Issue Exploration: Human Creativity – musings and questions

So, my first notebook piece (that I assigned myself) is late. As the professor, I have given myself an extension, however, I will have to dock some points off of myself because of this gross disregard for my own rules. ūüôā

I have decided to do 5f, and here is the prompt: 5f. Collect several images that interest you, related in some way to your issue (the relevance can be tangential, as long as you feel it). Then write something that connects the images, one to another. You can think of your connections as a story (one thing connected to the next), or as a web (everything cross-connected), or as a square, with two sets of opposites, or as a circle (ideas leading back to the place you started).


rogers-and-king-fridayCreative People РA while ago I wrote a blog post on Mr. Rogers, and began to do a series on creative people.  When I study the lives of uplifting creative people, I tend to be filled with ideas and motivation. Perhaps sparks of creativity are contagious? Then, does creativity from another beget creativity? Does it give us some unconscious permission to do? (And why do I feel that I need some sort of permission or validation to create, but more on that later.)  Or is it that when I see how others  create, it gives me a hope that I can as well? Is there a quantitative way to study this idea?


Ethics of Creation – I’m not arguing about a person’s right to create whatever material they desire (i.e. Freedom of Speech). What I am concerned about is the ethics of creation. The moral obligation that we should bring to creating materials that do not exploit humans. Example – Hugh Hefner – can he create porn? ¬†Yes. Should he? When this material ( Hefner’s first playboy magazine was released in Dec. 1953) has lead to objectification of women, and as the materials have lead to darker and more violent types of “entertainment” these have led to sexual exploitation and domination of women and in more recent years children¬†and has become fuel for the sex-slave industry (see Our Rescue,¬†Elizabeth Smart, Fight the new Drug, and Cambridge study).

I could go on a similar exploration of links between the violence in media and video games and its effect on society. Or creating product that destroys health or leads to addiction (think cigarettes, overly processed foods, gambling, etc). The guiding question here is – should we create things that in some way exploits others, or in other words, leads to the exploitation of humans?

I tend to believe that the human race can do and be more. There are so many creations that build and uplift mankind – the arts, medicine, invention. We individually decide what use we put to objects, and we collectively determine what the markets are by our dollars. We can achieve so much more if we build rather than destroy (and if we must destroy something, let it be to build up something greater to benefit man).

pumpkin-coachCreativity without (or with very little) moneyР[which is an exercise in creativity all itself ;)] Sometimes I will just stop myself or my children when they begin to describe what they need to create a project and we will begin to brainstorm about what we have and how to use it (see a series of posts I wrote on creating on a tight budget).  When did we stop using what we have available to us? Think about all that we can do  РWriting is free. Some art can take very minimal supplies. Art from nature. I remember reading once about creating music out of the world around us Рthe idea that anything can make music.



Creativity without remuneration – Does it matter that I don’t get anything back? Especially in the Arts, do I need feedback or money to entice me, or can I create for myself and family? I’ve noticed that the more I create, the more I don’t care. I just love the process and gain more confidence in my abilities.


steve-apple-wikiCreativity in areas other than the Arts – This is an area that many don’t agree about. I personally don’t believe that creation is only about the arts.¬†For my definition I will be talking about creation in¬†problem solving, engineering and ingenuity. Have you seen the glow in a builder’s eyes as they walk into Lowes? ūüôā ¬†Or Office Max? Or a thrift store? It’s the same wonder and excitement as those who get giddy walking into Michaels. Beyond that, can you believe the wonders that are coming out by forward thinking companies with creative engineers? I am in AWE of the ability we have as humans to create.

Can all individuals create? – I believe that everyone has within them the ability to create.I think that it just needs to be encouraged and practiced.

pink-piratesTeaching Creativity to Children – ¬†Picasso is attributed as saying ¬†“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” How do we encourage them to continue? ¬†Ideas: Teach them new techniques, supplies, and opportunities. Immerse them in creativity. Encourage creative problem solving and thinking. Lavish praise (deposits) but be honest and teach them how to use and appreciate constructive critiques. Teach¬†them to try again, to learn that failure is temporary and part of learning and growing ¬†(can even be an opportunity)- depending on our attitude! And teach them to practice, practice, practice! I once heard an artist talk about being given a stack of papers to practice one stroke over and over until her hands had memorized the movement.

grandmamoses-pub-domainTo Adults – Grandma Moses began to paint at age 78. ¬†Let us learn to not only be continuously learning knowledge but skills as well. Now, a person can get a total education online. ¬†Remember the term “self-educated man”? We can do that.¬†Never stop learning! An art teacher once told me that many people have 6th grade art ability because that’s when they stopped drawing, so pick it up and start again in whatever you enjoy – piano, guitar, cooking, ¬†chess – whatever ! – don’t let the voice of critics stop you.

a_child_drawingBalance between Create and Consume – [Picture of child with phone.]¬†Computer solitaire is ¬†a fun game, so is scrolling down my Facebook news-feed, but I have found that I need to make sure that I’m doing it intentionally, after I have finished my to-do lists and my creations – with a¬†timer set, so I’m not finding myself up at 2 am watching re-runs of Fraiser. Families used to create together, it was second nature. There was no TV, so they would have family concerts, readings and plays. For example, in the books ¬†Little Women and Anne of Green Gables¬†the characters would perform plays, concerts, poems, go to dances and dance (rather than sit at the dance, faces buried in phones).¬†¬†The Bach family picnics, my own mother and her brother would have full musical family concerts at night. As a society, despite all of the gains from it, have we lost something in technology? Can we gain it back?



Uplift from consuming the creations of others – But on that last note, I’m not suggesting that we never consume. It’s a balance. There is creation that takes my breath away, stops me in my tracks, brings such an emotion to my heart that I cry. When I spend my time in media, on the internet, in thought, I want to spend it on things that are worthwhile and uplifting and not a waste of time.


Join me next time with the notebook assignment – choose from 3a, 3b, 3c, 4f, 5i, or 8c.

Picture Credits –

Fred Rogers: see

Ethics Wordle: created on WordItOut (

Champions: created on PicMonkey (

Steve Jobs: By Matthew Yohe, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Create Video: lds media library (

Grandma Moses: By New York World-Telegram and the Sun staff photographer: Roger Higgins. – Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection., Public Domain,

Child Drawing: Beno√ģt Prieur (Agamitsudo) – CC-BY-SA,

Johann Sebastian Bach: (aged 61) in a portrait by Elias Gottlob Haussmann, copy or second version of his 1746 canvas. The original painting hangs in the upstairs gallery of the Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall) in Leipzig, Germany.

English 2010 Notebooks

So, I am teaching this English Writing and Rhetoric course this semester and I have been THOROUGHLY enjoying this semester long assignment, so much so, that I am going to do it right along with my students this semester.

We’ve been asking them to choose a topic to write about over the course that is a problem with social implications. Some call it an issue of public concern, some a social justice issue (that last term is so politically one-sided, that I don’t care for it much AND because it’s so charged – it can be an off-putting. ¬†This is a shame because, quite honestly, there is a lot of good that can come out of the work that is brought about through writing, researching, and creating around these problems and questions. ¬†I suppose that in itself is another blog post for another day). But, I digress…

The topic that I’ve chosen to write about isn’t necessarily earth-shattering, life altering, nor controversial, but it is something near to my heart and, I believe, may be one (of many) contributing factors to problems within our society. Are you ready?

Brrruuuuummmmm (that’s a drum roll, by the way) ¬†ūüėČ –

Creators and Consumers

Some Guiding Questions that I’ve been thinking about –

  • Are we a society of creators or consumers?
  • Should we be worried about how much we consume?
  • Would creating more give our collective souls a much needed uplift?
  • What is meant by creativity?
  • Is creativity more than just crafting or working in the arts?
  • What constitutes creativity?
  • Does each individual inherently have the ability to create?
  • Is creation for myself fulfilling enough?
  • Or must creation have some sort of monetary remuneration to be worth my (or ¬†anyone’s) time?

Anyway, these notebook assignments have been created so that the students can explore their issues and create in an online space. The prompts were created by two of my brilliant colleagues, Lisa Bickmore and Kati Lewis. The reason that I love the course that they’ve written is because there is SO much freedom for creativity built into the work. Here is the link to the notebook prompts¬†¬†and I encourage you (if you are interested in doing something that will open up your writing) to join me this semester. For the first assignment, my students can choose one of the following prompts – 5b, 5e, 5f, 5g, or 5i. You may choose to write on any topic you would like (from really angst ridden ones like abuse, to comical ones like the 2016 US Election Cycle ;), or things that would improve the world or place around you (I had a student write about bike trails in his area, another about prepping, and another about how using too much social media as teenagers can stunt their social abilities). Choose anything that you want to research, study, or explore this semester!

See you tomorrow with my first notebook (the assignment is due at 11:59pm, and seriously, if you decide to join me in this little project, link your first assignment to me either in the comments or thorough the contact page) and I will review ¬†and “grade” your work ¬†(people … as a professor, I have a going freelance rate of $50 – 75 an hour. I’m sending out this one time, special offer to review your notebook work FOR FREE to any of you who join me in this endeavor, this Fall 2016 semester!)

Talk soon!

sign off note

P.S. Here are some ideas to research topics that are quire interesting to me (please feel free to add some of yours in the comments section) –

  • Religions effect on society
  • Boundaries with friends, family, etc.
  • School choice (charter schools, home schools, public schools)
  • Breakdown of the family and effect on society
  • Freedom of thought, press, speech, religion – are these being attacked and what to do about it?
  • Clutter and chaos in the home – how to make it a better place
  • Technologies effect on children
  • Dating or Hanging out?¬†– how to help our children have healthy social relationships
  • Media – it’s effects and how to create more uplifting media


Levels of Edits

Though there may be more levels of edits (depending on the type of work that you are creating) I am going to focus on 4 levels for these articles.  As a minimum, your writing should go through the following:

  1. Big Picture Edit: developmental, structural, or substantive editing
  2. Paragraph Level Edit: stylistic or line editing
  3. Sentence-Level Edit: copy editing
  4. Word-Level Edit: proof reading

Most of the editing time should be spent in the first two levels. The problem with most novice writers (and those newbies giving feedback) is they spend most of their time in the third and fourth levels, which is fruitless work. You’ll see why as we discuss what each level accomplishes.

Big Picture Edit: developmental, structural, or substantive editing

Otherwise known as the¬†global edit. This is the hardest level of editing, the most important, and the one that should be done toward the beginning of your drafts. Why? Because it is pointless to edit for grammar if you are going to change the scene, or, in other words, there is no reason the paint a kitchen wall if you are just going to knock it out! This edit is the one that looks for¬†story (making sure that there is one ūüėČ ), plot holes, structuring, and finding connections throughout the story.

During this run-through, the editor will ask questions of the text. For example:

  • Why is this character here?
  • What is the point of this scene (prop, conversation, relationship, etc.) does it drive plot?Global edit
  • Would this dialogue be something that this character would truly say? Is there a legitimate reason for this person to break character? Why?
  • Can this event truly take place (does it defy the laws that you have created in your story)?
  • Does this magic system work?
  • Where is the conflict? etc.

These questions can be changed based on the type of document that you are writing. If I were editing a business proposal, I would ask questions like:

  • How does this answer the employer’s questions about productivity?
  • Does this paragraph add necessary detail to the conversation?
  • What analysis could be made here to help the reader understand the data that you presented?

This edit can be the most challenging and demanding because the editor must find a way to help the author see and deal with issues. It takes time and deep thinking to pinpoint problems and then to go back and verbalize those issues in a way that will help the writer find a solution rather than just saying something like, “it just doesn’t work for me.”


Paragraph Level Edit: stylistic or line editing

Also known as the local edit. This is the second most important level of editing. This is where sentences are looked at to make sure that the writing flows and the message is clear. In this edit, the editor may suggest revision of sentences in order to combine topics and ideas that are repetitive or break up those that need more information, detail, or revision.

This can be a tricky area because the editor needs to help the author change wording, but must preserve the author’s unique voice. It is not a re-write by the editor, but a way to help the author strengthen their prose and clear up areas that are difficult to understand.The local edit 2

Some items that will help the editor know that a substantial stylistic edit is in order:

  • overuse of adjectives
  • short choppy sentences or brief and simplistic phrasing
  • unclear ideas
  • awkward transitions
  • poor word choice (too high or low for the audience, or too much jargon)
  • ideas are unorganized and/or unconvincing
  • the tone does not fit the genre

These two levels of edit can be done as needed throughout the process, but using them earlier will cut down the amount of work in the long run. Let’s imagine that¬†a family is building a new home. The contractor gets to work, but then realizes,¬†after all the detail work is done and the family is ready to move in, that he must do the foundation, framing, electrical, and plumbing inspections. What would happen to the beautiful decor if there was a potentially volatile crack in the foundation and serious issues with the plumbing?

Now imagine writing a 350 page novel, and completing multiple full drafts editing for grammar and mechanics. You are ready to print! But then, you get an editor who completes a big picture run-through and finds that you have gaping plot holes needing substantial re-writes. Imagine how frustrating it is to an author? It’s enough to take the joy out of writing!

Planning and well-crafted writing will help cut down the amount of time needed for such intense edits. The good news is that writing is like any other skill, it can be become easier as it is learned and practiced.

Sentence-Level Edit: copy editing

This is the quality control for the piece. Here the editor makes sure that everything is consistent and checks the facts, and ties up loose ends. For example:

  • Did we change any details in the edits (age, hair color, etc.)?
  • Have we gone through to make Copy editingsure all of the wording is spelled the same.
  • Names – “Did we call her mom, or Sadie, or Mrs. Bowers?”
  • Plot changes – “Didn’t we make the prince a duke in chapter 13? Guess we’d better go back and change his title in the other chapters!”

This is where proof readers look for grammar usage and mechanics. And here’s a cautionary tale for you, let’s say an author got a¬†higher level edited draft from the publisher but didn’t know the levels of edits and noticed some grammatical errors. One might be tempted to freak out and say, “my editor doesn’t know what she’s doing, there’s a typo!!! Cancel the book!”

Please remember that the company name is going on this project. It will not be send out into the world as a mess like a slop of cafeteria slaw! Let the process work. Of course, change a typo if you find it, but don’t get freaked out about copy editing until the major changes are made. It’s like cleaning up the floor while a baby is still self-feeding. Sure, you can spend your time under the high chair moping up every last drop of yogurt, but then you won’t have time to sit with the child and interact and teach them how to hold the spoon, scoop up the food, and get it into the mouth. It’s important to learn and trust the process.

Also, please¬†¬õNOTE (as we’ve stated before): Most novice writers and reviewers work on this rather than the other two. While this edit is important in the end, it is one of the FINAL edits.


Word-Level Edit: Proof reading

This is the edit to review how everything appears on the page in the final resting place. A chance for a last look for typos, repeated or missing words, and any other tweaks. The editor will check it in allProofreading the formats, printed on the page and¬†electronically. Books look different in various formats and the reader can pick up mistakes when things are changed up. In fact, the amazing¬†author and editor ¬†Lisa Mangum,¬†edits by taking a book and changing the font in a new document. It’s just enough of a switch that she is able to catch final mistakes.

This is the end of the editing process. It’s now time to make sure that all finishing details are in place – the cookies are baking and the last load of laundry is put away before the customers come to the grand open house!

So, what do you do if there is an error after you publish? (It happens, and readers will happily point them out!) Remember that it is not the end of the world. If you did your editing job, it should minimize the mistakes, but there is always the human error factor. If it is an eBook or a blogpost, change the errors (if there is an extensive edit, make note of it). For a printed work, wait for the next edition and change it. Make it right, fix mistakes, and learn for the next time. Your work should be your best, so a small mistake (like a missing word or punctuation) should not destroy everything that you are working towards.


As you become better at editing, you will become better at writing. As you become better as a writer, you will become a better editor. All it takes is time and concentrated practice, which can be daunting when you are looking at 350 page + novels, but, if writing is your craft, then editing is one of the most important and effective tools. I think author Robert Cormier said it best when he stated:

editing, cormier quote


Until next time when we discuss which writing tools can help with editing.

Also, please feel free to leave any editing questions in the comments. Thank you, and happy writing!

Editing: Polishing the Diamond in the Rough

Editing polishing the diamond

Last Thursday, it was my privilege to address the Utah Valley Writers¬†on editing. The title of my presentation was Editing: Polishing the Diamond in the Rough. (Just a side note, if you would like me to address your school, class, writing group, or conference, please don’t hesitate to contact me). I promised the attendees (and my blog readers) that I would post some of the notes and other information on this site.

As presentations and blog writing are two different “beasts” I won’t post the PowerPoint without commentary. ¬†So using that experience as a guide, I’ll write a series on editing. There, I covered tools of writing that, if employed, would make editing much easier, the different levels of editing, and finally finished up the lecture answering some questions that the members of the group provided on the difference between freelance editors and publishing house editors.

Please follow the links below to find the posts that cover this material. They will be highlighted once the section is live. I will change the order and some of the materials (adding some and deleting some) from the actual presentation (just a heads up for those that attended). As a reader of these posts, if you have any other questions that you have for the final section, please ask in the comments and I would be happy to answer them.

  • Levels of Edits
  • The First Draft Debate (free-write or outline)
  • Types of Writers (knowing your strengths and weaknesses as a writer, to improve your craft, and to become a better writer)
  • Ideas (for self editing and critique group editing)
  • Finding an Editor
  • Answering any Extra Questions

Finally, just a reminder that editing is a very important part of writing, but it is quite different than writing. It requires a different set of skills that, if learned and used, will help improve your writing and your critiquing. It can also be a really fun part of the process as you help craft and polish a finished product that will be appreciated for years to come.

Presentation on Editing – 3/12/15

I will be doing a presentation on editing for Utah Valley Writers this Thursday, March 12, 2015 at 7:00 pm (there will be a critique of writing just before that at 6pm). The meeting will be at the Orem Public Library (58 North State Street // Phone: 801.229.70500) in the Media Room (downstairs).

I was planning on talking mostly about being an editor of one’s own work, or an editor in a peer group (levels of editing, etc.). Then I asked my friend, Tiffini Knight (community outreach director for UVW) if she could query some of the members as to what specific questions they had for the presentation, and I’m so glad that I did. Their questions took my planning in new directions and I am excited to incorporate them into the discussion.

Here are some of the questions –

  • What kind of training will a good editor have had?
  • Should we stick with an editor of our genre?
  • At what point can you tell your editor “no”?
  • What are fair charges for editing?
  • Talk about the contract; what components does it have?
  • Can I expect that an editor will help me if I’m stuck?
  • How many drafts can we expect to go through before our manuscripts may be ready to query?
  • How about what to look for in edits? In editors?
  • How to revise or rewrite (or get unstuck) during an edit if we are overwhelmed with the feedback we’ve received but know we should follow it?
  • How to go about finding an editor? There are so many freelance editors, how can you tell if they’re good?
  • In the past, we’ve gotten a lot of questions about the difference between line, content, copy, etc. editing . . . having her explain the difference?
  • What are her thoughts on hiring a freelance editor before you submit your ms to a publisher/agent in the case of traditional publishing as your goal? Waste money, time, etc.? or Powerful education, helps your chances, etc.?

I am so excited about the direction and the feedback. What a great group! I am planning on posting any materials, etc. here for reference.

Hope to see you there!!

He’s nothing but an Albatross: Using the concept of an inside joke to understand allusion in English literature

Inside joke

My daughter just tried out for her school’s third and fourth grade musical. She decided to sing Forget About the Boy from Thoroughly Modern Millie (2002),¬†you can hear a sample here (thank you to actorguy 2006 for posting this youtube video of¬†Sutton Foster performing Forget About The Boy from the 2002 Tony Awards) –

(It’s a sweet musical, though personally, I LOVED the original (1967) movie with Julie Andrews even more than the new Broadway show.)

The beginning lyrics of the song are as follows –

No canary in a cage for me
This canary’s ready to fly free
Cut the cord
Is that a man I once adored?
He’s nothing but an albatross
No great loss
Forget about the boy

Then my daughters go crazy singing, “forget about the boy” over and over again at the top of their little lungs.

So, the question came up, “What is an Albatross?” and “Why is it in the song?”

English teacher that I am had to come in and make sure that they understood the phrase –

[fill in the blank] is an albatross, hanging around my neck

It means that this thing or person is a heavy burden, bringing nothing but bad luck. Ten points to you if you know where it comes from [cue jeopardy theme – Dum, dun, dun, dun …]

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Samuel Tayor Coleridge (1834).

It is a wonderful, epic poem about a seaman who tells his sordid tale to a wedding guest that he comes across. The seaman was on a ship and when they were lost an Albatross comes –

At length did cross an Albatross,
Thorough the fog it came;
As if it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God’s name.
And this bird gives them hope during their difficulties and becomes a good luck charm for the ship and crew, and a friend who comes when it’s called. But the mariner tires of the bird and shoots it with his cross bow.Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Then a bunch of tragically bad luck befalls the ship and crew and the mariner says –

Ah! well a-day! what evil looks
Had I from old and young!
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.

And so the phrase, [Fill in the blank] is like an albatross about my neck, was born, meaning – something that is a heavy weight that brings sorrow, misfortune, even guilt.

My daughter and I talked about the fact that lots of writing will have “nods” if you will to another piece of literature or historical event. That reference can take you back to the reading, or the experience, invoking with it a whole range of emotions and memories.

To help her understand further, we discussed the concept of “inside jokes.” We have a few as a family that are funny to us, for example, every time we drive by IKEA we all say, “I have an Ikea!!” or “What’s the big Ikea?” which is, I admit, totally silly, but the little girls LOVE it. When we use and inside joke, everyone who is in the “know” enjoys a laugh or a memory together. Writing and referencing other pieces is the same thing, it is adding the depth of that piece to everyone who has been a part of it.

We also talked about the fact that there are many movies or songs that do the same thing, they’ll give a nod or reference to something in pop culture. ¬†For example, let’s say someone in a movie said, “I goofed up, I wish I had a Delorean right now!”

You get another ten points if you caught that one. ūüėČ

So, in order to understand some pieces of literature, we have to be fluent in others. That may seem an overwhelming task as there is SO much to learn, but the good news is, we have the internet! So if there is a phrase that you don’t understand, I guarantee that someone somewhere has written about it – hooray for the cumulative knowledge of the masses!!! Simply type the phrase into a search engine and prepare to be amazed!

In closing, I will admit that I read the poem again for this post (it’s been years since I read it last) and I found two more sections that I want to share, simply because I love them and not to prove a point.

First, a line that my mom used to quote when I was a little girl –

With throats unslaked, with black lips baked,
We could nor laugh nor wail;
Through utter drought all dumb we stood!
I bit my arm, I sucked the blood,
And cried, A sail! a sail!

I have this memory of her, very dramatically saying, “I bit my arm and sucked the blood and cried, ‘a sail, a sail’!!”

Secondly, this time around, I found this line that I fell in love with, only because I love the way poetry can phrase things that we do on a regular occurrence in such a unique way.

I closed my lids, and kept them close,
And the balls like pulses beat;
For the sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky
Lay dead like a load on my weary eye,
And the dead were at my feet.

Have you felt your eyes through your closed eyelids? Felt the shape of the eyeball? Felt the pulse of your blood coursing through it? Have you felt the burdens so heavy around you that you had to go inside yourself through closed eyes.

I love poetry anew!

Enjoy the whole poem at Poetry (which is a site that you can get totally lost in for hours, so beware …) by following this link.


  • ¬†The photo above was edited under the GNU free documentation license. Thank you to Uwe Kils who uploaded the original file, black-browned albatross.
  • My daughter got a role in the play – yay! She will be the tiger god, (you know ¬†– “Who dares disturb my slumber”) and in several chorus numbers in the Disney¬†Aladdin Kids play.
  • This type of writer’s technique – referencing other literature in literature, is called allusion.