Monday, June 26, 2023


 Knowing that artists and other creative professionals join the Arizona Authors Association, I use this column to explore both technical and creative means by which our members can expand the effectiveness of their personal and professional experiences, as well as the impact of the works they produce. 

In my last article, I discussed the promotional as well as sales opportunities provided by trips beyond our home area. Regardless of whether speaking engagements are included, travel can offer multiple chances to introduce ourselves to the general public and professionals who may work in fields related to ours.

By planning our journeys with care, we should be able to enjoy each phase of our travel experiences. There’s no way of knowing who or what we may encounter along the way, but I can state positively that I have established new readers and organizational contacts, with whom I have remained in touch beyond our initial meeting, at events or at points along my journey. 


As we move into the third quarter of the year, the majority of us are facing a considerable increase in the heat we will experience on many days. Therefore, when deciding to embark on a trip for personal and/or professional purposes, I urge you to choose aspects of travel that can serve multiple purposes. Despite the challenges of the season, are there variations in the potential pleasure of the very mode(s) of travel you choose? Which mode may provide the greatest likelihood of meeting people with whom you will enjoy conversing, and who may prove useful in enhancing your journey and even future life experiences?


At this time of year, there are a multitude of literary events in which authors and readers of their books can partake. Some are one, two, or more days in length. Even if you are unable to participate personally, you may be able to schedule someone from an organizing body to man a booth for you—or at least a slot of time within the event. If you are a member of the organization, you may not need to pay for such services. Conversely, depending on your circumstances and schedule, you may want to hire someone to represent you for one or more occasions. If so, you may need to sign books in advance that will be offered for sale, or provide book plates with your signature.

 Because people often take vacations at this time of year, families (that believe the perils of COVID have abated sufficiently) may choose to schedule a large gathering. Even when such an assembly may seem wholly personal, there will be opportunities to announce one’s latest project and/or upcoming events featuring our books or other artistic creations. At this time, two members of my husband’s family are regular readers of my Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mysteries. With their expressed disappointment that there has not been a new offering since COVID, I have been pleased to announce the forthcoming release of Yen for Murder, the fourth volume in the series.

Companies and community organizations also use this time of freedom from schooling and/or work to plan teambuilding events that may include their employees’ family members. In addition to participation as an organizational member, you may find such events ideal for your complete or partial sponsorship. Perhaps there will be an event flier, ad, or brochure in which you can place promotional images or text. You might have images of yourself or one of your creative projects printed on T-shirts for members of something like a little league soft-ball team.


In several articles, I touch upon the importance of one’s appearance in our interactions with the public. Often, authors and artists feel there is no reason to be concerned about the look they project. In fact, many feel that projection of a casual (or even lackadaisical) look is an indication of their artistic professionalism. To this perspective I ask, “How does such a choice leave a positively impressive memory of you...and the potential quality of your work?” An opposite argument can be that the elegance of one’s dress and coiffure might indicate that one’s work is not equal to one’s appearance.

Admittedly, there are times when a less-than professional appearance is appropriate to our activity, such as hanging an art exhibit, or dashing to a printer to finalize materials required for a public showing of our work. However, one’s preparations for an event are not complete until we are prepared to greet other professionals and attendees of the event.

I recall an instance when the director of a large metropolitan event completed technical preparations for the annual occasion almost single-handedly. Unfortunately, he subsequently appeared on television disheveled, wearing the same attire in which he had moved sets and furniture throughout the day. While the focus of the evening was admittedly on its participants, it would surely have helped the image of, and support for, its sponsoring organization for him to look professional.

Beyond toiletries, cosmetics, and emergency items of clothing, I suggest that we carefully plan how we will look throughout a journey—and at the events in which we may participate. Since it is possible that our luggage may not make it through every phase of a trip, try to carry essential items for maintaining the quality of your “look” on your person or in a handbag and/or carry-on pieces. If you are using a vehicle to transport clothing and promotional materials, you will need to check that the items on which you will rely are available at each point at which you stop. Men may often find it useful to pack multiple ties, handkerchiefs, and cufflinks. Beyond the packing of items for our toilette, dressing, and promotion, it is also useful to carry materials for cleaning stains as well as a small sewing/repair kit.


While business cards are the traditional staple for greeting people one may meet, authors and artists have more visually stimulating pieces to distribute during our travels. I have found it particularly useful to wear a jacket with pockets. During the warm seasons of the year, this means wearing one that is not heavy, or even lined. One friend, who is an artist, always makes a point of wearing a scarf or jacket that offers one or more images of her work.

For me, the ideal choice is wearing something that offers an image suggestive of Hawai`i. In my pockets I carry folding business cards and bookmarks with images of my mysteries. In my handbag I usually have fliers describing the mysteries and/or special events or releases of new work. Sometimes I even carry small packages of candy or nuts from the islands. But because one cannot know who may have allergies to such items, they must be packaged and kept away from other objects I might distribute.

Wishing you the best in your creative adventures, 

Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, author, narrator, consultant, and motivational speaker
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Jeanne Burrows-Johnson is an author, narrator, consultant, and motivational speaker who writes works of fiction and nonfiction. She is the author of the award-winning Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mysteries, featuring pan-Pacific multiculturalism and history in a classic literary form that is educational as well as entertaining. She was art director, indexer, and a co-author of the anthology Under Sonoran Skies: Prose and Poetry from the High Desert. Drawing on her interdisciplinary experience in the performing arts, education, and marketing, her authored and co-authored articles have appeared in literary, professional, and general readership publications such as Newport This Week, Broker World, the Hawai`i Medical Journal, and The Rotarian.

Monday, June 12, 2023

How writers can benefit from Tai-Chi - by Vijaya Schartz

 My love affair with Tai-Chi started over a decade ago, with two writing friends from my critique group, who wanted to exercise, to compensate for the long hours of writing, sitting in front of a computer. But they were older than me, had never been to a gym, and had a few health issues, so they didn’t want to exert themselves doing strenuous aerobics. They were looking for some mind-body discipline with a meditative or spiritual component, like yoga, but more active.

I had exercised intensely most of my adult life, but not for several years, and I decided it might be good for me to do something physical, get back into the swing of things slowly, gradually, instead of rushing into high impact exercises. So, I agreed to take that brand-new Tai-Chi class with them, close to where we lived… but I didn’t intend to do it forever. I saw it as a short transition to “real exercise.” As soon as I shed a few pounds to look decent in yoga pants, I was going back to the gym.

It’s funny how things work out. I had a solid background in Japanese martial arts (Judo, Karate, Aikido), and I soon realized the connections with Tai-Chi, which, I learned, is not just beautiful, flowing movements, but a Chinese discipline practiced by all the great martial artists. They do it to keep their skills sharp, as every form is a soft version of a fighting move. It also works with gathering and redirecting energy.

An in-depth study by the Harvard Medical School determined a slew of health benefits for recovering patients who practiced Tai-Chi. Here are some of them from the very long list of improvements: balance, posture, muscles, bone density, metabolism, weight loss, cardio function, stamina, glucose processing, cholesterol levels, joints flexibility, sleep, healing, memory, brain power, relaxation. It also relieves stress, pain, inflammation, depression, ADHD… and the list goes on.

From the first class, I was hooked. I fell in love with Tai-Chi instantly. I found such peace and serenity by emptying my mind, focusing on my body and the flow of energy, executing complicated moves that forced my mind to work in different ways. Tai-Chi is both mental and physical. Mind and body are involved. It has been called Meditation in Motion, and Stillness in Motion, and for good reason.

During the pandemic I practiced a lot to compensate for the lack of social activities. After practicing Tai-Chi for over ten years, I was offered an opportunity to teach. Now, I teach seniors four days a week, in Glendale and in Surprise, west of Phoenix, Arizona. Recently we celebrated World Tai-Chi Day at Sahuaro Ranch Park, and I was delighted to see so many of my students show up for the occasion.

I still take classes to improve myself. Right now, I'm studying the Tai-Chi Pole technique with my teacher, the head of Southwest Tai-Chi, Charles Gill.

Tai-Chi, also helps me focus on my stories and my characters. The warriors in my books benefit from my knowledge of Martial Arts. If you like action and adventure with a hint of paranormal and romance, check out my titles at these online outlets.

Vijaya Schartz, award-winning author
Strong Heroines, Brave Heroes, cats

Monday, June 5, 2023

Comics' Evolution into Graphic Novels - by Kathleen Cook

When I was a kid (and probably you too) comics were not a serious literary genre. Boy, are we old fashioned! Nowadays, comics/aka/graphic novels are the most popular genre for teens, but even adults are reading more graphic novels, such as George Takei's They Called Us Enemy, Marjane Satrapy's Persepolis, and Art Spiegelman's Maus.

Graphic novels represent one of the biggest surges in high school and college libraries across the nation. Some of them, such as Marbles by Ellen Forney, are used in psychology courses and as literary resources.

So, maybe it's time for you to get on the graphic novel bandwagon. But what do you do if you're an author like me, with virtually no artistic talent? Well, have you tried AI? Although I'm a complete novice at Stable Diffusion, one of the best "free" AI art programs available, I had some success with it over the course of a few minutes of playing around.

When I typed in "old woman at a well holding a bucket" it gave me an image. Not perfect, but heck, not bad. I'll have to fix her hand, which is obviously too long, but that's not as hard as generating a picture from scratch. Please note that this art has never been seen before anywhere, and is perfectly and totally copyright free. 

Here's another image I generated. I typed in "old man with two grandchildren" it gave me an image, which isn't a real grandpa and those aren't real kids. They're AI generated. 

Sure, I'll need to fix a couple things, but you're talking absolute neophyte here, not an artist. I can't even draw a straight line if you hand me a titanium ruler! For me, I'd say I'm going places with AI. 

If you want black and white sketches instead of color, I typed in "Elf in the style of Lord of the Rings." It gave me an acceptable image. Not bad! I could see myself creating a graphic novel with this! As you can see, even those with zero artistic talent can manage a graphic novel nowadays, with a little help from their digital friends at Stable Diffusion. There are other products out there as well, but this is the one I know the best. Check them all out!


So, is there a downside to writing graphic novels? There are two obvious ones. Firstly, many of "our" generation don't consider graphic novels to be "real" reading. That attitude is changing, and the number of parents and grandparents buying such reading material for their kids has risen from 31 percent in 2021 to 37 percent a year later. As perceptions change, you may find this “downside” has disappeared except for a few die-hard purists.

The second downside is that graphic novels are targeted by ultra-religious groups for book bans. Depending upon your graphics, you may find yourself banned in certain conservative districts. If you're careful not to offend them, you'll probably be fine. And if you aren't careful, you may find your book even more popular. It's funny how many unknown novels have become known because they were banned!

So consider this genre for your summer writing project. If you are an artist, this should be a great venue for you. And if you aren't, play with Stable Diffusion and see how easy it is to do a great job in this genre. Happy writing/drawing! 

Kathleen Cook is a retired editor and the author of more than twenty books. A former copy writer/editor for Demand Studios, she also served as the Fictional Religion Editor for the ODP (Open Directory Project) in the internet’s early days. She is currently the Arizona Authors Association Editor as well as the Website Administrator.