Saturday, September 03, 2005

Visiting Our Nation's Capital

Last week, my family and I visited Washington, DC. We had never been before so it was truly a treat. We gave our legs a workout that they have not had in a looooong time!

We visited most of the sites—Jefferson Memorial to the left (kind of looks like it's sliding into the river, doesn't it?), Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, WWII Memorial (really beautiful!), Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, Ford's Theater, National Zoo and Aquarium, National Archives (loved National Treasure!), Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Museum of Natural History, Air and Space Museum, Museum of American History, the Capitol and the International Spy Museum (okay, didn't really go in, just went to the gift shop!)

Yet, there was so much we missed, like the White House. My youngest son liked the subways the best of all. If you'd like to see a slide show my older son made of our trip, click here if you have a fast connection (it's a bit long.) Keep in mind that it's from his perspective. While the boys were looking at the guns in the history museum, I was upstairs looking at the first ladies! I have to admit that my favorite souvenir we brought home was Krispie Kremes!

When you have two kids that only eat chicken nuggets, finding a restaurant can be challenging. Especially in Washington because we hardly saw any restaurants. I was wondering where all these people eat. I asked at the aquarium and she sent us into the Ronald Reagan Building across the street. Well, lo and behold, there was a food court on the basement floor! So that's where all these people that work in these super-sized buildings eat. Who knew? We also ate at the Hard Rock Café next to Ford's Theater. They have a really cool stained glass window of Chuck Berry, Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis that we sat in front of. So as we're leaving town to come home, what did we find just one block behind our hotel? Yes, a Mickey D's! Just goes to show that you have to do your homework before you go on a trip. I have to say that Washington was one of the cleanest places I've visited and the quietest.

While in DC, I took the opportunity to meet with Alden O'Brien, the textile curator at the DAR Museum. They have a piece of the 'Ocean-Born Mary' silk* and we compared it to the pieces that I have photographs of. They were all consistent, but she has her doubts as to the age of the fabric, feeling it was from the 1780's rather than the 1720's (though she couldn't rule out the 1720's.) It was a productive conversation and she finds the whole legend quite plausable, admitting that my evidence was more compelling than some other national legends that shall remain nameless here! (* Ocean-Born Mary is another NH legend that I am researching for a picture book. It has all the drama of the high seas—pirates, a baby's birth, treasure—Arrrgh!)

In preparation for our trip, I read a few children's books on the topic. If the Walls Could Talk has interesting tidbits about the Presidents and their life in the White House. The story of George Washington's Teeth is told in rhyme and is quite cute! When Washington Crossed the Delaware tells of the trials and tribulations of the Revolutionary War as told by Lynne Cheney. Lincoln : A Photobiography was a perfect biography for young readers–succinctly told. This last book–George Washington, Spymaster : How the Americans Outspied the British and Won the Revolutionary War–I picked up at the International Spy Museum. It's a wonderfully designed little book–feels good in your hands, pages have deckled edges, uses a font reminiscent of the time, and the jacket is printed in letterpress. I can see where kids, especially boys, would get caught up in the whole spy thing; there are codes to decipher throughout the whole book. Kudos to National Geographic for making history fun!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Writing Update

Today is the day that I send in my "Ocean Mary of Londonderry" manuscript to my publisher. Back on the research trail, I've been traveling around the state to various libraries and historical societies tracking down those elusive pieces of the pirate's silk, to reconcile them with the differing descriptions. What fun! I also have appointments with the Museum of NH History and the DAR Museum in Washington, DC to discuss the silk and get their opinions.

None of this research will change the tale one iota, as I'm fairly confident that I have the facts correct. But I feel it's important to list in the foreward which elements are fact and which are conjecture. Also, if I wait until the research is all done, I will never send it in! Mary Wilson is one elusive character! I have yet to connect Mary specifically to the pirate attack. There is only circumstantial evidence but it's pretty overwhelming. And as far as the silk goes, it will be a leap of faith.

So my little manuscript baby, off you go! I wish you well. Godspeed. Bon Voyage.

Winnie Dancing on Her Own by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
A lovely little first chapter book with sweet illustrations by Alissa Imre Geis (love this girl's website! I want to be her when I grow up.) Just perfect!

The Irish Dresser by Cynthia G. Neale
A great novel by a fellow Granite Stater. We met while doing book signing events.

The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg
I liked the plot well enough but I had problems with the POV. It starts out in 3rd person omnitient. The next 4 chapters are in first person, one chapter for each member of the team, then switches back to omnitient for the rest of the book. Yet Mrs. Olinski didn't get her own chapter, to tell her own story. And Julian's chapter (probably the most interesting character in the book) doesn't ring true to his character that was set up in other chapters. To be honest, most of the book is back story, which can be annoying when you want to get on with the real story. (Okay, I hear my crit group snickering because everything I write is backstory! That point isn't lost on me.)

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
Ironically, I read two survival stories in a row. Both were young boys, but in Hatchet the MC was on his own. In Beaver, the MC had an Indian help him out. I thought Hatchet would be boring since there were no other characters, but it wasn't. A plot twist or cliffhanger at the end of each chapter helped. In Beaver, the relationship between the Indian and the boy was interesting to see develop, until the Indian finally respected the growth of the MC. It's the same with Hatchet except it was the MC who finally found pride in what he had accomplished.

The only problem I had was with the ending. I wish it had been treated as part of the story instead of an epilogue. It was mostly telling, not showing. And the big secret was a bit of a let down. I would have preferred the MC about to tell his father, then decide not to because of the maturing he had done while stranded.

This is just too much fun. It's loads of fun clicking on the words and dragging them around.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

My Snowflake for Robert's Snow

I have finally finished my snowflake for Robert's Snow. I decided to do a flower because my mother loves flowers and she is a cancer survivor of over 20 years. So this poinsettia is dedicated to her. Love you Mom!

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Finally some ART!!!

If you are like me, you've been wondering why no artwork has appeared on this page for ages. What can I say, I've had a lazy summer! This is a rough layout for a calligraphy course assignment I'm working on. I was not too concerned about making beautiful letters, just the layout. Now I need to find a focus. Click above to see a larger image.

Yes, I know the text is from a Beatles song but I found it in a 1930's Mother Goose type book. I used to sing this lullabye to my children so it's one of my favorites. They still ask me occassionally to sing it. Got to keep in practice for those grandchildren some day!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

A Surprise Anniversary Party!!!!

Well, call us Surprised! Here it was just a few days before our 26th anniversary and my parents threw us a 25th anniversary party! My mother completely forgot that our 25th anniversary was last summer (even though she babysat for us while we went out to dinner.) So she thought she would throw us a party before our 25th year ended. I didn't have the heart to tell her that technically it was our 26th year that is just ending. It's the thought that counts, isn't it. And if you were a member of the wedding party and weren't invited, I apologize. Obviously, she has a bad memory!

Isn't this the most beautiful bouquet? There were well over 2 dozen pink roses in it. Our real anniversary is tomorrow, July 28, if any one else would like to send flowers. Any one? (JK)

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Sculpted Paper Headline News

I am happy to report that the cat finally has a name. I had to put my foot down and make an executive decision because nobody was agreeing on anything. It was quite embarassing bringing her in for her shots and boosters, each time being asked if she had a name yet. Then I realized that if she was a baby, her name would not be put up to a vote, my husband and I would decide. Since he doesn't want to have anything to do with the cat, I decided on my own. Besides I'm the one who cleans the litterbox which is enough justification for me! So let me introduce you to PEACHES! Yeah Peaches! Go Kitty! Go Kitty! Now, if only I could remember to call her that!

A big thank you to those of you that offered suggestions. You did better than my stuborn children.

I have joined Chester College as an adjunct faculty member. I'll be teaching Illustraiton 1 for the fall semester. Chester is a small arts college a little over an hours drive from me. I'm not certain if my vic . . . er . . . students will be minty freshmen or seasoned sophmores, but I'm looking forward to whipping them in shape! Crack!!!

We hosted a reunion of sorts for my husbands family at the end of June. A few of the nieces and nephews were missing but his parents and 5 brothers and sisters were there. Some of them were from California, Washington and Alabama. It was a great day and best of all, no one got food poisoning!

I have a lot of talented friends and two fo them deserve mention. First, Jennifer Kramer won the "Most Horrid Query Letter" contest (which I think is like a back-handed compliment of sorts, but I'm proud of Jen any way!). And Kate Tuthill was the non-fiction first place winner in the Smartwriters' WIN contest for her manuscript HERO OF NACOZARI! Way to go Kate and Jen! I have many other talented friends that I will plug another day.

Okay, I don't actually read in bed. Usually I'm on the couch. But here's what I've read recently.

HOOT by Carl Hiaasen. Really liked the characters in this one.

STAND TALL by Joan Bauer. Liked this one as well though I kept wondering what the problem of the story was. He was too tall? His parents were divorced? Also, there were way too many incomplete sentences. Now I'm not the grammar police, and normally incomplete sentences don't bother me, but there were too many IMHO. Even still I liked the book, though I can't tell you why. Best line in the whole book—One man sows, another reaps. Now you'll have to read the book to find out why.

BRINGING UP THE BONES by Lara M. Zeises. I liked this book except for the end. (Don't want to give it away.) The MC ends up a stronger person in the end. But since I'm a hopeless romantic, I would have prefered a different ending. That's all I'm saying.

SHADOW OF A BULL by Maia Wojciecchowska. I've been trying to read most of the Newbery Award books, but I've discovered that some of the older books don't stand the test of time. Styles and tastes have changed since this book won in 1965. The first half was sluggish. Many scenes seemed contrived in order to dish out backstory about the MC's father. The conflict was clear through out, and the MC solved it nicely. It's just a shame you have to trudge through the other stuff first.

Next up is THE VIEW FROM SATURDAY, by E.L. Konigsburg. Stay Tuned!

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Soap Box Derby

Here is my son with his team (and I use the term loosely) before the race. One kid decided that the ocean sounded more fun which left the team one man short. Travis (in the car) took an extra run for him.

They are getting ready to push Ian, Team Captain down for his first run. Alas, a wheel locked up (as did on many other cars) and he only made part way down. He had a make-up heat later.

Here comes my son neck and neck with the toilet car! This is gripping stuff!

In the end, the toilet car didn't have what it takes. My son and his teammates won all their heats! But it wasn't enough to win the day. They did, however, win the prize for the sportiest car! And thanks to Pizza Hut for donating such a yummy prize!

This photo was taken at the end of the day, AFTER my son had won his team's car in a drawing. He was not too happy with his teammates for sitting on the spoiler of HIS car! I have NO idea where we're going to put this thing!

Friday, June 24, 2005

My new Muse!!!!

It's been 3 long years since my precious Tippy cat died. I've mourned long enough and finally decided it was time for a new purr in my life. So without further ado, I present to you . . . (name pending.) Yes, that is correct, we've had the little darling for two weeks and we still can't agree on a name. I even received a postcard from the vet addressed to Pending Ortakales! LOL

She is four months old, a shelter cat, and came with the name Reese's (as in peanut butter cup). She is a calico tiger mix so the name is fitting. But it doesn't do anything for me. I'm looking for a cute feminine kitty name, like Lily for instance. One son wants to give her a video game name like Zelda or Ganendorf. Uh, no. The other one (holding the kitty in the pic) is adament about keeping Reese's. And the husband would just as soon call her gone!

So please help me name her. All suggestions will be considered. Sorry, no prizes, just my undying gratitude. She has double-paws if that helps you any.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Books by Marsha Qualey

Earlier this year, I picked up several ARCs at ALA in Boston. One that I enjoyed very much was Just Like That by Marsha Qualey. I don't want to give away too much but it's about a young woman who was the last person to see a young couple alive. Their disturbing death sends her reeling, until she finds someone else that understands her feelings. A boy. The boy who found their bodies. The story of their relationship and bond is touching and poignant. I highly recommend this book.

I liked it so much, I checked out another book by Marsha. What do you get when you mix one ex-junkie, one Prince-someday-to-be-King and an all-nighter? One Night. I enjoyed it almost as much as Just Like That. If you haven't read anything Marsha Qualey, give her a try.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Polar Caves Field Trip

Yes, another field trip! Yesterday, I spent spectacular day with the third graders from Woodland Heights Elementary investigating the Polar Caves. For those of you that don't live nearby, they are a series of caves that were formed when the retreating glacier broke off part of the nearby cliff thereby forming the caves from the tumbled rocks. They are wonderfully refreshing in the summer. One cave still had ice in it!

As you can see below, I brought my trusty little sketchbook. Good thing because my camera batteries died before I took one pic! These were all done with pilot pen and colored pencil on a pale green mulberry paper.

This was the view from the highest point we were allowed to go. But as you can see, the cliff and boulders towered way above us.

Well, this guy thought he was hot stuff. He spread his feathers (a good 8-10 foot span) for us and his mate and shook them. We were wondering if the kids were going to get an even bigger show!
I was fascinated by how he looked from the side and back. Long gray feathers were held upright to support the showy feathers, which were cupped forward. I guess these were the tail feathers. Under that were gray downy feathers. The black, white, blue and rust feathers were his wings.
The female was very plain in comparison—brown with an irridescent patch of blue on her neck.
They had other exotic birds there—mostly colorful pheasant from China, Tibet and the Himalayas.

Some of the rocks had some large leafed lichen growing on them, about the size of a maple leaf I'd say. Others had single fern fronds growing out of the moss. All very cool!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

A Field Trip to Prescott Farm

On Tuesday, I spent the day with my son's third grade class learning about ecology (the realtionship between organisms and their habitats. See Megan, I WAS listening!) at Prescott Farm in Gilford. We learned all about seeds, plants, how long it takes to make 1" of topsoil (see if you can find the answer in my sketchbook), and pollenation. I sure learned a lot as you can see by my sketchbook. I had no idea what a bobolink was so I looked it up when I came home. The farm is part of the Audubon Society of NH and has hiking trails. I'd like to go back with the family this summer.

Here's a page from my new handy dandy sketchbook.
This page was created on parchment paper with
fine pointed sepia Pitt pen and colored pencils.

This page was created on #140 lb. Fabriano Uno watercolor
paper with a fine pointed sepia Pitt pen and colored pencils.

Monday, May 30, 2005

My Summer Submission for PBAA

Here is my summer art for the Picture Book Artists Association's (from here on affectionately known as PBAA) website. Currently you can view the spring art there, but be sure to return on June 15th for the unvealing of everyone's summer art.

The image is from my 2004 book, Good Morning, Garden, written by Barbara Brenner. I found out recently that it received a starred review in Kirkus and no one told me! It's available on Amazon or my website.

A little about PBAA. It started out as a listserve for professional picture book illustrators but has turned into much more. These people are my mentors, my crying shoulder, my sounding board and my peers. I would be lost without them, so thank you guys!

Saturday, May 28, 2005

A Handmade Sketchbook

Here's a nifty little sketchbook I made with my own little hands. It's about 6" square and 1" thick. I included many different types of paper—watercolor, charcoal, pastel, vellum, oatmeal, grass, mulberry, etc.—to see which I will like the best. I hand stitched them into 4 signatures included some spacers so I can paste in other things or do a collage without having the book splay open. I'm hoping to try many different media inside. And the best thing about it is that it lies perfectly flat when sketching or scanning! I'm sure I'll be sharing some of the (more successful) sketches with you soon!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

A Visit to Belmont Elementary

Yesterday I visited the wonderful children at Belmont Elementary School in Belmont, NH. They were attentive and inquisitive, just the way I like them. And they weren't the least bit wiggly. Oh no, not them! Well, okay, maybe a little, but it had been raining forever so I can't fault them for that. So thank you children for a wonderful day!

(and I truly do apologize for saying that bad word! We'll blame that on the rain too. Deal?)

Monday, May 23, 2005

A Great Conference!!!


I attended a great conference this past weekend put on by the New England chapter of SCBWI. Friday was a Nuts & Bolts day for more advanced workshops. I presented a workshop on Copyright Registration for Illustrators. It seemed to go well. I definitely had more material than my 45 minutes allowed for. I'm also so proud that I figured out the whole PowerPoint thing (though I really need to get over my plug phobia!)

Saturday was also a fun-filled day of workshops. I especially enjoyed the talk by Jacqueline Davies, et al. entitled "The Whole Shebang". Jacqueline, editor Ann Rider from Houghton Mifflin, illustrator Melissa Sweet, art director Sheila Smallwood and the marketing manager all talked about Jackie's book The Boy Who Drew Birds. Jackie is a wonderful speaker and her book is a delight. In fact I may need to buy another copy.

Melissa Sweet is one of my new favorite illustrators. I also picked up her new book Carmine. Think Red Riding Hood with a twist. You'll love it.

Sunday was a wonderful picture book retreat with the fantastic Eric Rohmann as the keynote speaker. Later, he gave me his thoughts on my dummy for Sir Draws-A-Lot, which I really appreciated. I also met a Kim Jacobs, a superb illustrator. Keep an eye out for her as I'm sure some publisher will snap her up quickly!

But my favorite part of the weekend was meeting up with my critique group. There were 10 of us there in person and two in spirit! They are a bright, funny talented group of women and I'm proud to be a part of THE HAMPSTERS!!!!! You can see their writing BLOGS on the right hand side of this page!

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Happy Mother's Day!!!!

I've been enjoying everyone else's BLOGs so I thought I'd try one for myself. No promises that it will be updated daily, or even weekly. No pressure, no worries. Works for me!