death, or taxes. Or it could be as specific as think before you speak or be prepared to deal with the consequences of your words. Or try not to buy a house next to a serial killer’s. (This article on the Reedsy blog does a great simple job of defining theme.)

But if simplicity is not your thing, some writers and teachers will tell you that the theme drives the entire story. The theme is what your main character needs and the story relates the journey to achieve it. (See this wonderful article by K.M. Weiland.)

I think a good definition of theme is the message the author is trying to convey through her writing. Even if the message is covert, it underlies the entire story. I dare say it underlies most nonfiction writing as well.


That being said, I’m not always able to articulate the theme of books I’ve read until I speculate about the author’s purpose. For example, I recently read Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give. I suspect Thomas wrote Starr’s story to give white people a clue of what it’s like to be a Black person in America. But what’s the theme? Maybe Black lives matter? White people often change that to all lives matter, to which Black people retort, you don’t get it. Thanks to Thomas’ book, I’m beginning to understand.

My ulterior motive for writing The Unicornologist, my YA mystical fantasy work-in-progress, is to encourage my readers to be open to the supernatural. My main character comes face-to-face with Jesus through a centuries-old legend about the unicorn.

Do you have to have a theme in hand before you begin writing your story? Yes. And no. Your story will seem ungrounded and pointless if you try not to have a theme. But sometimes your theme hides from you while you are writing the first draft. Before you start your rewrites, though, it would be beneficial to analyze and identify what your story’s message is and tailor your rewrites so the theme is always just below the surface.

Now it’s your turn. Do you have any additional insight into theme? What is the theme of the books you are writing or have written? Please share with us in the comments below.

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R is for Rhiannon Giddens


The March issue of Smithsonian magazine featured an article about banjo-playing singer-songwriter Rhiannon Giddens, who researches the African roots of America’s musical heritage. Her face seemed familiar to me, but I couldn’t recall where I’d seen her, so I searched YouTube. Her voice sounded familiar, too, but I couldn’t remember when I’d ever heard her.

I am now streaming her on Amazon Prime. Her voice is rich and versatile. Her songs remind me of the songs I grew up on, the protest songs, the folk music, like Joan Baez; Peter, Paul, and Mary; Simon and Garfunkel. Except hers are authentically African American.

In addition to banjo prowess, Giddens has mad fiddlin’ skills.

And here she is singing in Gaelic. (Hey, that’s Chris Thile on mandolin.)

I am so impressed with Rhiannon Giddens–her beautiful voice, the gorgeous songs she writes, and her musicology work. She is my latest musical obsession.