Meet the Doodling Duchess

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Doodle by Vicky Lorencen

You do know I like to doodle, don’t you? It helps me concentrate, listen more intently and relax. Today, Frog on a Dime is delighted to have the Doodling Duchess–children’s author Monica Harris–as a special guest. If you too doodle, you’ll enjoy it. If you do not yet doodle, you’ll want to try it once you’ve read what the Duchess has to share.

HOW DID YOU BECOME INTERESTED IN DOODLING?

Doodle by Monica Harris

I have always been a visual person.  Colors, shapes, and patterns intrigue me. When I was in school, I often found myself doodling on the edges of my papers. This was especially true when sitting through a lecture that didn’t challenge me visually.  You know, those lectures that keep the same slide up for 15 minutes before changing to the next one. Ugh!  By doodling, I found my mind better able to focus on what was being said.

During my teaching career, I learned how visual cues and colors helped students recall materials better. I encouraged my students to doodle and use different colored pens to take notes.  It was quite entertaining to see what teenagers came up with! 

More recently, I participated in a Zentangles© workshop. It’s a technique of creating black and white doodles using structured patterns. While intriguing, I felt it lacked the playfulness of color that my mind needed. That’s where my journey into meditative doodling began!

HOW DO YOU DEFINE MEDITATIVE DOODLING?

As I tell my workshop participants, doodling is different than art. With art, there’s a preconceived image in your head. The process involves getting the image onto some sort of medium like canvas or paper. Where people get frustrated is when the art they create does not match the image in their head. This does not create relaxation or mindfulness! Doodling, on the other hand, does NOT start with a preconceived image in your mind. You create an image on the paper organically – step by step without a specific goal. This frees the participant from pressure, anxiety, and self-doubt.

For meditative doodling, I ask participants to close their eyes. A question, emotion, or situation is described for them to contemplate. They are to imagine colors that come to mind and shapes – nothing more. Then, we dive into the doodle session! 

Doodle by Monica Harris

WHAT DOES DOODLING DO FOR YOU?

For me, doodling is a meditative state. The rest of the world seems to melt away as colors and patterns fill the page. It’s a conscious choice to put my brain in ‘time out’; to breathe and only focus on colors and shapes.

I also doodle when I have a problem that I cannot figure out. Science has shown that the average person has 60,000 thoughts per day and 95% of them are exactly the same!  The brain spirals through an endless loop looking at the same ‘possible’ solution over and over again.  By occupying it with doodling, a solution often presents itself.

DOES A PERSON HAVE TO BE ARTISTIC TO DOODLE?

Absolutely not!  I’ve had several participants say, “But I’m not artistic” but, in the end, are completely surprised at the images they create.  Doodling is for fun mindfulness, not for submitting to the Louvre!

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO SOMEONE INTERESTED IN DOODLING?

Try it!  Take out some markers, colored pencils, and paper. Try a simple starter exercise by scribbling big overlapping lines on the page. See how you’ve created small little pockets of space?  Choose one pocket and doodle in a pattern. Then, go to the next pocket. Before you know it, you’ll have filled up the page! And, just like yoga, it’s YOUR practice – do not judge it by what others can do or even what you hope to do in the future. Enjoy that one moment in time.

HOW MIGHT DOODLING BENEFIT A WRITER?

Freeing your mind in a doodle has multiple possibilities. It could allow a new story line to ‘pop’ up. It might offer a solution to your protagonist’s problem. Doodling might offer insight on a character’s psyche. If you have a protagonist that’s filled with angst, go into their mind and doodle.  A character that’s suffering through a sad time would have a totally different doodle. If your main character is a penguin, it would be extremely entertaining to consider how it would doodle and what design it would create!  (Okay…this entertains me…I’m going to go doodle!)

Thank you for your time today, Duchess. Happy doodling to you!

Monica Harris is the author of 30 children’s books and more than 200 articles for children. She also teaches guided meditative doodling under the name The Doodling Duchess.  You can find her on Facebook and Instagram.
Her writer website is:  monicaharrisbooks.com   

When you draw and pay attention to what is, it’s a form of being present. This inspires the mind, makes it happy, and the heart wants to express more. ~ Natalie Goldberg, Living Color: Painting, Writing, and the Bones of Seeing

Season’s Greetings!

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Tomorrow, is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one. ~ Brad Paisley 

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language 
And next year’s words await another voice
. ~ T.S. Eliot

Dearest Readers,

My warmest wishes to you for a joy-filled holiday that lifts your spirits, gives you happy memories and provides you with time to be with those you love best.

We can look forward to welcoming in 2019 together. Let’s fill it with creativity and courage to try new things. And, as always, we’ll give each other encouragement all the year through.

Cheers, my little snap dragons!


I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever
. ~ Neil Gaiman

May Wish in December

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Styling and Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Here we are friends, within winking distance of a new year. Maybe this was “your year.” The Universe washed you in warm waves of lavender infused dreams come true. Or maybe the year felt like a family of quarreling beavers with chronic eczema and a love of lutefisk with limburger took up residence under your bed. Perhaps–and I do hope–it was at least a patch of somewhere in between.

Whatever this year felt like to you, I want you to know I’m proud of you, my little sugar snap peas. You made it through and you’re here, reading a blog written by a goofy lady who just called you a legume as a term of endearment. You’re not on fire and you probably get to sleep indoors tonight. So, see? Things can’t be “that bad,” right?

Intermission: Year End Decompression Break

If you want, go ahead and pretend you’re still reading, but in actuality, you can imagine you’re snuggling a giggling Baby New Year on a porch swing. It’s 72 degrees (my personal favorite) and blissful, sun-soaked, honey scented peace surrounds the two of you. Ahhh.

Now, that you’re all squishy and at ease, I want you to do one last thing for me, if you don’t mind. Please read the list of wishes I’ve collected just for you. I can’t guarantee they’ll all come true–some of them are up to you–I hope they help you to finish this year with your chin up and heart happy.

Arrangement and photo by Vicky Lorencen

My wishes for you . . .

May you have a brave heart to exile manuscript excess, to say yes to [insert scary thing here] and even be excited about trying a new genre.

May you master the fine art of saying no in order to give yourself time to write—and not feel guilty about it.

May you inherit a tastefully decorated self-cleaning house with a self-cooking stove. (Give science enough time!)

May you have presence of mind like a butterfly net to consistently capture those seemingly silly, random thoughts and slippery ideas as soon as they light on your imagination.

May you be a sponge to absorb untried techniques, compliments and constructive feedback.

May you be a boomerang, able to return repeatedly for yet another try.

May you acknowledge even eensy progress and be undaunted by momentary gaps in your momentum.

May you remember e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e has dark times, disappointments, dry spells, downturns, doldrums and damp socks, even authors who seem to enjoy perpetual success. When you compare your insecure insides with someone’s shiny outsides, you’ll always come up short. So, don’t compare. Give grace (including to yourself, my little snickerdoodle.)

Styling and photograph by Vicky Lorencen


For last year’s words belong to last year’s language 
And next year’s words await another voice
. ~ T.S. Eliot

Frog on a Dime Has a Winner!

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Congratulations to Linda Geiger! You are the winner of the Frog on Dime 6th Birthday prize package.

You will receive:

 Your very own, one-of-a-kind doodle, made by yours truly, with your initials incorporated into the design.

A brand new notebook to capture your shiny ideas in the new year.

 An assortment of creativity-inducing treats.

A 10-page critique of the manuscript of your choice.

My heartfelt thanks go to everyone who entered. I am deeply grateful for all of your kind, encouraging words. You gave me such a boost to hop into Frog on a Dime’s 7th year! You’re the best, my little cranberry tarts!

Linda, please provide me with your mailing address via the Frog on a Dime Contact Page. Then, be ready to receive your prize parcel! Congratulations!


If you chase anything in life chase the things that get you excited about living. Chase the things that give you hope, happiness and a glimpse of a better life. Chase the things that make you want to be a better person. Chase the things that inspire you to think, create and live joyfully. Chase the things that reinforce in your soul that you can make a difference. Chase the things that make you want to transform your heart from selfish to selfless. When you chase that kind of storm you are chasing rainbows. ~ Shannon L. Alder

Frog on a Dime Turns 6!

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I held my breath and with a shaky finger clicked “Publish” for my first post in December 2012. My intent was to fill a niche nothing else could–much like that little frog on a dime. I wanted to offer my own brand of encouragement, and maybe help you laugh and learn a bit along the way. Not exactly lofty goals, but to me, worth pursuing. I am delighted to have reached the six-year mark and will do my best to continue to add warmth and light to your day, my little blueberry scones.

To thank you for your kindness, comments and the encouragement you have given me over and over again, I want to give you an opportunity to win a thank you prize!

Enter for your chance to win this entire parcel o’ prizes:

*** Your very own, one-of-a-kind doodle, made by yours truly, with your initials incorporated into the design.

*** A brand new notebook to capture ideas in the new year or fill with your own doodles and drawings. 

*** An assortment of creativity-inducing treats.

*** A 10-page critique of the manuscript of your choice.

Six quick-as-a-wink ways to enter!

  • Become a new follower of Frog on a Dime. (Sign up via the home page.)
  • Invite a friend to visit Frog on a Dime.
  • Comment under this post on Facebook.*
  • Like and retweet this post on Twitter.
  • Share a comment, suggestion or question on this post below.*

*Your brilliant suggestions for future post topics, your writing-related questions or nominations for guest bloggers are especially welcome.

ENTER BY MIDNIGHT (EST/US) ON FRIDAY, DECEMBER 7. 

The Lucky Winner’s name will be selected on Saturday, December 8.


Whichever season you’re in, rejoice and celebrate your life as you might not experience it twice. ~ Joan Ambu

Happy Thankslisting!

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Photo by Vicky Lorencen
  1. I am thankful for Urban Dictionary.  You have saved me from a galaxy of embarrassment.
  2. I am thankful for librarians. So long as there are people who devote themselves to the tender loving care of books and protecting our access to information, I feel like we’ve got a reasonable chance at a smart and civil society.
  3. I am thankful for friends who lie. There is absolutely no way that I can be as amusing and fabulous as you say I am. But I love you for saying it just the same.
  4. I am thankful for the opportunity to revise. If only life always gave us that option.
  5. I am thankful for the times I’m too naive to know I’m in over my head. It gives me the will to try things–like writing a novel–that would otherwise scare the Nutella out of me, if I knew better.
  6. I am thankful for characters who will put up with me long enough to tell their stories. I am a literary glacier. 
  7. I am thankful for chances to present at schools and spend time with curious, inner-critic-less kids who love to read their stories to anyone with ears.
  8. I am thankful for technology. I cannot imagine going back to a typewriter or pad and pen or quill and ink. It’s lovely to have those options, and I have friends who do, but how could I ever give up my darlings Find & Replace or the beloved Undo button. [Chills!]
  9. I am thankful for hot tea. Steamy black tea with cream soothes my angsties and makes me sit to write at least long enough to enjoy the whole cup.
  10. MOST MOST MOST of all, I am thankful for YOU. It’s a strain to imagine now, but there was a time when I didn’t know another soul who wanted to be a writer, much less, one who loves to write for children and is as sweet-sassy-magical as you, my little pumpkin tart!

Rest and be thankful. ~ William Wordsworth

How to Recognize Value

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frog on a dime color RED 1a

Illustration by Matt Faulkner

I am participating in a writing contest—You Are Enough—hosted by Positive Writer. The aim of the contest is to draft a blog post that will provide encouragement to fellow writers. Well, if you’ve ever visited Frog on a Dime, you know that’s what my hokey-pokey blog is all about. Regardless if I win, I hope this post energizes your creative spirit. (And that you find cookies in your cupboard.)

My husband likes to watch Prospectors on the Weather Channel. Prospectors  follows real, modern-day diggers of gold and gem stones. I like The Voice, a reality show/singing competition. Recently, I recognized the two shows intersect.

Prospectors endure extreme cold, looming storm fronts and other dangerous conditions to find the prize—a smoky topaz, a ruby, an aquamarine or even gold. Judges on The Voice listen to some lackluster auditions while searching for someone with golden pipes. So, the singers and the smoky topaz are treasures. That’s the obvious comparison, but there’s something more.

Were the stones beautiful while still encased in layers of limestone? I would say, yes. It wasn’t the touch of a prospector’s pick or palm that made them precious. And what about the hopefuls who appear on The Voice? It’s certainly not the judge’s ears or their feedback that make those singers amazing. The vocalists were outstanding before they ever walked on stage.

Here’s what I want you to know, my fragile little tea cups—you and your writing have intrinsic value before you receive a single word of praise. Think of all of the painters and poets who never received acclaim during their lifetimes. How sad to think they thought of themselves as “almosts” and even failures. You don’t need to have your name on a dust jacket to be a writer of worth. Interested editors or agents are simply recognizing what’s already there—like a prospector uncovering a lump of turquoise or a judge discovering a brilliant performer. Okay, okay, you make a good point. Like the unearthed gemstones or a singer’s vocal range, your work (and gosh, yes, mine) could benefit from a good polishing to bring out its true luster. But just because something can be improved doesn’t mean it wasn’t extraordinary to begin with.

Yes, I can hear the b-b-b-BUT coming. But I waaaaant an agent to love my work. I waaaant an editor to offer me a contract. I waaaaant readers to send me fan mail. Of course you do (and so do I). That kind of validation is wonderful, but remember–your work isn’t valued because it’s recognized. It’s recognized because it’s valuable–regardless. And first and foremost, you have to recognize that for yourself, my little lemon square.

After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world. ~ Philip Pullman