Tag Archive for: Linda Rodriguez

A Whole Industry Built on Vibes!!

by Linda Rodriguez

This past week, we have been treated to the spectacle of the heads of of the hugest publishing companies in the United States sitting in a federal courtroom under oath, testifying about the publishing industry. We have heard things that were patently untrue, even if the CEO making the statement is sworn to tell the truth under pain of perjury, things such as, “$100,000 is a relatively small advance anymore”. Cue writers across the land for insane laughter at this preposterous statement.

We have heard things that were quite unbelievable and yet, apparently, true, simply because they were unfavorable to the executives testifying, their publishing company, and the cause for which they are suing. Statements which admit that the current CEO of one huge publisher has totally mismanaged his company (but he still wants the government to allow him to acquire another huge publisher, apparently so that he can mismanage that one as well?), or that even the largest publishers have absolutely no idea which books will sell or how to sell the books they have acquired, or the admission that they give no marketing budget and make no marketing efforts for the vast majority of their books which fall below the $250,000 advance mark.

These court proceedings have been live-tweeted by reporters for several industry publications and others with a strong interest in the industry. Their live tweets have been seized upon by writers across the country, who have been simultaneously horrified and stunned into laughter by some of the incredibly ignorant and inept statements these CEOs have made under oath. As one writer tweeted in all-caps response after a CEO agreed laughingly with the judge that their P&L statements had no validity, “An entire industry run on vibes!!”

Most of us who have been involved in this industry and with the Big Five publishers for any length of time have not been surprised at much of what has come out in this hearing. It tallies with what we have experienced and what we have suspected all along. We have had few
doubts about the mendacity and ignorance of the people in ultimate power at these houses (as opposed to their hard-working and wonderful editorial staffs). How could we, especially after seeing and experiencing events such as the purge by one of the houses in this case of all of its
cozy-mystery writers, no matter how successful, and of their knowledgeable cozy-mystery editors, only to sign a new set of inexperienced cozy-mystery writers for vastly smaller advances than normal? (Perhaps this irrational act played a part in the fact that this company had a
disappointing record of sales for the past few years and its CEO had to publicly admit to mismanaging it?)

But even veteran writers have been stunned by the sheer extent of the lies, the ignorance, and the deliberate mismanagement this week’s testimony has displayed publicly. These men are being paid multi-millions of dollars per year, yet are clearly incompetent in their roles. At least, if the goal is what the company publicly states it is–to acquire and publish books successfully and profitably.

On social media, writers across the country are moaning, laughing, and despairing as they read about each day’s testimony. I find myself wondering how many writers, who would otherwise have had a career with traditional publishers, will turn to self-publishing in disgust at the practices so callously outlined, most of which exploit, abuse, and humiliate the very writers upon whom this industry rests. This trial has only begun. We have weeks more of this testimony ahead of us. Will publishing ever be quite the same afterward?

Cover Reveal–Every Last Secret

 by Linda Rodriguez

I’m excited to announce that on Tuesday, September 7th, the first of my Skeet Bannion mystery novels, Every Last Secret, will be re-released in ebook and trade paper format in a new edition with new covers. This is a thrill, especially, because readers have asked for a paperback version of these books for a long time, and my former publisher would not bring them out in that format. All three of my Skeet Bannion mysteries will be released with new covers in these new formats as a prelude to the launch at the end of the year of the 4th Skeet Bannion mystery, Every Family Doubt.


 This is the book that first introduced Skeet Bannion, Cherokee campus police chief in a small river town and former Kansas City, Missouri, homicide detective. Skeet has left the big city and come to this bedroom community to escape her drunken and disgraced policeman father and her ex-husband, who refuses to give her up. She’s tired of the grim toll that being an urban homicide detective has taken on her and is looking forward to a more peaceful existence in this quiet, little town. 
Still, murder happens everywhere, and when it happens in her town and on her campus, Skeet moves back into the investigative mode and obsession with justice that made her one of the most successful big city homicide detectives and the highest ranking woman in that police force before she resigned. No one kills someone on her watch and gets away with it scot-free. Little does she know that this case will change her entire life.
I hope the many fans of these mysteries will enjoy this peek at the new cover of the first of them. Keep an eye out for the new edition of Every Last Secret in paperback for the first time, coming Tuesday, September 7th.

Linda Rodriguez’s 12th book is The Fish That Got Away: The Sixth Guppy Anthology. Her 11th book was Fishy Business: The Fifth Guppy Anthology (edited). Dark Sister: Poems was her 10th book and a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award. Plotting the Character-Driven Novel, based on her popular workshop, and The World Is One Place: Native American Poets Visit the Middle East, an anthology she co-edited, were published in 2017.  Every Family Doubt, her fourth mystery featuring Cherokee detective, Skeet Bannion, and Revising the Character-Driven Novel will be published in 2021. Her three earlier Skeet novels—Every Hidden Fear, Every Broken Trust, Every Last Secret—and earlier books of poetry—Skin Hunger and Heart’s Migration—have received critical recognition and awards, such as St. Martin’s Press/Malice Domestic Best First Novel, International Latino Book Award, Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014, Midwest Voices & Visions, Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, Thorpe Menn Award, and Ragdale and Macondo fellowships. Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,” published in Kansas City Noir, has been optioned for film. 

Rodriguez is past chair of the AWP Indigenous Writer’s Caucus, past president of Border Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime, founding board member of Latino Writers Collective and The Writers Place, and a member of International Thriller Writers, Native Writers Circle of the Americas, Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers, and Kansas City Cherokee Community. Learn more about her at http://lindarodriguezwrites.blogspot.com 

The Wild City–A Poem for National Poetry Month in a pandemic

 by Linda Rodriguez

As we move beyond the one-year anniversary of our pandemic lockdown and the beginning of National Poetry Month, I’m posting a poem to remind us all that, even if we’re isolated from our social circles, we have companions if we can get outside–even in large cities.



THE WILD CITY

Sprawling across the Kansas and Missouri
River confluence, network of tributaries
woven around bluffs and glaciated hills,
crow-blue in the distance but green, green
as the hearts of trees in the walking,
even today, Kansas City has still-wild parks,
large, well-treed lots, and wooded streams,
homes for foxes, wild turkey, deer, coyote,
interrupting traffic patterns with flight
paths of herons, hawks, and eagles,
a metropolis of small towns linked
by the scent of water and new growth.

Smaller rivers fill out the web
of water that holds the landscape
together, leaf veins feeding surfaces
of green—Blue River, Platte River,
Little Blue River, Little Platte River,
Marais des Cygnes River.
Creeks like Indian Creek, Brush Creek,
Line Creek, First Creek, Second Creek,
Shoal Creek, Willow Creek,
Mill Creek fan out, capillaries
for the breathing system that is the city.

Once, driving along the Little Blue,
I startled at the sudden appearance,
slow flap of huge white wings
banded with black, bright red cap
leading the way ahead of stretched-out
snake neck, legs trailing behind, a legend
rising next to me and taking flight,
whooping crane on migration,
resting and feeding a day or two
in the heart of the city.

When we humans go at last,
by bomb, virus, famine,
disaster, natural or otherwise,
the wild will reclaim Kansas City
in short order, never having completely
released its original hold.

(Published in Cutthroat, a Journal of the Arts, 2016)

Becoming a Phoenix Again and Starting Over

 by Linda Rodriguez

According to
astrology, I am a Scorpio. In fact, I am a quadruple Scorpio, which is about as
Scorpio as you get. The animals that symbolize the sign of Scorpio are three in
number, unusual or the zodiac, which normally only uses one animal to represent
each sign. Scorpio is represented by the scorpion, the eagle, and the phoenix.
The scorpion represents the lowest aspect of the sign, mostly the negative
elements in Scorpio, such as jealousy and vindictiveness. The eagle represents
the higher aspects of the sign, positive elements such as perseverance,
passion, and commitment. The phoenix, however, represents the very highest to
which the sign may aspire, inspiration, creativity, resurrection, and rebirth.

 

I often like
to say that I have lived a series of lives in this particular lifetime. It
seems to me that I go through the process of the phoenix with its fiery
destruction and rebirth periodically. I find myself in one of those phoenix periods
once again. I have been on hiatus from this blog for some time now, due to
serious health issues. Debra Goldstein has been kind enough to post older blogs
that I have written and published in my time slot while I have been away. She
has also functioned as an administrator, tending to many of the glitches and
organizational issues that plague any blog behind the scenes. I would really
like to thank her and Bethany Maines, as well as Cathy Perkins, or their
administrative work to keep the blog going smoothly.

 

The interesting thing about being in one of these
phoenix times in my life is that I never know where I will end up. A number of
years back, I was a long-time director of a university women’s center.
Suddenly, I went down with several autoimmune diseases and found myself forced
to take an early medical retirement from the job that I was quite good at and
loved dearly. In many ways, this was like a death of someone very close to me and
entailed a great deal of mourning. I went from a position where I made a
positive difference in other people’s lives to being virtually bedridden, and
when I finally managed to get well enough to move around, to being pretty much
confined at home, while I struggled with these terrible diseases. I knew I made
a positive difference in other people’s lives, because often, as I walked
through a supermarket or a shopping mall, someone would come up to me and tell
me, literally, “You made a difference in my life,” or “You saved my life.” And
then, I was a semi-invalid, who hardly left the house at all, except for
multiple medical appointments. It seemed to me as if my life was truly over.

Once the flames died down, however, I began to create
a new life as a writer, one I had always wanted and never had the time or the
courage to pursue. That new life is where I have lived ever since – and been extremely
happy, as well as moderately successful in the eyes of the world. A couple of
years ago, however, my health started a downward spiral with cancer and the
terrible side effects of its treatments followed by a couple of terrible falls
that left me with permanent disability in my right shoulder and arm and a truly
frightening ratification of one of my autoimmune uses, which left me on daily
massive doses of steroids that continued through the years and seriously
weakened the functioning of my legs. I have felt for these last few years as if
someone out there somewhere had a voodoo doll of me that they were continuously
slicing and dicing. All of this has led to tremendously diminished strength,
heavy fatigue, and lots of pain, and trying to manage all of these problems, as
well as continue working freelance as a teacher and an editor in order to try
to keep afloat in the flood of medical bills, meant that I had little time or
energy for my own writing.

That is the gift of the phoenix, however – to rise anew
out of your own ashes. At the moment, that is where I feel I currently stand. I
don’t know at the moment what shape or color this new life will take, but I can
feel it bubbling up within me, itching within my back where the new wings are
getting ready to sprout. I have been working with my fiber art, spinning,
knitting, weaving, in order to fill the creative well within, and now I am
experiencing that wonderful urge to start creating worlds and characters that
other novelists know well. So, it is truly an exciting time for me right now.

Here is a poem that I wrote during that last time of
my life when I was saying goodbye to my old career and old self and welcoming
the new career and self that I hadn’t seen yet.

 

A PHOENIX,
SHE MOVES FROM LIFE TO LIFE

 

 

and leaves only the ashes of her old self

behind. She plunges into the dark

future from the glare of her funeral pyre

that brightens the sky of her past

for miles and years and leaves a legend

told to generations of children

of a vast golden one whose gleaming

body rose from the burning corpse,

blotting out the moon

with huge wings beating against

the burning air to lift the dead

ground to the living night sky

and fly through the moon

to a new place with new people

where she could be new herself—

until the destroyer strikes again.

 

Like a hunting eagle,

she lands, claws outstretched,

golden crest and feathers lost

in transit, her wings already disappearing.

She grows backward, smaller.

Now she can only crawl

into and out of shallow holes

in the ground of this new life.

Still, the wise avoid trampling her

for they know

she drags death behind her.

 

Published in Heart’s
Migration
(Tia Chucha Press, 2009)

 When you hit periods of decline in your own life, do
you feel as I do that you are allowed a kind of rebirth and re-creation of
yourself? Do you have your own symbolic ways of thinking about those times in
your life?

 

Linda Rodriguez’s 12th book, The Fish That Got
Away: The Sixth
Guppy Anthology
, is about to be published. Her 11th book was
Fishy Business: The Fifth Guppy Anthology (edited). Dark Sister:
Poems
was her 10th book and a finalist for the Oklahoma Book
Award. Plotting the Character-Driven Novel, based on her popular
workshop, and The World Is One Place: Native American Poets Visit the Middle
East
, an anthology she co-edited, were published in 2017.  Every Family Doubt, her fourth mystery
featuring Cherokee detective, Skeet Bannion, and Revising the
Character-Driven Novel
will be published in 2021. Her three earlier Skeet
novels—Every Hidden Fear, Every Broken Trust, Every Last Secret—and earlier books of poetry—Skin Hunger
and Heart’s Migration—have received critical recognition and awards,
such as St. Martin’s Press/Malice Domestic Best First Novel, International
Latino Book Award, Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014, Midwest Voices &
Visions, Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, Thorpe Menn Award, and Ragdale and
Macondo fellowships. Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,” published in Kansas City Noir, has been optioned for
film.

Rodriguez is past chair of the AWP Indigenous Writer’s
Caucus, past president of Border Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime, founding
board member of Latino Writers Collective and The Writers Place, and a member
of International Thriller Writers, Native Writers Circle of the Americas,
Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers, and Kansas City Cherokee
Community. Learn more about her at
http://lindarodriguezwrites.blogspot.com

Men Who Take on Other Men’s Children

My stepfather coaches my little brother’s team
Men Who Take on Other Men’s Children by Linda Rodriguez (originally published in June 2015)


When
I look back on my life, I realize I’ve been lucky enough to be
closely involved with three men who had the ability to take on
children who weren’t their own genetic children and love and care
for them as fathers. It will be Father’s Day soon, and I want to
say a word or two about these kinds of unsung heroes.
My
birth father was a brutal, unpredictable man. I suspect he would now
be diagnosed as a clinical sociopath. After my parents’ scandalous,
highly contentious divorce and all of the violent, ugly fallout
afterward, my mother settled in a small college town in Kansas and
met a quiet man she married when I was fifteen.
My
stepfather immediately tried to be a good father to me, which meant,
among other things, setting limits and being protective. My birth
parents had both been irresponsible and sometimes dangerous children,
so from my earliest memories I was the pseudo-adult in the house, the
one who worried about all my younger siblings and tried to protect
them and care for them so they could have as normal a childhood as
possible. No one had ever looked after me or tried to take care of
me, so I resented my new stepfather’s efforts tremendously.
As
the next few years went by and I observed my stepfather’s treatment
of my younger siblings, for whom I still felt so responsible although
I’d left home at sixteen, I warmed to him. He was doing his best to
be a real dad to them, taking them camping and fishing, making them
toys, coaching Little League teams, etc. In time, like my younger
siblings, I came to call him Dad. When I gave my parents their first
grandchildren, he was a doting grandfather, and when he finally died,
he died in my sister’s and my arms with all my brothers and the
grandchildren around his bed.
At
the time I married my late first husband, I already had a baby, whose
father had died. My late first husband loved my oldest as much as
either of the two children we had together, and that was one of the
things I loved about him, that capacity to open his heart to a child
who wasn’t his own genetically just as much as to those who were.
Later
when I was a single mother of two teenagers in the final years of
high school and my youngest was only four years old, I met and
married a man who’d never been married or had children. He had
enough sense not to try to be a father to my teens, who would have
only resented him for it, but he loved and raised my youngest as his
own. This gentle, totally urban intellectual did the zoo safari, even
though he was embarrassed that everyone else had to help him put up
the huge tent he’d rented, and when our little one left the tent
open to the depredations of peacocks and collapsed the whole tent on
his stepfather when they were packing up to leave, he was so kind
that he earned a hand-printed, hand-drawn certificate of membership
in “The Loyal Order of Peacock Fathers.” My youngest and my
husband to this day have a close, loving father-son relationship, and
because he was so patient, he and my older two children have a warm
relationship as well.
My
sister has two sons. One father is a deadbeat, missing in action
because he’s never wanted to be financially responsible for his
child after the divorce (just as he hadn’t for all of the other
children he had that my sister didn’t know about when they
married). The father of the youngest paid support but simply refused
to see his own son. For these boys, my current husband has been a
father-figure. The younger one clung to my husband and waited eagerly
for our visits and his to us. My husband used to shake his head on
the way home and wonder at the idiocy of the men who refused to have
any contact with their gifted, charming boys. At Christmastime, these
two nephews, now grown, delight in finding eccentric books and other
gifts that will please my husband, often keeping an eye out for them
all year.
I’ve
seen firsthand what a difference men like this can and do make in the
lives of children whose fathers are gone, sometimes dead, sometimes
by choice. So here’s a toast to the men who take on other men’s
offspring and give them love and a true father’s care, even when it
isn’t easy, even when those other men have left emotional damage
behind. To Dad, to Michael, to Ben, and to all of the other men out
there like them, you are the true salt of the earth!

Grandmother’s Basket by Linda Rodriguez

From the archives of Linda Rodriguez Writes – a blog post and poem run for Native American Heritage Month that reminds us about the women we may love and honor for Mother’s Day. 

A Poem for Native American Heritage Month–“Grandmother’s Basket”

For Native American Heritage Month, here is a poem about my grandmother, who was so influential in my life, even though she died when I was thirteen. Like a lot of families, mine was torn apart by divorce when I was young, and as great as the loss of my father was, I think the loss of his family, my grandmother and aunt, was even more traumatic. These women had been the strong stable base of my childhood while both parents were chaotic children. Once the divorce occurred, I lost that stability and their wisdom, but never their love. Fortunately, as an adult, I could and did seek out my aunt while she was still alive and rebuilt the family connection. Unfortunately, my grandmother was long gone by then.

GRANDMOTHER’S BASKET

I loved Grandmother’s baskets when I was small.
They had intricate patterns and figures
woven into them in brown, black,
yellow, red, and orange.
She had different sizes and shapes,
used them for storage rather than display.
My favorite was in reds and yellows with a black border.
It looked to me as if woven of fire and grasses.

I would climb into cupboards, find one,
and ask why she didn’t keep it out on a tabletop
where everyone who came in could admire it.
“These aren’t the best ones,” she said
as she fingered baskets that looked beautiful to me.
“We used to make them from rivercane,
which makes a better basket and dyes the best,
but they rounded us up in concentration camps
and drove us on a death march to a new land
that didn’t have our old plants like rivercane
so now we use buckbrush and honeysuckle.”
Grandmother shrugged. “You make do.”

I asked her to teach me how to make a basket
like the one I loved with feathers of fire
along its steep sides. She shook her head.
“It’s a lot of hard work.
First, we need black walnut, blood root,
pokeweed, elderberry. Yellow root’s the best yellow,
but blood root will have to do.
They’ve dug all the yellow root
for rich people’s medicines, call it goldenseal.
Got to have our dyestuffs first.
Got to forage for most of them.
It takes lots of trips, out and back,
to get enough to make good colors.”

I knew I could do that and said so.
She laughed. “You’ve got to know what to pick
or dig or gather. It’s like with my medicines.
Can’t just go taking any old weed.”
I pointed out that I was learning from her
about the Cherokee medicine plants. She just shook her head.
“It’s not the same. I grow most of those.
Haven’t taken you out for the wild ones yet
because you’re too little still. Same for dye plants.”

I nagged at her for days, begging her to teach me
so I could have a basket of my own.
I had in mind that amazing fire-flickering basket.
I wanted to make one just like that.
My visit was over without her ever giving in.
I was used to Grandmother’s strength of will.
I knew I would have to try harder next time.

There was no next-time visit.
My mother had always hated her mother-in-law.
Now, she won the battle to keep us away.
Our relationship poured out in letters
until my mother destroyed them,
refused further correspondence.
Years later, Grandmother wrote me—
a letter that slipped past my mother’s scrutiny—
that she was making a basket
one last time for me.
I knew she was very ill,
soon to die.

I don’t know who got the beautiful baskets
when Grandmother died, especially the one
that I loved when I was small.
Her sister and niece who cared for her
in her last illness, I suppose.
That’s fair. My parents had divorced by then,
and my mother allowed no contact
with that family. But
a lumpy, brown-paper-bag-wrapped package
with Grandmother’s shaky, spidery handwriting
arrived for me after her death.
My mother opened it first and laughed.
I stood waiting eagerly to snatch up
the last thing my grandmother would ever give me.
“Look at that,” Mother said with more laughter.
“That ugly old thing’s supposed to be a basket,
I think. She sure lost her knack for that
at the end, didn’t she?”

When I was small and visiting, I knew
Grandmother already had arthritis
in her hands. That’s probably why
she wouldn’t teach me to make baskets—
because she didn’t have the dexterity any longer
to make the kind she once had.
I still have that simple handled basket
of vines (probably honeysuckle).
The whole thing is dyed black.
There are no intricate patterns of flames
or anything else. It’s just solid black.

I can see her plodding out to gather
butternuts for the black dye
and to pull the honeysuckle vines,
stripping off the leaves.
I can see her gnarled hands
painstakingly weaving under and over,
no fancy twills or double-woven sides.
Hard enough to shape
a shallow but sturdy gathering basket
for her long-unseen granddaughter.
All these years later
I have my own herb garden
where many of her medicine plants grow.
When I gather them to dry for teas and poultices,
I use that black vine basket.
I think it will last forever.


Published in Dark Sister (Mammoth Publications/ Blog published at Linda Rodriguez Writes 11/17/17

Sparking Your Creativity

Sparking Your Creativity by Linda Rodriguez (originally published June 2017)
As
an artist and creative person, I can experience times when I reach
down for ideas, for creative excitement, for images, and come up
temporarily empty. These have usually been times that have combined
lots of creative overwork and lots of business work—taxes,
promotion, correspondence, contracts, freelance editing, etc. This
kind of emptiness and feeling creatively dry can be terrifying, but
I’m now used to it, and I know what to do to refill the well and
spark new creativity. In these circumstances, it’s necessary to
take time to do things to build up new creativity energy within you.
So here are ten ideas to get you started.

Journal
Writing—This is the backbone of the creative life, especially for
writers. I’m not necessarily talking about a daily diary. This is a
notebook in which you write about what you see and hear, turning it
into dialogue or sensory description. This is where you can work with
writing prompts from books, workshops, tapes, and DVDs, your version
of the pianist’s daily scales. Set a kitchen timer for a few
minutes and do some freewriting to unload some of the chattering of
your surface mind and move into deeper ideas.

Read
Poetry—I’m a poet, as well as a novelist, but I’ve been
surprised by how many commercially successful novelists I’ve met
who say they regularly or occasionally read poetry as a springboard
for their writing. It actually makes great sense because the poet
deals in imagery, which is the language of the right (creative)
brain.  I know that, whenever I read poetry, it sets my
mind whirling with tons of ideas and images. I have come up with
ideas for entire novels from reading a poem.

Read
Something Very Different for You—If you always read and write
poetry, check out a popular novel. If you’re a mystery reader, take
a look at what science fiction writers are coming up with. If you
read and write literary fiction, pick up a romance novel. Jog your
mind from its habitual ruts of thinking and imagining. Stretch out of
your comfort zone. Even if you don’t like what you read, it should
still shake up your mind enough to start generating ideas, images,
and characters.

Singlehanded
Brainstorming—Most of us have been taught how to do and forced to
sit through group brainstorming sessions before. Take those
techniques and a sheet of paper with pen (or iPad or laptop), get
comfortable, set a timer again, and start throwing out ideas at top
speed. Same rules as with the group process. You can’t disqualify
any idea, no matter how unrealistic. You want to generate as many
ideas as you can as quickly as you can. Just list them down the
page—or even use a voice recorder to capture them.  After
the timer goes off, you can go down the list considering the
possibilities you’ve listed. Look for possibilities to combine
aspects of ideas. Write down any new ideas that get sparked by your
consideration of the ideas already down on the page. Choose one or
two promising (or least abhorrent) ideas and freewrite about them in
your journal.

Making
Lists—I love listmaking. Make lists of ideas, of characters, of
backgrounds you’d like to use someday, of isolated bits of dialogue
or description, of actions you’d like to see a character to take.
My favorite is to write a list of scenes I’d like to read—exciting
scenes, action-filled scenes, emotional scenes, surprising scenes,
suspenseful scenes. They don’t have to have anything to do with any
project you’re working on or any character you are writing or have
written. They just need to be scenes you’d love to read—because
scenes you’d love to read are scenes you’d love to write.

Visit
a Museum, Gallery, Play, Film, Concert—We writers live and breathe
words. Sometimes we need to get out of our heads and see or hear art
that isn’t primarily word-based. It can be especially fruitful to
go to a film in a language you don’t understand or an art exhibit
of a kind you know nothing about. When we have no words to use to
explain or understand what we’re seeing, our brains are kicked into
another mode of functioning that can become quite generative. Wander
around a gallery or museum and take in the colors and shapes. Sit in
a concert hall or movie theater and let the music or film engulf you
completely, washing through your brain. Come out seeing or hearing in
a slightly different mode.

Draw,
Paint, Knit, Spin, Sew—Even better than looking at art is making
it. Sink your hands into clay or fiber. Splash ten different colors
next to each other, taking note of the changes each new color
creates. Feel the texture of the fabric, thread, yarn, fiber as you
work with it to make something new. Take a penciled line and see what
you can create with it. All of this also kicks in the right brain,
the imagistic, creative part of us. Stay in beginner mind without
worrying how “good” your art will be. This is—and should
be—play, completely carefree and innocent.

Go
for a Walk—Physical exercise is always a good thing for us
sedentary word slugs, but even more important than its many health
benefits are the creative benefits of simply moving your body through
space. As you move around, your brain begins to get unstuck and to
move, as well. A nice, long walk outdoors (preferably in scenic
surroundings) can often jumpstart the solution to a creative dry
spell. Sometimes a sterile period can arise from being overstressed.
Walks are one of the best ways to counter such stress and relax the
mind and body.

Arrange
Flowers/Rearrange Some Belongings—In the Chinese art of feng shui,
rearranging 27 items will start stuck soul energy flowing again.
Moving belongings into new configurations, trying for a more pleasing
pattern, has long been a cure for the blues and the blahs. We are
pattern-recognizing and pattern-creating organisms. To change the
habitual patterns that surround us charges us with new energy.  A
smaller, simpler version of this is to gather or buy some flowers and
assemble them into flower arrangements that please our aesthetic
sensibilities. Spending a little time in creating pleasing, artistic
arrangements of flowers or accessories will provide a creative boost
to stuck energies.

Go
to Lunch with a Creative Friend or Two—Everyone has one or more
friends or acquaintances who are creative sparklers. Like the child’s
fireworks favorite, they give off showers of sparks, or creative
ideas, constantly. They are positive and upbeat and always focused on
possibilities. Spending some time with them will leave you filled
with ideas, energy, and excitement. It’s always worthwhile to give
them a call and set up a relaxed lunch in a nice place. Rather than
complain about how dry and sterile things are for you right at the
moment, ask them what’s new with them and what they see as
possibilities for the future.  As they take off shooting
into the blue yonder, follow them wholeheartedly and build on all
their ideas. You’ll walk away at the end of lunch with a big smile
on your face and a bunch of ideas bubbling in your unconscious.
Cherish these friends, even if they are unrealistic and immature.
Their wild, creative energy is invaluable when your own has
temporarily deserted you.

One
or more of these ten methods should start your creative powers
working once again. I’ve never had to go through more than a couple
of these at a time to get my creative mojo stirring. Post this list
near your desk, and don’t spend any time or energy bewailing it
when a creative dry spell hits. Just reach for this and try whichever
of these ideas looks most appealing at the time. If the first doesn’t
completely prime your creative pump, move to another of them.
Creativity never leaves, but sometimes it needs a spark to start the
engine running again. So spark your creativity!

Turning to Other Writers for Inspiration

Turning to Other Writers for Inspiration by Linda Rodriguez (originally published on The Stiletto Gang-November 4, 2016)

Periodically, I get a little burned-out
from working too long and hard without a break. I start to face
resistance when I sit down to write. I have developed several
techniques for dealing with this, but the first one I always try—and
one that usually works—is to turn to what other writers have
written about the trials and tribulations of writing.

So I look at what other writers have
written about resistance, about finding themselves reluctant to sit
down and write, even when that’s what they most want to do. Many
writers have written about this topic because this state is one that
every writer finds herself or himself in sooner or later. As I go
down the long list of writers who have written about this miserable
place to find yourself, the first thing I encounter is a very wise
statement from science fiction writer, Kameron Hurley.

“If
I quit now I will soon go back to where I started. And when I
started, I was desperate to get to where I am now.”

Kameron Hurley

I
realize, as I read, that the problem at bottom is always fear, no
matter what else is also involved. Yes, I’m tired and need a little
break and some recreational reading or activity that will help
restore and replenish my well of creativity, but always, lurking for
moments of exhaustion and weakness, is the writer’s bane, fear. And I
find a great writer there before me, as well.

“The
work is greater than my fear.” –Audre Lord

So,
for the next time you find yourself burned-out and exhausted and
coming up empty when you sit down to write here are more helpful
quotations from writers about the process.

Discipline
is simply remembering what you want.” – Judith Claire Mitchell

Start
writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is
turned on.” – Louis L’Amour

Work
is the only answer.” –Ray Bradbury

“A
word after a word after a word is power.”–Margaret Atwood

“The
first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” — Terry
Pratchett


The
most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters
except sitting down every day and trying. ,,, This is the other
secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we
sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us.”
– Steven Pressfield

Have
you got some favorite quotations from writers that help you in such a
situation?
Linda Rodriguez’s book, Plotting the
Character-Driven Novel
, is based on her
popular workshop. Her Skeet Bannon series featuring Cherokee campus police chief, Skeet Bannion includes Every Hidden Fear,
Every Broken Trust, and Every Last Secret. She also is the author of several books of poetry. Linda has received critical recognition and awards, such as Malice
Domestic Best First Novel, International Latino Book Award, Latina
Book Club Best Book of 2014, Midwest Voices & Visions, Elvira
Cordero Cisneros Award, Thorpe Menn Award, and Ragdale and Macondo
fellowships.
Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,”
published in the anthology, Kansas City Noir, has been
optioned for film. Find her on the web at http://lindarodriguezwrites.blogspot.com.

I Give You to River by Linda Rodriguez

I GIVE YOU TO RIVER, a poem for National Poetry Month (reprinted from Linda Rodriguez Writes – April 25, 2019)



Like my ancestors before me, I love rivers. The peace of running water always calms me, watching it ripple past slowly, hearing the murmur of the water over rocks and
branches and the swish of it against the banks, spying the many lives that live along the river–fish, turtles, snakes, muskrats, beavers,   hawks, and eagles. For millennia, my people have always chosen to settle near rivers.
When I was growing up, I was taught to go to water when troubled or ill. Running water is strong medicine, good medicine. We pray next to it, and then use it to wash away whatever is troubling our hearts, minds, or bodies. Sometimes a creek or brook will work for me, but if I’m truly heartsick, I seek out a river.
This poem is another in a series of poems that I have posted to celebrate National Poetry Month. It is an exploration of this practice of going to water when troubled. In the worst kind of pain and grief, sometimes only a river can provide any release. For a healing ceremony, one needs to build a fire, say the right prayers, make an offering, but sometimes in the worst straits, it can be simply you and the river.


I GIVE YOU TO RIVER

Turning to the water for release
from my troubles, from you,
I write your name in my palm with my
finger,
then brush off the invisible letters
into the river currents passing at my
feet.
I ask River to carry them out of my
heart and mind,
carry them away from my life, remove
all that darkness
that is you infesting my mind against
my will,
replaying memories that were nothing
but playacting on your part,
though my heart tries to find excuses,
for all the deliberate pain.
I have to face it finally—there are
none.
Hard to believe, but even harder to
find
I still long for you.
This stubborn heart won’t give up.
So I barricade it, keep it safe from
its stupid fidelity,
while I wait for River to carry out
magic,
carry your name and games far from me,
set me free finally with the power of
moving water,
my own inborn element,
which carves memories of trauma from
the earth itself
and leaves wondrous scars.
Published in Dark Sister (Mammoth Publications, 2018)

Poem for the new year–“Walking on Ice”

by Linda Rodriguez
Happy 2020 to all of you!

At this time of year, many of us are dealing with snow and ice storms. We are also often reflecting on how we want to live the rest of our lives or how we want to improve our handling of important relationships. 

For the new year, then, I offer a meditation on marriage and other relationships, as well as a consideration of what can frequently be consequences of seasonal ice storms.
WALKING ON ICE
  
after a back injury is a constant
putting yourself at risk.
I know this fear well
from years of setting nerve-damaged heel
firmly on glazed cement
that may turn banana peel on me
as if in some eternal silent film gag.
For you, it’s all new—
the discovery that solid earth can shift
you from upright to supine
as soon as the water on its surface hardens.
We age by learning
such hard truths, move through life
gingerly testing our footing, or else
by smashing the brittle in our way
and sweeping the shards
from the sidewalk.
It’s not so hard, learning
to balance on the shine.
Published in Heart’s Migration (Tia Chucha Press, 2009)
Linda Rodriguez’s 11th book, Fishy Business: The Fifth
Guppy Anthology
(edited), was recently published. Dark Sister: Poems
is her 10th book and was a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award. Plotting
the Character-Driven Novel,
based on her popular workshop, and The World
Is One Place: Native American Poets Visit the Middle East
, an anthology she
co-edited, were published in 2017.  Every
Family Doubt
, her fourth mystery featuring Cherokee detective, Skeet
Bannion, and Revising the Character-Driven Novel will be published in 2020.
Her three earlier Skeet novels—Every
Hidden Fear
, Every Broken Trust, Every Last Secret—and earlier books of
poetry—Skin Hunger and Heart’s Migration—have received critical
recognition and awards, such as St. Martin’s Press/Malice Domestic Best First
Novel, International Latino Book Award, Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014,
Midwest Voices & Visions, Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, Thorpe Menn Award,
and Ragdale and Macondo fellowships. Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,”
published in Kansas City Noir, has
been optioned for film.
Rodriguez is past chair of the AWP Indigenous Writer’s
Caucus, past president of Border Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime, founding
board member of Latino Writers Collective and The Writers Place, and a member
of International Thriller Writers, Native Writers Circle of the Americas,
Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers, and Kansas City Cherokee
Community. Learn more about her at http://lindarodriguezwrites.blogspot.com