art on the refrigerator

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Why do so many of us grow ashamed and embarrassed when we share our art as adults? When do we become apologetic about the things that we create with passion? When we’re children we show our boldly scrawled crayon drawings and painstakingly eked out letters proudly, our chests puffed out in front of us, insisting that our work be placed on the refrigerator. We can’t wait to share what we’ve made with the world around us. Why does this elation, this urgency and joy in sharing have to end? Why must we judge our work against others, before shoving secret leaves of paper in hidden places, forever thinking our work isn’t good enough to share?

One of the deepest hopes I have for the vision of this project, now that we’re continuing onto our second issue, is that it will stand to serve as a diving board back to that happy creative place in all of us. I want to put the work that comes from deep down in your gut on a giant refrigerator. I want everyone to see it.

Submission guidelines for our next issue, to be published Summer 2011 are here.

(image credit)

xoxo,

Chrissy

For Real

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On my blog, I tend to most often share fiction and poetry. But sometimes, when I’m feeling confessional and comfortable, I’ll write more personal posts, and tag them “For Real“.  It’s almost like a disclaimer of merit…me trying to clear myself of my own rigid inner-critic. When the first issue of Far Away was nearing publication, Katie suggested the theme of the sophomore issue be more confessional, more slice of life, more “real”. Since artists are generally self-absorbed narcissists deep down in their needy little hearts (or is that just me?), we thought that an issue revolving around the “for real” instead of the invented could be interesting. We’re all voyeurs, right? I’m a complete obsessive collector of stories and gossip and self-portraits. In my next life, if I continue to be a good little girl and keep my karma in balance, I’ll come back as the proverbial “fly on the wall”.

Since announcing the theme of our next issue (however casually – did I mention the next issue’s theme is For Real?), I’ve started receiving some beautiful and honest work in my inbox. There is something unifying and defining and  human about confessing our loves, our sins, our memories, our hearts as they beat in our chests. Always and forever I’m super grateful for the opportunity to share your work with a broader audience. I love that this fledgling magazine is becoming a fascinating sort of conduit.

As for specifics (though we generally don’t like specifics), we’re still looking for writing and visual art that comes from the murky depths of your soul. Honest, raw, endearing, embarrassing, confessional, happy, tragic, first love, first fuck, first loss, first pet, first cup of chamomile tea, etc. Again, the theme is “For Real”. Take whatever that means to you and run far into the desert with it, send what you find beneath the dunes to christine.dano.johnson @ gmail.com, and we’ll share it with the world (literally – did you know that artists from three continents, four countries, and six US states shared their work in the first issue of Far Away?). Our (loose, open-ended, flaky as hell) deadline is June 1st. But we’re flexible.

xoxo,

Chrissy

You can find general submission guidelines (and we do mean general) here.

P.S. I’ve been thinking about this quote from Voltaire a lot lately…

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.*

…and hope that you’ve noticed that we don’t want perfection and polish, we just want your insides…come  as you are.

*I also hope that by using a Voltaire quote vindicates myself and this project from the tsk tsks of any sort of literary and art (and grammar) elite who might be reading this late-night grasp at straws and question the validity and great purpose of this project. I quoted Voltaire – what else do you want from me?

Collective

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I’ve been thinking a lot today about the confessional nature of our society: our once hidden journals are published publicly, people living in relative obscurity sign papers agreeing to be followed by a television crew, our paintings are unearthed from behind dropcloths; we don’t wait for a salon or a committee to agree that our hearts be displayed on a white gallery wall anymore. We share instantly. We share what’s rough and what we’ve edited to our own vision of perfection.  We write raw memoirs that are read by millions. There’s some strawberry fluff out there, to be sure, haphazard works and strewn together messes that can hardly be called art. They can be called entertainment, and there is of course a place for entertainment. I enjoy a bit of  fluff myself. Some of the television shows my husband films are light and airy and only borderline educational, but it doesn’t mean they’re a drain on our collective culture. They’re easily digested. We can’t always watch gritty foreign dramas or listen to only symphonies. Hidden in the messy mass of work that’s available for consumption is some really heavenly work, and if you know how to sort it out, the art world will have no borders for you.

I mean, in ancient civilizations they used to kill people in an arena for sport***, so what if we watch celebrities dancing on two left feet or five year olds compete in pageants? So what if I gladly ingest Mackensie Phillips’ wonderfully weird memoir in one afternoon? I still think we’ve come quite far in the higher forms of art – we share, instantly, pieces of our souls with receptive audiences around the world. Instantly. I think this is a beautiful advancement. There’s still a place for the traditional viewing and sharing of art, of course. Just last week I was introduced to the paintings of Xiaoze Xie at our little local art museum. His oversized oil paintings are so precise that I thought they were large photographic prints at first.  Had we not decided to visit the museum that day, I wouldn’t have known about him.  So I don’t think that the digital sharing of work will EVER replace the physical, nor do I want the new to cancel out the old. I hope they’ll always hold hands to cross the same road, you know?

((I’m sure that a pale army of hipsters is shouting at me right now – ‘What? You’d never heard of Xiaoze Xie before? I knew about him before he even painted that!!’ To this I say, Okay. Eff you. Why is art and literature appreciation a competitive event with you people? Egh, away with you, pretend pale hipster army!))


Far Away is a part of this digital collective movement. What started out as personal websites that showcased portfolios, personal poetry, literature, thoughts and dreams, has grown into a dense, gorgeous world that stretches to infinity. It runs parallel to art seen or read in person; each a part of our individual creative spirits. I think this brave new world of ours is just fantastic.

(I am simultaneously publishing this on my personal site)

***Did you know that in Elizabethan times it was popular to see a “bear baiting” show on a Saturday? They would basically tie a bear or an ape to a pole and let mastiffs attack it. And the people would clap and roar their approval! Bring the kids, buy a turkey leg!  Somehow Jersey Shore doesn’t seem so bad now, does it?


Daily Grind

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Lately, I have been wondering whether it is better or worse for my writing to force myself to write something daily. Is it really true that repeating the task of writing on a daily basis will trigger my creativity or improve my writing generally? Sometimes, I am not so sure.

I recently reviewed a number of my old blog posts and I was disappointed by the overwhelming number of them which, to put it frankly, are crap. So many of my posts are clearly vague, amorphous attempts to write filler – they are there so that I seem to be a more regular writer than I really am.

Writing pap follows what I think is a misconceived notion that reading anything is better than reading nothing at all. This notion is one belonging to a child of the TV generation – who prefers the sound of something humming away in the background to the whisper quiet of an empty house.

Perhaps it is more true that we should only speak, or write, or produce when we truly feel a need to express a thought or an idea. Art is, after all, a sort of dialogue, which depends on the patience and interest of the reader/viewer to give it half its life.

Nevertheless, I do tend to attempt to write daily because I am afraid of forgetting to write at all. I worry that if I don’t apply myself with discipline, I may drift off into my corporate styled life and forget all about my creative passions. Are these worries valid?

How often do you write? What punishments do you endure? Are you better for it? Your comments are welcome.

Katie

Blurb

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Recently, a survey popped up in  my inbox from Blurb (the self-publishing tool I used to create the hard copy of the first issue of Far Away). It asked me to be honest, what did I think? Would I recommend their software and service to a friend?

 

I was honest. I said yes. I did, however, mention that I thought they were a bit too pricey. We don’t collect any profit from the print version, as adding a profit margin would push it over the edge from expensive to WAY expensive. We also felt funny collecting even a dollar or two from this effort that to us, is more of an expression of joy than a way to  make extra money.

Blurb’s publishing software, Booksmart, is actually a really fun little program. It inputs the fonts on your computer, so if you’re like me and have an array, you’re not limited to their choices. It’s easy to upload photos, and their templates provide a lot of opportunity for creative expression. I would definitely use it again to make a photobook, or a small chapbook of my poetry with photos.

I won’t use it again for Far Away, though. This issue, I wanted to provide SOMETHING tactile for our readers. Something. I was having issues with other publishing tools and had started a full time job, which didn’t allow the time to go to local printers or even FedEx/Kinko’s. But really? That’s what I’ll do with this next one. Shop around, find out what’s more cost effective, and print on demand using a bricks and mortar business. I’ll most likely set up an Etsy shop to sell copies, and continue to offer a free pdf version (always!).

Anyway. Blurb? Yes! Love it. Maybe not for the long term vision of Far Away though. It’s a good company and the end product is beautiful. I’ll post a photo soon of my copy.

 

xoxo,

 

Chrissy

What prompts you…

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I was raised on writing prompts. In the beginning of my addiction to writing fiction they were usually self-administered; at ten I’d maybe choose a tree outside to describe or a clichéd spooky phrase to help set my fingers clacking on my mom’s old blue Royal. At thirteen, I was selected to be a member of my school’s Power of the Pen team, and I was then introduced to a  never-ending, weekly barrage of writing prompts tailored to plump up the brains of junior high Parkers and Whitmans and Eliots. We’d practice in one of the English rooms, our heads in the sweaty hands that weren’t grasping our pencils (drafts were always done in pencil, finals with pens). We’d scratch out whatever narrative might come to mind after our coach wrote something like this on the blackboard:

You receive a letter in the mail from your future self at thirty. What does it say?

My stories were usually weird. Apocalyptic and psychedelic. I recall one where I was turned into a lemur and another told in the voice of a ballerina who had been flirting with LSD (I had just read my mom’s old copy of Go Ask Alice). I must have struck a chord with judges from both the local and regional levels, because I went all the way to the state tournament at Denison University. While there, my writing sadly fizzed, crashed, and burned. Probably because I had spent the night before the all-day free writing portion of the tournament making out with a boy from Northeastern Ohio. Never trust boys from Toledo!

After eighth grade, I kept writing both formally and on my own  (POP is only open to 7-8th graders), but generally stopped using direct prompts. Even today,  I’m usually quite lucky in that I don’t hit too many walls, and can pull my inspiration from the animate and inanimate around me without that sort of nudge.

But I’m curious,  as a writer, or a visual artist, have you ever used traditional prompts? There’s certainly an ocean of them online:

Writer’s Digest has some nice ones. Though I don’t use prompts I might try this one:

“Take the first line of your favorite song and write a story using it as the first line.”

It would be fun to write a short story with the first lines of one of my favorite songs as the lead in or first line:

Morning bell
Light another candle
Release me
Release me

**

Poets and Writers Magazine will send a fiction or poetry prompt to your inbox weekly. Here’s a recent one that I dig a lot:

“For one week, collect words and phrases you encounter throughout the day from signs, advertisements, menus, overheard conversations, radio programs, headlines, television, etc. At the end of the week, write a found poem, using these snippets.”

Ooooh that one sounds right up my dark and deserted alley. Love it.

I’d be interested to hear if you use prompts regularly, whether as a visual artist or a poet/writer. Have they caused your synapses to fire rapidly, your brain creating so fast that your fingers can barely keep up? Or have they hindered your normal creative process?

xoxo,

Chrissy

private spaces

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I just had to share this post that was featured on Apartment Therapy’s ReNest page last week:

Famous Writer’s Small Writing Sheds and Off-the-Grid Huts

What about you? Do you have a secret, private place in your home or work where you can create in harmonious isolation? I simply shut the door to my bedroom when my son has fallen asleep in his room at night, laptop warming my thighs, candles lit, coffee in hand. My high school summer job was a tour guide at a historical park, and in-between giving tours I would sit and write in the isolated, cool and dusty historic buildings. My favorite was an old train depot, I would sit in a wooden folding chair and describe the stark white of wood paneled walls and the weathered wood and glaucoma-fuzzy lights of the retired semaphore. Rainy days I could write for almost my entire shift (for few traveled to an outdoor museum in bad weather). It was lovely.

I’d love to hear if you have a secret, private space to create. Or if you don’t, what is it that you dream for?

xoxo,

Chrissy

unhinging

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Are there places you run to when you’re stuck? When your gears aren’t oiled and the pretty things that usually fall so easily from your fingers seem to dissipate before they can be born? Where do you go for inspiration, epiphanies, for the calm before the creative storm?

You can go to a museum, either in real life or via astral projection (Google Art Project).

You can go to the library, and comb the periodicals and images databases. Your own library probably holds rubies and gold inside, or you can visit another city all together (NYPLLA Public Library, San Francisco Public Library).

Or, or….you could take a long walk. I personally tend to have moments of turquoise clarity during my walks, long or short. You can do a little yoga. You can do a little pacing. You can say eff it all and go to bed and then wake up speaking in rhyme, your block unhinged, your mind and its intricate cogs and wheels running smoothly again.

So. What do you do to get unstuck? I’d love it if you shared. I get stuck up a tree quite often.

xoxo,

Chrissy

[Heidi writing.]

 

Simply Wonderful

Photo by Jen Causey

One of my favourite photographers, Jen Causey, operates the website Simply Photo.  What I love about Jen’s work is that it always gives me the sense I am seeing the subject with my own eyes. There is something very ‘real’ about her photographs – to me, they are not as unnaturally stylistic as a lot of modern photography – they present a simple, good representation of the item she wishes to photograph.

I am not a photographer (I have always wanted to try, but my camera sits sadly unused) – if you are a photographer maybe it would be nice to experiment with some photography like Jen’s. In the coming weeks we will be talking more about the next theme for the magazine – ‘real’ has a lot to do with it. In preparation, we would love to receive photographs of your ‘real life’ and show them here.

Katie