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You probably haven’t noticed but my website vanished into the e-ether for ten days. On the fifth anniversary of my blog!
My brother has been working hard to track it down, talk it down, and convince it to come home.
It appears to be back, but you can never tell for how long. It may escape again before I’ve appeased its wanderlust with promises I might not be able to keep.
Should that happen, it might take off with my subscription email list. In which case I’ve lost track of you. My worst nightmare! If you don’t hear from me for a while, manually log in to http://www.pjreece.caand re-subscribe.
I hope it doesn’t come to that.
I’m sure I can come to some understanding with my blog. I suspect it’s feeling under-employed of late, what with my once-a-month postings. Perhaps that’s the lesson it wanted to teach me.
I’m going to make amends, starting soon with posts of the first few chapters of my new book. It’s almost finished. It’s called The Writer in Love, a hot and sweaty read.
I should add that the heat and stink issues mainly from the jungle river up which my literary expedition travels in search of the story heart. But there’s a little sex as well. You should hear crocodiles mating! Seriously.
Okay, that’s my quickie for today… hope this publishes before the digital house of cards collapses again.
It is raining leaves! – Micron Pigma Brush Pen Black & Graphite pencil
Autumn leaves are falling to the ground here in Western Massachusetts. The fall colors are becoming more and more vibrant. As I walked on campus yesterday, I noticed the leaves coming down, just like rain. Beautiful!
I purchased a black Micron brand Pigma Brush pen. I really loved the feel of it. It is my first time using a brush pen for inking. I love the loose line it allows yet still with the control of a pen. I will be using it again!
We are so excited to announce the release of our latest children’s book, Ten Thankful Turkeys. This colorful autumn tale follows ten turkeys as they get ready for an important celebration. This story teaches about gratitude. There are also fun turkey facts in the back of the book. You can get the kindle version of this book for a special launch price of $.99 for a limited time or FREE if you have Kindle Unlimited. We also have paperback versions on sale now at Amazon for $8.99.
Be sure to gobble up this deal before it disappears. :-)
One of the best things about living in New England is the beautiful autumns here. The leaves are just starting to fall to the ground and the colors are so vibrant. It is just beautiful. Here is my third entry for Inktober. I am all caught up now. Hooray!
Note: Sorry if I spammed anyone on twitter while I was tweaking my feed burner. Hopefully it is all straightened out.
We are so excited about our next children’s picture book release, Ten Thankful Turkeys. Stay tuned here for more details and promotions we will be doing. You’ll want to gobble up these deals before they disappear.
We really enjoyed this tale about various construction vehicles and the job they do. Each vehicle describes their function and then happily sings a song set to the tune of “London Bridge” about their work. At the end they all sing together about how they work as a team to get the job done. Great message for young children about having a positive attitude and teamwork. You can purchase this ebook for $2.99 at Amazon or get it for FREE using Kindle Unlimited which is a new subscription service by Amazon to read up to ten books at a time for a monthly fee of $9.99. They are currently offering free 30-day trials if you want to check it out. As always all of our children’s books are available in the Kindle Unlimited program as well.
**We received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.**
Spent some time in Ireland with my best travelling companion. We stopped to edit the final re-write of Bagger Island and spent a morning of total detachment overlooking the quiet water. What a magical place!
I’ve always been interested in the ways writers think about family history—and especially about echoes, or the lack thereof, through the generations—if they do, as they work. I’m grateful to Tin House for allowing me to indulge this curiosity in a new series of brief but wide-ranging interviews with authors about ancestry. First up, Christopher Beha:
Maud Newton: When we first met to talk about the essay I eventually ended up writing for Harper’s, you mentioned an ancestral house upstate where your family spends time every summer. Do you think visiting that old homestead has influenced your thinking about ancestry?
Christopher Beha: Without a doubt. The house was built by the first Behas of my line to come to America from Germany in the second half of the nineteenth century. They farmed for a couple of generations on land my family still owns, and members of the family continued to spend a lot of time there after my great-great grandmother moved the family down to New York City. So there’s a lot of family history there. There are still some Behas living in the area (though they pronounce the name differently than my family does), and there is a Beha Road not far from the house. I can walk a mile down the road to the churchyard and see the graves of Matthias and Theresa Beha, my great-great-great grandparents, who brought their family over 150 years ago. All of this has influenced my sense of ancestry as something that is still present in my world, even if it is often invisible.
The rest is here. Future interview subjects will include Laila Lalami, Emily Mandel, Celeste Ng, Saeed Jones, and Katherine Faw Morris.
Today, Lew and I had an hour to kill, before we needed to pick Mose up from school. I decided to run some errands, and stopped home to pick up a big bag of clothes for the thrift shop, as well as a laundry basket full of books…
Lew did NOT like my idea of donating the basket of books.
But then we drove by a Little Free Library, situated right at Lew’s old preschool, and he said he thought it might be okay to donate a few books to the Ormewood School. So we did that.
Then we drove a little further down Woodland, and found…. THIS!
Wow, Lew was really impressed with the metalworking! He rewarded the library with a few books.
We continued to head to the thrift shop, but guess what we ran into, right on that same street?
After that we dropped off the big bag of clothes, and it was time to head back to the school to get Mose. But on our way we got a little sidetracked…
And then, at the elementary school itself, we simply couldn’t resist…
By now we only had about half the books left! And when Mose heard what we’d be doing, he wanted in on the fun. So we drive the 2 miles home verrrry slowly home, and we found…
All on our drive home from school!
Now we were down to four books (which someone insisted we could NOT give away). So we decided to go home for a snack.
But not without doubling back to one of our previous stops first. Because, as Lew explained, “Mose, you have GOT to see the faucet.”
Every year, about this time, we start to see lots of posts and comments online about the upcoming ALA awards. It’s one of my favorite seasons for this very reason. I love following the blogs, engaging in discussions about the frontrunners, learning from what other people have to say. I like to read prediction posts, and to hear about the mock Caldecott clubs around the country. I like to discover new books.
But every year I’m a little dismayed by how overwhelmingly women illustrators seem to get overlooked in early Caldecott conversations.
To be clear– I LOVE the books that win. I love the men who (mostly) make the books that win. Many of these men are my friends, and I believe that they are talented and creative and brilliant and worthy of awards. ABSOLUTELY. Last year, despite all my ranting about gender-bias, my own top pick for the medal was illustrated by a man.
I also believe women are worthy. Yet, somehow, when we start to generate buzz within our own little community, we PREDICT success for men. Which creates a certain sense of inevitability.
How does it begin? I don’t know. Maybe there are more marketing dollars for dudes. Maybe men are more inclined to illustrate. Maybe we, the women who buy most of the books, simply adore dudes. Maybe men are more inclined to make “Caldecott-style” illustrations. Or maybe MEN ARE SIMPLY BETTER AT ART THAN WOMEN AND I AM WRONG ABOUT EVERYTHING I HAVE EVER SAID ON THE MATTER.
In any case, it happens. Statistically.
Last year I made this list of AMAZING PICTURE BOOKS CREATED BY WOMEN. It was great fun, and I heard from a lot of folks that they were introduced to books they hadn’t seen before. I know some folks even sold a few books via the list.
So I invite you to help me make a 2014 edition, by leaving a comment below, with your very favorite woman-illustrated picture book of the year. Please don’t self-nominate or self-promote in this space. If you’ve truly created something awesome, no doubt someone else will mention it for you! Just link to your favorite book in a comment, and I’ll pull an image of the cover, and add it below.
And if you’re a list-maker yourself, a blogger or journalist or librarian who runs a mock Caldecott… and you find yourself with a dude-heavy list, consider adding a few women to the mix. If women-illustrated titles don’t jump immediately to mind, you might want to ask yourself why that is…
I’ll kick things off myself, with a few favorites of my own:
A BOY AND A JAGUAR, by Alan Rabinowitz, illustrations by Catia Chien
LIFE, LIBERTY, and the PURSUIT of EVERYTHING, by Maira Kalman
TELEPHONE, by Mac Barnett, illustrations by Jen Corace
NANA IN THE CITY, by Lauren Castillo
FIREFLY JULY, by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrations by Melissa Sweet
Miles (introvert, pessimistic, depressed) spends most of the story waiting to hear from his literary agent. The news won’t be good. Writers don’t show up in stories as symbols of success. They are setups for failure.
Someone should make a movie of my life.
Forget the first 40 years, they were altogether too glamorous. No, my life more truly started when my 13-year-old son called a meeting to say, “I’m in Grade Seven, Dad, and I’ve attended fifteen different schools.”
I said, “Wash your mouth out with soap,” but it turns out he wasn’t exaggerating.
“Pops, I want you to settle down,” he said.
So I quit shooting films, traded camera for keyboard, and decided that henceforth I was a writer. It was great. I soon became so broke that my son’s mother sent support payments from Hawaii.
Once, I forced my son to accompany me to the Welfare Office. They gave me so much money it was humiliating—rent, medical and dental care, bus passes, food vouchers, extra cash. I had to cut them off.
Though I soon acquired a stable of clients, every November it seemed I was scrambling to pay the rent. I sucked up my pride and hit the streets to sell door to door. Water filters, home insulation, sports videos, memberships, you name it, even vacuum cleaners.
I spent eight hours performing a demo for an Italian household. The extended family showed up to watch and applaud as my machine hoovered that mansion top to bottom. I thought they were going to adopt me. Alas, no sale.
I remember one cold, dark and stormy night somewhere out in Vacuumland huddling in a phone booth, demo machine in one hand and phone in the other as I listened to my agent promise me my script was all but sold. Alas, optioned three times, it’s yours, cheap.
One day the Revenue Department came snooping around to deny me my business expenses. It didn’t take her long to realize she couldn’t squeeze blood from a stone. Lost for words, she said, “Well, Mr. Reece…keep writing.”
Thank you, Ms. Klenck. And I did exactly that.
I entered writing competitions—the 3-Day Novel Competition, Short Story Challenges, Screenplay Competitions, and Pitch-a-Plot workshops. But it is with special fondness that I remember the “24-Hour One-Act Play Competition”—all of us wannabe playwrights sequestered into one room.
Twelve hours into my scenario about a kid who is abducted off a golf course (well, they tell you to write what you know), I thought it would be wise to review what I’d written. I pushed back from my typewriter (that’s right, a typewriter!) and unenscrolled the paper from the rollers.
I was typing onto dot-matrix computer paper, you know, a continuous feed. I separated the sheets along the perforations and made a nice little stack which then fell to the floor. Thirty-five UN-NUMBERED sheets all helter-skelter.
I couldn’t organize the pages, couldn’t find the continuity, couldn’t put Humpty back together again. If I didn’t bolt from the room I was going to cry. It was 4:00 a.m.
Walking the streets, I was Miles and Roy and Henry and every fictional writer who ever agreed to let their creator thwart them to the point of despair and even self-loathing. Why weren’t the cameras rolling?
At a convenience store I suffocated my existential crisis with anchovy & garlic pizza. That I was a writer caused the proprietor to reflect on his own life, roads not taken, etc. Lamenting his lack of courage to lead an art-committed life, he said something along the lines of:
“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”
I knew there was a reason, besides my son’s ultimatum, why I was a writer.
At the same time I realized why I love movies about writers. As symbols of failure, writers depict Everyman at the brink of surrender. The struggling writer shows us what deep down we fear most—that the meaning of a life is to leave our old selves behind.
To be a writer is to have the courage to become unselved.
Spirits bolstered, I returned to the drama den—and damned if my abduction story didn’t win First Prize.
My words since then have earned me a million bucks, which, admittedly, spread over twenty years is a modest living. But I’m proud to count myself as someone struggling to bring forth what’s in him.
Who in their right mind would be a writer? I think that being a writer indicates nothing but right-mindedness.
But getting back to my son—I’d ring him for a golf game except the kid is doing so well that he’s off playing Pebble Beach. Last year it was The Old Course in St. Andrews. Next month Augusta National, it wouldn’t surprise me.
The book this post features—and therefore this post—is not safe for kids. It’s also not safe for work. The book’s about invaluable subject matter: grammar and punctuation. But it’s delivered in a far-from-the-traditionally-dry fashion. Penned by Chris Baker and Jacob Hansen, the co-authors of a similarly entitled blog The F*cking Word of the Day, The […]
I have been dabbling with different watercolor techniques recently. This is a sketch I created, then watercolored and inked. I used 150# watercolor paper, Koh-i-noor watercolors, and a Micron india ink pen.
I really like the Koh-i-noor watercolors, as they gave me many options for color combos. Below is a photo of the finished product. I am still in the processing of completion of the new hard drive software, so I will upload it to my gallery when I am able to scan. I might also offer it for sale in my Etsy shop which you can find here. I will announce when I put some items up for sale, including a few coloring books for printing and downloading.
Just about every week for more than two and a half years, I’ve contributed a tiny column about the meeting of history and the present day to the New York Times Magazine’s “One Page Magazine.” The constraints have been considerable — I usually operate in sixty to eighty words, or thereabouts, subject to the vagaries of column breaks and dictates of the stylebook — but within them my freedom has been enormous. When Jon Kelly invited me aboard in the fall of 2012, he said I could write about anything I chose, and he was true to his word. I was sometimes asked to give my draft a second pass, but my subject, no matter how idiosyncratic or obscure, was never vetoed.
Since then I’ve mentioned essays from many of my favorite literary magazines (including Tin House, A Public Space, the Paris Review, and Granta), cultural websites (such as the Awl, the Millions, and the Los Angeles Review of Books), regional magazines (including two longtime favorites, Oxford American and Texas Monthly), and many, many books and writers, from the well-known to the, in today’s parlance, emerging. I’ve written about language and religion and sex and depression — all favorite subjects — and about Mark Twain, Emily Dickinson, Muriel Spark, Ford Madox Ford, Helen Oyeyemi, Catherine Chung, Jeet Thayil, Muriel Spark, Zora Neale Hurston, Daphne Du Maurier, Sherlock,The Sandbaggers, and Doctor Who. Never once has the first person intruded, except in quotes from someone else or the occasional 6th Floor post.
It’s been an honor and a lot of fun to appear in the magazine so regularly, but I’m regretfully taking my leave of the page after yesterday’s issue to work on my book about the science and superstition of ancestry. Huge thanks to the magazine for having me aboard, and to everyone who’s followed my wide-ranging interests there all this time. My last column is about Elizabeth Bachner’s “How to Shake Hands With a Murderer,” from Spuyten Duyvil’s Wreckage of Reason II.
With this shift, I’m officially, formally, indefinitely and probably permanently retired from anything like regular writing about books. (I need all my brainpower for my own work, and I respectfully ask that everyone please, please, please discontinue sending unsolicited packages to me.)
I have to say, it feels wonderful to be reading novels, when I can find the time for novels, as a civilian again. The three new works of fiction I’ve loved most recently are Laila Lalami’s The Moor’s Account, Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, and Christopher Beha’s Arts & Entertainments. All are suspenseful, philosophical but not ponderous, and gorgeously written, and all are books that might make you miss your stop on the train. I’m also reading Montaigne, and tons of books on heredity, and I’m re-reading Rebecca Skloot’s outstanding The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
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The mail poured in. Readers often tell me what they think of me—by email as much as through the Comments function on this blog.
One such e-essay came from Douglas Mu McGregor, whom I know as an artist, songwriter, and above all an incorrigible truth-seeker. With McGregor’s permission, here’s what David Livingstone’s deathbed scene stirred up for him:
Back in 1982 I arrived in Vancouver by Greyhound bus after a harrowing adventure in Mexico. I had just ended a relationship, I was sick, broke, and miserable. As I got off the bus I saw a large sign on a brick wall on the other side of the road:
“You Can Never Go Back!”
This made me highly exhilarated and incredibly sad at the same time. Going back was my comfort food, my Kraft dinner, my go-to for relief from the pressure of the now. My exhilaration came from knowing I had a blank canvas in front of me—I could do anything!
But why would the Now have pressure? Is it because the Now requires my unwavering presence, and is therefore a lot of work?
Most of us have the same idea about past-present-future. But if you are a forward-moving entity, you have to throw the conventional model in the garbage. If you are in the Now, you aren’t in the past. You are certainly not in the future. But being in the Now is moving forward.
When a contemporary artist faces a large blank canvas, it is intimidating. He makes his first stroke—he adds to that stroke—and soon he has a painting that has never existed before. Einstein said that if he wanted to create something new, he would start from a place he had never been before. This is exciting stuff because it is all newness.
I know a woman who is about 65 years old, who, 40 years previously had belonged to a cutting edge community involved in advanced psychology and meditation. She says the years spent there were the most exciting time of her life. With a far off misty look in her eyes (an indication that one is not present) she would show me photographs and explain how much she loved this time and how happy and alive she was. This was infers that she no longer is.
This is not forward-moving-ness.
My mom died last year. I celebrated her life and I loved her dearly, but if I were to continue poring sentimentally over old photographs and reminiscing about my poor old mom, I can hear her whispering loudly in my ear, “Get a life!”
Enter David Livingstone, who was quoted as saying, “Sympathy is no substitute for action”.
Forward movers are too busy to hang out in the twilight zone of what could have been, would have been, or should have been.
In the end, Livingstone was too busy meeting his maker to contemplate what could have been. Deeply religious, he was on his knees in direct communication with his God. He was in the action of the Now… or was he?
There is little sentiment in a forward mover. I like to say that forward moving is “progressive insurance for the now,” by which I mean that “forward!” is insurance against the morbidity of returning to sentiment and self-sympathy.
People in wartime often express forward-thinking. It’s hard to live in the past with bombs dropping on your head. You are too busy surviving the now to think about anything else. Interestingly, these same people will be forever reminiscing about their wartime experiences as the most alive time of their lives.
The key to being a forward-mover is to be busy as hell, to follow my passion and take no prisoners. And when I die and I meet my maker, with a straight face I can say: “God, I presume?”
That may sound like a good conclusion, but I’m not finished!
The question remains for me—was David Livingstone moving forward on his death bed? Alas, I suspect he was firmly tethered to his God. As for me, I confess to sitting out here in space tethered (umbilical-like) to the mother ship of my thoughts, feelings and emotions.
For me, an appropriate forward movement would be action arising in the black hole within me, from which no thought could escape. From the black hole, only the unthinkable is born…
A pair of scissors! Floating towards me through space!
I invite all readers of this blog to weigh in on my explorations and (often apocryphal) assertions. By email, or preferably in the COMMENTS section below.
Here is the final cover art for The Blood of Olympus. Can you wait until October 14th? If not, I hope Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods will hold you over. (It has over 50 original paintings I did for it, and over 300 pages of Rick Riordan’s hilarious and exciting text! It comes out August 19th. )
Here I would like to discuss one of my favorite paintings I created for Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods. The Abduction of Persephone. The story goes like this: Hades wanted Persephone, the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, to be his wife, so instead of doing the traditional “Hey, you’re cute, do you want to get hitched?”, Hades decides to just lure her away from the other maidens with pretty flowers. When she wanders off to pick them, he shoots up from the underworld, cracks open the earth and nabs her. Romantic, huh?
There have been many paintings over the centuries of this story, and many of them quite good, but almost all the paintings depict Hades in his chariot whisking Persephone away. I wanted to create a painting of the moment right before the abduction. I wanted to show the two different worlds (Hades Underworld and the earth above) and create the tension between the darkness below and the tranquility above. I was very much inspired by the works of Frazetta, N.C. Wyeth, Arthur Rackham and Maxfield Parrish.
Here are some of the images of the work in progress…
The pencil sketch
The painted sketch- to work out light values.
The final pencil drawing.
Detail of pencil drawing
Detail of final painting
One of several watercolor textures I created for the painting. This one was used to show the roots and dirt below persephone.
This begins my venture into adding more performance-based designs to the line. You already love the cozy, uber-soft Ezzere shirts that are great at wicking moisture…these sleek new shirts kick it up a notch. These babies are meant to REALLY do work…get you all the way to race day, toeing the line looking fierce and strong, motivate you to dig to the finish…then in true #SweatsintheCity style rock them the whole day after.