Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Virginia Trip, Part 2: The Reading/Signing

On Sunday, Joan and I were scheduled to read our books in the children's area, then sit from 12:30 - 3:00 and sign copies.  Children were encouraged to where ninja and fairy costumes and there would be snacks and crafts following the event.  I was SUPER EXCITED by the idea of little ninjas enjoying the book.

As it turned out, there weren't a lot of children there and only one fairy.  Not a wee ninja in site. Bah.

I chose this picture - not for the marvelous expression on my face, but because you can see every child there.  For those of you out there who think every author goes on a book tour - this is why we don't.  People just don't come out for them unless you are known.

One boy noticed that I was wearing a Master Zutsu shirt.  (Thanks, Marco!)  So this is more about the art and less about my chest.

Joan read too, but Natalie (our photographer) took Joan's pics on Joan's camera - so I can't post any here.  The little fairy in the audience loved Joan's presentation - as did the other children.  Well, not all of them.  There was a young boy there who didn't give either one of us the time of day.

They had snacks and crafts in the cafe but I was anxious to get down to the signing table.  (Sorry, Joan.  My eagerness cost Joan snacks.)  I worried that we might lose the few customers we had if we didn't get down there pronto.

Here's a good shot of the only fairy - but what a cute fairy she was!!!

For the next 2 hours we:
-directed people to the bathroom
-watched one little girl (who desperately wanted to come check out Joan's Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Fairies) argue with her mother about coming over.  Her mother won.  They did not come over.
-Joan directed someone to the Biography department
-Spoke to my uncle and aunt in-law, Bobby and Edie
-answered a question from a very nervous teenager on how she could be a writer - she was cute!  Joan said she'd been circling around us for awhile.  Can you imagine Joan and I being intimidating?!?!
-and sold about 7-10 books apiece (from strangers.  B&E bought quite a few ninja books.  Thank you!)

It was very nice to have someone to hold down the fort with.  If you're looking for a sweet book for a little fairy lover in your life.  Check out The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Fairies.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Virginia Trip, Part 1: The Country Club

I just got back from Virginia - well, yesterday.  I went to meet up with my critique group, the unofficially named LitWits.  One of the benefits of this getaway was that we got to stay in the LOVLEY home of Natalie's (left) parents AND because they are country club members - we got to dress up and go out ON THEM! (Thanks Chuck and Carol!)

So here's Natalie, me, and Joan all dolled up and ready to go. (Not pictured, Kip and Cynthia, who couldn't make it.)

Here's the menu for the club.  (It's not a great shot, sorry.  I didn't bring the camera with the macro lense.) When I saw crab cakes I got very excited!  I LOVE crab and my buddy Sara, has been bragging about the crab cakes she's been eating in the Baltimore area.  Of course, the crab cakes HAD to be the most expensive thing on the menu right?  $31.00 as opposed to $22.00 and $18.50.  So I asked Natalie, "Am I an a$$hole if I get the crab cakes?"  (Nice talk for the club, right?)  And she told me to go ahead. 

So I did.

Mmmmmmmmmm.  Look at that meal.  It was SO SO SO SO SO good.  And I felt SO SO SO SO SO full afterward.  Of course, that didn't stop us from ordering dessert.  I had an apple crisp since I didn't want to overdo the dairy thanks to my lactose issue.  Natalie ordered the chocolate mousse cake.  O. M. G.  It was like a brick of decadence.  Five people could have eaten this thing!  But it was goooooooood.  (I had a bite, of course.)

Here's Joan and Natalie at the club.  You can see there was a wedding in the background.  

It was a perfect night.  It was warm, without being hot.  There was a slight breeze.  And they had a lovely man singing and playing guitar.  

We got to eat fancy food, look pretty, and gaze out at the water as the sun set.

Oh, what a night.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Some Jewlery

I'm off to Virginia tomorrow.  So while I'm busy packing and tidying up around here, I'll leave you with some of my recent adventures in jewelry making.

I'm getting a little better with my wire work.  I'm quite pleased with how this one turned out.
This one is all about the medallion - a nice long oval.  I bought the cord ready-made.

This is something I made for my mother-in-law for Mother's Day.  The white leaf beads (which are glass) were taken from an old necklace of her mother's.

I love the chain, too.  Delicate and interesting.  Just right for this piece.

She said she liked it, too.  

I have more white leaves.  Maybe I'll make some earrings?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I Need Your Opinion

I'm bringing a host gift for the lovely people who are housing me for my Virginia visit and I thought I'd give them a little painting.

I did two oriental brush paintings and I'd like to call for a vote.  Which do you prefer?
(The frames are just sitting on top - that's why there's a huge shadow on each one.)

Above - Plum Blossom.
Below - Morning Glory.

Natalie - if you see this, your vote counts the most.  And it's OK to say - Gosh Julie, they both suck and my parents would really, really hate them.  But you could be nice about it.  :)

Wink Wear

I'm going down to Williamsburg, VA this weekend for a writer's retreat/vacation and a book signing.  I was planning my outfits and couldn't figure out what I wanted to wear to the book signing.  So I decided to make myself a Master Zutsu T-shirt.

Here's a detail shot -

I didn't have a good full body image from the book, so I made one.  He's so disapproving - I love it!

I made a Wink shirt for Magoo awhile ago, but I couldn't find a pic.  I'll have to take one of use together.  

If anyone's going to be in the Williamsburg area, my friend Ammi-Joan Paquette and I will be reading (I think) and signing our books at the Barnes and Noble at the College of William and Mary on Sunday, May 24th at noon.  (I linked to Joan's book, so you can check it out.  I'll post about it when we get back and I have pics from the event.)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Visit to the Early Learning Center

Friday I had the pleasure of introducing Wink to the Whiting Lane Early Learning Center.

Here I am telling the children that they need to rush right out and buy my book.  (Just kidding.) When I read the story to my younger audiences, I tend to act it out a lot and talk about how the characters feel.  

See, I'm putting my theater training to use.
And it's fun to sit in a teeny little chair.  It's like I'm a GIANT!

I always end by showing the kids how the art progresses.  Here, I'm showing a sketch from the dummy book (in black and white) and the same spread in the finished book.

I always get some amusing answers/observations at this part.  Most of the kids get the big things - like there's a tree in this one, etc.  I always know when I'm dealing with a really bright kid b/c they'll notice subtle differences in Master Zutsu's facial hair.  

But yesterday's observation was a new one.  I showed a group two illustrations of a scene where Wink is fighting a panda, much to Master Z's horror.  One little girl, who I hadn't called on yet, raised her hand.

Me: Yes, honey.  (I didn't know her name.)
Girl: He's a pig.
Me:  I'm sorry.  What?
Girl: He's a pig.
Me: (Confused look on my face.)  You think you see a pig?
Girl: (nods)
Me: Who?  The teacher?
Girl: (nods) In that one he's a pig.
Me:  OK.  Thanks.

I try to take whatever the kids say and spin it in a positive way so they are always giving a correct answer.  I don't want to say, "No, that's wrong."  So even if they're only in the ballpark I help it around - but I really didn't know what to say about this one.  So I just smiled and nodded.  I guess Master Zutsu looks kinda like a pig.  :)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

My Purple Dress

Yesterday it was half-off day at Sally's Boutique (a.k.a. Salvation Army.)  I was looking for a frock to take to Virginia with me, something country-club worthy.  And I found something purple.

The first thing you need to know is that there are no dressing rooms at Sally's.  They used to have a couple, but I guess some people used them inappropriately (insert your own gross visual here) - so now they're gone.  No soup for you!

My friend, Sara, can hold items up to her body and tell if they will fit.  Not me.  I need to try things on.  So I arrived in a tank top and big skirt, so I could slip things over and under as needed.

I pulled eight dresses off the rack, but when I tried this one on (#3) I said, "Stop the presses.  This is it."

A. I liked the color.
B. I liked the cut.
C. I liked the price.  $3.50.

And I had just found my flowery sandals and I wanted something to go with them.  (More on that later.)

But the dress didn't come with a belt and it so clearly needed one.  So I made it.

This is essentially the Obi Belt pattern from Weekend Sewing.  It's not exactly - and it's not complicated so no need to buy a pattern if you have any skill at all.  But, if you're a newbie and you're thinking - I MUST make that belt.  Go ahead and buy the book.  (I bought the fabric at a tag sale for $.50.)

And here are the shoes.

Aren't they cute?!

I'm not a pink girl.  I have very little of it and I don't think it looks good on me, but I loved these shoes and they are super comfy - and half off.  (Shoes = $2.00)

So that's my thrift store look, purchased for $6.00.  I hope they let me into the club.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Kickin' it Old School

Hey - if you haven't read enough about me and my picture book, Wink! The Ninja Who Wanted to Be Noticed - you're in luck!

Check out the article featured on the web page for Grand Magazine, an online mag for grandparents.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Age of Aquarium

Sunday, Magoo, my mother (a.k.a. Grammy), and I went to the Mystic Aquarium.

(Sidenote: I think Tyra Banks would look at this photo and say that Magoo was working his angles and looked fierce!)

This is the first time we have been to the Mystic Aquarium since the Great Meltdown of '05.
That's right, folks.  It was a meltdown so grand that we avoided the scene of the crime for four years.

See, Magoo has always been an energetic child, but he's usually pretty even tempered.  There haven't been a whole lot of public tantrums.  Maybe that's why that one registered so high on the freak out scale.  Michael, his mom (Mary), Magoo and I went and Magoo couldn't have been less interested in the animal.  he WAS interested in throwing things into the water, like sticks and leaves.  Of course, we kept stopping him and trying to explain why he couldn't do that - but that was the only thing he wanted to do.

Watching Beluga Whales = boring.
Throwing sticks in water = fun.

So this is what happened by the penguin enclosure, when he was thwarted once again:
I took another shot of him at the same place, in a much better mood.

I have to admit - he still wasn't that interested in watching the Beluga Whales though.  He's not really a watcher by nature.  He's a doer.  So we cruised through many sites quickly.

He did enjoy feeling a starfish with Grammy.
And he tried to pet a ray, but not-a-one came close enough.

He did enjoy the sea lion show and we saw plenty of interesting things:
In the end, he was eaten by a shark.  

Kind of a downer end to the visit.  But at least he didn't have a meltdown.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Two Boys

A friend's birthday was coming up and I knew she was starting to look for art to put on her walls, so I thought I'd paint something for her.

Giving art to someone is a tricky business - especially if you make it yourself.  What if they don't like it?  Will they keep it in the closet and bring it out when you visit - or will you simply never see it again?  It kinda blows to put time and effort into something that's not appreciated. Still, you try.

So I thought about what my friend's tastes were and I found an image I thought would appeal to her.  

I painted it twice.

This version is closer to the natural colors.

I took some liberties with this one.
I ended up giving her the top one because I thought the colors would work better in her rooms, but I have to say I really like the second one as well.

The top one is more about a calm mood, to me.  When I look at it, I see the whole image.  On the bottom one, my eyes jump to the colors.  There's a sort of energy in the gold sand.  The boy is darker and his highlights more dramatic.  

It's funny to me how different they are.  I may have to paint the same image twice more often.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Unified Sports Day

Saturday morning, Mike and I got to watch Magoo participate in Unified Sports.  Here he is with his teammates in the opening ceremony parade.

They even had a torch with tissue paper fire for the kids to carry.  Cute.

Magoo did well at volleyball, had some frustration with basketball, but then was happy to go back outside for track.

After throwing javelins and doing the long jump, it was time for the relay race.  He did fine the first time through.  But on the second go he took off without his baton.  He ran from his female teammate like she had jumbo cooties!

After kicking around the soccer ball, it was time for baseball.  

Some of the kids were pitched to.  Some preferred a tee.  There was a tee set up when Magoo came to bat, but he shook it off.  And as Mike would say, he crushed the ball.

And to really throw off the other team - he carved a unique path around the bases, choosing to hit third base first, run past it, into the outfield, then come back around via the shortstop position.

He giggled the whole time he was doing it - seeming to delight in the crowd's shouts of "Wrong way!"  "Run to first!"  I can't know for sure, but the impish grin on his face makes me think he did it for the laugh.

At the end of the two hours of athletics - he got a gold medal!  What a proud boy he was! 

His parents are very proud too.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Wink Goes to Kindergarten

Here's me at a school visit telling the kids to Can it!  Just kidding.  I was illustrating Master Zutsu's (the ninja teacher in the book) gesture.

I had a great visit to the Holmes School in New Britian today.  I got to visit three Kindergarten classrooms, read Wink, and do an art project with the kids.

This is my favorite of the "presentation" shots.  As you can see, I'm very interesting.

Actually, the principal had stepped into the classroom and one of the boys was telling him that he'd just turned six.  That was waaaay more exciting that anything I was saying - for sure!

Then I talked about Japanese brush painting and showed the kids some places in the book where I used it.  Then we got down to business and did some of our own.

I learned a lot from the first group.  1.) Unless you specifically tell them not to, kids will cover the whole paper with paint.  2.) It's important to demonstrate how to blow with a straw.  3.) When the kids are done with the black paint take the black paint away.

The art lesson for the second and third groups went much, much smoother.  I always feel bad for the first group b/c I learn a lot about how to teach a project after doing it a few times.

Isn't this one lovely?  I think it's the best one of all three classes.  The teacher told me that this boy was one of the low performers in her class.  She was so impressed at how he answered questions during my presentation and how well he did with the art.  I guess he doesn't come out of his shell a lot.

I was glad that I made a special point of telling him how awesome I thought his project was.

Thanks Holmes School!