Thursday, August 28, 2014

A new creative outlet

I believe it is beneficial to our souls, to our human side, to engage in creativity.  Writing has been that creative outlet for me.  Once in a while I'd dabble in some rudimentary sketch: a tree, a sword, an axe- nothing major.

I've been longing for more.  I tried to sketch a dragon from a 'How To' youtube video.  My dragon was ok, which is what I expected.  But then I tried to use water colors to paint it...WRONG.  So, I gave up the idea of sketching.  I was frustrated.

Maybe I just needed time.  About six weeks later (now last week) we, my wife, kids and I, were at the Firefly Bookstore in Kutztown, each of us looking for a book to read.  I found one, used, that I read in middle school or high school that I've been wanting to read again.

While waiting for the others, I was perusing a craft/skills aisle hoping to find a book on writing when my eye crossed something...a beginners guide to sketching fantasy art.

It spoke to me...can you hear it?   'Take me home with you...'

There it was!  I heard it loud and clear.  I put the other book'll be there for another time, or to get from the library, but I did not pass up on the voice aka: my creative outlet.

After getting home, I quickly got my sketch pad (that I used for a couple sketches and a bunch of writing) and began work on a barbarian:
Not quite the beginning, but close

Darken some important lines-umm...kinda made the head pointy...

Add some details, erase some unneeded lines to neaten it up...and round the head :)

And the final result!  My first real attempt at a drawing!!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Highlights Foundation Writers' Unworkshop

Just wow.  Just plain ole wow.

The Unworkshop was simply amazing!  It was so much more than I expected.  I got to eat and chat with so many published authors (including a NY Times best seller!!), and even a couple editors one night.  I really thought I'd be my typical anti-social, introvert self and walk my meals back to my cabin to spend the entire four days and three nights by myself, but I'm so glad I stepped out of my comfort zone and didn't.  I even talked to people :)

When I arrived I was told where my cabin was... was the one with my name on it :) 
My writing area in the cabin- you can see 2 of the 3 beds (we all had our own cabins) 
coffee zone...I did bring my own coffee, almond milk and raw sugar.  But, none was needed as they had all those things in the kitchen if I needed it!
The cabin was amazing- totally modern, full bathroom, ceiling fan, AC, heat, mini fridge, and coffee pot.

When I got there, I kept walking around it, as small as it was.  I had no idea where to start!!  So, I opened our goodie bag...
Inside the bag were a couple Highlights magazines, the Boyds Mills Press publishing catalogue, a notepad, pen, name tag, and a folder with our itinerary (meals schedules) and other info.
Once I went through this, I got my writing area set up and got a nice surprise from my wife- a picture saying, 'Write from your heart'.  It sat perfectly by my computer :)  Then, I wrote for a bit and headed to our first dinner.
My writing area!  The sign is behind my computer.
Dinner, and breakfast, and dinner were ALL AMAZING!  I haven't eaten that good, that healthy for that many meals in a row in I don't know how long.  All the food at every meal was delicious!

Here's a view of the dining area from the loft.  The back area between the doors are the snacks.
And in between?  Well, there were always snacks out, including ice cream, and drinks- both alcoholic and non alcoholic ALL DAY AND NIGHT at no extra charge.  All the food was included!

After a couple days of sitting in my room and writing, emerging only for meals, one trail run, and a tour of the Highlights publishing facility, I became a bit stir crazy and headed to the loft to take advantage of the wonderful lighting and comfy chairs.
I was sitting in a chair even more comfy than the one you see.
I really do enjoy sitting in a comfortable chair and writing in a journal, but I hate transcribing...
Handmade journal from Haiti my wife picked up on her mission trip last January
 One of the many perks of The Highlights Foundations is their outdoor fridge stocked with soda and beer.  You can hit it up any time, day or night.

The Fridge!  I was happy to see Yuengling!
Of course, hitting up the free wine and beer whenever you want can lead to some...
They had dozens of word rocks for creating phrases in a rock garden
But, unfortunately, all good things must come to an end...
My crazed killer look...really supposed to be a sad face...
I met some amazing people on my trip, and I hope I get to see them again at another retreat or SCBWI conference in the future!!  I will be back to the Unworkshop again.  Here's a list of upcoming retreats they have!!

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Bookstore Reading

Thanks to Kit of The Towne Book Center and Cafe in Collegeville, PA I had my very first bookstore appearance!

The book store has been a favorite of mine since it was in Trappe, PA, as it was one I'd head to once a year for books for my classroom.  I know it's also a favorite of my students, past and present, as well as many teachers and parents.  They have an amazing selection and an amazing staff (plus some fabulous coffee).

This being my first appearance as an author at the book store, or ANY bookstore for that matter, I was quite nervous- more than I thought I would be!  I had it planned out in my head what I wanted to talk with the kids about before, during and after the story, but even with that, I was nervous.  Kinda like I am on the very first day of school every year.

I delivered my books to sell (I sold three to parents and a fourth to a teacher friend who happened to stop in specifically for my book- she had no idea I was there!), and to leave (they kept 15- they've sold 17 total there!!), and also some bookmarks.

I then checked out the coloring sheets the amazing Jennifer Frith made for the event...

I found my nice, comfy spot...

And began reading to the kids...

And afterwards, I autographed a few copies for some very happy kids...

I had an absolute blast reading to the kids!  They had some great questions and were amazing listeners!

If you'd be interested in having me come to your bookstore, please contact me at erik (at) erikammon (dot) com!

Note: All photos were taken by my amazingly talented wife, photographer extraordinaire, Jane Ammon!