Tag Archives: Pay It Forward

My Recent Art Journaling Classes for At-Risk Kids!

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As you know, I gather art supplies, gift cards, and monetary donations in order to provide at-risk public school children with art instruction and supplies.  This year’s donation drive went well, and I was thrilled to have enough supplies to teach three classrooms of students for the first time ever – this is one more classroom than last year/ever before.  Woo hoo!  Three cheers for all my donors!

I taught all three of my classrooms over the past two weeks, two in Ontario and one in Santa Ana, and it all went incredibly well.  The kids are always SO excited to get to learn about art and to actually do it, and they take to the art and writing involved in art journaling like little baby duckies to water!  They’re super excited when they each get their art supply kits, and are especially happy when they learn that they get to keep all the supplies and take them home at the end of the year.  It was a thrill for me to see all the kids so excited, happy, and engrossed in the activity.

Many of these kids don’t have anything like this in their lives, which makes it that much more important to them.  In fact, in one class, two girls sitting next to each other were overheard saying, “I’ve never had this many art supplies!” and “I think I might cry!”  (Happy tears, mind you.)  All the teachers I talked to were very thankful, too, saying they’d never be able to provide/buy the supplies they received.  In addition to the three classes I teach in, at least five more teachers received boxes of assorted supplies to share with their classes.

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Here are some numbers for you, so you can get an idea of what all went on, and how many supplies were passed on to schools that desperately need them:

Number of people that donated supplies, gift cards, or funds between June 2012 and December 2012: 31
Number of boxes and bags of assorted supplies that went to the two schools: 20
Number of art supply kits provided, so each child would have their own set of supplies: 125
Number of individual pieces/items in each art supply kit: 60+
Total number of 4th grade classes I taught: 3
Number of children who’ve received the gift of art via my program this year: over 85

Awesome, right?  I’m so thankful that so many of you lent a hand and helped me provide for the kids.  I can’t do this alone, and am so pleased so many of you got involved!  :]

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A truck full of supplies – and this was only some of what I was able to take out to the schools!

Here are some photos from the three classrooms I taught.  I don’t show the faces of our budding artists for privacy/safety reasons, but I’m sure you’ll agree that the art speaks for itself.  These images are of their very first art journal pages and journal covers.

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I hope you’re as charmed by their artwork as I am!  I’ll be returning to both schools before the school year ends to have art journal shows for the children, and will be sure to share photos from both events here on my blog.

If you’re interested in donating supplies to help bring art, writing and positive self-expression to children in need, please contact me.  I accept donations year-round, and appreciate any supplies, gift cards or funds I can get since I have no budget, volunteer my time, and provide some of the supplies.  Thank you for your consideration. :]

Warm regards,
Melody

 

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I’m Very Thankful…

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I’m thankful for so many things, and always strive to express my thanks.  Saying thank you in person, sending thank you notes, and appreciating life’s many gifts – big and small – are ingrained in my spirit and in my being.  I believe in expressing love and appreciation as you feel it, partly because there’s no guarantee for tomorrow.  There’s no time better for expressing thanks than our here and now.

In that vein, I’d like to thank everyone who gave so generously and helped so much with my Art Supply Drive.  The response was so good that I have enough supplies to teach two classrooms of children for the first time since I started my little grassroots art journaling project.

Approximately 80 children will receive the gift of art and positive self-expression this school year.  I’m SO excited and happy – my heart is full, brimming with appreciation for all your help.  Whether you sent supplies, a gift card, a check, re-tweeted my call for supplies, or simply offered moral support and encouragement, I sincerely thank you.

I’ll post about my teaching experiences after I’ve taught the two classes.  In the meantime, thank you for helping me to plant seeds of creativity and kindness.  I think we’d all agree that this can be a crazy and disheartening world – it’s a pleasure to be involved with something so positive and helpful, and to receive such support!

Warm regards,
Melody

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DIY: Random Acts of Kindness Cards

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I’m a big believer in being kind.  I like to do kind things for strangers, and for people that I know.  Not only does it make my heart happy, I like to think it makes others happy, too.  There are so many things in the world that we can’t control, but we can choose what we put forth into the world – and I choose kindness.

While brainstorming my newest design team project for crescendoh.com, I was inspired by the Ordinary Sparkling Sentiments stamp set, and just knew they’d make some great Random Acts of Kindness cards (RAK cards).  I’ve already given some of these cards away, and will carry the rest with me daily so I can brighten someone’s day when a situation arises or inspiration strikes.  You can leave your finished cards just about anywhere…

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Some people carry RAK cards that say something like “Smile – you’ve been gifted with a Random Act of Kindness”, which they hand to the person who is receiving their good deed, but in this case the cards themselves are the act of kindness and speak for themselves.  You can certainly give them along with something else, but they’re nice on their own as well.

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There are a million ways you can make, customize, and embellish your RAK Cards – here’s how I made mine:  I started with Strathmore Watercolor paper, and cut the sheets into smaller pieces.  I created the painted surface by first brushing on a mixture of Pearlescent Liquid Acrylic, walnut ink, and water.  While the color mixture was still wet I loosely brushed on some watered-down gesso, and then sprinkled on a bit of metallic gold or silver powder (Schmincke) while the cards were still wet.  Don’t worry if your color application isn’t uniform, or if your gesso blends with the color and/or drips off the edge of the cards.  I applied my color and gesso very freely, and allowed the two surface treatments to blend together.

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Once the card dried I stamped a quote onto the card using black StazOn ink.  On some cards I also stamped another image, like a flower, a heart, or a butterfly.

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The last step, before handing out these RAK cards and brightening someone’s day, is embellishment.  I embellished my cards by punching out shapes, adding ribbon hangers and attaching rhinestones, but the possibilities are endless.  Consider using beautiful scraps of paper or lace, beads, or buttons to embellish your RAK cards.

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Where would you leave these cards if you were to give them to strangers, friends, and family?  Would you pair them with another gift?  I’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions…

Warm regards,
Melody

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Art Supply Drive: Thank You & Friendly Reminder

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Happy Tuesday!  I hope this blog post finds you well and happy.  Today’s post is a both a thank you and a friendly reminder.

First up, THANK YOU: I’m sending out a big thanks to all those who have sent donations for my Art Supply Drive for at-risk public school children.  You’ve made my heart happy, and I know the kids will be utterly thrilled, too.  They get so much out of the donated supplies and the art journaling class – thank you for helping me to help them!

Next, a friendly reminder: If you’re interested in helping, but haven’t yet mailed your donation, there’s still time!  Though my “deadline” for the Art Supply Drive is November 6th, I’m happy to accept donations beyond that date.  There is such need that I can’t (and won’t) turn donations away, so please email me today and help give the gift of art journaling and positive self-expression to children that desperately need it.

Here’s a link to my initial call for art supplies, in case you missed the first post.  It includes a bit about my art journaling program and a wish list of things I gather for the children. Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.

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Again – thank you to all the generous souls who have already donated!
My heart is full of gratitude…

Warm regards,
Melody

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Author Interview: Catherine Ryan Hyde

Catherine Ryan Hyde works magic with words.  Not only does she conjure them, she arranges them in a way that draws you into a story and keeps you there long after the last word of the story has been read.  It’s so much more than a mastery of words, though.  Ms. Hyde’s plots draw you through the pages, and her characters ring true.  The intricacies of human emotion are putty in her hands.

I first experienced her literary dexterity when read the novel Love in the Present Tense, which I happened to pull off the shelf at my local library.  I soon realized she’d also written the book Pay It Forward, upon which the movie was based, and read that as well.  Vastly different from the movie, I enjoyed this book immensely, too.  Appreciative of the wonderful stories she’d created, I emailed Ms. Hyde to thank her, and found her to be very humble and kind in her response despite her success.

Ms. Hyde has had 50+ short stories and 13 novels published, in addition to a collection of short stories, and has won numerous awards along the way. Her most recent novels are Second Hand Heart (UK) and Jumpstart the World, and though Jumpstart the World is Young Adult fiction the story crosses boundaries of both age and gender.  I recently read Jumpstart the World, and loved it.  I can’t wait to read Second Hand Heart!

I “reconnected” with Ms. Hyde this fall when I started researching blogs of writers and artists I respected in order to determine how I might proceed with my own blog. Once I started my blog and accepted the need for a blog-related Twitter account, I started following Ms. Hyde on Twitter.  I’ve since learned that she’s tucked away in one of my favorite coastal towns in California, Cambria, and was delighted to exchange some tweets with Ms. Hyde regarding her home town.

Just beginning the rewrite of my first novel, I’m very curious about the rewriting methods of successful novelists.  I asked Ms. Hyde if she’d answer some of my rewriting questions, and she graciously accepted.  So, without further ado, here is my interview with Catherine Ryan Hyde.

Thank you for your time, and for sharing information about your rewrite process.  How soon after you finish a first draft do you begin your rewrite?

 

 

Let me start by saying that my method of revision is a little different.  And possibly not advisable for someone just starting out.  Then again, it may work fine for others, provided you can avoid the trap of getting stuck on revisions to the detriment of moving forward.

Here’s how I do it: I start the draft, and move forward for as long as I can before getting stuck.  By stuck, I’m not talking about full-on writer’s block.  Just that inevitable low wall that tells you the next chapter needs flesh, details, life that haven’t yet arrived.

At that point, I go back and start cleaning and polishing the part of the draft I’ve already written.  And I just keep working on it until I’m able to move forward again.

This works well for me, because I find I turn my attention away from a first draft at my own peril.  Not that I can’t get back in again.  Just that the longer I wait, the further away I go, the harder it is to gear myself back into the work.  When I look away, the ideas stop coming.  So revising and polishing earlier chapters is a perfect way to keep my head in the work.

By the time I finish the draft, the first three-quarters are pretty darn well squeaky-clean.  I don’t stop at that point.  I just keep cleaning and polishing until I feel I have something worth showing.

If I have time to allow myself the luxury, I’ll set it down for a month or two and come back at it with fresh eyes.  But often by the time I finish the draft, it’s been so long since I’ve reread the beginning that I can see it with a whole new perspective.

 

What does your first rewrite or run through consist of?  Please give us an overview of your process.

 

It’s fairly unstructured and something I do by feel.  I think this was less true when I was newer to novel writing, but now almost every run-through consists of simply rereading the work, with my “feelers” at the ready for any gnawing sense that something is off.  Usually I find smaller, more sentence-level issues.

If there’s anything bigger and more substantive, it tends to present itself to me on a hike, in the bathtub, or as I’m waiting to fall asleep at night.

I realize this is not a very helpful how-to, but I hope it’s encouraging to hear that, with continued experience, revision gets more instinctive.

 

And the second rewrite? Is it more of the same?

 

I think each time I hone it down a bit, so that what I find is smaller, more at an almost cellular level.

On average, how many times do you rewrite your novels?

 

 

I’d say I give each passage a good 25 to 30 run-throughs before I feel ready to show the work to anybody else.  But toward the end, this may be no more complex than reading it through, changing a word here and a sentence structure there.  When I read it through more than once without anything changing, I figure I must be done.  For the moment.

Do you have anyone read drafts along the way?  If so, at what point?

 

 

I don’t.  I used to.  But now I find I can locate my own inner guidance, and follow it, saving the perspective of others for later, when the draft is done and they can’t possibly pull me off track.

How much does your word count change from the first draft?  Does it usually go up or down?

 

 

I’d say less with each consecutive novel.  But it definitely tends to go up rather than down.  What is almost always needed is a bit more fleshing out here and there.  My earlier novels were only in about the 60,000-65,000 word range.  I haven’t had to learn to be less verbose.  Pretty much the opposite.

Start to finish, from the time you type the first word of a story to the time you send it to your agent or editor, how long does the whole write/rewrite/polish usually take?

 

 

If it’s a Young Adult, which tends to run much shorter, about five months.  For an adult novel, eight or nine.  This is fast.  I write faster than average.  I don’t know why, but please don’t anyone feel they need to aspire to it.  If you’re getting words into memory, you’re doing it right.  And if it takes longer, it just does.

Wow, that is quick!  Though you’re a seasoned pro at this point.  Is there anything else you’d like to share regarding the rewriting process?  Anything I may have left out?

Well.  Just that neatness does count.  And spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes, along with too many typos, can be off-putting to agents and editors.  It’s a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, writers tend to think the small stuff can be left to the copyeditor.  And the copyeditor will indeed check your small stuff, if you’re able to secure a publisher.  But meanwhile, anything less than a polished work tends to make agents and editors feel that you’re asking them to work harder than you were willing to work yourself.

So think of your manuscript as a job interview—for that dream job you want more than you’ve ever wanted a job in your life.  You wouldn’t go in wearing those sneakers with the holes in the toes.  Even though it’s supposed to be about your work skills, not your sneakers.  But every aspect of your presentation speaks to your professionalism and your pride.  So prepare your manuscript in a way that shows your commitment to it.  And others will be more inclined to commit to it as well.

Thank you so much for your time, Ms. Hyde.  I wish you continued success!  Thank you for sharing your gift, and your heart, with the world.

 

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A New Project & My Pay It Forward Video!

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A New Design Team Project

Here is a new project I created for Jenny Doh over at crescendoh.com. It’s a photo card with a twist!  Rather than just featuring the photo by itself, I’ve stamped vellum and stitched it to the photo.  It’s easy to do, and adds both a message and texture.  To see more photos, and to read the project instructions, please click here.

Yours Truly on video…

As many of you know, I teach art journaling to at-risk elementary school children.  I’ll be teaching this year’s class this coming Friday, and am so excited!  I spoke about this project, and how it’s one of my favorite ways to Pay It Forward, on a video shot for crescendoh.com – you can watch the video by clicking here.  Thanks again to everyone who donated to this project – I couldn’t do it without you!

Please keep your eyes peeled for my future design team projects – they’ll be posted monthly!  And please look for a write-up about Friday’s art journaling class, coming later this month or early next month.

Warm regards,
Melody

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