brittni in ink

Author of The Patch Project and A Place That Used to Be

Tag: art

facing the future

Well, it’s been awhile! Most of my summer was spent at a cottage with poor internet. But I’m back in a city with a lot more connectivity, and some exciting updates!

Pinot, by artist and author Al Hess

Please join me in marveling at this stunning portrait by the wonderful Al Hess! When I saw he had a commissions spot open, I knew I had to ask him to draw Pinot. It was a lot of fun discussing Pinot’s character, and getting to see a little of what goes into making a portrait like this one! I’m so happy with how Al captured Pinot and the detail and care that went into the commission. I’m planning on hanging the portrait in my office, to inspire me as I start work on the third Patch Project book!

[Image description: A two-shelf desk at sitting level holding a laptop and assorted knick-knacks.]

Speaking of, I’m very fortunate that our new place has a room that I can use as an office space! I built a little desk to use for my writing, and so far, it’s been a good set up. Lots of room to put rocks and shells and things 🙂 I’m waiting to hear back from agent queries and short story submissions, and now that we’re (mostly) unpacked, I’m getting back into a writing schedule. I’m looking forward to online writing sessions with my friends, and starting on the new novel.

The Patch Project book amongst leaves!

I just unpacked a ton of copies of The Patch Project! If you’d like a signed copy, let me know. I’m offering a free pin or original printing copy (your choice!) with each order for as long as my supplies last. You have to order from me though, not Amazon. If you’re interested, you can send me a message through Facebook!

That’s all for now! I’m hoping to get back into regular posting, maybe once every couple weeks. It’s exciting to be facing the future here in a new place, with a new novel project about to begin. I’ll do my best to keep you updated! Until next time!

Sequel Update #8 – Cover to Cover

Last week, Adventure Worlds Press released the cover Christian Laforet designed for A Place That Used to Be! In case you missed it, here it is:

Front cover

It was a bit of a process getting to this final, awesome design. Originally, I’d asked Sarah Kivell to take photos we could use for the cover. She’s an incredible photographer, and I love the work she does with film. The results were inspired by the book; I especially love this one:

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But the best laid plans, as they say. Although Christian and I went back and forth with ideas about how to use Sarah’s photos in the design, nothing we came up with did them justice.

Christian obliged me by putting together some free-form covers, but they didn’t fit what we were looking for either.

The turning point for this cover was when we discussed a couple of images from the book. I mentioned that there’s a scene with a rabbit skull in the third part of the novel, and Christian asked if I’d prefer a photo or drawn graphic.

The result is this striking cover that features a rabbit skeleton that Christian made himself. Amazing!

It taught me a lot about creative collaborating. Although it’s wonderful to have complete creative freedom, it’s important to have some kind of direction or structure. Also, not everything you want to happen is going to work out. The project isn’t a chemical formula. Although I’m really sad that we didn’t get to incorporate Sarah’s photos, I’m thankful that Christian used his talents to make something that only he could make!

That’s our cover story. Hope you like it!

Coming up next week – I’ll tell you about a side project I’ve been working on connected to The Patch Project!

Do you have a collaborative experience like this one? What are some creative things you’ve made with collaborators?

out of print

The past few weeks, I did a couple of things I’d been putting off. One major step was posting about The Patch Project going out of print. There’s a long story to this, but suffice to say that the book is no longer available in ebook format and can no longer be ordered through the publisher. There are still some copies at Biblioasis, and a couple on Amazon, but aside from that, the last box I ordered is all that’s left of The Patch Project. It’s a wonderful thing to have a published book, and I am truly grateful to the publisher and the staff who worked so hard on making the book a reality. I posted about it on Instagram a few days ago, and was thankful for the messages I received. Thank you also to everyone who’s ordered a copy the past couple weeks as well! If you’re interested in a copy, let me know and I can mail or deliver (in the Windsor area) one out to you!

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I also signed up for a free online course about modern art through MoMA. There are excellent art resources and activities for learners of all ages on their website. I always regretted not continuing with art history in my undergrad, and I feel almost giddy when I sit down to go through a module. I’ve also been writing away for Camp NaNoWriMo, and a few writing friends and I have been writing together (while in our own homes, of course, gotta keep that social distance) almost daily, which has been immensely helpful and encouraging.

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Sometimes it feels like I’ve been home for months. Then I realize it’s been three weeks. I acknowledge the privilege of being able to stay at home, when there are many people who do not have that as an option. Admiration and solidarity for people who go out daily to deliver groceries or protest for the return of the bus service in Windsor. Also the people working in essential services and healthcare. Also the artists and creatives who are facing the challenge of cancelled events and performances. It sometimes feels unreal, the major changes that have been implemented in our lives. Hopefully we can approach these changes with compassion and take care of each other, even in the simple act of washing our hands.

art in the time of social distancing

In this time of social distancing, I’ve been getting back to art. I adore making art and learning about art. The DIA is currently one of my favourite places in the world (though I have yet to catch van Gogh’s self-portrait – literally every time I go, it’s out on a travelling exhibit, or just missing?) A couple of friends on Facebook have been posting links to online art exhibits and tours of museums. A stand out has been Faces of Frida – up until going through the exhibit, I knew very little about Frida Kahlo and her art. I learned that she spent time in Detroit – right across the river! – and how her life and art shaped each other. Fascinating!

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I’ve also been working through a free online art workshop called Sketchbook Revival – there are two instructional videos every day relating to different art journaling techniques – everything from lettering to binding an old book into a journal. Some of the exercises haven’t been for me, but the ones that draw my attention (pardon the pun) have been really fun.

All that being said, now that I’ve had a week and a bit at home, I’m starting to miss meeting up with people to write or have coffee together. And I’m trying to find a writing project to focus on while the sequel to The Patch Project goes through one last round of edits. Either finishing up a set of short stories I’ve scribbled at for the past couple years, or continuing the space opera I started writing for NaNoWriMo this past fall. Just something to keep me feeling productive and grounded while waiting to see what the next couple of weeks are going to look like.

I think there’s a lot of pressure to be productive during this time. I’m trying to balance it with the acknowledgement that this can also be a time of rest and contemplation. How do I want my life to change once things go back to relative “normal”? What is bringing me clarity and fulfillment during this time? What is important to me? How can I find time to ask these questions when things become busy again?

Also, I’m getting back to reading. Currently I’m reading An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green, and am rereading The Left Hand of Darkness with my sister over video chat. I’m also looking forward to reading The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel, which just came out – we’ll see if the copy I ordered arrives.

What are you reading? What are you getting back to during this time of self-isolation? How are you approaching being productive/ resting?

a good secret

So I’ve been keeping a secret from you all, which is why I’ve not been posting here very much over the past little while. It’s a good secret, which made it even more difficult to keep.

But now that the period of silence is at its end, I can happily announce that I am one of the recipients of the Windsor Arts, Culture, and Heritage Fund!

The ACHF is a grant given to local artists in all kinds of mediums working on all kinds of amazing projects. (You can find a full list of the recipients on their website.) I never thought I would actually receive funding – applying for it was kind of a long shot. I’m super grateful for this opportunity to work on a novel with the support of this grant.

If you’re a writer, artist, creator, or community builder, you should check out the next round of applications (in August/September, I believe). Once applications open, you can apply online, which I found super convenient.

I’ll write more about my project next week. For now, I’ll just say that I’m excited to be starting a new novel!

Also, I have to remember to add this to all posts related to this project:

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Windsor’s a pretty cool place. Just saying.

 

starting a full-time job and how it’s affected my creative life

A month ago, I started a full-time job. Up until this point in my life, I’ve mostly worked part-time, fitting in shifts around my university studies and creative projects. Since moving to Windsor, I’d avoided even considering positions that required over 25 hours of my time per week. I thought full-time work would be a drain my creative life. Now that I’m in a full-time position, my ideas on this are changing.

This picture is currently the lock screen on my phone:

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The Diggers by Vincent Van Gogh

I set it as a joke after my first week at the new job. Kind of like a “hey, this is my life now lol.” When I consider the image today, I think about it a bit differently. The figures in the painting are working, and the work is hard and time-consuming, that’s true. But there are also fields and trees and birds to enjoy in the midst of it. They’re working to accomplish something. And they don’t work alone. I find that my shifting attitudes towards this painting reflect some changes in perspective I’ve been experiencing since starting a full-time job.

I appreciate the sense of routine. Eventually, it may become tedious to get up in the morning and make breakfast and catch the bus, but right now, it’s invigorating. I’m sleeping better and eating better. I like that I know what to expect when I show up, and I also really like being able to leave at 5.

Leaving work at work is maybe the best part of the job so far. I’m used to jobs where people can reach me anytime, either through email or social media. Convenient, yes, but  also a constant energy drain. With this job, I’m not expected to do any work outside of office hours (emotional work included) and that is incredibly freeing.

And as much as I was worried about losing my creative energy, I find that I’m more intentional with my time after work. I don’t have swaths of free time to clutter with unnecessary Facebook scrolling or other forms of procrastinating. Once I get into writing a new novel my restricted schedule may prove to be a problem, but for now I find that I value my creative time all the more.

I know that I’ve only been at this job for a month, but so far, full-time work doesn’t seem to be all of the soul-crushing things I thought it would be. It definitely helps that the people I work with have been welcoming and supportive. Having less stress about finances is also huge. I’m thinking about attending a few conventions this year, which I would not have been able to even consider a month ago.

All that being said, I realize that every workplace is different, and that full-time work legit sucks for some creatives out there. Finding a job that fits can be really tough – I’ll have to find out if full-time work is the best fit for me. It’s a new season.

Now that I’ve settled into this new routine, I’m going to be getting back to weekly blog posts. Next week, I’ll have some news about my current projects, and the Windsor Small Press Book Fair!

 

 

the process

I’ve been working through The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp with an amazing group of creative folks. We meet up once a week to discuss thoughts and discoveries around each section of the book. So far, I’ve been challenged to think more intentionally and clearly about my own creative process, and have deeply benefited from hearing the group respond to Tharp’s ideas.

Today, I was thinking about process vs. result in terms of creative projects. I love the process of creating something. I love the challenge of it, the problem solving that’s involved, the need for collaboration (in any medium – right now, I’m depending on my advance readers). I love the feeling of taking some vague idea or feeling in myself and watching it play out on paper or onstage.

Once a project is completed, however, I feel detached from it. And maybe this is because detaching myself protects me from criticism, or gives me a distant vantage so I can improve on the next project – but the group made me think about what a result actually is. Is it the last performance, the final draft? Is the result the product or people’s reaction to the work?

And thinking about it that way, I suppose I do love the result in that I love hearing people respond, even if it’s negative. I want to do well as an artist, but I also know that what I make has flaws, and that certain themes or genres may not appeal to everyone. It’s fascinating to hear the particular parts that resonate with each reader.

Which makes me wonder if maybe the creative life of a project is all process, just different points along the way.

What do you think about the relationship between creative process and result? Is there one stage of a project that you enjoy the most?

it’s a major award!

I’m not the kind of person who wins things. I think I won a raffle once when I was a kid for this giant Easter egg cake. My Dad and I wrote a simple melody on the piano when I was five, and I won a trophy for that.

But as the years wore on, I became more and more disheartened by things you could win. My sister and I both entered a poetry contest in junior high and her poem won. She was published in a collection and got to attend a book signing. I was happy for her, but also crushed.

I’ve never won a writing contest of any kind. Not for magazine entries, not for short stories, not for plays. After a while, I stopped sending in things altogether.

But at the ChiSeries Windsor Best of the Best of the Best event last night, I was given a trophy for making up a story on the spot (and bribing some key deciders, though that was encouraged by the rules of the event. You could also get bonus points for tipping the bartender or wearing a funny hat. It was that kind of mischievous night.)

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Photo by Ben Van Dongen

I’ve trained myself not to expect to win anything. Maybe some of you can relate. Don’t want it too much and it won’t hurt if you don’t get it. But last night reminded me that winning is more than being the best at something (or worst, depending on the category. The worst poetry award, for example). It’s about showing up. About taking risks and learning from past experience.

And showing up is something that the arts community needs. It needs people to show up and show their support for what artists are doing. It needs artists to show up and risk being honest and vulnerable with their work. It needs a lot of people to show up to build off of past events and create a space for artists.

That’s how we all win as the arts community. With that in mind, I’ve decided to make more of an effort in the new year to show up at arts events. Not every single one, because that would lead to serious burnout. But more of them. And if I can’t be there, at least spread the word.

I mean, if I hadn’t gone to the event last night, I wouldn’t have met the people I did, I wouldn’t have gotten up on stage and read a story I made up. I wouldn’t have taken home a trophy that the organizers put time and care into making. It took energy to get there, but once I was there, it was so worth it.

Showing up means we can all win, together.

 

Do you have an experience winning or not winning something? What do you think “showing up” means in the arts community?

**the featured photo for this post was taken by Christian Laforet

a little bit of this and that

September has flown by! It was a quietly busy month: getting used to a new work schedule, editing my new book, and catching up with friends.

Now that October is here in all its rainy glory, I’m working on getting The Patch Project to a couple of local events – I’ll post an update about that next week! Until then, here are some things I’ve been tinkering with:

Editing the sequel update: I’ve changed the manuscript title like three times! Also, I’ve been experimenting with footnotes – there were a couple of specific terms in the last book that I had to keep from being cut during the publisher’s edits (“in-betweening” being one). By using footnotes, I think I can provide quick context so the editors and the readers are all on the same page. Though, I may have invented grattaged.

Other creative things: my friend invited me to join her for this two-week creativity workshop. It’s online and features a different artist each day. The artists walk you through a mixed media activity and also provide insight on creative well-being. Although I haven’t done all the activities so far, it’s still helping me to focus on making art and being mindful about my process.

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This past weekend, I participated in Run for the Cure, an annual event to raise money for cancer research and support for patients and survivors. We ran (walked, let’s be honest), didn’t get rained on, and had a lovely brunch afterwards.

This post turned out to be a little bit of everything! What does October hold for you?