The Ebb and Flow of Creativity

My youngest son, Korry, is an amazing artist. He LOVED to draw from the time he was very young and would draw on anything he could find when the wave of creativity hit . . .even gum-wrappers.

One of my other sons was expecting his first child. We knew it was a boy and one night I had a dream about him before he was born. In the dream he is rescued by a Raven. I woke up thinking that maybe that was my grandson’s guardian in his upcoming journey through life.

I asked Korry to draw a Raven-man. I explained the dream and gave him an idea of what I was looking for. Korry had a unique style of drawing, kind of a dark, gothic style—like a lot of tattoos you see. I bought him a large canvas and a new box of drawing pencils. (He wasn’t much of a painter, more an illustrator.)

After a day or two, Korry brought me the canvas with the drawing. I almost fell of my chair. The drawing was so rudimentary, it looked like it was drawn by a fourth-grader.

Our conversation:

Korry. Seriously? This is for your nephew! To hang over his crib. Is this supposed to be the ‘Raven-man’?” I pointed to the little four-inch raven character. He had a ten-year-old’s body with the head of a raven; he wore jeans, tennis shoes, and a striped t-shirt.

Korry’s reply: “Mom, I just couldn’t think of what to draw. It just wouldn’t come to me. That is why I waited a couple of days. But, it just wouldn’t come.”

Through conversations with various artists, to include writers, ‘it’ is the flow of creativity. One woman told me that she taught art in elementary school. “True artists cannot just draw what you ask or when you ask for it. This flow of creativity just bursts out when it’s ready and they heed the call. This is why it hard for them to draw on demand.”

I love to write when I am passionate about something. The writing comes easier and I’m able to make my point or tell the story. But . . . I am more of a sprint-runner not a marathon runner, so my passion runs hot but burns out quickly. This is why I stick to writing blogs or essays. Sometimes it may take me two months to write even one blog—like this one.

I believe writer’s block is really an ‘ebb’ in the process. Maybe the creativity moves inward to get more energy. If you are trying to make a living with your art, having deadlines or writing a story that was assigned to you would be far more difficult. It can still be done but the passion for creativity isn’t as potent. Just like my son’s drawing. It was what I asked for but it lacked his creative passion.

Writing to create an amazing novel would require the flow in order to really grab readers. Hey, there are readers who will devour a book—any book—to pass the time and satisfy the need to escape the daily mundane world. These readers are not as picky and if you ask them how many books, they’ve read that really grabbed them, they can quote you a handful of titles . . . out of the hundreds they have read.

If you are writing for fodder, that comes easy and quick to a talented writer. They can write about paper clips and make it sound interesting. An innate talent BUT writing powerful non-fiction will take creative passion.

Why am I saying all this?

I think that for passionate writers, writer’s block is just an ebb. One that is necessary to regroup the creative juices so they can spring upon the writer when it is ready.

Ebb-and-flow is really the part of life, not just writing. Don’t force it or fight it when you are experiencing writer’s block. I suggest going out and doing something mindless so the energies can swirl around. Mundane tasks require something to think about. While trimming my bushes, I pretend I am talking to authors and discussing the ebb and flow of writing. All of a sudden, I have to run in and write.

When the ebb appears, be comfortable with taking a break until it opens to the flow again. It will if you honor it and allow the flow. Writer’s Block is a good name for blocking the flow of creativity by trying to force the creative energy out of its rest when it isn’t ready. The writing is disjointed or nebulous, so the writer becomes frustrated, and all of the energy is wasted. This can go on for a while. Whatever happens, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Put it away and go mow the lawn, then, the energy of frustration is channeled into physical labor until it abates.

Honoring the ebb is honoring an integral part of the creative process and creates balance in the writing. Allowing the ebb and flow will make it easier to eliminate writer’s block all together. When in the flow, cancel appointments, put off unnecessary cleaning, and just write. If you have children, incorporate them into the activity in order to take immediate advantage. Write as much as the flow allows and stop when it begins to ebb.

So move with the ebb and flow, soon writer’s block will take a smaller space in your head.

Publishers, Authors, and Agents…OH MY!

If you are a new author, moving into the publishing world can be a daunting ordeal.

Rejection is the name of the game and depending on your name and talent—this doesn’t always go hand-in-hand, by the way—trying to get published can be traumatizing.

I know it’s true.

There are many myths swirling around this industry that are based, primarily, on word of mouth and we all know how that goes.

Here are two that, as a publisher, I can dispel:

You need an agent to get published by a traditional publisher

This is both true and false. Publishers known as the ‘Big 5’ require agented submissions. You can imagine the amount of submissions they received and agents field the manuscripts for them. Agents with a true relationship to these companies are the only agents necessary. Beyond that, plenty of publishers—medium and small—accept non-agented submissions.

Cactus Moon accepts both agented and non-agented submissions according to our guidelines. One reason we do not require agented submissions is because we aren’t large enough to require them. Not only that, but in our experience, we have received great manuscripts directly from authors and very poor manuscripts from agents representing an author.

You need a traditional publisher if you want to make your novel count—

First and foremost, the word ‘traditional’ in this industry no longer carries meaning. The word hybrid-publisher is inaccurate as well. If a publisher is a hybrid, it implies a splice from the root of another publisher into the stem of the current publisher. What is that? Every publisher does this, even some of the biggest.

The best advice I can give is to love your work. If you want to be published by a large publisher (more accurate label), plan to do the work. Find two or three of them—then find agents who truly have a relationship with those companies. Finally, revise…revise…revise. You will need to display top-notch work for a large publisher who has a large pond from which to fish. Agents worth their fees know this.

Not all agents have relationships with publishing companies. Like vanity-publishers, there are also vanity-agents. Do your homework.

With this industry as in anything else – buyer be aware.

Lily Gianna Woodmansee is executive editor for Cactus Moon Publications, LLC


Reading History in Old Books

“There is some advantage in having imagination, since that visionary faculty opens the mental eyes to facts that more practical and duller intellects could never see.”


― E.D.E.N. Southworth, Capitola’s Peril

While on vacation in Boise, Idaho, I stopped by an antique store in the Hyde Park section. I wander antique stores when I am feeling nostalgic for the past. At my age, some of the items I found were items I’d had as a child.

Perfume bottles from Avon®, Gunni-Sax® dresses, and huge leather purses with a mountain scene and initials. I had to laugh at myself when I saw a clown that I remember having when I was around three. I even have a picture of me holding it. Nostalgia.

As I wandered through the store, I found a stash of books, all written over one hundred years ago. I immediately picked one up titled, The High Priestess, and opened the cover. Inside was a note that read: To Jess, X-mas – 1915. Love, Jack and Marge. The cost—one dollar and twenty-five cents and the cover was an immaculate red cloth with perforated pages.

Insight as to how we conversed and processed information. Values and turmoil from an era I can only witness through the author’s words.

My curiosity over humans of the past started with Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Call me naeve but I never imagined the conflict one would have living in Puritan times while thinking in a very different manner. Clearly Hawthorne had witnessed the battle between good and evil continuously challenging us. I used to wonder what he was trying to convey; was he on the side of the Puritans or Hester Prinn? Did he despise the minister? Or blame Hester’s husband? Lastly, I could see into the eyes of someone who witnessed that era and the paradoxes of the time.

Next, I picked up Cruel as the Grave, by Mrs. E.D.E.N. Southworth and was instantly smitten by the author. She passed away in 1899 right before this novel was published. I read the first few pages and I wanted to know more of the protagonist and her struggles written at the turn of the twentieth century.

These books are history books to me. All we can do today is create a theory from the writings and news of those times. I want more than that, I want to see from the author’s eyes—through fiction—the attitudes, emotions, and values of another period in time. To hear about the lives of everyday people from their own point of view.

Did Mrs. Southworth ever wonder if a woman in 2016 would be reading her book written before 1900?

Knowledge is truly timeless. No book is ever written in vain; sometimes it is just written for people whose time has not yet come.



A Tale of Two Kingdoms

Once upon a time two kingdoms fought furiously over a garden, rich with beauty.

On this land grew the most beautiful flowers, vivid colors seemingly floating from their petals. Artists, displaying their creations while the peasants basked in their message and story, dropping gold pieces into their baskets to show appreciation. Many peasants would visit this garden to escape their mundane lives and soak in the deep blue pond while admiring their surroundings.

Two Kings saw the value of this garden and sought to take it for themselves and their subjects. If one King could seize control over this garden and the artists dwelling within, they could charge peasants pieces of gold to enter. Keeping a margin of this gold for themselves and with the rest of the gold, lure the artists to swear fealty.

King Conglomerate approached the artists in the garden and said, “We are in a better position to service the peasants when they enter. We will ask for less gold thus attracting more peasants paying to enter. With so much gold, our kingdom will be far more luxurious and we will pay the artists more gold as well.”

The artists were tempted by this King. Truly, more gold and a large kingdom would bring more peasants to enjoy their art. The artists gladly swore fealty.

King Conglomerate began to charge the peasants as they entered the garden. Many peasants questioned this and asked why they must pay to enter. King Conglomerate advised they no longer have to pay the artists as the king now pays them a royalty to display their art. Some peasants willingly accepted, paying gold and entering the garden.

Some peasants felt this unfair to their favorite artists. “Why should we pay you, King Conglomerate? We owe you no fealty.” They gathered to confer and find a way to challenge King Conglomerate.

They sought another King for advice. King Independent, or ‘Indie’ as he is known, heard the peasants. King Independent thought to himself, “So, King Conglomerate has taken control of the garden. I shall challenge him to a battle. I too have interest in this garden’s gold.” Stroking his long beard, he began to scheme.

King Indie paid his gold piece to enter the garden. He saw the artists painting and writing, some read aloud to a group of peasants. He approached an artist whose peasant gathering seemed the largest. “Your painting is beautiful but why are your colors less vivid than I remember?”

“My lord, King Conglomerate has taken our baskets. I thought I would make more gold by swearing fealty to this King. But alas, I have to share my gold with the King and I can no longer buy the most quality paints.”

This angered King Indie. This popular artist should not be making the same pittance as the other, less popular artists. He decided he must fight King Conglomerate for the most popular artists. They should not have their gold taken from them and now the colors are no longer bright. In truth, as King Indie looked around him, he saw the garden was no longer as vivid and thriving as before.

King Indie gathered his loyal subjects including the artist from the garden. “Today I shall declare war on King Conglomerate. We will battle him here in the garden.”

King Indie’s army still being small, he recruited peasants. King Indie and his subjects began to tell the peasants of King Conglomerate’s evil scheme to take gold from the most popular artists. King Indie accused King Conglomerate of lying to the peasants when he said all would benefit from the gold being made by the King. Many peasants noticed the garden in decline and their favorite artists making less gold, thus less beauty and chose to fight with King Indie’s army.

In the garden the battle raged. Many peasants could see how this battle destroyed their beautiful garden of retreat and the artists no longer displayed their beauty to give them  relief. They only wanted gold.

King Indie laid a siege around the garden, not allowing his subjects to display their art or loyal peasants to pay their gold to enter. King Indie told them that King Conglomerate ruined the garden and his subjects should have nothing to do with peasants or other artists wanting to enter the garden. King Indie declared that he could better serve the peasants and the artists. Therefore, none of his loyal subjects should entertain the idea of entering the garden even to see the artists who have not sworn fealty to either King.

Thus, a horrible divide occurred in the artist community. Soon, they fought among themselves, forming groups swearing a fealty to one or the other King. The divide became a crevice as more and more artists were forced to swear fealty to a King in order to earn  gold pieces.

The crevice widened into a deep chasm. On either side were loyal peasants and artists swearing fealty to King Conglomerate or King Indie.

This battle rages madly to this day. Artists swearing fealty to whichever King will give them more gold pieces.

While many of the peasants lamented the loss of their garden, they couldn’t agree about which King was responsible and which King to swear fealty. Some peasants completely abandoned the garden to follow their favorite artists. They saw no hope for the lost garden so they chose to follow their favorite artists and swear fealty to the artist’s King.

For many peasants, this war disheartened them. The garden, still controlled by both Kings, is no longer the beautiful, peaceful place it once had been.

The disheartened peasants chose to leave the garden entirely. They would build their own garden and no longer allow fealty to either King. This garden would be for the artists to once again create their beauty. To give the peasants the escape they seek and artists can display a basket where the peasants can choose to give them gold. No King to make demands and no artists to service only the peasants loyal to either King.

This beautiful garden is forming again with peasants and artists refusing to swear fealty to either King. As more artists enter this garden, more peasants are drawn to the pleasure and escape this garden offered before the war.

The World of ‘Free’lance

Semantics can be tricky. The meaning of a word as defined by one, may be different to someone else.

I believe this is true of the word freelance.

To me, freelance is an employment path. The prefix being the operative term – freedom. Working freelance, I can work the hours I choose and be as creative as I wish with my company. Choosing freelance employment, I am looking to escape the monotony of working for a hive-mind corporation. This is more difficult for artists than others, believe it or not.

The downside of freelance employment – the sacrifice of certain benefits. Primarily, an hourly wage. That is what I believe, but I’m learning that for some freelance services, the word freelance means one is free yet still expecting to collect the same hourly wage. This seems like an oxymoron to me and certainly doesn’t fit into the freelance model as I understand it.

Cactus Moon Publications started out as Kal-Ba Publishing. An author and I decided to form a company modeled after a new capitalist idea. Collaboration vs Dictation. Certainly, our idea was risky. No collaborative model has been able to withstand the tidal wave of the current capitalist philosophy. Our idea sprang from the three-sided triangle or pyramid. All sides are equal, if not, the shape is no longer equal and no longer a pyramid. Our sole income would be made through our hard work and fair play with others.

Shortly after Kal-Ba was established, I lost my partner. In a very competitive and suspicious world, I sat on a life preserver with two authors; wondering whether I should sink or swim. If I chose to swim, it would be very difficult and risky. If I chose to jump, the authors will be let down and my reputation damaged.

Though a traumatic experience, I have learned much. I am a survivor above all else so I chose to swim. In this process, I’ve learned many lessons. One – freelance services are not what they seem and as an author please shop around.

My first experience with the current freelance model came when I sat in negotiation with an illustrator. My authors were debut and I, a brand new publisher with a maverick model. During the negotiations, the illustrator remarked, “I’m taking quite a cut in pay for this. Thirty dollars an hour is pretty low.”

Wait. An hourly wage? I didn’t know this was included. I want to pay for illustrations, not the hours it takes to create. And, who decides the hourly wage? Out of curiosity and frankly, shock, I asked what he was used to being paid. His response was equally stunning. “When I worked for the last company, I made fifty an hour.” Again, freelance. Are you working for that company now? And what makes you believe as a freelance illustrator you should be guaranteed the income you received when working for a large company? Maybe I am naïve, but I believe this expectation is crazier than starting a grassroots company, dwarfed by hundreds of others.

Authors are not paid by the hour. If they were, only the wealthy could afford to read their books. Truth. I guess this doesn’t occur to most as they read a delicious story or a very inspiring self-help. Including freelance illustrators and editors.

A good novel requires collaboration. Creativity is made more beautiful when others agree to offer their special talent. Nothing is free and no one should expect something for nothing. Authors should not expect services for free and freelancers should not expect the same hourly wage they received while working for The Man. I believe this and I am not ashamed or even worried it will affect my reputation.

CMP works with amazing illustrators, editors, and other collaborators all working for the same goal. Promotion and repeat clients. This is the Spirit of our company and as such, we will not compromise this model for anyone.

Listed on the bottom of our website is a tab for Collaborators. A list of collaborators who are working freelance for others as well. This is CMP’s idea of giving back. This is collaboration not dictation. A model where everyone shares to enhance the art of another.

Feel free to peruse our collaborators and connect for your services. I don’t put just anyone’s name on that list.

The Art of Storytelling

Open book. Indians sit at wigwam on pages of open book. Adventure story

Storytelling has been buried under so much commercialization, the art itself is lost…even to the writer.

Melissa, editor for Revisions and Edits, and I were discussing how stories have been told generation after generation. Stories that have never made it into a book and often, the author is unknown. No doubt those stories are a compilation, a story evolving over each generation but rich, nonetheless.

Storytelling was used by our Ancestors for more than the passage of wisdom. Stories provided entertainment for the children during particularly difficult seasons and illnesses. Providing the lyrics when told through music.

Imagining a life in tribal days, there had to be some storytellers whose talent made stories more compelling. The tribal actors, telling stories through shape-shifting into various characters.Some storytellers undoubtedly drew more of an audience than others.

Even today, stories provide endless entertainment and storytelling is big business.

As a publisher, I am often torn between the storyteller and writing ability. Some of the best storytellers are the worst writers. I can be a difficult task, pulling the story from deep within, putting it to paper.

This is why CMP has collaborative editors. As a young publisher, we work with budding authors and require talented, intuitive editors to help bring the story to life. Finally, we require talented illustrators to capture the story’s image. A perfect pyramid in today’s model of storytelling. The author, editor, and illustrator.

Not every storyteller is a talented writer, conversely, not every writer is a talented storyteller. In CMP’s mind, the storytelling-pyramid is an act of reciprocation. We utilize everyone’s particular talent, sharing in the storyteller’s vision, enhancing the story through collaboration on the final manifestation…the novel. Working together, the author can hone the art of storytelling.

Storytelling being a timeless art, may manifest one way today and another in the future. When a writer sets pen to paper, there should be an intention for the story. If the intention is simply – I want to publish a book… this becomes the goal. Sales may be weak since the goal has been accomplished, no thought for beyond.

When writing a story, imagine this story being read more than one-hundred years later. Maybe the story is so compelling that it continues as a legacy for future generations…The Scarlet Letter is just one example of a story still being told over two hundred years later.

If the intention is to be a storyteller, write a compelling story that can be read for centuries and watch  its value grow organically. Your intention provided the fuel to catapult the story into the cosmos. Of course, accelerants will be required. Social media, events, networking…that is just an aspect of the storytelling industry.

This doesn’t mean that in this century, the story will gain the notoriety hoped for. There is never a guarantee because genres come in and out of season. Remember author, James Allen? He wrote As a Man Thinketh in 1912. I don’t know the intention behind his writing but the book has been reprinted and is  given to salesmen by one company as a motivational tool. Over one hundred years later.

Anyone can write, but storytelling is an art.