“I like the sunshine. It makes me feel good and I can see the ball better.”
Roberto Clemente had it right. A few days sitting in a sunny ballpark does not fix the winter hangover that is destined to last into April. The world is still full of misery, strife and loss. It’s still raining (substitute snow for that, or drought if that’s where you live right now). All the sun does is make you feel good. It gives you hope, just like the crack of the bat and the lazy stretches of the fielders warming up on the grass.
Not a baseball fan? Go ahead, roll your eyes, it’s still true.
I’m just back from Spring Training, where every ballpark is filled with hope and energy, where opposing players greet each other with hugs and laughter, batters search for their groove and pitchers turn the ball in their hand and grip the seams with (it must be) joy and renewed faith that they are king of the mound. The whole season is waiting and it’s good to run and hit and catch a baseball in the sunshine. Friends, it made me glad.
Aside from the seasons of nature and baseball I measure my creative work by SCBWI conferences. The Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators has two annual conferences, and regional conferences all across the globe. Western Washington’s is coming up on April 12 & 13 – the volunteers that make the weekend run are focusing on that weekend right now, myself included. Lots of emails and spreadsheets.
These are the questions I’ve been thinking about: How has my portfolio changed since last summer’s conference in LA, and how does it need to change? What did I learn at my first winter conference in New York that can move my work forward? How can I take the lessons I’m learning in Joy Chu’s online class, Illustrating Books for Children, and tell a better story, present my work more effectively?
Like Roberto, I have a field to play on. What’s my sunshine? How can I see the ball better?
This painting of mine was selected for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Western Washington Illustrator exhibit, opening October 10 at the Washington State Convention Center. Like this pup, I just want to smell the flowers for a little while longer, but fall is upon us in earnest. The exhibit is the highlight of my fall, since I applied for the opportunity and have been working on the planning for months.
It has been so exciting to see the depth of illustration talent in our region of SCBWI. From the very first, when the submittals started coming in, through the selection process, the richness and cleverness of the work has been a thrill to see. The 67 illustrators included in the exhibit represent a wide variety of media and technique, and run the gamut of experience from aspiring artist to published illustrator.
Put Sunday, October 27 from 2:00-5:00 pm on your calendar. There will be a meet-the-illustrator event with book selling and signing, as well as art making with the illustrators. We hope to see lots of kids and grownups that afternoon. In the meantime my pup is at the framer’s, getting ready for the show.
I’ve been back from the SCBWI LA conference for five days now and finally feel like I’m home. I went to LA exhausted and came back more exhausted, but with a head full of next steps and some indelible experiences. I stayed in Venice with my sister Dawn and her family, a needed haven. Staying in their guest room, newly filled with family furniture and objects from our parents’ house (including the bookcase Dad made and cabinets from their bedroom) I felt surrounded by my own childhood, which is the deep well we have to draw from when we write or illustrate for young readers. I was also able to step away from the social circle of the conference and digest a little of the day’s learning, reflect on the notes I’d taken, eat well and in fine company, and once in bed get to sleep.
I took a portfolio to the conference and put it out knowing it was about a third of what it should be. I had postcard printing fail and didn’t have this important calling card for the editors and art directors to take with them, but I put out the last of my letterpress business cards and they all went. My lesson from all of it was work hard, harder than you thought you would have to, listen, learn and implement. For the first time I didn’t feel discouraged coming home from this juggernaut of keynotes, breakout sessions and talking to writers and illustrators. I think Monday’s Illustrator’s Intensive helped with that. I was spent by the time Monday came around but so glad I had that day. I learned more through listening to illustrators, art directors and editors talk about their process, what works and why, and by looking at the work of other illustrators attending.
On the plane home I condensed my notes into a kind of manifesto and list of next steps for moving forward with book illustration. This is what appears at the top of the page:
Work regularly and consistently. Have fun. Get serious.
Some of the writers and music makers from the Story Chairs project will gather at Jack Straw this Friday, June 7 at 7:00 pm to share our work. Please join us for stories and music in the big studio. This will also be a great time to invite friends who haven’t experienced the installation. I had so much fun working with everyone – I’m excited to celebrate our work with friends.
4261 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105
Some links in case you missed them this past month or so:
Check out a Jack Straw podcast about the project.
Jack Straw Productions has just posted an interview with me about Story Chairs – it has clips of music and readings and has a lot of charm. You can listen and download on their front page and I’m posting it here as well. Stellar interviewing and production by Jennie Cecil Moore. CJ Lazenby was in the booth. Thanks, guys!
I also wanted you to know that we will have a reading for the Story Chairs authors and musicians on Friday, June 7 at 7:00 pm. It will be a fun opportunity to see and sit in the chairs as well as hear the work of some of the contributors to the project. There will be music. There may be dancing. And all of it will be recorded – come be a part of our story.
Listen to the podcast.
We turn to spring in a few days and as day equals night it seems right that the Story Chairs project should be readying for installation and my website, another long term project, should be new as well.
The Story Chairs will install at Jack Straw this weekend in their new lobby space. It was important to me that the audio have a place to live online, where others could experience a little of what I did last year as the writers came through the recording studio, adding their voices and stories to the mix. I’m thankful for everyone’s contributions.
My new presence online loses some of the custom design that made the old site so pleasing, but because it is hosted on WordPress I can easily update the site myself. I’ve also brought my blog under the same roof as my artwork and writing, where I can tell a little more clearly the story of all the things I do.
Listen to the delicious stories and music from Story Chairs. Click around the site. I am still updating portfolios but you can get a sense of the artwork I’ve done. Take a look at the letter my Grandma Violet sent me just before I turned four years old. Welcome.
Without these people much of this would not have been built: Moe Provencher who is a dream of an engineer, has a nose for story and knows how to manage a wild eyed writer; Jeffry Mitchell who helped dream up the Story Chairs; Ben Oblas who built them; Craig Marois and Michael Helland, the programming swat team; Dana Sullivan, master cat herder and graphic designer, Joan Rabinowitz and Levi Fuller at Jack Straw; all the writers and musicians who brought their work to the project and waited patiently for the installation; Jill Beaumont of Firefly Design, my web maven; and Vic Oblas who floats my boat 24/7. It’s good to have friends and family.
Come out to the opening on the 27th from 5:30-8:00 pm, Jack Straw Productions, Seattle, or drop by during business hours.
I dearly love this poem by William Stafford, and many years ago printed it for our holiday card. My Mom and Dad thumbtacked it up in their spare bedroom where I saw it whenever I went home. It’s a good reminder, especially in the dark of winter.
It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.
It could, you know. That’s why we wake
and look out — no guarantees
in this life.
But some bonuses, like morning,
like right now, like noon,
Moe and I spent the afternoon editing and sequencing audio for the Story Chairs yesterday, and got the lion’s share done. It was exciting to see the renovation in the lobby actually underway. The contractors were just installing the original cast glass radios in the lobby interior, that date from the era when the building housed KRAB-FM, a big part of Jack Straw’s history. Though the installation of my project has been delayed, I did get to see the spot the Story Chairs will go. The new lobby and office will be light-filled and welcoming and is the first phase of a renovation that will see the exterior painted with graphics and new signage.
I am betting that it will be February before the chairs are installed and ready to be experienced – and that’s fine by me. It feels good to have the time to honor all of the stories and music recorded, as well as the writers and readers, by tweaking levels, taking time to shift things around and think through the experience for the listener.
For this moody end-of-year weather I’d like to share Jack Straw Writer, Gabriela Denise Frank’s dreamy piece she recorded this fall.
Nepenthe by Gabriela Denise Frank
I am in Oakland for the last Christmas in the house my parents built together. It’s time for Mom to make a new home, one where she will be surrounded by friends, can walk to to the market and to see a movie, and that will be easier to maintain. All of her girls are here, in all of our unruly glory. In honor of the gathering I’m posting a piece about our lives on the mountain, the cabin in Estes Park where we spent part of most summers when we were growing up.
Ride That Bronco