A Post about Zentangle from My Other Blog

Today, I posted on my  other blog site. The post isn’t about writing, unless you count an example of poor writing. Instead, it is sort of about how I got into Zentangling. If you have followed my blog for a while, you might remember my series of posts on learning about Zentangle primarily by using the book, One Zentangle a Day, by Beckah Krahula. (And you’ve seen the Zentangles I include with posts on other topics.) The One Zentangle book was great, but I was a bit frustrated because of my hand tremor. Interestingly, I would have saved a bunch of money if I had gone with the official Zentangle Primer from the official Zentangle.com site from the beginning. I received my copy of the Primer about a week or two ago. Was that ever an eye-opener! 

Rather than repeat myself here, read about my reaction here


Happy tangling!!


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My Weekly Writing Challenge – With A Twist!

No more weekly challenges from Esther Newton, BUT there will be something new–mini competitions with prizes! Read on for more information as well as submissions for last week’s challenge.
Thank you, Esther!


This week’s challenge is a little different – there isn’t one! Instead, from next week, I’m going to be setting some new mini competitions with prizes. I hope you’ll give them a go. Watch this space for news…

Now, on to last week’s challenge and the fantastic writing I received in response.

OPTION ONE was to write a fifteen-word story with the words THUNDER, TRUMP and TIARA in it somewhere.

Sanfranciscoatheart sent in a wonderfully topical story:

Hillary trumped Trump to steal the thunder and wear a presidential tiara!!

Rajiv Chopra always amuses:

Trump put a tiara on Hillary. The Republican thunder suddeny rolled loudly across the Nation!

OPTION TWO was to write a poem or limerick on the theme of SORROW.

Keith Channing takes my breath away with his brilliant limerick writing abilities:

According to Henry Dave Thoreau,
We can make a better tomorrow.
If life is promotive

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Forecast: Partly Cloudy, Chance of Eerie 

It was that kind of day. 

It started off well enough– sleep hadn’t eluded me, so I awoke well-rested and smiling. Physical therapy went splendidly, leaving my body more relaxed than it had been for quite some time. Instead of going straight home, I decided to drive into town to check if any packages had arrived at our mail pick-up service. 

As I drove the main road from our village to the small town of Simpson Bay, light reflections off the bay to my right and the lagoon to my left tickled my peripheral vision. Perhaps it was the difference in the composition of the water in the two views, but I found myself gazing at one side then the other, noting striking contrasts. In over three years of living on this island, I had never noticed just how different the two bodies of water are. I guess I never looked at them together before, merely studying one or the other without making much of a comparison in my mind. At least, I may not have been very observant on similar days. But there it was. On this partly cloudy day, the light on the lagoon was soft, unfocused; while the sun and cloud reflections off the briny bay were sharp and harsh. The water in the lagoon was a green-gray, murky concoction exhibiting small gauzy blobs of light; the bay was swirls of blue and turquoise, with stars sparking like fireworks on the surface. My mind told me that the lagoon water should have been in the ocean and the bay water should have been contained inland. A disquieting scene, but nothing to ponder for long. I simply hadn’t paid enough attention to my surroundings before.

Once I noted the contrasts, however, my eyes found other discrepancies. The clouds were so striking in their cerulean setting that they seemed artificial–as though someone had painted them much too “real” on a theater backdrop. They looked like crisp cut-outs of paperboard pasted onto a brilliant blue board, with the white too bright and the deep grays too silver-edged.

And the sounds… Lack of them, I should say. There were no other cars on the road or boats on the water for at least a kilometer in any direction. No flights were leaving from or approaching the airport behind me–hadn’t, in fact, since I left the clinic. No wind or breeze whistled past my ears, although the air was not still. There were no sounds of birds, either. The ever-calling gulls were silent. The smaller birds that should have been chirping from the scraggly shrubs were absent, or perhaps hiding and unmoving. No bird hawk circled in that jewel-toned sky. No gnat or mosquito flattened itself on my windshield as I drove. 

The silence was my first clue. I shivered as an eerie realization crept up my spine. Where I was I couldn’t fathom, but I knew I was no longer on the island. Was I even on Earth? 

From that moment, the day went from light and lovely to shadowy and surreal.  


Sharing a Zentangle tile to break the melodrama. 😉

Happy creating!


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Markets For Writers

Here is a re-blog of Esther Newton’s Markets for Writers for 21 September, 2016. Enjoy!
Thank you for keeping all of us posted, Esther!


This week’s market will suit those of you who like a writing prompt. Scribble magazine is currently accepting entries for its annual short story competition. Your theme is FEAR.


1st: £100

2nd: £50

3rd: £25

The winning entry will appear in the winter edition of Scribble, which will be published during December 2016.

Word length: A maximum of 3000 words

Closing date: 1st November 2016

Entry fee: £4.00. Free entry for annual subscribers. 

To find out how to enter, visit the competition page.



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Becoming A Writer

Author Libby Sommer shares a book that helped her become a successful writer. Read this re-blog for more information.
Libby, thank you for sharing this wonderful resource!

Libby Sommer, Author

yellow sunflower bookcover of Becoming A Writer by Dorothea Brande

I highly recommend this book a friend from London gave me many years ago at the beginning of my writing journey.

‘A reissue of a classic work published in 1934 on writing and the creative process, Becoming a Writer recaptures the excitement of Dorothea Brande’s creative writing classroom of the 1920s. Decades before brain research “discovered” the role of the right and left brain in all human endeavor, Dorothea Brande was teaching students how to see again, how to hold their minds still, how to call forth the inner writer.’ – Amazon

‘Refreshingly slim, beautifully written and deliciously elegant, Dorothea Brande’s Becoming a Writer remains evergreen decades after it was first written. Brande believed passionately that although people have varying amounts of talent, anyone can write. It’s just a question of finding the “writer’s magic”–a degree of which is in us all. She also insists that writing can be both…

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Zentangle: A Bit of History

Zentangle is only twelve years old, according to a 2013 story in a local Worcester, MA, article.  [http://m.golocalworcester.com/lifestyle/maria-thomas-and-rick-roberts-zentangles-a-worldwide-phenomenon/]. The article talks about “just nine short years ago.” Using some quick subtraction from the publication date of the item, I came up with 2004. 

It has been a challenge to find anything more than a vague history of this meditative art form, and yet it has been mentioned in art books, psychology passages, blogs, and other sites. In their book, Zentangle Primer, vol. 1, Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas mention no dates. On the official Zentangle website, I believe (this information may have been provided by one of the Certified Zentangle Teachers in one of several reference books I have used), the idea for Zentangle came when Thomas commented how meditative the act of creating calligraphy is due in part to the repetitive nature of the strokes used. There is no mention of a date, however. Whether 2004 is the year of conception or the year of launch is unclear in the news article, and even the forward of this volume (written by Maria’s daughter, Molly Hollibaugh) gives little more information than a reference to her college years and subsequent immersion into the art form. No dates. But… 

Molly Hollibaugh’s forward depicts some of the excitement felt by the founders when they told her of the plan they had developed to introduce a new art form. My first thought on this brief description was, What a great example of researching a market and putting sound development practices into action! Thomas, a professional calligrapher, and Roberts, a psychologist (I believe this is what I read somewhere, but don’t recall the reference), pooled their talents and came up with the idea of Zentangle. They used artistic elements from Maria’s calligraphy and the meditative area of Rick’s psychology. 

The idea of art as therapy is not new. Calligraphy has been around for much longer. That Americans are always looking for new ways to relieve stress and that they enjoy the concept of creativity is intuitive at the least. That no one had put the two together before is most likely because few people think about the obvious when it comes to creativity. Successful businesses are often created because someone has thought about the obvious and, more importantly, has been willing to take a chance on selling this “new idea” to the public. 

Roberts and Thomas hit on a great idea, apparently only twelve years ago. Before implementing their idea, they developed a whole package–philosophy, tools, ritual (ceremony, the founders call it)– and probably researched the market for potential clients. They did their homework before initial implementation. That is a key to successful marketing. Zentangle is a very successful idea. 

The philosophy of Zentangle, beyond the meditative and creative elements, revolves around one simple, and copyrighted, sentence: Anything is possible one stroke at a time, and one idea that psychologists and art instructors have been preaching to clients and students for eons: There are no mistakes. That mistakes are opportunities is important to relieve anxiety and stress. In the arts, once an individual stops concentrating on perfection and instead concentrates on expression, creativity emerges as the “mistakes” become incorporated into the work and influence the work in progress. That the “error” can be called upon when the end result of the error is desired becomes part of an artist’s repertoire. It becomes part of the artist’s ongoing learning process. That’s the general idea, anyway. 

In psychology, a key to stress relief is to forgive oneself for erring, to use the lessons learned from the mistake so that the error is not repeated, and to determine steps that can be taken to avoid the similar mishaps in the future. The last is a creative process in itself, as each “avoidance” tactic is not only unique to the individual but to to whatever new similar situation one encounters. Brainstorming, itself a creative process, yields tools to adapt behavior. When the individual has too few tools, techniques can be taught by the therapist or group leader; thus, new tools are added to the individual’s arsenal. All of these emerge when one allows error to be part of life. Of course, the intent in both art and therapy is that brainstormed processes will be applied before the next iteration of the error has a chance to be made. 

The references are not clear, but I get the feeling that Zentangle started out as classes, workshops, or group therapy/meditation sessions. Soon Zentangle spread to the field of psychology and into the world of art. That both psychologists and artists embraced this art form quickly attests to both the intuitiveness of the idea and a need for such a process in both communities. 

Zentangle is becoming such a popular world-wide phenomenon that many “how to” books have been published. Where authors have wanted to diverge from the official Zentangle program, they have published books on Zendoodle, or meditative doodling, or other such variations. Longer established artist authors include sections on the meditative qualities of their art form when they release an updated edition or a new book. Many how-to drawing books now include a whole chapter on Zentangle Inspired Art (ZIA). Article upon article by psychologists speaks to the calming effect of Zentangle on clients. Bloggers share their own artistic creations or teach the basic tangle patterns using illustrated “step-outs” or how-to video clips. That no two artists’ depictions are 100% alike speaks to the founders’ idea of interpreting each pattern and its usage. Thus, Zentangle is a very flexible art form. 

That many interpretations of the basic patterns are taught as the original pattern is somewhat disconcerting. After all, how can one interpret a pattern that is already an interpretation? Yes, Zentangle is an emerging artistic and meditative process. Yes, the freedom to make mistakes lowers anxiety. Yes, the process of concentrating on each individual pen stroke is meditative in itself (concentrating on the repetition of a pattern within a given space) and puts one “in the zone.” Yes, the constraint of a small canvas (optimally a square artist tile measuring 3.5″ x 3.5″) limits both the outcome and the time needed to create a finished piece, making the art form both portable and do-able during a lunch break. Yes, the drawing of “strings” on this small workspace limits the work still more while also making the canvas no longer blank. Yes, I thoroughly enjoy creating Zentangles and ZIAs. Yes, I enjoy the creative element of interpreting a pattern and morphing it into a piece I am creating. But the lack of being able to find a standard–a base pattern on which to base my own interpretation, rather than my interpretation of someone else’s interpretation– for too many “original Zentangle patterns” creates a disconnect from the philosophy of Zentangle. To me, anyway. 

Every ceremony is based on standards someone has set somewhere along the line to keep the ritual clean and simple. Remove the “standard” from Zentangle and the copyrights break down to nothing more than a ceremony with legally protected words. Once the words become part of general usage, even a trademark name loses its legal status. Take, for example, the use of the word Kleenex to refer to any paper product with specific characteristics or purpose. Then there’s Frigidair that often refers to any refrigerating appliance found in most kitchens world-wide. Even Apple can’t keep people from referring to a music-and-video storage and playback system by another company as an iPod, even if the device is incapable of utilizing Apple software (although that is mainly true of older non-Apple iPods). At what point will the public start calling any scribble pattern a Zentangle? At what point will non-certified Zentangle teachers begin offering Zentangle classes, regardless of their deviation from or adherence to the philosophy and/or ceremony and/or patterns of Zentangle? 

The official site for Zentangle offers (or used to offer) step-outs for a good number of patterns that exemplify the standard for the motif. The selection was limited to start with. Now, even the relatively new Zentangle Mosaic app (available for portable Apple and Android products) has only a small portion of official step-outs. In fact, the Mosaic app has references to patterns that appear on tiles by a single person. When multiple unknown pattern names appear on a given tile and none of them come close to a named pattern on either the site or on YouTube, how does one figure out which “new pattern” is which, and whether it or they are little more than the artist’s personal doodles? 

In reality, Zentangles are doodles. The standards for some patterns often represent motifs that you and I have been drawing for years–I for more years than most of you reading this post. Because they are doodles, there can be no formal standards. It is the method that is important. It is the method that makes Zentangle unique among all meditative, therapeutic, and artistic forms. 

Zentangle, from its catchy name to its presentation to the public is an interesting story, whether we have all the facts or not. That it is only about twelve years old at the time of this writing can be thought of as a pattern itself, as it seems to follow the best practices taught in most schools of business. And the marketing behind the idea… No doodles there. Zentangle represents an excellent example of what it takes to create a successful business: a simple or common idea, some frills and unique language (especially a catchy name and motto), and hard work to present to, and maintain for, consumers. The hard work to make the method move from local level to international recognition makes all the difference. Whether international success was part of the initial goal for the method is unknown. My suspicion is that the success of Zentangle, even on a national level, came as an unexpected surprise to the developers, Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts–desired, but unexpected. There are at least one million people who are saying, “Wish I had thought of that!” or “I thought of that but never did anything with my idea.” 

Personally, I really love the whole idea of Zentangle. When I have the urge to create but can’t find something I want to render at the moment, I turn to Zentangling. It allows me to create something out of nothing. The Zentangle Mosaic app has so many miniature artworks posted to it that I can always find a source of inspiration even on my most “blocked” days. When I am particularly anxious about something, the repetition of strokes and concentration on getting the strokes right is calming. If you haven’t tried it, visit the Zentangle site or search on a book on Zentangling to get you started. 

Happy tangling!


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The Fix Is In!

Yesterday I wrote about correction as part of any artistic endeavor. One thing I don’t like is being told I can’t erase or fix. For example, with Zentangle, the philosophy of “There are no mistakes” is a bit hard to swallow. The idea behind this philosophy seems to be that mistakes should be viewed as opportunities and mistakes should be incorporated as part of the finished piece, either through acceptance of a flaw or by allowing the error to send the endeavor in a new direction. Acceptance of this philosophy is a great way to allow oneself to move on quickly. I appreciate this sentiment, but sometimes–depending on one’s purpose or desired outcome or personal handicaps–correction is necessary.

This morning, I revisited a Zentangle tile I created last evening. As I was slipping the tile into my new tile album, I noticed a glaring error in shading, specifically how the shadow fell in the wrong direction–and too strongly–on one part of the work. The needed correction involved a light touch of the eraser and the redrawing of one small line, but I felt a strong need to fix the problem. 

The leftmost tile (or first, depending on how your browser displays it) is the original while the more right-justified tile is the corrected version. 

Some people will see no difference. Others will immediately see where a bit of erasing, redrawing, and smoothing was done.

Here is the thing: It doesn’t matter to me if no one else sees the difference. The shading was an oversight last night, but was eye-catching enough this morning that I noticed it without actually looking closely at the piece. After all, I was merely storing my work. 

When I write, it often takes me a re-reading on a different day to see my grammatical, spelling, or “automated correction” errors. There are several posts currently on my blog site in which errors are not my own but those of the software. Sometimes, I have a strong desire to edit and repost. Sometimes I follow up on this desire. Often, when the software is the culprit and correction seems to have been generated after I hit the Publish button, I cannot even begin to imagine what I had meant to say–that is how much the software has corrupted my words. Less often than I would like, I edit by either removing the offending phrase or sentence, or trying to recreate the words I intended to be there. 

Software generated errors are not my mistakes, and they often don’t even show up in Preview mode. Therefore, these are not part of my own creative process or carelessness. They offer no “opportunities for new direction,” or things to “let go of.” And the fact that they appear in a blog focused on my own writing development… well, these errors are also embarrassing. 

The same can hold true for my drawing. When an error is made because my concentration lapsed, or I was in a hurry, or the drawing conditions were far from optimal, or my hand shook, it is hard to accept and move on. If the mistake isn’t caught immediately, it can’t be incorporated as part of the piece’s development. Thus, to me, it needs correction. Period. 

When it comes to Zentangling, personal preparation is part of the ritual, just as preparation for any meditative process is essential. However, lapses occur, or the environment changes (the sun no longer shines through the window; or it has gotten dark enough to require artificial lighting; or the cat just slid into my elbow), or any number of things can happen to disrupt the planned or developing art. Sometimes, a shift in perspective simply escapes us while we are in the zone of creation. Many times, such shifts or unexpected (and uncontrollable) “enhancements” can be accepted; other times, the results need to be fixed or, in the worst cases, discarded. 

Well, not necessarily discarded as in destroyed. Maybe “set aside” is the better way to handle something that is not shareable. There are always uses for failed art works: scrap paper, reminder of what not to do again, elements to be copied for subsequent pieces, etc. 

Maybe I am just too hard on myself, but I don’t think so. 

Personally, I really like the philosophy that tells me there are no mistakes. For starters, it allows for the art form to take a new direction. This is equally true for my drawing and my writing. But sometimes errors will stop me in my tracks, no matter the effort I make in moving beyond the mistake. I need to be able to accept that some things need to be set aside forever. 

This particular tile was easily salvageable to my current level of satisfaction. It may be far from perfect, but it is now acceptable to me in its imperfect state. So for this tile, the fix is in.

Happy creating!


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How To Write a Compelling Title For Your Book

Having trouble with your book title? Read this piece by Matthew Wright, posted on ryanlanz.com.

A Writer's Path


by Matthew Wright

The hardest thing to write is a title. Seriously. Titles for anything – be it a short story, book (fiction or non-fiction) or whatever – are a nightmare to figure out.

Anybody get the pun used for this title? Desert Duel? Jewel of the Desert…no?

Even when an author comes up with a good name for their project, publishers often have other ideas, and with good reason. A standard publishing contract signs away the right to title your own work – it’s up to the publisher marketing department.

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Draw, Erase, Shade, Erase…

Lots of new toys arrived in yesterday’s parcel delivery. Two books I ordered from Amazon over a month ago were finally published and shipped. The Official Zentangle beginner’s kit ordered from Zentangle.com arrived, along with the book Zentangle Primer. And a few assorted drawing tools finally reached me from China. Oodles of fun for countless hours of occupation. Although I live on a beautiful small Caribbean island, I was never much of a sun worshipper, and find myself indoors far too often. 

Part of my excitement over the packages was that I have been finding loads of lovely patterns to tangle on the Zentangle Mosaics app, but had trouble finding “step-outs” on how to draw them efficiently. The Zentangle Sourcebook was like an answer to my prayers, showing me step by step (hence “step-out”) how to recreate the difficult patterns–exactly the ones I was having trouble with! So I picked up sketchbook and pencil, made certain my Micron and white Gelly Roll pens were handy, burrowed out my ultra-thin eraser, and practiced, practiced, practiced. 

As I was drawing, I thought about the official Zentangle admonition about erasers and, I suspect, using white pens to “correct” ink mistakes. In Zentangling, there are no mistakes. Officially. But I cheat sometimes because of my hand tremor or lapse of concentration. And that thinking led me to another thought. 

A friend who is a wonderful professional artist asked me last year if my drawing teacher was teaching me “the eraser method.” In fact, he asked me that multiple times. Each time my response was that I certainly use my eraser a lot. 

Now, I have no idea what the eraser method is, but I suspect it has something to do with using an eraser to create highlights and soften shading where needed. That makes me think that Jimmy is probably a purist, insisting that highlights should be part of what is left white on the drawing paper and not going back and erasing areas to create those highlights after the fact. 

Both the Zentangle ban on erasers and Jimmy’s indignation about “over-using” erases are, in my mind, strongly related. Both are admonitions. And I tend to be a bit of a rebel when I’m told I can’t or shouldn’t do something, especially when I can’t find a strong enough reason not to do it. With Zentangle, I do make mistakes–sometimes due to carelessness (lapse of concentration), and sometimes due to uncontrollable tremor. When drawing, I don’t always see the highlights soon enough in the process, or draw shadow too heavily; these are corrected with one or more of several different kinds of erasers in my drawing tool box. For Zentangle mistakes, I use white gel pen to fix black ink lines on white backgrounds, and black ink to fix white lines on black tiles. For drawing, I use my arsenal of erasers as tools, much as I would use various softness of graphite. To me, that’s all part of enhancing or cleaning up a piece. Erasers and black and white ink pens are my friends and help me with my art. To me, fixing an error, redefining a line, or erasing for highlights  can be as meditative as the actual application of medium to paper (or canvas, or board, or tile…). Fixing is a part of the process.

Certainly, I don’t set out to make mistakes. But if they occur, then I have a solution that will leave me satisfied and the artistic work resolved. Isn’t resolution the goal of meditation, particularly if one is working out a problem during the meditation? 

When we write, most of us go through the process of wording a difficult sentence or substituting a better synonym multiple times in any work. We fix what we can and move on. Sometimes, we fix a word or sentence later. Sometimes, we get carried away with the fixing–in writing and in drawing/painting–only to create a bigger mess. After a while, we learn when to stop fixing before we reach that messy point. Other times, we revert to the original or delete the offending passage altogether. That, too, is part of an artistic process. It’s part of learning and creating. All of that leads to growth. 

So don’t throw out the erasers, and don’t hide the white pen when drawing black on white. Instead, keep your tools handy, whether in the form of an implement such as a pen or eraser, or in the form of a resource like a thesaurus, a book of quotations, or the backspace key. Tools. They are all tools of the trade. They are there to help us create whatever form of art we are producing. 

Draw. Erase. Shade. Erase. Draw…

Happy creating!


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Fragile — The Daily Post

For those of you who still don’t know about WordPress’ Daily Post prompts, here’s the link you need to check it out and get started. I am re-blogging this from the DailyPost’s post that appeared in my Reader today. Note that today’s word prompt is “fragile,” which resonates with me as my current state of mind.😉


Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt. Not sure how to participate? Here are the steps to get started.

via Fragile — The Daily Post

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