Sunday Interview #11

Hi, Everyone! Today I have a treat for any of you who have a yen for creating beautiful things. Please welcome the creative mind behind the blog Liz J Fox Design.

Hello, Liz! Would you please tell my readers a little bit about yourself?

I’ve been happily married to my sweet husband Dave for almost 30 years, retired from my business as a graphic designer (self-taught), am a confirmed Macintosh user, and became a serial hobbyist, loving every minute of it. Many of the hobbies continue to overlap, which makes my hobby room an interesting place to visit.

Sounds like my craft room – although I have a feeling yours is more organized than mine! lol

How long have you been blogging and what prompted you to start a blog?

I’m a very new blogger so still on a learning curve. I had a web site through Apple’s me.com, but they did away with it at the end of June. In exploring what to replace it with, preferably free, I discovered the wonderful world of blogging. You were one of my first commenters, which was wonderful. Thank you.

I heard of you through a comment you made at PILLOWS A-LA-MODE, another crafty site. 🙂

What can one expect to see when they visit YOUR site?

A glimpse into my life as a serial hobbyist. You will see what I’ve learned, pictures and how to’s, and even more importantly what not to do. Each blog has tips that might help others who want to do the same thing. I may share things that have inspired me from others, too. I want to share the riches of exploring new things and how God continues to bless us with His creativity.

What are some of your favorite crafts?

I have explored many, and I will be writing about them in future blogs. I would say right now, machine embroidery, paper arts (quilling, teabag folding, iris folding, card-making, scrapbooking) are on-going. I recently got into jewelry making, dichroic glass and wire-wrapping, and purse/tote making.

But my most interesting craft over the years is rock painting – turning rocks into 3-dimensional life-like animals. I started when I got a book “How to Paint Animals on Rocks” by Lin Wellford (link below). She spells it out in wonderful detail. Anyone can do this – even my 5-year old granddaughter! I met some wonderful people in the Yahoo Rock Painting group and got the encouragement to expand, so went on to do memorial rocks for people who lost their beloved pets. These are difficult, because of the emotion involved. I must not only capture the physical likeness of the dog or cat, but their character as well. My last one was a German Shepherd who perished in a home fire. That one was tragic and done with so many tears.

I can imagine! That would have been rally hard to do.

Are there any special tools you need for that?

First of all, rocks. They can be pebble size to huge. Start small. Landscape rock places will have river rocks. People will also give you rocks if you ask. (I sent 40 lbs from the rock wall at my Mom’s house on the Ottawa River. The Post Office clerk asked, jokingly, “What ya got in there, lady, rocks?” Yup!

The rest of it, after thorough cleaning and sometime wood-filler, is craft paint. I use outdoor acrylic paint and a gel medium to help the paint stay moist. A turn table – a little plastic one – to help paint all sides. Finally, patience to layer, layer, layer, letting the paint dry in-between. I use a waterproof sealer at the end and a special treatment to make the eyes look real. I will be journaling one from beginning to end shortly.

That sounds fascinating, but I should think you’d need some artistic talent as well! 🙂

Where do you get the inspiration for your creations?

I have had one goal all my adult life: “Do something new this year that you didn’t even know existed last year.” That opens my eyes to new creations and activities. It takes away the fear of trying new things and keeps me expectant. I have a wonderful husband who laughs at me when I get inspired to start something new because he knows the pattern – read all about it on line, get lots of ideas, buy all the stuff for it, buy all the stuff to organize it, do it, buy more stuff, reorganize it, etc. Specific inspiration often comes in the tub. “Oh, why don’t I try or make or create xyz.” I don’t like following patterns (or recipes). I may combine many different ideas into one thing, so often it is trial and error till somehow it tells me “I’m done.” If I’m smart, I stop.

What advice can you give someone starting a creative hobby?

– Be open to ideas. 

– Google, google, google. Pinterest. Blogs. There are lots of free tips, patterns, ideas, dos and don’ts out there. 

– And just start.

– Decide not to be perfect. Keep the first things you do to remind you how far you come with practice. 

– Don’t point out your mistakes. No one else can see them. 

– Use your God-given talent to enrich someone else’s life (for example, make cards for military members or kids in the hospital.)

– Give your crafts as gifts and teach someone else how to do it.  

– Take pictures of your process (you might never know when you want to blog it).

– Take pictures before you give it away.

– Don’t throw anything away … you might be able to use it in a craft. LOL 

– One other tip, since buying stuff for hobbies can get out of hand. Start an envelope or quicken line item, or however you separate money, and put a certain amount in a hobby play fund each week. If it has money in it, you can spend it or save it for something larger, if not … well, wait for the next week(s). Use money from coupons to fund the hobby account. Keep it separate from household budget so DH won’t care.

All good tips! That last part sounds like a wise way to do it – unlike my “Oooo, I love this, so charge it!”  process, which irritates my husband! lol

Do you have any pictures of some of your favorite creations that you’d like to share with us, today?

Just started learning to do purses.

My most ambitious embroidery – 20 5×5″ blocks of a Nativity Scene

Dichroic glass and wire-wrapping

Iris Folding – Small strips of paper following a pattern (and this time I DO follow the pattern) Done from the backside through the hat-shaped hole.

Tea bag folding – 8 of the top squares of wrapping paper turns out to be a unique embellishment.

Rock Painting – animals are done using all parts of the rock.

Simple quilling on a candle holder. Great gift.

Wow! Those are all really beautiful! I love how the paper folding turned the butterfly into a kaleidoscope effect! 🙂

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

I didn’t know I was crafty, although my mom always said I always liked to fancy things up. She often told the story (in later years many, many times) that when I was young, my very down-to-earth twin sister proudly came into her proclaiming, “I finally taught Liz how to color grass green!”  … how boring! But it wasn’t till late in adulthood I tried my hand at real art … watercolors for the first time (see Quackers and Cheese on my blog). 

And the other thing that is so important to me is that after 43 years of doing everything on my own and making a pretty good mess of my life, I accepted Jesus into my life, and that decision gave me everything I ever needed, no matter what happened. I just hope there are crafts in heaven, cause I know that’s where I’m going. 

For those who would like to visit Liz’s blog you could do so by clicking www.lizjfoxdesign.com

Liz, are there any other links you’d like to share?

For getting started with rock painting: http://www.linwellford.com

A really great link to check out is http://gotquestions.org

Thank you for chatting with us, today, Liz. 🙂

Hope you all enjoyed learning a few things from this ‘master crafter’! To learn more, be sure to check out her blog. 🙂

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Social Butterfly

Lately, as far as my writing has been concerned, I’ve been feeling very much like the dog, Dug, from the movie UP. You know, that highly distractible pup with the attention span of a gnat – squirrel! – uh, what was I talking about? Oh, yes, my writing.

I think what I would describe this writing phase as ‘creative nonfiction’. It’s been so long since I actually sat down and concentrated on any of my WIPs – and there are many irons in the fire. I just can’t seem to concentrate on any of them because blogging has become my newest passion, that and scrapbooking and my grandson and spending time with friends and family.

This (blogging) is the creative nonfiction I’m talking about – writing about what’s been going on in MY life instead of one of my fictional characters. It’s been fun, too, writing what I hope are interesting blog posts and READING so many wonderful blogs. It’s kind of taking over my life that when I do get distracted by life, like Dug, and return to my computer I find another batch of posts I want to read, but I want to read those from the day before or, like today, from several days back. At the moment, I am looking at 74 emails, all blog posts from my favourite bloggers that I want to read but, alas, I have Tai Chi in a couple of hours and then I will be taking three lovely ladies from class to a fun day put on by the Independent Living Resource Centre. After that, there’s a ‘Bud, Spud and Steak’ event to raise money for the families of the security guards in Calgary who were killed in a recent robbery. It is going to be one very busy day!

Actually, it has been a very busy week, spending two days in the country crafting cards with my sister-in-law, popping into Scrapbook Cottage in Steinbach to pick up more supplies and a side trip to the thrift store. Then, there was the dentist on Wednesday which I thought was going to be a quick replacement of a temporary crown with a permanent one and ended up spending an hour and a half in the dentist chair while she poked, prodded, drilled, cut away gum tissue and ground down the filling put in by the guy who did my root canal. My jaw still hurts and I still can’t bite down on that side. On top of all that, I have over 2 dozen cards to make by August 1st and each one takes at least an hour to finish, sometimes up to two hours, if they are really elaborate (or I make a mistake and have to figure out how to cover it up!)

Other plans for this summer entail painting and putting up new fence boards to replace the broken section in our back yard, clean out the storage room so I can maybe expand my crafting space, read all the books on my TBR list, visit with out-of-town guests and finishing my research so I can work on the sequel to Spirit Quest. I don’t think it’s all going to happen in the next 6 weeks.

So, that’s what my writing life has been like, lately! Whew!

How are the rest of you coping with your distractions from writing? I really need to know!

Ahh!

I think I’ve finally gone through all the blog posts in my e-mailbox and can now settle down to write a post of my own. There has been so much diversity in the posts over the past few days, from book reviews (easyondeeyes) to writing advice (jkellerfordRamblings, My First Book) to photography (C. B. Wentworth) to travel (newsofthetimes). There has been celebrations – Sky Diaries got some good news from her critique partners, Jenny got permission to reveal some of the goodies related to her upcoming anthology release Make Believe, and there have been discussions about women-in-the-work place/mommy guilt at both When The Kids Go To Bed and Newsofthetimes.

As for what’s been happening in my life, Grandson’s first birthday bash went well. Although not everyone I invited showed up (which was probably a good thing because I would not have had room for everyone!), we still had a good crowd and lots of food. We even had some unexpected guests – Hubby’s cousin and his wife were in from B. C. to attend a wedding and had enough time to pop by for a visit.

Grandson received many generous gifts (like a remote control car, a racing set, and a JETS hat among other things) and seemed to enjoy the afternoon. Although he didn’t get his nap, he was surprisingly chipper and didn’t get cranky until almost dinner time when it was time to go home anyway. He certainly wasn’t hungry as he had been nibbling all afternoon on fruit, munchies and cake.

Our Sunday morning breakfast with another out-of-towner was fun, too. The food at Smitty’s is always good and the conversation was as comfortable as when we were back in high school. I love when friends who live far away come back for a visit and it’s like they never left. 🙂

Sunday afternoon’s wedding shower for a friend’s daughter was quite enjoyable. We have known the young lady since she was born, so she is more like a niece than a mere acquaintance. The celebration was held outside in glorious sunshine. It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to enjoy such lovely weather, wonderful companionship and fabulous food! You can now tell that I was outside as my skin is several shades redder than it’s been in over a year! I should have put on some sun screen, but I really didn’t think I’d been exposed that long.

Well, I should sign off for now and get a few things done that have been neglected over the past week.

Interview Sunday #3

Happy Father’s Day, all you Dads, Grandpas & Great-grandfathers!

Today, I have with me a talented young man whose blog I follow faithfully because of the variety of things he posts and because he rarely fails to draw out a chuckle from me. He has a marvelous sense of humour and writes about some pretty awesome stuff.

Welcome to my blog, Matt! Please tell us a little bit about yourself. 

Perhaps the first thing I should tell you is that I am rarely brief. So much so, in fact, that my Dad once said, “Son, you don’t speak in words, you only speak in sentences and paragraphs.” If there was such a thing as “The International Rambling Award” it would already be sitting on my shelf, basking in the warmth of the…see, I’m doing it already.

Right, about me. I was born in England in 1986, a fantastic year for the whole world (mostly due to my birth). A few years later my family migrated to Australia. We moved around a fair amount, but I now currently reside on the Central Coast, about an hour north of Sydney, working as a high school teacher teaching mostly English and History, but also (increasingly) Maths. I am a lifelong writer and reader, drink far too much coffee, tea and wine, have watched Monty Python far too many times (or not enough), still watch cartoons, am an avid music collector (albums number in the thousands), and am also a collection collector (I just like collecting things). One of my long-term goals is to become a published novelist, but my day to day goal is just to make people smile, laugh, and hopefully help people learn, too.

OH THAT’S RIGHT THERE’S OTHER QUESTIONS – stop talking Matt!

(If you are interested in learning more about Matt, I’ve linked his picture to his post My Personal Timeline. Just click on his picture above)

You recently published your 100th post. What prompted you to begin blogging?

At the start of this year, I set myself a lot of outrageously difficult goals, including getting my health back on track (two months later my health dived to frightening lows), writing 12 novellas in 12 months (more on this in a later question), and, come to think of it, a whole lot of various writing goals. Among them I decided to try blogging, so I would actually be writing for an audience. It was difficult initially though, because I have tried blogging before only to give up after several entries. But by the time I finished the first month, I realised I was really enjoying it this time, and, more shockingly, people were reading the nonsense I was writing.

Would you please describe some of the topics one might expect to read about when they visit your site?

One of Matt’s mugs from his collection. Click on the picture if you want to see more of his coffee cup collection.

My blog mostly revolves around the fact that I’m a nerd, so the topics to be found on my page include books, poetry, writing, music, history, and the occasional posts on art, coffee, tea, and whatever else takes my fancy. For a while I felt a duty to stick to books, but I have found as time goes on I am branching out more and more. I just try to keep my blog honest and true to myself. And sometimes silly.

Some people prefer to write their blog posts ahead of time and some just sit down and write them on the spur of the moment or when a topic moves them. What is your preference?

I briefly tried writing posts ahead of time, but I felt they were either uninspired, or when I finished them I changed my mind and just posted them immediately anyway. So generally I write them on the spur of the moment, although sometimes I let ideas stew for a couple of days too, especially when it comes to reviews. From time to time I like to time travel, writing a post in the future and then publishing it before it was written…I once nearly caused the universe to not exist because of this.

Have you done anything to specifically draw in more followers?

I’ve been trying to figure this one out myself, because I am a little stunned with how many followers I have gathered in only a few months. I know in my first couple of months I spent a lot of time wandering around looking at other blogs, and commenting here and there. I ended up following a lot of these blogs, and a lot of these blogs followed me back. But recently I find myself so busy with the blogs I already follow, and, of course, my own blog, it’s hard to find time to just wander around the blogosphere like that.

Aside from this…I guess I just try to be consistent, and make an effort to respond to every comment and make people feel welcome at my blog, hopefully giving them a reason to return.

Have you learned any secrets to creating a successful blog? If so, would you please share them with other newbies?

As I say, being consistent in both the timing of your posts and in responding to comments is super important to making a blog work. I also think it’s important to be reasonable with yourself about how often you blog – you don’t want it to turn into a chore, because that shows. Blogging should be something you enjoy, and if it feels otherwise maybe give yourself a day or two off, and return when you’re feeling more inspired. Also, this might be stating the obvious, but make sure you proofread – readers can forgive the occasional typo or clumsily worded sentence, as no doubt we are all guilty of it from time to time, but I occasionally stumble across a blog that is just littered with mistakes, and it’s just really off-putting.

But most importantly – be yourself! I love a good blog where you can really see the blogger themself in their writing. So be honest, and write about what you know.

Good advice! 🙂

Of the many categories you have listed in the sidebar of your blog, one of them is ‘12 Novellas in 12 Months’. You referred to this earlier, so I know you like to write stuff other than your blog posts. Please tell us a little about this challenge that you have set for yourself.

Ah yes, that little challenge. About five years ago I found myself suddenly reinspired to write creatively, after a several year absence from crafting stories for fun. In 2009 I found out about NaNoWriMo, the worldwide novel-writing event in which hundreds of thousands of people write a fifty thousand word novel in a single month. I completed this in 2009, 2010, and then in 2011 I completed the sister event, Script Frenzy, as well as challenging myself to write seventy five thousand words for that year’s NaNo (which I managed to pull off courtesy of an eleven thousand word day towards the end of the month – don’t try that at home, please, whatever you do).

So what does all this have to do with 12 Novellas in 12 Months? The problem with NaNoWriMo is that it only inspires me for one month of the year, and then it leaves me feeling burnt out for a while, and I end up not writing much over the remainder of the year. So I devised a plan to write all year round, but under more manageable circumstances – write 12 novellas in 12 months! Why novellas? Because if the average novella is thirty thousand words, this comes out at a thousand words a day, which is quite manageable even around a full time job. Or so I thought…but there’s six months left in this year, and I’m determined to beat this challenge. So far I have one novella finished, and several part of the way through. By the end of this month I should have six finished…uh oh.

I completely understand how real life can interfere with the writing life!

Is there a specific genre you prefer to write or do you enjoy stretching your creativity to try different genres?

As part of my 12 Novellas challenge, I am trying to write in 12 different genres. I think I like to genre hop a little anyway, though I have been more comfortable when writing in historical fiction, fantasy, and humorous or comical fiction. But really I just write whatever I feel like at the time – genres should be places to explore in writing, not restrictions to limit yourself.

That is very true!

What is your approach to writing? Is it similar to the way you prepare your blog posts?

My approach to writing changes from story to story. Out of the three novels I have written in the past three years, two I wrote entirely on the spot, with no planning whatsoever. The novel I wrote in 2010 was my historical novel, and so I actually did plan it (a little), and researched a fair amount before writing it. After finishing the first draft, I realised it was terrible, and I am now slowly researching a lot more before I attempt to rewrite that story.

Most stories for me start with an image, or a quote, or something simple. I just sit down and start writing, squeeze my brain and force the words out, and see what happens and where it goes. As the story progresses, I try and determine the characters in as much detail in my mind as I can, so that they can drive the rest of the story forwards. Normally by about the halfway point, the end begins to form in my mind, at which point I purposely throw twists into the story, twists that surprise even me as the writer (if I can surprise myself, hopefully I can surprise my readers too), so that the real challenge becomes trying to find a way to get to the ending I foresee.

Basically my approach to creative writing is ridiculous.

You sound like a ‘pantser’, like me! 🙂

Do you have anything else to share with us, today?

My advice for anybody wanting to become good at anything – just keep practising! If you want to become a successful writer, I truly believe reading broadly and writing relentlessly is the ultimate key to reaching this goal. The same goes for just about everything in life – don’t ever let somebody tell you you’re no good at something, or you’re never going to be good at it, because when we really apply ourselves fully to the task at hand, humans are capable of incredible things.

Very inspiring, Matt, Thank you!

For those who wish to experience your blog, they can visit you by pressing here. Are there any other ways in which people can enjoy your words of wisdom? 

Absolutely! You can find me on Twitter at @abritishperson, and on Goodreads I am listed as Matt Watson (they’ve been linked so just click on the underlined words).

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Matt.

Thank you for the great questions (and sorry about the rambling).

That’s not a problem. I have a rambling problem, myself. When I write a letter or email to someone, my hubby says it looks like I’m writing a novel – which isn’t all that far from the truth! In conversations, if someone asks me about writing, I’ll talk their ear off! Maybe we should start a group called Ramblers Anonymous! 🙂

Thanks, again, Matt for joining us today. Good luck with your challenges. 🙂

I’m sure you all have enjoyed our little ‘chat’. Please follow the links to learn more about Matt and his blog. 🙂

Best Australian Blogs Competition

Hello, fellow bloggers! Just a quick post tonight to tell you about an Australian blogging competition. One of the bloggers I follow on a regular basis – wantoncreation – has been nominated and is asking for votes. I’ve done my part by voting and thought some of you out there might like to do the same. If you’d like to learn more about the competition, press here. He will guide you through the simple process and give you a little more info on what it’s all about.

I am never disappointed when I read his blog. His posts range from poetry to book reviews to music to writing and I always learn something new and often get a good chuckle. I’ve nominated him for other awards in the past so I really hope you pop by his site, check out some of his past posts and are inspired to click on the VOTE button. His site is truly awesome!