November 2, 2015

15% off custom orders now through November 15th!

Well, the title pretty much sums it up.  Spots are limited seeing as I'm only one gal making purses.  If you need a custom purse for the holidays, please order ASAP so you can get it in time!  This is my busiest time of year (ain't it so for all of us?) so the sooner you get your order in, the better.  Convo me through my shop for more details.

Need ideas?  Click on the "gallery" tab above to see some of my work.

I hope to get to work with some of you soon!

September 23, 2015

Money Money

I'm not sure when it happened.

Maybe when I figured out how to add zippers to my book purses?  Maybe it was gradual, seeping in over the years I've been on Etsy.

At some point, money became more important to me than the craft.  More important to me than the people.

If you don't know what movie this is from, or who Bob Fosse is, 
you best get your Google on NOW.  REPENT!  REPENT, I SAY!

I think I was trying to be more "responsible."  Like one of those people that counts every penny, making certain to not go over budget on any projects.  Those people aren't bad, their ways are just quite foreign to me.   I work better in clutter, nestled in piles of things that are only vaguely related but somehow make sense to me.

For one reason or another, I began to feel my way was wrong.  I felt maybe if I was more organized, I'd be more successful.  At that time, to me, success meant money.  I abandoned my piles and began to pay more attention to costs and hours.  I raised my prices.  I ignored creative impulses in favor of the bottom line.

I sold items at my new prices for a short time.  Then something happened.  I lost interest.  If you deny your creative impulses long enough, they'll get the point and leave the party.

I found myself procrastinating on projects for my Etsy shop.  I initially blamed it on my health.  I've had a rough few months.  After a recent conversation with a fellow crafter, I realized that was an excuse.

This crafter was quite cynical and clearly prized her time and money over her customers.  I nodded politely as I mentally cringed.  Her attitude nauseated me.  Then a thought popped in my head.

"I'm no different than she is."

I didn't start BiblioBags to make a fortune.  I knew I never would.  I'll never wholesale my products because I'm part of every single one.  Everything I sell, I make myself with my own two hands.  That was the point.  To share my talents and to make a little pocket money on the side to feed my artistic inclinations.

I was sick when I started my Etsy shop.  I've fought through constant waves of nausea and exhaustion to finish projects.  However, those projects don't hurt me.  They take my mind off of the discomfort.  Crafting soothes my brain and makes me feel useful.  There is nothing more satisfying than working with your hands to make a finished, physical product.

When I began BiblioBags, I was extremely touched to find that every purse I sold became a part of that person's life.  I've had dozens of thoughtful customers share sweet stories about surprising a loved one with a purse.  I never fail to get a rush of excitement thinking that items I've made are sitting under someone's Christmas tree.  Custom purses are my favorite.  I've had some interesting requests over the years and those have challenged me and made me a better artist.  I love being a part of someone's imagination and bringing their ideas to life.  I've made lots of wonderful friends.

Selling my purses is not going to buy us a house or pay down our crushing student debt.  But I think that when I start back up, I'll feel so much happier if I do it generously.  I'm no business person.  I'm a crafter.  I need to make art and I need to connect with people.  I need to share what I can do even if it's quirky and a little silly.  If I just break even, I figure it's all worth it.

August 28, 2015

Thin Skin and Sour Grapes

On a Saturday in May 2008 I sat at a table pushing rubbery lasagna around my plate with a fork.  The overwhelming fishy stench from my neighbor’s seafood ravioli made my stomach turn.  It was lunchtime at the Nashville Screenwriter’s Conference.  I turned to the woman seated on my right and traded small talk.  She was a nurse so inspired by Brian Fuller’s “Pushing Daisies” that she turned to screenwriting.  I told her about my feature length romantic comedy (a script I wisely tossed years ago). 

A pasty man with curly hair that always appeared curiously wet approached our table and squatted.  He wore a large carved Adinkra pendant on top of a black t-shirt.  I had met him the day before.  A close talker, he tried to impress me with his business card featuring his book.  I inelegantly dropped the word “husband” to get him to back off.  He continued to whisper to me during a seminar.  I began talking about my kid (works every time!) and that blessedly freed me from him and his aura of aftershave.

Wet Head told the table how he was writing a screenplay about the friendship between J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.  Someone commented that they didn’t know the two were friends.

“Yeah, they were real tight until Tolkien got his feelings hurt and started acting like a woman.”

I snapped my head up and glared at him.  I propped my elbow on the table and leaned forward.

“Really?”  I motioned to the women sitting at the table.  “Please tell us more about that,” I insisted in mock adoration.

The women at the table laughed.

“I think you just proved my point,” he retorted.

He continued to drone on about his screenplay until he realized no one was listening.  He rapped the table twice with his knuckles and slinked away.

                                                  .                          .                        .

This year was the fifth time I've entered the Academy Nicholl Fellowships Screenwriting Competition.  I was a Quarterfinalist in 2009 yet I haven't been able to crack it since then.  This year I made the top 20%, an improvement from last year.  This year I most looked forward to reader comments.  For the first time, the competition provided reader comments for and additional $40.  

My comments were somewhat helpful.  One was a little snarky but tame compared to other workshops I've attended.  Truth be told, I was (like many other participants) underwhelmed.  There wasn't much thought put into the critiques.  The comments were dominated by personal taste more than attention to actual craft.  

However, they were nothing like the reader comment Rachel Koller received:

"With some judicious alterations, [the script] might make a decent porn picture, as the gals do seem kinda hot, at least on the page."

Yes.  This actually happened.  And it gets worse.

When Koller politely expressed concern on the Nicholl Facebook page, she was treated with contempt:

(for the full exchange, see this article

This is supposedly the most prestigious screenwriting competition in the world.  For me, I thought it was my only ticket to becoming a successful screenwriter.  For years I submitted draft after draft hoping I could somehow break through and get an agent or sale or something.  To see such carelessness and misogyny on the other side crushed me.  I felt my power had been taken from me.  My dreams and my hopes snatched away. As I melodramatically related to my best friend: 

At the same time, I felt a familiar sentiment simmering beneath my disappointment.  Of course.  This is how it is.  This is how it’s always been.  Did I really think that I had the same chance as a man?  Especially when all my protagonists are female?  Was I really so na├»ve to believe I had an equal shot?

Yes.  Yes I was.

While there were a lot of supportive comments from all genders (yes!) on the Facebook thread, as time went by, more and more dismissive comments surfaced.

There were comments after online articles about the controversy that were scarier and more hateful than these.  I don't want to visit those.  They speak for themselves.  These sly, disparaging comments cast the blame on Koller.  She was "begging for it."

It was infuriating.  

It was at this point when my buttons had been pushed too far.

Yeah, it was petty and crude ... but it made me feel good.  Why?  Because words have power.  Rachel Koller is certainly evidence of that.  I'm indebted to her for speaking up and giving us a peek behind that plush red curtain.  What's back there is ugly yet familiar.  Powerful but not indestructible.  

I'm now conscious that yes, the past and the odds are against me.  I'm also aware that I have the power to fight back: with words.  With characters.  With story.  I want to frickin' blowtorch the supposed limitations and expectations of my gender.  I will slay that beast behind the curtain until it's bloody mangled mess.  Every time it creeps back up, I will stomp on it.  For, as Zora Neale Hurston said: 

Most of all, however, I just want to do me.  I want to write.  I want to channel my anger, my sadness, my pain into energy for my work.  In a strange way, the opposition has given me a boost of confidence.  I have no idea what I will do now.  I don't know if I'll enter the Nicholl Fellowship competition again.  I have no idea how a chronically ill mom from Tennessee will possibly break into screenwriting.  I just know there is something in me that knows I can try.  

I'm not worried.

My worth is no longer tied up in what people think of my work, if they even think of it at all.  I know there's something in me, my own beast behind the curtain.  It's small.  It's strong.  It's feisty.  It will claw at your eyes if you try to stifle it.

I can't be bothered anymore.  I've got too much to do.  I bet you do too.  And I bet whatever you do, even if you mess up, it'll be beautiful.

Parting words from Zora:

June 24, 2015

The Green House with the Red Flag

I was eight years old when I saw it on the news.  A tiny green house with a large flag displayed on the front porch.  I heard the news anchors talk about the Nazi and KKK memorabilia found inside the green house.  I knew who the Nazis were.  I was well versed in the Indiana Jones trilogy.  Nazis were always the bad guys, nasty and mean.  I wasn't sure exactly who the KKK were but I knew they burned crosses which confused me (I'm still confused by that).

If the Nazi connection didn't tip me off enough, there was something in the anchors' voices that told me the man that lived in that house was bad.  In every report they showed that green house with the red flag.  And there were many reports, at least on the local news.  See, the green house with the red flag was only miles from my own house in the tiny town of Signal Mountain, Tennessee.

That man was Byron De La Beckwith.

Byron De La Beckwith at his home on Signal Mountain.

De La Beckwith shot and killed civil rights activist Medger Evers, a husband and father of three, with an Enfield 1917 rifle just hours after John F. Kennedy's nationally televised Civil Rights Address on June 12, 1963 in Jackson, Mississippi.  A proud white supremacist, member of the White Citizens Council and KKK Klansman, De La Beckwith was prosecuted twice for the murder but both trials ended in hung (all white male) juries.

After new evidence emerged, Byron De La Beckwith was arrested in his Signal Mountain home on December 30, 1990 for the murder of Medger Evers.  According to the New York Times, De La Beckwith "wore a Confederate flag on his lapel during the trial. When the jury of eight blacks and four white people returned a guilty verdict on Feb. 5, 1994, he appeared dazed, as though not sure where he was."  He died in prison in 2001.

Byron De La Beckwith often boasted about murdering Evers at Klan meetings.  James Woods was nominated for an Oscar for hammily portraying him in (the not that great) Ghosts of Mississippi.  He even has a line where he tells a prosecutor, "Pretty soon Imma be back in my home on Signal Mountain and there ain't nothing you can do 'bout it."  

I have researched the history of the Confederate flag and read opinions for those that support it.  However, I have found nothing to redeem the flag or justify it being flown on government property.  There will be those who will continue to display it on their own property and that's their right.

To me, my opinion hasn't changed since I was eight years old.  I felt, and have always felt, there was something sinister about that red flag.  I feel it in my gut every time I see the Confederate flag.  It represents hate, division and white privilege.  Nothing, I repeat nothing, can or will redeem the Confederate flag.  As a Southerner, I'm ashamed of it and I hope that we can stop celebrating it.  In the words of Indiana Jones, "It belongs in a museum."  I say, let us learn from the mistakes and not glorify a hateful symbol that degrades people on the basis of color.

May 9, 2015

"Are We Not All Mothers?"

Me and my lil' guy.
It started about a week and a half ago.  The anxiety, the dread.

Mothers Day Sunday was coming up.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints puts a lot of emphasis on family and none more than on Mothers Day.  Most Sacrament meetings on that day will feature the children singing a song about mothers and one to three talks about the importance of motherhood.  Often flowers or chocolate are given out to women aged 12 and up.

I once lived in a ward where a leader at the pulpit declared, "May I ask all the mothers here to stand?"

All the mothers stood up.

"Now, all the wives stand up."

All the wives stood up.

"All future mothers, stand up."

It was a humiliating exercise.  I think his intentions were good but woefully misguided.  Other misguided efforts I've merely heard of but not experienced include excusing mothers from having to fulfill their callings, serving desserts and "parties" during Relief Society--all during church hours.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not criticizing church doctrine.  I'm questioning church culture.  In a church where the importance of families is consistently underscored, is it really necessary to turn Mothers Day meetings into what a friend of mine aptly described as a "three ring circus"?

Thankfully, my own branch celebrates Mothers Day fairly modestly.  There is sometimes a Primary number and one or two talks about mothers.  After church, the young men are assigned to hand out flowers to women as they leave.  Last year, one of the young men sheepishly passed out single roses to every woman that went by.  I could tell how awkward he felt about the assignment.  As he handed me my rose I asked,  "How does it feel to be The Bachelor?"

More Charlie love.  
Despite the low key approach of my particular branch, Mothers Day at church is bittersweet for me.  As I talk about constantly on this blog (at least I feel like it's constantly!), I only have one ovary left to my name.  The rest of my reproductive system was cleared out like a fire sale at a furniture store.  "Everything must go!"  I'm blessed with the coolest kid ever.  He's whip smart, cheerful and healthy.  Despite that,  there is still pain in my heart.  The door to bearing children is closed.  Mothers Day at church (as well as baby showers and the occasional Johnson and Johnson commercial) gives rise to those feelings I work hard to keep under control.

Feeling that pain, I can only imagine how women with bigger problems than mine feel.  I know many women that don't attend church on Mothers Day simply because it's too painful.  It's not limited to women; many men who had abusive mothers, no mothers at all, an ill mothers feel uncomfortable at church.

Many may think these people are too sensitive.  You might think I'm overreacting.  Why should we tone down Mothers Day traditions to appease a small pocket of people?  In a wonderful talk, Marlin K. Jensen says:
The desired outcomes of a gospel-centered life are held up as ideals for which we are all encouraged to strive. Although such ideals are doctrinally based and represent desirable objectives in our quest for eternal life, they can sometimes become sources of disappointment and pain for those whose lives may vary from the ideal.  Even when they are worthy, members whose lives don’t fit the ideal and thus are considered different often feel inferior and guilty. These feelings are heightened when we as their brothers and sisters fail to be as thoughtful and sensitive toward them as we ought to be.   
 We have to remember who leads the church and the true purpose of Sunday meetings.  Elder Jensen puts it this way:
"It is inconceivable that the Savior would do or say anything that would intensify the pains of or injure any of God’s children."
That is the answer.  Do our cultural traditions uplift or defeat?  Is a tradition worth continuing if it only hurts those who are hurting more?  I'm not saying we shouldn't acknowledge Mothers Day.  Far from it.  I don't have specific answers about what we should and shouldn't do.  Obviously that is up to each individual branch and what's appropriate for their circumstances.  However, I believe that we should recognize and include all women, not just women with children.  All women are mothers.

"ALL women!"
On Mothers Day, I suggest instead of focusing on what we should have, maybe we can focus on what we do have.  What all women have.  Sheri "The Awesome" Dew (I gave her that nickname) said:
While we tend to equate motherhood solely with maternity, in the Lord’s language, the word mother has layers of meaning. Of all the words they could have chosen to define her role and her essence, both God the Father and Adam called Eve “the mother of all living”—and they did so before she ever bore a child. Like Eve, our motherhood began before we were born.  Motherhood is more than bearing children, though it is certainly that. It is the essence of who we are as women. It defines our very identity, our divine stature and nature, and the unique traits our Father gave us.
Almost two years ago, my dad took our entire family to Disney World for his 65th birthday.  It was special, magical and exhausting.  Charlie was 6 at the time and had never been to an amusement park much less a real vacation.  It was overwhelming for him, and he whined for a lot of the trip.  John and I lost patience with him frequently.

Charlie and Caroline
Every time John and I were D-O-N-E with Charlie, my 8 year old niece Caroline would intuitively take his hand.  It happened every day.  Charlie adores and looks up to Caroline so having her attention would immediately calm him down and give us a break.  She would sit next to him on the bus we would take from the resort to the park every day.  She would talk to him and listen.  She was so patient with him and kind.  It really warmed my heart and helped me to calm down and let go of my frustration.  Caroline is proof to me that all women are mothers.

I've been so blessed to have teachers, friends and even young nieces act as mothers to my son.  I cannot do it alone.  Thank you to all who have made my journey as a mother lighter by helping me with my burdens and sharing your love and talents.

I hope this Mothers Day we can be a little kinder and empathetic to others.  I hope we can reach out to others and share the gifts we've been given as mothers.

For Sheri Dew's full talk, "Are We Not All Mothers?" read here.  It's one of my favorite talks of all time ("of ALL time!").

Another talk that goes along with this topic is Marlin K. Jensen's wonderful "Those Who Are Different" (spoiler: We're all different.).