Jennifer Kan Martinez

"Sailing on Light"

Welcome, writers and storytellers.  As you soar through life, wings flapping furiously, may this be a little rock for you to perch upon, rest for a while and maybe find some inspiration.


the necessity of a writing group


Happy new year!  I hope your 2013 is off to a fabulous start.  

If you're a writer, I hope you either have a writing group (the best), some form of peer editing (also helpful), or at least someone who will read your work and give you their honest opinion (the bare minimum).  A big part of having a writing community is that it encourages (forces) you to write because you have to meet at least some kind of deadline, and writing in a vacuum for no one but yourself is fine but like trees falling in a forest with no one listening.  Unless you see it as a form of journaling-- a form of mental exercise to keep you sane.  In which case, carry on.  As my old acting teacher used to say, what's good in art (crazy emotion) isn't good for life.  So, keep the sanity in real life, save the crazies for your art.

It took me years to find a writing group that wasn't self-indulgent (touchy-feely "everyone's a great writer") or simply not that good (for my particular taste), and now that I've finally found one, I can see what a huge difference it makes.  My group is tiny-- it's a librarian, an English professor, and me.  (I think they rather got the short end of the stick with a coffee shop owner being the third in their more literary group.)  But it's luxurious-- we meet for brunch and only talk about one person's work each time.  We all have different styles, different topics, and fortunately, I truly enjoy reading their work.  It's so nice to be able to have these conversations now that I'm out of school and don't get it otherwise.

We just started, so we are still polite as we get to know each other and each other's work-- but I'm looking forward to getting to know these two women both as people and as writers, hunkering down, tightening up our work, and really sharpening our craft together with no-holds-barred honesty.  Ideally, this will be a lifetime partnership where we encourage each other to be productive, help each other turn out insightful, entertaining and beautiful prose, and root for each other's success.

And did I mention it makes you write?  That may be the true greatest benefit.  Especially if you are a procrastinator looking for excuses not to write.  Heck, most of us are just so busy with life, we can't find time to write.  But if you are truly passionate about writing-- if you feel compelled to write as described in Letters to a Young Poet-- then finding a tribe to write with is inspiring, fun, and challenging in the best of ways.

So, if you were waiting for a sign to get fired up, this is it.  If you don't yet have a writing group, go start one!


the writing process



Okay, writers, the writer in me is back.  (Sorry the pregnant version of me was taking over for a while-- she was rather pushy.)  And I have potentially useful information for you if you are interested in, say, publishing your novel and haven't a clue as to where to start.

I know there are many roads to success, but here is one possible way to proceed:

1.  Write your novel.  Once it's completed, put it aside for a while, then read it again.  Get rid of anything you don't need.  Tighten up your sentences.  Add life where you can.  

2.  Have people you respect read it, tell them to be honest with you, and then either accept or reject their suggestions.  

3.  Read your novel again, and pretend you are your worst enemy.  What would you ridicule?  What could be stronger?  

4.  Give your novel some more space, and read it again-- this time, as your best friend.  Find the parts of the story that compelled you to write it, fall in love with your characters all over again, revel in your revelatory ending.  Pat yourself on the back that you actually completed a novel.  Many people talk about writing one, but few actually do.

5.  Check out Nathan Bransford's blog.  For better or worse, I don't really read blogs.  But his is no ordinary blog.  This agent-turned-author has insightful (and entertaining) advice on everything from how to edit your novel and how to find an agent to writing a non-fiction proposal and how to format your completed manuscript.  Interested in self-publishing?  Or determined to go the old-fashioned traditional publishing route?  He goes over the pros and cons of each.  And so on.  

6.  Once you feel your work is as good as it's going to get (because you definitely don't want to be hacking away at one piece for the rest of your life), put it down and start your agent search.  The easiest way is to visit  You can search for fiction agents that are interested in multi-cultural chick lit or offbeat middle grade sci fi mystery.  Whatever you're working on, you can select the genres to see who would be a good fit for you.  (Whether you need an agent is a long debate for another time, but I'd recommend it for many reasons.)  Once you've narrowed down to the agents you like best and think would both understand your work and pitch it well, submit away!  (Nathan Bransford's blog has tons of tips on how to submit, how to write a query letter, etc.)

7.  Instead of just sitting around and twiddling your thumbs, praying an agent will request a partial or even a full (woo hoo!) copy of your manuscript, move on.  This is what will keep you sane.  Forget about your last project and launch yourself wholeheartedly into a new project.  Then, start the whole process again.  Hopefully, while in the depths of your new project, an agent will sign you, pitch your project to a great publisher who will jump at the chance to share your work with the world, and you'll get a huge advance and become a millionaire inspiring throngs of people with your work.

Good luck! :-)


everyday miracles

Hello!  I'm six days away from my estimated due date, but I'm still as pregnant as ever and wanted to share some pretty awesome stories with you.  It comes from that place (again) of finding art, music and creativity in unexpected places.

So, this first one comes from the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), typically associated these days with "civil war, child soldiers and worst of all the systematic rape of women as a weapon of war." 

Not exactly puppies and rainbows.  So, when I heard about this orchestra, I was pretty floored.  I'll let the 60 Minutes clip speak for itself.  Enjoy.

If you're inspired and feel like donating, you can go here.

The next video is about a boy named Caine and his DIY cardboard arcade.  A filmmaker in LA was so taken with Caine's creation, he created an instant mob and a short to capture the "best day of Caine's life."  You can read about how the filmmaker found Caine here, and again, I'll let the short speak for itself.  Enjoy.


And in case all of this is too feel-good for you, you can read about the benefits of swearing, gossiping and being a slob here. :-)



music and maternity photos

My favorite video of all time is still the happy dance around the world (here), but this one (above) of musicians around the world all shot on 10/10/10 is also pretty awesome.  Enjoy!

On a more personal note, life is often funniest when it isn't trying to be.  I'm 34 weeks pregnant this week and 34 years old.  Tomorrow, I'll be 35 weeks pregnant and will be turning 35 years old this coming weekend.  Planned?  Nope.  Kind of a fun coincidence?  Yup. :-)

I just discovered these photo series and think they're a great idea.  Life as art, and art as life.  We've been taking weekly photos, too, to document the growing belly, but we have yet to do anything with them.  

Here are some shots from the original series.  I love the descriptions.  You can see the full blog/series here.

And here are some from the series I came across first (inspired by the above series).  It reflects the different personality of the mom, and I have to admit I cried at the end of this one.  You can see the whole series here.

(This post was republished from my personal blog (here), but I thought you might enjoy it over here at the diverse arts project, too.)

unexpected art

Part of the appeal and magic of art is that it can appear (and disappear) at any time and any place.

I was recently reminded of a documentary by Scottish artist Andy Goldsworthy that I enjoyed, entitled "Rivers and Tides," and how often beauty and artwork can truly vanish in a moment. Here is the trailer:

Accompanied by sappier music (possibly from "Somewhere in Time"), here is more of his work: 

Simon Beck is creating snow shoe art near Mont Blanc in France in a similar way.  For a sense of scale, note the tiny two skiers in the top right corner:

You can read more about his work here, but the short version is that this man walks around for hours and hours (nine sounds average), creating these amazing snow "crop circles" with the knowledge that as soon as it snows again, his art will be gone.

Another heart-warming story about the unexpected outcomes of art is about Joshua Johnson, a 20-year-old man from Harlem, who has been tap dancing in New York City subways to pay for college.  You can see him in action here: 

And you can read more about him in both the New York Times and on the Good News Network site, which shares the story of how he was tap dancing to pay for his college tuition and help his mother, who lives in a shelter-- and how he ended up on the Ellen show and receiving a generous check (and a pair of fancy tap shoes).

Yay, art.  And they say art doesn't pay... :-)

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