Andi Cumbo - Writer, Editor, Online Writing Courses, Classes & Lessons

September 1, 2014
by Andi

What Green Hydrangeas Taught Me About Creativity – A Guest Post by Jonathan Malm

Today, I’m honored to host Jonathan Malm here on my blog, and I can’t wait to read his book Created For More. Enjoy his wisdom on creativity today, wisdom I appreciated for so many reasons, including the “limelight.”

My dad moved our family to Guatemala when I was six. We grew up isolated in the mountains of a third world country. No one spoke English.

I had to make up my own ways to entertain myself. Imagination and creativity were my best friends at that age. But in third grade, a single criticism derailed that notion.

One careless comment from a teacher changed my opinion of myself for years to come.

It happened one afternoon at school, during the last class of the day. Art class. My favorite.

I sat at my desk painting a field full of beautiful colors. I had so much inspiration around me; through the windows I could see mountains, forests, and parrots playing in the trees. Everything was just right for me to unleash my creativity on the paper. I was meticulously painting—moving my paint from water, to dried paint pigment, to paper.

I couldn’t wait to show the art teacher what I was working on.

Ms. Eastman approached my desk toward the end of the hour to pick up my paper and see what I had done. I was excited to get a nod and gold star from her. Instead, she scowled and asked me, “Why are there green flowers here? Flowers aren’t green.”

She dropped the paper on the table, told me to fix the colors, and walked away. Dejected, I painted over my green flowers as her comment echoed in my head.

That single, stupid criticism told me one thing: I was not creative. I wasn’t an artist. My imagination was wrong.

It wasn’t until early in college that I finally realized I might be more creative than I thought.Created For More by Jonathan Malm

I found myself in a flower shop, wandering around the colorful aisles, and saw a curious sight.

Green hydrangeas.

Green flowers.

I beckoned for the shop attendant to come over. “Are these flowers naturally green? Did you dye them?”

She replied, “They’re naturally green. They’re called Limelights.”

I’m not sure I can express the vindication I felt inside me at that moment. I immediately posted a picture on Instagram with the caption, “Green flowers do exist, Ms. Eastman. Your art class was full of lies!”

In that one moment I had a revelation that Ms. Eastman didn’t hold the final word on creativity.

She couldn’t tell me I wasn’t creative. And I could paint green flowers whenever I wanted.

This is my encouragement to you: don’t let other people define you. Don’t let their words keep you from being creative.

Be bold in your creativity. Be bold in your calling. Risk it all if you need.

Green flowers do exist.Jonathan Malm


Jonathan Malm is a creative entrepreneur and writer. He is the author of Created for More, a 30-day devotional to help you develop a more creative mind. You’ll find him in San Antonio, Texas, roasting his own coffee beans and enjoying life with his Argentine wife, Carolina. You can follow him on Twitter or check out more of his writing at his website –

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August 31, 2014
by Andi

The Ideal Reading Room – The Sunday Salon

The Reading RoomIn our new farmhouse, we have decided that the smaller of the front rooms – the one with the cozy pot-bellied stove – will be the quiet room – the reading room as I think of it.  We’ll have a comfortable couch and maybe a puzzle table.  Lots of coasters on which to set warm drinks in winter, and a ceiling fan to keep the air moving and cool in summer.  People will be encouraged to put their feet on the furniture, and a blanket will drape over every chair just in case the urge for a nap hits.

Bookshelves, of course there will be bookshelves. Maybe a giant bean bag with a chenille throw tossed over one side.  And a wide chair and a half with an ottoman for comfort and snuggling.

We’ll also have a special “take a book, leave a book” shelf that’s open for everyone who visits.

I can’t wait to shape this cozy room, and I’d love your ideas.  What definitely needs to be a part of a reading room?  What needs to be left out? What colors do you think are fitting for a 200-year-old house and that invoke quiet and stillness?

Basically, what do you want to find in that room when you come to visit the new farm? 

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August 30, 2014
by Andi

Find a Way – A Writers Write Interview with Gay Degani

Sometimes I am just blessedly overwhelmed by all the amazing people writing great books, and Gay Degani is one of those people.  I hope you will enjoy this interview with her today.

1. Tell me about your latest project. What Came Before by Gay Degani

Since I feel as if I’m making up for lost time, it’s hard for me to say “no” to any writing opportunity. My suspense novel, What Came Before, came out this year, first as an online serial at Every Day Novels—a 1000-word chapter a day—Monday through Friday for fourteen weeks. Camille Gooderham Campbell, managing editor at Every Day Publishing, then created a gift edition hardcover, and now ebook formats are also available. Hopefully the trade paperback will be out soon. I’m working on the prequel, What Came First.

I’m also one of thirty-one authors involved in a writing experiment developed by Matt Potter at Pure Slush, titled 2014. His idea was to have each of us write one story to be read on a specific date for each month in print. That’s a total of 365 stories in twelve books!!!

I chose the 19th of each month for my contribution called The Old Road which explores the lives of several people who live in bungalows on the edge of a small city. Every monthly issue is bound and printed with a gorgeous cover. It’s also available in ebook formats as well. Hard to believe the editor deals with 31 authors writing

2. What role, if any, did books, writing, and reading play in your childhood?

I have always read voraciously from Heidi through Great Expectations to Middlesex. I have always wanted to be a writer, scribbling a novel in the fifth grade called The Twellington Twins which borrowed from The Bobbsey Twins, The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, and of course, Little Women.

During an Apple podcast interview, Jennifer Weiner made some insightful comments about this. She believes being a “nerdie kid” who listened and observed other people to figure out how to fit in, gave her an advantage as a writer. This resonated with me. Perhaps the feeling of not belonging pushes some of us into books.

3. What is your writing practice, your writing routine?

I write every day, though now that my husband has retired, I’ve lost my office above the garage. Accompanied by Pandora set on Zeppelin, he’s been sawing, hammering, vacuuming, and drilling, so we can park the cars inside. I’ve moved inside (yay, air-conditioning) and set up shop there. I work on and off all day, every day because I find distraction can help me be more creative—walking away and coming back with fresh eyes. However when I have a deadline, I try to keep the seat of my pants in the seat of the chair.

4. Who are you reading now?

Reading in print: RK Biswas’s Culling Mynahs and Crows. On my Kindle, just finished Robert Swartwood’s Bullet Rain. And on CD, Fay Weldon’s The New Countess. Next line, in print Sarah Hilary’s Someone Else’s Skin, on Kindle, Race for the Iron Throne by Dr. Steven Attewell, and on CD, whatever the public library has to offer. 2014 by Gay Degani

5. What are three of your all-time favorite books? Why do you love those?

To Kill a Mockingbird, The Razor’s Edge, and Tale of Two Cities. Oh, and I can’t leave out Tess of the D’Urbevilles and one more, The Count of Monte Christo. They explore what makes human beings human. To co-opt Dickens, they reveal “the best and the worst” of our natures.

6. How do you balance “building a writing platform” and the actual writing to set on that platform?

I’ve simultaneously incorporated both into my life.

“Building a writing platform” has been a big part of the fun. I got serious in 2007, my goal to write well and find an audience after years of striving, waiting, and giving up only to start all over again. I love the internet because it has made publishing my stories possible, and it’s through the internet, I’ve been encouraged by community, trained by experts (thank you, Randall Brown, Kathy Fish, and Michael Czyzniejewski among others), and been aided by the ease of online submissions (no regrets about the demise of most “No simultaneous subs.”)

As for writing, the challenge of learning the craft has been one incredible journey, and I’ve still got my traveling boots on. There is so much I don’t know.

7. What is a typical day like for you?

Wake up, make coffee, read paper, do the easy Sudoku and half the crossword puzzle (the husband does the other half). Boot the computer, read email and visit Facebook. Go to work on one of two or three different projects. Eat lunch. Take nap. Work some more. Walk. Make dinner. Watch Jeopardy and good TV. Back on computer. Bed.

8. Describe your dream writing space?

Combination of what I have in the garage and in the house with all the books in both places in one place again. Other than that, it’s perfect. Computer, sofa, a door that closes.

9. What is the hardest writing critique you ever received? How did you respond?

I’d say the anonymous Kirkus Review I paid for!! My book isn’t a deep literary treatise and perhaps it was unwise of me to submit it for such a review, but my ego and all the many people who like the way I use language convinced me it that even though it’s basically a family-saga, suspense novel, it also has some literary elements. The review missed the things that work in the book (the sense you are watching a fast-paced movie, the identifiable characters, the suspense) and focused on the fact that it didn’t follow an expected formula (Kirkus calls it a thriller. I have never called it a thriller). The review made me feel like I’ve had my head up my butt for the last twelve years.

However, after stewing a while, I remembered the kind things many readers said about the book and decided to offer a counterpoint and publish it on my blog. I did not want to rant or complain exactly, but rather to address the points made by the reviewer in a calm and reasonable way. A few people who did like it took the time to rebut the review. Can I say it? It made my heart swell.

10. What is the best wisdom you have to share with other writers?

Never ever give up, find a way, everything works, even delaying the dream of writing. If you really want to write, you will. BUT keep in mind, nothing is easy. You need to be willing to fail, you need to write shit, you need to take classes, you need to read everything, novels, articles, newspapers, books on craft, poetry, A Whack on the Side of the Head, you need to have faith in the process because writing is a process. And if you do all this and more, you will be surprised at what you can do.

Gay Degani

Gay Degani has published fiction online and in print including her short collection, Pomegranate Stories. She is founder of EDF’s Flash Fiction Chronicles, an editor at Smokelong Quarterly, and blogs at Words in Place. She’s had three stories nominated for Pushcart consideration and won the 11th Annual Glass Woman Prize. Her novel, What Came Before, was serialized online by Every Day Novels and is now available on Kindle and in print at as well

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August 29, 2014
by Andi

5 Reasons I LOVE Young Adult Novels

So this week, I read the first book in the Vampire Academy series. I read it in 4 days because it typified exactly why I so love young adult novels in 5 crucial ways: Vampire Academy

1. They are fast. I don’t have to puzzle through plot based on characterization – although I LOVE that in other novels. Instead, the plot is based on external conflict, which makes for a quick pace and, thus, a quick read.

2. They are intriguing. When well-written, a great young adult novel has a lot of mystery behind it, and in books like Vampire Academy, the writer reveals that mystery slowly.  So I’m kept wondering even as I whip through the pages.

3. The protagonists are often women. Maybe it’s just the YA books I choose, but many of the main characters are young women, often strong young women.  Of course, many adult novels have strong female leads, too, but there’s something about a teenage girl finding her strength that just really appeals to me.

4. There’s resolution. Often in adult fiction, I prefer open endings where not everything is tied up easily. But when I turn to YA, I’m often looking for some solid wrapping up.  I like for there to be an ending, even if in series the ending often also sets up the next book.  Something about the resolution just appeals to me.

5. They give me respite. For all the reasons above, YA novels give me a chance to get away from my actual life – a life I love but that can be heavy. So when we’re buying a house and selling a house all in the same month, women who protect vampires and love older Russian men is just what I need.

What about you? Do you like YA novels? Why or why not? Any great titles I should check out?

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August 28, 2014
by Andi
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Today’s Astonishment with Thanks to Mary Oliver

Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it. — Mary Oliver

I don’t really know how to tell about this life where a red puppy nuzzles against my hip when she wakes from napping in my mother’s chairs.  Or the way the bleats of tiny goats mimic the delight of young children spinning madly on a merry-go-round in a park on a sunny autumn day.

I’m not sure how to capture my awe and delight that 20 people have trusted a sliver of their word-filled journey to me.  Or the sheer peace that comes when I see how stories fill the world like dogwood leaves – going from green to burgandy and then dancing on the breeze.

Sometimes, for all the time I live with words, they fail.  Completely.

So today, I will tell you what astonishes me, now, on this Thursday at the end of this August.

  • The paisley squares that I have only just now noticed even those this quilt my mom made has hung near me for almost 10 years now.
  • The idea that I can see contrasting colors in particular shapes and not only know those shapes form letters but then words and that those words mean.  And that they mean differently to everyone.
  • The chickens – Fern and Snowman – who come to me when I call, and how I want to call them when – just a small time ago – I feared them.  The softness of their feathers, tender silk on my fingerprints.
  • The way sleep comes and lifts all burdens. The struggle when it eludes.
  • The smile of my friend’s sleeping child.
  • The process by which a tree converts breathlessness to very breath and draws all it needs to do so from earth – no humans necessary.
  • You – sitting somewhere I can not even imagine, reading these words on a screen that glows.
  • You – wanting to read something I have written.
  • You with all your fingertips or aching heart or ankle wrapped in a bright pink cast.  You with the memories of love alluded or scarred, with the cuts of life carved deep into you and yet, you there – just where you are, beautiful, powerful, loved.

What astonishes you today?  Tell me about it.  Write it down. Revel.



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