Nicole Chilton

Nicole Chilton is a multi-media abstract artist and writer living in Southwest Missouri. She works quickly and intuitively, capturing emotion rather than reality, and uses vivid color and floral motifs as inspiration. Her current project, The Dream Diary Project, explores dream interpretation through art journaling, and can soon be found in workbook format for all dreamers.

The future belongs to those who believe in the power of their dreams.

-- Eleanor Roosevelt

Tapioca Dance is an e-newsletter featuring creative movers & shakers, do-ers, and makers, written and curated by Nicole Chilton. Subscribe here for weekly inspiration!

Q&A with Lanie Brewster Quinn


Current City: Chicago, IL

What Did You Want to be When You Grew Up? At one point I wanted to be a writer (and attempted my first “coming of age” novel when I was in the 4th grade — it had a lot a stuff about boys, boobs/bras, and periods). I also wanted to be a lawyer, mostly because I really enjoyed presenting my cases before my parents. I would prepare my evidence and arguments for why they should let me do whatever it was I thought they wouldn’t let me do and present my case. More often than not, I won!)

What Are You Now? Unemployed. 😉 I guess I am a writer and a young adult cancer advocate.

How did you get to this point? I guess if we skip ahead to recent history for the sake of time, probably due to getting diagnosed with stage IV cancer myself. For some reason, I’ve since felt like I had permission to pursue writing (and not just professional writing, but writing for myself) and a new passion for people in my age group diagnosed with cancer.

Are you paid doing what you love?  Nope, not getting paid (see above). I guess I wouldn’t mind getting paid for writing or for a job in advocacy. I’m lucky enough to be able to work without getting paid and that has given me the luxury of doing things that matter to me in a way that I, at this moment, find fulfilling. And I can hold out until I find the right place or position. I am very aware that this is a privilege.

What are your current projects?  Writing: I currently write blog posts about YA cancer issues (also posting at StupidCancer, another YA Advocacy group), I am working on a (hopefully) humorous and (if I’m lucky) poignant book about my own cancer experience (because we all need another cancer memoir, right :/ ) I am also pushing myself to write short fiction and will hopefully one day get better at it. Young Adult advocacy: I am currently the co-president of an advisory board made up of survivors with the mission to educate and advocate for YAs with cancer. We work with health care professionals and partner with other advocacy groups to create or disseminate resources and hold events unique to the YA population.

What are you reading/watching/listening to? I’m between books and haven’t decided what to read next. My last book was George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo. Maybe American Gods since I never read it and the new show is really good so far. I gave in, got HBO and started watching Game of Thrones. My go-to shows right now are: iZombie, Supernatural, Hap & Leonard, Brooklyn 99, Riverdale and all British crime procedural shows I can find (Midsommer Murders, Death in Paradise, Scott & Bailey and now Father Brown). If there was a job for solving TV show crimes, I’d be your girl. I have an ever-growing list of podcasts I want to listen to, but I’ve been watching too many British crime procedurals to get to them (I need a road trip!). Not creating much outside of writing, which will probably always be the case. I sometimes dabble in other creative outlets, but I’m usually terrible at them and too lazy to get good.

What is your favorite creative outlet? Writing! And maybe ridiculous videos with my husband.

Have you ever written a fan letter? I have never written a fan letter, which now I think is kind of sad. When someone creates something that resonates with you or brings you joy or that you simply like or appreciate, we should let them know. I once hung a Joey Macintyre poster on my wall. It creeped me out, though, and I tore it down. Teen idol posters weren’t for me. I do, basically, stalk George Saunders, though.

Drink of choice? Bourbon neat. I’m sure when I order it, people look at me like I’m trying to be the “cool girl” trope. But super sweet cocktails started making me sick more from the sugar that the booze. I like Belgian beers, but I get so burpy and bloated that I stop enjoying myself. I do like any of the “mule” drinks (Moscow, Kentucky, Gin) and a good Pimms Cup. Oh, and wine. Red and dry. Of course, wine.

What or Who Inspires you? I find myself lucky to have so many creative and artistic people in my life that pursue what they love to do — from various fine art mediums to music to filmography to coding to writing — I could go on. I am continually impressed and inspired by the people in my life and the things that they create and bring into this world. I know I’m not naming a single person. And I’m sure I could think of powerful, world changing women or great writers or scientists or inventors in history and today. But when I read the question, I just kept seeing the faces of my brave and talented friends.

What is a helpful tool to get you in the work zone? The best thing I did for myself with regard to productivity was to set up my desk for actual daily use. I had been using it mostly for storage and framed pictures. There was no room to really sit down and even write on a piece of paper. But I cleared it off (and out), set it up as a workspace, and pulled the curtain back on the window (which looks down onto an eclectic backyard of what I think is an artist commune). It’s a place I like to be and all the things that might distract me are behind me as I face out the window. Before I did this, I would sit on my couch in my living room, ever tempted to turn on the TV (or do laundry or dishes or …) and get achy from leaning over to the coffee table, or from slouching on the couch with my laptop on my lap. The desk is better. I also keep a To Do file folder, which acts as my To Do list with notes on everything. That helps me knock items off my list (and remember them in the first place).

What is something you have learned this year? I’m totally hung up on this one. Maybe I’m not exploring the world enough. Or maybe I just can’t remember because my brain gets fuzzy. All I can think of are recent, sort of personal revelations like realizing I had to ask my husband to stop asking me what I did that day (even though it’s a perfectly normal question and he asked it in a “how was your day; I love you so I want to know what your day was like” kind of way). I realized it was causing me a lot of anxiety. So, I guess I learned to communicate my needs — even if they seem odd.

What can people do to make the world a better place? Support the Arts, National Parks, Science and Medical research (and such). Be kind and compassionate to those around you (and listen!). Love and let love. Create, create, create.

Where can people find you? They can find my blog at and they can find me on social media:

  • Facebook (Lanie Brewster Quinn)
  • Instagram (@lbrewster)
  • Twitter (@laniebrewster)

{{Do you know a mover and shaker, a do-er and maker? Message me! I’d love to interview them!}}

500 Books

I’m a bit of an archivist. When I was in 10th grade, I kept track of every single outfit I wore, the entire year. It went something a bit like this:

Big Dog shirt. Giant jeans. Doc Martin Mary Janes. Repeat.

In 1993, I decided to start writing down every book I read, complete with an annotation and a little doodle. Back then, I was reading A LOT of Dean Koontz, Michael Crichton, and Nancy Drew. An interesting combination, I know.

This week, I hit a HUGE milestone. 500 books tracked! Thank goodness for GoodReads, the archivist’s dream come true for book cataloging. Although, I do still record each book in my art journal, complete with a doodle and annotation.

I could list all the books here, but instead, I might include a few highlights. For a full list, head over to my GoodReads page.

  • Largest tag on my Good Reads: LADY WRITERS. Quick! List five authors, living or dead. Go ahead. Who were they? Chances are, they were mostly men. If not, kudos to you! Let me know who you thought of. I go out of my way to seek DEBUT novels and books written by WOMEN.
  • Some of my favorite Lady Writers: Shirley Jackson. Margaret Atwood. Sarah Vowell. Ruth Rendell. Adriana Trigiani. Rebecca Stead. Lee Smith. JK Rowling. Rainbow Rowell. Madeleine L’Engle. Geraldine Brooks. And, in case you missed her earlier, Margaret Atwood again.
  • In the past few years, graphic novels have been my palate cleanser, my brain teaser, my go-to pleaser. They are so good, with the unfortunate exception of Angel Catbird by my dear Ms. Atwood. A few I would recommend:
    • My Favorite Thing is Monsters – a visually and emotionally haunting coming-of-age murder mystery set in 1960s Chicago. It’s all the buzz right now, and I gobbled the 400 pages up in two sittings.
    • The Saga Series – if you’ve never read them, you’re in luck because 7 volumes are now available, as opposed to the 2 when I started. So addicting. So bizarre. It will change the way you read. With graphic novels, it satisfies the need for wanting to see your favorite book become a movie without being ruined. saga
    • Persepolis – I believe this was the first “graphic novel” I read, and it covered it all. Coming of age. History. Personal and global politics. Feminism. Plus, the movie adaptation was perfect.
    • Nathan Hale’s The Donner Dinner Party
    • March series – Powerful powerful powerful. Should be required reading for every American, and especially everyone born after 1960.march
  • I fondly remember 2007 as one of the best years for reading, because so many of the books I read also became film adaptations that we showed at The Moxie.
    • Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell (also a movie we showed at The Moxie)
    • The Secret History by Donna Tartt
    • Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (also a movie we showed at The Moxie)
    • Travels with Charley
    • The Lovely Bones
    • Persepolis (also a movie we showed at The Moxie)
    • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
    • The Road (also a movie we showed at The Moxie)
    • Atonement
    • Interpreter of Maladies
    • The Namesake (also a Moxie movie)
    • Children of Men
    • Cold Mountain
    • Year of Wonders
    • March (by Geraldine Brooks, about Civil War, not Civil Rights Movement)
  • I love recommending books. But I also am fully aware that everyone approaches a novel or story from a different angle. So someone who might be healing from a family death may not think “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant” is as brilliant as I did. However, here are my absolute go-to favorites, that I can 100% recommend at any time, because they are perfect.
    • A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle
    • Matilda by Roald Dahl (or anything by him, really)
    • Attachments by Rainbow Rowell (a quick, fun, epistolary novel that is just so darn charming.)                                           attachments
    • Life Among the Savages and We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. She is probably one of my absolute favorite authors ever, and I wish she were around, because I would invite her over for a martini, and she wouldn’t think that was weird at all.
    • Anything…well, almost anything…by Margaret Atwood. She changed the course of my fiction reading path. She made me realize you could have it all. A thriller. A romance. A mystery. A caper. A think piece. A feminist manifesto. Sigh. She’s amazing. I’d also invite her over for a drink.
  • And, my cocktail party of authors. Living or dead. I have no idea if this would turn out to be a disaster, but why not. Kurt Vonnegut. Margaret Atwood. Shirley Jackson. Rainbow Rowell. George Saunders. David Sedaris. I would serve cheese pizza, cheap champagne, fancy chocolates, and mineral water for Mr. Sedaris. My kids would sneak out of their rooms and become fodder for a future story. My dog would most likely puke a sock out at the foot of Kurt, who would kick it away and shrug. So it goes.

Here’s to 500 more books! Leave a comment about some of your absolute favorites, or who would come to your dinner party.

Q&A with Laura McHugh


{photo from Goodreads}

Name:  Laura McHugh

Current City: Columbia, MO

What did you want to be when you grew up? A writer. Though I had no idea how to go about doing that, and didn’t pursue it for many years.

What are you now? Full-time novelist and mom

How did you get to this point? I got a degree in English, couldn’t find a good job, went back for degrees in computer science and information science, and became a software developer. After ten years in that field, I was laid off while pregnant with my second child. My husband suggested that I try to write a book, like I had always dreamed of doing. I spent a year and a half writing my first novel and six months figuring out how to get an agent to represent me. Once I signed with an agent, my book sold right away and my career began.

Are you paid doing what you love? If not, what would you like to be paid to do? Yes. I am fortunate to make a living writing books. There are no guarantees in this industry, though, so I always worry about the future. If your books don’t sell well enough, you might not get another contract.

Current project(s): I’m under contract with my publisher (Spiegel & Grau/Random House) for my third and fourth mystery/suspense novels. I’m currently revising the third, which is set in rural Missouri.

What are you reading/listening to/watching/making: I just finished watching the documentary The Keepers on Netflix, about the unsolved murder of a nun; listening to The Vanished podcast, about missing persons cases; reading I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh.

How do you express yourself creatively? Mostly through my writing—novels and short stories—and I enjoy working with architectural salvage. My husband and I are building a house using pieces salvaged from old homes that were torn down, and my garage is currently housing old doors, sinks, staircase spindles, a fireplace mantel, and an enormous cabinet that I’m refinishing.

Have you ever written a fan letter? If so, to whom?  Yes. When my first book was about to be published, I had to write to authors I admired and ask if they might consider reading my book and writing a blurb (the quotes you see on book covers) for it. I saw it as an opportunity to tell my favorite authors (including Laura Lippman, Gillian Flynn, and lots of others) how much I love their work.

Drink of choice? Mornings: chai latte. Night out: gin and tonic.

Who inspires you, and why? I recently had the opportunity to meet Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and bestselling author Anna Quindlen and interview her onstage. She’s always been a hero of mine, and she was even more fabulous in person than I had imagined. She has an incredible gift for connecting with people through her words, and she has accomplished so much professionally while raising a family and remaining kind, generous, and down-to-earth.

Favorite tool to stay productive (for example, a set of watercolors, a specific planner or app, an exercise program…) I finally came to the realization that I needed to invest in the tools necessary to do my job well. Trying to manage my career from the kitchen table, where my papers kept getting misplaced, wasn’t working. I bought myself a desk with file drawers, a giant wall calendar, and best of all, a Plum Paper planner with plenty of space to keep track of to-do lists, appointments, and goals.

Something you have learned this year? How to better balance my work and family obligations. I no longer try to squeeze in work when the kids want my attention—it was frustrating for me and for them. Everyone is happier when I make time to focus on the kids and time to focus on work and don’t mix the two.

How can people find you?

Facebook –

Twitter – @LauraSMcHugh

Website  –

You can also find me on GoodReads.

What can people do to make the world a better place? It has been proven that reading fiction makes people more empathetic. If we can walk in someone else’s shoes in a novel, we can understand each other better. It’s a start.

Brag about yourself. It’s okay. If you don’t, I will. My first novel, The Weight of Blood, won the International Thriller Writers Award for Best First Novel, the Silver Falchion Award for Best First Novel, the Missouri Author Award for Fiction, and was also nominated for a Barry Award, Alex Award, and GoodReads Choice Award (Best Mystery and Best Debut). My latest novel, Arrowood, is a finalist for the International Thriller Writers Award for Best Novel. My work has been translated into multiple foreign languages, and The Weight of Blood was optioned for film/television by Warner Bros.

Q&A with Crystal Moody

In 2016, I decided I needed to be more intentional with my creative process, but had a hard time knowing how to start. Enter Crystal Moody, and her Year of Creative Habits. It’s a guided program to help artists of all media set goals and work toward them in a 365-day span. Crystal checks in with each “student,” and helps keep them accountable and work toward their goals. It has been one of the two best things I could have done for myself creatively (the other was starting an Art Journal…more of that in the future).

When I asked her to answer a few questions for the Tapioca Dance weekly newsletter, she provided them in the way only Crystal knows how to do: above, beyond, and amazing.


crystalmoodypage1 (1)


Crystal’s Links:


Professional Website

A Year of Creative Habits

Dream Diary Project: Black Animals

I started The Dream Diary Project in January as a way to commit to intentional artistic creation, have a theme, a focal point, and a goal. I always dream, and I always dream BIG. In fact, I’ve been keeping track of dreams since elementary school, writing them in journals. By interpreting dreams visually, I’m able to translate my subconscious’ mysterious  language and unlock questions, problems, and new ideas.

One particular way the project has evolved is through an illustrated diary of sorts. I have plans to make this into a workbook/journal for other big dreamers, but in the meantime, it’s been a fascinating place to explore and flip back and forth through.

Here’s an example of a recent dream, where I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror:


The mirror was important, because it made me realize that I couldn’t think of another time I actually saw my reflection in a dream. The reflection I did see made me sad, and when I woke up, I was angry at myself for my low self-esteem (true in waking and dream life). With each “symbol” or theme, I research what it has meant historically, and think of key words that can universally describe that object. So with the mirror, the words “Luck,” “Reflection,” and “Windows” came to mind. I then use those key words as jumping off points for questions to ask about the dream and its relation to my waking life.

After last night’s dream which included a playful black snake, slithering around my house, I started to realize a pattern with the animals that show up in my dream world:




They are darkest of dark black, potentially dangerous, yet benevolent, even playful. I’ve had other dreams with animals, for example, the one where I chucked evil snails with toxic slime, or housecats chasing me, but they didn’t leave me with the same feeling upon waking. The ram, snake, and crow all needed me, followed me, or were close to me.

What does it mean!? This is EXACTLY what I hoped to gain from spending every day thinking about my dreams. To find clues my subconscious…or the collective subconscious…or the spirit world beyond…is trying to communicate.

The mystic in me, the gal who loves her chunks of amethyst that have been charged under full moon’s light and tucked by her pillow, the one who cleans the house with burning incense of palo santo, she has a theory.

(This is where you can roll your eyes and feel sorry for my husband who has to listen to this kind of chatter all night).

My theory is, it’s my old dog Bogey, visiting me through other animals in my dreams.


Bogey, my deepest of dark black dogs, potentially dangerous, yet benevolent and almost playful (to me). 

Bogey was the love of my life, and over three years later, I’m still mourning his sudden and unexpected loss. He was a creature only a mother could love, and those who he did choose to let in his life were only the most special of special. I think about him every day, and…

…ok, here’s where I get EVEN CRAZIER…

…his spiritual presence has been missing from our house. After he passed, I could still feel him lurking behind doors, laying at the foot of my bed, or watching the house while I was gone. This lasted for a long time. But maybe it’s all the palo santo and sage I burn, or the time passed, or the wild golden retriever we brought in, but those little instances are forever gone.

So now maybe he’s showing up in my dreams.

Bogey was a guardian, a watchdog, and a comforting presence for me. I am in love with the theory that he is morphing into powerful animals that he couldn’t do in his waking life, checking in my life at night, and I am eager to see what other animals arrive in the future.

Recent posts

  • Q&A with Lanie Brewster Quinn

  • 500 Books

  • Q&A with Laura McHugh

  • Q&A with Crystal Moody

  • Dream Diary Project: Black Animals

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Tapioca Dance is an e-newsletter featuring creative movers & shakers, do-ers, and makers, written and curated by Nicole Chilton. Subscribe here for weekly inspiration!