Many of the indie writers I know want to publish to try to earn extra money, while still others just want to get their wonderful writings out there because they want people to share what they have created, and to have a sense of their work being appreciated.
When my paraplegic friend, Barbara Williamson and I created our book, Artful Alchemy: Physically Challenged Fiber Artists Creating, we did it to get closure for ourselves on a tiny nonprofit we had run for some 10 years with virtually no money.
I had been a professional with one of those ridiculous big titles for a drug manufacturer of plasma derivative products. Although I did my job very well, and found a lot of issues that needed to be dealt with, I hated the work and the typical bureaucratic organization, along with the games people play. It was not me; the work had no heart involvement, and I am definitely a heart person. If a job has no involvement for my heart, I am not in it. Money has never been my guiding light even though we all need it to survive. I have to feel connected mentally and physically with whatever I am doing.
Sometimes I guess our thoughts make happen what perhaps we might have continued to muddle along in even though it is not our right path in life. So all of a sudden when I turned 64, it happened. One day I had a job, and the next day I was laid off with some 400 other folks because the company was sold to a company in Spain and those people wanted their own folks on the scene. Now I could have felt that life was over because with a big title like that and my age, it seemed that every avenue of life was closed to me.
But as I recovered from the initial rainfall, I set to work to take my Social Security early to help keep a roof over my head as I knew employment would not last. And so with that little amount to keep me safe, I set out to do something straight from my heart.
Now when the Vietnam War was ending, my brother came home from the Air Force there, 100% wounded. It had given me the heart to help physically/developmentally/emotionally challenged folks for the rest of my life – children and adults alike.
I was a mixed media and fiber artist (an art quilter), and I subscribed to a number of online sites to read daily about events, exhibits, challenges, etc. I had always been reading about how physically challenged artists, especially, had a difficult time entering their art in events to get exposure and perhaps sell their work because of the cost of such events. If you were juried in, great, but if you were not, you lost your entry fee. Few physically challenged artists could afford to do that.
So I decided to start a nonprofit to help those artists be able to get the exposure for their work, and to teach them professional development. As someone who had a long involvement with art and exhibits, I knew what to do.
And as I was doing the essential things to get the nonprofit started, one day I received a phone call from a woman I did not know – a quilter wanting to start her own business. Suddenly I had the key to what we needed most for the nonprofit – volunteers. To heck with money, we could do this because we all stood to benefit in some ways or other. My friend had talked with the SBA about starting a business, and all they did was to tell her that she could not possibly start a business quilting; it was just a hobby. So with that, Fiberarts Connection of Southern California was born. I have to say that the 10 years we ran that nonprofit without a cent, we were extremely successful. There were just the three of us – me, the founder and director, my friend, Barbara Williamson, the secretary, and her caregiver, Rob, who was our treasurer, but since there was no money, he really did not need to do anything except to give his ideas, etc.
The first year we were in operation, we held our first challenge, and got it to be entered in one of the traveling exhibits run by a big company. The exhibit, “My World in Black and White,” had some 121 participants from literally all over the world, and that year, our group exhibit went to some 10 live venues in the U.S.
It was a totally satisfying adventure for me and my friend, who was so much more than just the secretary of our organization. We achieved so many things, and so many people were helped not only professionally, but emotionally as well. An example of this was that at the time, some issues such as Fibromyalgia and Chronic Depression were not dealt with well by doctors, and women were often made to feel as though everything was in their heads. So when we had one challenge and had openly notified the public that it was to honor those artists who were physically challenged, a lot of women began to call me, asking me if their depression, etc. was considered a physical challenge, I always responded the same: “Well honey, it sure isn’t an out-of-body experience, is it?” I proceeded to let them know that depression might have been something dating back to early mankind, when the weather would become cold and perhaps food scarce. Some people believe that depression was a response to the hard physical times so that the body could continue to survive on very little.
Well, with that encouragement, most all of the women went on to become highly successful artists. And we continued to run the nonprofit until both of us suffered further physical challenges ourselves. So when we decided to shut it down, we needed a way to get a good sense of closure, and hence our book began to come together. We interviewed perhaps 100 women, for as it turned out, all of the people we helped turned out to be women, not intentionally, but they were the ones who contacted us for help. And out of those, some 23 stood out for their stories and their transformations in their physical challenges to becoming internationally successful artists in many different ways.
This is a nonfiction book, and one that will not likely make us best-sellers, but for us, we have a major degree of satisfaction in having done what we did, and in recording the stories of women who represent a large portion of society today, and perhaps changing the ideas in society about those who suffer various physical/developmental and emotional challenges.
I just want to encourage all of you that no matter what your challenges are in writing your books, go for it. Don’t stop to worry that your book might be good enough, or that you don’t know how to write professionally, or perhaps don’t know for sure how to write the type of book you are writing. Just get those words down on paper, and today there are so many out there who will help you to get it right. We all have something good to say to the world in whatever form; start it today and just keep going. The more you try, the easier it will become. This is not my first book or my first article, etc. I have been writing since I have been 14 in a variety of forms. I look forward to seeing your name out there with your book title.
Find out more at Anne Copeland’s website – Artful Alchemy
Physically Challenged Fiber Artists Creating
Edited by Anne Copeland
With the assistance of Barbara Williamson
Available now via Amazon
The medieval practice of alchemy was concerned with trying to combine ordinary materials into something unique such as turning base metals into gold, finding a cure to end disease, and the path to prolonging life. It was practiced hand-in-hand with spiritual beliefs that it was possible to change that which was known. By the same token, artful alchemy is the process of spiritual discovery that enabled the artists in this book to transform their challenged lives, resulting in personal growth and international success in their art.
Most of these artists have their own businesses teaching, lecturing, designing patterns, writing books and creating and selling their unique art, leaving a rich legacy for upcoming artists and other creative people. All of them have been involved in international exhibits, winning major awards, and receiving written recognition. As you read through this highly inspirational book, we believe you will discover the possibilities available for your own life through the discovery of artful alchemy.
This book contains a collection of beautiful art, plus the personal stories of the 23 multi-talented contributors. The common thread through their lives is that each woman has overcome physical and other challenges to become a successful artist in the textile medium. Many of these women have websites and sell their work through the Internet sites, while others sell in galleries, exhibits, or through their teaching. Some create to speak to political and other social issues, while others use their quilts to educate the public about their physical challenges. If you have dreamed of expressing your own creativity, this book will provide the inspiration you need.
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