Update on my head

I am now blond. But not for long.

And that has two meanings, because I might have to cut off most of the length to take care of all the bleach damage. But, hey, I needed a change.


On insecurity and art

If you watched my video of "Year of Grace," you're ahead of me.

I just can't do it.

That was filmed by my lovely assistant (aka sister-in-law) Sharon at ARTspeak, the Quest Church arts festival. Steve and I were part of hosting Quest's first art festival several years ago, which we naively assumed then would be annual. It was a big hit, but I guess no one felt like volunteering to organize it the next year, and so it fell by the wayside. Until this May, with the two-day extravaganza culminating in an Open Mic night.

Which is where our story picks up.

So I signed up to sing, and picked a song I felt good about. I'd sung another one ("I Don't Want to Hurt You Anymore") at the last arts fest, back when those songs were new. (Note to self: Write some new songs.)

The open mic at the first fest was kind of homey, a bunch of friends getting together and sharing some songs and written words. I actually knew almost all of the people presenting.

This time around, I felt like a producer's distant relation who'd elbowed her way onto the stage. Like I'd been grandfathered in and was allowed to perform while everyone was secretly snickering behind my back.

Because, dang it, everyone else was good.

No one was mean to me — it's church! But, man, I felt like a total loser. It didn't help that I arrived late and messed up the set arrangement, and then when I went up to play my keyboard, I had the choice of standing or perching on a stool. I tried the perch, but it felt unsteady, so I went with standing. Not realizing that in heels, standing and pedaling is really painful. My calves, already raw from ballet class that week, immediately seized up, and it kept throwing me off.

Not that that's my "excuse," I'm just saying it didn't help.

Here's the thing about art. Here I am, putting myself out there, fiction and poetry, songs and articles. I could just avoid all fear of criticism by keeping it close to the chest, but for every Emily Dickinson and George Herbert, there are hundreds more for whom hiding away their art makes the art meaningless.

Here's an interesting quote from Wikipedia when I was looking up Gerard Manley Hopkins, another posthumously published poet who sprang to mind:

"As a devout Jesuit, he found himself in an artistic dilemma. To subdue any egotism which would violate the humility required by his religious position, he decided never to publish his poems. But Hopkins realized that any true poet requires an audience for criticism and encouragement. This conflict between his religious obligations and his poetic talent caused him to feel that he had failed them both."

I don't struggle with the whole religious-people-don't-perform thing (heh heh), but I do agree with the idea that art, ideally, requires an audience.

But then the problem with an audience is that you're suddenly opening yourself up to vulnerability.

They might like you; they might hate you; they might be (sigh) dismissive of you. And now you have no control over it.

I've worried since having my book posted on Amazon that someone might write a bad review, and I won't be allowed to delete it. I was sort of prepared for opening myself up to critical reviews when I publish my mystery novel, but I'm doing that for the money anyway, and all press is good press. But when it's a personal, confessional sort of artwork — oh. Then you just want everyone to feel good about it. And not just pretend, but actually to enjoy it. But you can't force that. The dilemma...

And when people are kind to you about your work, you don't know if they really think it's quality or they're just being nice. Because I've heard people be nice (in church especially) when people sang off-key and forgot half the lyrics. Clearly a compliment is no indicator of the standards for judgment.

Take ugly babies, for example, and that way I can end on a lighter note. Ever since plastering Corin on YouTube, it's become clear to me that people could rate and comment on his videos, and perhaps on his relative cuteness. So far, no one's been mean, thankfully. I would say it's because, Of course he's cute! There's nothing to criticize.

But the thing is, there are ugly babies everywhere, and the particular parents are always clueless about it, probably because their ugly babies most resemble what they see in the mirror. (Oh, burn!)

I have always complimented every baby I was invited to behold, even when it deserved no such accolades. You can sometimes tell if I think a baby is actually attractive by the note of surprise and relief in my voice: "Oh, wow, that's in fact a lovely baby! I don't even have to lie this time."

But, for the other cases, I've stored up some useful phrases. Feel free to add your own in the comments. Say each one in a tone of animated wonder.

  • "Oh, look at her!"
  • "Wow! Amazing!"
  • "He looks just like you."
  • "What an adorable ... outfit."
  • "Look at that hair!"
Oh, shoot, I just remembered we get that last one all the time. Well, our kid does have some crazy cute hair. (I think.)

Here are some good all-purpose compliments for art and performances:
  • "You were simply unbelievable!" (This was a suggestion from a drama professor for whom believability was a plus.)
  • "How about you!" (Passed on to me by the same drama professor, a favorite phrase of a friend of his. Just say it slowly and excitedly enough, and it sounds vaguely complimentary.)
  • "I've never seen anything like it."
  • "Only you could have done something like that."
  • "That was so much better than last time." (Just joking, sort of — this is an actual "compliment" I got one time after singing in church. No, you know what, I've heard that one twice. Think about the words coming out of your mouth, people.)
All right, feel free to pass any of the above on to me about that video. Bleh.

Reverbnation song widget

It's come to my attention that there's some confusion about the Reverbnation song-playing widget that's on individual song posts (such as "When Will I Become?" for an example).

There's no widget (as of yet) for posting an individual song widget, only a widget of all the songs your band has uploaded. (Widget is at the end of this post for reference.) Since I'm using the condensed widget on individual posts, it looks like it's playing one particular song only, but all the songs are there if you just hit the fast-forward button to scroll through.

I give you a hint on each post. Click the "When Will I Become?" post as an example and see that I say it's track #9. So you need to push the fast-forward button nine times in quick succession to hear that particular song.

Not the easiest solution, maybe, but there is one! Hope that helps, and happy listening!



Live music video: Year of Grace

Live performance of "Year of Grace", an original song written & performed by Amanda Caldwell

May 2009
ARTspeak, Q Café, Seattle

The song is a tribute to the Scarlet Pimpernel, from the perspective of his wife, Marguerite.


Search inside my book!

Remember how I promised to write about writing-related topics as well as, you know, haircolor quests?

Well, my lovelies, I have completed the arduous (not really, but, yes, somewhat circuitous) task of applying for "Search Inside This Book" status on Amazon.

Now if you go to my poetry book's page on Amazon:

Swimming in the Wild, Wide Ocean, poetry collection by Amanda CaldwellSwimming in the Wild, Wide Ocean

You can click on "Click to LOOK INSIDE!" and — joy! — look inside.

If you're a published (self- or otherwise) author and want to sign up for the program, I'll give you some info:

You send in a PDF of either your entire book or, as I did, because it better matched what we'd made for CreateSpace, separate PDFs of your front cover, back cover, spine, and interior. The two required portions are front cover and interior. You could leave out portions of your interior for security fears, but there are good reasons not to and protections already in place (see below). They recommend high DPI but will work with lower. Actually, they seem quite reasonable and helpful all around, and will even split up or splice together or crop files for you if you're too dang lazy to get it right, and the function was up and running within a couple days for me (though, I think, I mailed in the files correctly).

This is a part that confused me, though: The sign-up is connected to your Seller Central account, but it doesn't tell you that until you're partway through the process, and your sign-up email address has to match your Seller Central email. Well, I already have a Seller Central account, whereas they were assuming I'd be signing up for one, so I ended up finding it easier to change my Seller Central email address to match my Inside the Book one rather than try to explain that to them through the somewhat clunky emailing-back-and-forth interface. It's probably not an issue for most non-seller-type people, but I thought it was strange they didn't mention upfront to sign up with your Seller Central email if you have one.

Anyway, the good news is, you can now see sample pages and search for keywords. I think the Search Inside function is lovely as a buyer, because I can get a feel for whether I'll enjoy the book as a whole, so I knew I wanted to offer it as a "publisher."

I thought they did a good job of selecting what pages to include in the preview; none of the poems are cut off, and there's a nice sampling (no stupid poems — hooray!). By logging into an unused Amazon account of mine, I discovered that if you haven't bought something on Amazon they won't let you see beyond a certain amount of pages. Even if you are a trusted buyer, if you do a lot of a keyword searches, they'll let you see only a certain amount of pages per day. So the whole text of the book is scanned in and searchable (and, presumably, a potential candidate for Kindle in the future??), but it's not like you can just sit down and read it all for free online without paying for it.

Hey, in other good news, because people have bought copies (copies! multiple!), I now have an Amazon sales ranking: #205,252. Woot! Eat your heart out, Audrey Niffenegger — I'm gunning for you.

Site design

Here's a metapost for you. I used someone's cool theme for my blog and kept meaning to download and link to all the little images on my own but not, you know, getting around to it. And now they're all gone. So...new or revised design coming.

Soon, you ask?

See above.

As long as I'm being meta, here are things I wish for in Blogger:
  • For it to be easier to have multiple user profiles for multiple blogs. That is, if I'm running an professional blog, I don't necessarily want my profile to connect back to my family blog. The only option is to turn off your profile on particular blogs.
  • For block quote, horizontal lines like the above, lists like this, centering, etc., not to mean that the formatting in the rest of the following text is lost. Bleh.
  • For easier and reliable WYSIWYG editing. I had to look up the HTML for horizontal lines. Can't that be included?
  • For streamlined image codes. They're crazy long. That's just my snottiness talking, though.
  • For opening links in a new window to be the default. I have to type my own target="_blank"s into every one. Who has that kind of time?
  • For them to give me my own horse. I've been waiting a long time now. Just saying.
No offense, Blogger. I love you, you know that.

I use Wordpress for some blogs and Blogger for others, and I've found Blogger to be easier on a day-to-day basis, but Wordpress to be prettier. I like monetizing my blogs, too, so Blogger wins there. But I'm a greedy bastard. Otherwise, you have to self-host Wordpress, and then you get into soooo much headache in updating, admin, etc, at least from a Mac standpoint. 

So, basically, nothing's perfect, but I appreciate what I have. I just put this out there in case, you know, Blogger is watching.


Why I am sitting here in yellow hair

That's not me to the right. That's some random person who apparently is famous or something. Whatever. I like her hair.

I found out she actually has quite dark hair naturally, and that has given me hope that maybe I, too, can have light brown hair with nice blond highlights. You know, what my hair looked like back in the day, before I aged and it got darker and darker.

Here's an upbeat and personable site I've been enjoying: Go Barbie Blonde

and this spazzy but still personable blog from a professional: Killer Strands

As it turns out, dark brown hair doesn't become light brown hair easily. It takes dedication and, apparently, weeks of work and multiple trips to Sally's Beauty Supply.

I've gotten past the red stage, and the orange, and now I'm into hello-yellow! One more bleaching oughta do it, and then it's time...to put all that color back in.

But maybe I'll be blond for a little first? Just to see if it's more fun.

I've done it before and apparently enjoyed it.

More recent pictures to follow...

I'll write what I want, dang it

I'm jealous of Steve and his freeform blog. I have thoughts that don't fit neatly into a SteveandAmanda post or a parenting article or into a polished essay. And I guess that's what blogging's for, nu?

I started AmandaCaldwell.com back before blogs existed. Heck, we started SteveandAmanda back before blogs existed. (Remember way back then? We still had dial-up.) I wanted AC.com to be a place for a public collection of my writing and other artwork to reside.

I had warnings from Writer's Digest and others to keep my author site professional, (a) not to sully it with inanities and banalities but to treat it as an extension of your writerly self, writing only about issues that might intrigue readers, teach aspiring writers, and impress publishers; and (b) not to be too personal, so that your crazy stalker fans couldn't find you.

Well...maybe. I am in the final-revision process of my murder mystery (working title: Poisoned, by God!), and I do intend to publish it under this name (i.e., my real name, unlike a romance I'm working on — I don't want people to get confused about whether people are killing each other or having sex). And there is a part of me that knows I could win more acclaim (from my mom) if someday I published a literary novel (read: a sad ending), which presumably would go under the same (real) name. Or maybe with a middle initial, to be ever so slightly more pretentious.

(NB: I'm not bashing genre novels here. I love them. I eat 'em up. That's why I'm writing them. I actually find literary novels in the main distasteful, but maybe I can do a version I can live with? Say, where the characters end up [gasp!] happy?)

See, this is the very thing Writer's Digest was trying to warn me about: being too forthright, too opinionated and open. I should try to keep everything bland and unexceptional, the better to assuage my future publishers.

Well, I say, let them see that I have a vast readership (two, counting me) who turn in to hear the latest news on how my haircolor adventure is going (that's to come). And clearly I have little to no concerns with privacy (this may change as I acquire crazy stalker fans), since Steve and I, you know, had a blog named after us with umpteen pictures of our daily lives before blogs and online photo albums were a thing. To keep this site at least somewhat writerly, I will say that every post is in fact writing. See! And, I will try to include all relevant news about my writing and art, and continue to post new work as I create it, and update with old work as I have time.

By the way, that's a good point: I'm still uploading older works, so feel free to browse the archives from time to time to discover anything you haven't encountered yet. (Yes, I'm talking to all two of you! Including me!)

In the meantime, sit back and relax and get to know the real me a little, banalities and all.

P.S. I'm the one on the right. As you can see, I've always been very friendly.


My poetry book is published!

Swimming in the Wild, Wide Ocean, poetry collection by Amanda CaldwellMy NaNoWriMo success gave me a free proof copy of a self-published book through CreateSpace, so I've published a collection of my poetry, Swimming in the Wild, Wide Ocean, Seasons of Verse: 1989-2009. Yes, I had to dig through boxes in storage and old journals to get back that far! I nixed quite a few deliciously atrocious poems, and I trust that what's left is a good sampling of my thoughts, prayers, and creativity over the years.

Or, as I wrote for the back copy:

"Swim free from me / from this pool out into the / wild, wide ocean." These collected works span twenty years of Amanda Caldwell's poetry, from the tasks of school to the allures of nature, from the joy of married love to the grief of loss, from the first steps of parenthood to the rocky journey of faith. Arranged by season, the poems bring the reader full circle through a representative year of blessings, challenges, and transitions.

Courtney gave me the idea to arrange the poems according to season, one complete year from summer to summer. Steve worked hard designing the cover and proofing for me.

Buy it here at CreateSpace or here through Amazon.

My understanding is that standard shipping is cheaper through CreateSpace unless you're buying enough at Amazon to qualify for the free Super Saver Shipping.

CreateSpace is print-on-demand publishing, so they'll print up as many as you want. So don't be afraid to buy a caseload!

Or, you know, just read some poetry on here for free. Wait, I'm a terrible salesperson.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin