Lately I’ve had a gush of new ideas for children’s books. Twice a week I serve snack to two year olds. This past week one of the parents brought in halved green grapes. Laying cut side down on tiny paper plates these grapes look exactly like turtles. Once I started referring to them as turtles it wasn’t long before there were requests for ‘more turtles please’. Ever since we took a trip about a year ago to a local farm we have been calling chunks of watermelon ‘barns’. Every once in a while we will run across a piece of watermelon that is taller and looks more like a silo. Today I began to think about what my sons called waffles whenever my husband traveled. He would explain to his sons that he would not be sleeping at home because he would need to sleep in a hotel. When ‘what’s a hotel’ was asked a description followed that included words like ‘a tall building’ and ‘lots of windows’. When I made some waffles for dinner my son called them hotels. When cut into strips waffles really do resemble city hotels. The book idea that came to me today was a Recipes For Fun poetry collection that would have these kind of kid-friendly foods with simple recipes written in rhyme. At times like this I reach for my Marker Park.
Until today I hadn’t seen a Junk King truck before. Sometimes ideas come barreling at you on wheels. I write my ideas into a blank sketch book that I call Marker Park. I use a new package of bold markers to doodle in it. There isn’t a dried up marker in the bunch. I take it with me wherever I go. When I’m at home it sits patiently on the coffee table, waiting, for more ideas. What’s great about my Marker Park is that I get to ‘run around’ and just play with ideas. It’s a mess. Arrows and asterisks all over the page. I switch colors randomly, underline words, and number stuff.
What came to me first when I saw the Junk King truck this morning was a picture book title. ‘Poetry for Royalty’ This book of poems would have all kinds of kings and queens in it. Definitely one of the titles would have to be ‘the junk king’. Then I thought a child whose dad was the junk king would be proud of it. A stanza popped into my head that goes like this – Go ahead and say it/I’m the junk prince/It’s never ever ever/Gonna make me wince. Then the idea of a Queen of Socks came to me along with this rhyme – She’s Queen/Of socks/We love every pair/When she shows up/We all just stare. Where’d you get those?/Oh, my mom knits/We’re so jealous/We’re out of our wits. These stanzas will likely end up on the cutting room floor one day but anything I think of gets into the park. A King Kong belongs in this book. So maybe one of these days when I am ready to begin something new I will start the Poetry for Royalty project. For now I am going to keep running to and through Marker Park.
This is embarassing. It happened years ago. I signed up for an illustrators academy at the SCBWI Spring conference. I was in way over my head. Matt Phelan was there. He’s a super nice guy if you are in way over your head by the way. He showed us slides of his process in creating The Storm In The Barn. Okay that’s how long ago it was. I could have gone through a box of kleenex looking at that art. It was so daring, so lovely, so loose. Puddles of watercolor spreading in the frames. It was atmosphere on steroids. I love loose. I don’t do loose. I basically am so stuck in coloring book mode with my collage work. After lunch we had portfolio reviews. Time to sweat. Big time. Such kindness in those workshop leaders. Kindness and wisdom. What stands out still is Matt Phelan’s question to me. “So do you draw first or tear first?” Dry mouth, can’t talk, manage to utter, “I draw first.” Of course he could tell that is what I do. Did. Still do. Fear. Today I vow to get out of my own way and just rip stuff up. See what happens. It’s so hard to do something else. Anything else. So here’s to standing down fear even if just for a day. Pencils out the window. Collage sketchbook open. Go. Thank you Matt, SCBWI, and Yes! paste. Let ‘er rip!
Still bubbling over after last night at an indescribably delicious indie bookseller event at the Brookline Booksmith. Great book signing and talk with Austin Kleon from Austin, Texas. Quick lesson in when to use Hi Ya’ll & Hi All Y’all for east coasters. Packed with people, cookies, and laugh out loud humor. Great Q & A afterwards. Take aways from last night include: Don’t hoard. Share instead. Teach to learn and learn and learn. Teaching does not result in competition it results in fans. Learn to tell a story that your work alone cannot tell because of the importance of connection and the human element of creating. Austin led by example last night. He drew/illustrated along as he spoke (ipad app Paper and stylus Pencil) which he repeatedly wondered about saying, ‘This might be bad idea.’ It ended up being a very good idea. He plugged other creatives’ works. He held up and talked up Daily Rituals by Mason Currey (Which is not as bossy as his book, suggests Austin), And The Pursuit of Happiness by Maira Kalman, My Ideal Bookshelves Jane Mount’s art and Thessaly La Force editor, Lunch Poems by Frank O’Hara (Because all of us should be reading poetry, reminds Austin) The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt (Because we all must learn how to tell great stories and this is a great read), and The Essential Scratch and Sniff Wine Guide by MacNaughton and Sacca. Every artist, under or over 60, should own a copy of his book. It’s bright yellow cover and hand written title is one to face out on your ideal bookshelf. If you can’t afford it tell someone in your ‘scenius’ and you can all share a copy of Show Your Work by Austin Kleon. If he’s in your area, make the time to stop by his book signing. It will be worth it.
Today I turn sixty. I can say for certain that I have sung sixty songs, taught at least sixty preschoolers, kneaded more than sixty loaves of bread, and spent about sixty dollars in the last sixty days on children’s books. At sixty I am still a teacher. I still love to write rhyming picture books and to create collages. I still love my donuts with peanutbutter, my grapefruit pink (with honey), and my eggs with fresh parsley. Better yet plop those eggs into a piping hot popover. Some things never change.
But at sixty I have never blogged. It’s time to start something new. Welcome to Studio 60.