“Z” marks the spot

When it comes to world building, I think inventing iconography is one of the most important (and fun) things an author can do. I wrote an entire post on the subject as part of my Crafting Kingdom series last year, but I thought I would post some of the icons I’m working on for my new project.

This book revolves around one specific place that has to do with travel. So keys, doorways, and possibility are all important elements of the setting. As usual, I started off with some rough sketches in my note book:




Afterwards, I played around with the design on my computer:



Since I was about to teach a class on iconography, I decided to mock up a “final” version . . . final, because, in my process, nothing is every final until the very end. In this version, I decided to go very simple and employ a turquoise and gold scheme. I’m also not sure about the motto. Actually, I’m not even sure if I want one! Nonetheless, here it is for now . . .


Not that this design will ever end up in the finished book. Really, it’s meant to get me thinking about my world in a different way, and to keep me refreshed for the next round of writing. After all, I need plenty of breaks from writing, and I consider these types of projects to be a lot more helpful than pursuing all those other distractions!


The Wizard Nymm

I’ve been writing a lot lately and, for me, that process also involves a lot of sketching.

For me, characters always start as an image. Sometimes that image is in my mind. Other times, that image comes out of a doodle, and then gets refined.

That has been the case with one of the characters I’ve been developing for my latest project. I needed a wizardly character, and he originally came out of this page of brainstorming in my notebook:


I then refined the sketch:


As you can see, at first, I thought he would look old and wizened. But as I wrote, and the character began to speak, I realized he was spinning out of my control and leaving behind this initial visual design. As usual, I got stuck and ended up floundering on my keyboard—though not for long. Because I followed the advice I always give to my students. I retreated to my sketchbook and began drawing and reimagining.  I ended up producing this new sketch:


As you can see, he is a lot more imposing now. Of course, his look and feel may continue to be refined. But so far, I’m pleased because the sketch accomplished its main purpose: it reinvigorated the character for me and my words once again began to flow . . .

Secret doors discovered at West Vancouver Memorial Library

I wrapped up a “Secret Doorways” workshop yesterday at the West Vancouver Memorial Library. In this workshop, I had students of different ages and interest levels in writing and reading, so I was glad I chose to focus on inspiration rather than writing technique.

One of the main things I always try to demonstrate in my workshops is that writing is not just sitting at your computer or staring at a piece of paper, hoping for a lightning bolt to strike you in the back of the head and inspire greatness in you.

I believe the best way to get ideas is to “do.” That means using your hands: drawing, doodling, or—in the case of the Secret Doors workshop—constructing.

Or, to put it another way: Brainstorm!

After a quick Mr. Wiz Quiz (in this case, we did “So You Think You’re a Wizard?) to break the ice, I led the students in a presentation about famous doors in literature and mythology. I also showed them the door that I had built for Kendra Kandlestar and the Door to Unger.

Door to Unger prop

Een Museum - Door to Unger.

Then it was time to get to work. The students used a simple brainstorming sheet to solidify their ideas, and then rolled up their sleeves and got to work with their actual building, using pre-cut miniature doors and shapes.

I’m continually amazed by the results! Being St. Patrick’s day, we had a few shamrock-inspired creations!














Introducing my aunt

. . . well, not my real aunt, but a fictional one. This is a new character in the project I’m working on.


When I showed this sketch to my creative writing class, one of my students piped up, “She looks like one of those cubicle people.” I have to admit that this comment pleased me. Because that’s a sentiment that captures the very essence of this character.

Black out poems from my young writers

One of my favorite activities to do in my creative writing workshops this past year has been black out poetry, which I first learned about in Autin Kleon’s Steal Like An Artist. Usually, I supply the raw source for this activity, depending on the theme of the workshop. For example, I’ve used ancient myths, folktales, or even Christmas carols.

However, I decided to approach this activity differently in my writers’ club. These writers are older and a bit more experienced, so I printed off random pages from their existing manuscripts then had them “carve out” their own words to create an original poem.

I was really pleased with the results. This activity kind of ended up combining editing and looking at personal writing in a whole new way.









Just a few more doors from Japan

Here’s the last few doorways I managed to snap during my trip to Tokyo. All of these come from the Sensō-ji temple and the nearby market.

I found this quaint doorway in a side alley to the main market. I usually focus only on the doors in such scene, but the bike and the color of the walls were too good to pass up.


I liked the following door because it felt like a modern version of a traditional Japanese door.


My favorite doors are old, weathered ones . . .


This was a large set of doors at the temple . . . unfortunately, this was as close as I could get; I would shave liked a detail shot of the key hole.


Same with this door; it was protected by a barricade, so I couldn’t get closer.


This door had a nice set of colors.


. . . and I loved the scratches and wear-and-tear around the handle.


Presumably this is to an apartment. I liked the patterns on the facade.


And, finally, here is a nice detail of a red temple door. I particularly liked the hinges.