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I fall in love every 8 or 9 years—with a car. My latest love is a Renegade, cute and tight of butt, with a flashy grin.

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Ready for new adventures in my Renegade (I even like the name!)

I have lengthy conversations with myself—and several thousand people, dead or alive—at different points in time within my car. It knows my secrets and my foibles.

It knows my dreams. And it is my partner on an adventure through life.

Every car I have owned has helped define what matters to me, and my auto progression mirrors my personal evolution into an artist. My first cars were practical little economy models—a yellow Toyota Corolla when I was single and then later a candy red 1991 Mazda Protege when I was a working single Mom. It was just compact enough for me to talk to my son in the car seat in the back, and it got great gas mileage for the 52-mile daily commute to my communications job. I was too tired back then to do much writing, and art and music stayed in the closet, so I didn’t need much room other than that.

With a new relationship and plans for a bigger family, I wanted a car that hauled lots of things. My next car, a 1998 Subaru Outback, (the awesome two-tone dark blue and gray that you still see driving around) seemed earthy and cool at the same time. It was the car that I went from a staff job to freelance writing, hauling around my mac in the backseat like it was a laptop, with my kid and his friends. It was the car my guy and I took on ski and summer vacations and just riding around Connecticut. It was the first car that took us to the Adirondacks, and later took me there on my own when he was no longer in the picture. It was the car I drove to Montreal for a freelance job (reporting on a medical conference), crossing back over the border one day after the world economy collapsed. It was the car I took to the Habitat houses that our affiliate built (I worked for them) and took to my classes at NYU film school, when I got a certificate in directing.

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Not actually my old car, but a clever impersonator!

For years that car had carried me and my son and my dreams. I moved everything could find in that car, took it on dirt roads and highways, through rain and especially snow. That car made me if not fearless, at least a hell of a lot braver. It taught me to go after everything I wanted.

After that, I became more and more adventurous, and my aging Outback was beginning to feel the strain. It was hard to leave the old car behind, because I had experienced so much life from behind the wheel. My son had grown up in that car, and I handed over the keys to a dealer with a real feeling of sadness before I drove away in my new gold 2007 Outback with heated leather seats and a moon roof. I had fallen in love on the internet that time, and drove to Quincy MA from Fairfield CT for the trade.

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Stopping last summer with friends in Newcomb, NY, for the best ice cream in the Adks!

It wasn’t long before we were devoted companions. In 2008 I finished film school and was working on the locations crew of a film in CT (a Tim Allen movie nobody ever saw). My first day involved driving to Westchester Airport at 4AM to put large signs on the highway to direct the crew to the set. That car did a lot of movie work, scouting locations and hauling supplies for the crews at all hours. It saw every town in the state of Connecticut.

It also took me to the Adirondacks every summer, where I explored art communities and shows—all the events I began to blog about for Examiner.com and later, right here on Arts Enclave. If I went somewhere, it was in the Gold Outback, the music blasting while I sang along.

The Gold Outback was the car that I became a painter in—mostly pastels, but some oils and a little watercolor. In 2015, we followed the trail of the two escaped killers from Clinton correctional prison in Dannemora, NY for a book I’m working on.

Every day with that car I became closer to the person I am today. It took me decades to evolve to this place, where every day I write, practice music, and explore art of all kinds.

The people who make up my world now are writers and artists and musicians, and I plan to spend more time with them. I’m ready to strip down my universe to just the artistic essentials—my laptop, my guitar, my camera, and my art supplies. I’m more mobile than I ever was before, and I wanted a smaller car that made me smile.

I have a novel out with 14 editors, and a pretty cool agent who stands behind me. I’m working on the next novel and the book about the Dannemora escape. I’m hoping that pretty soon I’ll be zipping around to give readings in my bright red Renegade . We’re gonna see a lot of new places together.

“I don’t think about Art when I’m working. I try to think about Life.”

                                     —Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988)

I’m not alone in my attachment to my car. Most of my artist friends drive SUVs or hatchbacks—for transporting canvasses. But my writer friends Jelane and Eileen have relationships with their vehicles that go way beyond simple companionship. Read about their adventures across the country in Travels in Abbey.

What’s on your keychain? Share your vehicle story in the comments!

© Copyright 2017 – Arts Enclave.

If you’re wondering what’s going to happen to your healthcare insurance, you are in the company of millions.

No one, including Donald Trump, can predict what changes are coming. Trump is not a detail person, and despite tweeting that “there will be healthcare for all,” he doesn’t get the massive complexity of creating healthcare policies for a nation as large as the US.

He is talking about Universal healthcare—that big scary word that everyone despised when former President Obama first presented the notion back in the beginning of his presidency (and when others presented it during the decades before). Now Universal Healthcare is a Good Thing. It is, in fact, a Trump thing.

But what will the search for Trump’s bigger-better-more-important-than-ACA-unihealth do to the existing system? And what will it mean to you?

I decided to get some answers from someone on the front lines, insurance broker Jesse D. McDonald, who has worked for more than 20 years with the changing healthcare laws in CT.

Jesse offered his very well-informed perspective on where things may be headed. Here are some of his insights – but you should listen to the full interview for yourself!

 

Highlights of my interview with Jesse D. McDonald of Modern Insurance, Milford CT

BIG CHANGES AHEAD: When could we see changes that actually affect policies?

Even fast actions are not likely to affect 2017 coverage.

“Usually, major pieces of legislation are forward-looking and are not going to be retroactive. The defunding of aspects of Obamacare—which is going to be mainly subsidy related—is going to be forward-looking, and 2017 is pretty much etched in stone….The only thing anyone can do right now, especially given the uncertainty of what’s to come is to make sure they have coverage now in place.”

You have another 4 days left to obtain coverage through the ACA for 2017, which starts on March 1st. If you don’t have coverage, visit www.healthcare.gov for information.

COVERAGE: Why is having coverage now important if it’s going to change?

“One of the Republican healthcare plans being put forward is from the incoming Health and Human Services Secretary representative out of Georgia named Tom Price, who is likely going to be confirmed…His healthcare plan has a stipulation that preexisting conditions are going to be covered under health insurance plans in the future, but only if you’ve had 18 months of continuous coverage in effect, as of the time the new system starts.”

PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS: What’s happening there?

“Now [on Obamacare], as soon as you’re approved for coverage, from Day 1 your pre-existing conditions are covered. I think it’s going to be very difficult for Republicans to go back on that in any way.”

WINNERS AND LOSERS: Trump said that he plans to “give healthcare to everybody.” The Republicans revised that to mean “access to healthcare for everybody”. What does that look like?

“These are really broad terms and they sound like semantical distinctions between somebody advocating for some form of universal healthcare system—and not realizing that he’s saying that—and his political party saying that they don’t believe in a government-run system, ‘We want the market to take care of it.’”

“The deeply-held belief of many Republicans on healthcare policy is that the market will come up with solutions for gaps in our healthcare system. Some of those ideas are not necessarily wrong, there’s just some disagreement about how viable they really are in the real healthcare world.”

“Either way, both these statements are very broad political appeals to voters and they don’t really mean anything. At this time, there’s no concrete legislation drafted and submitted to congress…”

“Trump’s goal is health insurance for all. He has a lot of confidence in himself, the President-elect, and his goal is to win, and do better than Obamacare, which will mean even more people covered. And he believes that plan can be implemented quickly.”

                                                     – Jesse D. McDonald

 

REPEAL AND REPLACE – How fast can a replacement be put in place?

Trump’s order calls for replacement ‘within the hour of repeal…’

“I think policymakers, lawmakers—which are the congresspeople and senators—they know these things don’t move that quickly….This is a prediction on my part: you’re likely to see some sort of a resolution that repeals ACA over a timeline which keeps it in effect for longer than they would have liked to while they craft their replacement.”

INTERSTATE INSURANCE: All plans are currently state-based, meaning you need to be insured in the state in which you declare residency, and if you move, you lose your insurance. Many artists, particularly performers, travel and often move. How should they look to ensure continuity in coverage?

“The Affordable Care Act has a couple of things that protect people in regards to mobility. One is, even though you have to purchase a policy in your state of residence…If you have a medical emergency in any other part of the country, the health insurance you have has to consider those services as in network, as if you were home…Another thing is, if you do move…you do have 60 days to buy a new policy so you have time to get it in place.”

Interstate policies, according to Jesse, are not feasible for a number of reasons.

So, how freaked out should we be?

“There are many people who are very anti-Obamacare, and they have listened intently to what politicians have said during the campaigns and they’re expecting Obamacare to go away overnight and something bigger and better to come in and save the day. You can’t count on that. Healthcare legislation is complicated…”

“Having coverage in effect now is the best thing you can do…Because until the law is repealed, if you go beyond January 31st with no coverage, you can’t buy coverage again until November for the next year—and that’s dangerous in and of itself.”

“It’s very wait and see. I don’t think anyone should be freaked out at this time.”

3 THINGS TO DO

1) Get covered!

2) Keep up with changes

3) Ask questions

“Make sure you ask questions. The best information is going to come from an independent health insurance broker that is a member of an organization called The National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU)…our version of a Bar Association.”

 

Jesse D. McDonald, of Modern Insurance in Milford CT, is available to answer questions for people who have or are seeking healthcare coverage in the states of New York and Connecticut. He can be reached at 203-882-9805 or by email at jesse@modern-healthinsurance.com

 

AND, SOME LIGHT READING ON HEALTHCARE:

NYTimes – Jan 21, 2017  Trump Issues Executive Order Scaling Back Parts of Obamacare

USA Today – Jan 23, 2017  GOP senators outline first Obamacare replacement plan

Money Magazine – Jan 17, 2017 – HR2300 Here’s the plan Trump’s health secretary pick doesn’t want to discuss

The Fiscal Times – Nov 30, 2016  8 Big Changes Under Tom Price’s Obamacare Replacement Plan

CNN.com – Jan 16, 2017  Trump’s HHS pick doesn’t want to flaunt his own Obamacare bill at confirmation hearing

 

© Copyright 2017– Arts Enclave.

 

It may be a while before we find our way home again.

This blog has fallen idle in the past year or two because truthfully, I didn’t know what to say anymore. I wrote my first post on Christmas Eve, 2009, after something we never knew could fall did, and the message was that Art Matters. From then on I wrote about the crossroads of where Art and Life meet. There was no shortage of topics—just a shortage of time to cover them.

But as life around us grew more serious with events like Aurora and Newtown*—which occurred just 11 miles from where I was living at the time, and two days after I interviewed Kenny Loggins and the Blue Sky Riders—it seemed that art of all kinds began to recede into the background. Dare I say it—we became less relevant?

And now, on the first day of a very different world for all of us, it seems that the last thing on the agenda is art of any kind. Artists, musicians, composers, filmmakers, writers, etc.—we all seem to be quite beside the point.

But nothing is further from the truth.

What you do with your art in the next few years will be informed by the massive changes in the way we are coming to live and to think on a daily basis. We will all be challenged on our values, no matter what they are, because we now cohabit a world in a heightened state of disagreement, of conflict, and of confusion.

History does repeat, and looks at lot like the early 60s, a time that led directly into a creative explosion. Art thrives in adversity and finds its voice. Artists of all kinds are ridiculously brave in the darkness, willing to put fingers out into the unknown and explore whatever could be out there. What they show us about ourselves through songs and movies, in paintings and stories, will amaze us and open our hearts. It happened before and will happen again, and soon.

Of course, there is a unique lack of appreciation for any of the arts within the new administration, which has set as one of its first goals the elimination of funding to the National Endowments for the Arts (NEA) and Humanities (NEH). Really? A world in crisis and the first order of business is to cut out the arts? But I do digress….

The arts are and have always been the soul of our entire way of life. Artists are now charged with preserving our culture, as they have been since the first cave drawings were made. We capture not just the facts, but the raw emotions of the smallest moment in time, protecting and projecting images of who and what we are that are likely to outlive any number of transitions in our government.

And in the middle of the chaos to come, the words, the pictures and the thoughts will be released from a collective creativity that will lead us to understanding, to empathy, and hopefully to peace of mind. The message today is the same as it was in 2009: Art Matters. And now it matters more…please keep at it.

So welcome again to the Arts Enclave Blog – Where Art and Life Meet!

*going right up to the biggest and most lethal shooting in Orlando in December of 2016

© Copyright 2017 – Arts Enclave.

My father had a lot of 5-year plans, one of which was to build a rock garden in the front yard by the driveway, an area that was occupied by—well, a rock. He went out on weekends for an hour or two at time with a screw driver, a giant spoon and a children’s sand sifter and chiseled away at that rock, excavating small piles of dirt and sifting it to remove pieces that prevented anything from growing. I have to admit, after five years, he did have a little garden growing there, but shit, aren’t there better ways to spend your time—and still get a garden?

Recently I have discovered (to my utter consternation) that I am apparently a chip off the old rock sifter. After spending nearly five years collecting pieces of a novel, I then wrote the first complete draft in four months, the second in another three months and submitted it to agents. It got me representation, but the book still needed work—a lot of work.

So here I am, six months later, chiseling away at this stupid rock of a book with a tiny little screw driver. Actually, I’m using a fairly new Mac Airbook and Microsoft Word, but it feels like I’m pouring a thousand pounds of dirt through a plastic sieve, one spoonful at a time.

I have been using Word ever since I switched from an IBM Selectric in the early 90s (no comments needed)–and it has served me well. In the beginning of this process, it was easy: just open a new Word doc and start typing—anything at all. It was all draft stuff anyway, so it didn’t matter. Over the last five years of writing this novel, I collected nearly forty documents with file names like, ‘the girls,‘ and ‘the cat.’ Unfortunately, I don’t recall what these subtitles mean anymore. I end up opening the files to read them again–and I don’t get much writing done.

So, this was my process (see below). If you are writing anything longer than a few pages, or you write a lot of different things and you are still doing it this way, you can easily see that it’s time to make a change!

OLD PROCESS:

When I assembled the first draft last year, I did chapter files and kept a tracking sheet. Then I put the chapter files together into a single draft document and did the first revision, naming them “master document” and “Master2”.

To prepare for agent submissions, I had to create sample files of the first 100 pages, the first 5 pages, the first 2 chapters and the first 3 chapters, all of which went in a sample folder. Along the way, every time I read something, I changed it, basically corrupting the integrity of the other files.

Next I did submission letters and created a submission tracker in Excel. It’s very handy, but let’s face it, I’m spending a ton of time as my own secretary, instead of writing.

And that’s just the beginning.

Then I began a major revision for submission to publishers. First, I divided the book into four parts to make it more manageable. The problem was, it wasn’t manageable. I keep forgetting what happened in previous chapters and when it happened, I was losing track of plot points, and felt a need sketch plot diagrams on napkins like an imprisoned lunatic. I have lots of napkins, but none of them really make sense.

And then, about two-thirds of the way through the book, I got stuck. I had a huge time loop that wrapped around itself like a pretzel in a novel that did not involve time travel. I was ready to revert to 19th century thinking–handwriting the plot points of the WHOLE BOOK on note cards. Even in my deranged state, I could see this was a 3-month project that might not even get me back on track.

I knew it was time for something drastic–yes, a change in my perfected writing rituals. If you write at all, you know we are a superstitious lot. Many writers insist on writing only on a typewriter. Many will use a word processor (like Word), creating their own archaic system of tracking versions, changes, submissions, notes, ideas, and mental breakdowns. Many of us still hand-write our first drafts on yellow legal pads, because the writing flows more naturally that way. Many of us are idiots. (Not you, of course, the other idiot).

I am here to say, I have been reborn, and it is a wonderful thing. I will not enslave my brain anymore to trying to figure out how to create a sequenced outline from a mess I started years ago (my next book has some notes that go back even further).  This is the twenty-first century!  People monitor their heart rates on little wristbands and play games with the people sitting next to them via satellite. We must certainly have developed some kind of organizational software for the throngs of us ambitious enough to attempt our version of Harry Potter or Carrie. (Neither Rowling nor King used special software for these books, and they may not now, but if they read this post, they too will be converted).  We do. Some very clever people have already thought it through and come up with some very inexpensive ways to save your brain for your story.

So I did a little research on novel writing and plotting software and here’s what I’ve learned:

1) Most programs are cheaper than you would think (ranging from $19.95 – $100.00 US)

2) They offer many of the tools I have been developing inadequately on my own, including character notes files, plotting devices and timelines, submission trackers, and revision tools to help you keep the various versions organized.

3) There are important differences among them, and you may want to use more than one

4) Many of them don’t come in Mac versions

AND

5) The time it has taken me to research the software and write this post is a mere drop in the sand sifter compared to the days and weeks I have been wasting on documenting and managing the plot twists and character development through the many rewrites.

BTW – I can spend my time reviewing software for you, but others have already done it better:

http://mythicscribes.com/writing-tech/novel-writing-software/

http://novel-writing-software.net

http://creative-writing-software-review.toptenreviews.com

Thanks to one of these programs, I did finish the submission draft, which goes out this week. As soon as the new revision of the book–still called Of Yin and Yang–goes out, I’ll share what it took (a lot) to train my brain to adapt to this new process, which I’m already enthralled by.

…But that’s a story for another day.

© Copyright 2015 – Arts Enclave.

Be a Minion to Your Art

Take success where you find it, and call it yours.

Stan Lee, the most famous comic-book creator of all time, was born Stanley Martin Lieber. He started working as a teenager at Timely Comics (later Marvel Comics) where he filled the inkwells for the artists. He planned to use the pen name Stan Lee for serious fiction. In 2008 he received a National Medal of Arts as a writer, editor and publisher—of comic books.

Dan Fogelberg and Joni Mitchell both planned on being fine artists. Oops.

As I write this, I am repeating the mantra to myself: take success where you find it. A lifetime of planning my career in the arts has taken me to many places I did not expect to go, and while the goal stays the same, the journey is not at all what I could have pictured. Through the years, I have worked in publishing, hospitals, advertising, art festivals, movie sets, corporate business, and even retail. It’s all good, because eventually, it all ends up in the book…

You can’t plan your journey in the arts…or in life. You can only prepare for it and then go where it takes you.

Very few will find the kind of success in their fields they dreamed of and others will find so much more. If you choose a life in the arts, then it’s about legacy. While money and fame are certainly possible, they are the rare rewards and to many a distraction from the actual work. Stan Lee, to my knowledge, has never published the novel he planned on writing, although, I suspect he’s pretty satisfied with what he has done.

Even in the business world, there are parallels. Only one person at a time is the CEO. The rest are all just hopefuls and minions.

Now there’s a term we have come to see differently: Minions. Defined as, ‘a servile follower or subordinate of a person in power,’ the connotation of this word changed with the release of the movie Despicable Me. Where once a minion was thought of as one of the faceless mass of followers, usually of ignominious stature, that movie created a whole world of individual minions who are fantastically happy being just what they are. In fact, the new movie “Minions” is based on the notion that they seek to be followers in the most zen-like fashion.

It’s a hard life to pursue the arts, and we are drawn to it because inside, we simply have no choice. Eventually it will call you out, and you know what you want to do. For most of us, it will mean working at other vocations to earn the moments we spend making art of any kind. Those moments are certainly precious, but the ones we spend in our other lives are what we bring to our art.

It’s what you do outside of your art that goes into it.

The secret is to appreciate the journey for what it is. Be a minion to your calling and accept the unique life it brings you.

Here they are, singing the Banana song. Enjoy.

 

BTW: Support Wikipedia with a small donation to keep it ad free. It’s the best FREE resource on the planet!

 

© Copyright 2014 – Arts Enclave.

 

In his new memoir, “Possibilities,” Herbie Hancock describes the single most illuminating moment in his jazz career. It came when he was very young, playing keyboard with Miles Davis. During the show, Hancock suddenly played a chord he called, “so wrong” that he was stunned into momentary silence. “But Miles didn’t judge it,” he said in an interview with Jared Bowen. “He paused and played a few notes that suddenly made it work.”

It took years for Hancock to integrate that moment into his personal musicianship—to learn not to judge the work—but it changed everything he did. The concept of going into the unfamiliar in art has fascinated me for a while—I even wrote an awkward analysis of Neil Young’s forays in a post called, The Unexpected Note, when I had even less knowledge of music. But I think the arts are all connected, and we will get to the answers sooner if we take multiple routes.

Hancock later discovered Buddhism as a way to break boundaries in his own thinking that opened up the possibilities of his music—and here, later in his career, he seems to have coalesced his thinking in ways that he can pass on to me people like you and me.

I haven’t read his new memoir, Possibilities, but it goes on my reading list today.

In a series of lectures he gave recently at Harvard on the Ethics of Jazz, Hancock discussed the nature of creativity in the context of his extraordinary career. He has a lot to say verbally as well as musically, so it can take a while to take him in. But it’s extremely articulate and it’s well worth it. Here’s an especially interesting talk he gave on Buddhism and Creativity.

“Buddhism is uncovering and leading a creative life, and in the process, establishing your own story. A common viewpoint holds that one’s destiny is determined by external forces; however, the practice of Buddhism can break through that notion and carve out the kind of life where you’re the author of your book—and not the coauthor, or a character in someone else’s story.”

 

 

It all ties in nicely with the explorations I’ve been doing on the nature of creativity. What is creative? Where is the line and why are we always looking for it? Herbie seems to have gone further and may have small pieces of the big answers. You have to find ways past the predictable, and it doesn’t come from practice. It comes in the little moments where you let go. The mistakes that most of us try to erase or do over may be the most glorious moments in our creative lives.

I’m just entering the world of jazz and beginning to learn all of the emotional/intellectual levels it accesses. So, an afternoon of Herbie Hancock seems like a great way to spend a Sunday.

 

© Copyright 2014 – Arts Enclave.

 

 

Prompts can offer you a lift-off point to write from, a way to free associate without worrying about having to tie it to any ultimate goal. You just take a simple notion and write a few lines or even a page around that one idea. You can start or end with it, use as dialog or work it into exposition. Try the one below and see where it takes you!

Today’s Prompt:  Where did I park the car?