Art as Meditation

Abiqui Mountain-Ghost Ranch,
Abiqui Mountain-Ghost Ranch,

I yearn to return to New Mexico. My body is here in California but my eyes, and mind, are on the sandstone mountains of Abiqui, searching the expansive deep blue sky.

Five months ago I was privileged to join a group of 100 women writers, poets, artists for a week at Ghost Ranch in Abiqui, NM. We were there to participate in A Room of Her Own (AROHO) writer’s retreat.

A part of me stayed at Ghost Ranch, perhaps in a bluff, tucked into a crevice. The longing is so strong that I am returning in April, for the Gathering of Nations Pow-Wow in Albuquerque.

While at Ghost Ranch I met a warm, personable young woman, Karina Puente, an artist. As AROHO’s 2013 Artist-in-Residence, Karina facilitated daily watercolor classes. In the evening she set up her easel and drew writers’  portraits on a single piece of paper.

“My current muse is a brave woman, unafraid of challenge and patient with process. She is an ancestor…made of black charcoal and salt water.” Karina Puente


Her final piece, Women Who Sit, is a morphing wonder. She shares, “For the AROHO Writers Retreat Project, I drew 15 writers’ portraits on a single piece of paper and used stop-motion animation to document the drawing as it changed, resulting in only one woman’s face with many stories beneath it.” 

We are like that aren’t we? One face with many stories beneath the surface.

On Karina’s website the writer says,

“When the world seems dismal, Karina can discover –through her paintings- hope, confidence, and imagination. Drawing becomes a meditation.”


I like that quote: hope through art, drawing becomes a meditation.

This is the video: Women Who Sit.

Now take some paper and pen/crayons/watercolors/pencils and go meditate.

Books, Chingonas, Travel, Wisdom, Writing

10 Tips to a Gripping Lede

AROHO Writer's Retreat, NM
Morning view at Ghost Ranch, NM

This morning I woke to the prison gray sky of my coastal town making me nostalgic for the turquoise New Mexican sky above the biting burros of Ghost Ranch. The memories I am left with are photos, mosquito bites, fragrance of hay and red clay, the sound of laughter, heart breaking words, and wisdom from inspiring women writers.

AROHO’s Retreat for Women Writer’s filled me with more than memories and new friendships but also with valuable information about the craft of writing. Amazing poets, writers and artists shared information to help others, to give new perspectives to old topics, to enlighten, energize and invigorate words and writing. These women are bien chignonas of the third kind: generous, strong, and creative.

For the next few weeks I’ll intermittently share some of their information, their words of wisdom, and hope that it will help you in your writing.

The first writer is Jennifer Steil, the author of  The Woman Who Fell from the Sky.  She is a journalist, novelist, creative non-fiction writer, and generous soul.

Author Jennifer Steil

She shared 10 tips to a gripping lede. A  little history lesson first.  The spelling of lede was to distinguish the word from lead, a strip of metal separating lines of type in the very earlier days of newspaper reporting. A lede is the first line, lines or the first paragraph of a magazine or newspaper article which also includes most of the five W’s and the H.

With Jennifer’s permission, here are the 10 tips I jotted down:

  1. Establish curiosity in the readers mind. Whet the appetite. Be creative with a purpose (the lede must be part of the story).

    “Millionaire Harold F. McCormick today bought a poor man’s youth.” – about an organ transplant

  2. Jolt your reader:Include a detail that differentiates it from others. A telling detail.
  3. Use an arresting image (related to the story).

    “Bad things happen to the husbands of widow Elkhorn.”

  4. Use active verbs: someone did something
  5. Don’t start with an attribution. (said, or meandering clauses).
  6. Use an analogy to lead. This explains the unknown.
  7. Word play leads. Use playful ways of beginning:

    Snow, followed by small boys on sleds. – Allen Smith NY Telegram, in a weather forecast

  8. The writer has 3.7 seconds to get someone to read their story. What makes the story interesting?
  9. Give a character lead. Give a portrait of the subject with two or three sentences.
  10. The lede has to have something specific to tell the reader. Keep the lede short, 25-35 words.

To be honest, Jennifer gave us a couple of more tips but these are the ones I had time to jot down. Check out her website and FB for other information. Her new book, The Ambassador’s Wife, will debut in 2014.