C is for Creativity

The April Blogging from A to Z Challenge continues!

Letter C


  Creativity is a gift, a given, right?   So why do we need to teach it in the classroom?

In a recent article on “Cultivating Creativity in the Classroom” from Psychology Today, Michael Hogan, PhD, gathers arguments from creativity experts that inform us how students are losing their creativity through standardized testing and mandated procedures.  It’s the scientific version of a recent post here, where comic genius John Cleese speaks to adults on regaining their creative talents (it’s a great video – go ahead, click and watch it right now.  You can come back).

While I won’t get into the debate about whether, or how much, students are losing their creative gifts (you can read the research as well as I can), I will share this little tidbit from Dr. Jane Piirto.  She urges everyone to think about boosting their creativity in a very physical way – The Princess and the Pea method.

The Princess and the Pea

The Princess and the Pea

Remember how annoying that little pea was to the delicate skin of the princess?  In Piirto’s exercise, students write down five acts which constitute personal risk-taking upon which they vow to act. This paper is then folded into a ‘pea’ and placed on the person (in one’s shoe or bra) as a constant reminder to take those avowed risks.

Now, it’s your turn.  What 5 acts of risk-taking – of CREATIVITY – can you think of?  Write them down, fold the paper, and put it in a…um, uncomfortable place.  You’ll be thinking about your goals a lot more frequently, I can guarantee it!

Leave a comment for me, if you please.  Writing is a lonely business.

Also, visit some of the other few thousand bloggers participating in the A to Z challenge by clicking below:

John Cleese on Creativity

I was struck by John Cleese’s thoughts on creativity in a recorded lecture from some years ago (thanks to Brain Pickings for leading me to it!) and thought I’d share a quote with you:

“It is easier to do trivial things that are urgent, than to do important things that are not urgent.”

Mr. Cleese was speaking about avoiding the time and discomfort of letting the mind get into a creative state, and thus actually creating something, in favor of doing (sometimes suddenly) urgent things – changing a doctor’s appointment, organizing the silverware, amending 1974’s taxes, etc.

It seems to me that society has indeed exchanged what it deems urgent for that which is important.  It’s so tempting to be caught in the little urgencies of the day and forget to participate in the important things – share a conversation with a child, a cup of tea with a parent, comfort a wounded animal.

I’m grateful for this reminder from one of the great British comedians – and a wildly intelligent man, to boot.  Have you traded the urgent for the important?  What can we do about it?

Here’s the video in its entirety – well worth your time!

The Next Big Thing Blog Tour

Many thanks to writer-friend and Ozarks Writers League president Jan Morrill for inviting me to be a stop on The Next Big Thing Blog Tour!


You might have seen other authors at prolific writer Velda Brotherton’s site, and the gist of the event is this:  Authors give insider peeks at their works in progress.

Now, I’m not sure about being the Next Big Thing.  It sounds more like a reason to fear getting on the scale to me, but I’m all for hearing about upcoming stories.  It’s like seeing a preview for a movie coming out next year.  It gives you time to speculate on the players, gain excitement for the scope and setting, and yes – gossip to your friends about it.

So here’s a few tidbits on one of my (overwhelming) works in progress…

What is your working title of your book?

After Ever After

Where did the idea come from for the book?

fairy tale pic

I’ve always been fascinated by the stories behind the stories.  My mind goes off on a tangent – especially with well-known tales – and I want to know what happened to that interesting minor character.  What was the inside scoop on how that story REALLY went down?  (I have a nasty, suspicious mind and don’t trust authors to tell me all the dirt.)

I particularly want to explore the realm of fairy tales, where everybody has a different version of the same story – kind of like eyewitnesses to a car wreck, they all are sure it’s true from their point of view!  I was working on this when the current re-interest in Grimm’s and Perault’s famous renderings gained national appeal.  It’s wonderful that a topic can have such depth and breadth that it has nearly infinite possibilities.

What genre does your book fall under?

I would place it as a crossover novel between Young Adult and Adult Fantasy – a collection of themed, or related, short stories.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I love ensemble casts, where no one actor is really the star.  I’m a big fan of British television and actors, so I’d take Helen Mirren, Judy Dench, Robert Carlyle, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, John Cleese, Hugh Laurie, Alan Cumming, and most of all…Benedict Cumberbatch (don’t you just want to hire him on the spot for having such a spectacular name?).

English: Alan Cumming during the 2011 New York...   English: Emma Thompson at the César awards cer...  English: Colin Firth at 2009 Venice Film Festi...  English: Hugh Laurie at TV series House event ...  Helen Mirren at the Orange British Academy Fil...

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Not everyone gets a happily-ever-after, and it’s time they told you why.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I think I’d like to pursue this one with an agency.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I participated in Sleuth’s Ink’s JANO event last year, where all the members tried to write a book in the month of January.  I managed about 12,000 words, and I’ve been adding to it since then.  As a collection of short stories, I can just kind of keep going with it until I’ve really rounded out my theme.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

It’s similar to other fiction writing I’ve done, in that I tend to have a strong narrative character’s voice, and a fair amount of humor.  I also like to let my reader get a surprise at the end.  The best reward for me, is to have a reader finish the story, then turn back to the beginning and start all over, looking for the moment they went another direction while I was really leading them down a different path.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I don’t think I was inspired by any one person or thing, but rather a nice realization that things I have loved all my life are nothing to be ashamed of.  If you live long enough, you come back in style.  Just look at skinny jeans and leg warmers.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I think the idea that it is the kind of book you can read in stolen moments and still get a satisfying story, both within the short stories, and overall.  As a mom with two kids at home, juggling lots of career and education plates, I don’t have the luxury of immersing myself in a fictional world for too long.  I appreciate getting little “flights of fancy” throughout my daily life. 

I also believe the short story is vastly underrated in mainstream culture as a complete storytelling tool.  I always look among my favorite authors for their collections of short stories – that is where their brilliance really shines, and their longer works tend to keep that tight, essential element in good writing that others lack.

Many thanks to Jan Morrill for the invitation to participate in The Next Big Thing Blog Tour!  Please visit her site, and these other hard-working writers for more insider looks at up-and-coming books!