Thursday, March 26, 2015

Doing art while preparing to move

I need another project with everything else I do. Packing and house hunting are very stressful. I’m making some headway with the packing. Yesterday I stopped at the U-Haul store and got a box to fit the bigger charcoal drawings. Unfortunately, it’s too big, heavy, and awkward to move now that it’s full. (Guess I should have packed it in the back room where it will be stored instead of the kitchen, ha ha.)

I haven’t even taken time to write the next chapter of the book because I’ve been so busy with pictures. I am still adding color to my walls or getting ready to. I need to frame the new prints. I may be packing to move, but in the meantime, I want my home to look happy and the pretty, bright-colored pictures on the walls look great. 

There needs to be a balance between packing, house hunting, writing the book, editing photos, and doing the InterTown Record work. I’m beginning to think that all the drawing supplies should be packed away because I’m not finding time to do that. But I keep thinking I might. Oh, these decisions. 

I don’t like living with the feeling my life is on hold or I’m up in the air (because of this needing to move). I’m tired of living in a temporary abode (and I knew moving in here that it would only be for a few years). I want a permanent home, a forever home. I want to feel settled and have the house be mine, have it be home.  

I know that life isn’t permanent, but having that feeling of moving hanging over my head is like a cluttered room that weighs heavy. It needs to be cleaned out once and for all… like all the clutter accumulated all these years.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Changing wall décor to combat the blah of the season

The other day Nan made a comment about the lack of color of the season. We’ve talked about this often, how the late winter and early spring are so blah and colorless. The pretty snow is now dirty and the debris from trees litters the ground making it all messy looking. 

A light bulb went on in my brain. My charcoal drawings kind of match the landscape out my window. Hmmm, I have a lot of colorful photos that came back from various shows and I haven’t decided what to do with them. Hey! Why don’t I swap the photos with the drawings? 

I took the drawings from the wall and packed them in foam pouches. Each was replaced with a colorful, vibrant photograph. Wow, what a difference! I like my drawings, but putting these bright images on the wall really changes the demeanor of the rooms. I can’t wait to do up more photos to replace the rest of the drawings. 

Does that mean I won’t be doing any more charcoal drawings? No, they definitely have a place in my art life. It’s just right now I want more color. 

And speaking about photos, I’m still in a dilemma on how to do the picture book about my trip. There are so many awesome pictures. What am I going to do with them? I want others to share my experience. I’ll figure it out somehow.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Guest and Customer Experience

Yesterday I provided better room descriptions to Days 1-4 after working on a list of what I expect regarding a hotel stay. I made a list of what issues I notice in hotels. I’m still struggling with how to exactly set up my star rating chart to use throughout the book. 

This morning my mind is back on the hotel experience. I watch shows on TV like “Hotel Impossible” and “Resort Rescue” and they are always stressing The Guest Experience and the more I think about this, the more important the topic and for me, and The Guest Experience should be with capital letters. 

How important it that for business? I would think very important in this competitive world. But I am wondering about staff mentality to this topic. It’s almost like for most of them, they are going to a job, and do not care about the guest experience. They may smile and say welcome, but there is no warmth to the greeting and can be a “here’s your key now go away” feeling. Often I felt I was interrupting them when a big TV was blaring away in the lobby and I’d walk away with the impression that the desk people would rather be watching or listening to TV than taking care of guests. (That noise also made it very distracting while checking in or out.) 

This attitude of creating a great guest experience extends to any kind of customer service. And as my thoughts about this now are growing, they actually tie into my initial ideas of making this book more interesting than the last. 

One goal was to pay more attention to those who help travelers enjoy their journeys. This includes staff at visitors’ centers, tour guides, wait staff at restaurants, clerks in shops and stores, and, of course, desk clerks and housekeepers in the restaurants. Those people can either create a great experience for the traveler or leave us feeling a bit disappointed.



Monday, March 16, 2015

Making the Book More Interesting

Working to make the book more interesting 

I got through the first draft of Day 8 yesterday. I’ll go back again and again adding better descriptions and tightening up the chapter. Then I’ll have to decide which photos to insert. It’s so difficult, in a way, to work on this chapter because I want to go back there so bad, and while it’s great to relive the experience, it makes me want to see more of the place. (I wasn’t able to do all the trails.) 

This morning my mind is again running rampant with ideas for the book. I am working on using a Sasha’s Star Rating for lodgings, meals, and sites visited. That’s not totally formulated, yet, as the ideas keep bouncing around. I am working on a one through five rating and need to come up with descriptions. 

Two things stood out for me. One is that it’s hard for me to give anything an absolute 5-star rating for excellence as nothing is ever totally perfect. What I see as perfection may not be how someone else sees it. Plus, there is always some little negative. So how do I judge the pros versus cons? Maybe #5 should just be: Excellent with only a couple minor flaws

Then there is the #1 rating. Would I ever say something is so horrible to never go there? After all, this is all just my opinion. So would the #1 description be something like: Highly disappointing, I would not come here again?

Maybe I should make a check list for everything I look for in a hotel and add them up like points with each star worth so many points. What do you think?





Sunday, March 15, 2015

My mind is on fire with ideas

I crawled out of bed a little later than usual and after grabbing a cup of coffee, I sit in the upstairs writing room doing the daily journaling. Many times, something that was said the day before or some idea intertwines with the journal writing. Also, there are times when the journaling draws out those thoughts even further. My mind is so full that I will also take side notes. 

Side notes are written on scrap paper. I write on the backs of correspondence, old writings in which I have new copies, and even used envelopes as one side usually has clear space. Sheets of paper are ripped in half because I prefer to write in the smaller 5x8 rather than on the full 8 ½x11 sheet. (Journal books are 6x9).

This morning I filled three scrap pieces with notes and ideas to use later. Sometimes I get so involved in writing notes that I lose track of where I am in the journaling. Sometimes I forget to record an event from the day before because I am so focused on these new ideas. I can’t write fast enough. My mind just bubbles over and what I don’t get written down is forgotten.

This morning my mind was again on the new book. I am obsessed with it; the need to get it written, wanting to tell the story, and the desire to show the story with the photographs. That’s all wrapped up with wanting to go back to South Carolina so bad! I want to be walking those trails this time of year when the flowers are coming into bloom and leaves on the trees are coming out. (I’ve only been there in January.)

One of my worries in my travel writing is I feel I am not descriptive enough. When I wrote about the 2013 trip, I often did not have the correct words to describe what I was seeing. Even though I had the photos to refer to, I feel I failed in that aspect. (No, it was not a failure. I am really proud of that book. It’s one of my big accomplishments.) 

The hardest thing in writing a book is the length it could become; the longer the book, the more expensive to have printed. And, one of my goals is to bring the reader with me. So, this time, I am determined to be more descriptive. I want to tell the story, show what I saw with photos, but also describe what I saw and experienced. That experience includes feelings (emotional and atmosphere), smells, and sounds. How do I bring the two dimensional writing into three dimensional pictures to your minds?

What this all means is that the book is put together in piece meal. There were the original notes, the blog, and journal. There are all the photos and deciding which of the hundreds (and I do mean hundreds, perhaps even close to a thousand) to use. Reality dictates that I can only use two to five in each chapter when there can be up to or over 50 good photos for any one day. There are the history segments and facts to research and add.  

Then it’ll be going back over each chapter and using the photos to create fuller descriptions of places and situations. Each perusal of a chapter tightens it up, makes it better, even if it does get longer.

 You will be coming on this journey with me!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

More photos than I can handle

I edited 59 photos for Day 7 of my trip and between yesterday and today, I edited 61 of Day 8. I can’t help it. And if I edited this many, imagine how many I didn’t. But again I hem and haw and am indecisive with the editing. I don’t trust my eyes. Is what looks good to me going to print well and look good to others? There are so many variables. I wish there was someone here who could say, “Tweak that one a little bit more” or “No, too much.” 

How can I fit all these photos in the book? There’s no way I can do just one. The travel book with all the text can only handle so many images and adding maps, means less photos. I am planning to do a picture book of the traveling, too. So many pictures never made it to print from the 2013 trip and it’s such a shame. Some are awesome photos. I don’t want it to happen this time.

But can a travel picture book sell? I don’t know. Would anyone be interested, but me? Do picture books work as ebooks? Does anyone buy those? The one thing that I have come to realize is that a picture book is much more interesting than a photograph album. Maybe that means I should only do one for myself. 

I’m also considering doing more than one picture book. I could do the recent travel book. I can go back and do 2013 trip photos. There is also the possibility of breaking it down into interests like: Plantations of the Charleston area in Pictures and I could include 2013 and 2015 photos. The plantations would include BrookGreen Gardens, Magnolia Gardens and Plantation, Middleton Place, Drayton Hall, and Boone Plantation. There are still too many photos. 

What a dilemma! Maybe it should just be a series of smaller books. I can’t just let these photos go to waste. They are too beautiful. I want to share this beauty with everyone. 

Editing the photos of the visit to Magnolia Gardens makes me want to go back there. That’s a place to return to time and again. I’d never get tired of its beauty and history and as the visits were in the winter, I wonder what it would be like to see the trees and flowers in full bloom. I would walk these trails every day if I could (and in January, I met a couple of women who walk there once a week).



Friday, March 13, 2015


I am an artist/photographer/writer which means I have products/services to sell. Of course, I love what I do or I wouldn’t do it, however, the marketing side has me tied in knots. I read all a lot of the ways to market art, but when I look at the bigger picture of marketing in America, I am totally discouraged and wonder where the ethics are in marketing. 
The subject has been on my mind for a long time, but every once in awhile, something really jumps out at me. I received a letter recently from Dish Network thanking me for being a loyal customer and “rewarding” me with a free month of premium movie channels. 

What a joke! This is not a reward. It’s an insult… but how many people will buy into this? And that’s it exactly. It’s getting more people to buy more product. They use words to entice and make you feel good. They make it sound like they really care about you – after all, don’t they have your best interest at heart? Aren’t they always working to make things better for their customers?

If they really cared about the customer, they’d create smaller, more affordable packages. But no, everything is all geared to getting the consumer to buy more. So, in this case, because my favorite stations: cooking, travel, history, Nat. G., HGTV, along with local networks… are mixed in with the bigger packages, I am paying for 250 plus channels when I watch less than 20. Why do I need 20 sports channels, 10 Spanish or French, a dozen kids’ channels, movie channels, music stations, etc. I’ve had enough! I’m about ready to give up watching TV altogether. 

And I’m really not just talking about Dish Network, of course, I’m talking about all big corporations. Oh, yes, they’ll always tell you they are doing things for you, the customer… and people continue to believe: new and improved; high quality (which now-a-days means it might last a year or two); works faster; and a myriad of other words to make the consumer think they are getting a better product. Don’t believe it! 

It’s all about marketing; how to convince the public to buy… and people will believe what they are told over how the products really perform. Health care is the biggest. Talk about an amazing marketing ploy! Convince everyone that they HAVE to have yearly or more check-ups, that doctors are gods and know what’s best for you, that you have to have insurance to protect you from the doctors’ exorbitant costs (but who protects you from the insurance companies)? Then they ply you with drugs to “keep you happy,” to make you think they are doing something for you… How many health products have been promoted by those in the profession and then years later it’s found to cause more health issues. (Thalidomide is one that always comes to mind.)

Think about it. Think about what we have been told for generations. Think about how the big corporations can pretty much do anything they want because they have the money and power backing them. And the fact that people keep buying their products! Think about how the corporations have bought out any good company to keep products (and consumers) in their control. Think about CEOs and board members with their humongous salaries who are so high up on the chain that they are not even aware, or really care, about the poor consumers who have to put up with poorly made products. And don’t even talk to me about customer service – just another two words to make you think the company cares about you. (If they really cared, there would be a real person to talk to every time you called.) 

Think, too, that the bigger the corporation, the more employees needed which means prices need to be pushed up to pay more salaries… and bigger salaries to the top hierarchy. (And the majority of the needed extra employees are lucky to make minimum wage.) 

Think about it, and think about what we are told as consumers versus what is the truth in the products even with something as simple as so-called juice only having 10 percent real juice and it still is allowed to be called juice (and just what is the other 90 percent, what kind of chemicals used to preserve…). If you really start thinking about it, you won’t like it. Products we bought years ago lasted, and if there was a problem, we got immediate attention and help.  

Oh, I could go on and on. People are waking up, though, and speaking up. I don’t know if can ever make a difference. This whole issue is so huge, it’s almost unfathomable. What have we done, America? We have been lied to and deceived for so long. We believed.  

What words do you hear in marketing that are not telling the truth? 

So now, here I am with products to sell. I find it hard to buy into marketing rules when so much of what I’ve seen is so ethically wrong… or is it morals? I hear things like, “If you don’t have a high price on your item, buyers won’t think it’s quality.” So, that means I should raise the price and make three times (or more) what it cost me to make? Pricing is a struggle, for sure. I want a fair price. I want people to like what they buy. Maybe this means I will never be good at marketing because I cannot lie to people… or what feels to me like telling an untruth. I dunno.
Maybe I shouldn't be mixing up the selling of art with corporate America marketing. But corporate America has me so disillusioned that it's hard to even consider my own marketing strategies. Ugh, even using the word strategy sounds like I'm trying to pull something over on somebody.



Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Piecing bits together

A good part of yesterday was spent editing more photos of the trip and working on the writing of days four and five. I hadn’t blogged for day 5 and my notes in my pocket notebook got mixed up as to the days. Then because I carried my journal to the restaurant when I was in Charleston, the writing went back and forth between that day and the previous. (The journal usually is writing about the day before.) This is leading me to have to decipher which paragraph goes to what day. 

So, to write the book, I am looking at the pocket notebook, the blog, journal, and photos taken that day. Then I’m searching the internet for added information. Some things didn’t get written in the moment and were noted later and other moments were not written about at all, but between the writing now and reviewing the photos, memories come through.

The highlight in this morning’s journal writing was remembering how welcoming everyone was at the Holiday Riverview in Charleston. My first couple of days was spent mostly working and most of that was spent in the Harbor View Restaurant on the 15th floor. The staff was gracious and there were moments when “seeing if I needed anything,” they would tell me a little about themselves. 

Granted, the place wasn’t busy and never once did anyone spend too much time with me so as to take away from their duties. Nor did they ever ignore any of the other customers. This attention meant a lot to me. I was so thankful for the face to face conversations. 

Other customers were also friendly and it was wonderful to overcome my shyness and strike up conversations. I even got names and permissions to add to my story. 

The hotel room itself may have been outdated, too small a work space, and a little shabby, but the staff and guests certainly made this a most enjoyable stay. What nice memories.



Monday, March 2, 2015

Obsessed with the book

I go to bed thinking about the book and wake up thinking about the book. There are periods during the day when I tear myself away to work on other needed projects or to have a few hours of downtime to watch TV in the evening. But, for the most part, focus is totally on the writing and the pictures.
Most of yesterday was spent on listing the photos recently edited, printing them on a sheet of regular paper for reference, and the working on the writing of days three and four. I was pleased with the amount of work accomplished, but at the end of the day, I had a meltdown.
I live alone, therefore travel alone, edit pictures alone, and write alone. These are my choices… for the majority of the time. However, there are times when I get so caught up with decisions that I crash; times when I just can’t decide. These are times when I miss my mother very much. Yes, she was very opinionated, and if I did something she didn’t like, she did not hid her displeasure and her negative criticism could be quite crushing.
But she was here. She was always here, and even if I didn’t take her advice, she was someone I could say to: “Do you like this one or is that one better?” AND, she would have been so proud of these books. “My Life Isn’t Flowers” in 2010 was probably the proudest she ever was of me. That I could do a book and have it come out so beautifully… that HER daughter could do this…
She would have been proud, too, of “Too Cold for Alligators.”
Now I am working on the next book and because I want it to be even better than “Too Cold for Alligators,” the pressure is greater. I took so many photographs because I not only want to tell the story of my travels, I want to show you. I want you to see how the highways would go on and on, how the scenery could be blah of color because of the season, or the beautiful farms and country sides.
But I realize, too, that all the pictures cannot fit in the book. One to three may make each chapter and I will also do a picture book, but even still, I can’t use all the pictures. Some will be left behind to never be seen. How do I decide which to use and the ones that will not be shared?

Sunday, March 1, 2015

How to see

I’ve been crabbing for some time about the struggle with editing photos. What looks good to me on screen sometimes does not look as good when printed. Yes, I know the type of printer and paper makes a difference. I’ve pretty much got a handle on the three printers at the house, but now the issue is if I send the image to be printed as a gallery wrap, metal print, or in a book. 

There are times when I’m saving the image two or three times depending on where and how it will be printed. The toughest decision is figuring out how much to tweak an image. Too much and the colors could look garish and often, if I add contrast to make items in the picture pop, the sky lightens too much and the dynamics of clouds disappear. And I love clouds. 

I also doubt my eyesight. Is what I see on the computer really a good picture or is my eyesight causing me to make poor editing decisions? The self doubt creates added issues and holds up the process of working faster and printing poor quality pictures is a huge waste of expensive paper and ink (let alone the waste of time).  

This morning I worked on editing more Day 3 photos of my trip. I took a lot of traveling photos that day, plus I visited the Virginia Museum of Civil War in New Market. There are still pictures to edit and I’ve already edited over 24. Virginia is a beautiful state and at that point, I was just doing a drive-through. 

I’m still trying to decide how to best show these pictures. I never got around to doing a book of all the 2013 trip pictures. That was a huge let down for myself because some of those images are amazing. I’d still like to do a photo book of them and even toyed with the idea of doing both trips in one book. However, there are too many pictures.  

How do I decide which to print? Some might not be the greatest shots, but to show, in pictures, what the journey was like is important, especially for those who never get a chance to travel. Book publishing/printing is made to sound so easy now-a-days, but it’s expensive. It’s one thing if you are just purchasing a single book or a couple of copies to give to the family, but to try to do something to sell and have an affordable price on the book is near impossible.  

But I want to do this! I not only want to tell my story in a travel book, I also want to have picture books. Big goals for 2015.