Category Archives: serious play

We’re off to FaerieWorlds!

Every summer in the Pacific Northwest, thousands of fans of Faerie from around the globe gather in the wooded meadows of Mount Pisgah in Eugene, Oregon to celebrate in the realm and experience the unique magic that is Faerieworlds.

This weekend, July 27-29, I will be there with my publisher doing readings and selling books. We’ll also be selling artwork by our cover artist Julie Fain Art and our map artist Alison Woodward Eats Ink and kids faerie jewelry from Turtle Tyme Treasures.




Filed under conferences and festivals, novel adventures, serious play

Weekend Workout: Not Supposed (a Real Live Post)

Don’t you dislike the words “supposed to?” If I always did what I was “supposed” to do, I certainly wouldn’t be having as much fun.

On the career front, I am “supposed” to be working on Book Three of Faerie Tales from the White Forest, which is being released Fall 2013. Thank Cheese* for small presses who can publish books on shorter notice.

It’s not that I don’t want to finish it or won’t or think I can’t, I just had this other story nipping at my heels like a pack or wererats and could no longer ignore it.

I’ve been totally immersed in the White Forest for the past 5 years, filing away other shiny ideas. Those ideas hung out with each other, made friends, and eventually came knocking. They got too rowdy to ignore.

I had wanted to write a YA sci fi novel. I had wanted to write something light and goofy and funny to counter all the bleak dystopian literature out there. And for months I had had the phrase “Lady Gaga in space” running over and over in my head. I said it out loud to people and they laughed.

I finally decided it was okay to set aside Book Three. That I wasn’t procrastinating, that I would get it done, but first, I had to get Intergalactic out of my system. When I finished I thought it was either the most brilliant story or the stupidest story I’d ever written. I didn’t care. It was silly. It was irreverent. I’d never had so much fun writing anything in my life. I laughed, I cried, I decided I had something and that I would polish it up and pitch it.

And I’m having a blast editing it, too.


Rick Jarow states that as soon as someone says to him, “This is going to sound stupid, but I want . . .” then he knows they’ve come across an inspiring or important idea.

Just for a while, set aside whatever it is you’re “supposed” to be doing, and do something stupid, silly, and irreverent just for fun. It doesn’t have to be writing-related. It could be that you’re supposed to be grocery shopping and you decide to go into the toy store and blow bubbles instead. It could be that you’re supposed to do the laundry and instead you make a collage of smiles cut out of magazines (I’ve actually done that one, it’s fun).

If you are writing, put aside your novel edits and write that wacky short story you keep thinking is dumb. You know, the one about the robot mermaid that get sent back in time and befriends a fishermen. Or write whatever is is that’s niggling in the background and don’t care about what it’s for or why or the result.

I find doing things like this reconnects me with my child-like excitement around imagination and creativity.

So go forth and have fun. And if you feel so inclined to share what you did, I’d love to hear about it.


*Once in a workshop some kids asked what we could say instead of “Thank God” for people who were not religions. A 10-year-old girl came up with “Thank Cheese.”



Filed under behind the scenes, Intergalactic, serious play, weekend workout, writing life

NaNoWriMo Day 8 – Are we having fun yet?

NaNo Writing Goal Today:  1,800 words
Actual Words Today: 2,145
Total Words to Date: 19,248

One of my promises to myself this month during NaNo was that I was going to have fun doing it. I was not going to stress, I was not going to whine about the quality of my work, I was just going to write and have a good time. So far, it’s working. I’ve only had a few moments of, What the hell am I writing? This is awful!

As my GBF always says, “That’s the little you talking. Have big you tell little you, Thanks for sharing.”

I really wanted to jump into the NaNo community, rah, rah, rah, but I was overwhelmed by all the different forums and the sheer magnitude of participants, so I parked myself over at a friendly little thread in the “Age Group: 30’s and 40’s” forum called Blogging NaNo. It’s been a treat poking through all the NaNo Bloggers. There’s a HUGE list of them posted over at Knots and Anchors.

I think finding a manageable community is helpful. Participating in too many threads can be distracting.

In the vein of having a good time, I know it’s only a week into NaNo, but does anyone have any funny stories or want share a few favorite lines?

My story is silly. Very, very silly. There have been days where I think it’s only purpose is to entertain me personally. I was cracking myself up in a cafe today and the students studying around me must have thought I was a complete dork. I was seriously busting a gut. Coffee out the nose.

Here are a few of my favourite lines so far from my NaNo Intergalactic: a Pop Space Opera:


IdoLL wonders how much it would hurt to punch a robot.


“There was a princess in the trunk?” asks Monkey.

“Just a small one.”


“If we give the princess up and the Rethulans find out, they will destroy us. If we don’t give the princess up, the Burtuisites will destroy us.”

Monkey stands there for a moment waiting for a response from idoLL.

“AND?” she finally asks.

“Which way would you prefer to be destroyed?”


“Why do I get the feeling I will regret going along with this.”

“Don’t worry, you wont,” idoLL pats him on the head. “Robots don’t have feelings.”


(conversation between 2 robots)

“The ship is playing very loud music.”


“For no apparent reason. No one is inside.”

“Perhaps it just likes to listen to music.”

The both stare at the ship and then look around the empty shuttle bay.

“It is a catchy song.”


“You know what I think?” idoLL asks the princess.

“Ooh, is this a guessing game?”

“I think this whole H.O.F.F.A. thing is a private collection of Madam C’s.”

“Oh, that’s not what I was going to guess. I was going to guess you were thinking that your knees were getting sore.”

“They are.” IdoLL stops for a moment and rubs them.

“Do I get a partial score for that?”


“Greetings,” he says to idoLL, Tara, and Ari. “I am custom diplo-synth data AIP #P29751H. I will be your cultural liaison, pop synthesizer,

and general information kiosk.”

“See?” idoLL says to Tara. “What’d I tell you?”

“You may call me Liam.”

“You look like a chimpanzee,” says idoLL. “Can I call you Monkey instead?”

“All right.”


“Is that our ship, idoLL?” asks the rebooted Monkey.

“It is the ship of pop star Jettison Prix,” responds Ari.

“Where is pop star Jettison Prix?”

“She has been captured by the Curator and the rainbow AIP’s.” Off idoLL’s look he says, “That is what they call themselves on the com. I am Captain Pink.”

“You’re not Captain Pink, you’re Ari spying on the rainbots disguised as Captain Pink. Now get the princess on board and I’ll put Monkey in a box.”


“Monkey!” idoLL tries desperately not to wring his neck. “Listen, we are in danger. Life-threatening danger. Pre-rebooted Monkey, let’s call him Awesome Monkey, the opposite of you, would do anything to save the Intergalactics and the tour. He was loyal. He was supportive. And he was much, much more fun.”


Filed under Intergalactic, NaNoWriMo, novel adventures, serious play, writing life

The Ojai WordFest and Writer’s Conference

The Ojai WordFest is just around the corner. A nine-day celebration of Words, Ideas, and Stories in Majestic Ojai Valley, the WordFest kicks off with a BookFair (March 19), includes an “extravaganza” of individually-hosted events, and features a conference of Master Classes for Writers that spans 2 weekends.

I will be teaching three master classes over the course of the event as well as facilitating a day long writing excursion with poet and blogger Gwendolyn Alley, MCing a book launch event, and hosting a few early morning poetry mini-bootcamps.

REGISTER TODAY and SAVE $75 on any Full-Day Master Class!

(Enter My Special Promo Code: Danika | Offer Expires March 8, 2011)


For more information or to Register, visit


Filed under serious play, workshops

Weekend Workout: Making the Daily Matter

This isn’t my regular kind of weekend workout. This one is about getting refocused for the New Year. (now that you’ve let go of all the junk that was holding you back)

I’ve been thinking about why I have been “dragging myself” into this new year. Part of it seems to be a feeling of having lost my way. I find myself asking questions like, “Am I on purpose? Am I following my bliss? Where did all the passion go?”

Eleven years ago I moved to Eastern Europe and traveled around for the better part of a year. It just seemed like the right thing to do at the time. I was full of every kind of emotion, vulnerable and open, writing massive amounts of poetry and doing a lot of, dare I say it, “soul-searching.” Everything was about experiencing the here and now, living one adventure to the next each day, even if that just meant taking a tram to a new neighborhood store. And even though there were periods of utter loneliness, I was totally alive in that loneliness.

I can’t remember the last time I felt like that and sometimes it’s like I’m just going through the motions to get to some abstract reward at a later date. I decided I wanted to remember how to live in the moment and to have those moments support my purpose, which in turn nurtures my higher self.

But do I have to physically leave the country in order to be alive and passionate about what’s in front of me in the here and now? Even though, while I was wandering about Eastern Europe, I didn’t know what I wanted to do next in my life, I knew that I was exactly where I needed to be, doing exactly what I needed to be doing. I knew that it was serving some sort of higher purpose and that whatever was next for me would appear at the right and perfect time.

I think most of us would like to know that in all things we do we are serving our more “actualized” self. But that’s such an abstract idea. How do we serve our actualized self on a daily basis? Isn’t most of life about the mundane?

I wanted something physical I could look at every day to remind me of how I can do this. With each action, I can serve this higher self. Inspired by this idea, I ended up drawing this:

This demonstrates to me how I can view the small or “mundane” things I do on a daily basis as “serving.” Serving others, serving a higher purpose, serving a life worth lived. And by “serving,” my creative self is inspired and expressed (because serving, to me, is an act of love, and acts of love are necessarily creative).

Then, I started filling in each level of the pyramid. That’s when things got exciting.

Things to do on a daily basis: self-talk, read, write, communicate to my loved ones, play, rest, organize, appreciate, etc.

Things I do to serve: teach so that I inspire, write so that I connect, perform so that I open others to express, etc.

How this manifests creatively:  expressing myself through my stories with a true, radiant, and fearless heart, open wide to the joy it brings, connected to the divine

What would it mean to sit in my actualized self: balance, peace, joy, unity, connection

I actually have an image to put at the top, something I drew from a divination deck. I was going to post it here, but this is my personal image. I want you to find your own.

For a BLANK pyramid click: Actualized Self BLANK

I highly recommend this as an exercise this weekend. Using words and images, demonstrate how on a daily basis you can serve your higher purpose. What does this LOOK like to you? What do you see yourself doing? Your second and third tiers may be something other than what I’ve decided, but keep the bottom tier as the daily self, because I think that’s where we have to start, and the top as the actualized self.

Enjoy the process! Guaranteed to put a smile on your face or your money back.


Filed under inspirational poop, random poop, serious play, truth and beauty, weekend workout

The Best Year of My Life… Seriously?!?

If someone told you that you could have the best year of your life, would you

a) fold your arms across your chest and go, “oh yeah? okay, give me the best year of my life.”


b) jump up and down excitedly and shout, “awesome! what do I need to do? Tell me and I’ll do it!”

If you answered A, then this post isn’t for you. Well, actually it is for you, but you’re not ready. So, bugger off. Go on.

Okay, now that those A people are gone…

I think most people tend to want the outside world to make them happy. If only THIS would happen, then I’d be happy. I learned a long time ago that it’s the other way around. I have to get happy first.

A friend of mine desperately wants to find a partner. She’s even said to me, “oh, it’s easy for you, you have a husband.” I nearly burst a gut laughing. Yes, I just found a husband and suddenly life was great! I told her marriage is hard work and I’ve fantasized about the freedom of being single. I know plenty of unhappy married people. She wasn’t too appreciative when I told her that she needed to get happy first. Then she’d find the perfect husband.

Think about it… happy people make happily married people. Grumpy, bitter, resentful people… not so much.

The most important thing I’ve learned over the past several years is that I am the one responsible for my own peace and happiness. Stuff might happen out there, stuff that I consider bad, hurtful, wrong, immoral, but I am the one in charge of how I let it affect me. And, more importantly, how I let all those righteous feelings stop be from getting what I say I want.

I am in charge of my own success. I am the only one standing in my way. Trust me, if you made an effort to honestly look at how you stand in your own way, and then really get out of your way, I bet you’d be more successful then you could ever imagine. The ways I get in my way are sneaky ninjas. I have denied, justified, blamed, and made excuses. Many of those excuses I didn’t even REALIZE were excuses because I thought they were the truth.

In Debbie Ford’s book The Best Year of Your Life, she challenges readers to get out of their own ways and create the best year of their lives for themselves. My GBF and I took her up on that challenge. But preparing for this new best year took some time.

The first chapter is on setting your intention. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. It took us a week after we realized what a huge responsibility we are. Having this intention and being committed to that intention meant for an entire year we could no longer blame anyone else for anything. Not only did we have to stop denying the ways we sabotaged our own success, we had to do something about it. We had to take action. There would be no excuses.

One of the things Debbie tells readers to do is to post notes all over the house that say “this is the best year of your life” as a reminder. Did you just cringe a little? Yeah, me, too.

Most people live with other people. And a lot of the time we care about what they think of us. And sometimes we don’t do things just because they might think we are stupid or silly. As I was showing my GBF the signs all over my house. I pointed to one in my bedroom and said – I hesitated with that one. You know, cuz Baby might think I’m being silly.”

“Would you rather he think you’re being silly or would you rather be happy?” he asked.

The sign is still on my nightstand. There’s one on the refrigerator, too.


Filed under do something different, inspirational poop, my gbf, on my bookshelf, serious play

Resistance, Ritual, and the (W)Riting life

Several months ago I wrote a POST about how I quit my “soul-sucking” job to live a more creative life. A life that was more in line with my passion and purpose.

The truth of the matter is, it’s a challenge to live life as an artist, writer, musician, etc and make a living from it. It’s not impossible; it’s just challenging on so many levels. Your spouse might not appreciate your lack of immediate income, you might not appreciate your lack of immediate income, your friends and family might resent you for not taking life seriously, and your mind will give you those 11,000 reasons why you can’t do it (I’m a talentless hack; I’m too old to change my life; No one will read anything I write; There’s no money in poetry/dance/filmmaking/etc). Thank your mind for sharing, pat it on its head, and scoot it along. You can make a living at it, or at least a good part of your living at it… it just takes time, energy, and commitment.

This summer I hit a financial low. I had very little income for several months. I found myself searching classifieds for anything that sounded not too nauseating to apply for. I was afraid. I had a crisis of faith in my own abilities. Then, I made a decision that if I were going to get a job, then it had to be 1) a contract job (i.e. temporary and project-based), 2) something related to my field (i.e. teaching, film making, etc), and 3) I have to enjoy it.

I set that intention and low and behold, the fabulous adventure that was Hit n Strum came into my life. Presto!

During my low of lows, however, I was saved by a support system of people who believe in me (a system I put in place for just such emergencies – SEE MY PREVIOUS POST) and by the RITUALS I created around my writing and taking care of my spiritual self. I cannot say HOW VITAL it is to be committed to these rituals, because you will have doubts, fears, and moments of wondering why you aren’t more passionate about accounting or nursing or some other NORMAL occupation.

If you create a ritual for your writing/spiritual life, and follow it with commitment EVEN WHEN YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE IT, you will notice astounding changes. You will notice your love made visible.

from stockvault

Here’s my ritual:

-Wake up as early as possible (a challenge b/c I tend to stay up late). My target time is 7:30 am.

-Put Snataam Kaur’s PREM on the CD player (I find playing the same CD every day helps me keep the ritual)

-Get a cup of coffee and write a minimum of one page in my journal (my journal is large, 8 1/2 x 11).

-Read a section of an inspirational book (so far I’ve gone through The Power of Now, Making a Literary Life, and Kundilini, The Evlotionary Energy in Man). For those starting out in a similar fashion, The Power of Now is an excellent resource.

-Just before the last song on the CD starts, I put everything down and then I meditate through the last song. It’s 11 minutes long. Anyone can meditate for 11 minutes. And that meditation sets the tone for what I am to do that day. Getting present, getting still, and quieting the mind is essential for me.

-Get dressed and take a short walk. I call this my “commute” to work. Of all the stages, this is the one I most often resist and most often skip. I have found myself working in my pajamas at 2 pm. But there’s something about my “commute” that seals the deal. I’m off to work! I’m taking this seriously!

-Write (or edit) for at least 2 hours. I can get a significant amount of work done in 2 hours and after 2 hours, my focus gets wonky.

This has absolutely worked for me. As much as I resist, as much as I call myself a fraud or slacker, this works. I started this in February and since that time I have written a feature screenplay and edited it 4 times, edited a draft of my novel, and written a “scriptment” of another feature screenplay I’m working on for a director friend of mine.

Today I’m writing this because I’m between projects, when I feel slightly bewildered as to how to approach the next thing.

After my writing/editing time I usually eat. I’m not a big early morning eater, but if you need to eat right away, add that to your ritual.


THEN, very importantly, I have what I call WRITING BIZNIZ time. I must do at least one thing every day that furthers my “career” as a writer. I research the trades, apply for grants/festivals/contests, make queries, and SUBMIT my work. This part is important b/c I realized after a while that no producer/publisher is going to come knocking on my door going, “Hey, I heard your keyboard strokes, can I take a look at what you’re writing?”

Take time when you do your bizniz. Research the companies you submit to, check your cover letter for mistakes, make them personal, read all the rules and guidelines when submitting, etc.

If you really want it to be your life, you have to put yourself out there. If you just want to write for yourself and your friends, you can skip that part and enjoy the sunshine.

Carolyn See’s book Making a Literary Life contains her own similar advice. She says to write 1,000 words a day (or edit for 2 hours) five times a week for the rest of your life, AND hand write (and mail) one “charming note” (or gift) to an author/editor/etc you admire five times a week for the rest of your life.

Okay, I’ve got the writing part down… I totally RESIST writing charming notes and mailing them off. So far I’ve managed three of them in two weeks. One to my dear friend Sarah Nickerson who wrote a wonderful coming-of-age book called How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found, one to a poet friend of mine (Gabrielle Bouliane) in Austin who I haven’t seen in years, and I also sent a book of poetry to a producer I met over the summer.

I KNOW that every time I RESIST something, there’s something to look at there for me. My old self that poo-poos things I think are silly or useless or dumb or I just don’t wanna, but might actually be worthwhile because the person recommending them is someone I respect, needs to shut up for a while and listen.

So… creative types out there… what rituals have YOU created for yourselves? And, are you committed to them? Are they working for you?

P.S. btw, I am human. I do lapse. Things I do sometimes INSTEAD of participate in my ritual?  Check my e-mail, check Facebook, get distracted by a good novel, watch the previous night’s episode of So You Think You Can Dance, call a friend, heck, I’ve even started baking to keep from writing. Then I laugh, refocus, and keep going. And for the times I DO have a job to get to, I have a “mini ritual” to start the day so that I don’t get too far off track.


Filed under on my bookshelf, serious play, writing life

Inside Story on the Inside Passage – Part Three

NOTE:  It is harder to blog on a cruise ship than I anticipated.  Internet Access is not only expensive, it’s spotty. This entry was written during my cruise, but I didn’t get a chance to post it until I got back.


Today we’re in Ketchikan, Alaska, our first stop on the journey. There are three cruise ships docked here, dwarfing the town. It’s a lovely spot, isolated and friendly. They obviously cater to cruise ships because there’s no shortage of art, clothing, jewellery, and tourist attracting goodies. Ketchikan_20090831_0042

I asked a local how she felt about it and she said she liked that it brought more people into town. The only way anyone can get here is by boat or plane, the mountains and glaciers are impassable, so I can see how for many months out of the year, it could feel a bit lonely.

The only thing she doesn’t like, she said, was when tourists from the U.S. ask her if they take American dollars there.  Doh!  Sadly, she explained, it happens more often than you might think. Yes, Alaska IS part of the U.S. folks.


Yesterday afternoon we started some of the real workshop work. Dara has a PhD in mythology and uses myths to get to the heart of the Feminine Heroic. According to Dara, and I wholeheartedly agree, one of the reasons we have become so dissatisfied with contemporary films is that they have become unbalanced, over-stressing the Masculine Heroic – the external journey.

The masculine heroic journey is about the ascension to greatness, the individual staking claim, standing up to power structures, etc. The Feminine Heroic is about the internal transformational journey, going deeper into the place we call “soul.” And just as our own abductions into the underworld are essential for personal growth (i.e. our “dark years” – points of grief, sadness, depression), so these abductions are vital in creating authentic characters and stories that stay with us.

Dara’s lecture was supplemented by Deb’s writing exercises. Deb uses a combination of exercises to recall personal stories and physical sensations (i.e. where on our bodies do we feel our memories). As you can imagine, sharing these stories was quite emotional for several of us. Did I mention that we each got a pack of klenex at the start of class? I think everyone had theirs open by the end of the day.


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Filed under serious play, truth and beauty, workshops

Inside Story on the Inside Passage – Part Two

I’ve never been on a cruise before. If I had been given a choice of vacations, it’s not the one I would have picked. And ironically, this was the year I was going to go to Burning Man. A cruise to Alaska is about as far away from that as I could get. Dara Marks thought it was funny, Burning Man vs. The Feminine Heroic (the name of her workshop on the cruise).


To tell you the truth, I find all this to be a bit surreal. Right now I’m sitting in the deck chair of a moving city, levitating above the ocean, staring out as the Canadian coast rolls by. When I’m in the belly of the ship, I feel like I’m inside an enormous hotel and easily forget we’re moving. I mean, there’s a casino, a library, a huge theatre, cinema, and miles of long halls that remind me of The Shining.

I’m in an inside cabin; not the original plan. The group did some trading around of rooms yesterday and I just said put me anywhere, I’m easy. If I ever in my lifetime take another cruise, I will not book an inside cabin. I realize some people get sick watching the world move by, but I get claustrophobic in a windowless room. So, a note of caution if you ever book a cruise and you’re at all uneasy in small spaces.

In any case, it was so dark and disorienting when I woke up this morning that when I hit deck 10 and saw the coastline, I started to cry. Okay, I tend to cry at the drop of a hat these days being pre-menopausal and all, but it was just so stunning. So much wild, untouched land. I was reminded, once again, that I’m part of something much larger than myself.

We all met up for the first time last night. Fourteen women workshop attendees and our fearless leaders: Dara Marks and Deb Norton. As we each introduced ourselves, Dara handed us a present: a workshop binder, journal, pens, crayons, coloured markers, and chocolate – all inside a beautifully decorated gift bag. We’re loving it already.

Most of us are over 40, but we’re not all writers. We have a few brave visual artists along for the ride. And even as writers, we have differing backgrounds. Dara’s background is in story development for screenplays and Deb is a playwright and theatre actor. The title of the course is Engaging the Feminine Heroic and the idea is not to negate the masculine side of story-telling, but to understand the differences and how to use them together for a fuller, deeper, richer story.

More on that later… right not it’s time to do my homework. 🙂



Filed under adventure, serious play, workshops

Training for the CyberSpace Open: A script per day!

When I started my 10 day screenwriting challenge the other day, little did I realize how this might get me in shape for one of the most interesting screenwriting contests I’ve seen:  Screenwriting Expo’s CyberSpace Open.

The contest is set up in round-robin (elimination) style. Each round the participants must write a five page short script around a specific premise. You can write from anywhere. To win you need to survive 3 rounds, each with a tighter deadline than the last.

In the final round, the top 10 writers have only 90 minutes to write a 5-page script. Whew!


I’ve been writing a short script per day for the past 7 days. I missed one day, so I only have 6 scripts. I was hoping to write 2 today, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.

I may actually keep doing it for 2 weeks. We’ll see if I run out of steam.

I will post my favourite script of the 10 (or 14) right on this site. 🙂


Filed under Calls for Submission, contests, cool poop, film biz, industry poop, screenwriting, serious play, writing exercises