Tuesday, October 28, 2008

nanowrimo madness

Many of you may know that November is National Novel Writing Month.

No? It was started ten years ago by 21 people in the San Francisco Bay Area who decided "someday I'm gonna write a novel" was now. It grew. It grew under the leadership of Chris Baty. And grew some more.

So here's the deal, me and about 100,000 other people will each try to write a 50,000 word (175 page) novel in one month. Last year 15,000 actually did it and have bragging rights. The month of November, as in 4 days from now. I will write about 5 pages a day. For a month. Rain, shine, turkey, or nerves. The idea is I'm writing a first draft at such speed that the internal editor will be double parked in Milwaukee while I'm out of earshot and zooming across the Nevada highlands. Or something like that. A first draft that won't stop for quality, punctuation, fact checks, or inconsistencies. Quantity, not quality. Zoom zoom. I may not finish but I suspect that I'll get a lot of writing exercise. Since going freelance I haven't been putting enough time into my writing. This will get me in practice to write an hour a day, even if I produce a novel that is a steaming pile of effort. And I'll exercise my imagination and finger muscles.

Luckily I have a plot outline that uses a fairy tale for a framework and it is set in an unfairytale setting. A setting I've researched a bit. What I don't know I'll just add the word "lookitup" and keep going.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

First prize quilt

How splendid, the wedding quilt my stepmother is making me and my husband just won best in show at the Smithtown Stitchers Quilt Exhibit XIII. It also won best use of color and best large pieced quilt. She is very good at this.

Here is what I said five years ago when I was planning our wedding and Nedra asked what colors and themes I'd like for one of her heirloom quilts. Well... a compass rose, I had a long journey before I located Jim. Plus all those years I spent making maps, I love maps. And purples and greens, those are great colors together. Go wild though, just let yourself have fun. And she did. Including quilting stitches shaped like roses and another quilt block that suggests the statue of liberty's crown...

These things take time, all the designing, selecting fabrics, piecing, hand stitching...one set of friends had a wedding gift, the "forever quilt" that took decades for Nedra to complete. Luckily I think we will get ours a bit sooner than that. But I suggested she enter it in other contests...it is so vibrant, the photo doesn't come close.

Dad says he is so proud the buttons are busting off his shirt. Plus, luck was spelled Carlson today, my sister Christina won one of the quilts Nedra and a team of quilters made and raffled.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The unbelievable incredible dream drawing brain

Last night as I was dozing off I thought about how I would draw a parade. Suddenly my brain began to transcribe this into a dream animation, my pencil drawings of anxious ogres and witches and middle managers staggering or swaggering under the influence of over sized drums and explosively feathered and beaded hats... I could see it in good perspective, nice tints of watercolor applied, and the B4 pencil digging and smooshing into the lightly toothed bond. But they were moving, singing, jazzing, and celebrating in my own mind's eye. I had no idea I was capable of such good 3D animation. As I slipped over the gibberish edge of true sleep I was so sad that my awake ordinary self could not produce such a scene in the flick of a thought. That no matter how I tried, I'd never capture it as well or as effortlessly. My mind was gleefully playing with the whole idea, I could barely catch half of the fun and visual puns. I think by day we are shoddy franchises getting blurred faxes from our subconscious genius director. Oh the disconnect, where is my carnival now?

Friday, October 17, 2008

happy birthday to me...

I had a very nice birthday which included treating myself to an envy inspiring retro look dress from Liberty House, an art opening, a poetry reading, a bag of chocolates, a haircut, a big healthy berry and bee pollen and god knows what else but no milk shake, and a small box from Jim which contained a lovely Venetian glass necklace I had admired at a street fair recently.

I also did no work on my birthday since it is my personal national holiday.

Just in case anybody is wondering, freelance life is going pretty well, now have almost more work than I can handle. All good. And tonight we are going to a lively evening at Drom. The event is the Global Brass Explosion: Titubanda, Environmental Encroachment, Paprika & Hungry March Band. Brass, eats, laughs, and unquenchable beat shared with friends.

Wonderful joyous music, feathers bobbing on hats, bunny ears on the men, jugglers with glowing balls, waving flags, and as each band left and joined the audience it became a mardi gras parade on the club floor...and best of all a surprise arrival from my daughter Caitlin who I hadn't seen since she left home for college. Happy for such delight.

Tomorrow I go out to my folks and they will make me dinner. Leg of lamb. Ah. Life is good. And my friend Martin tells me that I share a birthday with Oscar Wilde, Eugene O'Neill & Gunter Grass. Go team.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Monday welcomes The Anxieties

I am thinking of (re)joining CBIG. Children's Book Illustrator Group. Way back when, I met the excellent Jada Rowland and Chris Raschka through them, and many others. Then I had kids, worked as a book designer and didn't do picture books... But just thinking of getting back into the illustration biz led to these sketches...

Friday, October 10, 2008

Manna from Cricket as the stock market dives

Here's what I love about Cricket Magazine. Every now and then I get an unexpected contract in the mail because they want to reprint one of my illustrations. Just as I was listening to the bad news about the stock market and world wide financial crises, I discover one of my mazes for kids will be reprinted and I will be paid again for work I did years ago. Take that gloom & doom.

On the other hand, my folks can't sell their large house and move to a smaller house in this market. Dad says that if we have another Depression, he'll have plenty of rooms for his adult children to move into. Hmmmm. Let's hope it doesn't come to that. I don't think I'm ready to relive my teen role in the family. It was bad enough the first time and that was improv, this would be a scripted rerun.

Maybe I should do new mazes for adults, like find your 401K and looking for a car loan. I could have high hedges and variable routes to obsfucate the seeker. With sharks circling the murky waters and dead ends heaped with worthless stocks. I can see it, but don't have the heart to draw it. Yet.

Go listen to Neil Gaiman read his new book

It's free, on his site, and has afforded me a week of daily pleasure. I was in the audience for the first chapter in NYC. Right up front. I loved it. I even sketched him in the dark... As he reads his expressions and his pauses become an entire cast (not counting an actual cast on finger). He has done a multi-city U.S. tour, reading a chapter a night, and the video tapes are up and free and wonderful and the concluding chapter made me cry because it was so good and partly because it was over. He knows a thing or two about coming of age and how to tell an utterly true story in a totally made up place. Bravo.
(P.S. my question was on his site yesterday...)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Shakespeare and Neruda and William Carlos Williams, oh my

One of the great things about having daughters in college is they get excited about their reading and performing and I get to vicariously fall in love with poets again. Caitlin is enraptured with William Carlos Williams. She is taking a book history and binding class and plans to put shorter WCW poems into the pages she is building. She is at that stage of quoting a few lines and practically swooning, "Tufts of purple grass spot the / green meadow and clouds the sky" she says, "I could eat those words." Not to mention the plums.

I have directed her to Neruda (Twenty Love Poems & a Song of Despair) and the visual treats of William Blake.

Natalie is performing a gruesome scene from one of Shakespeare's bloodiest romances, Cymbeline, for her acting 3 class. As princess Imogene she awakens next to a headless corpse she believes is her husband, the appropriately named Posthumus. Lots of shock and weeping, and smearing of gore. Delicious amounts of rage. She did a summer intensive at Shakespeare & Company when she was 18. Since then she has had classes that have added more depth to her understanding of the language and context. Not to mention becoming 21. How I wish I could see her perform. I hear the excitement in her voice.

And I am rereading the wonderful poetry of Bill Matthews. God he could write. He made the meditations of a drunk man pissing off the back of a boat into poetry. His language has that immediacy of surprise. The sure heft of original observation. So good to rediscover and find it still is as good as I remembered.

When I was 18 I was crazy about Don Marquis' Archy and Mehitabel poems. I still am.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Why drawing with wacom is kinda lame

Can't help it, even with a pretty good wacom tablet and a program like photoshop or painter, I still draw like my mind is in a cast.

I just sent a thumbnail sketch for a cover illo to a client. I could have created it in a program with my digital pen/mouse/touchpad but the truth is, I don't feel nearly as free to change my lines or see alternates in the all too crisp world of laptopville. Pencil on paper, smudges, eraser bits, rubbing my finger to create shadings of gray...I am sure some of you can do all that without analog artifacts, but I can't. There's something in how I see it, or see things into it, like cloud shapes and ink blots, a venue for vague, a possibility field.

Also, sketching and layout in a program makes it seem much more finished (crisp edges, perfect shapes) than it is. Until I figure out how to draw inside my apple box, here's to old tech (sound of scotch & soda clinking).

I sent the client a photo of my pencil sketch. And then wrote a sonnet.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The literary graphic novel

I am entranced with Posy Simmonds new book, Tamara Drewe. It was originally published serially in the British paper, The Guardian. But it is nothing like the lame stale joke comic strip such as Garfield or the macabre fantasy operas of Gaiman and company (Sandman). Her social satire is deliciously contemporary, pungent, funny, spot on, and she builds it using the frame of a classic novel. This one adapts the plot of Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd. Her previous graphic novel was based on...well the title tells all: Gemma Bovary. And her drawing is as good as her dialogue. Advice to teens and wannabe novelists, don't let Ms. Simmonds overhear you ranting in public, she'll capture every nuance with ease and transform it into art.

Her bumbling middle aged characters are drawn with both affection and remorseless accuracy. The pencil and watercolor are so convincing I start to see my world with her strokes.

I lent a copy to my friend Hilary and she couldn't put it down once she started it. It becomes a novel with sketches. But more than that since Simmonds makes use of all the tropes available in the form, the speech bubbles, the pacing, juxtaposing image and word. I'm deeply inspired. Last time I got this gaga over a graphic novel was with Shaun Tan's The Arrival.

Many years ago a friend gave me a copy of Simmond's picture book, Lulu and the Flying Babies for me to share with my daughters. I thought it a lovely way to introduce the pleasures of art museums and the girls loved it. This is like getting the same thrill for adults.

The anthology I edited with Jeanne Marie Beaumont, The Poets' Grimm, featured poems that used Grimm fairy tales as a starting point and poets had remade them into something strange and new and utterly their own. So much can be done by creative adapting. An armature, a recipe, a sandy footprint in which you press your own bare toes.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Rochelle's memorial

It was lovely, all agree she was generous, intelligent, talented, at times fierce, always tenacious, and missed. She taught writing to people affected by illness, bad luck, or bad choices, in prisons and community centers, she edited, she translated, she fought bad politics and policies, she wrote a lot of poems and novels, took photos with the same passion as she wrote, she loved her husband, city home and country house. This saying goodbye is hard stuff. Jim and I grouchy after, the sadness collecting into an itch of the spirit. I am thinking, when I am gone, throw my ashes off a cliff and get rip-roaring drunk in a bar as you roast me, toast me.

Once home, I made my weekly trip to the library, return & take, and Mondels chocolate shop, spend & savor. I am so thankful I live in this neighborhood. The college town bars and cafes and bookstores. As I popped and crunched the dark chocolate rum balls in my mouth and strolled down Broadway on this particularly clear afternoon, I nodded at the guys playing chess and slapping their timer, the vendors selling their dusty romances and sci fi books on rusty card tables, the college students in their artfully distressed sneakers, the double decker strollers with the double pairs of eyes, the pastel paintings of Hilary and Obama done by Hani now fading back into cement, and the legions of hounds on leashes splashing curb and post with their own, I was here.

If a life well lived is to be remembered as Rochelle has been, then I have some work to do. As I get older the giving back part is starting to seem a whole lot more important than it used to.