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<<August 2014>>
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Viewing Blog: Stephanitely, Most Recent at Top
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Here you will find doodles, ramblings and goings on from my life as a writer and illustrator of books for children.
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1. Status Report

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the bus sky, is by no means a waste of time. 

                                   -Sir John Lubbock, The Use of Life

Here I am- back over on the other side of the world again for a short while. I'm connecting with my peeps and rereading the entire Calvin and Hobbes collection. I go out into the garden (which can only be watered on Tuesdays and Fridays) and I put my hands in that gorgeous soil that we have been working on improving for a few years now and I pull some weeds and I trim some things back and find a perfectly beautiful tomato there- the best tomato. 

There is much to do in a short time. Lots of appointments and business meetings and sorting and tossing...rethinking and shopping and retooling to head back to my other home on the exact opposite side of the world. 

Fred was in town for only 4 days. They were a good four days. We watched sunsets, went for walks...talked a lot and ate copious amounts of sushi and visited with friends and family. Now he's somewhere in the atmosphere heading for Dubai and then onto Mauritius. 

I'm joining him in just a short while. I am relishing being home for a little bit- before I head back and continue making a new home in a new place with a new language and culture and all that come with that. Adventure. It's good to be roving and learning and creating. 

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2. Interesting TED Talk on Parenting

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3. Percolating ....More Soon.

Back in the States for a little bit- finishing up some projects, checking in on the house, visiting family, just got back from L.A. and the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Conference (it was great)- saw so many friends and made new ones, was inspired , laughed, laughed and saw Judy Blume- so great... now I'm in a mad rush to finish off some paintings before Fred gets here for a few days. He is at the White House tonight- no kidding...black tie. He looks goods thanks to the most charming tailer, Joseph

I'm doing a whole revamp of the website for the arrival of...

STAR STUFF: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos- looks gorgeous doesn't it??!! Can't wait for copies to get here- this is my wonderful editor, Katherine Jacob's desk in the Flatiron Building in NYC. 

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4. Walter Dean Myers

I had the great fortune of being able to meet this inspiring man - a rare person that made people think and created empathy and understanding. Sad to hear of his death.  

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5. Antipode

There I am "A". I am almost exactly a week from going back to the other side of the world - literally the almost exact opposite. 29 hours en route back to California. 

I have been here in Mauritius for over 7 months. I haven't been someplace other that the U.S. for that long since I was a kid. This adventure has had its ups and downs, but lately, I have been finding a nice rhythm with it and have enjoyed being away from the politics and extremism of the U.S.. 

It's funny how when you step outside of a place and look at it from a different angle that the political messaging becomes stark. Mauritius is a tiny little speck in the Indian Ocean. To be honest, I had never heard of the place- aside from the sad tale of the dodo bird before coming. It is a place where no one can lay claim- it was uninhabited until the 1500's. Every human is an import- every human is an immigrant. The only native creatures were either driven into extinction, or hang on on a tiny little shred of the island. A small national forest - a mere 5% of what once was exists. Somehow the inhabitants of this place manage to live in relative peace- Hindu. Muslim, Christian etc...Mauritius is a microcosm of the earth. 

Anyhow- I am wrapping up projects, packing luggage and seeing friends and getting ready for the journey back to California. Then I will journey back to Mauritius again in a month or 2 or so after...then back again in December- a bi-antipodal existence on this tiny planet.  Home- the pale blue dot. 

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6. STAR STUFF: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos at ALA!!

My dear friend Sharon Lovejoy found STAR STUFF at the American Library Association's convention in Las Vegas and posted these images to FB. 

She is there promoting some of her books and her first novel called Running out of Night- which is one of those rare stories that truly transports you to another time in history. 

Thank you Sharon!

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7. Jon Mooallem: The strange story of the teddy bear and what it reveals

I have been reading Wild Ones by Jon Mooallen. Fascinating...has me thinking about the lens I see the world through. This is one of those books you finish and think about. 

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8. Neil DeGrasse Tyson on Bill Moyers Full Interview HD

Just brilliant...Always loved Bill Moyers- grew up watching him and his careful,no-nonsense clear reporting. Here he is interviewing another admired truth seeker...humility- a beautiful thing- a courageous thing. 

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9. The Adventure

The adventure: date night watching the sun go down on a white beach with ghost-like crabs scamping into their homes- warm breezes, unfamiliar bird song, small creatures scampering up walls in the night chirping, a woman walking down the road in a brightly colored dress with a pile of wood on her head, a night sky with clear, countless stars and no light pollution to muddy the view. Friends from all over the globe on this tiny island trying to figure out how their story meshes with the one unfolding here.  

It's a good adventure...and it is just beginning. 

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10. A Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz, illustrated by Catia Chien

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11. Happy Father's Day- from a Lucky Kid

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12. Working on a Rainy Afternoon

Book 9 in the Princess Posey series is in progress. :)

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13. Wes Anderson- Centered

Just stumbled upon this video collage of Wes Anderson films called Centered. I am blown away. I love his work even more now...

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14. Quote

You are only free when you realize you belong no place - you belong every place - no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great. 

- Maya Angelou

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15. Updating, Upgrading...Moving Forward

It's funny, well, not funny "ha ha", but the other kind- when we moved almost exactly to the other side of the planet, Fred though that we would just simply "move". That it would be the simplest of things and we would just have a new life and that was it. 

Well...what was good that did happen, was that Tristam is having such and experience and he was probably the number one reason why we moved when we did. Last night we were at a friend's home just down the path here with other friends and Tristam had his 2 best friends there- Matteo and Matilde. Matteo has lived all over the world and speaks 2 languages and Matilde the same- and the parents were all carrying on in French and our kid understood what they were saying- he couldn't formulate his response in French, but he definitely understood. It makes me think of me when I was a kid and my parents were expats and us girls spoke French at school and with our friends, German with out mom and English with our dad. We were children of the world too then...

This weekend we also went o a baby shower for the loveliest people- our friends Jerome and Carole. We were there with another neighbor and only French was spoken. Little baby Liam will be another international child - French father, Mauritian mother- growing up in a fast changing world with many languages spoken around him- and he will be a lucky kid- 

In recent weeks, I have been struggling a bit. Being in Africa, we are removed from familiar surroundings. I have missed the smell of the Pacific in our Central Coast home. I have missed hot yoga with my friends ( we are now working on jerry-rigging a clothes iron and fan combo to heat up a room in our rental here so I can do Bikram). I so missed my critique group where I could read and hear educated feedback from my book peeps. I missed driving on roads without bicycles on the freeway- or people randomly stopping on the motorway to talk to some dud walking on the road- really and IN the fracking lane!! - not off to the side...and I missed sushi and sauerkraut and  kale and our neighbors and riding my bike and and and....on and on...but the thing is that I was missing the BIG picture...

That these few months are just a few months in the whole of our lives and they are an amazing opportunity to try things differently. And because Fred and I have such a strong friendship- we don't mind stepping into other world apart from one another for a month or two or three- which is the next thing- he is launching his project and I am heading back to our home to launch a few of my own :)

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16. Bird

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17. Gosh it had Been Awhile- so Sorry...Here is an Update

The days fly by here...we are nearing six months here on the other side of the globe. When we arrived in December it was hot and humid and the days were long. Now we are nearing winter (July/August!) and the days are shorter and the weather is cool enough for jeans or a long sleeve t. The sugar cane was barely up to the fence in the backyard when we arrived and now it towers over it and it is blooming (achhooooo!). Fred said that it is related to corn somehow. 

But with everything going on, my work has not slowed- and I love my work.  I have several books in the works and several under contract. I am looking forward to heading to the States and being able to do the research I cannot from here and to check in with my tribe of amazing and accomplished artists and writers before I return to the antipode. 

I keep a journal and these are some notes: the same birds come by every morning and our favorite is a scrappy looking Madagascar fody we call "Billy", the sky is ablaze with stars instead of light noise at night, most of the drivers on this island should not be allowed to drive, giant fruit bats hang from telephone wires during the day, I appreciate house geckos, I wonder what this place looked like before people arrived? , it's nice to take a break and sit outside (when that "gardener" is not here), the ocean water is an incredible blue, don't drink the powdered milk from India, those red flowers make me happy, ANOTHER holiday??? , I love exploring a new place with my Pookie , I wish I had a book that is not electronic here and Chilula hot sauce. 

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18. How Lucky am I??? Mama und Papa- Liebe.

This picture was taken by my uncle Harvey George of my parents. I look at this (and many more pictures of them), read their e-mails and notes- think of the times when in a single word "Ohana", for example, where they brought the idea and the meaning of family and made it manifest because they ARE and I am one lucky kid. I love you Mom and Dad. We all do- love from me and Fred and Tristam. Fred has said many times that until meeting you, that he had never seen a healthy relationship before. You two are rare birds, xo. Keep dancing your dance.  

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19. Quote

Life was meant to be lived, and curiosity must be kept alive.

                                            -Elenore Roosevelt

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20. Catching a GLIMPSE of the Milky Way

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21. Ahem...

My editor suggested that I start keeping a journal here. She thinks that something will come of it- a book in the future. So in the morning, I do some sketching, some writing- not all of it about Mauritius and our experiences here- some of it about another book I am writing (which I am SUPER excited about). 

You what is so interesting about the topics for these books? They seem to find me. My last book -STAR STUFF: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos- (available in November- I will be plugging this labor of love for a long time, so get used to it :) ) started tapping me in the shoulder when I was 12...it took until just over 2 years ago for me to have the skill set and to see a need/opportunity to create it.  The next book has a similar pattern- I got my little tap on the shoulder when I was a kid too and the tapping has not let up. Now that we have gotten to Mauritius the tap has turned into a rather insistent, "you need to write about this." 

I've always been a little mystified abut writers' assertions that the characters of novels, for example, come into their lives. As they write the narratives, the events seem to surprise the writers- I am now having this happen to me... funny. 

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22. Me and my Pookie

Today we drove to the south end of the island. Tristam took this picture at a little Indian restaurant by the beach. 

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23. The Earth is a Very Small Place

I had meant to do an Earth Day Post last week, but that just didn't materialize. So, today, I found this to put our teeny weeny little dot into perspective. 

Carl Sagan once said that all of the biota on Earth was equivalent to the veneer on a classroom globe in relative scale.  That puts our place in the Cosmos in perspective and highlight the fragility of life... 

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24. 4 Months (or so)

I don't know if there is a kid or former kid out there who hasn't tried to dig all the way to the other side of the Earth. China is the usual assumed destination if you are in the U.S.. My agent told me that the word for the opposite side of the earth is an antipode. The almost (very nearly) antipode of where we live in California- is Mauritius. And so for four months now, we have lived here on the other side. 

You can't predict how a place is going to be from reading about it or looking at pictures. Before moving here that was what I had to go on- that and Fred telling me about Mauritius.  At first it was all so overwhelming. A van came to pick us up at the airport with our pile of suitcases and bicycle cases. The funny thing about the bikes- they are useless here. Riding on the roads is taking you life into you hands, but the cases came in handy during a flash flood where Fred and I had to divert the water away from the house. We used the bike cases as dams , along with some kitchen trash bags we filled with water and some others we filled with rocks. 

Many mornings, we wake up and open the accordion doors onto the back yard and let in the breeze. The birds have gotten used to that sound as the "breakfast is being served" sound and they all come; Madagascar Fodys- especially an orange colored one with spiky feathers on his head we call "Billy"- after Billy Idol. Billy hangs with a group of sparrows. He is with them, but keep to himself. At first he was terribly shy- didn't come near the house and sat out on the lawn- an orangish red dot out there- and gradually, he became pretty comfortable and now often times, he is the first bird waiting for breakfast and complaining if we are late to deliver it. I love Billy. There are red bearded bulbuls that travel in pairs and zebra doves...the Mynas have a complex and varied range of calls and the village weavers are family centered birds who build their nests in palm trees that they enter from the bottom . Clever birds. I never grow tired of the birds.  

I can't remember a time in my life without birds.  At home we have our little parakeets ( who are under very good care of their new flock leader)- parakeets are flock birds who are used to having their voices carry over long distances and the unsuspecting pet buyers who come into per stores are often unaware of this and so many birds wind up being abused or neglected because of their natural instincts. 

In California we have our hummers. They zip through the air in every which direction at high speeds, yet they are so small and delicate. During the day their hearts beat at 1260 beats per minute, but when they are sleeping, it drops to 50-180 bpm. Incredible creatures- and far older than us homo sapiens .

Birds have been around some 150-160 million years (present day estimate). Homo sapiens - about 200,000 years...we are youngsters compared to them...

So birds- they are making this place feel more like a home- not the people, not anything else- the  birds.  After I post this, I will cut up some baguette from our local boulangerie for the birds breakfasts. I look forward to opening the doors and seeing Billy- or the rest of our flock. 

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25. Joni Mitchell-California (The Johnny Cash Show)

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