November 17th, 2010

Sound: (knock at the door)

Me: (opens door. Looks at creature wearing a t-shirt that reads “fear of failure”, the shirt is covered in bloodstains.)

“You?!?”, I exclaim, “I thought I was done with you.”

“Apparently not, since you seem a bit flustered.”

“Shit, is it that obvious? Listen, I know now that comparing oneself to others is silly. We all have different life paths, so it is a futile act to compare one with another. Each human is here to learn different things and progress in different ways.”

“So why am I here then?”

“Because I still have those days when my confidence takes a nose dive?”

“You’re human, it happens.”

“You might as come in. We should probably sit for a while. But only for a day or so because I have work to do and I’m anxious to get back to it.”

“Why don’t we go for a long walk instead.”

“Sounds good.”

November 10th, 2010

wreck this box

the boxed set is out now! I saw someone had posted pictures of the instructions on the back of it. But I don’t want to give them away here (in case you are the kind of person who likes surprises). It’s really cool.

Really really cool.

I remember when I was working at my first bookstore job in high school (the first of many), during the Christmas season it was an exciting thing to unpack and shelve all of the shiny new boxed sets. I recall a feeling of being invited on a journey. There was a different energy in the store and the promise of immersing yourself into the world of a writer for an extended time. It was more of a commitment to embark on a whole series, you really had to love it and sink yourself into it. And sometimes you would purchase a boxed set just because you loved the author and wanted to have a set that was consistent design-wise. In those days there were often many different cover designs available so it was nice to have ones that matched, (or in a size that matched). Oh, how I coveted my Madelaine L’Engle series.

There are so many things I miss about working in a bookstore around the holidays. The music, the chaos, the challenge of finding that “perfect” book for a customer, or even just finding the one they were looking for. I lived for the “book mysteries” people would bring to you, (“it has a white cover and there is something about a red fish in the title”). I still feel that I had a real gift for this, able to deduce a title from the most obscure clues. One had to be up on the current books though. You had to read the book section of the paper every weekend, and you had to listen to the book shows on the radio. And you had to read as much as humanly possible. For me the reading was like an endless journey through a large forest that you never wanted to leave. Every book was full of new possibilities and many had the potential to change you forever. And they did.

What you don’t think about at the time, or what I didn’t think about is the fact that each book is connects you to a time and place. In this way books are temporal, the experience of reading is a way of marking your days. I was listening recently to a lecture about the future of books by James Bridle and in it he talks about how the book (the artifact) becomes a souvenir, marking the time and your existence. This is why incidentally he thinks that ebooks are not doing so well, they do not offer us a souvenir to remember our experience by.) We associate the object with a memory, and just by picking it up again we are quickly transported back. This explains why it is hard to let go of our favorite books, even when we know they take up too much space on our shelves.

I enjoy thinking about someone opening up one of my boxed sets on Xmas morning and setting off on a slightly strange journey with my ideas. We will become partners of sorts. Maybe they will spill some egg nog onto the pages. The books themselves will become linked to the excitement of the moment. Maybe they will do some of the pages with their family, and have a few laughs in the process.

I would really love it if that happened.

November 8th, 2010

cold, damp, wet.

unable to get warm.

a long school day.

playing. hands covered in charcoal.

class dismissed. a walk to get food for dinner. the public market.

some fish. potatoes. good cheese. olives stuffed with lemon.

on my way out I smell them cooking on a cart.

roasted chestnuts.

small talk with an elderly man who stirs the nuts with a metal spoon and tells me they will be a few more minutes (“they are not done until they are soft and chewy inside”). we talk mostly about the weather and how it’s warmer here than back east. he wears one white glove on his left hand (I learned later it was so he could put the hot nuts into the small paper bag, while holding the bag with his ungloved hand).

I hand him six dollars.

he hands me a bag of nuts and they warm my hands all the way down the street.

my reward.

they smell smoky as I peel the shell off and I bite into their strange chewy texture. I am hooked.

I think I have a new addiction.

both my husband and sister feel they are they are one of the more challenging things (read: disgusting) they have ever consumed.

I’ve been dreaming about them at night.

sadly the dog ate the last four I was saving for the next day.

but it’s okay.

I’m going back next week.

and I have all week to be excited about it.

addendum: I found a very interesting post about roasted chestnuts in Spain.

November 4th, 2010

did you notice anything?

November 4th, 2010

“It is only after you have come to know the surface of things that you can venture to seek what is underneath. But the surface of things is inexhaustible.” –Mr. Palomar

November 1st, 2010

What exactly is integrity? I suppose this is something we must all answer for ourselves as we go through life. It seems to be the main focus for me in all that I do in the last few years as I try to align my values with my work (and everyday life). What sparks this thinking today?

I have reached an amazing but also challenging place in my career where I am being approached by a wide swath of people/companies asking me to work with them on specific projects. My personality is such that I want to try everything and I find myself so very flattered that people find what I do of value. Often I am amazed by it, and I become mesmerized in a deer in the headlights kind of way. It takes sometime for me to step back and really look at what sits in front of me. I have to ask myself some important questions. What is this really about? Does this fit into my own vision as an artist/human? Is this in line with my values? Am I at risk of compromising my vision in lieu of trying to “get out there” more?

This is where it becomes necessary to really be clear about what is important to me. And while I have never had a problem knowing where my work boundaries lie, I do sometimes find myself in a situation where I am overwhelmed, and maybe not always making the best decisions.

And so what do I do when I am faced with this? How do I measure whether a project is in line with my values/ideas? What of the grey areas, the ones where you can’t really know? And doesn’t everyone have contradictions in life and work?

These issues become heightened when you are trying to teach students the importance of integrity in your work, (because this is something I talk about often with my class, figuring out what is of importance for you and finding work that reflects this.) In one class we did a bit of a personal thought experiment, “what if you received an extremely high paying gig from a company who’s product you didn’t believe in?” Considering these things ahead of time helps you to figure out where your boundaries lie. Are you ready to really stand up for what you believe in, even if it might compromise your career in the short term? In my own experience I believe I have always been rewarded greatly (in a variety of unexpected ways) when I say no to jobs I don’t believe in, (though it is often challenging in the moment).

I will share with you a little exercise that I do that I have found helps me when these situations arise. While it does not solve the problem in a direct manner, it really helps me to see what are the places where I need to set boundaries.

Exercise: Ideal World

Answer the following questions in as much detail as possible to create your own personal idea world:

What kind of world do I want to live in? If I had the power to create a society in my own vision, what would that look like? What kinds of activities would be at the forefront of culture? How would people treat each other? In what manner would business be conducted (if at all)? In what areas would the most energy be focused (i.e. education, health, etc.), write a list in order of importance? What kind of role models would be best for your ideal world (list some historical figures)? How does the society treat it’s children (i.e. what does it teach them about the world, what are they encouraged to partake in)? (Continue to add your own questions to this list).

After creating a vivid picture of your ideal world, take immediate pressing questions (i.e. should I participate in this project) and see if it would exist/fit into your world.

*I know this is an incredible over-simplification of life in many ways, but it is an exercise designed to help you determine what is important for you. In that sense you can try and have fun with it and let your imagination run wild in your invented world. I love the idea of creating my own currency and reinventing the whole system of finance. What about designing a completely different way of conducting “business” entirely. Where would you focus the energy of the world?

October 17th, 2010

A whole article on “Mess”, this is an exciting day!

Read it here, Huffington Post, Hand Job: Keri Smith’s Delightful Destruction .

October 14th, 2010

“Don’t be amazed if you see my eyes always wandering. In fact, this is my way of reading, and it is only in this way that reading proves fruitful for me. If a book truly interests me, I cannot follow it for more than a few lines before my mind, having seized on a thought that the text suggests to it, or a feeling, or a question, or an image, goes off on a tangent and springs from thought to thought, from image to image, in an itinerary of reasonings and fantasies that I feel the need to pursue to the end, moving away from the book until I have lost sight of it. The stimulus of reading is indispensable to me, and of meaty reading, even if, of every book, I manage to read no more than a few pages. But those few pages already enclose for me whole universes, which I can never exhaust.”

from page 254, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller, by Italo Calvino

October 13th, 2010

October 12th, 2010

maybe if I do stream of consciousness I will get something out here. I always like a kind of writing where one thing leads to another and you never know which direction it is going to head in next.

I’m reading bunch of meta-fiction these days. just finished “Atmospheric Disturbances” by Rivka Galchen, did not love it. bought a copy of “house of leaves” to see what all the fuss is about. don’t know if I will read it cover to cover as I want to sleep at night, but am mining it for ideas.

I very much underestimated the amount of work teaching was going to be. While I am enjoying it immensely, mostly because my students are really great and talented, I find myself spending most of my week preparing for the class. Which would be fine except that I am raising an amazingly bright and energetic two and a half year old (which is the greatest age ever by the way), and writing a new book. how does it all get done, one asks oneself, on a daily basis. one moment at a time.

deep breath.

I have been doing meditation sessions on a nightly basis. it is helping me to feel much more grounded, though I do not know exactly why. must be the intention to pay some much needed attention to the self. yes. that is it.

deep breath.

watched “Milton Glaser: To Inform and Delight”. He is just an interesting human. The film is not quite as good as the short adobe documentary, feels a bit “forced”. which is good for you because the short one is free and found on his site. and while you’re there go read his “10 Things I’ve Learned”. It’s very good.

While I am thinking about teaching and how much work it is, I must tell you that while it is challenging in many ways (it forces you to confront “what you know” and how much you don’t know), it is also giving me some kind of new found confidence. not in a way that stems from the ego, but in a way that stems from a love of learning. as a teacher you are always mining the world for content, things you can use in class, things to share, and it creates a kind of bond with the people you are sharing with because you are always excited to bring something to them that you think is interesting or related to what you are teaching. what is somewhat difficult is that while you are in it there is no real gauge for how you are doing. how do you know if you are reaching someone? if you are a good teacher, some of what you are teaching might not sink in for years. I suppose you just give them all you have and release all attachment to outcome. Isn’t that how it is with all important things in your life? Parenting, art, relationships, etc.

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