Archive for 'writing altar'

A picture to inspire a thousand words
by Jessa Slade on August 31st, 2009

Currently working on: Revising FORGED OF SHADOWS (yes, still)
Mood: Determined

I love words.  I do.  My critique partners can attest to the truth of my loving words when they force me to cut my 79-word sentences down to reasonable size.  (Which I think was unfair, since there were plenty of commas in that sentence, so it wasn’t like anybody was going to pass out from lack of oxygen if they tried to read it in one breath.)

Still, I have to acknowledge, before the Word there was the Picture.  I dabble in photography and am a graphic designer in my day job so I admire the power of imagery.  For example:


Yeah, hot, which is inspiration enough sometimes.  But I also love the stark black and white, the balance of light and shadows, and most of all, I love the fact that this is a picture of Johnny Depp and yet for once he’s not smirking or glowering at the camera, forcing us to engage.  I think this is such a strong picture because it leaves so much to the imagination, leaves a quiet space for the viewer to feel the strong sun, the cool water, the rippling abs….


I like to keep images around to inspire me.  Here’s a picture of my writing altar and you can see a lot of my talismans feature images.  I have a slick of my book cover tucked in there, and on the wall behind is the collage for Book 2.


My favorite (tucked away in the back right) is a card — “Feuerreifen” by Gerhard Gluck — my mom sent me when I finally sold my first book:


Without words, the snail’s hope (and fear) is abundantly clear.  I find it very inspiring, to the point I’m thinking of painting myself blue with white stars for my first book signing.

I keep another picture (front left) that my XY cut out of a newspaper for me.  I tend to write dark and angsty, life and death, good and evil, and this picture reminds me not to take what I write too seriously.


The little terrier mutt with the cape is taking himself very seriously, and the chihuahua in the casket is trying very hard to stay in character (although he does look a bit nervous) but overall the image says to me, “Hey, it’s life and death, good and evil; have fun with it.”



On a trip to China years ago, I bought a chop — a stamp carved out of soft stone — and had it inscribed with the symbols “Tell a good tale.” 

Here are pictures of the stamp (wrapped in a bracelet with adventurine beads to promote luck, vitality and self-discipline — shuh, right) and a papyrus sheet stamped with the symbol.

Trying to explain to the carver what I wanted was an adventure in itself, and since my inability to speak Chinese is surpassed only by my inability to read it, I don’t know for sure it actually reads ”Tell a good tale.”  But as with all inspiration, as long as it inspires me, the reality doesn’t much matter.

Ideograms like Chinese characters, cuneiform and hieroglyphs appeal to me because to my eye they are a lovely melding of image and word.  And the fact that the symbol is in a language I can’t comprehend and will never master is perversely amusing since I often feel that way about the tales I tell.

I have one more inspirational image, but I won’t be keeping this one.  I commissioned an artist friend of mine whose work I admire to create an original piece based on the world of the Marked Souls.  I’m going to give it away at the end of October as a thank you to someone who helped make SEDUCED BY SHADOWS a reality, someone whose image I don’t have even though it’s been the inspiration for most of my writing life – a reader.

 You can learn more about the “Into the Shadows” Possession Prize Pack on my website.   

Do words and images inspire you in equal measure, or does your brain light up more for one than the other?  Since you are no doubt a reader yourself, I rather suspect your brain is wonderfully cross-wired.  Which authors do you find best inspire imagery in your mind?