Shall I Compare Thee to a Winter’s Day?

It was too cold to take out my phone, so I lifted this photo from the Internet.

The sun sank as I walked along the south bank of the River Thames. All I could think of was the cold. The biting wind felt bone-chilling to this California girl. Then the hulking, timber-framed structure came into view: a polygonal building, approaching circular, with whitewashed walls and a thatched roof. My eyes misted over. As I toured Shakespeare’s Globe, reconstructed close to the site of the original, I enjoyed no respite from the frigid conditions—it’s an open-air arena, after all.

The day before (chilly, rainy), I had seen Antony and Cleopatra at the National Theatre. Ralph Fiennes (stirring, mellifluous) played one of the titular roles. (I’ll let you guess which one.) The production spanned three-and-a-half hours, with one “interval,” and featured a live snake. Between this performance and my trip to the Globe, I reasoned I’d had enough Shakespeare for one week. I’m not sure I was right.

Shakespeare’s sonnets, illustrated

The (heated, indoor) exhibition at the Globe included artwork illustrating some of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Even before I knew I would be visiting London, I had decided to write a Shakespearean sonnet. That’s in the realm of things people decide to do, right? In a conversation with my husband, I discovered that maybe people, in general, are not as excited by archaic poetic forms as I am. The conversation ended with one of us calling the other a nerd.

Shakespeare’s sonnets are in the public domain, so I considered including one in this post. But my own effort appears below, so that would be like hanging the Mona Lisa next to a stick figure. (You can determine which is meant to be which.) Did you know the Shakespearean sonnet was developed by the Earl of Surrey in the 1500s, prior to the Bard’s birth? Shakespeare made the form famous, however, in his great sonnet sequence, printed in 1609.

I liked at least five things about writing a Shakespearean sonnet:

  1. Its formal structure. I do well with limits.
  2. Its meter. Sticking to the required iambic pentameter guarantees a nice rhythm.
  3. Its rhyme scheme. ABAB CDCD EFEF GG is more forgiving than the Petrarchan pattern, which requires that two sets of four lines rhyme with each other.
  4. Its length. As poems go, sonnets are relatively short. When you get to line 14, you’re done!
  5. Its closing couplet. This pair of rhyming lines at the end provides an opportunity for great pith.

In an example of much ado about nothing, here is my attempt at a Shakespearean sonnet:

Perception and Vision

My mind was sick, and so my body. Blight
Surrounded me and bound me in a dim
And frightful prison. Blisses flickered bright
But did not stay to mitigate the grim.
Reality had I reversed and flipped,
Projecting war and vain imaginings—
A camera obscura in a crypt.
There is another way to look at things!
Beyond the body, seated in the mind,
Is endless light. It sheds the truth on all,
Unveiling sinlessness ever enshrined—
Shining away my fathomless cell wall.
With no more steps to take, a tick I wait,
Among the lilies thick outside your gate.

By the way, the Globe’s gift shop is the mother lode for anyone looking for a present for me.


Damsel, Wizard, Knight: Discovering Your Archetypes

My recently published book appears to be a collection of blog posts but is actually a devious plot to expose people to the idea of archetypes. Determined to Be Visible reveals the twelve “psychological patterns” that govern my  existence, inspiring my every thought and action. These mental motivators are derived from “historical roles in life” (to quote modern-day expert Caroline Myss). My unique combination of archetypes includes the Artist, Clown, Daydreamer, Student, and Teacher.

I know what you’re thinking: “How can I find out what my archetypes are?” What you should do is read Caroline Myss’s New York Times best seller Sacred Contracts. But since you’re (still somehow) reading this post, I’m happy to share my unofficial approach to determining the dozen spiritual energies that rule your life. Regardless of who you are, I already know four of them: Child, Prostitute, Saboteur, and Victim. (We all share these survival-related archetypes.) That leaves eight for you to identify, by following these steps.

  1. Agree to see yourself honestly. Prepare to dig deep.
  2. Review the accompanying list of archetypes. Yes, the one on the blue background there.
  3. Try each archetype on for size. Does it fit? Does it fit a little? Keep in mind that archetypes may be lifelong forces, occupational identifiers, or other influences.
  4. Think beyond the options presented here. For example, if you have always viewed yourself as a daredevil (or a philosopher or a counselor), consider that a possible archetype.
  5. Make a list of the archetypes that fit well or fit a little. Now is not the time for editing.
  6. Narrow down the list to the eight archetypes that fit best. Now is the time for editing. In the paring-down process, be wary of wishful thinking and of avoiding archetypes that seem negative. Some of us are martyrs, not mystics—and that’s okay! There are light and shadow aspects to every archetype.
  7. Ask a few friends for feedback. Sometimes (and by “sometimes,” I mean most of the time), others can be more objective about us than we can.
  8. Play with your final lineup until it feels right. Getting authentic with yourself, you might let go of an archetype that truly doesn’t suit you. Or upon reflection, you might bring back an archetype you eliminated earlier.

So, how did you do? Are you ready to embrace the wisdom of your Goddess, Hermit, or Vampire?

Feeling the Love

I self-published Determined to Be Visible—containing thirty-six of my blog posts tenuously held together by new material—as an exercise. In fact, I continue to see it more as a project than a publication, typically referring to it as “the blog book” rather than by its title. When my creative coach, Ziva, gave me the assignment, she warned me that once the paperback was available, she would ask me to promote it to my acquaintances—which I also saw as an exercise. I never expected anyone to buy it.

My mother purchased six copies, to give to residents at her retirement community. (Imagine the kvelling involved in that scene.) My sister ordered three; I envision her juggling them, because I don’t know what else she would do with so many. My aunt and uncle bought one, the same number I did. Which leaves exactly thirty copies (to date) acquired by people who do not share DNA with me. Who are these individuals? Friends! Wonderful friends!

The most meaningful aspect of this whole endeavor has been the support of family and friends. It feels incredible! On top of knowing that Determined to Be Visible has been actively printed on demand by Amazon, I have enjoyed receiving texts and being tagged in social media posts containing images showing “the blog book” in homes, offices, and hands—even on faces! I invite you to peruse this selection.


And I welcome additional photos for my collection!

Blue Steel

This month, I finally reveal the photos from my America’s Next Top Model–style shoot earlier this year, coupled with more shameless peddling of my latest, first, and only book, Determined to Be Visible. Whether you’ve bought my collection of blog posts or not, the odds that you’ve read it are about the same. (If you’re like me, you love acquiring books—knowing they’re on your real or virtual shelf—but don’t always make time to read.) Either way, I’m offering a peek at what’s inside!

Determined to Be Visible is organized around the idea that each of us has twelve archetypes. Twelve of anything sounds cumbersome, and it can be. Think twelve accordions, twelve pies, twelve donkeys, twelve microwave ovens. But archetypes don’t weigh anything or take up any room. They’re essentially facets of your personality. They also serve as classic characters in literature and film. A person’s archetypes don’t express themselves all at once, which is probably a good thing: a Hermit–Fairy Godmother–Warrior might have a hard time finding a date.

In the book, I provide brief descriptions of my twelve archetypes, accompanied by blog posts exemplifying each. Descriptions of five of my archetypes (the ones most easily represented by portrait photography) appear below.

You don’t need to hold a brush in your hand to have the Artist archetype; think of it as a creator. A person possessing this archetype might be, for example, an actor, artisan, author, chef, landscaper, musician, photographer, playwright, sculptor, or weaver. The Artist is intensely motivated to manifest the realm beyond the five senses in physical form; the magnitude and mode of expression are immaterial. Driven by a need to bring art to people, the Artist inspires others and fosters a symbolic interpretation of existence. (Sample post: “Authors Should Need a License to Write Metaphors.”)

For the Clown archetype, think court jester or Shakespearean fool as opposed to Bozo. Generally male as depicted in literature and theater, the Clown makes people laugh or cry while masking his true emotions. Of course, Clowns can be female, too; the May 26, 1952, issue of Time magazine captioned a cover photo of Lucille Ball, “a clown with glamour.” The Clown makes absurdity and hypocrisy funny. This archetype performs the service of disarming others with humor and lightness for the sake of taking away their sorrow. (Sample post: “The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest.”)

Daydreaming has been unjustly maligned as the sport of slackers, as time-wasting, useless drifting. Researchers now recognize daydreams as a portal to innate wisdom and creativity, to the world of the psyche celebrated by Carl Jung. The Daydreamer practices inner visioning, going inside for inspiration and guidance. People with this archetype receive symbolic information others can’t sense. Some Daydreamers are able to convert what they envisage into something practical, such as a book, painting, song, business enterprise, or invention. (Sample post: “Life Is But a Dream.”)

There’s a difference between complying with compulsory education, or even pursuing an undergraduate or advanced degree, and having the Student archetype. An individual with this pattern is a lifelong learner, dedicated to becoming acquainted with facts, truths, or principles. Lacking expertise in any one area, the Student is humble enough to accept instruction from someone who knows more. The dark side of this archetype may involve seeking out harmful information, misusing intelligence, or never applying what has been learned. (Sample post: “‘Aardvark Bowling’ and Other Poems.”)

Teaching is the art of transmitting knowledge, skill, or wisdom. If you do an image search for “teacher,” you will see photo after photo of a smiling person standing in front of a chalkboard—holding a book, holding a piece of chalk, writing, pointing at something written, pointing at a student whose hand is raised. A person with the Teacher archetype may be a traditional educator, as in the common conception, or a parent, mentor in business or the arts, or spiritual guide. If others seek to learn from your depth of experience, you may have the Teacher archetype. (Sample post: “You Could Be a Shakespeare Expert and Not Know It.”)

To find out about the Introvert, Invisible Child, Perfectionist, Procrastinator, Prostitute, Saboteur, and Victim, you’ll have to read Determined to Be Visible!

Who Wants to Buy My Book?

In the fourth grade, there were two girls in my class named Karen. To avoid confusion, Mrs. Davenport asked if she could call me Carrie (Kerry? Kari?). Taken aback, I agreed. I like to think I marched in there the next day and demanded to be addressed by the same combination of phonemes I had been responding to for almost a decade. I vaguely recall doing so, but as I wasn’t a troublemaker, it’s hard to say whether this memory is accurate.

In that class, we did what seemed to be a unique kind of book report. Granted, I had been delivering oral summaries of works of literature for only two years at that point, so my frame of reference was limited. We would stand before our peers and recite a synopsis of our chosen Nancy Drew mystery (in my case). As we reached the climax, we would look up from the paper and ask, “Who wants to buy my book?” No money was exchanged, of course, but the volume found its way into one of the raised hands. I like to think I really hooked them.

BookCoverImageFast-forward forty-one years, and I finally have a book of my own! (God forbid a student should ever have to write a report on it.) Determined to Be Visible features thirty-six of my blog posts, as well as some new material tying everything together. I considered using a pseudonym, since there is already an established author with my first and last names and middle initial. But instead of becoming Carrie, Kerry, or Kari, I chose to stick with the moniker by which I am known. I’ll do my best to stand out from the other Karen R. Greenfield.

The most amazing thing about my book is that it resembles, well, an actual book! The cover was designed by a graphic artist (Jay Schwartz) and features photographs taken by a professional (Lucia Kiel Portraits). There’s a testimonial on the back from a wonderful, accomplished author (Julie C. Gardner). And there’s a copyright page at the front, implying someone might actually want to steal the contents. (By the way, my copyright statement is possibly the only one with a joke in it.) Plus, you can “look inside” Determined to Be Visible on Amazon!

So, who wants to buy my book? Besides my mother, I mean.

The Call That Finally Came

My cell phone rang at 9:15 a.m. on Friday, June 29, 2018. When I noticed the area code was 212, my pulse quickened. But only a little. Yes, I enter the New Yorker’s cartoon contest religiously. Yes, the magazine calls finalists at the end of the week to tell them their caption will appear in Monday’s issue. But I had already played and lost over 150 times, so I prepared to hear the spiel of a spammer.

It was Jessica (not her real name, because if she said it, I can’t remember it) from the New Yorker. And yes, my caption was a finalist! Jessica wanted to confirm the spelling of my name, and where I’m from, for accuracy; as an editor, I appreciated that. She said some logistical things I hope weren’t important, because I don’t recall a word. As far as my end of the conversation, I believe I blathered like an idiot.

For almost every cartoon, I solicit feedback from my Facebook friends on five possible captions. (Sometimes I’m stumped and can barely come up with one.) With very few exceptions, I submit the caption that receives the most mentions. Such was the case last week. I am grateful to everyone who commented on the drawing of a man dressed in a suit of armor, standing in front of a three-way mirror.

So, what does this mean?

  1. On Monday, July 2, my caption will appear along with two others in the print version of the New Yorker (July 9th & 16th issue) as well as online.
  2. You (both generally and specifically) can vote for your favorite caption. (Feel free to read between the lines here: “Pick the one by Karen Greenfield from Santa Barbara!”) You’ll need to create an account to vote, but you can always unsubscribe from e-mails later.
  3. It’s my turn to be the object of the statement, “Geesh! My caption was better than that.”

The bottom line is that I’m going to be published in the New Yorker. Even if it’s only eight words.

Judging a Book by Its Interior

It would be grossly premature to add “book designer” to my LinkedIn profile, but I appear to have successfully defined the styles for all the elements in my upcoming collection of blog posts. My husband, a graphic designer who is “acutely aware of typography in use across all media” (his words), suggested two typefaces for me to use—one text and one display—and gave me a crash course in InDesign in an airport lounge. I took it from there!

I was not completely unfamiliar with the components of book design—margins, font sizes, line spacing, indents, page numbers, chapter openers. In my role as an in-house editor for a publishing company almost half a lifetime ago, one of my tasks was to create “design memos” identifying and describing the items in a manuscript that needed to be prettified (by a hired professional) for publication. I don’t mean to brag, but one designer said my design memo was the best she had ever received.

Still, during the process of laying out Determined to Be Visible, I experienced both pros and cons, presented below (with the cons listed first, since I’m a bad-news-first kind of person):

Con: I didn’t really know what I was doing.
Pro: I had the power to make all the mistakes I wanted.

Con: I lacked a working knowledge of InDesign.
Pro: I had the satisfaction of struggling clumsily and then figuring it out.

Con: I wasn’t aware of best practices in book design.
Pro: I had the freedom to try things that didn’t work.

Con: I couldn’t draw on prior experience.
Pro: My next design will be much better.

Con: I had to study already published books to see what looked good.
Pro: This is a totally legit thing to do.

The biggest pro about book designing? It isn’t writing!