Using Our Imaginations to Create Social Change

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Creativity Can Encourage and Empower Us All.

The above mantra grew out of my response to recent events.

Truthfully, I’ve known it all along.

I was born wanting to inspire, provoke, and empower myself and others through the arts.

But my family saw a different future for me. They pushed me into politics, wanting me to be the first female President of the U.S. I tried that route for a while, but discovered quickly that I could help a lot more people through my music and writing than I could through policy and politics.

So I hopped on the artistic roller coaster and never looked back. Well, I do look back on occasion when I get a bad review or another rejection, but I never get off the ride.

Though politics didn’t agree with me, my family’s notion that one should support the causes they believe in every way they can, i.e. money or time or both, did resonate. I’ve been volunteering since I was 10 yrs old. In fact I think volunteering is one of my best skills.

Imagine my delight when days after I’d found my mantra I discovered the non-profit Harry Potter Alliance whose values include believing in magic and my personal favorite: Fantasy is not only an escape from our world, but an invitation to go deeper into it.

HPA’s mission is to turn fans into heroes by engaging them in fan activism.  The idea is to harness the passion fans have for certain characters like Neville Longbottom, a shy awkward Harry Potter classmate who became a badass when his back was against a wall, and direct them to fight like Neville for causes such as net neutrality and the electoral college vote. The Neville campaign page gives sample scripts of what to say on the phone to congress humans, where to find phone numbers, and info on the cause etc.

Within a day or two of discovering HPA, I started The Patronuses. The Chicago community chapter of HPA.

FYI: A patronus is an silvery white animal spirit that holds a magical concentration of happiness and hope, which protects against the dementors, those that would suck the happiness and hope right out of you.

We are barely a few weeks old, but already have a mission statement:
The Patronuses fuse the powers of imagination and fan activism together to support and/or create campaigns designed to bring positive change in areas such as diversity, acceptance and education.

I’m overjoyed to finally marry my two loves, imagination and activism, in such a direct way!

We are already discussing our first campaign, which will probably revolve around partnering with Comic Education Outreach to use comics and graphic novels to teach the skill of acceptance perhaps using Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan, as our role model/fandom base. (Tho HPA grew out of Harry Potter fandom, any fandom is welcome. There are already campaigns using The Hunger Games, some Marvel Cinematic Characters, as well as Potter campaigns.)

As our journey unfolds I’ll continue to fill you in, hoping one or more of our campaigns strikes your fancy and you’ll join us. You can help as much as you want. The key is to have fun and be of service at the same time.

There is no limit to what we can do if we do it together.

To be kept in the loop, please email us at acceptopatronus@gmail.com so we can add you to our Patronuses list. Feel free to include a cause or two you would like to support and/or a character or two that you feel would be a good symbol/role model for a cause. You can also leave your suggestions by replying to this letter, or posting on my Facebook page, or tweet me.

FYI: Please share this letter with others you think would enjoy it.

Purple Passion of the Fortnight:

My very own amethyst wand

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Posted in Creativity, EmpowerGirlsOfAllAges, Empowerment, Imagination, Thinking Outside The Box by with 2 comments.

HOW TO BRUSH YOUR TEETH IN SPACE & WRITE A POEM ABOUT IT

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Saturn prances around
Like he’s the only game in town
 
His rings on display
Make girls swoon in his wake
 
Ladies beware
This boy is full of hot air
 
So just walk on by
This peacock’s not worth your time
–Anny Rusk
 
There’s a new poetry book out about space and aliens called Watcher of the Skies. (Published by the small British company The Emma Press.) It’s for kids aged 8-108.
 
Inside its pages poets muse about all aspects of space such as how astronauts brush their teeth (You don’t want morning breath if an alien drops by for tea.), how planets talk, and how to make a cosmic cupcake. (Recipe included.)
 
At the back of the book editor Rachel Piercey encourages readers to write their own space poems using prompts and examples from the anthology. My poem was inspired by the How Planets Talk prompt.
 
Example: “Write your own cosmic recipe for another kind of food, for example Star Stew or Moon Muffins. Try to include some relevant ingredients – so if it’s Star Stew, you might have hydrogen, helium and mouldy old light.
Where will you serve your food, on what, and to whom? Let your imagination run riot!”
 
Please, please write a space poem and share it with me by leaving it in a comment below, or post it on my Facebook page, or tweet me. 
 
Creativity Can Encourage & Empower Us All!
 
FYI: Please share this letter with others you think would enjoy it.

Purple Passion of the Fortnight:
Of course the cool astronauts brush their teeth with purple toothpaste!

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Posted in Creativity, Imagination, Inspired Creativity, Uncategorized, World Building-Fictional Lands by with no comments yet.

Do You Welcome Inspiration Into Your Life?

A Slice of AnnyWorld:

My Muse can be a slippery gal.  Sometimes when I need her the most, she’s off vacationing in Paris or Hawaii.  (I wouldn’t mind if she’d take me with her!) 

I’m not sure what triggers her to leave–maybe a challenge that seems overwhelming or painful, or maybe she just wants to smell the gardenias or eat some French pastries.  All I know is that when I need her, it’d be nice to be able to cut her vacation short.  Thanks to my friend, writer/teacher Sarah Aronson, I now have a way to invite my Muse back.

Sarah invites inspiration into her life everyday by being open to what her world has to offer her.

What that means in practical terms is that she completely unplugs from the virtual world and takes a walk in the real world.  For her that usually means her neighborhood, or along the shore of Lake Michigan. While walking she’s present, using all of her senses to take in what’s coming at her so she doesn’t miss any ‘gifts.’

For example, on one of her walks she tripped over a harmonica. She asked herself, “What is the world saying to me?” Should I listen to some harmonica music, or does this character I’m wrestling with play a harmonica to call her minions (hopefully the blue and yellow kind), or calm her troubled child, or does it mean I should call  this friend of mine that I’ve not spoken to for a while? Maybe it means all three. 

Sarah says that “Inspiration is always there. Welcome it in, and the answers will come to you.”

The next time your boss, or your child, who can feel like a boss sometimes, throws a challenge your way consider connecting to your Muse via actively engaging in the real world around you.  I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the help you receive.

Please post stories about the gifts you’ve received while opening to your world by replying to this letter, or posting to my Facebook page.

If you need more creative writing inspiration, sign up for Sarah’s weekly newsletters.

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Purple Passion of the Fortnight

Destination of the Fortnight: The Present


Posted in EmpowerGirlsOfAllAges, Imagination, Inspired Creativity by with no comments yet.

How Can You Use Your Imagination To Make The Rest Of Us Care?

A Slice of AnnyWorld:

Imagine that you’ve decided to become a doctor.  You’re good in school and work hard, but your parents tell you it’ll never happen because they can’t afford the education you need.  One day a strange man shows up and tells your parents that he’ll make you a doctor.  All you have to do is work for a few hours after school on his boat.  You’re terrified to leave your family, but they tell you it’s for your own good.  And you really want to be a doctor!
You wake up your first morning with the man scared, but also excited about your future.  Instead of taking you to school, the man puts you on his boat.  Day after day, you do back breaking work in the sun, wondering when school will start.  It never does.  The man lied to your parents.  He bought you for cheap so you could be his slave. Oh, and you’re only eight years old.

This is not the beginning of my latest novel, but rather a daily occurrence in Ghana.
Surprised?  So was my friend Lori Dillon when an Oprah show profiled the Right To Be Free Organization (RTBF) that both rescues these kids, and prevents more kids from becoming enslaved.

In response, Lori founded the U.S. branch of Right To Be Free, and started to encounter a struggle of her own.  Namely, how do you get the rest of us to care enough to donate to your cause? Especially when there are so many causes that hit closer to home?

For Lori it meant figuring out a way to get the rest of us to walk a mile in a young Ghanian slave’s feet.  (Many of them don’t have shoes.)  To do this, she had to get creative.  First off believing that she had to use “imagery to convey truth,” Lori, along with her fifteen year old daughter, went to Ghana to film a rescue mission.  The film tugs at heartstrings to be sure, but sometimes that isn’t enough to stir action.

Sometimes you need to take a cue from branding land and come up with a clever and catchy campaign.  Thus the 5 For Freedom Campaign was born.
Give $5, tell 5 friends, which these days takes 5 seconds, and that’s it.

But it’s not really it.  Because Lori knows that she has to keep coming up with new, and even more creative ways to keep our hearts and wallets open.

Which leads me to my big question…how have you used your imagination to further a cause you believe in?

And if you’ve any innovative ideas of your own that can help Lori further Right To Be Free, please respond to this email or post them on my Facebook page!

Then sit back and imagine the smile on the face of the next child RTBF saves!

Purple Passion of the Fortnight: Ghanian students whose school had the good taste to make their uniforms purple!

Purple Passion of the Fortnight: Ghanian students whose school had the good taste to make their uniforms purple!

Destination of the Fortnight: Ghana at sunset

Destination of the Fortnight: Ghana at sunset

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Posted in Imagination, Inspired Creativity, Thinking Outside The Box by with 1 comment.

How To See In The Dark, or Move Past Your Limitations

A Slice of AnnyWorld:

Imagine that the sun set one day and never rose again.  That your nights took over your days, kind of like winter in Alaska. (Though they do have a couple hours of light each day.)  That you had to relearn how to do everything you took for granted before like brushing your teeth, or going to the grocery store.  This is what happened to my buddy, writer Beth Finke, the day her eyes stopped working.

What I admire about Beth is the way she uses her imagination to see in the dark. For example, putting toothpaste on a toothbrush when you can’t see it is impossible. (Try it. I have and can’t do it.) So Beth just squirts the paste in her mouth, and then brushes her teeth. Sounds simple, but not sure I would’ve thought of it.

Besides being a writer herself, Beth teaches  memoir-writing courses for senior citizens. Because Beth wants everyone to be able to read their assignments and get critiqued in every class, she limits their in-class reading to 500 words and five minutes.

Humans being what they are, her students would set the timer to ten minutes or whatever to increase their moment in the sun.  Beth caught on to what they were doing and put rubber cement on the ‘five’ so she always knew where it was on the timer.

Still, sometimes the people who read at the beginning would get more critique time.  She noticed some students would always sit next to her in order to go first.

To fix that problem she decided to give each of them a braille Scrabble letter so they’d go in alphabetical order, instead of by where they sat. Again she picked up on people grabbing the beginning letters of the alphabet to try to get more time, so now she often starts with ‘z’ or some other letter to discourage that behavior.

Because of her ingenuity, as well as her wisdom, Beth’s classes always fill up.

For more ideas on how to see in the dark, and overcome your own limitations, check out Beth’s Safe and Sound Blog.

How have you used your imagination to overcome your limitations?
Share with me via a comment on my blog, or a post on my Facebook page.

Purple Passion of the Fortnight

Purple Passion of the Fortnight

NightChicagoSkyline

Destination of the Fortnight: Chicago, setting for Beth’s adventures

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Posted in EmpowerGirlsOfAllAges, Imagination, Inspired Creativity and tagged , , by with 4 comments.

WHERE THERE’S A WILL, THERE’S A WAY

A Slice of AnnyWorld:

It all started when Will decided to make his grand entrance exceedingly early–three months before his due date. 

Having not waited until he was fully ‘cooked,’ meant Will had to spend five months in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). A harrowing experience for Will, but maybe even more so for his parents, Brittany and Scott. (Around 60% of parents whose babies have long NICU stays  are at risk for Post-Traumatic Stress.) Well-meaning caregivers focused on Will’s survival, but didn’t have time to educate his parents on what was happening, or how to handle a fragile preemie, so often Britt and Scott were left out of their son’s care altogether. 

As the months dragged on, Britt imagined a world where parents were an equal and active member of their baby’s health care team.  She and Scott shared her idea with docs, nurses, caseworkers, parents, everyone involved in the NICU process to see what they’d have to do to turn Britt’s dream into a reality.  What they discovered was that there was a name for what they wanted to bring into the NICU: Family Integrated Care. 

Turns out FICare had been around a while.  A pilot program at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Toronto revealed a simple truth: babies/children not only survived more often, but thrived when health care became a family affair. To make Family Integrated Care a reality in her backyard, the Bay Area , she and Scott founded Will’s Way Foundation.

Right now Will’s Way devotes money and energy to supporting families with babies in the NICU. As Britt put it: “We try to give parents one moment to feel normal.”  Will’s Way accomplishes that by providing “milestone meals” to parents, such as when a baby reaches a goal weight, or gets off oxygen, dinner at a local restaurant to get them out of the hospital, and in one case, threw a wedding dinner for a couple who got married while their baby was still in the NICU.

The foundation also addresses basic needs of NICU parents, such as giving gas cards to lessen the expense of their commutes, grocery cards to help them feed their families, and support for the siblings of the sick babies.

And there’s more on the horizon such as using technology to teach parents what they need to know in order to actively care for their baby in the NICU and beyond.
Currently Will’s Way helps about 6 NICU families per week.

Will’s Way’s mission is to make FICare the norm in the NICU first, and then hopefully the paradigm for all hospital patients.

Want to change your world?  Britt’s advice is to “share your idea with others.  Allow your idea to change and become what it needs to be, then own it and continue to grow it.  There are a lot of ideas out there.  The key is to see it through.”

Using their imaginations and will, Britt and Scott are changing the NICU experience for the parents that have come after them.

“Imagine a world where….” finish the sentence and share your idea, and what you will, or are doing to make that word a reality with all of us on my FB page, or reply to this post.
#EmpowerGirlsOfAllAges

Purple Passion of the Fortnight: A diaper cake.

Purple Passion of the Fortnight: A diaper cake.

Destination of the Fortnight: One of my favorite museums is in Will's backyard, The Exploratorium in San Francisco, CA

Destination of the Fortnight: One of my favorite museums is in Will’s backyard, The Exploratorium in San Francisco, CA

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Posted in Imagination, Inspired Creativity, Thinking Outside The Box, Uncategorized by with 1 comment.

Persistence Pays Off, Literally

A Slice of AnnyWorld:

The Key of Persistence

Did you know that if Stephanie Kwolek had listened to her colleagues, thousands of lives would be lost by now?

That’s because In 1964 her colleagues at DuPont considered the cloudy polymer solution she’d made a failure–telling her to throw it out because it wasn’t the clear solution they expected. But Stephanie refused.  “She explains, “I discovered over the years that I seemed to see things that other people did not see… if things don’t work out I don’t just throw them out, I struggle over them, to try and see if there’s something there.” She said she realized that the uniqueness of the liquid “might be useful,” so she spent “several days urging her colleagues to spin it and test its physical properties.”

Once they did test it, they discovered that her solution was five times stronger than steel by weight.

DuPont named the new material Kevlar.

Kevlar is used as a material in over 200 products, but perhaps what Stephanie was most proud of is it’s use in bulletproof vests.  “I don’t think there’s anything like saving someone’s life to bring you satisfaction and happiness.”

Innovation and creativity require persistence in the face of resistance.

As I struggle to finish the current draft of my middle grade fantasy novel, I’m going to think of Stephanie’s tenacity and push myself to carry on.

How has persistence paid off in your life?  Please share with me on my author page, or comment on this post.

Purple Passion of the Fortnight: A kevlar ski helmet.  (Looked for purple bulletproof vest, but alas there weren't any.)

Purple Passion of the Fortnight: A kevlar ski helmet. (Looked for purple bulletproof vest, but alas there weren’t any.)

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Destination of the Fortnight: Wilmington, Delaware, home of the Dupont Lab where Stephanie discovered Kelvar. (This is Stephanie in the 70’s with her invention.)

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Posted in Gal Empowerment, Imagination, Thinking Outside The Box by with no comments yet.

EMPOWER YOUR ‘SELF’ TO CREATE A BETTER ADVENTURE THAN YOU CAN IMAGINE

A Slice of AnnyWorld:

I admire my buddy Lorraine Watson.  She walked away from the safe tech world when she realized her life was not of her own making.

Her discomfort pushed her to discover, and then embrace, her own unique light.

Turns out that Lorraine’s being enjoys leading others along a similar path of self-discovery.  In that spirit, she launched a company called FOLLOW YOUR LIGHT.

But years before that, her being leaked out in creative ways that she didn’t always recognize at the time.  Take this example: When she used to regularly babysit her nephew, Lorraine would take him to a local tourist spot called Heritage Park, which depicted early 20th century life.

Every time they went, Lorraine encouraged her nephew to let his intuition, his inner voice, chart their path through the park.  The result was a different adventure, a different story, on every visit. 

I suspect her nephew retained much more of what he learned because his inner compass dictated when and how he picked up the information. As an added bonus, the adventures were much more fun for all of them.

For Lorraine it became a truth that she now shares with others: Following your own inner light guides you to make the best decisions for yourself.

In addition, it reminds her to “Let go of control, and fall into collaboration.”  in this case collaboration with your own being, or the beings of those around you.

Imagine what your next adventure could be like if you let your inner self, or your kids’ intuition, guide you instead of what a guidebook or museum map tells you to do? Perhaps you allow your kids to set the schedule for a Sat or Sun. family day, or allow them to do their homework in whatever order speaks to them that night?

On our next visit to the Art Institute or the Museum of Science and Industry, I’m gonna ask Madu to lead me around.  Can’t wait to see where we go!

Can you suggest other ways we can encourage our kids, and ourselves, to follow our inner compass to create amazing adventures?

Purple Passion of the Fortnight: Maple Leaves

Purple Passion of the Fortnight: Maple Leaves

HeritageParkCalgary

Destination of the Fortnight: Heritage Park, Calgary, Canada

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Posted in Creativity, Empowerment, Imagination, Uncategorized by with no comments yet.

How Objectivity Breeds Success

A Slice of AnnyWorld:

Apologies.

I’ve been so busy revisioning my novel that time slipped away from me this week.

As I sat down to dash this missive off so I wouldn’t miss my own deadline, I realized that the exercise that took me away from you is what I wanted to share with you in this letter.

I had the privilege of participating in an all-day workshop with the renowned literary agent, Donald Maass.  He suggested that in order to make our books page turners, we had to infuse every page with micro-tension. (Here’s a definition of micro-tension.)
Micro-tension’s sole object is to trigger an uncertainty of some kind in the reader so she’ll read on to relieve her own uneasiness.

This is easier written than done. :-), especially when most writers see tension in their stories  that isn’t there.

That’s because when we’re in the emotional flow of our our stories, it’s impossible to stand back and see what’s actually on the page.

Donald Maass knows this, so he built detachment into his exercise–objectively revise/revision what you’ve written by reading it out of order.  This forces you to ONLY see what’s on the page, nothing more. Use a random number generator, which you can find for free here, to put your pages into a random sequence.

Reading out of order doesn’t allow things like weak dialogue or lame word choices to hide in our blind spots.  Sometimes all a page needs is an added phrase, or a deletion of a detail to pull the reader/listener out of her seat and into your world.

Though this exercise was created for writers, its usefulness extends far beyond those of us who are writing a book or story, etc. Imagine a lawyer using this exercise to strengthen her closing argument, or an entrepreneur using it to craft an inspiring business plan that results in their idea being funded.  A parent can use it to convince their daughter to do something, or not to do something.

Being able to craft a powerful message can help you in whatever you do.
Try this exercise out, and let me know what happens!

Purple Passion of the Fortnight

Purple Passion of the Fortnight

new-york-city-wallpaper

Destination of the Fortnight: New York City, home of The Donald Maass Literary Agency

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Posted in Creativity, Imagination, Thinking Outside The Box by with no comments yet.

Practical Creativity: To-Do Lists Made Fantastic!

My buddy Bonnie seems to have more hours in her day than the rest of us!  She balances a full-time job with parenting her son Wally, being a wifey to Craig, ice skating and playing the flute in a band.  Just writing that sentence made me tired. 🙂

But she wasn’t always this productive. Like many of us, she uses a to-do list to get the most out of her days, and like many of us, her to-do list often became an albatross around her neck.  She’d stare at it and either get overwhelmed, or uninspired, by what she had to accomplish.  And so would her son Wally. (She has him make his own to-do list for every weekend.)

Then it struck her…fun, novel stuff should be as valued as chores, practicing piano or whatever. So she started adding items to her list like get a Starbucks coffee, or get a mani/pedi.  Wally’s list might include things like go to Dunkin’ Donuts, or play soccer for an hour mixed in with make your bed, and do your math.

To make their to-do lists even more exciting, Bonnie and Wally use different colors for certain items on their lists, and sometimes use pictures, such as a soccer ball to symbolize soccer practice, instead of words to remind them of what they’d like to accomplish.

Now they both look forward to checking off the items on their lists, and as a result, enjoy fun, balanced, productive days.

Bonnie whipped this list up on the spot.  Notice the coffee doodle by Starbucks stop.

Bonnie whipped this list up on the spot. Notice the coffee doodle by Starbucks item.

So the next time you make a to-do list, think of Bonnie and create a fantastically fun one.  Then send me a pic of it so I can post it!

Purple Passion of the Fortnight.  I'd love to drink tea or coffee out of this cup!

Purple Passion of the fortnight. I’d love to drink tea or coffee out of this cup!

Destination of the Fortnight: Big Island of Hawaii..I've been but Bonnie wants to go.  Maybe she can sunbathe with the chap in the photo!

Destination of the Fortnight: Big Island of Hawaii. Bonnie’s pick–she’s never been and is dying to go. Maybe she can sunbathe with the chap in the photo when she gets there!

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