It’s Just a Dog…And that’s what makes them so extraordinary, Part 6 ~ by Joanne Jaytanie

This series is about sharing a bit of my friend’s lives with their dogs. In conjunction with acquainting you with the role my dogs have played in my life, and how they have influenced my writing.

I want to introduce you to another of my international friends, Dr. Kris Fawcett and her beautiful girl, Helvi.

Kris:  I first ‘met’ Joanne through a Facebook Dobermann group. I distinctly remember upon seeing a photo of Maya for the first time, pondering if it was ‘real’ she looked so stunning. And later, reading Joanne’s so raw and anguished posts with the losses of Tristan and Maya, I felt she was a person who loved and connected with her Dobermanns in a way that spoke to my heart so precisely. 

ME:  Please share your history of the dogs in your life. 

Kris: The first dog I recall at three years old was a German shepherd called Acorn…my first real connection was with a later German shepherd, Nimbus - he was a wonderful combination of handsome, affectionate, and protective companion for an only child. The first dog I personally owned was a beagle when I was in my early 20s. However, I truly had no really deep connection with a dog until our first Dobermann. We had been broken into and I wanted a Dobermann, so off we went. I remember meeting the breeders and being horrified their seven or eight Dobermanns were all through the house, lounging on sofas. I rolled my eyes at my partner when they said ‘once you’ve had a Dobermann, you'll never have any other breed.' And here I am 21 years later with my fifth Dobermann.

Saba, Kris's first Doberman

ME:  What part do your dogs play in your life, and how important are the dogs in your life? 

Kris:  I can only maybe best answer this in context of my seven years with Helvi, who I lost on 19 September this year. Everything revolved around her, even before she became ill (dilated cardiomyopathy and chronic hepatitis) - the hours I worked, the car bought, what I ate, where and when I went out/met friends, holidays I took, where and when we walked, friends I made, where I shopped. I took her absolutely everywhere I could, spent as much time with her as I could. When she became ill, I felt it was my whole purpose to provide for her care - to keep her happy and healthy as long as I could and disprove the 12 months prognosis I was given. That was my motivation each and every day. It all pales into insignificance when I think of how much she gave me during her short seven years…from very dear friends I made through her - online (quite a number of whom I have met in person), and at parks to getting me out of bed on a ‘dark day'. Every year I took her birthday off work to give her an extra special, spoil day. My dogs have made every day of my life better. The best part of my day was coming home to their pure and uncomplicated happiness. Given without expectation. Every Day. That defines my relationship with my Dobermanns.

ME: I’m fascinated with my international friends and their lives with their dogs. 
Kris: Brisbane, Australia has become increasingly dog friendly so my dogs have had the benefit of many cafes, restaurants, bars, the Post office, my hairdresser, some retailers… any dog ‘event’ from the Million Paws Walk for the RSPCA, to a Sunday ‘Bark n Brews' at a local bar! My last birthdays were deliberately held in dog-friendly bars just so Helvi could share in the celebrations. It was so wonderful to have strangers come up to pat and chat - Helvi was very social and loved all the attention she considered quite rightly her due!
I have also organised several Brisbane Dobermann meet ups for their dogs to play and ‘talk dobe'. This has also been a great support group. My dogs have all loved trips in the car - even if just to the pet shop - but especially loved the beach and high, unenclosed off-leash parks.
Hahn and Eva, Kris's 2nd & 3rd dobies

Me: Do you vacation or take trips with your dog?

Kris:  Not really actually though Helvi did enjoy a couple of flights to Sydney for Christmas with nan. I have to say I loved many a staycation with them just doing things we both enjoyed - parks, the beach, dining out, meeting up with friends…

Me: What is your definition of the love you have for your dog?

Kris:  At the end of my life I will say no other single thing in my life will have given me so much joy, calm, purpose, happiness, and finally, heartbreaking pain in my life. Worth every single tear.

~Helvi with Hette~
Helvi stayed in this world just long enough to teach her baby sister, Hette, the basics... 

I was very blessed to grow up in beautiful Christchurch New Zealand. As I mentioned, I grew up with some wonderful German shepherds there - this I think contributed to my love of large, intelligent breeds. They were perfect companions for an only child.

My father, stepmother and I migrated to Brisbane, Australia in 1986. Though at the time I was miserable about it, I feel very lucky to live in this amazing country. At heart I am still a kiwi though!

Encouraged greatly by my father I started medical school in 1988 and completed my MBBS in 1994. Without his motivation and support, I wouldn't be a doctor today. He himself had wanted to be a vet - he was a big animal lover.

Very sadly I lost the most influential figure in my life to suicide; this has however made me a better doctor in that it enabled me to better grasp the enormity of grief. My dear Dobermann Eva was my saving grace through that time - another reason for my huge gratitude for having these amazing creatures in my life. ♥️ Today, I live with my fifth Dobermann, Hette, now six months old. Having not had two-legged children, my dobes are my kids. I enjoy working four days a week in skin cancer medicine which is really busy as I live in the melanoma capital of the world! My non-vocational interests include architecture and design, reading (a lot!), wine and food events. And Dobermanns! 

Having a dog has been very very social for me - I have made some very wonderful, close friends through my local dog parks. And it’s such a joy when I’m out walking and see someone looking miserable then they see my dobe and their whole face just lights up. Dogs are just pure happiness and love!

Kris, thank you so much for sharing a part of your life. I can’t begin to count the number of conversations via text messaging we have shared. We’ve talked at lengths about life with our dogs and consoled each other over the devastating grief of losing our girls. I’m grateful for all of your support and sincerely honored to call you my friend.  

Kris’s interview sparks memories of my sweet Kes. In my book, Payton’s Pursuit, Kes is Payton’s dog. When Payton's not busy managing The Winters Corporation, she loves to spend her free time loading up her dogs and heading to the dog show. I’ve had book reviewers say they are surprised at how much detail I know about the dog shows - from dog show people, no doubt. I should. I spent years packing up our van and trailer and heading off to shows. When we weren’t working, you could find us at a dog show. And while all my Dobermans were active in some compacity, whether it was obedience, rally, agility, or breed/conformation, Kes is the dog I’m writing about today. She was the mother of Anya and Captain and the grandmother of Maya and Tristan. Being Payton’s dog, Kes is the Doberman on the cover of Payton’s Pursuit, and I wrote her true to life. 

As far as showing dogs is concerned, Kes was my once in a lifetime Doberman. Kes and I were also a team in agility and trained in obedience. The Doberman ring is extremely competitive, and even so, I showed and finished Kes to her American Kennel Club (AKC) Championship on my own. Kes was a dream in the ring. That girl could strike a pose every time, and I was in awe of her — another perfect memory that is seared in my heart.

So you see, even though The Winters Sisters is a fictional series, it also has roots in real life, past experiences, and treasured memories…

My Kessie girl…
So full of life…too shortly lived.

Until next time…

Looking Forward to 2019 ~ by Shannon Binegar-Foster

In my last post I talked about my “word” of the year. It took me several weeks to decide on my word for 2019. I didn’t feel like I chose wisely for 2018 as it was anything but “Limitless." 

I feel like I completely missed the mark on that one. Even though I published my second book and launched several new items to my product line, the sales were not there. 

I have been in a creative funk since the first part of November. Thankfully, I started creating again last week. I refuse to give up, 
so once again I chose very boldly. My word for 2019 is…

Something about that word empowers me and gets me excited about what great things are ahead in the new year. I am going to do my best to live up to my chosen word for 2019. 

I am close to finishing my 3rd Coloring Journal. In my personal life I began my wellness journey in January of 2008. There have been so many ups and downs in the past 10 years. I am armed with much more knowledge than I had then. 

I truly feel that 2019 is my year. I will be 49 on 4/19 so I just feel that 2019 holds great things for me. If you haven’t picked your word for the year take the next few days and reflect on 2018. Then chose your word and share it in the comments below. I can’t wait to see what you pick. 

On that note I wish you all a very Happy New Year. 

Our Musical Guests Dirty Rotten Scoundrels #originalitybydesign

 I've had the pleasure of hearing these young men several times and can say they are one of the stellar bands in the state of Iowa. I personally know Steven Rood, and thank him for sharing this blog with us today. Make sure to listen to the YouTube video. I guarantee it will make you want to get up and dance.  
                                                     ---Grace Augustine 

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

We started in November of 2014, as 4 guys with a love for the music of yesteryear and the desperate need to keep warm and pass the time during a brutal Iowa winter.

Singer/guitarist, Josh Adams, and our original drummer, Jake Blomberg, were roommates living on one side of a duplex and I, Steven Rood, had just moved in on the other side.

The three of us had been in bands together before, but at the moment were just enjoying being friends all living essentially under one roof, and bowling on Tuesdays.

After finishing a 2014 tour and leaving his previous band, Josh needed something to fill the musical void for the winter. So, one night after he and Jake had been listening to old albums from Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, they decided to head to the basement with a bottle of rum to try a few of these tunes themselves.

A couple nights later, they added some Elvis songs along with fellow friend, bassist, and Elvis super-fan. Tyler Frazier. I had also just left my own original band after a decade behind the drums and was feeling a little empty… Until I heard the three of them next door, playing the songs my folks raised me on, and it felt like I was being beckoned back home.

With Jake already filling the drummer role, I decided it was time to put down the sticks, pick up my dusty guitar, and head next door. And just like that, we were a band. 

Once we learned 5 songs together, we needed to learn 5 more. Then 10 more. Before long, the 4 of us were scouring the 50's and 60's archives, adding songs left and right, with pizza boxes and beer cans piling up.

Then, a friend of Josh's, who worked at a bar in Marshalltown, Iowa had their Friday night entertainment fall through and asked us if we wanted a paying gig. We had never actually planned on playing any of these songs in front of people. But, why not have some fun AND make some beer money?

So, if we were going to gig live, we needed a name. And what do you call four single, rum-fueled, 30-year-old misfits playing clean cut classics in matching suits? Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, that's what.

Several fun-filled weekends and many broken down vehicles later, that one small bar show turned into regular gigs in Des Moines, weddings, corporate events, casinos, 2016 presidential campaigns, and before we knew it, we had momentum.

In 2016, a great new job opportunity led our newlywed drummer to Colorado, leaving behind a vacancy in the band. And I couldn't think of a better person to pick up where Jake left off, than Des Moines legend, Will Locker, who I'd known for years, after touring with his band through some sketchy parts of southern USA.

Will was a perfect fit from day one, being a 60's style drummer that packs a heavy punch. And whenever Will's otherwise booked with his own projects, we are very fortunate to have our talented good friend Luke Rauch sit in on drums.

This month marks our 4th anniversary. We began working with a new booking agent which will help take a lot of logistical stress off the band going forward, and we couldn't be more excited heading into our 5th year as a band of brothers… thrilled and thankful to be filling up our 2019 schedule. 


We also just debuted our live jukebox feature: a real functioning full size jukebox with over 120 songs we've learned over the last 4 years. Audience members are now able to make selections on our jukebox and we'll play them live, resulting in a completely unique set every night.

Catch us on New Year's Eve at Wooly's in Des Moines, Iowa where we'll be playing from 9-10pm, with Pianopalooza ringing in the New Year!

Finding Connections ~ by Lexa Fisher, Romance Writer and Today's Guest

Connections are apparent to me where others usually fail to see any association. For instance, how could IT project management and romance writing be related? 

Computers do a lot for us, but they can also be a source of frustration and feelings of inadequacy. Loss of control is especially threatening when new systems or processes mean change. 

Romance writers are versed in emotions and understanding the driving forces behind them. We study how emotions are manifest in actions and words. Paying attention in meetings to reactions in body language, tone, and language can help facilitate conversations, de-escalate intense feelings, and arrive at solutions sooner. Noticing the little things like who needs a nudge to contribute in a meeting, or who could really use a small thanks takes no effort but offers big rewards.

Connections with others also provide unexpected opportunities such as being invited to a writers’ retreat or being able to share card designs with a respected artist. My favorite craft of making cards provides me with opportunities not only to connect with other crafters, but also to give a card-giver a way of connecting with someone else in a heartfelt way with a handmade item.

Characters in my seasoned romances—stories featuring characters over forty years old—focus on relationships that are built on trust and integrity. At this stage in their lives my heroines connect with reliable, honest men who aren’t intimidated by intelligent and competent women. Both want to connect at a soulful level. How a person treats others and how they speak of someone shows their true nature, in stories and in real life, details that establish fictional characters from the inside out.

Enhancing my professional life with my personal passion for writing allows me to get so much more out of each. My technical documentation is stronger because of the romance writing classes I continually take, and by observing reactions in meetings I can better match body language with my characters’ dialogue and behaviors. Craft and life are connected.

Lexa lives with her husband and spoiled little rescue cat in Seattle. Transplanted from Michigan decades ago she earned her BA at the University of Washington where she now works as an IT construction project manager. After a nightly workout, she pursues romance writing and crafting greeting cards. 

Lexa writes seasoned romance—romance between characters who are over forty. Her characters value integrity in a partner and a relationship founded on trust. Gratitude and thanks are predominant themes in her cards, and sparkle is always an element in her designs.

If she had to depend on her green thumb she wouldn’t survive a year, but for some inexplicable reason year after year she tries to grow edible plants.

You can find Lexa here:

The Ultimate Fan Girl--A Tribute to Gordon Lightfoot~by Grace Augustine #originalitybydesign

 photo: Canadian Music Blog

Most of my inner circle of friends know that I am obsessed with Gordon Lightfoot. I grew up in Northern Montana listening to his music on a Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada radio station and watched his early performances on the Tommy Hunter Show and Don Messer's Jubilee (both Canadian programs.)  I truly believe he is my reason for the innate longing I have to move to Canada.

I had the pleasure of meeting this incredible man following a concert in 1991 at the Paramount Theatre in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. We visited behind the venue while his roadies loaded the vehicles with his equipment. I found him to be a gentle, kind, soft-spoken man with a passion for music. I was thrilled that this meeting allowed me to gift him a barn-wood framed counted cross stitch of the lyrics of "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" that I had created. I knew once I'd finished it, he had to have it. Several years ago, Lightfoot was a guest on CBS's Sunday Morning program and while he was showing the interviewer the memorabilia and history of the shipwreck, I spotted my framed counted cross-stitch there on the wall with other pieces of history. Tears fell.

Photo: Pinterest

Gordon Meredith Lightfoot, Jr. was born in Orillia, Ontario on November 17,1938. He just celebrated his 80th birthday and is still performing. While he can no longer belt out the songs as in the past, his enthusiasm for music and his craft still shine.

In 1958, Gordon moved to California to study jazz composition and orchestration at Hollywood's Westlake College of Music.  He returned to Canada in 1960 and it remains his place of residence today.


He has performed with many different groups, hosted one-hour television specials, and toured worldwide. In 1968 at the Mariposa Folk Festival, his reputation as a viable songwriter gelled when Canadian singing duo, Ian and Sylvia recorded "Early Morning Rain" and "For Loving Me." Both of those songs were later recorded by Peter, Paul, and Mary.

Early Morning Rain  YouTube

1970 saw the recording of "If You Could Read My Mind" which became a huge hit in the US, selling over one million copies--earning him an industry gold record. On the heels of this successful song, came eight albums in the next seven years with such hits as "Sundown," "Beautiful," "Canadian Railroad Trilogy," and "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." 

In 2002, Gordon suffered a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm and was rushed to a hospital in Hamilton, Ontario. Surgery was performed and he remained in ICU in a coma for 6 weeks. His condition was grave. All remaining concerts for the year were canceled.

Photo: Pinterest

The adage of not keeping a good man down held true with Gordon. He signed a new recording contract in 2004 and released his 20th album of original songs. This man has received sixteen JUNO awards for top folk singer, JUNO awards for composer of the year, ASCAP songwriting awards, and a five time Grammy nominee. "Sundown" was named the 1974 song of the year by Music Operators of America.

Sundown   YouTube

In 1986, Gordon was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame. He also was made a Companion of the Order of Canada, the highest civilian honor. In 2012 he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in New York City.

Photo: The Globe and Mail

His hometown of Orillia, Ontario honored him with a bronze sculpture titled "Golden Leaves-A Tribute to Gordon Lightfoot." This sculpture features Lightfoot sitting cross-legged playing a guitar under an arch of golden maple leaves...each representing something from one of his songs on his Gord's Gold 1975 duo album.

Photo: Pinterest

To date, Lightfoot has 19 studio albums, 16 compilation albums, 3 live albums, and 1 tribute album. He has written and recorded more than 250 songs and penned many, many others.

Lightfoot works out six days a week, continues touring, and doing interviews. If you have a chance. I highly recommend you see this legend. In my opinion, no other singer/songwriter has contributed to the music industry's depth, knowledge of this art, and compassion for music for 7 decades as much as the incomparable Gordon Lightfoot. 

There is only one Gordon Lightfoot. He has captured my musical soul, and he is pure gold!  I leave you with my favorite Lightfoot song..."Song for a Winter's Night."

Song For a Winter's Night  YouTube

Merry Christmas by the Orginality by Design Members

We all have our Christmas Story~Ralph Duncan

One of my first memories of Christmas goes back to 1953 (I think). My family was living in Kodiak, Alaska at the time. My dad bought me a new train set along with a model town and train station to go with it. He spent most of the night setting it up and getting it running, and had it running when I woke up on Christmas day. 

The way my dad told the story, I walked into the room past the tree, stepped right over the train set up to some other gift “Santa” had left for me. Well, who knows, but, my Grandfather had his own version. He saw the picture of the “town” sometime later that year when we moved back to the lower 48 and pronounced that he “knew that town” and had been there many times.

I had no idea that some 65 years later this would be one of my strongest childhood memories and probably my first and Christmas memory. Out of that year, during those short days of winter in the north, came some of my most favorite memories of the season. 

These days, it is about the season for me, about the
meaning and the making of new memories. I relish the feeling of the season, the buzz, the songs, and yes even have to admit to more than a few Hallmark movies. The last few years I have tried to make some piece of art to mark my favorite time of year. Here are a few. 

This year my thoughts are with a young father long ago, who, very later one night, with a newborn on the way, desperately search for a safe place to rest his family. I have known what must have been his worry and the fear of wondering how they would make it through that night.

I made a simple piece I titled, “No Room at the Inn.”  

The streets are dark; the door is locked. No one will offer a safe place for this young father and his family. The only place he could find is in the barn with the animals. But, that night, his family became arguably the most well known and cherished family in all of history. It was a wonderful beginning. 

My wish for all of you is that you relish your memories, make new wonderful ones, and you find peace for you and your families.
Jacquolyn McMurray

May the joy of Christmas Day linger.

Grace Augustine

In my home we celebrate the birth of Jesus. So on this most holy of nights, from my home to yours...may you be filled with the love and wonder of this season. Merry Christmas.

Kristine Raymond

Merry Christmas from the Raymond family to yours. Wishing you a joyous day.

Christmas Magic is in the Air~by Joanne Jaytanie

We spent our holiday season at the happiest place on earth, Disney World. It was magical — the perfect place to celebrate the season. One night we had the opportunity to see, The Christmas Candlelight Procession. The orchestra and chorus were fabulous. As I listened to the music, I thought of the hours and hours of practicing that went into learning the songs. I started picking out individual parts, and a flood of memories filled my mind — memories of my school years when music was not only my past time but my passion. 

I was one of those people who spent hours upon hours practicing. I played piano for years, which was beneficial for all the other avenues in my musical world. I played the French Horn for concerts and Mellophone for marching band. Then, there was my first love…singing. I was active in chorus, sang solos, duets, and was part of a quartet. I was active in musicals, once as a lead character, sang at All-State, and on weekends in my church choir. Music was my life, my escape, a place of peace and joy, the place I loved most. Christmas was the best time of the year. We had our Christmas chorus concert, band concert, and I sang every weekend at church-yes music filled the air.

As I listened to the Christmas Candlelight Procession, I looked around at the audience. People from all around the world were marveling at the wonder and beauty of the event. I wish every day was the Christmas season. It's during this time of the year that people have more compassion, more hope, more willingness to help. If we could carry the feeling with us throughout the entire year…the world could be a magical place.

Immerse yourself in the spirit of the season.


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from our members:
Cynthia Land
Kim Hornsby
Linda Boulanger
Victoria Zumbrum
Lori Crecelius Roberts 
Darlene Kuncytes
Chad Elliott
Shannon Bineger-Foster
Dennis Green
Ruth Ross
Jacquolyn McMurray
Ralph Duncan
Kristine Raymond
Grace Augustine
Joanne Jaytanie
You can find an up-to-date list of each member's blog posts on their personal page.

Happy Christmas Eve ~ by Darlene Kuncytes #originalitybydesign

photo: Pixababy

Happy Christmas Eve everyone! And happy holidays!

For my blog post this month, I decided to write a bit about traditions. About, celebrating the holidays and how we need to hold on to the feeling this season brings, and not just until the credit card bills start to flood in.

We need to remember at this time of year, and with all the craziness going on around us in the world today, what matters most.

It doesn’t really matter what holiday someone celebrates. What matters is that feeling it brings to our hearts. That feeling we sometimes lose as we grow older. That feeling that we really need to find again and hold on to for dear life. Because, when it’s all said and done, those memories are the only things that truly last.

Remember as a child, practically bursting with uncontained excitement?

Close your eyes, and remember. It was everything.

The lights, the decorations, the hustle and bustle, but in a really great way. It was that incredible feeling hanging in the air wherever you went.

It was electric. 

Photo: Pexels free

It was something I wish I could bottle and safely squirrel away on a shelf somewhere, so I could pull it out when needed. It’s a feeling I wish we could feel every day for the rest of our lives.

But…we have to grow up. We have responsibilities, and we tend to lose that particular feeling. If we're lucky, we still get excited by the amazing little things in life, but the butterflies in our tummies at the thought of what Christmas day would bring is for the unbiased wonder of youth.

Think back to the night before the celebrated holiday. You no doubt were so excited you could barely sleep. You were anticipating what the morning would bring as you nervously tried to will yourself to sleep.

This is what I’m talking about. It was amazing!

I love traditions. I love hearing what others do every year. I love creating new traditions that perhaps newer family members will carry on for generations to come. I love remembering the times we shared with those who are no longer with us.

The Christmas after we lost my father was one everyone in my family knew was going to be really hard to get happy about. We knew there would be an enormous void.

My father LOVED the holidays. Every year, even a few in sub-zero temperatures, he was outside hanging lights, and he would always come in from decorating and wistfully say that he knew no one would do it after he was gone.

That first Christmas after we lost him, and every year since - and he has been gone 17 years now, I decorate the outside of my house no matter what.

I do it for him. I do it for me. And, I do it for my neighbor across the street who tells me every year how much she enjoys sitting in her living room at night, and looking out to see my lights... That it makes her heart so happy.

Photo: pinterest

These are the little things. The little pleasures we can still achieve as grown-ups.

I wanted to keep this short. I want everyone to relax, and enjoy their evening. No matter what you do.

In closing, I want to say whether you are waiting up for Santa tonight, or you celebrate by lighting a Menorah, or whatever you do this time of year - do it with love in your heart. Do your very best to hold on to this amazing feeling for as long as you can.

The world can be a pretty scary place for us adults, but it doesn’t always have to be. Let’s do our best to accept and love each other. To do something for someone who may be alone. To keep this feeling alive all year round.

Thank you all for allowing me into your lives.


SKETCH? OR PAINTING? And why is the sky blue? ~ by Ralph Duncan

(from a Collector’s point of view)

Since a lot of my work has been done with only pencil and paper, many viewers have often asked about my “sketches.” Now, it really doesn’t bother me (that much) when someone calls my draws, sketches. But really, a piece that takes 40-60 hours of work can hardly be called a sketch. To me, my drawings are my attempt to communicate to the viewer a thought – a story – or a feeling. Very much like a writer. Somewhat like the writer, the artist has various "tools" as his or her disposal to create a storyline.

Other comments I get include something like, “the subject seems to “pop out” from the background. When that happens, then I feel like I am on the right track and have connected with the viewer. But this does not happen by accident.

One of the techniques I employ is known in French as Repoussoira–loosely translated, “to push back.” This is clearly illustrated in the photo here. There is no question that the mountains are far back in the distance behind the magnificent Mountain Dog.  

The drawing just would not look right if the mountains were rendered in the same detail as the subject. The eye would be confused.  And here is the communication part. When the eye is confused, so is the message. But, the real interesting part here is that absolute accuracy is not necessary, because even though our brain will pick out the contradictions, the eye and the human brain will fill in the gaps, as long as you follow certain rules.  

Most of us know the basics: 
1. Large figures in front
2. Less detail in back
3. Overlap objects

Although we may not know why. As an artist develops a piece of work that has a lot of depth, he or she knows that the objects in the back have less contrast, they are dimmer, and their borders become blurred (il mezzo confuso). And here is the most interesting part of all— is where the border between science and art also becomes blurred.

What we see and experience is the result of a trick our atmosphere plays on us.  It is something known as "Rayleigh Scattering." The great genius Leonardo DaVinci knew all about this and referred to it as aerial perspective. Objects in the distance are lighter, less defined, more tightly clustered.  Contrast is reduced in the background. The more atmosphere between the viewer and the object, the more pronounced the effect. It all has to do with those little tiny particles carried in the air and their size in relation to what is known as the wavelength of light. 

This is why contours are softened – the light “information” is degraded by the earth’s atmosphere – particles in the air are smaller than the wavelength of light and therefore they scatter or diffuse the light.  

And yes, here also lies the reason why the sky is blue. The color BLUE is scattered most (therefore we see it more) because it has a very short wavelength - and is most pronounced closer to the ground because the heavier particles sink (such as fog, smoke, pollution) and there are more of them.


So, are they sketches? Ok, sure, if you like. But to me they are much more. They are explorations in perspective - an effective use of techniques to deliver a message. They are also an exercise in story. 

Let me know if you get it.  Enjoy.

Five recommendations: how much editing do you need? ~ by R.R. Saucier

R. R. Saucier, Editor, Writer, Observer

No matter what you edit or write—fiction or non-fiction--this story has something for you, since it seems unlikely you’ll ever get more than 200 highly-educated editors to submit edits on your work.

What happened. I have the dubious distinction of having been the main author and editor of a College Self-Study report* for accreditation. Dubious distinction, because this sizable document is definitely not a barn-burning best seller, never going to be a gripping read--but it is a critical document for any college.  

To get employees to read the document, we incentivized** editing drafts of the chapters. Over 200 employees of the college submitted edits, several submitting more than one chapter. That’s a lot of viewpoints from a lot of intelligent, educated people.


The results turned out to be fascinating.     

There were almost no duplicate edits (less than 1%). Think about that. No matter what kind of edit—content, fact-checking, grammar, punctuation, style, word usage, spelling, formatting, consistency, citations—there were virtually no two people finding the same errors, making the same suggestions, offering up the same solutions to the same problems. The people behind the edits were college faculty, staff, and administrators. Nearly all of them held college degrees, everything from an associate’s to Ph.D.s—with bachelor’s and master’s degrees predominating. Not a slouch in the bunch, as my mother would have observed.

We’re not talking mistakes here.  Sure, some of the submissions were either wrong or not consistent with our publication style sheets. And let’s face it, take a look at the over 1,000 pages of the Chicago Manual of Style. It’s enough to intimidate the hardiest grammar nerd, so mistakes are going to happen. But we’re not talking about whether they got it right or wrong. The edits were for different issues…each hopeful editor was finding unique problems according to their own understanding of language and editing.

Brain maps. The edits submitted were consistent (i.e., the same people submitted the same kind of edits). Unique brains make for unique editing. If you have a big-picture, organization-oriented brain, you submitted edits that had to do with content, organization, and structure. You rarely touched a misplaced comma. These big thinkers were our developmental editors; they were rare, but we cherished anything they caught.

The middle-ground folks submitted grammar, style, usage, or logic issues. Occasionally they dipped into the minute details of a proofreader, but mostly they stuck to copy editing level issues.

And then there were the proofreaders. Heaven preserve them, because every little bitty error, every missed period or extra space, was theirs to pounce on and eradicate. While they crossed over into usage or grammar on occasion, they almost always caught the myriads of little things the copy editors overlooked.

When it came to overall editing, though, there were five or so of the 200+ who were really good at it; five born-again editors…and they weren’t always professors. They were administrative assistants and other staff who were excellent editors with skill sets that ranged more widely across the three kinds of editing and eyes that saw much more than all the rest. 

After all that we had a pretty darn good draft. But then we hired a technical writer to go through it again, and guess what? After every chapter had been read by at least 20 people, she submitted even more edits than any of the five amateur born-again editors.

Conclusions.  Some random deductions in pursuit of an answer to How Much Editing You Need:

1. You need more than one editor. You need a lot of them, unless you’re really good to start with and you hire one or more really good professional editors on top of that. People with a penchant for editing and a skill set to match are rare beings. So just having Mom read your stuff like she read your 8th grade report on Venezuela isn’t going to cut it.  
2. You need editors with different brains than yours—ones that see issues you don’t. There are three types of editing largely acknowledged by the writing world [developmental, copy editing, proofreading], and there’s good reason for that. Circumstantial evidence from this experience says your brain is going to be good at one of the three and maybe okay at a second. You need good editing brains from all three categories–because no matter how good you are at [pick one], you need someone to double check your work. So just because you hired a pro who is a really good editor, doesn’t mean that pro is the best editor for you. 

3. Education doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a good editor.  While colleges have long acknowledged the need to teach writing across the curriculum, just because your history teacher grades your paper on grammar, doesn’t mean she’s as good at it as your English teacher. Your degree in geology, geography, philosophy, or foreign cultures doesn’t always mean you can write, much less edit. Even English teachers come in flavors, some specializing in literature, some in language. You need people who have the skills and temperament to be excellent editors, and that isn’t necessarily a function of college degree…so your uncle the brilliant biologist who publishes groundbreaking research may be the family prodigy, but it doesn’t make him a great editor.
4. You need to polish your own skills. Why? If you’re hiring a pro, shouldn’t they get it done? Think about how many times the accreditation manuscript was edited. Every time new eyes brought different refinements and error corrections. The adage about seeing the forest for the trees (or vice versa) applies here.  The cleaner the manuscript, the more chance an editor has of getting all the remaining issues right. Even editors are human, and if they are faced with a barrage of errors, some are going to slip through. Ask your editor(s) to suggest common problems for you to unlearn. They will thank you for it, you will get a better result, and you might just save on editing costs down the road!  AND,

5. You’re in charge if you’re publishing your own stuff.  So when one of your many editors says, “This is wrong,” you need to take their word for it if you haven’t polished your own skills. As the ultimate judge of what needs to happen in your manuscript, you are a little like that gifted basketball player who decides he doesn’t need to know math or contract negotiation or physical therapy, he’ll just hire help.  But that only works if you know enough to figure out who to trust, who is good at their job, and who to hire. 

In summation.   Buy your own copy of the Chicago Manual of Style and learn how to use it. Figure out the mystery behind apostrophes (please!) and use the Oxford comma (or I will hurt you). Solicit a group of readers to give you feedback and keep the ones that are useful. Find a good editor [or two] who knows what you need. Polish your own skills--because dammit, Jim, you’re a writer!***

* The self-study is an exhausting and exhaustive document that describes how well a college fulfills strict standards. Self-Study reports are mandatory if your institution wants to be accredited [judged worthwhile]. Regional accrediting organizations [that are, in turn, certified by the U.S. Department of Education] examine your report and visit the college to verify the college’s claims. And yes, colleges have been ordered to change or be closed if they don’t pass inspection. So why do colleges go through this process? If they want to award federal financial aid, they need to be accredited—and you should never give a college your money if they can’t prove their accreditation by a regional association certified by the US Department of Education. If you’re suffering from insomnia, feel free to try the report at this website: Olympic College-Accreditation Report    Go to “Reports and Self Studies” and click on the link for 2013 Year Three self-evaluation.

** In order to involve the college personnel—to incentivize them to read and review the report before it was submitted—we asked our Foundation for some prizes. Why? Because everybody at the school has a full-time job and helping edit the report was not on the top of anyone’s urgent list (except, of course, mine). If you read and edited a section of the report, you were entered in a drawing for a $700 Apple gift card. That got a lot of attention. There were multiple sections, so you could have multiple entries. 

*** Dr. Leonard McCoy, Various, the original Star Trek.


  Foiled and hand-colored card   I continue to bring in cards to the food bank where I volunteer weekly. Since we are past Mother’s Day, I’v...