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!

Facing Fear With the Greatest of Ease: Why Flying Trapeze Lessons Are Harder Than They Look

I recently read an interview between author Panio Gianopoulos and Kristen Ulmer, former pro extreme skier and current fear specialist, that discussed the topic of fear and why you should embrace it rather than avoid it. The main takeaway of the article seemed to say that facing your fears and feeling them will help you use those fears to your advantage and keep you motivated to move forward towards a happier life.

In the interview, Ulmer mentions that she hosts events to show people where fear has them stuck and then uses those events, which are usually an extreme sport of some kind, to work on getting them “unstuck.” One of the sports she uses for her events is flying trapeze lessons, which got me thinking about my own experience on a trapeze a few years ago.

Trapeze lessons were something I had wanted to do since I was a kid and read a non-fiction book about a boy who grew up in the circus. Filled with huge, glossy images of his acrobatic family soaring high above the heads of an impressed audience, I decided that someday I too would “fly through the air with the greatest of ease.” Or at least attempt it.

My friend Jen and I signed up for trapeze lessons at the outdoor SwingIt Trapeze venue in Anaheim, California. As we stood on the ground, looking up at the experienced acrobats swinging high above the safety net, I felt far more excited than scared. We received our instructions, watched a few demos, and got hooked up to our safety harness (a rope around your waist connected to a trainer on the ground, meant to keep you over the net). I was stoked and ready to go. Whoot whoot – trapeze bucket list, check! And then I scampered up the maze of scaffolding.

Let me tell you right now: 25-40 feet doesn’t sound all that far off the ground until you’re standing on the edge of an open-air platform, one arm hanging onto a pole and the other gripping a bar that’s just waiting to drag you down, all the while trying to remember the million next steps you’re supposed to take and hoping the chalk on your palms holds up through the flood of sweat your body is producing. But instead of giving all of that second-guessing fear too much attention, I thought “eff it,” removed my death grip from the pole, yelled “hep,” took a hop, and went for it.

And just like the little circus boy from my childhood, I sailed through the air with all of the grace I could muster and it was as liberating as I had always imagined.

It was also very difficult. See, the thing with trapeze lessons is you don’t get to just swing back and forth in the air a couple of times and then drop gracefully into the net. That’s only your first go at it – after your initial swing, you start in on the real stuff. Like figuring out how to use the momentum of the bar to hang from your knees, outstretch your arms, and back-flip yourself off into the net, never mind the skills it requires to potentially get caught mid-air by another acrobat. And all of those things take serious coordination, ab strength, and arm muscles. No lie: I was walking funny for a week afterwards, although it was totally worth it.

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Obviously, I enjoy a good bout of adrenaline now and again. And I suppose a lot of people assume I’m either fearless or crazy because of it. I won’t address the latter, except to say that I’m neither reckless with my life nor interested in leaving this planet anytime soon, but I will say that of course I feel fear. I am human, after all. However, I don’t allow it to mandate what I do. I’m with Ulmer on this one: I feel the fear, face it, and then do whatever activity I had planned to do. And I’ve never, ever regretted it.

 

Affordable Editing Services for Artists and Entrepreneurs

I am excited to announce that I recently started my own side company offering editing and proofreading services.

If you’ve recently written a book and want someone to look it over before you submit it to publishers or self-publish, I can help. Or even if you need an extra set of eyes on your latest blog post before you go live with it. I am also able to provide help for entrepreneurs with website copy, courses, e-books, and articles.

I offer all basic editing needs, including punctuation, grammar, capitalization, and spelling, along with any advanced editing you may require, such as sentence structure and copy suggestions. I have over 19 years of experience in the editing industry and have worked with numerous clients on their manuscripts, blog posts, courses, articles, e-books, resumes, websites, papers, and more.

My prices are quoted upon request and vary based on the type of service you need and the length of your work. I provide free, no-obligation quotes at artstreehouse@gmail.com. Feel free to pass this information along to anyone you know who is looking for an affordable, experienced editor. Thanks and I look forward to working with you!

Birds of Prey: Why I Tried Falconry and Will Do It Again

I received an email from Groupon the other day, asking me if I’d be interested in purchasing a local falconry lesson. My immediate thought was “heck yeah” because my first go at it was a total blast and something I’ve been meaning to do again. That’s right – I tried falconry about a year ago and it was pretty amazing.

Video: Me Taking a Falconry Lesson with Horace

Birds of prey are an interest of mine that started when I was about 15. Well, that’s not entirely true: between the ages of 8-9 I lived in a house in Iowa with a backyard that opened up to vast acres of land. We used to go on family walks out in the fields and one winter we came across a pair of snowy owls sitting in a tree. Everything about them was beautiful: their giant yellow-orange eyes, fluffy white speckled coats, haunting hoots, intelligent stares. In that moment, I instantly fell in love with owls.

Later, one grey afternoon when I was around 15-16 and living in small-town Saskatchewan, I found myself driving around with my buddy Steven. It was a pretty typical weekend day in our little village: drive around with your friends until you have to go home for supper and then come back out and do it again until someone invents a party where you trade driving for standing. After a few boots around the dirt roads, Steven aimed the car for the highway and we started heading out of town.

We didn’t get far, just a few miles down the road, before we spotted a big moving object off to the side. Steven pulled over and came to a stop so we could investigate. We got out of the car and realized we were looking at a huge brown hawk with a broken wing. There was a roadkill rabbit not far away, so we figured the hawk must have swooped in on the rabbit and gotten clipped by a passing vehicle. We decided to wrap him up in a blanket to keep his wing bound and drive him to the nearest nature conservatory.

I know right about now you think this tale is going to end with one of us losing an eye when we attempt to swathe a wild animal, but actually the poor guy (or gal?) seemed to sense we were just there to help and let us at it. Now I don’t know if you’ve ever held a giant, injured hawk in your lap in the front seat of a car going mock 10 over bumpy roads while said hawk’s beady, unblinking eyes stare directly into your face, which is hovering mere inches above his sharp, pointed beak. If you have, then you’ll understand when I say I was both in awe and scared to death at the same time. At any given moment this mighty creature could have lurched up and ripped my face to shreds, but he was so magnificent I couldn’t stop looking down at him, which felt a lot like tempting fate.

At some point during the ride I decided to name him Walter, after my grandfather who had a similar gaze – direct and somewhat serious. We managed to get Walter to safety, where he eventually healed and was released back into the wild. I choose to believe he lived out the rest of his life happy and injury-free.

As for me: I know I’ll never forget our day with Walter. He’s a big part of the reason I love birds and always stop and stare whenever I see a hawk circling in the sky. And he’s also why I’ll definitely be buying that Groupon – because there is nothing quite like a creature as impressive as a prey bird trusting you enough to let you hold them. Even if it’s just for a little bit of time.

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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.

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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 to Take Your Fitness Practice Outdoors with Sunset Beach Yoga

By now you’ve likely heard that practicing yoga provides many benefits, including increased flexibility, improved energy, and an overall sense of relaxation. I’ve been practicing various types of yoga for over a decade and can tell you that while I definitely dig the way it strengthens my body, what I really appreciate about it is what it does for my mind. As in: Slows. It. Way. The. Heck. Down. And. Keeps. Me. Mindful. OHHHMMM.

While I love yoga, I also like trying new things. Luckily for me, there are a bunch of different types of yoga practices out there: yin (best ever – I do it a few times a week), Bikram (I call this one torture yoga), Vinyasa flow (great cardio workout), SUP yoga (trying it this weekend; fingers crossed I manage to stay on the board), yoga with goats (seriously, it’s a real thing and I’m going to try it someday), aerial (yoga in the air – what’s not to love about that?!), glow (not high on my priority list, but I’ll probably do it at some point), restorative (just went on an excellent remote retreat for this type last weekend), and on and on.

If you’re lucky enough to live near the ocean or a lake, you can also try sunset (or sunrise for those of you who live on a totally different schedule than I do) yoga on the beach, which is as relaxing as it sounds. Fair warning though: it’s not as simple as it seems. In fact, I’ve listed a few things below you should know before you give it a try.

  1. Wear layers: when the sun goes down and the wind kicks up it gets chilly fast and nothing ruins your zen like goosebumps and chattering teeth.
  2. No matter how careful you try to be, sand will get everywhere. If you don’t like a dirty mat, I suggest designating an old one just for beach yoga or bringing a towel to place underneath it.
  3. Speaking of sand, wear a hooded sweatshirt so that when you go into your final savasana pose you can pull up the hood to avoid getting a bunch of it in your hair.
  4. If you have long hair and it’s windy, you hairdo will be destroyed when you’re done. Throw on a hat and just deal with it.
  5. The sand is going to throw off your balance and stability, so you won’t feel as sturdy as you do in a studio. You can smooth out the sand prior to placing down your mat, which helps a bit. You can also place a bamboo mat or thick blanket under your yoga mat to create a more even surface, but you’ll still waver with your movements. I’m currently trying to invent ways to improve on this: a yoga mat crossed with a thinner boogie board? A yoga mat on thick bamboo stalks? I don’t know, but if you have any ideas I’d love to hear them.

Until next time, namaste my friends.

 

The Adult Coloring Craze

Mindfulness. Relaxation. Stress relief. Although according to research any structured, rhythmic activity can help you achieve these things, adult coloring seems to be the latest and greatest way to get there. And it’s no wonder: coloring is inexpensive, requires zero drawing skills, reminds of us of childhood, and is fun in a simple way.

I loved to color when I was a kid. In fact, my great uncle Orville Ganes was a professional cartoonist and one of my prouder childhood moments was when he penned a cartoon of my grandfather, his brother, riding a jalopy and asked me to color it in because he “heard a rumor” that I was “really talented” at it. I was 8 and beyond thrilled. Unfortunately, one of my more embarrassing childhood moments came about five minutes later when I accidentally colored outside of a line on that drawing because my sweaty fingers were a bit too eager to prove my “talent.” Sigh.

Despite this mild snag in my artistic career, I continued to secretly consider myself an expert colorer (apparently that’s not a word, but I’m using it anyway). In fact, I remember buying coloring books and crayons in college and spending a few weeknights on my dorm room floor, avoiding studying for finals by deciding if Ariel should become a brunette or keep the ginger locks Disney gave her.

Although I always feel the urge for markers whenever I see a black and white image, after college I don’t recall any coloring activity until my niece came along. And then about a year or so ago, out of nowhere it seemed, adult coloring books started appearing all over the place. Given my past love affair with coloring, it’s surprising it took me so long to jump on the bandwagon. Or maybe not, considering I’ve always been rather suspicious of hype. In any case, I finally broke down and revisited my former passion.

I bought a couple of books, the biggest box of crayons I could find, some thin-tipped markers, and went to town. As you can imagine, adult coloring books differ from their kid counterparts in that they generally contain more mature images: intricate patterns, fine details, less whimsical subject matters. Think less Prince Charming’s crude blocky castle and more his grandmother’s Zen garden drawn with a thousand hypnotic components.

After a week of almost nightly practice, I can honestly say I’m not as drawn (pun very much intended) to it as I once was, but I also realized my relationship with coloring reiterates what I’ve learned about myself over the years.

  1. My patience levels are always being tested: These new patterns take forever to complete, which makes it relaxing, time consuming, and oh-so frustrating all at the same time.
  2. I’m stubborn when determined: It isn’t easy staying inside the lines and I still care when I slip.
  3. I’m a visionary: I can’t believe Crayola still isn’t making enough colors to satisfy me and when are they going to invent a marker that doesn’t dry out after a few uses?
  4. I have excellent self-confidence: Even now, after all these years, I am still a coloring rock star.