Monday, April 27, 2015


 How does one find inspiration in the ho hum of everyday? Cooking, creating, living, I often find my brain as blank as the slate in front of me, the white sheet of paper, the expanse of kitchen counter, the depths of the refrigerator. I search for what will motivate me to write. Or cook. Something to ignite a spark, an idea like the flash of a bulb over my head aha! Eureka!

 Oooh how easy to flop onto the sofa with a book or the television control in my grip. Or slip into the kitchen not to cook or bake but rather to indulge, a slice of cake, a cup of coffee and just my thoughts. Or lack of them. I luxuriate too often (don’t we all?) in the lack of inspiration, a mixture of self-pity and procrastination. It gives me the excuse not to try. Frozen pizza? Dinner. A writing project? Facebook.

 Finding new ideas in a world inundated with extraordinary visions and a dizzying plethora of images; finding new ways to express myself when the same memories keep popping up in my head, the comfort and ease of returning over and over again to the same words, the same stories. Trying to be unique, to stand out while retaining my own voice, trying to be original in spite of the sameness of my days. Simply looking for inspiration to move ahead.

 I flip through magazines, reading bylines, looking at pictures. I read books, the wit of Dickens, the wisdom of Austen, the whimsy of another, the magical language of many. And something ticks something off in my head. An idea. A word. A thought, ever so flimsy and insubstantial, sometimes solid and tangible. Even something bad, whether experience or writing, a book I have read that is mediocre, a magazine article filled with everything that I tell my students to avoid, a really bad morning, does inspire, gives me an anecdote, or provokes me to work harder, try harder, to sit down and write dammit!

 I surround myself with inspiration. I surround myself with people who inspire me, quietly, subtly, without meaning to, without knowing what effect they are having on me. They share their schedules and their projects, we kick ideas back and forth. What are you working on? Where can I take this idea? I don’t know where to start. Inspiration is found in the tiniest detail, ever so tenuous at first, until ideas are batted around, words knocked out and scratched into a notebook, bathed in inspiration. I watch, I listen, I ask questions.

 A workshop. Women around a table looking at me for inspiration (yet do they know that they themselves, each one of them is a shining light?). Women troubled by their writing, not good enough, not strong enough, not individual enough, not personal enough. Women who have boxed themselves in by their own expectations and imagined constraints. Women under the influence. Of my own words and process. A Plated Stories Workshop is meant to kick start creativity, open doors to new ideas and provoke unaccustomed ways of approaching one’s writing. Instill confidence, which is the first step to finding inspiration. They are more talented than they have yet to realize.

 Chairs are dragged from one room to the next, from meal to work and back to meal. Stepping around a small black and white dog determined to snatch edible props. All the while chattering about writing, about photography, about inspiration. I explain that one person’s cumbersome busywork is another person’s creative process, that it is all how you look at it, how you define it. She pushes them to try new ways of setting up and styling a shot, daring to shoot in the dark, challenging each with a different theme, a different style imposed. Tiny speckled quail eggs, bright green peas, turnips the color of the peonies in the garden, a splay of green shooting from their tops. I send them into medieval Chinon to capture their impressions in words rather than with a camera, we head to Château de Rivau where she instructs them to find something that inspires the perfect shot. Anything goes, from the swaggering, splendid peacock to the garden gnomes. Open your imagination to the unexpected and to the often-overlooked.

 And we are inspired. Emotional, intelligent exchange and discussion and seeing what each is truly able to do on her own, on our own, their incredible work, has inspired the two of us and we are energized. Plated Stories has always existed as a place where we can do as we feel, as we please with neither rules nor constraints, be inspired by whatever the theme provokes while using our work here as a way to inspire us in our other projects, a place to play when everything else seems like work. After being so inspired and motivated after this creatively enriching Plated Stories Workshop, we might just kick it up a bit and take it in a new direction.

 Inspiration. Illumination.

Thank you to our magnificent workshop participants Paola Thomas, Michaela Brandl, Renee Iseson, Stacey Wickman, Cornelia Valthe, Lora Wiley. Thank you to D’Arcy and Sebastien Du Petit Thouars of Château du Petit Thouars winery for generously supplying us with a selection of their wonderful award-winning wines. Thank you to Caroline and Patricia Laigneau for inviting us for an astonishing morning at Château du Rivau.


  1. A beautifully written and illustrated post. Inspiration isn't always easy to find and it is sometimes quite stressful to wait for that spark to ignite our imagination...



  2. I absolutely love the theme this week. True, inspiration is all around us but these days the all too easy distractions of social media are overwhelming and have to say, once I've procrastinated doing that, it's so easy to lose confidence and panic. Listening to your own voice is so much easier when we just switch off and look about us. Thank you for such an inspirational post, Jamie - and Ilva, your photographs are stunning. I love the light peeking through and particularly the blank notes pinned - makes me smile and realise that's all too familiar. Your workshop participants were so lucky to have you inspire them in Chinon!

  3. I usually chastise myself to be intentional in seeking inspiration. Gallivanting and traveling tend to get the "inspiration" juices flowing. Although admittedly this way of finding inspiration may not necessarily be all that universal it tends to work for a good few people

  4. Amazing pictures! But more than that, I loved the words you wrote. It's so easy to find inspiration - we just do not look around.

  5. Thank you for this beautiful post and the It was an unforgettable experience. I feel inspired and energized.

  6. Listening to your own voice is so much easier when we just switch off and look about us. Thank you for such an inspirational post, Jamie - and Ilva, your photographs are stunning.
    Ruby Coleman