Monday, February 21, 2011

Chop, Chop, Chop

No I’m not talking about cooking. I’m talking about writing.
I’m a lazy writer, just like I’m a lazy artist, a lazy mom, a lazy housekeeper (and the list could go on). I want to exert the very least amount of energy possible. That’s the reason you’ll find my kids pawing through the dryer on any given morning looking for a clean pair of pants. True, there’s usually a clean pair, but if I wasn’t so lazy those pants would have been folded and put away by now.
I’m the same way when it comes to writing. I like to hope that things are “good enough”, that my readers won’t mind doing a little rummaging through the dryer. Too bad that deep down I know “good enough” isn’t really good enough.
In many ways writing is like doing the laundry: it’s a dirty job that no one else is willing to do for you and the moment you think it’s done there always seems to be more. But unlike the laundry, writing is something that I’d ultimately like to share with the world. I can’t just keep shoving it in the wash. At some point it needs to stay clean.
For a few months I’ve thought my manuscript was done. Of course there are always things that jump out, asking to be fixed (I don’t know that I can ever be truly satisfied). But I thought it was good… Good enough.
Luckily, a new friend of mine pointed out to me that this manuscript had the potential of not just being good, but being great. And so I was left with two choices: leave it like it is, a good story, or face the fact that with some hard work the story could really take off.
Normally I’m satisfied with pretty good, but not when it comes to this. So today I sat down and plotted out a whole new middle, five chapters that need to be completely rewritten. But I’m not dreading it. In fact, I’m itching to get going.
Chop, chop, chop.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Books, Books, and More Books

The bookshelves are overflowing.

There just isn’t any more room in our house for more books. And even though I have a bit of an obsession with owning hard copies of the ones I read (after all, isn’t it nice to be able to look at your shelves and remember all those stories), I’m pretty grateful for the Kindle I received this Christmas.

I didn’t think I’d ever be able to give up holding a real book in my hands, feeling the pages between my fingers, but I’m in love with my little electronic reader. Imagine, being able to have all those books with you at once.

You’d think I would have stopped buying hard copies after I got my Kindle, but I can’t get over my addiction. This month alone the stack by the side of my bed has grown by four. The stack has grown so high in fact, that I’ve had to start scouting the house for new surface on which to stack.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Who Wants to be FAMOUS?

For years, one of the only bones of contention in my marriage has been ambition. Well, more accurately, my husband’s lack of it. As someone who has a constant desire to KNOW more, DO more, BE… MORE, it has always baffled me that my husband feels none of this drive. At 34 he still isn’t sure what he wants to be “when he grows up”.

A few years ago this lack of ambition really bothered me. I wanted to change him, make him more like me. Didn’t he want to be looked up to? Didn’t he want esteem and notoriety? Didn’t he want people to think highly of him? In essence, didn’t he want to be FAMOUS?

Nope. It’s as plain as that. He didn’t want any of those things and he wasn’t about to pretend that he did.

How can you NOT respect someone for being so free of ego? But I’m embarrassed to say that it took me almost fifteen years to really respect my husband’s lack of hubris. Maybe it took so long because I saw it as just that…a lack of something. What was he missing that made him not care about being more?

But he wasn’t (isn’t) missing anything. Where I have a desire for ambition, my husband has contentment. What a lucky man.

The funny thing is, that even though I realize that contentment is the place I want to end up, the continent I want to live on, the destination I want to come home to…I still can’t stop myself from craving fame.

I don’t doubt that there are more Americans that are like me than like my husband. A little peak at nighttime TV and it’s easy to see that there are throngs of people who believe that they’re special, talented, one of a kind. I’m starting to wonder if the truly special ones are the few who aren’t yelling for someone to pay attention to them.

I’m pretty sure my desire for fame started in my childhood, although sometimes I wonder if it’s just something you’re born wanting. Growing up, I was constantly reminded of my Dad’s minor fame. I was a kid right at the height of his celebrity. My dad’s artificial heart was first successfully transplanted in a Barney Clark when I was only five. Barney Clark survived for 112 days, but the lasting impression of my dad’s accomplishment has followed me ever since.

I got a tiny sip of what it would be like to have people recognize my name and I liked the way it tasted. And even though it’s painful to admit, I know that part of me wants to prove to him that I’m worth something too. It’s been over twenty years since I’ve talked to my dad, but sometimes I think, if I was only famous enough he’d want to have me back. He’d realize what he was missing out on.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

15th Street Gallery

My latest show was at the beautiful 15th Street Gallery. I have a special fondness for this gallery because my husband and I met while working in the bagel shop across the street from it while we were still in high school.

When we first met I actually thought that he was two different people: one named Bryan and one named Birch. Apparently I wasn't paying much attention to him or I would have figured out sooner that the boys with the shoulder length redish blond hair were actually one in the same, the singular Bryan Birch. But I had eyes for another boy that worked with us, the dark haired Tony (who luckily was not at all interested in me). 

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Love List

In honor of Valentine’s Day here is a list of things I love, not the normal things like my kids and my husband (of course I love them, that’s a given). These are some of the “other” things that make my life a little richer.

• Gigantic drops of rain.
• The way ice cream gets crystallized in a root beer float.
• Putting on dry clothes after a day at the pool.
• The smell of a clean pillow.
• Fresh lemonade.
• The whistle of a chickadee.
• A really sharp pencil.
• The reddish color of bare winter trees.
• The sound of a rushing river through an open window at night.
• New socks.
• Conversations with strangers in the grocery store.
• The color of a summer sky right before night falls.
• A huge sigh after finishing an amazing book.
• The smell of dirt and grass on a warm day.
• Sour candies.
• A really cold glass of water.
• Blank paper.
• Blue shadows on white buildings.
• Puppy breath.
• Driving with the top down on a warm night.
• Coming home.
• Rolling hills and fields of wild grass.
• A new plant that I haven’t forgotten to water.
• New: tubes of toothpaste, bottles of shampoo and bars of soap.
• Crossing items off a list.
• Lists
• The pale turquoise of really clear water.
• The slant of the sun in the morning.
• A perfectly cooked egg.
• Bolts of fabric
• Thinly ruled paper and a felt pen.

And the Winner is...

This morning the winner of the "Come Follow Me Contest" was drawn at random from my new favorite app called "The Hat".

And now...drumroll please...

The winner is...


Congratulations! Please email me at kebirch (at) hotmail (dot) com. Leave me a note with your favorite kind of bird and your address and your new original painting will be yours soon.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Relishing Rejection

Well maybe I don’t relish rejection, maybe I just like the word because it brings to mind condiments, which are such friendly and non-intimidating forms of food, and rejection can most definitely be INTIMIDATING. Over the years I’ve certainly gotten better at taking it, rejection that is (of course I love condiments too, my favorite being mustard).
If you’re an artist of any kind it can be difficult to put your work “out there”, whether it’s a painting, a poem, a photograph, a story. We open up and expose the tender parts of ourselves and it can hurt when those tender parts are handled roughly. The good news is that it gets easier. Maybe that soft underbelly starts to form a little callus. Maybe our self esteem learns not to rupture so easily.
This past week I got a rejection that was a little bit painful. I just started querying agents for the YA book that I finished writing at the end of last year and I was so excited when an agent that I really liked asked to see the first fifty pages of my manuscript. She seemed really excited about the book and told me that she’d get back to me in the next few weeks. Of course this meant that I immediately started checking my email every fifteen minutes to see if she’d responded and began dreaming of what it would feel like to have my book out in print (Yes, I realize that I was jumping the gun a bit. This is my forte).
Well, on Sunday night I received the agent’s reply saying that she was passing on the project. She had some very nice things to say about my writing and some good suggestions to make my book stronger. Although I was disappointed, I didn’t experience the hit to the gut that I’ve felt before with rejection. I was sad, yes, but encouraged nevertheless. I’ve only just begun the querying process. It was na├»ve to think that I’d snatch up an agent on my first try. So it’s back to the drawing board, maybe a little revision to my query letter, a closer look at my story and then I’m back out there again.
Bring on the relish.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Come Follow Me Contest

This young blog is lonesome for friends and it's not beneath me to resort to bribery.

Thus I announce my first ever contest. Add yourself as one of my followers and you could win an original pen and ink painting on vintage paper from the late 1800s.

To Enter-  Click the "follow me" button and then leave a comment letting me know that you want to be entered in the contest. The contest will be open for one week.

The Winner- Will be randomly chosen on February 14th. I'll post the winners name on this blog and arrange delivery of your brand new original painting.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Calling All Writers

Check out this really cool contest on a new blog that I just started reading.

Pimp My Computer

Recently I decided that it was time to pimp my laptop. It sounds like it could be the name of a game show, doesn’t it? Pimp my Laptop. But really I just wanted to show a little love to my favorite piece of modern technology. It’s just a simple, blue netbook, but I’ve grown very attached to it over the last year. We’ve spent countless hours together. It goes on vacation with me. It sits up with me in the middle of the night and distracts me from my neurosis. And even though I know it’s mine ( it has my fingerprints all over the top of it and my thoughts and stories saved on its hard drive), I thought it needed a little something more to dress it up.

So how do you dress up a computer? Sure I could buy a decal of an owl on a branch or some cherry blossoms, but my computer is special. It can’t have some stock decal that anyone can order. It needs to encapsulate who I am, what I believe in, the person I want to be.

Whoa, you say. Hold on. Stop right there. That’s a tall order for one tiny computer. Yes, maybe, but doesn’t it sound like an exciting task to figure out the essence of who you are, to distill it down into something that can fit onto the 8x10 inch back of little, blue netbook? I thought it was.

And I’m pretty happy with what I came up with. It’s just two little words and a bit of punctuation:

What if?

Yep, that’s it. But it’s pretty much the source of all my inspiration. In those two little words I see the promise for just about anything. I can bring to life any story, any image, any day dream.

So what’s the essence of who you are? How would you pimp your computer?

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Happy Entrepreneur

When I was a little girl I used to bundle up all my stuffed animals and drag them down the long, dirt lane that I lived on, out onto Holladay Boulevard. For some reason a lemonade stand didn’t sound appealing, maybe it was the stickiness, the pouring and filling of paper cups that would certainly spill, whatever the case, it made much more sense to me to sell my toys instead.

I only remember one man stopping by my roadside stand to buy my Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls. But it was the perfect sale because the Raggedy Twins had always given me a bit of the creeps anyway, and I’d much rather have two bucks to burn than their rather frightening mugs staring at me in my bedroom.

Earning those two dollars (and I use the word earning rather lightly here), was a high that couldn’t be matched and I was excited to duplicate the success. With the help of a friend, I decided to sell flowers next. Walking along the stretch of Holladay Boulevard between my house and my elementary school we gathered armfuls of deep purple irises. The flowers grew in thick patches in the grassy fields along the side of the road. At the time, Holladay, Utah, where I grew up, was a less tamed place, with horse fields and open stretches of untended land.

I wish I could remember whether a grownup pointed out to us that those flowers still belonged to someone or whether it wasn’t until I was older that I realized I’d clipped those blossoms out of someone’s yard. At the time it seemed like it all belonged to me. All that beauty was free for the taking.

Today the internet has made it a little easier for the entrepreneur in me to get my kicks. And it’s funny, but I still get the same high when I see that someone has ordered a print or a painting from me on Etsy. I hope I always keep that small sense of wonder and pleasure in realizing that I have something that someone else finds valuable.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


It might be that I'm impatient, or indecisive, maybe a tad bit finicky, but I prefer to call my lack of focus, enthusiasm. My family likes to tease me for moving between projects like I'm moving down the line in a buffet, nibbling the stuffed olives, the mini skewered meatballs. And it's true that I want a taste of it all, but it’s also true that when I find something delicious I'll go back for a plateful.

Luckily, my tastes are mostly centered in the arts: painting, writing, sculpting. I guess the problem comes within those subsets. I’m a painter. It’s what I studied in school, what I get paid to do, and maybe this should be enough to satisfy the visually artistic side in me, but it’s not. My obsessions run wide. Sometimes I’m perfectly satisfied with my brush in hand. I’m lucky to have a fabulous publisher that’s always hungry for new work, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get bored. To assuage this need for something new I’ve tried mixing up the mediums. This past year I moved from painting solely on panel to painting on vintage book pages. I liked the idea of marrying my love for words with my love for painting.

And of course there was the project that I started (and have yet to complete) of the paper mache birds. For a few weeks all my passion was diverted into sculpting these papery feathered creatures. I researched paper mache recipes and wired intricate feet into their bodies so that they could stand. I've been dreaming about making these birds for quite some time; ever since I read a book in which one of the characters sculpted large birds that hung from the ceiling like mobiles. Someday soon I’ll finish my birds, but for now the muse has settled elsewhere.

For a short time last year I was obsessed with fashion design. It was right after seeing “Alice in Wonderland”. I sat through the movie too consumed with the costumes to pay attention to the plot. That week I went to the fabric store and bought a dress form and yards of brocade fabric and set about sewing a jacket. I can’t follow a pattern (or maybe I just choose not to), and not too surprisingly my jacket looked lovely on the mannequin, but not too sweet on me. The dress form has since moved down to my daughter’s room where she puts it to good use (also not following patterns) as she sews skirts and shirts and dresses late into the night.

Before the obsession with costume design I was convinced that I wanted to start my own line of fabric. I researched repeating patterns and fabric tradeshows. I found companies in China that could produce my designs. But I didn’t have tens of thousands of dollars to make it come to life. But the dream hasn't died. Some day I still might go back to school to study textile design.

The problem is I’d love to go back to school to study so many different things. My oldest daughter has started dreaming about going to Parsons The New School for Design in New York and I’ve started dreaming of accompanying her. The course catalogue gets me salivating: fine arts, furniture design, architecture, set design, fashion, photography, interior design, illustration (the list goes on). I want to study them ALL.
Okay, so obviously I can’t do it all and we haven’t even touched on my other obsession…writing. (Add an MFA in creative writing to that aforementioned list.) I think I wrote my first book in fourth grade. It was a middle grade novel about (believe it or not) a girl in the fourth grade. I’ve written a lot more since then and hopefully the writing gets progressively better. But just like the visual arts, I want to write it all: short stories, essays, novels, picture books, plays, screenplays. Right now I’m working on a play with my mom (who has newly become quite a good playwright). I’ve got plenty of short stories and essays in need of revising, a memoir that’s on the backburner, a middle grade novel in need of a rewrite, a YA book that I’m quite happy with and three more books that are just itching to get written.

So how can I find the time to do it all? I don’t know. I’m pretty sure that all that creativity doesn’t get spent. Instead it gets compounded, multiplied. Like gears or pistons, each of those outlets helps generate more fire for the next one. If I was only doing one thing I think I might burn out. So here’s to hoping I never do. And if I don’t find time for it all.

There’s always my next life…