Tag Archives: Lani Longshore

Ai Weiwei’s Art at Alcatraz

Lani LongshoreMy guest blogger today is Lani Longshore, a member of the California Writers Club, Tri-Valley Branch, author of Death By Chenille and Eve’s Requiem, and blogger at http://www.lanilongshore.wordpress.com

Art at Alcatraz

My children played with Legos, building forts, trucks, and hazardous swords when they thought I wasn’t looking. After Jordan Bernal, author of The Keepers of Eire, and I experienced Ai Weiwei’s exhibit @Large on Alcatraz Island, I wish I had taught them to see those little bricks the way he does.

Ai earned his international reputation as an artist with his photography, but his creativity includes all aspects of art. He created five very different collections specifically for the old buildings of Alcatraz. As an artist under house arrest in his native China, and the son of a poet who spent years in China’s re-education camps, Ai wanted to create a tension for the viewer by embedding his art in the notorious American prison. He explored the themes of liberty, repression, confinement, hope and despair with a variety of media. As part of the exhibit, he made portraits of other famous prisoners (some convicted of political crimes, some convicted of criminal charges stemming from their political work). In order to keep the Chinese government from confiscating his materials before he could finish, he used Legos.

The portraits were flat, laid on the floor of the New Industries building (one that is not usually open to the public) like carpets, or a huge scrapbook page. Visitors were allowed to walk around the installation and also see them from the gun walk above the room.

Jordan and I came in at ground level. As we walked around each grouping of portraits, we discovered some of them were so pixilated as to be abstracts. Jordan was impressed with the powerful lines and color combinations of one particular portrait. She took a photo with her cell phone and discovered that the image on her phone wasn’t abstract at all – it was a concrete and identifiable photograph.

Now we saw another level to this art – the perceptional bias of the viewer. From up close, we couldn’t detect the person behind the portrait. Put some distance between the viewer and the art – with a cell phone photo, or from up above, on the gun walk – and more of the person became obvious. Amazingly, we could shift between these points of view. Although we now knew that the arrangement of Lego bricks on the floor represented a real person, we could still see an abstract design. The photo on the cell phone couldn’t change into an abstract, but our brains could simultaneously accept two radically different experiences of the work.

I write science fiction, so I must create characters that the reader will accept as alien but understand in human terms. I must create a resonance in the reader’s brain that will let them hold two radically different views of the characters, yet shift between those views. Reading excellent writing helps me improve my skills, and so does experiencing excellent art. Ai Weiwei reminded me to look at everything with the eyes of a child, an inventor, an outsider. He taught me to layer meaning upon meaning, trusting that my reader will see more than the surface. He also taught me to value what my reader brings to my work, even if I never know what that is.

Lani Longshore’s Blog – http://www.lanilongshore.wordpress.com
Death By Chenille
Smashwords – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/55823
When Chenille Is Not Enough
Amazon.com – http://www.amazon.com/When-Chenille-Is-Not-Enough/dp/1595944915
Barnes&Noble.com – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/when-chenille-is-not-enough-ana-anastasio/1115086340
Smashwords – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/306399
Eve’s Requiem – http://www.amazon.com/Eves-Requiem-Tales-Mystery-Horror/dp/0991417615

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Value of Researching your Novel

researchResearch isn’t only for writers of historical fiction or non-fiction. All writing can benefit from research. Non-fiction writers usually rely on finding facts, but if one thinks that fiction stories don’t need research since the story is made up, misses an opportunity to enhance the story. Doing the research earlier than later in the writing process is recommended to prevent rewriting sections that might prove to be inaccurate.

The writer who embeds researched details leads the story into deepened characterization, setting, and plot points. The authenticity hooks the reader and expands the reader’s experience. The internet makes research quick and easy, but additional methods create more true-to-life feelings.  When possible travel to the sites where the story takes place. Interview people who know more about the subject and locations than you do. Talk to a librarian who can help you find additional interesting information. Elaine's research at church

Elaine Schmitz, author of  Recipes & Recollections of My Greek-American Family, is writing a novel that takes place in San Francisco. Last weekend she and her friend, Lani Longshore, author of When Chenille is Not Enough, had an entertaining day looking for sites where the protagonist, Sarah, goes in San Francisco. This photo is Lani in Sarah’s favorite church, St. Francis of Assisi, in North Beach.

Sarah’s apartment: 2nd floor studio, over Tom’s Grocery, corner of Greenwich and Powell, North Beach. Elaine's sarah's apt.

Elaines company bldg
Front Street: the model for InterCorp Headquarters, the company building where the protagonist, Sarah Korsky, works and where the murder takes place
Elaines donuts

To find suspects: Sarah plies them with Happy Donuts: give me your name and contact info and grab one

How do you research for your stories and novels?

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California Writers Club Tri-Valley Branch Meeting

Lani LongshoreI was able to take off a few hours from work this afternoon to attend the California Writers Club, Tri-Valley Branch Meeting. Lani Longshore led a hands-on mini workshop called “Someone, Something, Somewhere: Short Stories Made Simple.” We wrote for five  minutes with each of her prompts that involved, character, thing, place, inciting incident, story arc, push back, back story, and the aha moment.

Longshore is a writer and fiber artist. She is co-author (with Anastasio) of the science fiction novels Death By Chenille and When Chenille Is Not Enough. Her short stories appear in Voices of The Valley: First Press; Voices of The Valley: Encore; Written Across The Genres; Eve’s Requiem: Tales of Women, Mystery and Horror; and on Booktrack.com. She blogs about art, quilts, and writing at www.lanilongshore.wordpress.com.

December is book exchange month. Members brought a gently used book (or more) to trade. A gift basket with writing and reading goodies was raffled. April 18, 2015, Tri-Valley Branch will have their first writers conference. It is sponsored by a grant from the Alameda County Arts Commission to promote and nurture our vibrant community of writers.


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When Characters Take Over the Story

boxing ring

If we imagine a boxing ring with our antagonist in one corner and the protagonist in the other corner, who is the referee? The writer is.

Lani Longshore

Lani Longshore

Lani Longshore, co-author of Death by Chenille and When Chenille is Not Enough (science fiction genre about quilters saving the world from aliens disguised as bolts of beige fabric), made a comment on my last post about talking to characters. She said, “I chatter away at them all the time, but do they listen? They do not. They keep their secrets sailing over my head like playground bullies playing keep-away with the smallest kid’s hat.” She gave a clear visual of what it seems like when the characters don’t let the writer know what they’re doing behind the page or when they take over the story.

Jorge Luis Borges said, “Many of my characters are fools and they’re always playing tricks on me and treating me badly.”

Writers need to control the characters so that they follow the intended plot, however, if the antagonist and protagonist are in a battle, writers also referee the fight. In other words, what makes the characters more believable is to show a logical reason for each side’s conviction. Remember, we are told the villain needs to have some redeeming quality? The referee can show the reasons why both sides believe they are right which will make the conflict more emotionally appealing and deepen the story. Tell the protagonist that you aren’t taking the antagonist’s side, but if the reader understands why the antagonist is taking action, the deeper story line will keep those pages turning.

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Contest Honorable Mentions

All the votes are in for the poem about children contest. I will be moving the poems to the Contest Archive page today if you want to read the entries.

The first place winners are Lani Longshore, author of DEATH BY CHENILLE, for her poem “Armistice” and Julie K. Royce, author of PILZ, for her poem “Questions”.

And now to announce the two Honorable Mentions: Susie Crumpler for “Untitled” and Peter Dudley, Author of SEMPER and FORSADA, for his poem, “Tipping Point”.

I have everyone’s contact info but Susie’s. Venkat, can you email it to me?  Thanks.

More important news regarding all the participants in this contest will be posted shortly. Stay tuned.

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Poetry Contest Winner Update

The first place winners have been selected for my poetry contest with the theme, children. You can view their poems in the New Contest page on the menu of this blog. The Honorable Mention category is still being discussed but will be decided soon.

Okay, hear the drum roll? The first place award is a tie. Two winners share first place: Lani Longshore for “Armistice” and Julie K. Royce for “Questions”.

Details will follow in another post as well as the names of the poets who are awarded Honorable Mention.


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Critique Partners Chat

Tri-Valley Writers Club members, Jordan Bernal, author of THE KEEPERS OF EIRE and Lani Longshore, author of DEATH BY CHENILLE, chat after the April meeting. The critique partners worked with each other’s characters that involved dragons, criminals, and the new genre, Quilting Sci-Fi. Image


Filed under California Writers Club