New Online Creative Writing Course 50% Off For a Limited Time

Have you always wanted to take a creative writing class without having to enroll in college or invest a lot of time doing it? Perhaps you have great ideas for a story, but aren’t sure how to get them down on paper. Or maybe you’re already a writer and just want to sharpen your skills. With my new online Introduction to Creative Writing course, you can learn the essentials of storytelling without making a major time commitment. The course includes everything you need to know about the basics of creative writing, including easy-to-follow lessons and fun exercises, with applications that can be used for both your fiction and nonfiction writing.

And if you and sign up this week, you will receive 50% off of the total course cost. The special pricing is only for a limited time, however, so be sure and head over to the site listed below and register for the class today!

When Poetry Meets Music: A Review of the Collaboration Between Musician Diane Barbarash and Poet Allison Grayhurst

I am a big fan of artist collaborations: when done well, they can bring a whole new perspective to an original work of art. I especially like it when poets and musicians get together, because I feel the mediums naturally flow well with one another and the results are often epic. And even when they’re not, I dig the idea of artists collectively creating. Maybe it’s the romantic in me or the fact that I always have so much fun when I do it myself, but a couple of artists sitting around, inspiring each other, and throwing out ideas makes me very happy indeed.

In the case of Diane Barbarash’s new album, River, a collaboration between the musician and poet Allison Grayhurst, the results are excellent. According to Barbarash’s website, the singer was inspired to write the songs after reading the poet’s work: “Last New Year’s Eve I found myself engaged in one of Allison’s poetry books and in a moment of pure inspiration I reached for my guitar, and the first song fell out.”

While the poet and musician have known one another for years, this is their first attempt at a collaboration, which they apparently did through a series of MP3 and Word doc files while living 3,000 miles apart. The results are impressive and I truly hope the two artists try this again in the future: I, for one, just can’t get enough of Barbarash’s beautiful, haunting voice adding a new take on Grayhurst’s powerful poetry.

This is the perfect album for a slow winter’s day: make yourself a cup of tea or pour a glass of wine, kick back on your sofa in front of a warm fireplace, and enjoy the evocative ride.

Listen here:


Allison Grayhurst is a member of the League of Canadian Poets. Three of her poems were nominated for “Best of the Net” in 2015, and one eight-part story-poem was nominated for “Best of the Net” in 2017. She has over 1125 poems published in more than 450 international journals and anthologies.

Diane Barbarash was writing songs long before learning how to play guitar at thirteen. She was an active singer-songwriter in Toronto’s folk club circuit before moving to Vancouver where she perused her love of recording. She has released three albums prior to River, however she considers River her true debut.

Why I’ll Absolutely Be Attending More Art Auctions in the Future

A few weeks ago, a friend invited me to be her plus-one at a VIP event hosted by Park West Gallery. The weekend-long event took place at the Ritz-Carlton in Marina Del Rey, California and included a free Ritz stay, excellent food and drinks, art auctions, raffles, exclusive previews of works from Peter Max, Autumn de Forest, and Godard, and artist introductions with de Forest and Godard. All of which translated into a posh, sea-side weekend filled with art, food, and wine.

Despite the fact that I run an online art magazine and have been involved with the arts in one way or another most of my life, prior to this trip I had never attended an art auction. A cattle auction, yes (what can I say, I’m originally a small town gal), but an art auction, no. I’m happy to report art auctions are way more exciting than I would have guessed: it’s kind of amusing to watch two people attempt to outbid one another while pretending they aren’t annoyed the other person hasn’t given up yet. And seeing someone spend tens of thousands of dollars in mere seconds is rather thrilling. It was hard not to get in on the action myself, but at this point I am about out of wall space until I get a larger place.

While the auctions were good fun and browsing art is always a brilliant time for me, I think my favorite part of the entire weekend (besides discovering that there is a drink called the gingerberry mojito and it’s about the best thing ever) was meeting the artists. Godard was hilarious and definitely knows how to work a crowd. He could have been a stand-up comedian just as easily as a painter. And listening to the young de Forest explain her creative journey with testing out various mixed media was intriguing.

Artist Michael Godard
Artist Autumn de Forest








Part of the reason I interview artists for my TreeHouse Arts site is because learning the process of how their work is created – whether that art form be painting, photography, music, writing, or anything else – makes a huge difference as far as appreciation and understanding are concerned. Learning about the artist behind the art gives people a vested interest in the work. Getting to know Godard and de Forest, even on a superficial level, had that effect on me.

To see some of the work shown at the event, take a look through the slideshow below. And if you get the chance to attend an art auction in the future, I highly recommend it.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Supporting Art in Education through Orange County’s Junior Art Exhibit

St Basils in Color by Nora DeVente, Grade 8

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Festival of the Arts and Pageant of the Masters events in Southern California for the TreeHouse Arts site. What I didn’t mention then was the Junior Art Exhibit that is also a part of their summer show.

Since 1947, the Junior Art Exhibit has included select art from over 300 Orange County students between the ages of Kindergarten to grade 12. The exhibit is impressive not only in the budding artistic abilities it portrays, but also because it calls attention to one of my passions: the importance of continuing art education in our school systems.

Take a look over some of the below works from California’s upcoming artistic major-leaguers and tell me if you’re as impressed and excited as I am about all of the talent coming from our future generations.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Light Up the Desert with Your Dreams at the RiSE Festival Near Las Vegas

Image watching thousands of glowing lanterns slowly rise into a black, star-speckled sky, covering the vast darkness with flickering golden globes of light while you stand in the middle of a hushed crowd filled with gently smiling faces. Sound overly dramatic? It should – I wrote it like that because using an overt amount of elaborate language is the best way I can convey to you how it felt to witness the RiSE Festival firsthand. Simply put, it’s one of the most magical (man-made) scenes I’ve ever witnessed. It honestly brought tears to my eyes.

Located on the Moapa River Indian Reservation an hour outside of Las Vegas, promoters of the RiSE Festival say the event was created to bring light into the darkness, both literally and metaphorically. The idea is to take a lantern, write your desires on it and then send it floating into the ether while you let go of whatever’s been holding you back from realizing your dreams. It’s a beautiful concept and another reason why I got a bit teary watching it happen: what’s not to love about so many people coming together in the spirit of creating more positive lives for themselves?

Here’s how it works: your ticket gets you two paper lanterns, a bamboo mat with a black marker, and a book of matches. For lighting purposes, the organizers have planted tiki torches throughout the area. Set up camp near one of them, then write your hopes, dreams, wishes, or resolutions on your lantern. There are two official launches with a countdown by the DJ and while the sight and comradery of those are impressive, you can also just let yours go whenever you’re ready.

A tip: when you’re checking in, ask the people handing out the packages for the best way to light your lantern. There’s a bit of a science to it – you receive two lanterns just in case your first one decides to sail into a nearby crowd of people and get dragged down in the dirt instead of flying into the sky. Here’s video of me successfully launching my second lantern because, well, see previous sentence.

I’ve been to plenty of festivals, concerts, and lots-of-people-everywhere types of gatherings in my life and RiSE is one of my favorites. Besides the obvious, “look how pretty the desert sky is all lit up with a bunch of lanterns,” photo-op attraction of the festival, what really makes this one worth attending is the overall vibe of the place. I’ve never been to an event selling alcohol to hundreds of people without witnessing a few fights, harsh words, or at least a little bit of attitude. You won’t find that at RiSE: it was remarkable how peaceful and happy the crowd stayed throughout the entire night. And quiet. Seriously, for an event involving open flames, live music, fireworks, food trucks, and booze it was incredible how silent it remained.

For those of you wondering if this event is environmentally sound, the short answer is yes: the lanterns are biodegradable, have a short burn/flight time, and their website insists they recover 100% of the lanterns along with any additional litter left behind.

This fall, the RiSE Festival will take over the desert once again. Tickets for Saturday, October 7th already sold out, but a few tickets remain for Friday’s launch, so if you’re interested in attending buy yours now before they’re gone. If you’d like to take part of a truly powerful event or perhaps just want to hang out with a bunch of peaceful, groovy people in the middle of the desert while Instagramming awesome photos, then this event is a must.

What I Learned at My First Art Show as an Artist

I recently attended my first art show – not in one of my usual roles as press and/or buyer – but as an actual artist whose work was on display. I submitted my photography to the 53rd Annual Newport Beach Art Exhibition almost on a whim: my brother, who’s an artist, sent the submission link to me thinking I’d like to go in order to meet artists and interview them for my art blog, TreeHouse Arts, which is something I do fairly often. He said he would be submitting some of his own work and for some reason this time I thought, “Hmm, maybe I’ll do the same.”

When my work was accepted I was surprised, delighted, and a bit confused on what I needed to do. The committee sent plenty of pre-show emails that answered most of my questions about the process, but here are a few things I had to figure out on my own:

1. Whatever amount you think you should price your work at, double if not triple it. Consider the cost of printing, framing, materials, and labor. That goes for selling your art in general: I get that it can be difficult to come up with a figure that seems fair, but whatever you do don’t haggle your prices with buyers or give away insane discounts to your friends. Doing so devalues not only your own work, but art as a whole. If you never seem to sell anything and constantly hear your work is too expensive, then lower your prices, but if not: slam a number on it and stick with it.

2. If your work is being judged, don’t spend a lot of time worrying about that aspect of the show. Art is subjective and most of the time you’ll never agree with who won what prize or how and you know what? It doesn’t matter. You’re there to meet fellow art lovers, get your name out there, and maybe sell a piece or two in the bargain – focus on that.

3. Spend as much time as possible chatting up the other artists because most of them have been working the circuit for decades and have all of the info you’ll ever need about the entire scene. And they also know some really good art gossip, if you’re into that.

4. Study the other works: snap pictures and scribble down notes. It’s amazing what you can learn about your own art just by studying someone else’s creations.

5. Your frame matters: I would never have guessed what a good frame can do to a piece of art. Some of the most mundane pieces I’ve ever seen spring to life with the right frame surrounding them. I guess that’s the reason custom frame work is so expensive.

6. Bring plenty of business cards and make sure they look super awesome. In the creative arts industry, even the business cards are mini Picassos.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

SoCal Heatwave Relief: Cool Off This Weekend with Local Artists at the Newport Beach Art Exhibition

If you’re in the SoCal area and looking for something to do, be sure to stop by the 53rd Annual Newport Beach Art Exhibition on Saturday, June 17th from 1-6 pm. A few of my photography pieces will be on display (and on sale, if you’re so inclined), along with work from artist Wade Ganes, aka my super talented brother (I’m biased, but his work really does rock).

The juried art show gives you the chance to view and purchase art, meet local artists, and get your groove on with live jazz, beer/wine, and food. There will also be a silent auction and book sale, with a percentage of all sales from the event going towards funding community art programs. I hope to see you there!

How My Father’s Job at an Animal Lab Launched My Life Passion

Have you ever watched a surgery? Not on TV or through the veil of an observation deck, but in real life while standing right next to the actual patient lying on the table? Unless you’re in the healthcare field, I’m sure your answer is no. It’s not exactly a common experience you can buy tickets to – you know, because of the whole germ thing and all.

I did once, when I was about 8 or 9. At the time, my dad worked at an animal research lab and I spent many weekends visiting the animals. I loved it – it felt like they had a whole zoo happening there with monkeys, rabbits, dogs, llamas, and probably more I’m forgetting now. I avoided the llamas because they spit and looked mean, but the dogs were great and the rabbits adorable. The monkeys, however, were my favorite: I can still vividly remember how excited they would get when I’d come in to see them. Screaming for my attention, wrapping their long, dark hands around the bars, answering my “hi guys, how you doing today?” inquires with loud hoots and spastic jumping.

Back then I didn’t think about the complicated politics of animal testing, although I did bombard my father and the other staff with questions like why are the animals here, where will the monkeys go after, why can’t they go back home, sick with what, why do they have that, how did they get sick, can you make them better, what kind of surgery, can’t they just come home with us and on and on and on and holy heck, someone give this kid a lollipop and get her out of here already.

Enough of those questions eventually led to my front row ticket to a brown Labrador retriever’s open heart surgery. The doctors suited me up in scrubs, made sure I was properly sterilized, and stood me on a stool at the head of the table. I was beyond nervous and took the whole thing very seriously: this was super important adult business and I was going to be a part of it. Clearly these people recognized a fellow expert when they saw one. I was going to become a famous surgeon and cure animals all over the world.

That career lasted about 30 seconds: when the bright lights came on, I started sweating uncontrollably beneath my face mask, and the moment the surgeon sliced open the dog’s chest I took one look at that beating heart and passed right out. To this day I have no idea how I managed to avoid landing on that poor dog in my fall.

My dad still blames the heat of the lights for my fainting spell, but I’m pretty sure that beating heart is what did it. It just seemed so real and alive – I honestly think it blew my little kid mind.

While I didn’t end up becoming a famous animal surgeon, that lab did help me realize the career path I was better suited for: natural-born researcher and writer. Shortly after that fainting episode, I decided to change course. I kept at the questions and interviewed the staff, took pictures of the animals I visited, wrote about it all, and then shared everything I learned with my classmates. And to this day I don’t think anyone doubts I made the right choice. Especially that lab staff.

Art for a Cause


Calling all artists! If you’re looking for opportunities to share your art with the world while also giving back, do your part to help end homelessness by submitting your work to the 2017 HomeAid Orange County Art Exhibition.

The 2017 HomeAid Orange County Art Exhibition is a two-day show featuring works created by the artists, creatives and makers who have day jobs in the real estate development industry. All proceeds from the exhibition will be donated to HomeAid Orange County, a non-profit organization with the mission to end homelessness.


Who can exhibit art?

  • Any artist over the age of 18 can participate, but if we run short on exhibition space, preference will be provided to the artists with a connection to the real estate development industry
  • Also, artists must be willing to put up their work for sale

Why participate?

  • Not to mention that proceeds from the sale of art will go directly to HomeAid, a non-profit dedicated to ending homelessness
  • Your work will be exposed to the entire real estate development community in Orange County

Where and when will the exhibition take place?

  • The exhibition will be held at the brand new HomeAid CareCenter in Orange, California
  • We hope to have the exhibition on Friday, July 14th through Saturday, July 15th, but these dates are subject to change based upon construction progress
  • A hosted evening reception will be held on July 14th for artists, their co-workers, friends and family

Is the exhibition juried; will there be awards?

  • Yes, the exhibition will be juried and there will be awards, prizes and recognition

I’m in, how do I sign up?

  • You must create a profile and upload images of your work on There is no cost to setup a profile
  • There is an entry fee of $30.00 which will go towards the expense of using the CaFE website and setup for the gallery
  • If you are donating art to HomeAid, please use the coupon code DONATEDART in order to waive your entry fee when you upload your work to the site

It seems like this email is missing a lot of details, isn’t there more information that I need to know?

Cheers to the Creative Progression of Beer Label Art

A while back, I was at a microbrewery with some friends when I noticed the labels on our independent (or craft, depending on who you ask) beers were actually mini works of art and kind of amazing. In fact, the images were interesting enough that I started researching the beer label design market and discovered beer art is a whole thing: there are articles calling out the top ten best designs, entire blogs devoted to the topic, and a book for sale on Amazon with over 200 color illustrations. Heck, even the Brewers Association is now getting involved in censoring the industry to make it more diversified.

It’s no wonder, really, when you think about it: with how popular the craft beer industry has become it makes sense that brewers need to find a way to compete with one another, and what better way to do that than through the first thing potential drinkers see?

I started to create my own list of “best beer label art,” but soon realized it would be near impossible for me to cut it down to a specific number. With that in mind, below you’ll find a list (in no particular order) of breweries that produce some of my favorite labels and a few of the artists they collaborate with to create them. Bottoms up, y’all!

Image Credit: Emrich Office


  1. Grimm Brothers Brewhouse: Loveland, Colorado
  2. Beachwood Brewing: Long Beach/Huntington Beach/Seal Beach, California
  3. Bottle Logic Brewing: Anaheim, California
  4. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery: Milford, Delaware
  5. Barley Forge Brewing Company: Costa Mesa, California
  6. Clown Shoes Beer: Ipswich, Massachusetts
  7. La Cumbre Brewing Company: Albuquerque, New Mexico
  8. Indeed Brewing: Minneapolis, Minnesota
  9. Smog City Brewing: Torrance, California
  10. Surly Brewing Company: Minneapolis, Minnesota
  11. Toppling Goliath Brewing Company: Decorah, Iowa


Image Credit: Grimm Brothers Brewhouse
  1. Josh and Katie Emrich (Bottle Logic labels)
  2. Chuck U (Indeed labels)
  3. Ryan Cochran (Smog City labels)
  4. Tara McPherson (Fort and Chateau Jiahu labels)
  5. Jon Langford (Dogfish Head labels)
  6. Brandon Gallagher Watson
  7. Lamar Sorrento


This slideshow requires JavaScript.