Wednesday, November 30, 2011

When we need a little hope...

Who says angels smile all the time?

Jelly jars,
colored beach glass
and beeswax candles
on my grandmother's silver tea tray...

I lit a candle with the kids last night.
We talked about hope.
about promises
and longed-for things.

Eight years ago, I was told I couldn't have children.
I was lost at sea,
grasping for a new direction,
for something to hold on to.

That Christmas, my sister-in-law gave me a present,
a simple linen square, sewn with one word:    

I stared over and over and over at that sewn word, 
trying to own it.

It became my tangible reminder
that help is never far,
even when we can't see or feel or think through our hard times.

And that season, eight years ago, is when I started writing, actually sitting at a desk, plotting and birthing stories. Which I'm still doing today.

My four sweet endings, you've seen.

Hope is worth every penny of the wait.

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without words
And never stops at all
- Emily Dickinson

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.
 - Oscar Wilde

For you, my artist and writer friends, hopeful by nature, 
hopeful for someone, somewhere to pick up your work and be changed, 
may your work be rich and deep,
may your hearts be lightened
and your hopes become solid.

 A beautiful book about hope:

Gleam and Glow, by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Peter Sylvada


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What To Do With Windfalls

sometimes whirlwinds blow in
intrude on those carefully crafted goals
send sacred mud
in spades 
and shovels

do i sigh and grumble over my lost tasks? 
truthfully? too often. 

but when i'm paying attention, 
i stop and look at my happy wildebeests, 
soak them up with my eyes
douse them with kisses

and then we go play in leaves 

gather up our thankfulness by the armful

press them flat in big books
mound them in bowls 

wear them as necklaces

string them in garlands

and leaf chandeliers

a reminder 
that life is fleeting

and we have so much
to be thankful for

What do you do with unexpected windfalls?

Or maybe that should be, how do you deal with interruptions?

Or, for my writer friends: what is the secret to finding time to write while taking care of your brood?

I'd love your tips!

My latest happy book drool from the library:

The Dog Who Belonged to No One by Amy Hest, illustrated by Amy Bates  is book that needs to be in my collection permanently. 
The story is heart-warming and sweet, the overall design perfect - a kind of sepia tone to the pages, with a sort of silent movie style to it. And the pictures! Oh! I am smitten with Amy Bates' work. She captures the characters' essence beautifully.  
Another book that you simply must see!

from The Dog Who Belonged to No One
illustration by Amy Bates

from The Dog Who Belonged to No One, illustration by Amy Bates

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Why Picture Books Matter

Stories were different, though:  they came alive in the telling...  
like seeds in the beak of a bird, waiting to fall to earth,  or the notes of a song laid out on a sheet, yearning for an instrument to bring their music into being... Once someone started to read them, they could...take root in the imagination, and transform the reader. 
Stories wanted to be read... They needed it. It was the reason they forced themselves from their world into ours. 
They wanted us to give them life.
- John Connolly, The Book of Lost Things

It's Picture Book Month.

Some say picture books are a dying breed,
that it's better to skip kids ahead to bigger and better
as soon as possible.

My two cents?

Picture books go deep,
offer layers of learning,
teach children before we even realize they're paying attention.

Picture books teach art, rhythm, humor, language, nuance.

Picture books help us observe,
listen, question,

picture books give us
snuggles with best friends,
undivided parent time.

If books are seeds to the imagination,
and picture books seeds to a life of learning,
what will our culture become
if we lose them?

For some great posts by authors and illustrators on why this particular book form is so important, 
check out Picture Book Month

Some autumn picture book love:

Scarecrow - Cynthia Rylant, Lauren Stringer

The Apple Pie that Papa Baked -  Lauren Thompson, Jonathan Bean

The Stranger, Chris Van Allsburg

So Sleepy Story, Uri Shulevitz

Rain Rain Rivers, Uri Shulevitz

Charlie Needs A Cloak, Tomie dePaola

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Fairy Door

Pip and Winnie's fairy door.

Do you ever find portals while reading?

Lucy Pevensie's wardrobe
Alice's rabbit hole
Harry's Platform Nine and Three Quarters
Dorothy's tornado
Meg Murry's tessaract

Characters in these stories are ordinary people, 
minding their own perfectly normal business
when whoosh! -
in zips a talking rabbit, a parliament of owls, an envelope in emerald ink, 
bag ladies spouting Latin -  

and the next thing they know
they've been carried away into a gloriously different world - 
and life is never the same.

Children, lunatics and writers 
live on the edge of that line between fantasy and reality. 

Life is good here.

It takes less work to believe in books,
to look for fairy doors 
and hang out near them, hoping for a way in.

At least, that's my excuse when I find myself 
wishing for Diagon Alley,
an invitation to Camp Halfblood, 
or to see Aslan face to face. 

What are your favorite story doors?

Chalkboard paint and iridescent white acrylic
transformed a boring corner of Pip and Winnie's bedroom 
into trees crossing paths 
over a secret door to fairyland.

I think they like it. 
The fairies, I mean. 
If you look very carefully,
you can see them glowing.

And more fairy finds:

Wish baby
- a gift from my friend M. Bloom.

Her blog, We Bloom Here is full of lovely handcrafted inspiration such as these darling fairy people.
M. Bloom

Another blog for the fairy-hearted: 

inspired this week by the artist Elly Mackay . . .
Ruthie Redden

is compiled by Scottish artist Ruthie Redden, who has a knack for making and gathering beauty.

Books with great doors:

The Wishing of Biddy Malone 
by Joy Cowley, ill. Christopher Denise

The High Rise Glorious Skittle Skat Roarious
Sky Pie Angel Food Cake 
by Nancy Willard, ill. Richard Jesse Watson

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis, 
ill. Christian Birmingham
The Princess and the Goblin, George MacDonald, 
ill. Jessie Wilcox Smith

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum, 
ill. Lisbeth Zwerger 
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle, ill. Leo and Diane Dillon

A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens, ill. Trina Schart Hyman
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, 
by Lewis Carroll, ill. Barry Moser 
The Lightning Thief, Rick Riordan 
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, J.K. Rowling

Add more favorites in the comments;
I'd love your recommendations!


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