A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words




This week I am at Mills Park Elementary School in Cary, North Carolina leading a photography and creative writing residency, A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words. The students are having a blast taking digital photographs and writing about them. It is a very open ended residency as I do not give them a writing prompt. They have to create their own creative writing prompt from the photo they select. They have to take the photograph themselves. That is really the only rule. Some students are writing poetry. Some are writing non-fiction. The genres I have seen so far are creative nonfiction, fantasy, science fiction, autobiography, essay, multi-genre, and even a marketing/advertising campaign.

I love being the Yes (wo)man and giving students permission to write outside the box. In fact, there is not even a box — not even a polygon.  They have created their own space and within it, they have created their own muse. It’s a beautiful thing. Kids are naturally creative and it is exciting to witness it in action. I will post a longer post after the residency. In the meantime, here are some photos of the students taking photos on campus.










Scope and Sequence







Close Reading


Right Angles
















Pollinators: The Creative Process and Big Ideas

Pollinators spread pollen. The definition is “one that pollinates: as a: an agent (as an insect) that pollinates flowers b: POLLENIZER”

I am thinking of a metaphor of people in your life that help spread good things in your life. Do you have friends who cheer you on and encourage you when you try new things or go outside your comfort zone?

This photo is from my garden. We were headed out last Sunday to my in-laws our weekly Sunday dinner.  My husband and I both had bad colds and were feeling under the weather. He got in the front passenger seat after buckling in Ben into his car seat. I got in the driver’s side and saw this butterfly feeding on a Tiger Lilly in our garden. It was surreal. The butterfly was huge. I longed to have my longed to have my long-range camera, but only had my cell phone.  I told my husband I was going to take some photos.  He looked miserable and as a wife I thought, “Let’s just go and get to my in-laws.” But as an artist, “I thought you have now or never. I mean when are you going to have this chance again to photograph a butterfly feeding on tiger lilies in your own garden only a couple of feet away? Artist wins.

So, I got all up in this butterfly’s business and held my camera phone as close to it as possible.  I took several photos which are below.  I love the photo above. I did not edit it at all.


Bumblebee on a marigold in my tomatoe garden area,


Butterfly muse


More shots of butterfly






So, there you have the sequence of photos of the butterfly.  The funny thing is that I spooked the first photo in this sequence (the first image in this post) and it flew off and seemed to chase me. I scampered away.  A friend was surprised to see a comment that I was freaked out by the butterfly chasing me.  I had posted the photo on Facebook via Intsagram.  That butterfly was huge and I had totally got up all in its business. I would have been irked too. She was quietly sipping her nectar of the butterfly gods and I got all nosy. I would have been better off with my long-range camera. Anyway, I scampered around the yard running from a butterfly. I know, funny!

I watched the butterfly circle the garden after it spooked me back.  A butterfly does not have a direct path it seems when it flies. It goes in a non-linear motion and it made me think about my own creative process and how that process for most artists and creatives is non-linear.  The butterfly eventually made it back to the Tiger Lilly and continued drinking. We drove off and it enjoyed the beauty on its own terms.

What is your creative process?  I go from A to Q and then back to B and then loop over to T and swing back to H and hop over to Y while doing X,Y, Z.

Bumblebee on sunflower in my garden

Bumblebee on sunflower in my garden

Back to pollinators… really think about the friends and people who support your process and pollinate ideas by encouraging you and adding to them and also passing them on by sharing them with others. Nurture these relationships.  Drink the nectar they provide. The creative process is difficult and often done in isolation, but the pollinating is done with people who encourage and help you build that non-linear bridge that loops and droops and soars.

I would like to thank a friend who is a pollinator for me. She has never dismissed me and actively listens to my ideas no matter how “out there” they are. She is my pollinator. Thank you Sus. There are so many more pollinators in my life. And you know who you are and I thank you.

One more I would like to thank is Mike Shay.

Mike and Chris Shay and me in front of the Wyoming Arts Council in 2009

Mike and Chris Shay and me in front of the Wyoming Arts Council in 2009 in Cheyenne, WY

He works at the Wyoming Arts Council.  I walked into the Wyoming Arts Council more than 15 years ago with a crazy journal packed with signatures  and memorabilia popping out of the pages from travels and interactions with random people. The premise for The Original Journal  is I ask random people to sign my journal. I tell them there are three rules: 1. There is a Front Door (Rated PG-13) 2. There is a Back Door (Not Yet Rated) 3. There are nb rules. Then they write/draw/share whatever they want. All original signatures from original people with original thoughts. Here is a video I made of some of the signatures: http://animoto.com/play/AUZnc4F5a1d8Ja54pbG61Q.

This had been my “Big Idea” and eventually (I may be walking with a cane by the time it is published) it will be in bookstores as a gift book collection and journal series.  You can check out my blog for The Original Journal and learn all about it here. Mike pollinated this idea by just listening and encouraging me. It took me 15 years just to organize the idea into something concrete and tangible, but I did create a blog for it and a Facebook page. I also wrote a book proposal for it that went all the way to the acquisition stage at a major publisher. I am working on the book proposal and preparing a mock sample of the product. If you like Humans of New York, Post Secret, and/or The 1,000 Journal Project, you would dig The Original Journal. Will you sign the journal? Hope. Wish. Dream. Be. Journal Your Journey.

Cover of The New York Journal (Front Door cover). This journal was created in 1998

Cover of The New York Journal (Front Door cover). This journal was created in 1998

Mike pollinated and encouraged while I described The Original Journal.  And that moment, he helped pollinate this artists/writer/photographer.  This process turned into a great mentor/mentee relationship which resulted in fostered creativity and also I wrote over $20,000 in grants and successfully implemented them as a Language Arts/Special Education teacher at Attention Homes Residential Treatment and Crisis Center. Here is an interview I did with Bob Beck on Wyoming Public Radio about The Diverse Voices of Poetry,  (cue audio recording to 16:08 for my segment) which was a grant I wrote to bring professional Spoken Word poets to Wyoming.  It started with a Individual Professional Development grant I wrote to go to a Teachers & Writers Spoken Word training in New York City in 2004. That experience pollinated the idea of bringing Spoken Word to Wyoming. Which resulted in me being a presenter on Spoken Word in the classroom at the Wyoming School Improvement Conference.  And then I wrote a Wyoming Arts Council Grants to Organizations grant with a project value of $9,151 (The Diverse Voices of Poetry). Pollination!

Poetry Workshop

Article about "The Diverse Voices of Poetry in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, October 2005

I love the arts and all those who pollinate. Thank you.

PS — I am very concerned about the honey bees, but that is a post and conversation for a different time.  I do not like the fact that Monsato has recently bought out the leading bee research firm. I am not a fan of Monsato and of course that is a subject for a different time.

Bee on sunflower

Bee on sunflower