Friday, September 11, 2009

Creativity unleashed

To view samples of my art, please visit Creativity unleashed or Art and Writing by Sandra Yuen MacKay. I do have more recent work but you'll have to come to Vancouver to view it!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What more is there?

September has arrived and I'm in full swing for the fall. I've been editing a manuscript over the past month after receiving some good advice from an editor. My sister is reading another of my manuscripts to see if it is ready for publication. I trust her judgment. Also yesterday I was part of a panel that presented to 170 students from different disciplines about stigma and mental illness. We were very well-received. I felt relaxed during the event even though last week I was stressed about it.

Today I had a curry chicken lunch that costs a dollar at a place downtown. I attended a games day there, played blackjack and had friendly conversation. Speaking of food, I'm having dim sum with relatives tomorrow. My birthday is on Friday and I plan to volunteer at a sales table for the Art Studios at Vancouver General Hospital. Then it's to the PNE on Saturday.

Next week I'm entering a juried exhibition with six of my paintings. Walking forty minutes a day really helped my stress level. Also getting more sleep is good too. What have I learned? Take each day as it comes, one step at a time. Don't worry about the future or things you can't control. I've experienced lots of change over the past several months. I feel productive and content.

What more is there?

Friday, August 7, 2009

I'm ba-a-ck!

Back from the beach vacation, I turned on my computer to check my email as I'd been without it for a week. I got to bed after 2 a.m. because I was doing a final edit of Hell's Fire. I uploaded over 200 photos to my computer from my digital camera. The pictures are mostly driftwood, tall trees and ferry scenery. I hope to use many as references for paintings. We had the perfect vacation, if there is such a thing. The weather was sunny and hot. We hiked on trails, waded in the ocean, shopped, ate well, drove to Courtenay and explored other areas. I picked up some bargain books and read on the beach and at the ferry terminal. There was a one sailing wait both ways, but it was worth it. You can reserve, but we didn't.

Coming home, I was a little sad it was over. But sometimes a break puts things into perspective. There's more to life than rushing around trying to get somewhere. A timeout is a breather, a time to reflect and relax. Sometimes I rush so much, I lose focus of what's important, like my health and values. Being healthy means perhaps a longer life, a better life. Values are things I desire to have in my life, but don't always strive for because of lack of foresight and things that cloud the issue. I value relationships, but don't always make an effort to foster them. I confess I complain at times, but in the larger picture, what's the beef?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Packing up

I'm packing up and leaving. I'm not moving, just going on an annual vacation to Parksville on Vancouver Island. We're going to be a little early to take in the Canadian Open Sand Sculpting Competition, a world-class event held in August at Parksville beach. During August, there are lots of things going on like volleyball and croquet tournaments, fireworks, and a bike-a-thon. There's a water park, skate board park, tennis courts and lots of space to fly kites. The beach is usually crowded with families tanning and swimming. The tide goes far out and the water is warm and shallow. It's not Hawaii or Miami, but I look forward to returning every year.

We visit Coombs where there is a market with goats on the roof, Little Qualicum Falls, Cathedral Grove full of huge trees, Qualicum Beach, and Nanaimo to shop and look around. We enjoy walks through Rathtrevor Park and in Parksville. There are several antique shops and used bookstores in the area. Some of the resorts are expensive but because we aren't paying for airfare to get there, we sometimes splurge and try out new places.

The Tigh-Na-Mara Spa Seaside Resort, Madrona Beach Resort and Ocean Trails Resort are popular. For a smaller budget, the Paradise Sea Shell Motel or VIP Motel will do. The Sea Edge Motel is right on the beachfront. On the Old Island Hall Hotel site, there are condominiums for sale starting at $400,000 for one or two bedrooms. Some condos include two beds plus a den. Timeshare is also available in a number of new developments. With Parksville going upscale, the city hopes to improve tourism.

I plan on taking my camera to get some nice shots of the beach at various times of day. I use the photos to create paintings of driftwood and sunsets. Driftwood isn't new subject matter for artists, especially in the island community, but my style is very recognizable. Enjoy your week. I know I will.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Reflection on perfection

So as the weather changes, so do I. I had a rough week. I was tired, short-tempered and ready to pounce on my unsuspecting housemates. So I took a breather and tried hard to relax, which involving walking, talking, and sleeping. I watched some movies on our new plasma flat panel television and newscasts about the death of Michael Jackson. Some hail him as the greatest entertainer while others saw him as a tragic figure. In reflection, I can think of a few truisms. Fame can be fleeting and isn't always tangible.

Fame can do more harm than good to sensitive people. Life is short. You can't take it with you. Life isn't measured in dollars and cents. And death is inevitable. What is my legacy? What will people remember about me if at all? Will they remember my work history or university grades or will they remember my smile or laugh? I used to always look for the next accomplishment. Because I'd dream so big, I'd feel disappointment.

My life has improved a lot so I feel more content with who and where I am. I was feeling out of sorts but from someplace inside of me, I was inspired to paint. I looked at some photos I took last summer and decided to do another painting of driftwood. But it wasn't just another painting. It turned out to be one of my very best I think. Perhaps I'm entering a new creative phase of painting.

The other day, I had a conversation about perfectionism with two others. The consensus was that one can strive for perfection but perfection in humans doesn't exist. Making mistakes helps one to learn. If one never makes an error, would one ever learn? So out of mistakes and corrections, one learns resilience, knowledge, insight and compassion. No one is keeping tabs on Sandra's daily performance in her work and other activities. The only one keeping track is Sandra so perhaps it would be beneficial for her to not think so much about higher proficiency but have a more relaxed attitude and enjoy the time she has on this planet.

There are only a few deadlines or work schedule commitments that I have in a given month. I am fairly good at time management, however, when I have free time, it isn't really free because when I give myself a task I really work at it. Also I spend a lot of time mulling over things in my mind. So when I get busy, I get tired. It's easy to do the math, but maybe not so easy to say no and not take on more things. So for the rest of the day, I'm not going to launch into a new project. Instead I'm going to do as little as possible!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

At the crossroads

In the past year, doors have opened for me. I am more productive and have more stamina. I have taken on new challenges including a new job, writing new material, becoming a columnist for Majestic, and more opportunities for public speaking. I look at my calendar and things have really picked up. I confess I spend more time than I should on Facebook and email. Sometimes a phone call or face-to-face contact is better.

I'm at the crossroads in a way. I have different directions in which to grow. One is more involvement within the mental health community. The other is my quest to become a successful artist or writer. Where do I go from here? To aid mental health consumers, families, students and staff can be rewarding. I provide insights, information, encouragement, support, and a sense of hope. Families that feel isolated and unable to help a mentally ill sibling or child need to have their concerns heard. Students in related disciplines benefit from hearing my experiences, both good and bad.

As an artist, I feel I have ability but maybe not the skills or motivation to market my work. I know people enjoy my paintings, but I don't sell enough work to make it a feasible career right now. Maybe in the future, as I mature, my painting will evolve into something more intellectual or complex with more subtle variation. Finally, writing is my main focus these days. After six years of practice, rejection letters, tough critiques, reviewing others' writing and meeting other writers online, I think I've gained more ability to discern between good and bad writing. It was suggested to me that I consider writing children's books, or graphic novels to combine my art and writing.

For me, creativity is cyclical. I work hard for weeks on end to write the best I can. Or I spend hours on a painting totally engrossed. I might stop for a breather, but I keep going until I'm done. No one cracks a whip and says that I have to finish a piece of work by a certain date. Rather I want to keep on it while it's still fresh in my mind. If you break the flow, sometimes you lose a thought or detail. Also I need to keep consistency so I hold the novel in my mind as a whole.

Which road do I take? Is it possible to move in three directions at once? The answer is yes. Time management is the key. I like to have flexibility and variation in my schedule. However, I need time to smell the roses too. I think the proof is in the pudding. My experience in the past is that my efforts have had good results. I didn't need to sacrifice one choice over another to be effective. In fact, the people I meet, my job and other activities enrich my worldview and contribute to my writing and art.

I encourage you to keep focused on your life goals and values. As Mr. Spock says, "live well and prosper."

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Mission completed

Our presentation at the Ottawa conference was successful. We completed our mission. I received good feedback on my art as well. I attended many of the talks relating to occupational therapy. But I still made time to play hooky and take photos of beautiful downtown Ottawa, visit the National Gallery, and dine at some good restaurants and pubs. I and my co-presenters leisurely walked along the Rideau Canal and the Ottawa River and checked out Sparks Street and the Byward Market. I dropped into the Green Dragon, a store where my great-aunt still works at age 85. I also saw some friends who live in Ottawa.

Once our program evaluation of the Art Studios is finalized, we look forward to another presentation — this time in Vancouver. I also had a call back to speak at the University of British Columbia. I guess I made a good impression the last time. Some of the Master of Occupational Therapy students are coordinating a mental health awareness program and will have two or three speakers including myself. They expect a crowd of more than a hundred as they are inviting students in other disciplines.

Back in Vancouver, I got back on the horse (figuratively) and worked on my novel. After three months, the novel is complete as far as I can tell. It's roughly 240 pages. I spent a lot of time editing. I would like to thank my friend. She and I met for lunch and discussed my novel when it was in the early stages. She gave me some great suggestions, many of which I incorporated into my story. At one point it seemed like Mission Impossible, but after coming up with some new ideas, it worked out.

In my writing, I learn as I go. I hope to continue to improve. If anyone is interested in North American architecture, you may know that Arthur Erickson passed away May 20th. His memorial service is June 14th to be held in the Convocation Hall at Simon Fraser University, which he co-designed with Geoffrey Massey in 1963. I would like to say my father worked under Arthur Erickson on the design of the SFU library.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

National exposure

So I'm preparing for my trip to Ottawa to speak at and attend a national conference. First there was a mixup of the flight schedule. We had to rebook for an earlier flight so we wouldn't arrive late at night. Then when I picked up my tickets, they had us scheduled to leave the wrong day. So it was sorted out and all is well.

I've spoken at a conference before but the audience this time are occupational therapists from across Canada. I am not an occupational therapist but I'll be talking about collaborative practice of mental health professionals and myself, a receiver of mental health services, on a program evaluation of the Art Studios and my personal journey. Boring? Not at all. I'm going to have slides of my art and have prepared a very inspiring success story about how the 'system' has aided me.

The mental health system doesn't always get praise from their clients. Do I in some way fit the mold based on the philosophy of recovery? Some of the mentally ill fall through the cracks. They may end up homeless or addicted without community supports. Shouldn't the government try harder to alleviate the problems caused by their own mistakes?

I think Riverview Hospital should never have been downsized. I think if there were complaints about institutionalization and a desire to integrate the mentally ill into society, they should have improved the standards of the institution and put more low-cost housing, resources and supervision in place.

We were told we might be interviewed by the media after our presentation. The first time I was interviewed on television was when I made a comment about MP David Emerson crossing the floor from Liberal to Conservative in order to serve in the cabinet. I said, "It's like what flavour is it this week, what flavour is it next week." I spoke to my mother about it and she said that he did a lot of good things while serving as a Conservative to which I replied, "But he ran as a Liberal, mom!"

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Making progress

I wrote "Hell's Fire" off and on over a ten year period. It was a story, then a script. then a story again. It has great visuals and action and crosses genres. So I really thought it would make a good movie. My logline is: With the threat of earth’s destruction looming, Johnny Riggs goes on a mission to save his supernaturally gifted daughter Annie from alien abduction.

Novellas may be hard to publish compared to novels because of the word count. However, they may be printed in a collection if you have connections. I submitted "Hell's Fire," as a novella to Bewildering Stories. Eleven weeks later, the editor responded, accepting my story for online publication in late summer/early fall. I was ecstatic.

Today I sent them another novella to see if they'd publish it as well. I also sent a submission to The Bulletin. Despite these advances, my novel "Chocolate Days" has been on the back burner. And also my painting has taken a backseat to other activities. But you can only stretch your energy and focus so far.

 The other thing I've experienced are waves of internal conflict. Because of my illness, I developed a deep hole of self-pity and deprecation. Even though I've had so many successes and achievements, this hole still opens up at vulnerable times. One would think, I would "get over it" but self-stigma and negativity throw me off balance. So instead of dwelling on my disparaging self-talk, I vote that I get ready for summer. Pull out my shorts and sandals. Pack my bag for my Ottawa trip and enjoy the sunshine. The best remedy for the blues is to relax and have a fresh start everyday.

I'd like to thank my friends and family for their support. You know who you are.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

If you like it, why don't you buy it?

So I sold art cards at a Mother's Day Sale at the Art Studios. Attendance to the sale was so-so as our location was off the beaten track. However, I socialized with the public and other sellers. It wasn't a bad day. The sun was shining. In my experience, people say they can't afford original art but they'll pay for dinner or buy fashionable clothes. Buying art isn't a priority for some. Even less so, with the economic downturn. On the other hand, by selling art cards, my art becomes affordable.

The Traveling Art Show through the Art Studios took down an exhibit and mounted a new show at the Evergreen Community Health Centre, including some of my paintings. While they were taking down the show, people had great things to say about the art, but the question remained, "If you like it that much, why don't you buy it?" Maybe I'm being a little cynical, but if the paintings are of very good quality and well-priced, what's the barrier?

I volunteered at a family conference on mental health and I recognized many faces. People I met at talks, workshops and dialogues. It was good to reconnect. So I was told by two writers I respect that my May Musings column on the topic of character was my best yet. It was great to get that response. My novel is coming along. As I write, the story is becoming more intricate and involved. Remaining true to the advice in my column, I try to express character through action, words, emotions and thoughts.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The business of art

This painting contains a rhythm in colour and composition. I visited a gallery where I show paintings, and the comment was, "people like your painting but they don't know what it is." The owner was referring to an abstract painting called September (shown here) with colours of fall.

I have met others who don't understand abstract art unless they can connect it to something representational. Abstract paintings aren't like still life or wildlife paintings but instead the interplay of the structure, colour, balance and tension in the painting may evoke intellectual, psychological or emotional responses.

I went to an arts symposium yesterday, where there was a discussion about artists and marketing. One speaker I learned a lot from was Chris Tyrell, the author of Artist Survival Skills: How to Make a Living as a Canadian Visual Artist. He said that art is a business not based just on ability or talent. It means hard work. It may mean painting for a market which may not be the artist's first choice. But if it means one can profit as an artist, is it worth it? He said if you start a business and don't make money in five years, you shouldn't be doing it. That goes for artists too. This was interesting for me to hear because I've been painting since the eighties, but don't necessarily have a timeline for my art.

Marketing oneself is key to making it as a professional artist. Creative maturity to me means making successful art and polished writing. He said that most art purchases were from buyers who knew or had some type of relationship to the artist.

I have sold to people I know or who got to know me through my exhibitions. I have a mailing list to announce my shows and sales. I also have paintings on consignment and sell art cards with images of my paintings. Another speaker said that marketing yourself as an artist also means developing an elevator talk, something you can say in a few minutes to tell what you do. If you downplay your abilities, how will others take you seriously?

Many people have told me the colours in my paintings are notable so that's a strength I can talk about. So now when I talk about myself as a public speaker, artist and writer, I say it with confidence. Most people don't want to hear about mental illness. I fight stigma by talking about mental health in the work I do.

As a writer and an artist, I don't really want to choose one over the other. As a result, my focus is mixed. But I think they complement each other. I go through phases of writing and painting which are part of my creative process.

Are you worried about the war, Steven?

I painted this work in February 1991 when Saddam Hussein's troops were occupying Kuwait. I had visited my friend whom I often went to see and in the kitchen, my friend's brother was reading the newspaper. I wasn't sure if the Canucks had lost or if he was ill, but he looked saddened. I took the moment to grasp a pen and sketch when he wasn't looking.

A few days later, I painted this portrait, wanting to know his thoughts. He's not the type to verbalize what he's thinking. He desires not to discuss the trivial, only things that are essential or meaningful for him. I entered this painting into a juried exhibition but it was rejected. The comment was "we'd like to know what he's thinking." I did sell this painting eventually. I still think it stands out as one of my best.

Self-Portrait: The Big Bang Theory

This painting was done years ago but it is still relevant to me. This painting draws from pop art and culture. My colours are bold and vivid. My content is basic and has a visual impact over an intellectual one. The outlining style is characteristic of comic books. The face is elongated, the ribbing of the sweater contain suggestions of piano keys, rhythm and music. The cigarette symbolizes sophistication apparent in many classic movies. The green hand was based on a pair of green leather gloves which I still own.

Andy Warhol stated, "In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes." In this work, I see myself at a Warhol party discussing the big bang theory over a glass of wine. This pseudo-sophistication is a fantasy. Instead of the portrait only representing me, I also become the person in the portrait.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Writer's block

In the past while, I've experienced writer's block which basically means I spent more time rehashing old stories and not writing anything new. In March, I decided it would be great to write a novel about a modern-day Romeo and Juliet. I sat down and put together a rough outline. I wrote the first chapter and posted it on a writers' forum.

Quite respectfully, I was told my writing style needed to 'show' more and 'tell' less. This particular weakness of mine has been there since I began to write! So what to do? My response was to slow down and dwell more on each scene, get more into the characters' shoes and describe what they sense, think and feel. Another comment was that the flashbacks were only exposition or backstory which I disagreed with.

The good news was my first paragraph was fine. However, reviewers stated I was trying to put too much into one chapter. One suggested I write an outline for each chapter in the book, start off with the female protagonist POV and then move into flashbacks in the second chapter. I attempted to work on my first chapter again, but still fell into the same traps.

Frustrated I considered making it into a screenplay, thinking I could concentrate on great dialogue and conflict in each scene. However, my story line didn't take advantage of cinematography or special effects. I had a scene on a beach but that was about it. Also when I tried to frame the story into a screenplay format, it became a talkie. The story was told through dialogue not through visual action. However, I was able to write a basic plot line and subplots showing the relationships or lack of between my characters. Also, I had to decide who is telling the story and who is my main character in a love triangle. And so it goes. Rome wasn't built in a day! However, I did feel encouraged by the comments and good advice I received.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Phil Hale: Beyond the Representational

Philip Oliver Hale was born in 1963. He first worked as an illustrator then became a well-known American Figurative artist. He apprenticed with Richard Berry, another American painter. One of Hale's most memorable paintings to date is a portrait of Tony Blair, the past UK Prime Minister. Tony Blair sits in a chair, his right leg resting across the other. He seems to be distracted or focusing on a thought, not attentive to the artist or the viewer of the painting. His hands are relaxed. When interviewed by Billy Hill, a reporter for the BBC Parliament, Hale shared his intention was to document and be transparent in regards to his subject. He thought it was important to transcribe the information that was there onto the canvas and not be influenced by opinion or offer any sort of inflection in the process. In the painting of Tony Blair, Hale faithfully kept to the realism of his subject.

However, Hale goes beyond the representational in his other works. Sparrow, a series of art books, depicts various artists including the work of Hale. His oil paintings are of distorted figures in dynamic, gravity-defying poses. His understanding of anatomy allows him the skill to create faces and bodies seen from various angles with a fascinating surrealism. Figures are cut off by the borders of the canvas, or thrown onto their heads, creating a silent violence or emotional disturbance. His work contains a high degree of tension, heightened energy and sometimes terror. The backgrounds are kept simple to keep the focus on the figures.

In Sparrow, his drawings are linear, with little shading or texture. The poses carry the same tension as his paintings. I believe his work contains a cognitive and psychological extension of the trauma, violence and fear of living in the world today. To me, agony, torture, and suffering are summated in his paintings of individual, isolated figures that are in distress. As a person who has lived with a chronic mental illness, I identify with the cut off heads as metaphors of madness, mental disturbance and anguish. The acute and out of kilter angles create an instability that is in the moment.

I regard Phil Hale as an amazing artist and look forward to seeing more work from him. Phil Hale interview

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Weathering the storm

March has been an odd month for weather. Sunshine, rain, sleet and snow in one afternoon. We had a snow storm just the other day. How have I weathered the first week of March? In February, I wrote about many projects I was working on. I had a positive response to a talk I gave to a class of occupational therapist students at the university. After receiving 5 or 6 applauses, I was on cloud nine. I answered many questions and received big thank yous from the instructors. They said, they try to teach theory, but for someone to come in and share their story so beautifully and vividly was very much appreciated.

My submission to Front Magazine was rejected. I have been published in their magazine quite a few times in the past. Perhaps I've outgrown them or vice versa. Also I did not win the February writing contest at Secret Attic, however, they did send me an invite to submit for March. Which I've already done! I followed up on two queries to local small presses. They both replied to me in a polite, efficient manner. I felt respected.

I've come to the conclusion, I'm not as intimidated by someone's status, economic, educational or otherwise as I once was. I am a valued person on this planet as much as others. If someone with great credentials talks to me, I'm happy but if a cashier smiles at me and says thank you, that's good too. Humans from any walk of life are still biological beings with similar DNA.

I could have attempted to go on in education, but I chose not to. I think others who want to achieve that for themselves is an admirable goal but has no bearing on me and my decisions. No one's life is perfect. Mine included. I think compromise and patience are important to get along with others. Life isn't about being right all the time. It's about navigating, learning, interacting with others and believing in yourself.

I'm not able to control my environment or situation to a great extent. However, I can attempt to change how I react to people and conflicts. I can get angry and complain but usually it blows over and things settle down. Unfortunately, I don't fully recognize the impact my behaviour has on others. Instead I may be too caught up in my internal dilemmas which causes my judgment to be skewed. I wish to be empowered and at the helm of my own ship. Sometimes it's harder to stand up for myself, than give in and be passive. However, taken to the extreme, self-determination may have negative results if I stop listening to others. Forgiveness and compassion are important skills to have. Life can change people. I will probably never stop learning. Healing can still happen.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Heart of Juliet Jones

Stan Drake's The Heart of Juliet Jones, Dailies- Vol. 1, March 9, 1953 to August 13, 1955 This collection published by Classic Comics Press has an introduction by Leonard Starr, one of Drake's contemporaries. Legend tells the story of Elliot Caplin, the brother of Al Capp of L'il Abner fame, who was in a conversation with King Features and Comics editor Sylvan Byck, insisting he had the perfect artist for a strip. Sylvan declared he had the right one. Ironically, both were talking about the same Stan Drake. And so the comic strip emerged.

The early years of Juliet Jones reflects the values and economic situation of a family living in the 1950's, but also the timelessness of a dramatic, credible, complex storyline that still appeals to a contemporary audience. As a woman in the twenty-first century, I can identify with Juliet because I think she has qualities I would like to have. She's honest, perceptive, a quiet leader, kind and accepting. She takes on responsibilities and exudes confidence as an independent woman.

Male heroes in comics continue to be popular with males. I personally think there is a need to develop more intelligent, pro-active female leads in literature, film, comic strips, and comic books. Juliet, her sister Eve and father Howard face many conflicts and dilemmas. The mother is absent from the storyline. Juliet takes on the role of caretaker for her family. Howard is the dutiful father, wanting to provide financially for his two daughters. When he runs into trouble in his entrepreneurial business, Juliet steps in to help him.

Juliet is a hard worker with insight into others' motives and protects her family. She is steadfast, principled, calm and mature in contrast to Eve, her flamboyant, emotional sibling. Early in the strip, I feel Eve's antics, love interests, and attitude overshadow the quiet, conservative personality of Juliet. Her youthful exuberance is fresh. Eve becomes more responsible as the strip evolves, going to college and getting a job. Later in the strip, Juliet becomes mayor of the town which is a credible storyline based on her conscientiousness, ethics, intelligence and diplomacy.

Stan Drake was born in Brooklyn in 1921. He studied at the Art Students League under George Bridgman. His artistic career began in advertising. He sought to make his female characters ideal and attractive. His expertise in drawing didn't develop overnight. He owned one of the first Polaroid cameras, studied photographs and drew from them to improve his craft. His art is polished and loose without stiffness or awkward poses. Variation of line weight makes each panel resonate with life and movement. Facial expressions reflect the emotions of the characters quite well.

At its peak, Juliet Jones was published in 600 newspapers. In 1989, Frank Bolle took over from Stan Drake until the strip ended on January 1, 2001. The right blend of characterization, plot and artistic merit makes Juliet Jones a joy to read. Classic Comics Press

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Greetings!

I have had a busy February. Working with the Consumer Initiative Fund as a liaison manager to oversee peer-run projects, including programs and services for mentally ill persons. Going to a fabulous retreat. Hitting the pool. Walking miles upon miles just for the exercise. Meeting a friend for coffee. Taking long hours to edit a series of stories. Entering writing contests on Secret Attic after being published in their September 2008 magazine issue available at www.lulu.com.

Waiting to hear if my submission to Front Magazine was accepted on the topic "Disciplines." Publishing my monthly column called "Musings by Sandra Yuen MacKay" at www.lit.org. Waiting to hear from a local small press editor about publishing "My Schizophrenic Life" about my recovery from schizoaffective disorder, a combination of schizophrenia and a mood disorder. And also waiting for a reply from an agent for my collection of three novellas tentatively called "3 Women, 3 Lives."

With all this waiting, I prepare myself for rejection. Writing submissions may easily get rejected or put in the slush pile. Those that are lucky, talented and good at marketing are the authors who succeed. It's part of having a professional attitude to not take negative criticism and rejection to heart. Writing is healing for me. It's part of what I like to do. To be published for payment is exciting but is really icing on the cake, for me anyways.

I attempted to write 2 stories for another contest, but after some good advice from my friend, decided my approach wasn't going to work and shelved the contest for now. I think trying too hard doesn't work. 

I successfully found a date to meet two others to plan for a short presentation at the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists conference in June which was tricky because our schedules conflicted. I worked on my part in advance and hope the others agree with what I prepared with a few alterations. I also planned a talk with another Sandra for a class of occupational therapists at the University of British Columbia for next week.

I did work on 2 or 3 paintings. I have come to the conclusion that creativity cannot be forced or rushed in art or writing. To paint, I have to be in a state of utter concentration and focus which usually means I forget what time it is, or when to eat. 

Also I worked on some pencil and ink drawings on greeting cards to sell at the Mother's Day Art Sale put on by the members of the Art Studios. This organization offers art and writing classes to persons with mental illness. In the past, I taught creative writing there, and worked as a Traveling Art Assistant to mount art exhibits by the members at places around Vancouver. I act as secretary at planning meetings and also volunteer and am part of the fundraising committee. 

Still I made time to watch "Lost," "24," "Fringe," parts of "American Idol," and the Oscars. I thought Hugh Jackman did a fairly good job. However, I'd rather have seen clips of the nominees acting rather than hearing accolades from past Academy winners in their category.

My husband has hounded me to write some reviews on this blog. I hope to be able to do that in the near future. So welcome to my blog!