This is how I applied for and won an art-based scholarship.
The Bethel E. Ells Scholarship is awarded to a part- or full-time art or art humanities major. I believe there is more than one recipient, but I’m not sure of the number. Here is the info from the application:
For students majoring in Art, this includes Drawing, Painting, Computer Graphics, Photography, and Sculpture or Art Humanities.
A lot has been going on. I have been taking 17 credit hours this semester, and I can’t remember the last time I’ve worked so hard and been so happy in that work. I’m telling you right now: If you’ve been in a slump, or maybe want to advance in your career but lack of a degree is holding you back; GO TO SCHOOL, even if it’s just one class at a time.
There’s nothing that will revive you more than feeding your brain. It’s the perfect time in the economy, too. Things are starting to bounce back, but it’s slow going and business is still slow enough that if you wanted to, you could squeeze in a morning or evening class. Some of them are scheduled to only meet once a week, if that’s all you can commit. There are loads of scholarships available, and enrollment is down, so they WANT you to go to school.
But assuming you can afford one class per semester – maybe two – what would you take? What has always piqued your interest? Ancient Egypt? Art History 101- Prehistoric to the Gothic, or World History to 1500.
What have you always wondered more about? How to really use Excel, so you can go up a paygrade at work? CIS 105 or Excel Level I.
Or, have you always wondered why rocks look like this? Take Geology 101! I liked it so much I took 102 as well.
Why don’t you do something for you? You’ve always wanted to try painting. Remember how much you loved watching Bob Ross? I recommend taking Color Theory first. It’s been a challenge, but a good one!
Think about it.
Besides school, we’ve had a few birthdays
and lost our two best friends :(
Butter (aka Best Dog in the World) was 13, and Pepper (2nd Best Dog in the World) was 12. They passed away within a month of each other.
Our new girl, Juniper, was a birthday surprise, and missed meeting Pepper by two days, but kept Butter company for the last month. She’s adorable, and smart, and keeps us all on our toes.
The horses have gotten hairy. They got a post-Halloween treat.
Keira is still for sale. It’s strange, I think she must be waiting for the perfect home. I’ve had several people interested in her, and a few offers, but they all fell through for various reasons. All she needs is time and attention. She’s super smart and sweet, and responds well to training (see video on her page). I’m so surprised she hasn’t sold yet, because she’s pretty close to perfect. But that’s just my opinion ;)
I gave my first class lecture
and we’ve had some rain.
Coming up, I’ve got a post on a popular author, a round-up of my projects for the semester, an out-of-town writing conference (so exciting!), and after Christmas, I get to go visit my family. Please continue to keep my sister-in-law and our parents in your thoughts. This is our first holiday without John, and he is greatly missed.
Here and now, it’s holiday time in the desert, cool and crisp in the morning, sunny in the afternoon.
I’m thankful for it all – my family, our health & home, the opportunities we have.
And to you, for taking the time to visit.
If you’d like to do more online browsing, please stop by my friends’ sites:
Big sister or aunt-type giving boy advice to a younger girl.
MC: “The difference between boys and girls is this:
When a girl wants to go out with a boy, it’s because she thinks he’s cute and she wants to talk to him and look deep into his eyes and hold his hand and maybe kiss him someday, in this big, movie-like passionate, romantic way, like you see on book covers. And she wants him to think she’s the prettiest girl ever, and notice all the things she likes about herself that nobody else notices. And to never, ever, look at any other girls.
When a boy wants to go out with a girl, he wants to do most of those things, too, but he mostly wants to do all the nasty physical stuff [fill in the blank] he can possibly think of. And it’s not because he’s disgusting, or a jerk or a pervert, it’s just because he’s a boy. And a lot of the time they are more scared shitless of making the first move than you are. So if you have a boy that you know – maybe you’re “just friends,” and he spends lots of time talking to you and you laugh at the same jokes, unless he’s in love with another girl or gay, he most likely wants to do all of those things with you. ”
—something that I’m working on. What say you? Leave a comment.
There are way more books to read than I will ever have time for in my life.
For fiction books, all you need to read is the first page to know if you’ll like the book.
My fantasy-adventure story is still relevant. The “does it matter?” slump/doubt has been completely erased, and fed with new inspiration. Thanks to the teen & young reader’s section, and re-visiting some of the classics.
My read-aloud bedtime book is very relevant, and I can do my own illustrations. Even though I’m totally getting into unleashing my artistic side, I’ve been overwhelmed by my lack of experience. I keep thinking: How can I illustrate this story while fooling everyone into thinking I know what I’m doing?
With the recent nudging of a very good friend, some inspiration from Neil Himself (watch this video, and if you already have, watch it again), and today’s hours spent in the children’s section, now I know: art is art. Everyone has a different approach, and like Mr. Gaiman says, no one can tell my story but me. No one can create the art that’s in my head but me.
Here’s a picture of me, my first week back to school, after a 22-year-break:
I’ve been fortunate enough to have been a stay-at-home mom for 16 years, and a few years ago, went back to work part-time to help out with things like grocery money. Weird thing about teenage boys is, they like to eat. I enjoyed my job slinging magazines at the grocery store, and my other part-time job, driving delivery lunches for a couple of really awesome caterers. But the work was hard on my back, and I kept thinking…what’s next? Am I going to be lugging 20-lb bundles of Vanity Fair down to the checkstand when I’m 60?
So I started looking for a “real” job. Something that might earn me more money, maybe some benefits, and something I might be proud of. Not that I wasn’t proud of the way I lined up and categorized the magazine aisle, but I think you know what I mean.
And after perusing all of the jobs listings that seemed of interest to me, I realized: I can’t do any of them. As much as I would love to get into a marketing job (literary agent, maybe?), design, or editing, I have no experience or job training – other than keeping two boys and a husband in relatively clean clothes and lasagne for the past twenty years.
So, what could I do? Work part time for the rest of my life? Go back to retail or waitressing? Real Estate?
Luckily the timing worked out right, and back to school I went.
I’ve had more than a few people tell me that I would make a good teacher.
Growing up with an über-feminist mother in the 1970s, in the days when there were only 3 major professions a woman was expected to aspire to were: secretary, nurse, and teacher, and having my mom always telling me that I could be ANYTHING, and that I should never settle for status quo, the idea of being a teacher never appealed to me. (Well, besides the office supplies, and being able to write on a chalkboard.) But it just seemed so unglamorous. Besides, I was going to be a movie star, remember?
When I began to look at what I really enjoyed it occurred to me that I really do like to teach things to people. And I’ve always loved art, have also always wanted to learn more about art and how to be a better artist. And whenever I did try to imagine myself as a teacher, I thought I would love to be an art teacher.
When my youngest son was in elementary school, I offered to be the classroom volunteer for the Art Masterpiece program. As part of the program, volunteers were invited to attend free classes at the Phoenix Art Museum. Then we got all sorts of ideas for lessons and how to integrate them into the classroom. We could even tour the museum for free, and ask all sorts of questions to the Art Librarian. Over the next couple of years we made Paolo Soleri-inspired windbells, Lichtenstein-style portraits, and charcoal drawings of the desert. I couldn’t believe how much I loved it. And while the idea of volunteering in the classroom (usually for some sort of party) typically made me cringe, I couldn’t wait to get in there with those kids and talk about art.
The most surreal part of starting college again was that the day before my very first day of school, my dad called – that 2:30 AM call that no one wants – to tell me my brother had died. I’d been on the phone with family, crying for 24 hours, and then I’m putting on a backpack and carrying a sack lunch. It was all too weird.
The first few weeks of school, my brain and my heart fought between being excited and happy, or heartbroken and crying. More than once, I had to excuse myself from class because it was just too much. But I felt him, every step of the way. My brother had gone back to school in his 30’s and received his degree in music education. He is part of the reason I decided to give it a try.
I learned so much my first semester: How I’m in LOVE with art history; how I get all science-nerd-fangirl over geology stuff; how, even though I’m a rockstar computer whiz when it comes to blogging, I don’t know sh*t about Excel (my only B!), how I get way in over my head for simple design assignments, and while I’m decent at drawing, I still have a long way to go.
Even my summer school classes, English 102 and Public Speaking – which I thought would be a breeze – challenged me in ways I never expected.
Look for more about my school adventures in the future. It’s certainly an overwhelming change of pace, going from full time mom to full time student, especially as an older -excuse me – non-traditional student, but it feels good. I have always loved to learn, and maybe I’m at the right time in my life where I’m able to appreciate the lessons. Wish me luck.
Look for Images from my first semester in the next post: Back to School: Projects
In celebration of Tom’s latest book, and because I LOVE MY READERS :DI am giving away a signed copy of manicpixiedreamgirl!Read on, and enter for your chance!!
I said it when I read Party, Tom Leveen’s debut novel, and I’ll say it again: I will be very very shocked if we don’t see a TV or movie adaptation of his work sometime in the near future. While Party could easily be adapted into an MTV series (each of eleven chapters is told from a different character’s point-of-view, all on the same night – at a high school party), and Zero has an indie-film feel, manicpixiedreamgirl is like today’s version of a John Hughes film.
Yes. I just compared up-and-coming YA author Tom Leveen to the Martin Scorsese of 80’s teen angst.
And it’s apropos, considering, in Tom’s own description of himself freshman year, he had “that whole John Bender thing going,” or at least that’s the look he was going for at the time. But as all of us former freshmen know, the look you want to have is much further from the persona you actually project. We want to be badass, confident and sexy; when in actuality we are awkward, nerdy, and to most of the world, still “kids.”
In manicpixiedreamgirl‘s Tyler—loosely biographical—Tom captures these feelings to a T. Internally, the rush of what you wish was your reality, all the hopes, dreams, and feelings flowing like a fast-moving river; the image of yourself looking fabulous, walking up to your crush and reciting some impressive commentary on Whatever Is Relevant At The Time. But externally, you can barely look them in the eye, and what you really say—the still-puddle of one-syllable responses: “yup,” “nope,” “uh…” John Bender reduced to Brian Johnson.
I first introduced you to Tom in this guest post for Will Write for Coffee. When I met him, Tom had just released his first book, Party, and gave a presentation at our regional SCBWI conference. I had loaned out my copy of Party to a friend, and had stupidly forgotten my wallet in my other purse and wasn’t able to buy a copy at the conference. Being a geek, I like to have signed copies from authors I’ve met. I asked Tom if I could order a signed copy online. He did the absolute coolest thing right then and there—checked to make sure no one was looking, held his finger in a “shh,” and slipped me a copy from his messenger bag, which I then sheepishly brought to the autograph table about 10 minutes later. He’s been a rock star in my mind since.
Even better, after I’d asked him to do this interview, he was scheduled to appear at out local Indie, Changing Hands Bookstore, for the release of manicpixiedreamgirl. I dragged my 15-year-old son and his friend along, and listened to them complain all the way about how boring it would be. I had to bribe them with Jamba Juice just to go with me. (Really, five bucks for a fruit shake?) I forced my son to actually sit down with me during the presentation, rather than let him wander around the store wreaking havoc. What a heinous mother I am.
About two seconds into Tom’s presentation, my son and his friend were laughing hysterically, and I was laughing so hard I was crying. He is so animated and enthusiastic about what he does, and grateful for his ability to do it, it’s infectious. And by the time he’s done relating Tyler’s story to his own evolution, you are pretty much just as in love with his wife Joy as he is. Seriously, if your school or organization is thinking of an author visit – don’t even look anywhere else – Tom will entertain and motivate like none other. And if Tom isn’t enough, his son Toby will definitely do the trick.
It’s an honor and a privilege to introduce you.
Meet the Writer: Tom Leveen
How old were you when you started writing?
I wrote my first story in second grade, so, about seven years old I think. My teacher made me rewrite it and read it aloud to the first graders. At first I thought I was being punished for something, but once I got up in front of the class, I knew I wanted to do this for the rest of my life: tell stories and be in front of an audience. So that’s worked out well.
Where do you write?
I write in an indie coffee shop not far from my house, and also in my home office.
When do you write?
New stuff—brand new, no revision-type stuff—I generally do in the mornings. I used to stay up all night and write, and I miss doing that, but having a toddler has that effect. I use afternoons and evenings to do editing or revision, as well as other business stuff. Like answering interview questions!
What helps you write—music, pictures, maps, journals, etc.—what gets you into that mindset?
I recommend this to all writers. If you can get into a pattern, your brain starts to make associations. Like at my coffee shop, there’s a certain table and certain chair I always use, and within a few minutes of being there and getting set up, I can feel my brain (usually) start to click over to the job at hand, which is continuing that day’s story.
Beyond that, internet research helps me a lot. The more I dig into a topic and click around on websites, the more ideas I get. I do usually make playlists for my stories, too, but I don’t listen to music while I write anymore. Sometimes when I’m making copyedits, but that’s it.
What are some things that stand in your way? logistically as well as creatively?
No, really, the internet is without doubt the writer’s best friend, apart from time. But it’s also a curse, because man, you start off with just needing to know some quick obscure fact, like the capital of Guam, and then an hour’s gone by and you haven’t written a word. And by “you” I mean “me,” of course.
Creatively what makes me stumble is doubt coupled with certainty. For whatever reason, the stuff that I feel most excited about turns out to be my worst writing, and the stuff I’m sure sucks is inevitably what my agent picks up on and wants to read more of. So it gets very confusing in my head sometimes.
What do you do when you “hit a wall?”
It depends. I’ve gotten better at being honest with myself and how I’m feeling, be it physical or mental. There are some days like, “You know what? This ain’t gettin’ done. It’s just not happening.” When I feel like that, then I pack it in and do something else for the rest of the day, and try again tomorrow. Then there are other times I hit a wall, but I can still feel like the words are there, the story is there; I just have to figure it out. In those cases, a walk helps. Pacing around the house. Talking out loud. Anything to let my mind wander for a bit. Usually within ten to thirty minutes the dam breaks.
Beyond that, I will often just open a new story and start something new or work on something old. Let my subconscious figure it out.
Do you use an outline—do you know exactly how the arc will play out—or do you just let the story develop as you write? If so, how do you outline? (notecards, etc.)
Hm…good question. I guess both.
What tends to happen, lately, is I free write a first draft, or at least half a first draft, and then go back and give it an outline. Sometimes I’ll use the Hero’s Journey as a template, not necessarily point by point, but just to see if there is in fact, you know—a plot. (There isn’t always, especially in that first draft.) My outlines usually just consist of a Word doc with notes (often longer than the book itself, it turns out), and sometimes an Excel doc so I can move things around and keep the plot points, character names and locations, etc., organized.
In terms of the arc, I don’t usually know exactly how things will turn out, though on some stories, I discover the ending about halfway through the writing. Zero’s ending has been the same since the first draft in 1993. For manicpixiedreamgirl, I knew most of where I wanted it to end up. But with Party – which went through more drafts than the other two – I never did know for sure how to tie it up until just before we pitched it.
How do you draft/revise? (i.e. do you just get it out in one big “dump,” then revise, revise revise, or do you revise and edit as you go)
I try hard to get the first draft out all in one go. Usually what happens is I’ll do a bit of revision as go, though. If I stop to revise too much, the book never gets done. And there’s no point in revising a story that had no middle or end. I think I’ve gotten better about completing those first drafts. They are awful, but that’s what first drafts are for!
What are some tools that you use? (reference guides, manuals, websites—a favorite pen/notebook/computer)
Well, I use the internet pretty extensively for research, whether it’s just a quick fact check or more in-depth. I often use videos, too—documentaries, usually, or travelogues. I do all of my composing on my desktop and an obsolete netbook. Come to think of it, the desktop is obsolete too, but I can’t stomach the newer versions of Word. I want my old 2003 version, thanks.
Lately I’ve also appreciated using a handheld recorder or the sound recording option on my cell phone to speak quick notes or lines of dialogue before I forget them. That’s been hugely helpful.
Beyond that, I don’t really have anything special to use while writing. I don’t think…
Do you use critique groups? How did you find them?
I do not, at the moment, but I did before I was published. I highly recommend the forums at www.absolutewrite.com, without whom I would never have gotten my first agent. No question.
I haven’t really had a formal critique group since college. I think there is value in them, but I also thing aspiring writers need to know what to look for—namely, people (or just one or two good beta readers) who will not only be honest, but know what to be honest about.
I’ve taken some creative writing classes that I really enjoyed attending, for instance, but in hindsight realized: I didn’t learn a damn thing! The feedback was nice and encouraging, and I made a few changes that helped the story…but a bunch of people saying “I liked this; I didn’t like this” is not the same as a knowledgeable person saying, “Your pacing is too slow in chapter two. Your secondary characters are flat and uninteresting. The plot is too convoluted. Cut chapter four entirely.” Things like that. Concrete ideas and suggestions that turn a decent book into a marketable book.
I don’t know how to find those. But if anyone in the group has published, that helps. But the real hard part is listening to criticism and knowing when the criticism is right. I always recommend checking local libraries and indie bookstores for groups.
On your current project:
What was your inspiration for this book?
Real life! Sort of.
I actually already had an outline of manicpixiedreamgirl that formed the spine of a one-man play I wrote and directed a few years out of high school, which itself was loosely based on real events. But manicpixiedreamgirl is not autobiographical; it’s just emotionally true to what I experienced.
What kind of research did you do for this book? And, were you surprised by something that you learned in your research?
I didn’t need to do much research with manicpixiedreamgirl, because it dealt with writing and theatre, two things I know a lot about. And since the story already had a framework from the play, there wasn’t much to look into.
On the other hand, for Sick (Oct. 1, 2013, Abrams/Amulet), I had to do a ton of medical research. Gross, disgusting medical research. I was surprised that my initial concept for the “zombies” in the novel (they are not undead, though the characters have a whole debate about that) was reasonably medically based, or at least could be.
How good did it feel to write that last line?
For manicpixiedreamgirl? Very good. Like closure. Much like Zero, this one had been with me a long time, and it was nice to put it to bed.
On the business of publishing:
How did you find your agent/editor?
I used AgentQuery.com and resources on AbsoluteWrite. I may have even used a print version of Writer’s Market, come to think of it. I built an Excel sheet with the agency’s name, agent’s name, when I submitted, and what if any response I got. I got picked up after about forty rejections by Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and I’ve been there ever since.
How has self-publishing shaped your career as a writer? / What is your opinion of self-publishing?
I haven’t yet done it, so I can’t speak with any authority. I will underline the “yet,” though, as I am already in the early stages of planning some self-published work.
My opinion of self-pub is this: One, it’s not going away. Two, to paraphrase Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park: “Writers can get so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
I’m less of a doomsayer about traditional publishing and agents than some of my best writer friends, but there’s no doubt the industry has changed and will continue to change. But I will also say that my most valuable instruction came from my agents and editors. I always recommend that writers give the traditional route a try first, if only for the experience of revision (and revision and revision and revision…) that goes into a good, marketable novel. Being able to write a good query and condense that novel into 200 words or less is a good skill to have for someone going the indie route.
I try to say this to every writing class I teach: Writing fiction is a business. And self-publishing is twice or more the work traditional publishing is because you’re doing it all alone. Yes, there are examples of big breakthroughs, but they are in the minority.
My friend Erin Jade Lange (author of Butter) recently said at a conference, “You have to love writing more than showers.” She’s dead right. You have to love this more than just about anything else on earth to make a real go of it. The man-hours it takes to really, truly put out a great novel is daunting. Or should be, if you’re think about it enough. Finishing up your NaNoWriMo book and plugging it into Smashwords on December 1 is not how to do it.
What can you share with our readers about marketing? (i.e. what, if any, support did you have from your publisher? Costs involved? Things that worked best/weren’t worth it, etc.)
Ya know, this is my major weakness. I’m still learning. I think postcards are a great idea, I carry those around with me. Business cards are still useful. Having an online presence is essential, even if you don’t want one.
Really the biggest thing was making ARCs and e-galleys available to the book bloggers out there. That’s where a lot of interest gets generated.
But when it comes to MG and YA authors, there’s no beating getting yourself in front of students. You don’t need a gimmick or anything; just be yourself and talk about things that matter to you in a way that will matter to them. I think I sell about as many books based on my writing classes and presentations as I do what any journal has to say about the novel itself.
(As I stated above, I can attest to Tom’s presentation skills. Not only have I seen him talk about his books, but I’ve taken his “Say Words” writer’s workshop. He helps writers portray realistic teen dialogue. And, the class that Tom had been working with at Estella Mountain HS came all the way across town just to celebrate his book release. Think he speaks to kids? Yeah.)
What is a trick that you’ve learned along the way that has made the writing process easier?
None that I am aware of…
Okay, no, just kidding. For me, (relative) silence and having a schedule. Those two things have helped more than anything else. Some authors call it “B.I.C.” which means, Butt In Chair. It means there’s no substitute for sitting down and writing. Now, I myself often stand while at my coffee shop, because they have these great, tall bar tables. But you get the drift. Even if the only time you can write is Thursday morning from five a.m. to seven a.m., then by cracky, that’s when you will write. And the more you do that, the easier it gets.
What writers inspire you?
The late John Bellairs (The Mummy, The Will, and The Crypt) influenced me a lot. So did early Stephen King stories and novels, and most of Robert Cormier’s books (The Chocolate War, etc.) I kind of want to be Laurie Halse Anderson when I grow up . . . or at least have the range of influence she does. I’d put A.S. King in there, too. These women are at the forefront of tangibly changing the lives of adolescents, and that’s what I want more than anything.
Really the writers who inspire me are the writers who I’ve become friends with since this whole thing started. There’s a whole clutch of YA and MG writers here in the Phoenix and wider Arizona area, and they are truly awesome people. I learn – present tense – a lot from them.
What do you like to read for enjoyment?
Lately I have been reading a lot of nonfiction. It started when a good friend of mine recommended the popular book Born To Run. I really enjoyed that. Then she recommended another that I fell in love with Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. A third followed. So now anything she recommends to me, I will read.
Then I began reading up on Gandhi while doing research, and that led to a whole list of must-reads. So these days, if I’m not re-reading some middle-grade novel from the eighties that I grew up with (kind of like comfort food, only, in words), I’m reading one or more nonfiction books on any number of topics.
We all know that learning from our mistakes is part of the process of becoming who we are. As a writer, what’s one lesson you’ve learned that you would like to pass on to others?
Writing fiction is a business. Sorry to go all serious on you, but yeah – the instant you decide you want someone to pay you for writing fiction, you are a small business owner. Act like it.
I’m so glad you said that. I think more writers need to realize that being an author is WAY MORE than writing a book.
What’s next for you?
Next is Sick (Abrams/Amulet), which releases October 1, 2013. After that is Random (Simon Pulse) in Summer 2014. I’m getting some side projects worked up, slowly. Mostly I just keep looking for places to present and to teach. It’s the best part of all this.
I can imagine. After seeing you speak several times, it shows that you really enjoy teaching others about writing, especially kids.
Thank you so much, Tom! I hope everyone has learned more about what it takes to be a writer. Readers, see below for more of Tom’s books, and a chance to win a signed hardcover copy of manicpixiedreamgirl!
For a chance to win a signed hardcover copy of Tom’s newest book, manicpixiedreamgirl,leave a comment about the interview, below! Winner will be chosen at random in one week and notified by email!!Good Luck!