How Lettering Saved Me

When I was young, I often wished that I could make art erupt out of my fingers and wrap around my entire body. Only then could I feel the stress melt away, I thought. Only then could I feel alive when my anxiety froze everything inside of me.

I thought my art form was writing. In many ways it is. But with writing comes its own form of anxiety–the dread of the blank page, the pressure to keep moving on, the failure when you let go of a project. Writing demands time. It requires soaking in the right moment, bathing in emotions and memories.

And when Jaya was born, finding that time became impossible.

Continue reading “How Lettering Saved Me”
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Persist.

Hey, you.

Yes, you.

I see you.

I see you working your ass off, doing your research, doing all the things, staying up late and waking up early. I see that you’re still waiting. I am, too.

And I’m telling you, persist. Because the struggle is where all the fun is.

You got this.

And even if you don’t, have as much fun as you can fighting for it.

5 Instagram Accounts to Improve Your Handlettering Game

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I realize I sound a little snooty when I say I’m a “self-taught artist.” But the truth is, I’m cheap. I’ve seen plenty of lettering workshops in my area and online, and I’ve heard plenty of artists saying, “Invest in yourself! Take a class!” But. I don’t have the time or money for that. What I do have time for, however, is mining through Instagram during my spare time. It’s where I learned the basics of handlettering and calligraphy, and where I continue to learn and hone my style. Here are my favorite accounts to learn from:

#1: Andrea Fowler (@calligraphynerd)

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On Tuesdays, Andrea hosts “Tuesday Tip Time.” She shares short Instagram videos that address common beginner mistakes, like writing too fast or not taking breaks. Her video on the “wedge of space” between strokes completely changed my style of lettering! In addition to great tips, she’s a diehard Potterhead and caffeine addict, so her posts are always relatable and entertaining. Search #tuesdaytiptime or #calligraphynerdttt to go straight to her tips.

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#2: Lise (@inkandlise)

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Lise is the definition of versatility in handlettering. She has so many different styles, and she records herself writing. I am a visual-kinesthetic learner, and I have learned so much from just watching videos, then trying it myself. @inkandlise is the perfect place to start. She’s strong, she’s empowering, AND she even started an alphabet series tagged #inkandlisealphabets. It’s so easy to get stuck in the basic modern calligraphy style — Lise shows all the potential that handlettering has!

 

 

#3: Letter Archive (@letterarchive)

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What an amazing resource for lettering artists! This isn’t merely an account; it’s the collective work of hundreds of artists. If you search #letterarchive_[insert desired letter], you will find hundreds of different styles of writing that letter. I have gone here when my style doesn’t fit the composition that I’m doing, and I need ideas. The account itself features the best of the best, but I like looking through the hashtags for each letter to find what I’m looking for.

 

 

#4: Stefan Kunz (@stefankunz)… and a few others

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I’m attracted to typography and composition. When I started handlettering, I didn’t understand how artists like Stefan Kunz, Alyssa Robinson (@arobinsonart), Stephanie Baxter (@stephsayshello), and Dan Lee (@dandrawnwords) figured out how to make different sizes and fonts of letters fit together into one cohesive piece. But Stefan Kunz is gracious enough to show the secret behind the magic: grids. He has a few composition grids that he’s shared for free through his own account and through @goodtype, and you can buy sets of composition grids through his website. When I want to play with composition, I like to scroll through his, Alyssa’s, Stephanie’s, and Dan’s feeds to get in the zone.

 

 

#5: Lauren Hom (@homsweethom)

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Lauren is my inspiration for finding my own style as a lettering artist and social media content creator. Her account is a must for artists who are hoping to start their own business. In January, she launched #homwork, a weekly handlettering challenge designed to foster originality and freshness in the lettering community. She offers real advice on how to find your own voice and style instead of being just another picture of the same ol’ inspirational quotes on Instagram. I’ve only gone through her free coaching tools—her email newsletter, her Instagram stories, and her features on other lettering accounts like @goodtype—but she does also offer workshops. Hers is the only one I would consider paying for… and if I still feel like I’m serious in a year or so, I may actually cough up the money for her “Passion to Paid” online workshop.

 

I dream of the day when I’ll have enough expendable income to spend on an art class. But until then, I’ll keep digging through Instagram videos and accounts to figure out the magic.

If you’re into handlettering, art, or small business, comment and share the social media handles that inspire you!

 

The Only Three Forms of Hemingway I Can Tolerate.

Bradley Cooper and I have one thing in common: we both threw A Farewell to Arms across the room when we finished it. OK, it was Cooper’s character from Silver Linings Playbook, but still.

 

I’ve tried to like Hemingway. I tried hard enough to finish A Farewell to Arms, even though with every turn of the page, I felt no connection to his simplistic writing style, his flat females, his bland trudging through the mud. I’ve attempted Hemingway since then, and I still don’t care for him.

Although I’m not a Hemingway fan, as an English teacher, I cannot avoid him. And even though I don’t want to sit through another one of his novels, I still bring him up in my classroom. I like Hemingway in abstraction. I like Hemingway the idea. Here are the only forms of Hemingway I can tolerate:

 

#1 The guy from Midnight in Paris

 

I love that he speaks in that monotone, trudging tone. Because that’s what it’s like reading Hemingway. And if that cutie sat in front of me and read out an entire Hemingway novel, I might be tempted to finish the whole thing.

 

#2 The six word story

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Teachers love this story. It’s a great way to encourage kids to be choosy about their words, and to see the power in each little word. English teachers have been using it as a warm-up for years: Tell the story of Hemingway’s bet, then ask students to write their own six-word story. I recently heard of technology teachers using it to structure an autobiographical short movie assignment.

 

#3 The Hemingway App

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Hemingway’s writing style is not my favorite. I prefer long, poetic sentences that flow into one another. However, his writing style is what my students need. Adolescent writers tend to ramble and try too hard to sound academic. I have had to tell so many of my bright students that it’s better to use simpler language than to sound like you used a thesaurus for every word of your essay. They don’t believe me. They tend to think I’m another stupid teacher who doesn’t understand Art. So I refer them to the Hemingway app as evidence that I’m right, and as a tool for them to clean up their writing. But I also want to empower them as writers, so I remind them that the final call for the style of their writing is theirs.

I would close with my favorite Hemingway quote: “Write drunk, edit sober.” But I just found out that there’s no real source attributing him to this quote. It’s one of those apocryphal quotes circulated by unknowing nerds and Google search engines. Go figure. Of course my favorite Hemingway quote wouldn’t actually be by Hemingway. So I guess I really don’t like him at all.

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C is for Chopin: The Awakening and Why Fiction Matters

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One of those embarrassing pictures of my youth held hostage by the Internet featured The Awakening. My senior year of high school, I posted a series of selfies (before selfies were cool, of course) of my reaction to Kate Chopin’s classic to that early social network, Friendster. Mildly pleased at first, then bored, then scandalized and confused, and finally, empowered and satisfied.

Years later, when I went through my internet photo purge preceding my first year of teaching, I contacted Friendster and asked them to take down the pictures. I had long forgotten my email and password, and I needed their help. They asked for pictures of my driver’s license and other personal information to confirm my identity. Too much work, I thought, mostly because I didn’t have access to a scanner. I crossed my fingers and hoped my students wouldn’t find those pictures and turn me into a meme.

They didn’t. And now Friendster is dead, and I assume, so are my pictures. Alas. I did actually like those goofy selfies.

The Awakening has slipped into my life at infrequent intervals: first during my senior year, then during a college class on feminist literature, then as the literary analysis piece for my ELAR teacher certification test. Now that I am a wife, a mother, and a teacher, I think of it constantly. Particularly, I think of this passage, the one that stuck with me the longest after high school, and consequentially, the one that showed up on my teacher certification test:

 

“It would have been a difficult matter for Mr. Pontellier to define to his own satisfaction or any one else’s wherein his wife failed in her duty toward their children. It was something which he felt rather than perceived, and he never voiced the feeling without subsequent regret and ample atonement.

If one of the little Pontellier boys took a tumble whilst at play, he was not apt to rush crying to his mother’s arms for comfort; he would more likely pick himself up, wipe the water out of his eyes and the sand out of his mouth, and go on playing. Tots as they were, they pulled together and stood their ground in childish battles with doubled fists and uplifted voices, which usually prevailed against the other mother-tots. The quadroon nurse was looked upon as a huge encumbrance, only good to button up waists and panties and to brush and part hair; since it seemed to be a law of society that hair must be parted and brushed.

In short, Mrs. Pontellier was not a mother-woman. The mother-women seemed to prevail that summer at Grand Isle. It was easy to know them, fluttering about with extended, protecting wings when any harm, real or imaginary, threatened their precious brood. They were women who idolized their children, worshiped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels.”

 

When I was a child, my mother would mourn for my future husband, saying I was too strong-willed to be a good Indian wife. When I decided to become a teacher, my friends and family questioned me, wondering aloud whether I was nurturing and gentle enough for the field. When I became pregnant, I worried for 9 months that I couldn’t be like my Facebook friends who had transformed into Chopin’s “mother-woman.” 

But it is because of Kate Chopin and Edna Pontellier that I learned that I did not have to lose myself to be a good wife, mother, or teacher. I love and find joy in my husband, daughter, and students, but I do not worship them or see them as infallible. (Although I must admit, my daughter is a toddler and I am fully enjoying these adorable years before she becomes an awkward, intolerable adolescent.) I have a life outside of them, and that is OK. In fact, I find that my ability to set boundaries allows me to be more fulfilled in my roles as wife, mother, and teacher.

This is why fiction is important. It shows us possibilities, allows us to see what we can be, especially when the people around us do not. Through fiction, we can imagine solutions and make them a reality. Were it not for Kate Chopin, my struggle to maintain my individuality and identity through marriage, motherhood, and employment would have been much greater than it has been. Edna Pontellier’s story may not have ended perfectly, but through her I was able to create a better story for myself. Stories have that power. 

If one of my students digs through Google Images and stumbles across my selfies from years ago, I won’t be ashamed. That was the moment that a book sowed seeds of strength within me, and of that I am proud. I may look like a doofus, though. Alas, even the most empowered women can’t change those awkward adolescent years.

 

Title: The Awakening

Author: Kate Chopin

Published: 1899

Category: Literature; Feminist literature

What it’s about: Edna Pontellier struggles to maintain her individuality in a society that insists that a woman’s identity should be limited to her duties as wife and mother.

Read online

 

The C for Chopin image is part of my new project, AlphaLit Books. I am currently featuring women writers for each letter of the alphabet. I will be posting these on Instagram using the hashtag #alphalitbooks. Let me know if you have ideas for writers that I can feature!