Mom & the Bard

“Brevity is the soul of wit.”  Shakespeare

I fell in love with Shakespeare in Junior High despite the fact my English teacher forced us to read Romeo & Juliet aloud in front of the class. You might even say it was love at first cite. I loved Shakespeare’s word play even if sometimes I didn’t always understand all of it. When Juliet’s nurse slyly quipped that her charge fell forward as a child, but would fall backward as a woman, I thought she meant Juliet was clumsy.

Though a lifelong voracious reader, my mom was hesitant when I asked her to go with me to see Comedy of Errors at a local winery. Coming from a small country high school in Indiana (her graduating class was nine), my mom hadn’t studied Shakespeare in high school or college. No doubt she feared being set adrift in a sea of archaic language.

Maybe it was because it was my birthday or because the play was performed at a winery Mom agreed to go with me. I admit I too was a little apprehensive.  For me, Shakespeare shone more brightly on the page than being mumbled by slouching 9th graders.

For this particular production, the director used an Old West theme opening with a brawl in the first scene. As the director would later explain to the audience, “It’s not a Western without a bar fight.” Wearing cowboy hats and overalls, the actors spoke the Bard’s words while their gestures and body language told the rest of the story. And it all worked.

You don’t need to be an Elizabethan scholar or even an English major to enjoy Shakespeare, just an observer of human nature.  Mom even accompanied me to another outdoor production the following summer. This time it was Merry Wives of Windsor, set in Marin County, California in the sixties.  I don’t know if Shakespeare would have used Beatles music between scenes, but I bet he would have liked the scene with the hot tub.


Artist Interview-Donna Jeanne Koepp

My biggest breakthrough came when… Pursuing art all my life, I never have trouble jumping in to anything that interests me. From Macrame in the ‘70s, Stained Glass in the 80’s, Sculpted Dolls in the ‘90s, Needle Felting currently and always painting and drawing have kept my right brain active. My day job for 30 years as a Project Estimator for a large local general contractor certainly weighed on my left brain pretty heavy. About 20 years ago, I thought if I could just carve out an hour a day for art, I would be happy. After reading The Artist’s Way, I started getting up at 4am to do Daily Pages which is a stream of consciousness way of journaling and starting your day. After awhile I found myself just complaining on those pages. So I started journaling by painting and collaging. The journaling finally fell away, but the 4am ritual stayed. It’s amazing how much you can get done in a short amount of dedicated time. I’ve since retired from my day job and I sleep in until 5am, but I still start my day in my studio I fondly refer to as White Wolf Studio.

Another breakthrough for me was being invited to show my work a few years ago with Wedge Outside the Box and Wild Women Artists as I feel someone is watching and acknowledging.

Who are your heroes in real life?  A real life hero to me is Lorie Line, acclaimed international pianist born and raised locally. I worked with Lorie for a short while as she pursued her music degree at UNR. She left our firm and moved on to Minneapolis with her husband. She carved out a niche with her music and I believe she is one of the world’s largest independent music labels. She is proof that pursuing passions works. Put her name into Pandora for a flavor of her amazing music.


My other local real life hero is Carol Pallesen, calligrapher. I’ve taken many calligraphy classes with Carol, and her dedication to teaching beautiful writing and historical context is amazing. Her studio Silent Hand Scriptorium has sustained itself over the years because of Carol’s dedication. I’ve traveled with Carol to conferences and classes. And I’m so lucky to have her as a local resource.

One other hero is Marti Bein, artist. She is an old high school buddy who also forged a career in art and curates many shows around the region. Oh and Mary Lee Fulkerson, who said to me, “What if?” If I ask myself that consistently, I will never run out of ideas. I guess I have many real life heroes.

How do you balance your day-to-day commitments with your creative pursuits

I carve out time in the morning, as I mentioned, when the house is quiet and my inner critic is not awake. I also make creativity a priority. Learning to live in an artistic way is helpful too. Many people don’t like to call themselves artists, but everyone is. From what we decide to wear everyday, to what we decide to make with our hands, all are creative pursuits.

What are your other passions?  Since retiring I searched for a volunteer activity. I learned about Knitted Knockers from a colleague and I’ve been knitting these amazing breast prosthetics ever since. It’s a great way to knit and help women at the same time. Our group has grown to about 10 knitters, crocheters and craftswomen. We’ve also added Teddy Bears, blankets and other items for charity. Fiber art is a passion and I’ve taught myself many from hand sewing, knitting to tatting.

I love to go on drawing/painting outings. Urban sketching in downtown or nature painting is all fun and keeps me in practice. Latimer Art Club holds Paint Outs every month.

I paint pet portraits in watercolor. I love animals and they always find their way into my sight and artwork.

Teaching is also something I really enjoy doing. I taught stained glass way back when, construction estimating at UNR and currently I’m teaching Needle Felting and Watercolor Journaling at Copper Cat Studio.

My husband and I RV several times a year. We golf, he fishes and I spend a great amount of time with my Scottish Terrier, JoJo.

I do have two part time positions with the American Institute of Architects Northern Nevada and a local architectural firm. Both jobs are so fun and keeps me connected.

What’s next for you?  Hard to say what’s next as I suffer from Multiple Muse Disorder, which many creative people do. I love to learn and as hard as I try to refrain from new pursuits, I’ve learned to roll with it. But showing my work, teaching and practicing my art is my focus.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

I’m pleased to be showing with Wild Women Artists and our next show is just coming up.

July 19th Reception 4-8 and July 20th Show with Demonstrations 10-4 at TMCC Red Mountain Building in the Student Gallery on the ground floor

I’m also teaching my next Introduction to Needle Felting at Copper Cat Studio July 24th 11-2

Thank you so much for your interest. I really appreciate sharing my artistic journey with you.



Be Connected-Making Writers Conferences Work for You

“But when people say, Did you always want to be a writer? I have to say no! I’ve always been a writer.” Ursula Le Guin

I was fortunate to meet author and artisan jeweler, Wendy Van Camp at the 20 Books to 50K conference in Vegas last year. Headed off to a conference this year?  Check out some of my writing conference tips on her blog, No Wasted Ink.

An Ocean Among the Trees

“You’re not a wave, you’re part of the ocean.” Mitch Albom

A couple of weeks ago as we were headed home from a company picnic at Idlewild Park, I noticed a group of ladies wielding ladders and large bags of yarn headed toward Lundsford Park. As a knitter myself, any amount of yarn will draw my attention. Naturally, we had to check it out.

It goes to prove that if you have the inclination to check something out, the discovery is always worth the extra few minutes out of your day.

As I’ve said before Artown never fails to surprise.



Had we sped by we would have missed a series of oceanscapes in the park created by the Anonymous Crafters for Artown 2019. One of the artists explained this project was a year in the making with each piece taking several months. This series of yarn art, themed “Under the Sea” is their fourth production for Artown.

Where else would you see a mermaid among the trees?

Artist Interview-Janis Bryn McCubbins

A garden stake & sound advice from Janis Bryn McCubbins

My biggest breakthrough came whenMy biggest breakthrough came when I had been working as a production manager/bookkeeper for a graphic designer in town and he was no longer able to keep me on salary. I had just taken a class in glass fusing and really enjoyed it. So much so that my husband has recently turned a concrete pad in our backyard into a small art studio for myself and our two children. I had purchased a small kiln and was making glass as a hobby. Not but a couple of weeks after being let go, I was asked if I wanted to participate in a local art show. I still to this day have no idea who or what perpetrated that invite. I was not even thinking of selling my work at that time, but I assumed it must be the direction I needed to turn so I  gave it a whirl. It turns out that I had a very successful first event, so I decided to dive in and begin putting an effort into selling my work professionally.

Who are your heroes? My real-life heroes would be the unsung men and women getting up each day to take on tasks that no one gives any thought to. Raising children with developmental, social/emotional, or health issues. The teachers, caregivers, community service and non-profit workers that do thankless tasks. Those simply trying to make this world and the future better despite little to no funding nor recognition. We have so much that needs attention and it’s not being taken seriously. It’s those doing the day-to-day tending that I honor.

How do you balance day-to-day responsibilities with your creative pursuits?  I am beyond fortunate when it comes to being able to balance my life. My husband and I have made choices to allow for that, but I have managed to create opportunities for myself so that I have been able to work from home for the past 20+years. It’s enabled me to volunteer and be there for my kids as they grew and now I am able to turn that attention to other volunteer endeavors. I generally work in my studio in the mornings or on my online presence for my artwork and then spend the afternoon doing either my bookkeeping or transcription and audio captioning work. Having the bookkeeping/transcription work also fills my time when the art side is slow and being a freelancer in the bookkeeping and transcription allows me the opportunity to schedule art shows, custom/commission work and gallery/shop visits whenever warranted.

I love embroidery, so I have been integrating that into my glass work as I am able. I recently learned how to create pine needle baskets and love that it embodies the stitching. I’ve been beading glass cabochons or pendants that I fire and then weaving miniature baskets around them. That’s been very rewarding and checks off all of the things I enjoy creatively. I also love to knit and was fortunate to find a group of likeminded artisans who meet monthly and we knit breast prosthetics for women who have had mastectomies. My mom is a breast cancer survivor and it’s rewarding to be able to do something I enjoy and help others at the same time. I’ve made a lot of really good friends through this group and we now support other causes in addition to the Knitted Knockers Organization. I also meditate and enjoy reading, walking/hiking and spending time with my family.

Anything else you’d like to add? I am hoping to continue developing as an embroidery artist. I love designing the hats and totes and other items. I feel as though I have more control over the medium. It’s been a real joy and connects me somehow to my childhood. I’ll be featuring a mix of my glass and embroidery, along with the pine baskets at Artown’s Art in the Garden, held on Saturday, July 13th, from 9am – 4pm at 1280 Monroe Street in Reno. We have a variety of artisans who each donate 20% of their sales proceeds to The Friends of Washoe County Library. Last year we raised over $5,400.00.

I love giving back. I think it’s important to find something that fills you within to the extent that you are a better version of yourself and are then able to show-up for others.

Janis Bryn McCubbins

Summer Artistic Adventures-Artown 2019

I happen to share my birth month with one of my favorite authors, but that’s not the only reason I love July. During the 7th month the Biggest Little City becomes the biggest, little art gallery and performance hall aka Artown.  Every day in July there are a variety of art and music events going on throughout Reno, some are ticketed events, many are free.

Even when I carefully plan my July calendar, something unexpected always happens like discovering a concert at a bookstore, an impromptu Tango in a church or cats sipping wine beneath the Reno arch. While I’m not one to predict the future, I can tell you that this year art will bloom in a local park and judges will read children’s stories. Check out the Artown website and chart your own summer adventure.

Wine-ing Cats by Michele DiFonzo


Writer Interview-Kat Socks

Kat Socks, author & entrepreneur

Describe your day job.

As cliche as it may be, I truly believe the old saying “If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.” While some might consider this a platitude, I truly find so much joy in my work that it is hard to even call it a job. I run an insurance division for Dakota Capital Life and specialize in products that help people pre-plan their funerals. The general concept of this may sound a tad morose, the fact that I am able to help people find peace of mind before they pass is truly rewarding. With old age comes so many areas where stress and worry can derive, and being able to alleviate even just a small portion of that gives me the such a sense of fulfillment.

I also run a small baby boutique, making some of the products myself, including soft sole baby shoes. This is a passion project that stemmed from making baby shoes for my own son. Since that inception, it has ballooned into a full fledged business, one of its main tenants being that I donate a small portion of the sales to local animal shelters in the area.

Tell me about your latest book.

I had never been a writer by trade, and just a few years ago I couldn’t even have fathomed that I would ever start writing a book, let alone finish one. Nevertheless, I now find myself in a place where I didn’t just write a book – I wrote a book I am incredibly proud of. The book is “Pickles the Dog – Adopted,” and is based on a real dog named Pickles, whose story I felt compelled to share. The real Pickles is an adorable pup that was rescued during a flood here in North Dakota. She had been adopted and returned to the shelter several times and things were not looking good for her. That is until a family member of mine took her in and spent time helping her learn and adjust to life in a home.  In the book, a young girl and her family adopt Pickles and bring her home to their farm. Pickles, has never been to a farm before and is constantly getting into mischief because she doesn’t know any better. Through training, however, our young girl trains Pickles with a squeaky toy and uses it throughout the rest of the book to help Pickles behave. Overall, the book is about tolerance of others, and understanding their past before you pass judgment, and also about perseverance. There were a couple more specific points I wanted to include though. First, I wanted the main character to be a female. While there is so much talk these days about representation of women in movies or politics, I think what gets lost in the wash is the small-scale stuff we could be doing. I  wanted to write a book that girls of a young age can relate to and feel empowered by. In probably my favorite scene in the book, the young girl visits her mother asking advice on how to make Pickles behave. Her mother doesn’t tell her what to do, but simply suggests she try something she hasn’t tried yet. That is how we arrive at the squeaky toy training – simply through the girl’s own ingenuity. Second, I wanted to include a real training technique. Not just to have a basis in reality, but so that people reading the book could learn something that has helped me immensely. The method of training a misbehaving dog with a toy is not only a common practice, but something I have incorporated in my real life. We have two beautiful Great Danes, and sometimes they become energetic as you can probably imagine. Like any dog, they would expend this energy by wrestling which would of course result in stuff getting knocked over and breaking. To help focus this energy, we would squeeze the toy whenever they started misbehaving, grabbing their attention, and then use the toy to play with them.

Who are your writing role models?

I am always drawn to authors who try to teach children life lessons without being too on-the-nose or overbearing. Just like any book for adults, I think there is an art and beauty in subtlety. Eric Carle, the author of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” would probably be my biggest role model, in this regards. It is such a simple, yet elegant, story about moderation (something even us adults need to be reminded of, from time to time), that also incorporates educational aspects for children, such as days of the week and even a bit about metamorphosis.

How do you balance your day-to-day commitments with your writing life?

Of course my son and family are always my number one priority, but I’m not sure “balance” is the right word to describe caring for them, while also working at a job I love and writing a book I care so immensely about. I know some people unwind from the day by watching some TV or maybe perusing social media, but I’ve found writing to be so fun that it is the perfect way to decompress. I hardly find myself needing to find motivation to write, when the act of doing it feels like a reward in and of itself.

What are your other passions outside of writing?

If you couldn’t tell from the subject of my book, I LOVE dogs. To help bring this love to other people, I volunteer as a pet therapy handler at a local facility near my home. One of my Great Danes, Carmela, and I visit children there about once a month. The kids love Carmela and I really believe she helps brighten their day.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

My book has been out for a bit less than I year and I have been extremely flattered that it has won four national awards, thus far. The one that I am most excited for is the 2019 Next Generation Indie Book Award. The award banquet will be held in DC this year, where I will be doing a book signing at the American Library Association’s Annual Conference and Exhibition. Stop by and say “Hi,” if you’re there! I am also very excited to announce that there will be a sequel coming out this fall called “Pickles the Dog – A Christmas Tradition.” Both our main character and Pickles will return as Pickles learns all about a Midwestern Christmas tradition.

Be sure to check out my website for updates on the release!