Category Archives: Uncategorized

From the Creator’s Heart #261

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What Makes a Good Podcast?

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listening to earbudsI like the concept of a podcast. Being able to tune in and listen to people talk about a topic I’m interested in sounds like something I’d love.

But for a long time, I couldn’t find one that didn’t make me cringe.

Some of my favorite bloggers have podcasts, but if an episode consists of the blogger reading one of her posts, sorry; I can read it quicker myself.

I went to the podcast section of the iTunes store and typed in a topic. There must be hundreds of writing podcasts, but I couldn’t find one that engaged me.

Reasons for rejecting podcasts:

  1. Got tired of waiting for the episode to start. Nothing interesting happened in the first three minutes. Maybe there was a long theme song. Maybe the host hemmed and hawed or talked about himself. Maybe he explained what his podcast is about. Maybe he exchanged a couple of inside jokes with his guest. Maybe he extoled his sponsor. But I got bored.
  2. The host’s voice is irritating. People have limited control over their vocal quality; very few people can pull off whiney. Maybe the host was afraid or stressed out and that came through in her voice. Maybe she sounded too perky. Or maybe she spoke in a monotone.
  3. The episode didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. Maybe the host didn’t plan anything in advance and thought she’d just wing it, but her coverage of the topic was basic and superficial.

I needed a different strategy for finding podcasts.

Every once in a while, I’ll read an article about best podcasts for (your special interest here). I’ll test the ones that sound most promising, and I’ve now amassed a list of podcasts that I like (not that I listen to any of them regularly—I generally listen when I’m drawing or cleaning in my office, both of which I do too infrequently).

My current favorite podcasts (in no particular order):

  1. The Not-Starving Artist. Host Angie Noll interviews women who make a living through the arts.
  2. Writing Excuses. Authors Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler interview other authors for fifteen minutes (actually usually more like 18–30 minutes).
  3. Quilt & Tell. Tracy Moody, Lori Baker, and Ginger Sheehy Tatic discuss all aspects of the quilting craft.
  4. Unlocking Us. Brené Brown, a professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, is known for her work on shame and vulnerability. She started her podcast in January, 2020 and has recently interviewed guests about surviving self-quarantine and about racial justice.
  5. The Unmistakable Creative. Srinivas Rao interviews leading thinkers, doers, and artists to help you maximize your creativity.
  6. TED Talks Daily. These short talks (typically 7-37 minutes) cover all sorts of topics.
  7. Book Launch Show. Book launch expert Tim Grahl gives hints about how to successfully launch and market your book.
  8. Tim Keller Sermons. The Presbyterian minister and author preaches about passages from the Bible. I’m not sure that I believe everything he says, but he gives me lots to think about.
  9. The James Altucher Show. Altucher interviews peak performers in every field, but he digs for their stories of personal challenge and reinvention.

The nine podcasts above, for the most part, are giving me what I expect.

What makes a good podcast:

  1. Gets going in the first minute. I am an impatient person. I have lots to do. Don’t waste my time.
  2. Confident speaker. I’m listening because I think you can teach me something or at very least entertain me. If you sound uncertain, I’m outta here. Practice beforehand until you’ve gained a level of confidence.
  3. Expressive, natural voice. All our voices sound weird when recorded, not at all like they sound in our heads. You might want to listen to what your audience will hear before you let it go live. I prefer voices that sound like a beloved friend having a conversation with me, with all the tears and laughter that entails, and without stilted tone or didactic vocabulary.
  4. Great content. Informative, with a unique twist. Sometimes the spice comes from a guest; sometimes it’s the engaging personality of the host. But it needs to be a cut above what’s already out there. It needs to be new, or at least a fresh take on what’s tried and true.

Sometimes I think I’d like to create an ARHtistic License podcast. But I don’t know that I could make one that meets my high standards.

Now it’s your turn. Do you follow any podcasts? What, in your opinion, makes a podcast good? Please share in the comments below.

 

Flower of the Day: Palo Verde Blossoms

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More Flowers of the Day.

Book Giveaway: LOVE YOU SERIES by Helen James

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Would somebunny love a new picture book? Here are some you could win–or buy!

Writing and Illustrating

Sleeping Bear Press sent me a copy of DADDY LOVES YOU by Helen Foster James, illustrated by Petra Brown. Then I noticed that Helen had another book, MOMMY LOVES YOU. Of course with Mother’s Day and Father’s Day coming up, I contacted Helen about featuring both of her books, then she pointed out the other books in the series. Sleeping Bear Press agreed to share a copy of the latest book DADDY LOVES YOU and Helen has agreed to send a copy the other four books to four additional winners. Yes that’s right, you have a chance to win a copy of Daddy Loves You, Mommy Love You, Grandmom Loves You, Grandpa Loves You, or Auntie Loves You for a total of five winners.  

All you have to do to get in the running is leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a…

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Sunday Trees: Lemon

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lemon tree

Lemons

More Sunday Trees.

Monday Morning Wisdom #252: E is for Thomas Edison

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Monday Morning Wisdom #252: E is for Thomas Edison

 

MMWWisdom from the mind of the great inventor, Thomas Alva Edison:

 

  • Opportunity is missed by most people, because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
  • To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.
  • To have a great idea, have a lot of them.
  • The chief function of the body is to carry the brain around.
  • Nearly every man who develops an idea works it up to the point where it looks impossible, and then he gets discouraged. That’s not the place to become discouraged.
  • The best thinking has been done in solitude. The worst has been done in turmoil.
  • I find my greatest pleasure, and so my reward, in the work that precedes what the world calls success.
  • The doctor of the future will give no medicine but will instruct his patient in the care of the human frame, in diet, and the cause and prevention of disease.

a-to-z HEADER [2020] to size v2

Review of Crazy Brave: A Memoir, by Joy Harjo

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Review of Crazy Brave: A Memoir, by Joy Harjo

 

 

Joy Harjo is the current poet laureate of the United States, the first Native American to hold that position. I bought this book because I wanted to learn more about her.

Harjo is almost the same age as me, which made me like her immediately. However, our life experiences couldn’t be more different.

Harjo starts her memoir with the story of her parents and ends with her young adulthood. Her writing style is musical—even her prose is poetic. The poems included in the book reflect her native culture, which is woven throughout.

As a child, Joy was a good student, an artist who loved poetry, photography, and music.

Harjo’s parents divorced, and her mother married an older white man who physically and emotionally abused her and Joy and Joy’s sister and brothers.

Her stepfather wanted Joy gone, so he suggested sending her to a fundamentalist Christian school. Joy asked instead to be sent to an Indian boarding school, so she would have classmates who looked like her. The family applied through the Bureau of Indian Affairs and she was sent to the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. She studied art and theater in addition to her academic subjects. When she graduated from the high school program, she was pregnant. The baby’s father promised to send her money to join him, but he didn’t.crazy brave

Joy borrowed bus money from her brother to travel to her baby daddy’s home. They married, but the marriage didn’t last.

With tribal assistance, Harjo entered the University of New Mexico in a premed program. After one semester, she changed her major to studio art. She met a student who wrote poetry. Joy had always loved poetry; she had loved to recite it as a child. She thought poetry had to be in English. This young man wrote poetry about his tribe and his pueblo and his people and their ideals. He changed the way Harjo thought about poetry. She fell in love with the student, and he beat her. She bore him a daughter and named her Rainy Dawn. He was an alcoholic, and she eventually left him. The book ends shortly thereafter, with Harjo pursuing poetry.

This is an excellent book for a white person to read, especially one whose experience with Native Americans is as non-existent as mine. It’s eye-opening.

From the Creator’s Heart

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Guest Post: How to Start a Book Review Blog–And Score Some Free Books!

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This article has been reprinted with the permission of Web Design Relief.  Whether you’re just starting out or a best-selling author, Web Design Relief will improve your existing website or build you an affordable, custom author website to support your author platform, boost your online presence, and act as a hub for your social media outreach. Web Design Relief is a division of Writer’s Relief, a highly recommended author’s submission service. Sign up for their free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit the site today to learn more.

book-reviews

If you are a ravenous book reader, you may be able to turn your passion for the written word (and your love of sharing your opinion) into a rewarding book review blog. Not only do book review bloggers get the satisfaction of reading and critiquing, they also often score free books from writers and publishers who want to generate some book review blogger buzz. Here’s what Web Design Relief wants you to know about how to start a book review blog!

How To Start Your Own Book Review Blog

Pinpoint a genre/readership. Although your reading tastes may run the gamut from quiet literary fiction to noisy international espionage thrillers, you may want to focus your book review blog on one specific genre. When you focus clearly on a particular target audience, you’ll have a better chance of connecting effectively with that specific readership.

Sharpen your hook. There are a lot of book review blogs out there. What makes yours stand out? Now is the time to think about how you might distinguish your blog from others.

  • Do you want to write a “shock jock” style book review blog that invites controversy by both delighting and enraging readers? Are you willing to risk being alienated by certain writers or book review-seeking publishers by having an in-your-face style that cuts to the heart of reader concerns?
  • Or do you prefer a milder, more moderate approach that focuses on the positive, supporting the authors who inspire you while choosing not to devote attention to those books that don’t spark your interest?

Find your voice as a blogger. The tone and style of your book reviews will help define your future readership. If you are reviewing books that have an academic or literary focus, you may be able to get away with writing long, formal, winding sentences in your book reviews. But keep in mind that the most popular bloggers often embrace a witty, chatty, casual style, because the way people read using a computer or mobile device is different from how they read print. Learn more: Author Website Copy: Five Essential Tips For Writing Web Text.

stacks-of-books bing public domain

Establish a format for your book reviews. The traditional publishing industry format for book reviews includes dedicating the majority of the review to the facts of the book in question (story/content/synopsis/background). Only in the last few sentences, would you share your personal opinion and include both strengths and weaknesses of the book.

But you don’t have to stick to the traditional style of writing book reviews. As a blogger, you can take creative liberties with your book reviews. You may decide that the bulk of your review should focus on opinion, with only a few sentences dedicated to summary of the book itself.

Develop a book ranking scale. Another thing to consider is how you will rate or rank the books on your book review blog. You can use a traditional five-star system, or you can develop your own rating guide—using anything from emojis to color schemes. You may want to link each of your book reviews to an explanation of your personal book ranking system so that readers who are new to your blog can understand it.

Focus on value. Whatever the format/style/voice you choose for your book reviews, keep in mind that the most successful book reviews are those that are practical and helpful to readers who are trying to decide whether to read or buy a given book. Readers who are looking for the next great addition to their TBR list may not want to waste their time reading a lengthy diatribe about a book you consider a “don’t buy.” They might prefer to spend their time learning about a book they will actually want to read.

Select which books you will review. Your choice of book titles to review will say a lot about who you are as a blogger and what you value as a reader. Will you choose to join the conversation by reviewing nationally released, buzzworthy books that are already being discussed all over the Internet? Or will you focus on hidden gems from independent presses? 

Keep reviews short, memorable, and quotable. Book readers want you to cut to the chase and let them know what makes a particular book a great read. Witty insights, pithy phrases, and unique perspectives can make your book reviews memorable. Plus, authors who are happy with your turn of phrase might just feature your book review quote and URL on the cover of their next book release—which will help spread the word about your book blogging efforts!

Reach out. Book bloggers rarely succeed by writing in a vacuum. To generate an audience and increase the likelihood that writers and publishers will send free books your way, you’ll need to do some marketing. Here are a few ideas:

  • Connect with other book bloggers
  • Reach out to writing groups to invite book submissions
  • Cross-promote with other bloggers
  • Host book giveaway contests
  • Feature writer interviews/Q&As/guest bloggers
  • Integrate your book reviews with social media feeds 

Final Thoughts: Are You A Book Reviewer? Or A Writer?

If you are active in the creative writing community as an author, you may want to be aware of how your book reviews will be received within the community of your peers. What you write today about a given author’s book could affect you tomorrow if you sit down at a luncheon and an author you once lambasted is seated right beside you. Also, if you come down hard on a particular publisher’s title in a way that makes a big splash, that publisher might not be particularly receptive when it’s time for you to pitch your own book for publication.

Your words have power—as both a book lover and an author, you’ll have to make decisions about your priorities and values if you decide to start a book review blog. Learn more about what it means to be an author who also writes book reviews.

 

Question: What most influences your decision to buy a book?

The Survivor Tree

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We are a nation of survivors. Let us never forget those who were taken from us in hate. Let us honor their memories with random acts of kindness.