Category Archives: artists

The Theme of Your Life

Alphonse Mucha - Fate

Alphonse Mucha – Fate

Here’s a particularly interesting piece by Steven Pressfield about theme–specifically, what is the theme of your life? He posits that by looking at the books you’ve written, or the art you’ve created, that you should be able to make out a theme for your life, and/or understand your destiny. “…we discover who we are, not just by our actions … but, if we’re artists, by the works we produce.”

Pressfield’s blog post was sparked by watching a documentary on Tony Robbins of “Walking on Fire” fame. Years ago when I lived in northern California, I participated in a fire walk (on two different occasions. I never said I was sane…) although not as part of Robbins’s massive event. The workshop (for lack of a better word) was more personalized, and extremely powerful. Every participant walked away (pun alert) from the experience with the belief that they could accomplish anything.

And no, none of us had to go to the hospital 🙂 I was working at a winery in the Dry Creek Valley at the time and mentioned it to some customers the day after. One of them, a big, burly dude who was obviously a skeptic asked if he could see my feet. I showed him. I’m not sure he believed me, but he was surprised there weren’t any blisters.

Anyway, back to theme. I’ve always been passionate about human rights, protecting the innocent, and choosing courage over fear, even when fear is the predominant emotion. I’m also interested in exploring forgiveness and unconditional acceptance, and why so many seem to have a problem with putting those concepts into play (myself included). And, when and why do people “do the right thing” over the most expedient thing. These themes have all emerged in my writing, and I’m even more committed to exploring my relationship to each. Part of this is certainly based on the way I was raised, and part is from what I’ve experienced so far in life.

Eleven years ago (give or take) I began work on my first novel. Since then, I’ve discovered more about myself through writing than I probably would have from a daily psychotherapy session. Let me tell you–it’s been an interesting trip.

Not all of it has been pleasant. But all of it has been valuable. I realized that I do my best work when something pisses me off, igniting a fire inside of me. Talk about having access to a LOT of raw material these days…

So my question to you is, what is the theme of your life? What’s important to you, and do  you bring that out in your work (whether you consider yourself an artist or not)? Do you believe you’re here for a reason? Or are we all just a bunch of random cells smashed together in this space and time and will all disintegrate when we die?

Remember: there are no wrong answers 🙂


Indie Music and Indie Publishing

Music note EPhenomenally good article over at the Guardian (listed by the Passive Guy) by Steve Albini on the state of indie music today. It’s similar to what’s going on in indie publishing and worth a look:

Original Guardian article


The Nearsighted Narwhal — A New Kind of Bookstore

Ossain and Christina

Ossain and Christina (credit: TNN website)

The Nearsighted NarwhalA new bookstore named The Nearsighted Narwhal recently opened in Tacoma, Washington in the 6th Ave district and I’ve got to tell you, I’m stoked. Why? Because Ossain and Christina, the fine folks who run the store, celebrate all things DIY, including self-published books.

 

Interior of Nearsighted Narwhal

Self-publishing extravaganza!

Imagine my wonderment as I walked into the funky and unassuming yet awesomely eclectic space and saw shelf after shelf of self-published books, local fiction and non-fiction, graphic novels, zines and comics, along with an exciting mix of locally made art.

lo-fi options

Lo-fi recording options

They hold workshops on everything from travel sketching to teens making zines to grant writing for artists. There’s a strong sense of community radiating from the place and I instantly felt welcome when I entered the store.

I don’t know about you, but The Nearsighted Narwhal tells me self-publishing has arrived. Giving indie published books this much shelf space says something about our culture and how it’s transforming the way art is perceived. Not to mention the whole collaborative, helping-each-other-succeed vibe that permeates the DIY/Indie movement as a whole.

If you live nearby or plan on visiting Tacoma, do yourself a favor: stop by The Nearsighted Narwhal and try it on for size 😀

Jenni and the Nearsighted narwhal

Jenni and the narwhal

The Nearsighted Narwhal / 610 6th Avenue / Tacoma, WA 98406
Facebook Page

self-published sign


Spotlight Series–James Radcliffe

photo of the artistToday I’m right stoked to  introduce you to indie artist/musician, James Radcliffe. I became aware of James after he connected with me here. I visited his award-winning blog and read a few posts, listened to a couple of his tracks and bought his album. His music struck me as ethereal and unlike anything I’d heard before, and I was interested in finding out more about him. Turns out he’s living the dream of creatives everywhere by making a living through his art. Here’s his bio:

James Radcliffe is a 100% listener-supported, independent artist based in Edinburgh, Scotland. He writes an award-winning blog that boasts over 4000 followers, and released a solo digital album in early 2014 priced at £5 that listeners now regularly choose to pay over £30 to download. Spotlight Series logo

He pretty much lives in his home studio, and will be releasing new music very shortly in a new and experimental way.

[Note from DV: James has just released a limited edition CD of his album. It can be found here.]

Some listener quotes:

Unapologetically, disarmingly, impossibly beautiful.

Haunting

…not just heard, but felt.”

STUNNING. BRILLIANT. It’s like an indie film for your soul.”

Genius.”

And now for the Spotlight questions (a sample and links to James’s work are below the short interview):

D: When did you first realize you were a musician?

J: Doing music has felt natural to me for as long as I can remember. I was in the school brass band and orchestra when I was a kid, and did my first solo performance when I was around 7. So there wasn’t really a: ‘bolt of lightning from the heavens now-I-am-a-musician’ kind of moment. It was much more prosaic than that. Music was just something that I did, like drawing with crayons, eating, or going to the toilet. It’s always been there.

D: What do you hope to convey through your music?

J: There is a feeling I get when I make music that I can’t express in any other way. Time stops and I totally lose any awareness of myself. It’s very ecstatic for me. It’s the closest I’ve ever been able to get to pure freedom.
The people who really connect with my stuff say that they have the same kind of experience when they listen, but this communication is not something that I consciously strive for. It’s more like a happy by-product of me doing what I love to do.

D: What’s your favorite part of working in a creative field? Least favorite?

J: I really love what I do. And I’m fortunate enough to make a living at it, so I don’t have to do anything that I don’t want to. I love the process of making art, I love sharing it, and I love connecting with the people who resonate with it. For me, there isn’t a downside.

D: Where do you see yourself in five years?

J: I don’t really think in those terms. I just focus on: each days practice; each little project. I am not working to some Masterplan here. My life is the Grand Experiment. 😉

I do whatever work has energy for the moment until it’s done. This approach seems to be working pretty well, and I like being surprised, so I’ll stick with it for now.

D: What would you like readers of this blog to know about you?

J: That I exist. That I am real. That my music is out there should they want it.
And that I am readily available thru my website should they want to connect with me.

The Blog: http://jamesradcliffe.com/
The Music: http://jamesradcliffemusic.com/album/i

James Radcliffe

 


Come on Down to UM&M!

Friday, June 6, 2014 ~ 5:00p-8:00p (and every first Friday of the month)

Uptown Mercantile & Marketplace / 816 Pacific Avenue, Bremerton, WA (no cover)

Join myself and other local authors at the First Friday partay that is UM&M.  Stop by and support your local artisans, not to mention an awesome and eclectic locally owned business! Meet artists & writers and score one of a kind art, signed paperbacks, food, wine, and listen to live music, all under UM&M’s fabulous warehouse roof! It’s summertime in the Pacific Northwest–come on down! 😀


Spotlight Series: Kristi Alsip

Spotlight Series logoToday is the launch of a new feature on the blog where I plan to spotlight artists from all different mediums: vocalists, actors, musicians, painters, etc, as well as authors. It’s called the Spotlight Series (original, huh? 🙂 ) and over the course of the next few months I intend to showcase creatives from all sorts of disciplines (and nope, I don’t have a set schedule for when I’ll post them–just like most of the blog’s entries, it’s pretty much gonna be a random event). Yay, random!

And now, on to the inaugural Spotlight…

photo of Kristi AlsipThe first artist in the Spotlight Series is someone I’ve had the good fortune to work with: voiceover artist, actor, and vocalist Kristi Alsip. She recently narrated the Leine Basso thriller, BAD TRAFFICK, and totally nailed the main character’s voice (see sample below). Leine Basso is a former assassin and I wanted her voice to be strong and confident, but not to come off as a hard-ass. Plus, the narrator needed to be able to do several accents (Russian, British, male, female, etc.) and Kristi was definitely up for the job. I was delighted to find out that in addition to doing voiceover work Kristi fronts two bands and acts in and directs a mystery theater company. I love acoustic rock, blues, and soul (her band, Crawford’s Daughter covers several of my favorites) and I would probably be at most if not all of her gigs if I lived near Chicago. Here’s her bio:

Kristi Alsip is a vocalist, actor, and voiceover artist from the Chicagoland area. Kristi earned her B.A. in theatre and human services from Millikin University and spent several years on the Chicago theatre scene. Most of her creative energy the last 15 years has been spent fronting bands, although she still makes time to act and direct in the murder mystery company, The Mystery Shop. She formed her own rock/blues/soul band, Crawford’s Daughter (the name derived from a random line in the film ‘Mommie Dearest,’) and is also a lead vocalist for the group Moonlight Cocktail which covers disco, Motown, and current tunes from artists such as Bruno Mars and Adele.

Kristi spent several years doing commercial voiceover work and was amused to find herself frequently getting sent up for the “Peri Gilpin type” (Roz from ‘Frasier.’) She has been heard in regional and national radio spots for Walgreens, Killian’s Irish Red, The Plane Dealer, Scrubbing Bubbles, and McDonalds. Just last year, Kristi began to branch out into audiobook narration and has lent her voice to several publications. Until now, most of her credits are of the memoir and self-help genres. Kristi recently completed work on her first book of fiction, the mystery thriller Bad Traffick (Leine Basso series) by DV Berkom and had an absolute blast!

Kristi currently resides in the Chicagoland area and is blissfully fortunate to share her time with the love of her life, Frank, and her two ridiculous Wheaten Terriers, Draven and Angel.

D: When did you first realize you wanted to be an actor/singer?
K: I was always a movie buff even as a little kid, although I didn’t get into typical ‘kid’ movies. I loved horror films and anything with Jack Nicholson. At about 7 or 8, I really got into singing and gravitated towards soul, rock, and blues. (I had a Shawn Cassidy record player with attached microphone and wore the hell out of it!) At the time, I especially loved Diana Ross, Olivia Newton-John, and Barbara Streisand. In an attempt to look like them, I begged my mother to let me get a home perm. Unfortunately, I ended up looking like Roseanne Roseannadanna on SNL. Super glamorous.

D: What prompted you to get into voiceover work?
K: About 14 years ago, I was doing a play in Chicago and the director was also working as a voiceover agent. She took me to dinner one night and asked if she could represent me. I recorded a commercial demo, began auditioning, and learned as I went along. Last year, I branched out into narrating audiobooks.

D: What’s your favorite part of working in a creative field? Least favorite?
K: I would have to say my favorite part of working in a creative field is having the opportunity to take all the experiences you gather and emotions you have as a human being and do something productive with them. Growing up, I was a little shy, so getting to get out there now to express myself is both challenging and rewarding. My least favorite part would be the auditioning process.

D: Where do you see yourself in five years?
K: Working/recording from home, continuing with commercial and audiobook work as well as booking more gigs with my band Crawford’s Daughter. My next goal is to get back into acting and branch out into film. I’m in the beginning stages of collaborating on a screenplay, so we’ll see what transpires.

D: What would you like readers of this blog to know about you?
K: I have an INCREDIBLY fantastic support system of family and friends that are always there at shows and gigs and ready to purchase audiobooks the minute they go on sale…which I think is pretty great considering I’m the only one in my entire family tree that sings or acts or is in any kind of creative field. I always joke that I’m the apple that fell off the family tree into another yard. 🙂

D: Thanks for being here today, Kristi! Good luck with everything, especially the screenplay 🙂 Here’s a sample from Kristi’s work on Bad Traffick:

***Leave a comment with your email address for a chance to win a free download code for Bad Traffick from Audible!

 

<><><>If you know someone who you think deserves to be highlighted (even if it’s your fine self), I’ll be accepting suggestions for the Spotlight Series through the end of June. Just email me at dvberkom8[at]gmail(dot)com with information about the artist (whether it’s you or someone you know). It’s at no charge to the artist and will give them some exposure they might not get otherwise, and I get to meet interesting people and have cool stuff on the blog. Total win-win!<><><>

 

 


In Defense of Elmore Leonard and other Bloggy Things

(*Attention artists or friends of artists: be sure to read to the end–I’m putting out a call for entries after the main post.)

Elmore LeonardThe last guest post on this blog dealt with another author’s loathing of writing “rules”–more specifically, Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Good Writing. I won’t list them all again, but if you’re curious, here’s a link to the post. I thoroughly enjoyed her snark and applaud her dislike of fencing a writer in with so many pesky rules. She preferred to call them guidelines, or suggestions. All points well taken and I agree with her–to some extent. Writing is a creative pursuit, and expecting authors to adhere to rules they don’t agree with stifles that creativity (and I’m not talking about grammar or punctuation here. These rules should be mastered early on in a writer’s career.)

What I take exception to is that Elmore Leonard’s rules were just that: his rules. For his kind of writing. And his gazillions of fans obviously enjoyed how he wrote his stories, so it worked. For him. I’m sure someone asked him to create a top ten list of writing advice and he did. As did Stephen King and several other successful authors. Now, I’m not saying these rules won’t work for other writers. They can and do. I generally agree with most of what Leonard listed, with a few caveats. But that’s just my opinion. Just as the rules were Elmore Leonard’s opinion. They aren’t intended to be a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. I don’t think he ever intended them to be viewed as commandments.

Take it or leave it.

I, for one, am a fan of Leonard’s work and have learned quite a lot from him and other masters of the genre, and I will continue to read and study those who have mastered the art of writing how I want to write. For the rest of my life. I haven’t read Nora Roberts, for instance, because I’m not a huge romance fan. But that doesn’t mean her rules (whatever they may be) for writing aren’t worth considering. They work. For her. And you surely have to agree that she’s successful at what she does.  Same for Stephen King. Neither of them give a rat’s @ss whether I agree with the way they work their craft. But if someone does want to know how these massively popular authors do what they do, those “rules” are there for the asking. Just read their books.

Okay. Off my soapbox now. On to

Other Bloggy Things

I’ve decided to begin a new feature on the blog where I plan to spotlight artists from all different mediums: vocalists, actors, musicians, painters, filmmakers, etc, as well as authors. I’m calling it the Spotlight Series (original, huh? 🙂 ) and over the course of the next few months I intend to showcase creatives from all sorts of disciplines (and nope, I don’t have a set schedule for when I’ll post them–just like most of the blog’s entries, it’s pretty much gonna be a random event). Yay, random!Spotlight Series logo

The idea hit me one day when I was in the middle of emailing back and forth with several people I know and realized each of them worked in a creative field–and not only as writers. I thought it might be fun to do posts highlighting their work, so the Spotlight Series was born.

If you know someone who you think deserves to be highlighted (even if it’s your fine self), I’ll be accepting suggestions through the end of June. Just email me at dvberkom8[at]gmail(dot)com with information about the artist (whether it’s you or someone you know). I’ll take a look at their work and possibly find a slot for them on the blog. There will be a few questions (not as extensive as Awesome Authors), and I’ll include jpgs or audio/video files of their work in the post. It’s at no charge to the artist and will give them some exposure they might not get otherwise, plus I get to meet interesting people and have cool stuff on the blog. Total win-win!

So what are you waiting for?

 

 


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