Dance–Creativity in Another Direction

My good guy and I have worked hard most of our lives.  He has taken care of software clients for decades, and I’ve been right there to support those efforts with marketing, bookkeeping, and even a little human resource work along the way.  We also raised a family and continue to support our daughter’s efforts to succeed as a dentist.  We’ve done a little low-pay or no-pay work in support of our communities, and have generally followed the recipe for “That Good Life.”

But now, we’re indulging a bit.  We play a little golf and have steeped ourselves in ballroom dance for the past six or seven years.  There have been a lot of practices, a few competitions, and all sorts of forays into movements and costumes completely foreign to us.  In short, it’s been a blast.

Now we’re prepping for our annual “showcase.”  This is nothing more than a dance recital for family and friends, but for any student at Colorado DanceSport, this is the event of the year.  People are signing up for extra lessons, spending even more time at the studio, ordering “costumes” on-line and more.  Me?  I’m into props.

Not quite sure how this got started, but last year I danced to the theme from “The Godfather” and constructed a car that blew up.  Amazing what foam board and an over-sized rubber band can do.

This year, my instructor, Mitch, said, “You know, Liesa, people are going to look for how you top yourself.”  Ahh, the gauntlet thrown.

I don’t know if it’s my ADD or my stubbornness and pride, but when I’m met with this kind of challenge, my eyes light up.  I LOVE CREATIVE PROBLEM SOLVING!  I also love trips to Home Depot with Prophet (he always gets treated like a movie star), playing with electric drills, Dremel saws, glue, glitter, paint and all the things we used as kids–only with the grown up twist of real danger if we’re not careful.  I started sketching.

My dance with my teacher this year is “Bare Necessities.”  It fits into the studio’s 2015 theme of Dancing with Disney.  Now, you may be thinking I would play with the idea of “bare” for this, but just like my character, Daisy, I like to lead a G-rated lifestyle. We decided to stick with the youtube version and see what we could do.

I’m trying to make my props cartoon-like, so I’m using brilliant greens, grey, and simple looking designs.  However, I am also adding in coconuts that fall from a tree, a snake named Kaa, and palm trees that Mitch, studio owner Robert, and I can uproot and use as scratching tools.  The challenge is three-fold.

  • All props have to fit in my car for getting to and from Cleo Parker Robinson Hall.
  • All props will be used a second time, so I can’t have “throw aways.”
  • I have to do most the “heavy lifting,” so nothing can weigh too much (I’m the proverbial 90-pound weakling, only I weigh quite a bit more than 90)


photo of Treasures from the bookstore

Treasures from the bookstore

First stop in this adventure was–you guessed it–the bookstore.  I don’t know anything about engineering except that my dad was one.  I picked up what I could on simple machines and probably played for a week in those books.  Life is good when you start with a book.  Using some of the concepts there, I was able to think up a few ways to get the job done.  My sweet man told me I am an inventor, and this thought has kept me going throughout my building process.


photo of Constructing ants from tubes

They will be ants, they really will.

Yippee! On to Home Depot.  I picked the brains of several HD experts over several weeks.  I bought “stuff” that might come in handy–insulation tubes from plumbing, dryer vent tubes, and wood dowels, pvc pipe, and I even did the “dumpster dive” into their scrap bins.

photo of Pulley released trap door

Coconuts will fall from this? You betcha!

On to the cloth store where I bought tons of felt, a little glue and more.  The young girls there got into my project and helped me with coupons and bolt remainders. How cool is that?


Did I tell you that I planned to clean the storage room in our basement as my January house project? Oops!  I managed to haul out a ton of stuff, and make mountains of things to give away, throw away and put away, but my deadline for dance was looming, so my basement is a disaster area right now.  Did I ever tell you how patient my sweet guy is when I get into creative projects?  We once had a time machine that ate up my kitchen . . . but that’s a story for another time.

photo of Palm tree jungle props

Hard to see the trees for the jungle, but they really work!

Anyway, several attempts and lots of words your mother shouldn’t hear later (forgot about that G-rated thing), I have three palm trees and a snake complete.  I have the mechanics of the dropping coconuts complete, just waiting for a major palm make-over, and the skeleton for a rock that Baloo will pick up, only to find ants running underneath.

photo of snake sock-puppet


There are only about two weeks left to finishing all this work, but I’m very excited. I’ve learned my steps, built some fun toys, and am looking forward to making it all come together in a three or four minute dance.

Creativity, whether in dance steps, construction of silly props, or jotted down in story, is a good, fun, thing.  How do you let loose?  What’s your creative outlet?

Bouchercon and the Big Names

I’ve always been a bit of a star-gazer.  When I was little, I was sure Shirley Temple and I could be best friends (had no concept of what “re-runs” meant).  When I hit my teen years, I knew that Robert Redford and Paul Newman were a year or two “too old” for me, but what the heck, I was dreaming big on my way to the political aspirations I had, right?

And now, my daughter lives and works in Los Angeles.  There are stars on every corner there, to be sure. Well, almost.  I’ve visited several times and never met one yet.

Picture of Bouchercon BooksYou can imagine the feast I had at Bouchercon, then, when I actually had a word with William Kent Krueger, this year’s writer of the year.  Mr. Krueger seems to have won just about every writing award possible with his Ordinary Grace, and there I was, standing behind the registration desk, saying “hello” to the great man. His hallmark grin was pasted firmly in place as he replied to my question about how Doyle never seemed to get his comeuppance, and he said, “not in this book.” Ooh! Mr. Kruger has more up his sleeve?  I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

Jeffery Deaver, one of the guests of honor, and author of such well-respected mysteries as The Kill Room, XO, and The October List, came up and I was lucky enough to be the volunteer helping to get his friends registered. He was quick-witted, generous, and real. No fancy entourage, no extraordinary looks.  Just a man who happens to be a New York Times best-selling author and one of Bouchercon’s guests of honor.

Silent Auction Quilt from Bouchercon 2014

Silent Auction Quilt – wouldn’t it be lover-ly!

The whole weekend was like this–meeting people, ordinary people, with extraordinary talent, wit, and kindness.  Christine Goff, of the Birdwatcher Mysteries took me in hand and introduced me to more great writers.  Deni Dietz, my editor and Anthony Award nominee, shared lunch and advice at a quaint Irish pub nearby.

In short, if I were an author autograph seeker, this would have been a gold mine place to be.

But I don’t actively seek out autographs. I look for people and their stories.  And here I was richly rewarded as well . . .

Teresa pretty much oversaw all of my work at the registration counter.  She was there through just about every shift, helping drop-ins with last minute registrations, talking up Bouchercon 2015 in Raleigh (where she’ll be in charge of registrations), and smiling, smiling, smiling.  I listened to her story of reading so many books my head spins just thinking about it.  On the last day of the conference I offered her a copy of my book in thanks, thinking it was a paltry thing after all of her work and kindness.  She looked at me as if I’d given her the best present ever, and when she asked me to sign it (and I misspelled her name!) she generously said, “I like it that way.”

Picture of author Robert Kresge

Author Robert Kresge – talk about great branding!

Another Theresa (this one with the “TH” clearly pronounced), told me about her life as a paralegal and how she lives for her reading.  She is someone who can read a book a day if the books are there.  How cool that each Bouchercon attendee received a bag full of books, as Theresa is one of several readers at the conference with this voracious appetite for a good tale.

I am in awe of the strength of those who read.  Even though literacy seems in trouble in the US (only 20% of adults read more than one book a year for pleasure), those who do read seem to do so abundantly.  It constantly took me aback when they would say “I’m just a reader,” like guest of honor, Al Abramson, who I bumped into during one of the many days worth of panel discussions.  Mr. Abramson was witty and kind to this newbie of Bouchercon, even though he has been a leader this organization since about 2000.

Book Carnival  with Faith on the Rocks

Carnival Books or Orange, CA, was kind enough to sell copies of Faith on the Rocks for me. Anne Saller (not pictured) is a terrific book store owner!

And then there was Lucinda and Stan. Lucinda was in charge of all of the volunteers and ran from place to place helping people find their way, filling in for missing volunteers, and generally smiling away with her lovely long grey hair flying by, a blue streak letting us know she was the person we sought.  And Stan, the volunteer in charge of balloting for the Anthony Awards, helped anchor the volunteer desk, and helped me find some friends of a woman who’d misplaced them.  He knew everybody by sight.

I have been in several communities in my life, but no where was I more comfortable than in this place where people come to talk, read, and find new mysteries, thrillers, and crime stories. Talk about a great reason to be grateful this Thanksgiving!

Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season with a cozy little thriller or crime book on top.  Next week I’ll announce my Bouchercon contest.  Hope you win!