Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fall is the Faeries Fault

Not everyone believes in faeries, and that's o.k.. Not everyone believes in taxes. There is something you should know. Fall is not caused solely by weather change. It is caused by pissed off faeries. When the faeries notice that the sun is retreating, they get angry. They are a bit like children. But they are wild and untamable too.

What they do is go around and yank off the leaves in protest. Some like to throw down colorful leaves, some prefer drab. Yank! Toss. Down floats the clueless leaves and clueless clonkers say, "Ahh, isn't fall invigorating, I think I'll go have some hot chocolate"

In my experience, faeries prefer spring and summer. Fall happens, as we discussed, due to repercussions from their leaf tantrums. To faeries, winter is utterly unhelpful. Wet wings. Wet garden parties. Intolerable.

These are some faerie doodles I did by going out in the woods in my leaf suit and sitting quite still. As soon as they realized that I was drawing them, they split.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Hot Topic

The Volcanologist

Writers and artists are little Vulcanites. We fan the flames of our inner lava and hope for major eruptions. From Roman mythology we get a glimpse of Vulcan, the God of fire and craftsmanship. His robes are a mess, torn and smudged, his hair singed and smoldering. He smells like a mix of burnt feathers and flan with a shot of sulfuric acid.

But he sure knew how to party. Smokin' good time was had by all the survivors. I have always had a thing for volcanoes. Walking on Hawaii's wierd folded lava flows is a primal experience. The strong fumes can be unnerving and the bleakness feels like the end of all things. But then you see a dinky fern flourishing in a crack.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Champagne All Around!!!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Tomie dePaola!!

Today is Tomie's 75th birthday. This is my little tribute to Tomie, the godfather of children's literature. Tomie is a brilliant author, artist, and designer. He has been a significant encouragement to me and my family. Way back when, Tomie gave me my first break in children's lit publishing. We love you Tomie and all of your books. See some more tributes (here) gathered by the incomparable Gina and Jarrett Krosoczka. See more at Tomie's blog.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Writers, Wheat, and Giant Wagon

Crack o' dawn. Stumble into car. Drive away from our house in the woods. Waiting for coffee to kick in. We're off to see the wizard...wait, I am the wizard. Off to present at the Inland Empire SCBWI Regional Conference. The ferry smooths us over to Seattle in the distant mist.

You must cross the Cascade Mountains
to find the Inland Empire.

Then you must brave the corn people, the prairie dogs, and the rednecks before you arrive at the Inland Empire with its strange wonders. In an earlier post I told of the last time I was in the Inland Empire and was doing a book signing at Barnes and Noble in Spokane. A pig came up to me in the store and asked for my autograph. This is true. Word. Ipso Facto.

Wheat fields, silos and tractors...

Spokane is a lovely city cut in half by a powerful river, with beautiful turn-of-the-century buildings.

There's evidence that Gulliver used to hang out in this town. His journal was originally called Travels Into Several Remote Nations of the World.... so now you know. It's not called The Inland Empire for nothing.

I spoke to writers and illustrators about letting your picture book story swallow you whole, as in Shel Silverstein's poem, I'm Being Eaten by a Boa Constrictor.

Which reminds me, I once had python soup when I was in Singapore. It did not taste like chicken. It tasted stringy, like snake.

It was a great conference. Thanks so much to all the organizers and attendees. Among the highlights was meeting editor, Mary Kate Castellani of Walker Books for Young Readers. I was also happy to meet author, Judy Gregerson, and hubby, Scott.

I am still recovering from meeting Terry Trueman. He is a force to be reckoned with. He looked down at my Birkenstocks and said, " Yeah, well do your thing here, and then get out of town as quick as you can..." He drives like my life depended on it. He is, in fact, delightful. All things considered. Susi and I read his book, Stuck In Neutral, on our trip back home. Mind-blowingly good book. I'll do a separate post about it, later.

On the journey home from The Inland Empire we saw these scurvy pirates. They were no match for our newly restocked inspiration, and writerly resolve. With my illustrator's savoir faire I dispatched them handily to the bottom of Davey Jone's Junior High locker.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Galileo's Latte

There is a saying, "Don't forget to show kindness to strangers, you may find out that they are angels in disguise..". Or maybe it was, don't be rude to the guy in line with you, he may be Galileo. Or Mother Theresa. Now celebs get plenty of air time, you know, like Jack Black. Don't get me wrong, he cracks me up. But down in the dust where we all live, how do we treat the shmuck next to us. What if we knew he/she had infinite potential? Do we regard one another as treasures?

Those that survived the chaos of life had help. Sometimes a kind word turns history. Joan Osborne sang, "What if God were one of us? Just a slob like one of us/ Just a stranger on the bus/Trying to make his way home..."

In Leo Tolstoy's short story, What Men Live By, a shoemaker facing starvation is confronted by someone worse off than himself.

These photos were taken by a friend of mine, Mark Chidester. He is an Earthwalker, poet, story teller, song writer, singer, writer, photographer, artist, giver. I've known him for almost twenty years, and he is a dear friend. Among his many mysterious talents, he can fix any car. In the dark, blindfolded.
He hates doing it, but he is a car whisperer.

I won't tell you how he took these stunning photos. But here is a hint: they are pictures of the moon.

Mark has traveled the world, fished for salmon in Alaska, worked with the Amish, sang on street corners, worked as a barista, saved my arse on many occasions, and his story will one day be a best seller.

Great spirits often have disguises. Let's give each other the benefit of the doubt. What would Galileo order? Double tall latte, organic milk, and some of those sprinkles, the ones that look like the moons of Jupiter..

Thanks Mark, for these remarkable images.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Squirrels and Their Nuts

In late Spring each year I begin the hunt for firewood (to use in our wood stove, our primary heat source). I get the chainsaw out to fell leaning or hazard trees, or buy logs from a logger. Then I cut the logs into rounds and split them over the summer. By Autumn, I get antsy, along with the squirrels, to make ready for Winter. I try to split and stack about five cords of wood to fill my wood shed.

Now some people with higher I.Q.'s just flip a switch on their central heating. Which sounds better every year. But it is another one of those therapy things for me. And it is honkin' good exercise. When you sit at a drawing table for hours at a time, you need to get out and shake that thang.
Plus, I am in tune with the seasons. Lately the squirrels have been scampering around the top limbs of the fir trees, yanking off fir cones and throwing them down by the hundreds. We have a metal roof so..."bang!...whap!...clunk... clunk... clunk...bam!...bam!" sound the cones as they bop our roof. Well, that makes it a tad hard to concentrate on my paintings...

It is the call of the I join the squirrels as often as I can (if you can't beat 'em, join 'em...) "Ennnyaaa-aa-aa-aa-tuc-tuc-engik!" Which is squirrel for, "Winter is coming, you fools! Gather your nuts, chop, chop, out-a-my-way, dog, those are mine, don't look where I'm hiding these, ahhhh! I need more, more, more...get me some coffee, that should help, eeeeeenkk!!"