Wake Up Your Creativity with Art Before Breakfast.

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Do you wish you could carve out a little creativity in your day, but are convinced there are not enough hours in the day?

We know the feeling.

But despair no longer! Artist Danny Gregory, creativity guru to thousands across the globe, is here to help with this unique guide. Serving up a hearty helping of inspiration, Gregory offers 5 to 10 minute exercises for every skill level that fit into any schedule – whether on a plane, in a meeting, or at the breakfast table – along with practical instruction on techniques and materials, plus strategies for making work that’s exciting, unintimidating and fulfilling.

So why should you make art part of your everyday? We will let Danny take the lead here…

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But not only that, art can fulfill so much more…

BE-HERE-NOW Art stops time. When you draw or paint what’s around you, you see it for what it is. Instead of living in a virtual world, as we do most of the time these days, you will be present in the real one. Instead of focusing on all the things whirring in your head, you will be able to stop, clear your mind, take a deep breath, and just be. You don’t need a mantra or a guru. Or an app. Just a pen.

TELL-YOUR-STORYLife is just a long succession of small epiphanies. You need to stop and seize them. By making art, you will be recording what you are living through and what you are learning about it. A drawing and a sentence or two in a sketchbook turns those everyday moments into something significant. Your art will set a frame around it and give you perspective on what really matters. Over time you will build up a book of memories—a true record of what’s important in your life.

WELCOME-TO-THE-WORLD It’s not perfect, but it’s beautiful. And the most beautiful things have character and walnutsexperience built into them. There’s a lot to learn and appreciate in a chipped mug, a half-eaten apple, the tiny lines in the leather of your dashboard. Making art will show you how much you already have. Your real treasures. A brand-new Maserati is a lot less beautiful to draw than a rusty old pickup.

SUDOKU You will never be bored or waste time again. Every day is full of those moments between activities. Waiting in the doctor’s office, watching mindless TV. Instead of reading tweets on your phone, you’ll make a piece of art. Every minute of your day counts. Make it worthwhile.

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We all live in chaos. It’s the natural state of things. Physicists call it entropy—everything is always changing and unraveling and ultimately turning into cosmic mush. That’s why your desk gets cluttered and your calendar gets filled. It’s physics.

Creativity is the act of shaping the mush of the world around us into something—of creating your own order. I’m not talking about going crazy and compulsive with a label maker and color-coded files. I’m talking about having a vision of what you want things to be like and moving toward it.

I assume that, deep down, you want to have more creativity in your life—that’s why you have this book in your hands. But you just don’t know how to fit it into the chaos of your day. There are always too many things to do, too many obligations and chores that take precedence over you. Maybe you think to yourself, “Sure, I’d love to make art, but I don’t have the time to indulge myself right now. Maybe on the weekend, on vacation, when I retire, etc.”

But creativity isn’t a luxury. It’s the essence of life. It’s what distinguishes us from the mush. And it’s why our ancestors survived while other less adaptive critters perished. They responded to change by being creative in some way, by inventing a new answer to the chaos.

And that’s what you need to do to make the most of your life, every day of it. To be inventive, open, flexible, in touch. To have perspective on what matters to you. To deal with change without being overwhelmed. And that’s what creativity offers you.

Creativity can become a habit that fits into your life, like Pilates or flossing, only a lot more fulfilling. You just need to shift your perspective on what it is to be creative. It doesn’t mean you have to be a full-time artist. It doesn’t mean you need lots of training or supplies. Or time. It doesn’t mean you need to be a so-called expert.

You just have to be you—and express what that means.

ART-BEFORE

Art Before Breakfast is out now,find out more about here.

Want to find out more about Danny Gregory? You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and on his Blog

Show Us Your Shelves!

A life lived orderly is something we dream of here at A&CB, with our shelves bowing with books. So, we are taking steps forward with inspiration from Fritz Karch and Rebecca Robertson; experts in the world of styling, collecting and decorating. Their new book Collected: Living with the Things You Love in chock full of thoughtful style demonstrating both the beauty and the whimsy at the heart of collecting.

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Pg. 91 Image credit: © Vivian Pickles

Collected runs through 15 styles; THE Modest-ist, THE Exceptionalist, THE Minimalist, THE Maximalist, THE Miniaturist, THE Colourist, THE Neutralist, THE Machinist, THE Zooloogist, THE Containerist, THE Artificialist, THE Naturalist, THE Seasonalist, THE Pragmatist and THE Fantasist. Separated into chapters, Karch & Robertson delve into the psyche of these categories and illustrate each with beautiful photographs of prized collections. We, of course, were drawn to the gratifying displays of books.

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Pg. 90 Image credit: © Dana Gallagher

We are pretty sure our shelves are erring on the MAXIMALIST end of the spectrum, they are definitely full of books of all shapes, sizes and genres. So we took inspiration from Karch & Robertson and found new beauty on our shelves. What do you think?

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Got your own beautiful collection of books? Share your #shelfies with us on Twitter & Instagram.

Secret Sidekicks – D.James’s Personal Assistant

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The Who, The What, and The When; and illustrated love letter to the people (and pets!) behind some of histories most legendary figures.

Meet, JOYCE MCLENNAN 1943 – D. JAMES’S PERSONAL ASSISTANT

When Joyce McLennan takes a London bus to work, the slender woman with patrician features arrives at the Holland Park home of multi-award-winning English writer P. D. James, the queen of British mystery, creator of detective and poet Adam Dalgliesh. She is also known as Baroness James of Holland Park, OBE, FRSA, FRSL, recipient of seven honorary doctorates and four honorary fellowships, and a life peer in the House of Lords; but, after thirty-seven years of working together, to McLennan the esteemed author is simply “Phyllis.” McLennan was hired after the publication of James’s seventh novel.

McLennan’s intelligence and organisation complement her natural kindness. James notes in her autobiography, Time to Be in Earnest, that McLennan is “unfailingly good-tempered,” a quality James could count on as her popularity rose and, with it, the demands on her time: “She is high among the small group of friends on whom I can rely to keep me sane.” Their process evolved from McLennan’s original job as part-time typist, working from home and raising two young children. Then, James would dictate a tape from her handwritten notes. McLennan or her husband, Mike, who worked for James’s publisher, Faber & Faber, would often pick up the tape, sometimes hidden at James’s side gate in a large china pig. Today, McLennan transcribes into a computer and prints pages for James to edit, leaving the famed mystery author to concentrate on research, plotting, and writing.

The increasing time needed to attend to the business side of being a successful author found James and McLennan tackling the mail together, which soon spread to modern e-mails and includes requests for photos, autographs, signed books for charity auctions, interviews and advice. When James travelled, McLennan would deal with incoming mail and day-to-day matters in her absence, leading James to say: “What would I ever do without her?” In recent years she has taken to accompanying James on longer trips.

Working alongside a popular figure serving on various committees, McLennan’s support sees the baroness through all of these activities, from chairing the Booker Prize panel of judges to a sixteen-year tenancy as president of the Society of Authors. After James’s appointment to the Church of England’s Liturgical Commission, McLennan’s humour showed in her response to its bulging paperwork. She created a file labelled “God.”

McLennan has remained an unobtrusive ally to James, someone UK journalist Kate Kellaway terms “secretary, friend and all-round prop.” James hints at the closeness of their relationship in her Author’s Note from 2001’s Death in Holy Orders: “I am particularly grateful to my secretary, Mrs. Joyce McLennan, whose help with this novel went far beyond her skill with a computer.”

Both genteel women appear most unlikely a duo to be so steeped in murder and betrayal. Yet the work ethic to produce complex mysteries persists, and when James recuperated from cardiac issues in a private Oxford hospital, McLennan travelled from London twice a week to help finish work on the most recent Dalgleish novel, The Private Patient. James is known for her sense of setting and the psychological depths she brings to her mysteries, as well as her strong descriptions, as in this excerpt from that same novel: “There was only the crack of the smashed bottle, like a pistol shot, the stink of whisky, a moment of searing pain which passed almost as soon as she felt it and the warm blood flowing from her check, dripping onto the seat of the chair, her mother’s anguished cry.”

McLennan’s calm, steadfast backing has allowed the author to continue writing into her nineties, yet she is rarely photographed or interviewed. A native of Pinner in the Middlesex area, McLennan is now a widow, and with her boys grown and out on their own, she shares her home in the west London suburb of Ealing with two cats, Tyler and Rafferty.

After decades of Joyce McLennan’s service as James’s trusted aide, it should come as no surprise that when James combined her two lifelong enthusiasms—writing detective fiction and the novels of Jane Austen—to create her sequel to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, she chose this fitting dedication for 2011’s Death Comes to Pemberley:

To Joyce McLennan

Friend and personal assistant who has typed

my novels for thirty-five years

With affection and gratitude

written by MARNI GRAFF

www.auntiemwrites.com

illustrated by JULIA ROTHMAN

www.juliarothman.com

Secret Sidekicks – EDGAR ALLAN POE’S FOSTER FATHER

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Partners and Spouses,

Muses and Lovers,

Relatives and Assistnats,

Neighbours and Friends…

These are the unsung heroes of history.

Discover another literary #SecretSidekicks from The Who, The What, and the When:

JOHN ALLAN 1779 – 1834EDGAR ALLAN POE’S FOSTER FATHER

John and Frances Allan of Richmond, Virginia, brought Edgar Poe to live with them in 1811, when he was two years old. Edgar was an orphan. His father, David Poe, had died sometime during the preceding year, his mother, Eliza, early that December. At first, the informal adoption by an affluent businessman without children of his own seemed like a happy one: Frances

Allan and her maiden sister, who resided with the Allan’s, doted on the boy. Household accounts show that Edgar was well provided with books and toys, and in his correspondence John mentions Edgar often and with pride. In surviving early letters, Edgar addresses Allan as “My dear Pa.”

But by the time that Edgar Allan Poe was a student at the new University of Virginia in 1826, something in this relationship had gone wrong. The evidence is incomplete and conflicting, so it is hard to tell exactly what transpired. Poe claimed that Allan, having agreed to support him in his studies, left him without sufficient funds to pay his tuition, room and board. He was forced to turn to gambling, he said, as a last resort to pay his bills, and he ended up in debt. For his part, Allan seems to have formed a bad opinion of Poe’s character during the boy’s adolescence, calling him miserable, sulky, ill-tempered and without gratitude. He claimed that he had come to Charlottesville to pay all of Poe’s debts, apart from those incurred through gambling. It’s not clear whether he indeed did this, or whether he did or did not help Poe find employment later on that year.

What caused the rift? There is no satisfying answer to this question, though Allan’s own biography offers some clues. During Poe’s childhood, Allan suffered financial losses when his attempt to establish his trading business, Ellis & Allan, in London failed. Could this have made him feel less generous, or act less patiently toward his foster son? After the Allan family returned to Richmond, Allan was unfaithful to his wife. Poe, who was devoted to Frances, may have known about this, disapproved, and treated Allan coldly. Whatever the reasons, the fact remains that what started as a warm, supportive relationship devolved into fractiousness and mutual dislike, such that Allan in his “recommendation” for Poe to West Point wrote: “Frankly, sir, do I declare he is no relation to me whatever.” When Poe’s foster father was dying, he went to visit him. (John Allan was remarried by then and had a legitimate heir). Edgar had to physically push aside John’s second wife to get to him. As he approached, Allan raised his cane to strike Poe if he came closer and ordered him out of the room. This was the last time that they met.

Allan’s influence on Poe, then, is complicated, to say the least. He was the reason that Poe gained an education. He took Poe abroad, his first and only journey outside the United States. This encounter with the Old World, with the long settled, storied landscapes of England and Scotland, fed the settings of Poe’s fiction. But what about Allan’s rejection of Poe, whether justifiable or not? Allan was one of a list of parental figures to abandon Poe during his young life. So many of Poe’s stories center on houses and families that have turned from noble and grand to unfamiliar, decadent and broken, and on people who at first appear to be one thing but are actually something else entirely. The uncanny, the unheimlich, is most fundamentally a feeling that the skin may slip off the world at any moment, that what is familiar, homey, and welcoming may turn strange and hostile without warning. Clearly, Poe’s early experiences could have engendered such a sense of things. This cannot be attributed entirely to John Allan. But Allan’s apparent inconsistency, his inexplicably altered affections for his foster son, can’t have done anything to dispel this frightening outlook that so permeates Poe’s fiction.

written by EMILY MITCHELL

sites.google.com/site/lastsummeroftheworldbook

illustrated by BYRON EGGENSCHWILER

www.byronegg.com

Secret Sidekicks

 

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The Who, The What and, The When -A love letter to the unsung heroes of history. Including some literary geniuses…

Ever wondered who inspired Roald Dahl’s stories?

SOFIE MAGDALENE (HESSELBERG) DAHL 1885 – 1967

ROALD DAHL’S MOTHER

An old, wrinkled grandmother fills out every inch of an armchair, chewing with relish on a foul-smelling black cigar, in the Witches, one of the many popular children’s stories written by Roald Dahl. Smoke encircles her large body as she tells the young main character the “gospel truth” about how to identify witches. “She was a wonderful story-teller and I was enthralled by everything she told me,” the character narrates.

The description purposefully echoes how Roald thought of his own mother, Sofie. He based the grandmother’s character on her in a tribute to “undoubtedly the absolute primary influence on my own life,” Roald says in More About Boy, an expanded version of his memoir of his earlier years.

The Norwegian Sofie married Roald’s father, Harald, in 1911, and she moved to Wales to be with him and his two children from a previous marriage. She had three children of her own, two girls and Roald, before her seven-year-old daughter, Astri, died from appendicitis in 1920. Only three weeks later, Harald also passed away from pneumonia, leaving a pregnant Sofie alone to raise her soon-to-be five children.

Rather than return to Norway to live with her parents, she respected her late husband’s wishes that she stay in Wales and have her children educated in British schools. And despite her children’s mischievous activities while growing up, she was “a rock, a real rock, always on your side whatever you’d done,” Roald noted. “It gave me the most tremendous feeling of security.” Roald was her favourite child, and although the family called him “Boy,” she also called him “Apple.”

To entertain the children, Sofie told tales, pulling creative inspiration from folklore from her home country. “When we were young, she told us stories about Norwegian trolls and all the other mythical Norwegian creatures that lived in the dark pine forests, for she was a great teller of tales,” Roald wrote in More About Boy. “Her memory was prodigious and nothing that ever happened to her in her life was forgotten.”

Roald reciprocated this creative storytelling when Sofie enrolled him into boarding school when he was nine years old. He started writing letters to Sofie, telling stories about his life that meant to entertain and amuse.

In one letter in 1929, after Sofie gave him a pair of roller skates for his birthday, Roald tells his mother about skating in his school’s yard. “At one time I had eight chaps pulling me with a long rope, at a terrific lick, and I sat down in the middle of it,” Roald wrote. “My bottom is all blue now!”

From those very first letters until Sofie died thirty-two years later in 1967, he wrote her at least once a week whenever he was not home, including his time in school, when he worked with the Shell Oil company in Africa, and when he flew with the Royal Air Force in the Mediterranean during World War II.

Sofie secretly collected every single letter, amounting to more than six hundred from 1925 until 1945, into neat bundles with green tape, according to Roald. Only one term’s worth of letters are missing: the fall of 1928, which were damaged in a bombing in 1940. At the bottom of each letter, he signed his love with his given name—all except his first semester at boarding school, when he simply wrote “love from Boy.”

written by JACKI E LEAVITT

www.jackie-leavitt.com

illustrated by J ENSINE ECKWALL

www.jensineeckwall.com

The Who, The What and the When: 65 Artists Illustrate the Secret Sidekicks of History, reveals 65 people you’ve probably never heard of, but who helped shape the word as we know it. Muses and neighbours, friends and relatives, accomplices and benefactors, such as Michael and Joy Brown, who gifted Harper Lee a year’s worth of wages to help her write To Kill a Mockingbird. Or John Ordway, the colleague who walked with Lewis and Clark every step of the way. Each eye-opening story of these unsung heroes is written by a notable historian and illustrated by a top indie artist, making The Who, the What, and the When a treasure trove of word and image for history buffs, art lovers and anyone who rejoices in unexpected discovery.

Want to find out more? Follow the #SecretSidekicks hashtag!

#OfficeWornStories – Francesca

Today we are continuing our celebration of Emily Spivack’s Worn Stories with a tale of over priced merchandise and underage festivalling from our publicity intern Francessca.

My Worn Story –  A t-shirt from an under-age festival in 2008

What can I say? I was 14, my hair braided so tightly to my scalp that I had lost most of the sensation in my temples and I was going to my first ever festival. Too young for the sex and drugs, I decided it would have to be the rock-and-roll that would see my friend and I through, and I think I may have been right.

I bought this shirt after a lot of umming and ahhing about the price, wondering what my Mum would say when she found out I’d spent £15 (the equivalent of 4 whole magazines and a bottle of diet coke) on a T-shirt, that, she would later claim, “never really fitted anyway”. After scrambling through the crowd, crumpled notes in my hand, I grabbed the nearest one that looked like it might fit, and promptly ducked to avoid the vast array of hands reaching towards the counter. It wasn’t really until later that I actually got to look at it properly.

Every band of the festival was there, splayed across in bright colours and I remember the feeling of wanting to tick everyone off like a list. And I’ll be honest, I nearly did. Florence & The Machine (when they were still doing covers because they hadn’t written enough songs), Glasvegas (who have indeed always looked that hungover), The Gallows (I maintain that no one’s skinny jeans should be quite that skinny, and a thousand names I didn’t get the chance to see. It was an experience made flesh, or cloth rather, and I wore like a badge of pride. It beats the bruises that I seem to wear from other gigs I’ve been to since.

Now it seems to only be brought out as pyjamas or when I have done washing in a while, but it still holds the feeling of standing in a field, surrounded by people, music blaring so hard I could taste my heartbeat, and feeling like the coolest person in the entire world.

– Francesca

Share Yours! @AbramsChronicle #WornStories

Worn Stories by Emily Spivack -PAPress – OUT NOW!

Worn Stories – Piper Kerman

You know they say a picture is worth a 1000 words, well Emily Spivack has proven that an old item of clothing is worth even more.

In her book Worn Stories, Emily has collected tales from cultural figures & talented storytellers. These narratives, or more accurately mini memoirs, are inspiring & a beautiful account of everyday life. By turns poignietn, tragic and funny Worn Stories is a little tapestry of the everyday, sewn together by old items of well worn clothing.

Keep reading for Piper Kerman‘s (author of the memoir Orange is the New Black) contribution!

Piper Kerman:

I have loved vintage clothing since I was in high school, thrifting the racks or raiding my grandparents’ attics and closets. I attended a lot of morning college classes clad in old men’s pajamas. Skinny-lapeled men’s suit jackets over miniskirts were a favorite in my twenties. I’ve worn crepe dresses from the thirties and forties to friends’ weddings, and when I was getting married I found my fiancé the white silk suit of a dead Chinese diplomat to wear on the big day (I got one of the diplomat’s wife’s cheongsams for me).


In my professional life I’m less inclined to wear vintage. When I was caught in a criminal case in federal court in Chicago in my late twenties I wore my most sober gray and brown pantsuits to court arraignments and plea negotiations, because when you’re appearing on the docket, believe me, you wish you could disappear into the woodwork of the courtroom.

However, when I went to Chicago for what I thought was my final court appearance, my sentencing, camouflage was not an option. I had taken a plea deal—95 percent of criminal defendants do. As your case wends through the system, you barely speak in court; the prosecutor and defense attorney do most of the talking. Unlike 80 percent of criminal defendants, I could afford to hire a lawyer, and I was lucky that he was a very good and experienced one. He had advocated long and hard with the prosecutor on my behalf, and then the day came where his work and my case would be decided by the judge, a Reagan appointee to the federal bench.


Most criminal defendants wear whatever they are given by their attorney or family to their sentencing; a lot of people are too poor to afford bail, and so they have been wearing jailhouse orange for many months before ever getting their day in court. I was much more fortunate; when I flew to Chicago to be sentenced to prison, I had three choices of court attire in my suitcase. A cadet-blue pantsuit, a very severe navy coatdress, and a wild card I had packed at the last minute: a vintage fifties pencil-skirt suit I had bought on eBay, in a coffee and cream tweed with a subtle sky blue check. It looked like something a Hitchcock heroine would have worn.

“That’s the one,” said my lawyer, pointing to the skirt suit. “We want the judge to be reminded of his own daughter or niece or neighbor when he looks at you.” For someone standing for judgment, the importance of being seen as a complete human being, someone who is more than just the contents of the file folders that rest on the bench in front of His or Her Honor, cannot be overstated. To enter the courtroom ready for whatever would happen, I wanted to be dressed to represent me, which was much more than a few months of my life ten years past. The eBay suit worked as a counterbalance to my decade-old neck tattoo (which would serve me so well months later in prison), two visual signals on the opposite sides of the scales of justice on that day.

Piper Kerman is the author of the memoir Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, which was adapted into an original television series for Netflix-Official.

Photo ©Ally Lindsay
Extract from Worn Stories by Emily Spivack, pp79, published by papress, September 2014.