We’re All in This Together: Artists Dates

Julia Cameron suggests that creative people go on an artist’s date—something to fulfill your creative soul. Is there something you do regularly or some outing/event/field trip you’ve done (maybe even only once) that has refilled your creative energy?

Romelle Broas

Dental hygienist by day, writer by night, mother all the time.

Author of Casey Chameleon and Tummy Monster


I live on the California coast with stunning views and vibrant colors. The California life begs to be experienced outdoors. I do a lot of biking, running, and hiking which allows me to take notice of the little things in life that I would have otherwise ignored if I were busy doing other things. What I love to do is capture the beauty in pictures. I never leave home without my camera. I’m not a professional photographer by any means. I just love to take pictures. Many times the pictures I take provide me with inspiration for stories. They serve as story idea sparkers. It’s an exercise my 4th grade teacher taught me. She would put up a picture on the board and tell me to write the story behind the picture.  My photos definitely keeps my creative soul happy. So when I’m not writing or if I have writer’s block, I will go outside and take a picture of whatever delights me. Here is a picture I took recently. Maybe it’ll spark an idea for you.


Copyright 2014 Romelle Broas

Copyright 2014 Romelle Broas


Vivian Kirkfield

Writer For Children – Reader Forever


Please don’t laugh – every night I have a small bowl of ice cream (to feed my inner child) and a BIG bowl of popcorn (to keep from eating a BIG bowl of ice cream) while I watch a movie or classic TV series with my hubby (to unwind from the day). Simple. Inexpensive. Refreshingly Effective. During the day, I read picture books and visit and comment on blogs and Facebook postings that inspire me when I need to take a break from writing and revising. And now that the weather has blossomed into spring, I’m walking through the countryside every day, listening and looking and finding new picture book stories around every curve in the road.


Donna L Sadd


A trip into the woods always brings my levels to full, but I don’t have much access, so I go with the next best thing…a daily three-mile walk. Though I share this walk with my hubby and two dogs, it’s a meditative time where sneakers hitting the pavement create a rhythm that lets my mind soar. There’s also something extremely powerful in witnessing a sunrise that inspires me and gets the creative juices flowing for the day.

I’m also attending the WOW Writer’s Retreat in July that I hope will supercharge my creativity. It will be my first writer’s retreat!

Alayne Kay Christian

Author of “Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa”


Represented by Erzsi Deak, Hen & Ink Literary Studio

For longer getaways, I love road trips (a passenger). I also enjoy a good beach vacation.

For quick creative rejuvenation, I might sit by the fire, or relax in the spa, or go sailing, or sit on the dock by our sailboat. I love the nights at the marina. I like to lie on the dock and stargaze. You can actually see the Milky Way by the lake. I also enjoy time with friends in good conversation and laughter. Spending time in nature always feeds my soul. I am happy to just sit in my yard or take a walk and listen the birds sing. When I really need to get away from it all, I journal, I meditate, or I listen to relaxation/self-hypnosis type of recordings.

Following are the links for the place I buy the recordings and a couple links for specific topics. There are tons of recordings. I think most of the links are for MP3 downloads – those are less expensive. If you can find it on CD, you can probably find it as a download, and if you can find it as a download, you can probably find it as a CD.

This  is the link for the website.

This link is for a great stress/worry/negative feelings release. I have heard this one and like it a lot.

This one is also great for releasing negative emotions. It is called Simply Sailing. I also like this one.

I have not heard this one, but discovered it today. It is for overcoming writer’s block. 

This is a page that has a bunch of creative visualization recordings. I have not heard any of them, but based on descriptions, most of them sound pretty good.

This page has a bunch of recordings for relaxation. I have not heard any of them but based on descriptions, many of them sound pretty good.

This page offers a lot of free stuff. I don’t have any experience with them, but thought “free” why not share.


Marcie Flinchum Atkins

Children’s and YA Writer


One of the things I find frustrating about my season of life is that I feel like I have little time for indulgence. I work full-time, write in the margins of my time, and still want to have time to see my kids. For me, sometimes, artist’s dates feel indulgent. In fact, I wrote a whole post a few years back about how I was an artist date rule-breaker. But after reading these posts, I think it’s important to note that artist’s dates don’t have to be expensive or elaborate or time-consuming. These ladies have given several examples that could be worked into my life.

Something I’ve been doing lately that’s really inspired me is taking trips to different historical sites in Virginia with my daughter. She’s fascinated by history that she’s studying this year. I’m using it as a great excuse to learn a little, get inspired, and maybe get a few writing ideas along the way. I didn’t set out to turn these into artist’s dates. I started to do this because I wanted to spend some time with her and enrich her education. It was a bonus that they turned out to be self-satisfying for my writer soul too.

Montpelier--James and Dolley Madison's home

Montpelier–James and Dolley Madison’s home


Your Artist’s Dates

What do you do for artist’s dates? Simple and inexpensive are fabulous. Tell us in the comments.

Artist’s Date: Research Trip

I went on a hunt for a tree. With my kids.

BRP kids

My daughter brought a sketchbook and a field guide to trees. My son brought four plastic screwdrivers.

BRP Mushrooms


My WIP has a Hawthorn tree that’s important in the story, and a friend brought me a Hawthorn branch last winter. But I really wanted some leaves because the leaves are also important in the story. So are these mushrooms.

We hiked on a few different trails on the hunt for the Hawthorn tree, even looked for some park rangers, but we didn’t find either one.

BRP rock


But we did spot some really interesting things on our walks, even if they weren’t what we were looking for.

Artist’s Date: Staycation

We haven’t been able to go on some of our planned short getaways due to some health issues. However, things are on the mend, and August looks to be promising. But sometimes being forced to stay home helps you rediscover some treasures in your own town.

Roanoke from Center in the Square


My daughter took an art class in our local art museum. Afterwards, she took us on a tour–a very detailed tour of some amazing exhibits, including an amazing Virginia-inspired collage exhibit of Susan Stryk. Our art museum is FREE! This exhibit made me–the non-artist–feel as though I could do some of this art. This exhibit alone would make an excellent artist’s date.

After the tour of the museum, we explored a newly renovated building that opened up this spring. The rooftop gardens feature the view of Roanoke (above). The first floor and rooftop gardens were FREE. There are other museums worth exploring on another day. But since I was chasing a four year old, I was up for FREE and FAST. I didn’t want to worry about getting my money’s worth.

Roanoke rooftop garden


The gardens (pictured here) are new and still growing. I can’t wait to go back next summer and see how it has changed and improved.

The first floor has a few aquarium tanks. While it’s hard to stop and smell the roses while chasing kids, sometimes a staycation fits the bill.

Kids at Center in the Square

Writing Quote Wednesday: Nurturing the Writer

“When earth is rich it bids defiance to droughts, yields in abundance, and of the best quality.”

 –Letter from Thomas Jefferson to his daughter, Martha, from Philadelphia July 21, 1793

p. 22 THE DOMESTIC LIFE OF THOMAS JEFFERSON, letters compiled by Sarah Randolph

View from Hollins Library

View from Hollins Library


In this quote, Thomas Jefferson is talking about his garden at Monticello. He’s advising his daughter to put manure on the garden so the soil will be rich for the next gardening season.

I view my summers like this. It’s time to fertilize the writing mind, not with manure (ha! ha!), but with the time to nurture and prepare for times of drought. On Monday I wrote about a class that I audited at Hollins as an artist’s date. I attended, not for credit, but for nurturing. This is the time to feed my writing soul good nutrients so that in the common months when I’m knee-deep in school work and kids’ schedules, and stress, that I can have something to draw on.

I know there will be times of writer’s block, frustration, and pesky little critters that will sneak in and steal my writing time or my motivation during the year.

I write a lot in the summer. I try to write and get ahead so that when September rolls around, I can still dip my toes into the writing world because I’ve laid the groundwork.

What are you doing to fertilize your writing life so that you can be ready to bid defiance to droughts? Did you attend a conference? Go on a retreat? Or just make some time and space for yourself at home?



Artist’s Date: Hollins

I had the opportunity this summer to audit a class through the Hollins Children’s Literature program. I’m a two-time alumna from this program earning my M.A. and my M.F.A. I’m lucky enough to get to return each summer for the free public event featuring authors, illustrators, scholars, editors and agents of children’s books because Hollins is only a 15 minute drive from my house. But this is the first time that I’ve audited a class. I took a regional writing class with author, Candice Ransom. I took a picture book writing class with Candice when I was working on my M.F.A. In fact, she and I go way back to when I was president of our local reading council, and I asked her to come speak at one of our events. I’ve also attended two of her retreats in Luray, Virginia. My brother would call me a professional nerd, I mean, student. He’d argue that I have two masters degrees, why do I need yet another class? Well, because I do.

Candice was kind enough to let me sit in and absorb her class. And absorb, I did.

Children's Literature Destinations Sign at Hollins

Children’s Literature Destinations Sign at Hollins

There’s nothing like basking in regional literature creative writing class taught by someone who writes children’s books with a strong sense of place. Check out Candice’s regional novels including: FINDING DAY’S BOTTOM, REBEL MCKENZIE, IVA HONEYSUCKLE DISCOVERS THE WORLD, and IVA HONEYSUCKLE MEETS HER MATCH. She’s written over 100 books, though. So be sure to check her out.

If you peruse Candice’s blog, you’ll also see that she is master of photography that takes you to abandoned places that beg for their stories to be told.

One special treat during the class was having David Almond (author of SKELLIG and other amazing books for children) visit. He spoke about place in his books.

David Almond encouraged us to embrace our own regionalism when writing. Sometimes there is danger in regionalism where the story becomes only about the place, so the story still needs to be universal. Both Candice and David spoke about filling their writing space with physical objects for their books. Creating a space for their novel in their work area helps ground them to the tangible places.

Every novel that I’ve written (and I’m currently working on number 3) the place has been vitally important to the story. So taking this class enriched my understanding of place and how to embrace the traditions, the food, the weather, the landscape, and use it to its fullest potential, while still telling a good story.

This summer, everything fell into place for me to attend this class, with the exception of the three classes I missed because my husband was in the hospital. But my mom was able to do childcare, and Candice was generous enough to let me attend. I delved into my new novel, dipping my toes into scenes while still finishing revisions on my other middle grade novel.

This summer has been full of "wild things."

This summer has been full of “wild things.”

This artist date was a lengthy one, and one that required work on my part. But it also helped fill my writerly cup.


Artist’s Date: Library of Congress

A few months ago, I met my husband in Washington, DC while he was on a business trip. We usually try to take in a few sites in DC each year that we’ve never been to. This artist’s date was not taken alone, and I enjoyed wandering through the history with someone who was impressed with it as I was.

Fountain in front of the Library of Congress

Fountain in front of the Library of Congress

On this trip we took in the Library of Congress. I’d only been to the research part of the Library of Congress, in a separate building, several years ago when I was researching for my M.A. Thesis. This part is the showy part with the exhibits–the Gutenberg Bible, the Civil War in America exhibit that housed artifacts and letters, and of course Jefferson’s library.

The ceiling of the Library of Congress

The ceiling of the Library of Congress

Most buildings in DC that are meant for the public are awe-inspiring. The art, the scale, and the stories never cease to amaze me, and I’ve been there many, many times. Just like I was impressed with the Jefferson gardens for the dozenth (is that a word?) time at Monticello, Jefferson’s recreated library at the LOC was also stunning. I couldn’t take pictures in there, I don’t think. At least I didn’t come home with any. I’ve seen people who had more books than he had, but I was struck by the variety of the types of books that he owned.

I’m sure there were stories in this visit. I wrote down names to look up later, things that interested me, but mostly I just soaked it all in–looked at all of the artifacts, read some of the stories that I’d never heard.



Artist Date: Monticello

A few months ago, I wrote about how Artist Dates, in the manner that Julia Cameron describes them, don’t always have to be done alone. I will be highlighting a few of my recent Artist Dates each Monday in a new Artist Date series. I know the recommendation is to do an artist date once a week, but honestly, with two small children, that’s next to impossible for me. However, I get lucky every now and then and get to venture out on my own for a non-writing, non-essential field trip. By non-writing I mean that I’m not actually writing on the artist date. However, many of these adventures definitely feed into the writing.

In April, I had an opportunity to visit Monticello after it closed to regular tourists for the evening. As part of their TOM (Topics on Monticello) Talks series, they featured Andre Viette, gardening expert. Because I grow a Thomas Jefferson garden at school with my fourth graders, I thought this would offer me the opportunity to learn more about Jefferson as a gardener.

The view of the kitchen garden at Monticello

The view of the kitchen garden at Monticello

I’ve been to Monticello well over a dozen times, but almost always on a field trip with about 75 kids in tow. Even though I learn new things every year at Monticello, it’s always rushed. I’m always worried about losing someone, maybe even losing myself. But this evening, only the few dozen TOM Talk attendees were there. We could wander the property.

Vacant Mulberry Row

Vacant Mulberry Row

Each time I’ve walked this path at Mulberry Row, it’s been full of hundreds of people. But this time, it was still and silent and mystical. I just stood and listened. I was astonished at the lack of people and the beauty of this property.

Appetizers and Wine

Appetizers and Wine

There were appetizers and adult beverages and an atmosphere to go with it. I mean, who doesn’t want to dine among the tulips?

Monticello tulips

I’ve been researching a lot about Thomas Jefferson’s gardens. I find his knowledge and brave experimentation in the garden to be staggering.

Andre Viette

Andre Viette

Andre Viette spoke about plants, both then and now. He isn’t much into organic gardening, unlike Thomas Jefferson.

But just sharing the same vistas that Jefferson shared, I fed the muse.