(Photo)journaling as inspiration

When I was around thirteen years old, like many teenagers, I went through a period of journal writing. I wasn’t very good at it. I never knew quite what to write, and it went very quickly from something I thought of as fun, to something I considered a chore. If I didn’t write in my journal at least every other night, I considered I was failing at journaling.

I guess I felt like I didn’t have much to say. I wasn’t a typical angst-ridden teen. I had a great life, and I knew it. My biggest complaint was having to do housework on the weekends. I didn’t really like boys at that point, thanks to having two relentless older brothers who teased me mercilessly. Why would I voluntarily add another boy into the mix?

Drawing came much easier to me than writing words. I spent hours in my room, listening to my stereo, sprawled out on the floor with sketchbooks and pencils.

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Mostly I used pictures in books or on album covers as my inspiration. I drew Dennis DeYoung, Linda Ronstadt, George Michael, Frank Sinatra. I copied an album cover onto the back of my brother’s denim jacket, and painted it (New Riders of the Purple Sage). I drew my feet, my hands, my dog, a self-portrait.

Drawing is a great hobby for a writer. It forces you to really observe. I soon went from drawing in my room, to getting outside and drawing from nature. It’s amazing what you see when you lie on your stomach in the grass. There’s a whole new world down there. Once I turned seventeen and got my driver’s license, I headed down to the beach, sketching everything from lighthouses, to fishermen baiting hooks, to windsurfers preparing to hop on their boards. The Jersey Shore has its own culture, and it has always fascinated me.

It was about that time that I became friends with a guy I worked with. Tony Gonzalez was (and still is) a photographer (see http://tonygonzalezartist.com), and I soon added photography to my list of journaling tools. Tony and I would head down to Long Branch and shoot under the boardwalks, using black and white film.

 

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I love the nuances in grey scale. It makes the subject’s details obvious to the eye, adding light and shade, highlight and depth, texture and mood. Take, for example, this photo of an ant on a daisy.

 

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The color photo’s story is cheerful, a happy little ant tooling along on a daisy stem, the yellow of the daisy’s center like a ray of sunshine. The black and white photo, however, tells a different story. The wilted flower now looks harshly dead, and the ant appears more sinister. It’s as if he sucked the life out of the flower, and is marching on to attack his next victim.

Whoever said “A picture is worth a thousand words” was a wise person, indeed. Not only do my photos remind me of details upon which I can draw in my writing, they are also the jumping-off points for stories. Take this photo of the Duomo in Milan.

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If you don’t know the Duomo, it is the second largest Catholic cathedral in the world, and it took nearly four hundred years to complete. That last fact, alone, is fodder for a writer. Imagine the lives of the cathedral builders, artisans, craftspeople! In fact, Ken Follett did, in his amazing novel, The Pillars of the Earth.

I love to take photos of people, as well as places. Aren’t you just dying to know the story behind this violin player on the streets of Rome? Or to make one up for him?002

 

Is he really a poor man looking to make a few euros to get him through the day? Or is he laughing behind that big smile, rolling in dough and just enjoying his retirement, playing a part? Is he married? How many children does he have? Grandchildren? What is his house like? Since my stories always start from the human element, often my photos give me ideas for stories I want to write in the future.

Whenever I travel, my camera goes with me, along with a little notebook to record details about certain photos, or tactile experiences. What was the air like on that day when the mist hung over the water? Did my skin taste salty after walking in the fog at the shore? Did I twist my ankle walking down that winding cobblestone road in Orvieto? How cool was it to use only a golf cart for transportation in Costa Rica?

If my pictures are good enough, every little detail of my experiences, including tactile ones, can be recorded with a click of a button, to use at a later date when I’m back in the confines of my office, working on my next story. They help flesh out the people, places and things. For me, characters and settings rich in details are what make a story worth reading.

Do you journal, with words or pictures? What do you get out of it? Dish with me.  🙂

Hugs,

Jaye

 

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Our Newest Violet Femme: Tina Gabrielle

I’m so pleased to introduce our newest Femme, Tina Gabrielle, a historical romance author who has published with Kensington and is now contracted with Entangled. Tina, as one of my first NJRW friends, I wish you a warm welcome! Let’s help our readers get to know you.

Original Artwork A Perfect ScandalJenna Blue: When did you fall in love with romance? Did you always know you’d end up writing?

Tina Gabrielle: First I’d like to thank the Femmes for inviting me to join them. It is an honor, and I’m happy to have such good friends!

I’ve been an avid reader since I was a young teen, but I didn’t start out as a good reader. English was my second language, and I grew up in a very ethnic Armenian household. My mother spoke four languages, and I remember starting kindergarten speaking very little English. It was a challenge! All through grade school I struggled with reading and writing, and I vividly recall being pulled out for speech therapy. It wasn’t until I was a teenager and our family took a summer vacation in the Poconos that I discovered a love for books. I was the youngest of three sisters and my oldest sister had a summer romance with another vacationing teen and my middle sister had a fling with one of the waiters. My parents were out with friends, and I was left alone in the hotel room. I was bored and picked up my sister’s historical romance, a spicy western. I was hooked! Thereafter, I started reading every romance (and popular fiction novel) I could find in my local library. I was too young to be reading some of these romances by today’s standards. My family had no idea what I was reading, they were just glad I was reading.

Years later, I started writing my own stories. I wrote my first book when I was sixteen. I remember typing furiously on the family computer, only to get frustrated when I was interrupted by one of my sisters. I thought the book was the greatest ever written, a Jackie Collin’s spin off, and believed it was my ticket to instant fame. How little did I know!
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Creative Researching

Remember when you were in school, and you had to write a research paper? The boring, labor-intensive , and (now I’m showing my age) endless searching through the card catalog for resources for a non-fiction article, usually the day or two before the term paper was due? Yeah, me too.File:Copyright Card Catalog Files.jpg

What was it about those assignments that we hated? The stress? The solitude of researching, when all we wanted was to hang out with our friends? The fact that we had no interest in the subject matter, that it was a necessary evil, that someone was “making” us do it?
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Things This Writer Is Thankful For

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday! I don’t know about you but in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, it’s more apparent than ever how much I have to be thankful for. Nothing like the biggest and worst storm on record to make you appreciate the little things in life.

Here’s a short list of the things I’m thankful for in my writing life…

The Internet

Research can be fun, but it can also be a major time suck. I’m so grateful for all the wonderful historical blogs and sites that make it easier to find the nuggets of information I need. Google Books is worth its weight in gold for first person historical accounts.
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