Picture Sources

iStock_000011338536Large Pictures. They’re fun.  They make a piece of writing more appealing, make a blog post look more professional. But…most images you find on the Internet are the result of someone else’s creativity. Just as you and I don’t want to be plagiarized, neither do the artists and photographers who share their images on the web.

If you’re *not* an artist or photographer, though, where the heck do you find photos to spice up the appearance of your blog? Here are a few places to look.

  1. On the Flickr Creative Commons, a number of photographers offer their work for free—as long as you give them credit.
  2. iStockPhoto offers a wide variety of stock images for sale. If you’re looking for a specific and hard-to-find photo, this is a good place to look. You can purchase an extra-small image for 1 credit, or about $1.50.
  3. iStockPhoto* also offers a free image of the week, such as the one above, and free vector images of the month. What, you ask, is a vector image? It’s a graphic image made up of shapes and lines—which doesn’t sound nearly as cool as it looks. Here’s the November free vector: 

    These guys are a little tricky to use—you have to have vector editing software such as Adobe Illustrator, Freehand, or CorelDRAW if you want to change the image at all. I went the low-tech route: downloaded the file (it’s a .zip file), unzipped it, and opened the “.jpg” thumbnail image instead of the actual vector using Picasa photo software. I’m sure there’s a better way, but this worked and took zero extra time!

  4. stock.xchng is another stock photo site—on which most of the images (or all?) are free. (with certain restrictions. See the fine print here.) I haven’t used this site but might have to start doing so. Despite their somewhat alarming fine print, they’re affiliated with another well-known stock image company, Getty Images, which gives them the stamp of legitimacy.

* There are numerous stock photo websites; iStockPhoto is the one I’m most familiar with.

Getting Unstuck Without Coming Unglued: a Woman’s Guide to Unblocking Creativity

For us creative types, feeling creatively “stuck” is one of the worst sensations in the world—and definitely no way to start off the new year. In previous posts and on Twitter, I talk quite a bit about ways to pull yourself out a rut, generate new story ideas, and inspire creativity. And most of the time, for most people, that’s enough to jump-start your writing and get you moving.

When you’re in a rut too deep to climb out of, though, it might be time to bring in the tow truck—and that’s what Susan O’Doherty does in her book Getting Unstuck Without Coming Unglued.

O’Doherty doesn’t offer a list of writing exercises or “creativity sparkers” in her guide. Instead, she draws on her background as a psychotherapist to explain what’s know about creativity and it’s development. She uses this information to craft a series of writing exercises designed to help the reader figure out the source of her own creative blocks—and how to overcome them. 

I didn’t come to this book as someone who feels creatively blocked, but as someone interested in the art and science of creativity. In fact, I often have the opposite problem: too many projects that I want to pursue simultaneously. Nevertheless, I found that I benefited immensely from the book’s exercises. They might be designed for women who feel stuck in their creative lives, but I believe they can provide anyone—male or female—with insight into their creativity and insight into areas where they might feel stuck.

Wherever you are on your writing journey, Getting Unstuck has something to offer you. And if you *do* feel stuck, in writing or elsewhere in life, it’s a must-read!

:-) Cheryl

Anyone else have this problem?

Urban Gardener This is my first real day back to work since before Christmas. Not that I didn’t work over break—I had a few deadlines and projects that couldn’t just go on hold—but with a house full of kids and relatives, food to cook, people to see, presents to buy, presents to wrap, Avatar to see…well, there wasn’t a lot of time leftover for writing.

And if you know me at all, that’s saying something! I tend to write in the midst of everything.

So…I’m starting off the New Year with an impossibly long to-do list. And I’m having trouble engaging with it. In fact, I’ve discovered that it is MUCH more fun to look up new organizing software and make new lists than it is to actually *do* any of the things on my various lists.

Anyone else have this problem? Anyone else with an iPhone who has this problem? Because there are WAY too many cool-looking apps that promise to organize your time, money, projects, to-do lists, sock drawer, and more, and you could theoretically spend hours reading through them all.

Just sayin’.

:-) Cheryl

PS: No, the picture doesn’t really have anything to do with the post. But I really, really like it. Doesn’t she look happy? Plus there are sunflowers. Everything’s better with sunflowers. Happy New Year!

The W26T3 Strain*, cont.

Yat-Yee tagged me with this crazy (but fun) survey/note/whatever-it’s-called a few weeks ago. Here goes!

1) What’s the last thing you wrote? What’s the first thing you wrote that you still have?

A YA fantasy/paranormal (I haven’t decided which it is, yet.) Part of a book titled BUTTERSCOTCH HILL, all about a girl who finds a family of little people living in her dollhouse. Coincidentally, THE BORROWERS was one of my favorite books at the time….

2) Write poetry?

A little.

3) Angsty poetry?


4) Favorite genre of writing?

YA and MG, fantasy and contemporary….that’s one genre, right?

5) Most annoying character you’ve ever created?

The Lord of Darkness. (Yes, that was really his name. He had no discernable motivation beyond feeling evil. Hey, what can I say? I was in 7th grade….)

6) Best plot you’ve ever created?

The one I’m currently working on, of course :)

7) Coolest plot twist you’ve ever created?

The unexpected sister. Or the bear falling through the skylight, although I had help with that one.

8) How often do you get writer’s block?

Writer’s what?

9) Write fan fiction?


10) Do you type or write by hand?


11) Do you save everything you write?

Pretty much. Just in case. I’ve stopped saving all the printouts, though, in the interest of regaining some much-needed closet space.

12) Do you ever go back to an idea after you’ve abandoned it?

Nope. I have too many other ideas waiting in line!

13) What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever written?

That depends. What am I writing right now?

14) What’s everyone else’s favorite story you’ve written?

Depends who you ask.

15) Ever written romance or angsty teen drama?

Yes, altho my definition of romance seems to be a bit tamer than the rest of the world’s.

16) What’s your favorite setting for your characters?

Caves. I mean mountains. Or the ocean. Or what about underwater caves?

17) How many writing projects are you working on right now?

Rewriting current YA, polishing MG fantasy, working on NF book proposal, polishing NF science book for kids, drafting another kids’ NF science book….have I ever mentioned that I have focus issues?

18) Have you ever won an award for your writing?

Yes. They made me very happy :-)

19) What are your five favorite words?

Do I only get five? Here are a few of my current favorites:

  • floccinaucinihilipilificator (because I had to go on a treasure hunt to discover the meaning)
  • steotopygia (because it just sounds so cool)
  • bracelet (used as a verb)
  • undulate (I love the way it sounds)

20) What character have you created that is most like yourself?

Um…is this a trick question?

21) Where do you get your ideas for your characters?

Pretty much everywhere.

22) Do you ever write based on your dreams?

Not usually, but occasionally a great idea will present itself.

23) Do you favor happy endings?

Definitely! Why do you think I write for children?

24) Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?

Not usually, although it does occasionally distract me :).

25) Does music help you write?

No! But it helps me get in the mood *before* I write.

26) Quote something you’ve written. Whatever pops in your head.

To quote Yat-Yee, “Uh…” Nothing springs to mind!

*Dubbed the Write 26 Things and Tag 3 People strain by Yat-Yee Chong. I’m now supposed to tag 3 people, but most of the folks I know have already been tagged. Any takers?

:-) Cheryl

PS: I’m tagging Timanda!