Fairy Gardens & Writing: how they relate

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Planting fairy gardens is one of my favorite things to do every spring. I do this for one of my jobs and on occasion, I teach how-to’s.

I’ve planted countless container pots over the seventeen years I’ve been doing this, but planting fairy gardens feels completely different and is always exciting to me.

Here’s why:

I escape into the mini world I am planting. Just like I escape into the worlds I create while writing.

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The writing and planting connection didn’t come to me until recently, while teaching a customer how to plant a desert landscape fairy garden.

“That’s the fairies’ winter home,” I said to her. “They go there when the frost covers their forests.”

The woman looked up at me with big eyes. “Ohmygosh. Yes! I didn’t think of that, but yes!”

I twirled over to another customer. “Oooo,” I said. “I like how those stepping stones trail off beneath that maiden hair fern. Where is it leading to?”

The girl looked up at me and showed her toothy grin. “A waterfall.”

And that’s when years and years of why I love planting mini landscapes, clicked.

It all stems from creating a believable SETTING!

Now, there are rules to planting fairy gardens, just like there are rules to writing.

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1- Scale: Nothing bugs me more than having a huge fairy, or dog, or bird bath right beside an iddy-biddy fairy house the same size. You need to have stepping stones in relation to the fairy house or have people bigger than animals. So, look for trinkets and decor that are to scale.

Scale in writing: This is called world-building. What are the rules, the magic system, the laws? Keep it consistent, and tight, and to scale. Don’t make the reader confused with things that don’t make sense.

 

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2- Plants: To set your fairy garden up for success, the plants all need to be able to survive in one pot together. Don’t plant outdoor with indoor. Or succulents and cacti with ferns. Or sun plants with shade plants. I know this seems like common knowledge, but this is the #1 issue I’ve seen. People buy plants just because they are pretty and then wonder why the beautiful flowers aren’t blooming inside in a dark room.

Plants with writing: I could go on, and on, and on about setting. In fact I have, many times on this blog. Here’s an award winning article I wrote about setting, if interested. I am extremely picky of the plants I see in novels. If the author names a real plant, in my mind, it better be able to grow in that realistic setting. If it’s fantasy, well, go crazy.

 

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3- Layers and texture: A woman I helped the other day was creating an herb fairy garden. She had rosemary, lavender, and curry all grouped together. She asked why it wasn’t working. I moved a few things around and added parsley, basil, and thyme between them. “It’s because all those plants have the same, slender leaves. See how they stand out now that they are next to other, cohesive plants with different texture?” I said. Think how a real forest grows with tall trees, shrubs, then ground cover. Add layers.

Layers and texture in writing: Resonance. Hints. Metaphor. What are you trying to say to the reader? What is the underlying theme? That’s the layers. – Voice. Substance. Emotion. How do you want it to make the reader feel? That’s your texture.

 

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Now, the fun part about fairy gardens is the play time. It’s the escapism. I made this one of The Shire. The whole time I was planting it, I thought about how much I love Tolkien and the vibrant way he creates setting. A customer came in and bought it right as I put it on the table to sell. She was a huge Tolkien fan like me. We were kindred spirits right away and it was because of the playful, whimsical thing that I’d created. It was cool.

As authors, writing should be fun. Creating things are fun. You have the power to create a world that others can escape into. I watch kids, and adults, play with the gardens I create, just like people can read the books I create.

And giving people that escapism to another world, is pretty cool.

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Here are some of my Instagram photos. You’re welcome to follow me for other planting, art, or writing tips.

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Thanks for stopping by!

  • Tara

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Award time!

Last week I won a writing award at UVU for my unpublished YA fantasy novel, Vagabond!!!
When I sat down after my speech and chapter reading, I realized I didn’t thank my mom, or my husband, or anyone, really. 😬
My Mom came to the banquet with me because my husband was out of town. Her and I share the same mind and the same interests. She’s written 5 books, yet has no desire to publish them. (But she should!) She’s painted her entire life, yet has no desire to sell them. (But she should!) My mom’s my hero.
Also, I’ve been blessed with an incredibly supportive husband. He puts up with these two crazy ladies in this photo, that alone makes him a saint. 😀

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Ironically, last nights writing award banquet was also the night of the art show opening at the ‪Springville Museum of Art‬. You know, the show where I was rejected.
Lean in and I’ll whisper something to you… “I’d rather win a writing award than be in an art show.”
😀 🎉
You win some and lose some. Next year, how ’bout I try harder to do both.

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Thanks for stopping by.

-Tara

Author Life Month

February was Author Life Month over on Instagram and Twitter. I decided to post the photos—and captions about the photos—from my feed onto my blog. I didn’t post every day,  but I tried. My favorite day was “Challenge Overcome.” It made me realize that every person struggles to be creative. Everyone has the same doubts and the same insecurities, no matter where you are in your career.

Day one. Here was a breakdown of Author Life Month.

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Day Two. Author photo.

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Day Four. Work in Progress.

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Day 5, 8, 9. Book cover comps, awesome moment, challenge overcome.

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Day 10. Non-author photo.

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Day 16. Where you write.

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Day 17. Where I relax.

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Day 22. Dedication Page.

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Day 23. Bucket List item done.

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Day 26. Favorite book outside of genre.

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Day 27. Your signature.

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Day 28. Favorite event accessory.

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Another non-author photo of when I was in Hawaii a couple weeks ago. 

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So there you have it. Find your tribe, it makes the highs and lows bearable. 🙂

Thanks for stopping by!

  • Tara

 

 

Happy Halloween!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

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Please enjoy some of the monstrous illustrations from my brother Todd Powelson.

You can find more of his amazing artwork on ARTDUH.COM or ToddPowelson.com

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Have a safe and spooky Halloween!

  • Tara 🙂

A party that was out of this WORLD!

A few weeks ago I attended a writers retreat with dozens of fabulous, talented women. I asked the organizer what I could do to help. She twiddled her thumbs, trying to think of something, because she’s very organized and had everything under control.

“Decorate and come up with a theme,” she said.

Interesting, because the cabin is set in a stunning backdrop and needs no added decor.

But I knew the theme I wanted the moment she asked for one.

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you might know that I love to travel and collect globes.

One of my favorite quotes is from one of my favorite authors.

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“Not all those who

Wander

are lost.” 

-Tolkien

So that was my theme.

Authors travel. We travel in time machines, through  worm holes, throughout history, even to unchartered fantastical worlds. Our writing takes us to places where no others venture to go. But are we wandering . . . lost? Are we a crazy lot of people with our heads in the clouds?

No!

In my humble opinion, we are the ones who keep the world sane. We restore balance to a world that sometimes seems hopeless. Man, I love to read. Books have changed my life many, many times. But I love to write more. I hope to write something someday that changes someone for the better. Authors write to educate, entertain, or uplift. I hope to do all three at some point in my life.

I write because so many times I don’t know what to say. I write to sort out political injustices or religious grievances. I write to explore relationships and to kill off the villains in my personal life.

I write so that I can travel to all the places I wish to go, both in reality and in imagination.

I came up with an activity idea for the writers retreat. I bought a world map and attached it to a large piece of cardboard, then hung it on the wall with a bunch of push pins. I made a sign that said,

“Where in the World does your writing take you?”

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I loved to see where everyone traveled to when they write. If it was fantasy, I had them pin where they were basing the culture or landscape off of in our world.

It sparked many conversations between these authors that in many cases, didn’t know one another. “Oh! I wonder who else is writing a novel set in Hawaii.” “Look, someone is writing a novel set in Nepal. I’ve always wanted to go there!” “I wonder why that pin is in the middle of the ocean. Maybe it’s set on a boat or the city Atlantis. I’m going to go ask around and find out.” Conversations like those made me smile.

Here are a few other things I did for the writers retreat. These could also be altered for a birthday party or a farewell party for someone moving away.

I made about thirty of these wooden plaques. Yes, I love writers that much!

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It was a lot of work, but I wanted them to have something to take home. I collect maps and atlases, so I cut a bunch of maps down to size, sent them to the printer, and had them print the Tolkien quote on top. I shredded the paper edges, mod-podged them on pre-cut wood, then stained everything. If you want more information on how to make these, you can ask in the comment section. But it was very much like my process of my tree painting, shown here.

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I also love plants and brought a whole bunch of orchids and hydrangeas with me. These were for give-a-ways and drawings. I lined the pots with plastic to collect water, wrapped the pots and liners in map fabric, then tied with a piece of twine. My favorite part was that I printed a whole bunch of inspiring quotes on scraps of atlas, stuck them on skewers, and put them in the plants. All of them related to the theme and were easy to find because Pinterest is my favorite site ever! Here is my quote board on Pinterest.

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I also made atlas wreaths.

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And atlas banners.

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Here we are staying up past 2:00 am playing games. So much fun!

But the most important part was the treat table. I mean, writers need fuel. Right?

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My treat contribution were those atlas pages, which I shaped into cones, and then filled with candy. So easy and transportable to all those nooks and crannies that we authors like to find and write in!

Well, there you have it. Now you know how writers party.

  • Tara 🙂

How To: Tree Painting over my book pages

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I have had a lot of people ask how I created this piece of art that sits on my mantle.

It’s simple really… Take four years, write a book, and then when you wonder if the words you wrote are any good, shred up the pages and turn them into an art project!

If you don’t have the patience to write a book, I guess you could use sheet music, pages from an old book, or I always thought old maps would be cool.

FIRST:

I found this huge ugly IKEA canvas on sale for maybe two dollars. There was no way I was going to pass it up. You could use anything, really. Be creative! Maybe that old coffee table needs a new face lift. Maybe that sheet of plywood kicking around the garage is the perfect size. Or you could just go to an art supply store and buy a blank canvas.

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SECOND:

Gesso. You can really build up the textures and cover up a multitude of sins. Or do a smooth finish by not adding gesso. It depends on how you want the paper to sit on the canvas. I think it might be easier to do a somewhat smooth finish. But texture is my friend and so I really caked it on. Besides, at this point, I thought I was just going to paint a painting on top. I didn’t know at the time that I was going to cover it up with my un-edited book pages.

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* Here’s a little side note… For a couple years, I used the white canvas during the autumn in my decor. I was marinating what I wanted to do with the blank slate. Sometimes, that is the most intimidating. I am often like that in my writing, too. I’ll stare and stare at an empty scene and then all of a sudden it floods into me. That is how this painting was birthed… I stared and stared at my galley proofs and un-edited book pages that beta readers gave back to me, and I thought I should probably shred them. Then it came to me to turn them into art.

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THIRD:

I took some of my favorite scenes and pages that weren’t covered in red ink — there weren’t many 🙂 — and I soaked them in coffee and tea grounds for a day. Once the pages were dry, I flattened them with heavy books. I also tore the edges so there wasn’t a flat edge. I wanted them to look old.

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FOURTH:

Lay out your pages, then Mod-podge or glue them onto the gessoed canvas. Flatten out the pages gently with a your finger or a roller. The pages are wet and tear easily, so be careful.

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FIFTH:

I mixed RIT dye with Mod-Podge. You could also use the blue or green or red dye. Use your imagination. I wanted to make the pages look even more antiqued than what the coffee grounds did, so I used the taupe color. With a large brush, paint the mixture onto the book pages. Again, the pages are wet and very fragile.

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SIXTH:

Once dry, I painted more gesso on top of the dry pages into the shape of a tree. I wanted my tree to be very textured, so I built up knobs, bark, branches, and roots. Then I painted on top of the gesso with white acrylic paint mixed with linseed oil medium. You don’t have to mix with a medium, I just wanted the paint to be more shiny. Gesso is flat, but maybe you like that look, so just skip the acrylic paint step. Or go crazy and paint the tree your favorite color, or black, or brown. I might even add in a bit of silver or gold highlights on the branches. Have fun!

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* Here are a couple details. I made sure some of my favorite passages and poetry would be in a spot where if one were to look closely, they could read the words because they wouldn’t be covered up by the tree. You can see how textured this is. You will have to really work at it to get the pages smooth. I just didn’t care (or was too lazy!)

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So there you have it. Pretty easy. It’s fun to mesh two different hobbies/obsessions together.

Art and writing.

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My mind spun and I started to do all sorts of paintings on single book pages. I went to the art store and got cheap mat board scraps. I glued the pages on with mat board adhesive. Then I painted on a clear gesso on top of the book page. Then I just painted my image with acrylic paint. I’ve noticed that these started to make the mat board curl. Maybe a masonite board would be better. Or you can just put the painting in a frame with glass and that will flatten it up.

I gave these and other gifts away during my book launch for Broken Smiles. I sent them all over the country. It was fun to receive notes and personal thank you’s. Oh, and I did ask my publisher if that was all right. Another reason why I like my publisher.

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For the preparation below, I added watered down blue acrylic paint to gesso and then painted it onto my prepared book page and mat board. Now, I need to stare at it a while and see what speaks to me.

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I went even more crazy and made a whole bunch of these Bird Christmas tree ornaments out of sheet music. Notice how it matches my book cover. I gave these away during my Christmas novella book launch.

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Doing art projects like these breaks up the monotony of writing. They are so much fun and fairly easy.

I love to hear from you. Have you ever combined your hobbies? You are welcome to ask questions in the comment section and I will answer.

Thanks for stopping by!

Tara

Thankful

During this weekend of Thankfulness and full heart, I reflect on what I am most grateful. The things which fill me with immeasurable joy are my husband, children, family, and friends. I know I can be a selfish creature, artists usually are. I have had many discussions at length about how the life of an author is all consuming and can leech from relationships if not placed in check.

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To illustrate my point, here are a couple examples:

While sitting at a restaurant on a long overdue date, my husband was telling me about his day and an exciting new client. Beside us sat a group of women who were obviously on a girls night out to escape from their daily lives. I found myself in the middle of two conversations. Nodding blankly at my husband, while listening to the fascinating dialogue between those women. Their dialogue was snappy, concise, and hilarious. My mind began to file away bits and pieces of their brilliant dialogue to use for future reference for a novel. My poor husband stopped talking and that is when my eyes focused on his grim set mouth.

“You aren’t even listening,” he said.

“I’m so sorry, please start over,” I replied as the women’s conversation vanished in a poof.

“No, the moment is lost now.”

And so it goes…

Another selfish experience was when I asked my husband for a kiss. I never need to ask for kisses, he just does. Anyway, he leaned in and brushed his lips against mine. I pulled back. “Add a bit more passion,” I said. He didn’t need to be asked twice. The kiss deepened and he placed one hand around the small of my back and another behind my head and pulled me in close. Good, I thought. But, hmm… what would happen next in the scene?

Oh I am terrible, I know. I wasn’t kissing my husband, I was recreating a scene for my work in progress. There must be some corner in heaven or hell reserved for people like me. I pulled back again and left my husband short of breath.

“Okay, now, graze your thumb over my lips.”

He lifted an eyebrow, but did as he was told.

“Not like that, maybe slower,” I said. I closed my eyes and my wonderful husband created the scene perfectly and even enhanced a few things. I mean, it was fantastic and exactly how I had imagined the scene in my novel to unfold. “Thanks!” I said, jumping back out of his fervent arms.

“Wait! You can’t just… leave me like this.”

I giggled and ran to my computer to write a scene that involved kissing and grazing a thumb over lips.

And so it goes…

My poor, wonderful husband and family are guinea pigs for my novels. That is so wrong, but the selfish part of me says it’s alright. I gather inspiration for love, joy and happiness from my family and loved ones. I gather inspiration for hate, anger, and hurt from the news, strangers, and painful memories. I grab bits and pieces for character development from people I admire or people I don’t care too much for. Then I place them into the puzzle of my novel along with the pieces of setting, theme, voice, and storyline.

I have really tried to be more thoughtful and conscious in my relationships. It is easy for everyone to get swept away in things that distract us from one another. Everywhere we turn, there are interferences with social media, TV, media, and for an author, it is the writing itself that puts you apart. I find myself constantly nagging my teenager to put down her smart phone and be with the family. I realized I was doing the same thing, only with stories in my head. Sometimes I have to consciously tell my mind to not focus on my fictional story and live my non-fiction life.

Above all, I am thankful for loving kindness from my family.

I am thankful to be a creator of life and art.

I am thankful for inspiring people and in turn, thankful that I may inspire others.

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

-Tara