Liz Andra Shaw

Journey into the Creative Mind of a Writing Reader

The Scattered Life Collective #2

September 27th, 2014
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The Scattered Life Collective

On the Menu

The Outback Style Steak I made last weekend was a great success. Very easy to make and delicious. I combined it with corn on the cob, roasted in the oven, and brown rice.

This weekend I’m making Asparagus and Roasted Pepper Salad with Toasted Pecans.

My Instagram Post of the Week

Instagram Post of the Week

OMG, I just noticed that I got a like on this from Seth Apter. I have a serious case of art lust for Seth’s work. Wow!


Necessary Losses: The Loves, Illusions, Dependencies, and Impossible Expectations That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Grow by Judith Viorst.

The Song of the Week

Feeling a bit nostalgic this week.


Season 3 of Once Upon a Time. I am amazed that it took me 3 seasons to realize that Emma is played by Jennifer Morrison who played Cameron on House. Too much multitasking. I never watched the title sequence before!

Good Things that Happened this Week

  • Had a wonderful massage on Monday.
  • Fun Toastmasters meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday night
  • My folks took me out for Indian food on Thursday
  • Spent the afternoon Friday shopping with one of the kids at work and had a blast
  • Still getting painty every day in the One Pull Wonders class with Carolyn Dube – love it!
  • I’m going to a local artist collective group’s exhibition today.

Round and About

I absolutely love the old book illustrations at the OBI Scrapbook Blog.

How could I possible resist Elwood the World’s Largest Concrete Gnome.

Professional artist Alisa Burke allows her young daughter to create art with her. Love the pictures of her daughter experiencing a pottery wheel for the first time.

Carolyn Dube and her commenters give some great ideas for using spray inks in her new Play Date series. Read all the comments for some great ideas!

This infographic showing you how to shop for fresh vegetables is handy.

I love this writing prompt at io9: How the Astronauts Became Known as Gods

More links at The Writing Reader Carnival of Creativity for 9/21/14.

My favorite prompt of the week at The Writing Reader: Police Case Files.

Inspiration for the Week

Success in the form of a meaningful life comes to the people who are vulnerable enough to show up. Those willing to experiment, work, learn, love, grow, and fail and then go again. And, it is through our shared imperfections–after all, imperfection is the one thing we all have in common–that humanity appears.

-Polly Campbell

My Favorites on Flickr this Week

Click through on these to learn more about the artists.

Recess Hangout
Recess Hangout by MelissaCamille

Slow Clap
Slow Clap by Robb Lansdowne

Winterton Dawn
Winterton Dawn by jellyfire

New Wallpapers

Shoreline of the Universe from Astronomy Picture of the Day

Color Me Sad from National Geographic

Hollow Greetings at National Geographic

I hope you enjoyed this! If you decide to join the collective, let me know by leaving a comment so that I can return the favor.

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The Scattered Life Collective

September 19th, 2014
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The Scattered Life Collective
I follow Cynthia Lee (@spirituncaged) on Instagram because she inspires me. Today she posted about a new-to-me project, The Scattered Life Collective. I thought I would play along this week and meet some new friends. Here we go!

On the Menu

Every weekend I try a new recipe. Tomorrow, I’m going to be trying Outback Style Steak. Care to try it with me?

My Instagram Post of the Week



I just finished After Dark by Phillip Margolin and am working on The Amber Room by Steve Berry. I don’t seem to be able to concentrate on what I’m supposed to be reading.

The Song of the Week

I was serenaded this week at work. If it had only sounded this good.


I just finished watching 9 seasons of Criminal Minds. I really should go for something lighter next, but at the very moment I finished the last episode of season 9, Netflix sent me an email saying that season 9 of Bones was available. So, yeah, watching season 9 of Bones.

Good Things that Happened this Week

Carolyn Dube’s gelatin monoprinting class, One Pull Wonders, started this week. It is fabulous! Every surface in my house is covered with colorful prints. I am having so much fun!

I won the Tonto 6 Area Humorous Speech contest. I am still unhappy with the final 15 to 30 seconds of my speech, so I am rewriting (and rewriting and rewriting and rewriting…) The Tonto Division contest is coming up on October 11th.

Round and About

My art link of the week: 16 Homemade Paint Brushes from Babble Dabble Do. I must get myself some clothes pins!

More links at The Writing Reader Carnival of Creativity for 9/14/14.

My favorite prompt of the week at The Writing Reader: The World is Our Mirror. 

Inspiration for the Week

The Yes Manifesto by Jon Acuff – you have to click through and read this. It is AMAZING.

My Favorites on Flickr this Week

Click through on these to learn more about the artists.

Tiger's Heart - Watercolor on Khadi Paper
Tiger’s Heart by Sandra Strait

Mushroom  Take time 7-14
Mushroom Take Time 7-14 by jprater28209

Collage Pendant
Collage Pendant by czekoczyna

Arizona Intensity
Arizona Intensity by Matt Granz

The journey is the destination
The journey is the destination by Iordanis Keramidas

High Lunge - Day 14 of Thirty 30
High Lunge – Day 14 of Thirty 30 by Mandy

I hope you enjoyed this! If you decide to join the collective, let me know by leaving a comment so that I can return the favor.

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Playing Around with Stress

August 28th, 2014
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Stressed College Student

Being an adult is stressful. You have probably noticed that. If it’s not bills, it’s the idiot in front of you in traffic or the jerk at work who will not stop doing that annoying thing. Or the housework, or the to do list that spans pages, or the kids, or the spouse, or [put your own favorite stressor here]. The stress just never seems to stop.

I work in behavioral health, so I hear about dealing with stress at work. I am even expected to be able to model my personal methods of dealing with stress so that the kids can learn from me. Just what I need – more pressure!

This week I learned something new in our staff training. Our clients talk about coping skills, but it all seems rather ill-defined. One girl would watch TV all day long as her coping skill, but what kind of life is that? Another would read, another would be plugged into an iPod, and yet another would de-stress by annoying everyone else. We needed a new way of talking about coping skills, so we’re rolling out a new way of talking about and understanding them. I’ll share what I learned, but then I’m going to add something of my own that is beyond the scope of our program.

The first thing we’re going to teach our clients about coping is “escape skills.” This involves learning to recognize when your emotions are about to spiral out of control and doing something to get yourself out of the situation. Taking a time out is one example of an escape skill. The goal is to have escape skills that are healthy, rather than turning to drugs, alcohol, running away, or cutting.

An aside: I like time outs. They’re peaceful. It’s the going back afterwards that I don’t really enjoy. What I really need is re-entry skills. I suspect I’m not alone. 

The second thing we are going to teach our clients is “processing skills.” This involves taking care of your emotions without the need for external assistance or escape. Soothing self-talk or deep breathing are examples of these.  In theory, if you’re good enough at processing skills, you won’t need escape (or re-entry) skills anymore.

I still like time outs though. It’s so quiet in time out.

Our clients won’t be with us long enough to learn my favorite level of coping, the preventative stress reduction techniques. You may have heard this called “living a balanced life.” You may have even laughed at the concept. After all, if you had time for that, you wouldn’t be so stressed, right?

The last year and a half has been very stressful for me. I had to do something about it. I couldn’t continue to live with the level of stress I was wallowing in on a day to day basis. My solution: incorporate play into my life.

Tonight I’m at Rio Rico Mexican Grill enjoying a blog-a-thon with friends. Eula is typing one of her fabulously funny posts about life’s ridiculous moments.   Suzanne is writing the touching story of a cat that adopted her family’s furniture business. Emi is writing about how the death of Robin Williams affected her. Siobhan is missing in action – she said she’d be late, but at this point I’m picture her in a ditch dying somewhere. (Thanks for that legacy, mom.) This monthly get-together is an important part of my play strategy.

As I’ve shared before, I’ve also gotten back into art, and I’ve dragged Emi with me. She and I trade art journals back and forth. Making the trade every week and seeing what she added to the pages is one of the high points of my week. I don’t claim to be a great artist. You won’t see my selling my stuff on Etsy any time soon (if ever). I only claim to be having fun. I taught monoprinting to Emi in June, to  a group of senior citizens in July, and to the kids at work in August. That was a blast! I like my art messy, and I can’t be bothered to worry about whether anyone else likes it. Art is a huge part of my play strategy.

Toastmasters, of course, is part of my strategy. I love the fun, positive people and the supportive environment. I love the challenge of speaking in contests, the surprise of table topics, and the great friends I’ve made.

If you’re struggling with stress, remember that escape skills and processing skills are great, but living a balanced life that includes play and fun is even better. Leave a comment and tell me how you deal with stress.

Reaction to Stress

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Book Review: The Process Server by LH Thomson

July 17th, 2014
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The Process Server
The Process Server by LH Thomson shows us a glimpse into a dystopian future that is all too likely to come true. Imagine a world where you can escape into virtual reality and never come out. The trade off for this is a debt that builds up and enslaves generation after generation.

Enter our protagonist, Smith, a man who has rejected the economic system based on virtual reality. He is a self-made man who owns his own space ship so that he can travel the galaxy as a process server. His pilot, Jayde, looks like a young teen, but is really over 200 years old and has a deadly temper.

In this book, Jayde and Smith take on an assignment that is a huge gamble – it will either help them make enough credits to become independent or it will be their last hurrah.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable book. I enjoyed the fully realized setting. I can definitely see a future in which people become so enmeshed with virtual reality that they give up their lives to it, so the world that Thomson has created is both imaginative and completely plausible.

If you like science fiction or thrillers, I’d recommend The Process Server to you. It’s a fast, exciting read that will not disappoint.

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Still in that rut – still climbing out

May 30th, 2014
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I was at Michaels a few weeks ago and they had a smoking sale on canvases. Ten 8×10 canvases for $15.

I never buy canvas. I never buy canvas because no matter how much art I create, I don’t think of myself as an artist. I don’t believe what I create is worthy of canvas. I’m not even sure it’s worthy of paper.

But there I was buying 10 canvases. Scared to death, by the way. What would I do with them? Where would I hang them? As the cashier was ringing them up, I was about ready to bolt, leaving them behind.

A woman standing in line behind me asked, “What are you going to do with the canvases?”

Really? I’m going to run away from them, I thought. But I squared myself up and said, “Stencil, spray ink, gelli plate, glue things to them, I don’t know. Stuff. I really just do this for the fun. It’s therapeutic for me, I guess.”

“What a great idea,” she replied. “And you can’t go wrong. $1.50 a canvas. You’d drop more than that at Starbucks.”

I laughed, because I don’t drink coffee or frequent Starbucks. Still, she had a point. $1.50 a canvas. It’s a pittance, right?

I’m choosing to believe that I’m worth $1.50 a canvas, and I am having fun! I have the calico cat canvas (above) hanging in my office at work. I purposely hung it off center, because I’m going to paint a bunch more. So much of my stress is work-related. I can’t make art there, but I can hang my art there to remind myself of the feeling I had when I made it. Even more, to remind myself that I can always make more art and experience that wonderful feeling again.

Excuse me. There’s a canvas calling to me in the other room. And some paint. And spray ink, a gelli plate, collage papers, and stuff. I think I should go investigate.

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What to do when you’re stuck in a rut

April 19th, 2014
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I’ve been in a rut. My dragons are flying without pilots, my rebels are probably running amok pillaging the countryside on Alykan, and, on this planet, my flash fiction is being rejected by publishers and I’m losing speech contests. I’ve been demoralized and down resulting in a catastrophic loss of mojo.

It’s been this way for a year now. It’s not really about the writing, but reality leaks, doesn’t it? Chaos at work always translates into chaos in my brain that leaves work and goes home with me. And wow, last year there was a record amount of chaos. Just when I thought I was adjusting, things would change, and then, without warning, change again. It’s hard to get your sea legs when the wind keeps changing direction.

That’s my story anyway. You can believe it or not. I don’t care. I am too busy climbing out of this rut. The way I’m doing it is with art. I love playing with paint. I mean “playing” quite literally. “The messier the better” should be stenciled over my work table.

Last year, I discovered the joy of gelatin, as in gelatin print making. I bought myself a Gelli plate. Have you seen these? O  M   G. These are so fun they should be illegal! Here’s a speech I gave about them.

The background for this quote is made from one of my Gelli prints:


I’m also art journaling, which is challenging for me since I don’t feel like an artist in comparison to the many wonderful folks I see on YouTube. I’m stretching myself here and posting one of my spreads. Please don’t laugh!


Not all my spreads are that pretty. I won’t torture you with the messier ones. You can look me up on Flickr if you have a brave soul.

Recently I discovered a gal on YouTube who talks about mistakes as “oops – outstanding opportunities presenting suddenly.” She encourages play, while being honest about her mistakes, her lack of patience, and her disdain for rulers. I absolutely fell in love with her videos and immediately followed her blog. You should, too. Her name is Carolyn Dube and her blog is “A Colorful Journey.” (And by the way, her last name is pronounced do-bee, which took me back to my childhood with memories of Romper Room. How could I resist a Do Bee?)

I love Carolyn Dube so much that I almost fainted when she announced she was coming to Mesa, AZ, to teach. I got some money together and the next thing I knew, we were madly stenciling and flinging paint around. Carolyn even let me use sharp instruments to bind my own journal. Check out her summary of the day – lots of pictures of the action, including a couple of yours truly.

Carolyn has caused a big uproar in my world. I am now officially addicted to stencils and binding my own journals. I joined the StencilGirl Club and already have my first shipment. Thank goodness I have tomorrow off work already so that I don’t have to fake a sick day to play with them! Here’s a stenciled page done on vintage ledger paper that I made in the workshop:


So… rut? What rut? I’m busy painting. And gelli printing. And stenciling. And look! I wrote an actual blog post! Watch out world, I think my mojo is coming back!

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Book Review: The Blue Hallelujah by Andy Straka

February 16th, 2014
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Andy Straka presents us with layers of plot in The Blue Hallelujah. The protagonist, Jerry Strickland, is a retired detective who is dying. When his granddaughter is kidnapped, he cancels the medical appointments and becomes involved in the case.

His love for his granddaughter is only one of the reasons he’s so driven to use the last of his fading energies to solve this case. Jerry’s wife, Rebecca, had been his right hand during his years as a detective. She had an intuitive sense about criminals, and it led her into trouble. After a killer escaped justice, she gunned him down in cold blood and spent the rest of her life in prison atoning for it. Jerry believes that by solving this case, he can not only save his granddaughter but also redeem his wife’s reputation.

Jerry is one of the most interesting protagonists I’ve met recently. He isn’t just wrestling with worldly issues, like life and death, but also with spiritual issues of evil, redemption, and justice in ways that normal cops and detectives see only superficially.

Although the ending has been foreshadowed, it will still grip you. If you don’t shed a tear or three for Jerry and his choice, you may not have a heart. Straka doesn’t achieve this with cheap, sentimental manipulation. His writing is honest and compelling.

Jerry is very different from Frank Pavlicek, the protagonist of Cold Quarry by Andy Straka. Frank is more hard-boiled. I suspect that Jerry was in his prime as well, but now he has more eternal priorities. I highly recommend both books to any reader who enjoys mysteries.

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A Personal Update

February 1st, 2014
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It’s been forever since I made a personal post. 2013 was a difficult year for me. I chose the word “Peace” as my theme, but I didn’t have much of that. Things still feel very unsettled to me, but I chose the theme “Rebirth” for this year as a way of putting 2013 into perspective.

I got stuck last year, not just in my personal life, but also in my creative work. I didn’t write much of anything. Some months I didn’t write anything but Writing Reader prompts.

As a way of jump starting my creative process, I started doing mixed media art again. I may share an occasional photo here, but I do the art for myself as a form of play. If you feel so inspired, you can check in on my Flickr photostream. I’m just warning you, it’s quite a mishmash.

She's got the Power


This Gelli print is one of my favorites. I made it as a response to a prompt in the Journal52 project. The prompt was “Up, up, and away!”

Journal52 is a free class for art journaling. People are doing everything from sketching and photography to mixed media and scrapbooking.  You don’t need a special journal to do this in. They recommend using a simple 3-ring binder.

If you’re looking for something fun to do this year, check it out at

I’m also doing a daily journaling exercise called No Excuses journaling. It’s really challenged me to pick up my watercolor pencils and sketch something. You’re supposed to use a moleskin or other planner, but I set it up in a wire-bound card stock book I picked up on sale at Michaels. I’m having a lot of fun with it so far. It gives me permission to do some things for myself that I normally wouldn’t do. And no guilt, because I’m doing a class!

Because that is all clearly not enough, I am also doing the Documented Life Project in the No Excuses journal. They seem to tie together very nicely. The Documented Life Project is also a free class. Find out more here.

It hasn’t been at all difficult to integrate these projects into my life, even with a scorpion sting, the flu, and a visit from the parental units also tucked into this month.

The best part: I’m writing again. Flash fiction mostly. It’s dark, but I think it’s good. We’ll see what editors think.

Oh, and that scorpion sting? There’s a whole blog post coming with that story, and if it doesn’t give you nightmares, then I don’t know what will.


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Book Review: Nailed by Joseph Flynn

January 19th, 2014
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This is the first book by Joseph Flynn that I have read, and it won’t be the last. From the gruesome discovery of the murdered minister at the beginning of the book to the surprising revelation of the murderer at the end, it is a beautifully executed mystery. There are no shortage of suspects, and they are all guilty of something, just not the murder that Ron Ketchum is out to solve. Add a killer cougar into the mix, and you’ve got a story that grabs you from the first page and never lets go.

The protagonist, Ron Ketchum, is a retired LAPD officer who is now police chief is a small town where the worst thing that normally happens is jaywalking. He’s put into the eye of the perfect storm in this book such that his own complicated past becomes part of the national media circus surrounding a very high profile, very unusual murder. I really enjoyed Ron as a character and will be reading the next book in the series to see what happens to him next.

Read Nailed by Joseph Flynn if you love mysteries!

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Book Review: The Weight of Glass by Stuart Heatherington

November 3rd, 2013
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My review at

Child abuse is epidemic in our country. This book tells the story of three siblings left orphaned by their mother with an abusive step-father. The author calls this a novel of suspense, but I would classify it more as horror. I deal with children who are fighting to recover from the evils of child abuse, and I still couldn’t read this book in the evening for fear of having nightmares. Even so, it’s a book that I couldn’t put down. The story is compelling. It’s told with chapters that alternate from a present day reunion between brother and sister to flashbacks of their childhood. Each chapter pulls you inexorably into the next. If you’re interested in a dark, psychological read, this will not disappoint you. Just be warned: it’s not for the faint at heart.

I agree with the reviewers who suggest that the book needed a professional copy editor. There are problems, particularly with homonyms, In the copy I received, there were issues with the Kindle formatting as well, sometimes making it very difficult to tell who was speaking. If the premise of the book interests you, though, don’t let these problems stop you.

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Liz Andra Shaw

Journey into the Creative Mind of a Writing Reader