Hope for Peace: 10 Ways to Effect Change

Just like you, recent events have rocked me to the core. As humanity’s ugly underbelly is exposed with mange and open sores that continue to bleed, I’m seeking hope. For me, it lies with children. I have seen first hand that these innocents desire justice and harmony. I believe children have the power to create profound change in our world. If there is ever to be true peace, it must transcend the generations. But first they must dream of the changes they want. Here are ten creative ideas I’ve used with my students. Let’s all begin the change.

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1. Make Peace Cards.

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2. Make an anti-bully poster.

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3. Draw cartoons dealing a bully.

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4. Paint a peace sign on a paper plate.

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5. Create a Love the Earth card.

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6. Make a dream board.

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7. Photograph someone doing a kind act.

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8. Create a dance high-fiving and smiling with your buds.

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9. Film a video of yourself singing a peace song.

Colby Jeffers: Change the World

10. Paint a self-portrait.

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Any more ideas? Share  and we’ll turn 10 to 10,000!

About Laurie: The author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

Deafening Silence: A Poem

I plug my ears

Against the deafening silence

Of  forced isolation

Trying to bar screams from listless lips.

And the discordant phrasing of muted throats.

Have I become so jaded

As to find malaise in my own company?

Need I lament a compulsory isolation

As a petulant child might an elder’s chiding?

Or shall I unplug my ears

And let in the sound of

Birdsong, trees’ breath, and pelting rain?

This sublime orchestra

Invites me to perch at my conga

And accompany these tremors

For this is the time to exalt

And rejoice in

Each palpitating rhythm.

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About Laurie: The author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

 

Ten Tips for Coping With Shelter in Place

As a writer, it is my job to be introspective, to observe, comment upon, and analyze. I feel it my duty to create works that act as a mirror for society, human interactions, and emotion. But Shelter-in-Place is so foreign that I’m finding it challenging to write.

Like many of you, I am fighting feelings of helplessness and depression. I long for human interaction, closeness, touch. I miss patting my friends on the back as we laugh over some silly joke, twirling on the dance floor goofily between hugs, and placing a hand on a gal pal’s arm in comfort.

As humans, we were not built for isolation. Remember that study from your reading in Psych 101? Back in the thirteenth century, the German king, Frederick II, conducted an experiment to discover what language children would grow up to speak if never spoken to. So King Frederick took babies from their mothers at birth and placed them in the care of nurses who were forbidden to speak to them. But a second rule was imposed, as well: the nurses were not allowed to touch the infants.  Frederick’s experiment was an absolute failure, because every baby died. Without touch and tender words they couldn’t thrive.

We all need connection. So what to do now when that basic human need is denied us? I have found the following things help.

1) Avoid the news. It will only depress you. Read just enough to stay informed.newsdepress

2) Limit your TV watching. toomuchtv

3) Put your favorite music on. Dance around the living room. musicnoteroad

4) Do some activities that don’t need much brainpower such as cleaning. I find toilet scrubbing a good one. happytoilet

6) Get outside. If you live in a house, weed, plant, mow, edge, blow. If you live in an apartment, sweep the walk.  gardener

7) Keep to your normal routine as closely as possible. I still shower early, do my hair and get dressed in the morning.

8) Give yourself a makeover. Try a new hair or makeup style. Get goofy and have fun with it. Laugh at your own silly antics! Bad-Hair-Crazy-Tattoos-Clown-Hair

8) Go for a walk.

9) Find a workout  video and dance along. Zumba Workout

9) Go for a drive and crank the tunes: pretend you are a rebellious teen behind the wheel. Shake it Off Video

10) Do art. Paint, color, sketch. Make a dream board.

Any more ideas out there? I’d love to hear them. Blessings for healthy minds and bodies, dear ones!

About Laurie: The author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

Youssef Alaoui-Fdili: Poet, Musician, Filmmaker

“….Then where the pace of hilltop crags/ stands exposed and thirsting /in need of water clefts/ you must speed on my love….” recites Youssef, in his Critics of Mystery Marvel  film, based on a collection of poetry of the same name. “…Past despair in human tones/  then catch her vain boastings/ in dawn blaze the sun/ sword laden storm…”

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Youssef Alaoui-Fdili ‘s sword laden storm comes in the form of  mystical and surreal writings. This poet and filmmaker is a man of contradictions.  Both irreverent and spiritual, he might go from reading  Tarot at the dawn to the Koran at midday, yet uses both as he communes with ideas that explore the human condition.  Grounded in the quiet of home while seeking a Don Quixote journey of penned knighthood, he exposes his readers to the mythos of the wayfarer.  Yet his steed is is no worn out work horse. Youssef’s Rocinante carries us to places dark, surreal, and at times carnal.

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Youssef is an Arab-Latino, born in California to immigrants from diverse homelands: a Moroccan father and a Columbian mother.  As the Alaoui-Fdilis are originally from the historical city of Fez, Youssef was given a unique perspective on the Arab world, finding his family and heritage an endless source of inspiration for his varied, dark, and spiritual writings. This later lead him to study classical Arabic poetry, Spanish Baroque poetry, and contemporary Moroccan verses during his MFA stint at the New College of
California.

He has several published books. THE BLUE DEMON: A novella in the tradition of classic horror in the style of Edgar Allan Poe. The crew of a Spanish merchant ship discovers they have a stranger among them: a Moor with an odd nickname and worse yet, debilitating agoraphobia. The ship is thrown far off course by a cyclone and stranded in a giant kelp field. Added to their misfortune, an invisible visitor snacks on the crew at night, using their half-rotted heads like puppets, beckoning to them from the water. The crew must make an effort to understand their odd  mate before they can vanquish their assailant together.

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CRITICS OF MYSTERY MARVEL: Youssef Alaoui’s debut full length poetry collection, which explores human relationships between individuals, cultures, races, and genders. alaoui critics of mystery marvelAlaoui deftly utilizes archaic tones to formulate an artistic approach to metaphor in verse creating images that appear wholly in the mind and not on the page. This volume consists of ten sections that blend surrealism, magical realism, and language alchemy as he explores the human mythos of love, gender, poverty, politics, racism, and war.

FIERCER MONSTERS: Youssef Alaoui’s short-story collection, is concerned with the
symbology of letters and the word as invocation, contrasted with the futility of language. In these stories, Alaoui presents a Neanderthal oracle, a little girl in Venezuela in the 1950s, a 19th-century hallucinating sailor, and a WWI soldier. The voices are sometimes salty, always salient.Each voice ultimately laments the fall of the tower of Babel and the resulting confusion.

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When asked about his process, Youssef says, “Writing is a reaction to my ongoing process of self-discovery. My story is different, but similar to many mixed-blood firstborn people in the USA. Our story is the process of confusion primarily, then one of assimilation or rebellion from the illusion that white Christian life is “normal” and anything outside that is “unusual.”

Youssef also has several thought-provoking films available at vimeo.com/aldeboros

CONEY ISLAND SIREN: Like a siren, the spirit of a broken hearted daughter calls out to the spirit of her father at sea, hoping that this time he’ll remember what’s most important.

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SACRED AND PROFANE/ FACELESS JACKS: An experimental, anti-narrative, cinematic tone poem for those of us lost, unsure and comfortable living within that dialectic.

BARON SATURDAY OF CONEY ISLAND: Baron Samedi must lead the character “Coney Island” to his death so that the new iteration of Coney Island may be born, but not before recalling the pangs of love and sadness that dotted his life. Marred by bleak visions, this movie is narrated sweetly by Youssef Alaoui who offers a cosmic perspective on life, death, and the changing of the times. baron of coney

The following is a recent interview with this satirical wordsmith.

Could you tell our readers a little bit about your writing journey? – I began writing when I was 16. My grandfather had given me a typewriter. I didn’t use it regularly until I fell in love for the first time. We would sit in my room writing poems to one another on it.

Where are you from? – I am from “here” and yet not. I was born in San Luis Obispo, and yet, I only lived there until I was three years old. I am from Los Angeles, Davis, Albuquerque, Tempe, Lille,Paris, Seattle, Oakland, Rabat, Casablanca.

What has been your favorite book/poem/screenplay to write so far?– An unpublished poem about Marrakech called “The Baths of Azahara.” I am quite proud of it.

Why?– Because it sort of rose up out of a dream and also is a pastiche of my recent experiences in the fabled city.

Are you currently working on a book/short story/project?– I am.

Will this be your next release?– Indeed I hope so

What do you enjoy most about writing?– Getting the RIGHT words out. No filler words.

Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it? – Yes, I think that’s what it’s called. Basically I find myself “quitting” writing and I take up music again or I dive deep into event creation and promotion. Or I travel. I had a dream recently. Someone was selling me a device to keep the corner of one’s palm ink- free when writing extensively with a fountain pen. The writer rests their palm on this small square of wood so their hand doesn’t track ink all over the page. What was it called? A writer’s block! I don’t think I’m the first one who has thought of this, but how crazy is that for this object to appear to me in a dream? Every writer needs a writer’s block.

Have you ever had one of your characters take a twist you weren’t expecting and surprise you? – Once one of my characters did that. I took them aside and disciplined them thoroughly by dragging them through a number of complex poems, then I dropped them back into the story. They never stepped out of line again.

Which of your characters is your personal favorite?– I love a character who has not yet had the grace to be published. I’m hoping they will see the light of readers’ eyes before too long. They are an alien species in a science fiction novella I wrote.

Least favorite?– Once I wrote a little oration spoken by Idi Amine. But he is asking for forgiveness and instruction from the ghost of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. So, is there redemption for such a sadistic and cruel dictator? I generally like one aspect or another of each of my characters.

So far, what has been your favorite scene to write?– There is a scene that happens deep in space, on a rocky moon, deep beneath its surface, in a cubical cell, between an alien and a human, where they discuss the nature of light, the cosmos, the self, and infinity. Mindblowing.

What lessons have you learned since becoming a writer?– Patience & tolerance of the self & others. Acceptance. Maybe I learned that over nineteen years of yoga practice. Maybe I learned that over 35 years of writing and not writing. Maybe I learned that over 20 years playing music in bands. Maybe I learned that in a puppet show I walked past on the Amalfi coast four years ago. Maybe you wrote that into a cocktail napkin and handed it to me. Maybe the leaves assembled themselves into an Andy Goldsworthy installation and expressed this to me. Maybe I heard it in the drum beats of a Black Sabbath album. Maybe the cat staring at me from the fence is a psychic oracle.

Do you have any tips for new writers?– Let go. Let go of your ego. Let go of your mental ladder rungs of success/ progress/hierarchy/ power lechery. Let go of your preconceived notions of being a writer or what writers “do,” where they go, who they talk to, who they can or cannot talk to. Embrace. Embrace all ideas. Embrace the void. Embrace the blues. Embrace not writing. Embrace your peers. Embrace your elders. Embrace your juniors. Don’t try to be anything. Write the first thing that comes to mind. Don’t write the first thing that comes to mind. Keep a notebook. Use it. Do not use it.

If you were to recommend your books to a stranger, which book would you advise them to start with?– I would advise someone to begin with Blue Demon because it has all the elements in it that make up all my writing, but it is meant for a wider audience. Young and old readers both will like this story. It is a salty tale of the high seas. A merchant ship gets stuck in a kelp forest and something in the water plucks sailors on night watch off the deck with no warning, unseen, never to be seen again… No one can figure out what’s going on until they finally listen to a stowaway, an Arabic man who has agoraphobia and must work in the darkness of the galley. No one believes him until they absolutely must believe him, and their lives are on the line.

Do you have any extras you’d like to share, like a teaser about an upcoming new release, a summary of a deleted scene, or a teaser about a surprising plot twist or character?– As I said above, I have written an upmarket science fiction novella. This is a remarkable event because Arab American writers very rarely write science fiction. I wanted to see if I could do it, and I have. I am very excited about this book. 

Now it’s time to get to know you! What are some of your favorite books to read?– Right now I’m reading The Phoenix by Manly Palmer Hall. The Tarot is a book. Yes, I look at it as if it is a picture book with 78 pages and innumerable plot twists and character variations. No one knows how this book will end. I try to read it every day. I also read from the Koran most days.

What about television shows?– Right now I’m watching the original Star Trek, watching the set get shinier, with more active displays, wondering how they know what each of those jolly rancher buttons mean, because they click them all the time, y’know? Five times and then they get sophisticated results… From that one single green jolly rancher button? What is Spock looking at in his little viewmaster? Sulu has one too. “Sensors indicate an armada of Spanish Galleons firing their cannons, closing fast!” Turn your head and Chekov is gone. Turn your head again and now he’s back with a new mop wig.

Movies?– Tarkovsky. Kurosawa. Wenders. Miyazaki.

Is there a book that you have read that you feel has made a big impact on your life?Don Quixote, the Norton edition. This novel has all the power of any novel that followed it. It is the first and the foremost novel. There might be others, earlier novels, certainly epic tales and poems, but this one captured my heart, and the hearts of millions over 500 years. It is an indelible monument to novel writing, novelists, protagonists, antagonists, knight errantry, traditions, delusion, companionship, love, tears, death, and imitation.

Can readers/viewers find you at any live events, such as book signings or conventions?– I am going to be at the Write of Way Book Festival in Santa Clara, on the University of Santa Clara campus, on April 18, 2020. Please come visit. I will have books with me.

If you had to sum up your life as a writer in ten words, what would you say?– To sum it up: the waiting is the hardest part.

What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?– Yoga, music, my life by the sea.

Do you have anything else you’d like to share with readers?– Live, love, give, forgive.

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Youssef can be found at http://www.youssefalaoui.info

Readers can follow him on:

facebook.com/iuoala

youssefalaoui.tumblr.com

IG @iuoala777

twitter.com/iuoala

vimeo.com/aldeboros

transfigureight.bandcamp.com

 

 

The author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Learn About Film Scoring from Composer Mike Hall

Imagine a movie with no music. No eerie piano and toning gong. No suspenseful drum kits and horns. No echoing synthesizer making you look over your shoulder for an approaching alien. It wouldn’t be the same, would it?

“Alien Craft” Sound Track by Mike Hall

Composer Mike Hall is very much aware of the the mood music can create. He has made it his life’s work to design, produce, engineer, and master the parts of films that you and I take for granted. Growing up in the small town of Tipton, Iowa and later moving to LeClaire,  home of the History Channel’s show American Picker, his earliest influences came from the rock records his parents would play. Even though this was Buffalo Bill Cody’s  birthplace, his parents didn’t stick to listening to Bluegrass and Country.  Instead, his house on twenty acres was filled with the eclectic sounds of Buddy Holly,  Ricky Nelson, Elvis Presley, and The Beatles.

Music filled his mind  as he explored the towering bluffs, raced along the Mississippi River walks, and climbed ever higher in the deciduous forests. From his perch high in the silver maple or cottonwood tree he often watched deer graze, raccoons and squirrels scurry in and out of gooseberry and wild grape bushes, or wild turkeys peck for grubs on the leaf-carpeted forest floor.

Sometimes, he’d be lucky enough to catch a bald eagle flying overhead. While the beating of its wings echoed rhythms in his ears, he would tap on his faded jeans and dream of song.

As he grew, music became ever-more important as he trekked to the local record store searching for albums and tapes that might inspire. That’s when he began to notice film scores and listen with a more discerning ear. Then in high school he joined his first rock band with some friends. He may have known, “just enough to get by,” but his lack of of experience didn’t stop Mike.

Self-taught, he continued  practicing,  honing his craft until he was thrilled to begin performing as a guitar player and singer in the old school death metal band, rock band Angelkill. For the next few years Mike toured and played in a variety of bands of the same genre such as Mortuary Oat and Helmsplitter, which the Spirit of Rock Ezine called “..extreme metal that takes you on a roller coaster..” Spirit of Metal Article

During this time Mike was contacted by a German filmmaker who asked to use one of his songs in the end credits of his film. As he sat watching a film with his music playing, it  got him to thinking; What inspires me the most?  He considered this for a while, but the answer soon became clear. Composing. Creating musical scores for film.

For example: “Post Apocolyptic” by Mike Hall

Now Mike can often be found in his home studio working the keys and dials as he composes. While he  has done several jobs for hire, Mike says, “The work that has the most meaning and thrill for me is the music I do that has no project tied to it…there are no pressures…no expectations…just me and the the music.”

Eventually most of these compositions find their way to a record, video game, or film but even if they don’t, it’s fine with Mike. He loves that time of no pressure. That moment he is creating for the sheer joy of making music.

That passion and joy have paid off as Hall’s movie credit’s continue to grow.When the Night Comes, Pretty Little Things, and Evil Deeds, Full Circle are just a handful of the films he has scored to date.

Today Mike is sharing his passion with young musicians around the country mentoring and guiding them as they set out on their own musical journeys. He says, “I was  I was really kind of isolated growing up with no one encouraging me to do music. That’s why I think it’s so important to be a mentor to others and offer encouragement when and where ever you can. It can make a difference.”

Yes you can, and do Mike.

Listen to “Invincible,” and feel the power.

More about Mike Hall can be found on YouTubeSound Cloud, and Stage 32.

 

A teacher, Laurie Woodward is the author of  several novels including Forest Secrets, and the fantasy series The Artania ChroniclesShe also cowrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy and was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes her novels on the Central Coast of California.

You Are an Artist

Art. What does it make you think of? Is it a canvas splashed with paint or a sculpted bust? Do you think it’s important for our society and should children pursue this ethereal discipline?

Some would say no, arguing that children need reading, writing and math to compete in today’s global economy. And as a teacher, as well as an author I agree. Some of the time. I want every single one of my students to have the skills they need to succeed in an ever-changing economy.

But not by forgetting the people they are inside.

I believe that every man, woman, and child have a wondrous inside of them that is absolutely unique. It is their creative selves. And when we foster it, magic happens. That’s why I wrote The Artania Chronicles.

As a teacher, I’ve seen many changes over the years. And one of the saddest I saw was the increased emphasis on testing with less and less of the arts. It started to feel as if we were denying a beautiful part of children.  As I explored this idea, my mind began to turn art into living beings that carried out their lives in a parallel dimension.

That was the birth of Artania. There the Mona Lisa, the David, and the Thinker go about their lives. But they aren’t independent of us. For every time a human child turns away from his/her true self and denies their artistic gifts, an evil race gains power.

To me, the hunch-backed, yellow-eyed, dream-invading monsters, I call Shadow Swine, represent the destruction of that most beautiful part of humanity. That incomparable part that is our art.

Some of you might be painters whose canvases are splashed with color. Others might pursue dance or music. A few might find the art in their athleticism or acting or creating the perfect meal. Or perhaps you are a writer, like me, and love the places the words take you to.  But the cool think is that no one can act, sing, dance, paint, wordsmith, arrange, or bake exactly like you.

Because you are each an artist in your own way.

 

A teacher, Laurie Woodward is the author of  several novels including Forest Secrets, and the fantasy series The Artania ChroniclesShe also cowrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy and was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes her novels on the Central Coast of California.

 

Portugal the Man on Commitment

“We are Committed to You,” shone on the stage screen last night as Portugal: The Man began to play in Avila Beach. What followed was two hours of psychedelic, mind-bending music that had me both swaying and thinking about the artist’s relationship with the  audience.

When we create  it might seem like we are  doing so alone, but I believe we are tapping into a shared force, tapping into a part of the human consciousness that transcends our individual minds. And this  essential part of our beings is most evident through music.

Music is co-creation at its best. As the singer, guitarist, bassist,  pianist, drummer, flutist, or other player fashions each note, they are bringing a new being into existence. And this creature is one that we share. It floats over air reaching out long fingers that massage, tickle, prickle, caress, irk, stimulate, and compel. In this moment we either join in its embrace or reject the outstretched hands.

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How does an artist design work that begets open arms and ears? I believe by having the same commitment as Portugal the Man.  Several years ago they set out with several core principles. One was, “We would cultivate our fanbase by developing a relationship with them by treating them like peers and always trying to give them more.” Another was that after family, music was the most important thing in their lives. Their driving principle is to share who they are at their core.

Quite a commitment.

And an inspiration. Making me redefine my own mission. I am a writer and I am committed to make freakin’ fun, fantasies that transport readers to mystical places where imagination reigns.

What is your commitment as an artist?

A teacher, Laurie Woodward is the author of  several novels including Forest Secrets, and the fantasy series The Artania ChroniclesShe also cowrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy and was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes her novels on the Central Coast of California.

 

A Puzzle Piece: One Singer’s Journey

“We are each a personal puzzle piece: each unique…and necessary for this world,” singer/songwriter, Monica Jensen says about her song, “Puzzle Piece.” “A puzzle piece isn’t meant to stand on its own either.  We need each other to share in our strengths, helping in our weaknesses. ..on a journey to our fit.”  Finding where we fit in the greater picture is an enigma to many. But for Monica, answers lie in her calling as a teacher and as a musical artist.

Monica Jensen, a California native who was raised in San Luis Obispo, has always been drawn to music. From a young age  she studied instruments as diverse as piano and the drums all the while developing her own style of singing. As  a child she worked on her craft rehearsing for recitals or experimenting with new genres until finally venturing out to perform in college. There she also studied music theory as she further honed her skills. 

Fast forward many years to Monica as an elementary school teacher in a Title I district. When she encountered students from diverse and challenging backgrounds, she decided to seek out ways to impact their lives in a positive way.  It was this desire that lead her to write her popular rap song, “Puzzle Piece.” “I use my songs to acknowledge some of the social/emotional difficulties my students face in life and to present alternative ways to handle them.”

Listen to “Puzzle Piece” here.

When asked about her musical influences, Monica’s tastes are eclectic.  “I enjoy listening to new independent artists on Reverbnation.com and  also love world music (especially certain Middle Eastern and European sounds), big band and the classics such as Frank Sinatra.” She also listens to oldies from rock and roll’s beginnings, music of the Romantic Era, modern film scores, and the Christian music artists Toby Mac and Plumb. 

What message does she want to convey through her art? “Life presents challenge, but there is always hope. We have a choice in how we respond.”  Her inspiration stems from working through the turmoil of life, observing  others’ journeys, as well as the developing her relationship with God.

Today Monica is excited to be collaborating with national speaker, producer and publisher, Blake Brandes.  With his musical influence,  she was able to develop “Puzzle Piece” into more than just a vision she shared in the classroom. It now could have widespread exposure.  Because Brandes’s work is all  about inspiration and taking a positive outlook, she requested he rap the verses.  They recorded the song professionally and now are sharing it with others through Reverbnation.com and hearnow.com.

For Monica, life may have its share of jagged edges, but when we find our voice, the vibrations help then all to come together for an amazing cohesive whole.

You can find  more information about Monica on:

 

I’m a Dork

I’m a dork. I’ll admit it. Always have been.

While others lounge in bed snoozing away as long as they can, what do I do? I roll out of those warm, cozy covers just to set my fingers on the keyboard. Just to pretend I’m 14, skateboarding the streets of Santa Barbara, hoping my latest crush notices me. Or that I’m a slime-covered creature bent on invading dreams. Or, sometimes, a lonely alien anthropologist seeking to understand the human’s world.

I’m a nerd.

I don’t know Gucci from garage sales or microblading from microwaves. I hate to shop and never paint my fingernails. While other women accessorize with French knotted scarves, spring purses, and bright rings, bracelets, and necklaces I leave the jewelry in the box, having no idea where to start.

I’m a poindexter.

My t.v. has 1 channel, Netflix, that I only watch when I’m too exhausted to read which culturally leaves me out of the loop. While my coworkers chat about the latest show to binge watch or which star is dating who, I smile, and nod, and think, Who the heck are they talking about? All the while wishing we could talk Latin roots and word derivations in 19th century literature.

I’m even a dork at the gym.

While other gym rats reach for the weights, their brows drawn together in consternation as they lift another twenty pounds, I tap my feet to I tunes. Some might read while spinning on the stationary bike. Not me. When I’m on the elliptical, I put on “Dancin’ With Myself” and try to sneer like Billy Idol or slide my hands over air pretending to be a rapper on stage. Fun!

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I’m a freak for music.

While others drive the California freeways as if trying to win a race to nowhere, I crank the tunes and steering wheel dance while singing off-key to a rocking beat. Not just one type of tune either. Any genre of the last sixty years is fair game for my happy gyrations. From David Cassidy to Dion. Red Hot Chili Peppers to Rage Against the Machine. Elvis to Eminem. Bee gees to Boys to Men. I love them all.

Yep, I’m a dork.

And you know what?

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Super Mario Brother Dances to Artania

Does reading excite you? Does it make you want to recreate scenes of flying, dueling or trekking? Do you sometimes find yourself acting out the adventures in your living room? We often find inspiration to create in new ways when we read. With animated results.

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I’m the kind of person who puts myself in the stories I read. In my mind, I’m flying with Harry Potter on a Nimbus 2000, helping  Dalgleish solve the murder, or learning to grok from Valentine Michael Smith. And I’ll admit, there are times I’ve been so excited by a book that I recited some of the dialogue or acted out the scenes at home. My neighbors might giggle at my silly antics, but that expression is invigorating, giving rise to all kinds of ideas that I use in my novels.

So the next time you find yourself reading a passage that sparks your creativity, go ahead. Paint. Leap. Sculpt. Act. Sing. Play. Or dance.

Who knows you might just surprise yourself. Like this guy.

Super Mario Dances