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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. Ripple | Playing For Change | Song Around The World

All time favorite...so great to see it rippling across the world :)

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2. Photos

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3. Fare Thee Well

This weekend was the last group performance of the Grateful Dead. My sweet husband offered to get me tickets and fly me out to see it. I said was happy just to drink a toast from home and listen to some tunes and reminisce and something had occurred to me- that time with the Dead as the soundtrack to our lives, that came with a cast of characters- all of whom are strewn across the country/world and some lost. 

That time for us began in the 80's and went through until Jerry Garcia's death and reappeared from time to time with Phil and Friends or other shows, but it was never the same again. That time was a formative one for me. It was all about Joseph Campbell and finding my way- or general direction as it turned out. Without the Dead I don't know if I would have attempted half of the things I have, gone very many places- I don't know if I would have thought it possible to craft this life. Grateful Stephanie. 

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4. I Forgot to Tell You about Cape Town

We did an impromptu visit to Capre Town in April- just 4 days, but it was wonderful!!! 

The above picture is pretty representative of most of the pictures of me there- always in mid sentence or in the middle of something.

For 4 days we ate delicious food- not the sort on cuisine we get here (although at home we cook some lovely meals). We dined on fresh organic vegetable and salads, fresh oysters , non-overcooked and over-salted foods- it was glorious. We went to a jazz club and heard   a live band  (not a guitarist playing "Hotel California"- which is the usual here), we took a hot yoga class, went to actually book stores (bliss!) and walked- yes, walked! They have sidewalks there- 

I look forward to our next visit. We came back from that one feeling recharged and ready to get to business again. 

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5. Possibility

The floor of my Indian Ocean Studio are covered with projects. The walls too. Just one month and one of the three will be done and then just one more beyond that and 2 of the 3 will be done ...and the third on is extra special- a work that I have put a few years into - one on the scale of STAR STUFF:Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos. 

A lizard on out Hot Dodo Studio fence - our little version of the Bikram studio we love so much. 

The road by our house here. 

Things are about to change here pretty quickly in a way that has me giddy and feeling like the world is full of possibility. Life is good- very, very good. 

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6. So Many Happenings...

This has been a busy month. Lots of book projects rolling. 

6 months seems to be an interval that that has me feeling like I want a change of pace. And soon- it will happen. Fred and I are heading out to explore Cape Town as well as Namibia and then I'm heading home for a few weeks to check in  with friends family and out lovely case in California. 

Yesterday I found out that STAR STUFF: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos is a finalist in the California Book Awards!

The next few weeks promise to be a whirl wind of activity- deadlines, events among many other things. Life is never dull it seems. 

So- onward . 

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7. We Are Dead Stars


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8. The View From Here

Another long absence from the blog. I think about posting this and that and then the day gets busy. My day starts at 5:30 and goes non-stop until 10. It's filled with a workout of some kind (a must), my work (writing, illustrating, researching etc. ), housework (we don't have maids or gardeners or any of that like other expats - can't stand the loss of privacy with a staff and it's uncomfortable having people around when you are trying to get things done, and then there is being taxi mom taking T to various activities and then the day to day of grocery shopping etc. Wow- long sentence. 

Above is one of the projects I have going. It's a quick little magazine piece. The main focus is the next book I'm writing and illustrating. It's taken awhile for the story to show itself. My method seems to be to research the hell out of something until I know my topic so well that I can approach it from any angle on the fly and have enough material to have many threads running through to play with. I have finally gotten to  that place with this next book and it's a relief and a joy now. Then I have 2 other books that I am illustrating. So, I'm pretty busy there, but happy.  

A covered surface in my studio. Fred bought me shelves, but we haven't put them together yet- soon things will be very zen in here without the piles. Piles stress me out. 

This is Jolly. When we moved in here he was a puppy. Jolly is one of thousands (I'm guessing) of wild dogs here on the island. Jolly has a good life for a wild dog. The residents of our housing complex have all adopted him. He gets fed and played with, has a flea collar and gets his belly rubbed and his ears scratched. It's not all good though. He has been beaten by some of the locals. Fred was petting him one day when a very mild mannered Indian man on a bicycle peddles by smiling and Jolly hid behind Fred's truck and growled and shook. The thing is, you can't approach someone like that because they will take it out on Jolly. Many of the locals here feel that beating animals is fine. We are the outsiders here- and we can't behave as we would back home. We did give thought to adopting Jolly, but we are renting this house and the furniture in it. 

This is a sweet little bird that flew into the window downstairs and died. This little bird is tiny, tiny- no idea what it is. It was a beautiful little creature though. We had this happen again this morning with a zebra dove, so no I am keeping the shades drawn on the big window. 

Then this little guy was just spotted downstairs. I carried him and the chair outside and he scurried off. Isn't he amazing? The color, the scales- 

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9. Life Out Here, on a Speck

Mauritius is really out there. There are times when I feel that reality more than other. When I'm flying the leg of the trip from Dubai and the map on the screen in front of my seat that shows the route to Mauritius basically shows the Indian Ocean and the flight is 7 hour long- and then you can see by the on board cameras that there is a bit of land appearing (after the 7 hours)- and you think, "Wow- they found it in all of that vast ocean- the speck". Another time the remoteness of our current location hits me is when I'm driving. The width of the island on the northern end is around 5 miles- the size of the entire island is 788 square miles- drive takes about 20 minutes. 

Still, it's good thing to change the scenery and everything else and live here for a bit (no idea how many years we will be here, but we're calling it home for now). It's good to have to find a new way to do everything- to make a brain that has gotten used to doing things in a certain way and going certain places and experiencing different things. One thing that I love here is talking to people- like this young woman I met named Jessica. Jessica has this total island attitude and out look and is so happy and light- there is a wonderful uncomplicatedness here. In the west we have so many more complications- and really, why? Well- maybe the transitional nature of where the west is right now- a lot of in-between-ness a lot of undefined things...but maybe it was never really any different ?

Okay- the picture portion of this post. Above is a gecko walking around outside at night on the illuminated surface of a frosted bathroom window. Forget TV, Fred and I spent an evening watching this little creature fill its belly with wiggling, moving bugs- they moved in its belly too! It had a feast with the light attracting the bugs. 

Here is my Fred. He's carefully placing the shells that our kid arranged on a restaurant table. I marvel that the guy- he is the one that got us all to come out here. A couple of year ago I had only heard of Mauritius as where the dodo bird met its fate when people showed up and messed up what millions of years of evolution took to create. Fred is one of these people who has these visions of what is possible and then he goes out and creates. I suppose that I do that too, but I do it on paper- or digitally these days- in the art/literature realm. The expression of out ideas and the distribution is different. My distribution is bigger, and my travel is usually within- his travel is farther (but I suppose I'm here too, huh...) but few people experience that direct idea (for now).

This is looking north on the northern end of the island- not far from where we live. The clouds always fascinate me- they move so quickly and it's always a show. Last night I was in the pool looking up at a moon lit composition of billowy clouds moving overhead. I'm so grateful to be having these experiences- and sharing them with my Pookie. 

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10. Few and Far Between

Where does the time go? I just popped over to my blog to see if I should post- and YES- wow, it has been too long. So, just what has been going on over here?

Well...overall, Fred and I have been searching for the ever elusive "balance" between family, home, work and recharge time. And just as a side note- I'm looking for a new word for work. "Work" sounds so blah- it has synonyms like "drudge","grind", "slog" and "chore"- to name a few. For myself and Fred, "work" isn't that at all- it's fun, it gives meaning and purpose to our lives- it enriches and supports us as people and it is how we give back to community/society. We need a new word - a new way of languaging that concept. Anyhow...At present, we have a bit more of a balance going than we have in recent weeks. The hardest part of the equation is our child. Marla Frazee once wrote me the loveliest note about balancing occupation and children. I am paraphrasing, but she basically said that your kids will be fine and they will respect you if you pursue your passion- it will teach them how to pursue theirs. Anyhow, our kid is needing a lot of remedial help with his schoolwork and it is difficult to keep an 11 year old who has such a cushy life motivated. I think that this is the challenge with every generation- you want to make life better for your kid, but when you do you create an artificial norm.

I have been working (insert positive connotation here) on new books- 2 of my own and 2 written by other authors. For my own projects I have been learning new programs like Illustrator to help me craft the images. The software is getting so good and so much more intuitive, but require so much time to learn and become fluent in. I am grateful for it though because working in conventional media half way around the world from my publishers creates all kinds of issues- if I did work in traditional media and sent finished art to NYC it runs a high risk of being lost or damaged, and working in traditional media in an extremely humid environment invites wrinkling and other moisture issues. If you have read Elizabeth Gilbert's book The Signature of All Things, there are perfect descriptions of what happens with paper and tropical climates. 

As we approach the fall here in Mauritius I am trying to get out into the water more often before it turns cold. Last week I went out snorkeling on the reef. The experience is one that I experience in 2 distinctive ways- one is the wonder of it- a 3-d rainbow colored spectacular of fishes and corals or all colors and shapes, the second is this realization that this is a world that has a timer on it- the edges of some of the corals are white- a sign that they are dying from the acidification of the ocean, the fish are fewer and less diverse according to friends that have been snorkeling and diving here for years...I wonder sometimes as float in the warm salty water if the creatures I see will become part of the list of extinct creatures in my short lifetime...

I'm listening to an enthralling audio book The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey. It's a zombie story, but not the typical zombie story- weirdly enough, I am listening to it while working on the next Princess Posey book. 

And then last week while walking around I found this village weaver nest on the ground- empty (thankfully). The male village weavers make multiple nests in hopes of attracting females to nest in them. There is a tree just down the road decorated with them. They sway and bob in the breeze. The nests are so intricate- the inside features a a weave of soft grasses. 

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11. STAR STUFF: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos is a NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children Honoree

I am happily floored at the new that Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos is one of only FIVE books given the honor. Here is the link to the National Council of Teachers of English. Feeling proud- thank you NCTE!

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12. Andromeda Galaxy (Messier 31) in High Definition Panoramic View


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13. Dolphin Watching

About two weeks ago, our very kind and generous neighbors invited us to go out with them on their boat to go dolphin watching. Inge and Michele are delightful neighbors. They retired here last year from Paris. Inge is originally from Germany, and Michele is French. I speak German with Inge and Fred speaks French with Michele and somehow, we manage to communicate and enjoy on another's company. 

Anyhow, one of their children and her husband and their kids were here on holiday and one morning, they popped by to see if we wanted to come with to look for dolphins. YES please!

They have a local skipper who took the whole group of us to the south of the island neat Tamerin. There we stopped and had some sandwiches that Inge had made and hung out around this tiny little island that appears on a lot of post cards around here. I'm not sure what it is called, but here it is. 

We spent most of the day spotting one or two dolphins...and then headed back to the north. On the way back there was a crazy rain shower and some choppy seas and then, at the end of the day, when we had given up the idea of really seeing dolphins, the sun came out and there they were. A lot of them. Everyone got snorkels, masks and flippers on and dove into the water. Tristam saw a dolphin and they looked at each other- who was the more curious about the other? Tristam had a experience of looking in to another being's eyes and seeing there a real intelligence - a real being. I think we will all remember that day of for the rest of our lives. 

Thank you Michele and Inge!

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14. Paddling

We have been back in Mauritius for almost a month. Tristam is back in school (and thankfully loving it), and Fred and I are working tweaking our work and home schedules to keep the balance we had just a few weeks ago- before thing got BUSY. The last couple of weeks, very slowly, it began to happen again...the days got chopped up into "to do's" - which totally blows, because the nothing really happens and down time vanishes for no good reason- and then the ever elusive goal of "balance" falters and becomes even more distant. Life becomes more maintenance than focus- because it gets partitioned out into little bits that are not enough time to get into anything...

This morning though, I headed back out onto the Indian Ocean on a paddle board. There was an extreme low tide- magic! No boats were able to get out into the water because it was just too shallow- not so for the paddle board. The water was calm and crystal clear. The creatures and corals that I saw this morning were the sorts of things I pin on my Pinterest boards- the kinds of life where you just marvel that this creature actually exists! I met a French man out in the water who was laying down on his paddle board looking down into the water and then sometimes he would turn on his side and look up at the towering tropical clouds. We were the only ones out on the water and he told be about some islands I could paddle to and explore- and so I did. I glided over reefs with wild looking corals and brightly colored fishes. I saw the ocean floor like I have not seen it before because the water was so clear and it was so calm- no boats. It was an experience I hope to always remember. 

At the end of it though- a bit of sadness - a hit an area with coral that was a ghostly white- it was dead. There were few fish there- and when I looked up- dozens of fisherman. The local fisherman struggle to make a living as the coral ecosystems are taxed and over-fished and the fish they have depended on for generations become more scarce and smaller....I wondered as I came in what the future of the coral reefs will be...if someday the creatures I saw out there will be limited to aquariums. 

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15. Holiday Recap

For christmas this year we wanted to give Tristam something that he could enjoy for the next number of years. we didn't want to do some brainless thing like a DS or other mind numbing video game- we wanted something that didn't rely on a time constricted platform and something that he would have to physically engage and grow with...so I called up my old friend Scott Kam at Rootamental Skateboards and he made Tristam this custom board. The board is big enough to be easy to learn on- with soft squishy wheels, but has customizable features where he can take the board to a skate park, for example, and do some tricks there as he progresses with the sport. My thoughtful parents provided him with helmets and every pad and piece of protective gear made and we all gave it to him on christmas eve. He was floored! Couldn't believe it! He was beside himself- we had always said "no" to a skateboard and he felt like he had been at a dead end with the whole thing- and now he gets a board made by a passionate, hardcore skate aficionado like Scott and the kid is over the moon. Hurrah! So now, I take him to vacant parking lots and places where he can learn without car traffic and the kid is catching on quick...Scott said this is the kind of board a kid can have all of his life...awesome. 

 Sushi in Shell Beach- gorgeous...delicious. Fred and I decided that there is no sushi in Mauritius..doesn't seem to be an understanding of the concept...most of it are these dense hockey pucks of rice with some pink stuff in the middle..funny- it's an island!

 Christmas Eve at my parents house with my sister, brother-in-law and their kids. We were all playing games and laughing. Family togetherness- a beautiful thing. 

Me mid-festivities relaxing with Fred and a glass of wine in may parents' home- cozy, lovely. That night my childhood friend, Davy, popped over unexpectedly with his family- the whole holiday was full of family, friends, and good simple pleasures. 

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16. California Drought, Mauritius Rain

Just weeks ago I was home in California and there was welcome rain- so much rain that the forecasters said that we would be out of the drought if the rain continued in the same pattern...that was so 3 weeks ago...today this  and here in Mauritius- a cyclone just passed by. Before it passed it built up an unusual amount of energy over the Indian Ocean (which has much higher than normal temperatures). For the last 4 days the cyclone bobbed and wove (and dumped over a foot of rain)- it changed direction and hovered- gathering strength from the warm waters...today, thankfully, it headed east and left us with some wind gusts and rocky waters. A small globe, a changing climate- two sides of the world and two extreme plays being acted out on their respective stages. 

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17. STARRED review from the Horn Book Review for STAR STUFF: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos

From the Horn Book Review: this. Me, happy :-)

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18. And Then I Got to See STAR STUFF: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos in a Bookstore

Since the book came out in October and I was here in Mauritius, I had not yet walked into a bookstore and seen my book there. This is my local B&N where I got to share shelf space with friends like Sherry Shahan, Sharon Lovejoy and Jay Asher. The feeling of seeing my book there and to be among such company was gratifying and thrilling- and a bit surreal. As an aside, every B&N that Fred and I went to after that was sold out of STAR STUFF! 

Just before heading to Minnesota for Christmas, I stopped in at Tristam's school for a little author's visit- the kids made me these awesome stars ! One girl even drew an excellent portrait of Dr. Sagan. 

Tristam's wonderful teacher Rebecca organized a super fun time at the school. In almost every classroom I visited, the kids were talking about wanting to explore space and some of them talked about going to Mars.

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19. Diwali Mauritius

This last Thursday was Diwali here. I was unsure of what to expect. We were told to put out lights in front of the house and to break and old dish and buy a new one. People go from house to house giving "cakes" which looked like different shaped doughnut holes and giving thanks. As we drove to dinner that night we say "chistmas lights" on houses and one cars and temples. The picture above (and sorry for the half image there- that's the window of the truck as we drove by)is of a temple on the way to Grand Baie. We had a meal at a South African joint- with a great view of the bay. Later that night there were fireworks and when we got home we say the best ones from people in the neighborhood firing them off. It's a happy, festive holiday- I love any holiday where people give thanks to each other and I like the lights.  

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20. Carl Sagan Day Coming Up!

As we ramp up to Carl Sagan Day on the 9th, here is an image from a version of the dummy (there were many) for STAR STUFF: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos and an image from my dad's stamp collection with some commemorative stamps from the 1939 World's Fair. 

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21. My Mommkin Interview

Mommkin is this awesome blog about creative moms. I am honored to be featured in this piece that was published yesterday

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22. Happy Carl Sagan Day!

This is the first time in 3 or 4 years that I haven't been seeped in the world of Carl Sagan and recently I have been revisited my notes and photos from that time and remembering just how fun and interesting it was to learn about this man and his life. 

The book above is a book that I think is a likely candidate for the one that Dr. Sagan talks about in Cosmos- the one he read his local Brooklyn library when he was a kid. The wording in this is so very close to his description of the event- don't know for sure of course, but I think it is likely in any case. My friend Sharon Lovejoy had it in her book collection and reading it was a thrill because I imagined the young Carl reading it from cover to cover in one sitting. The language is beautiful and so similar to how he went on to speak, I wonder if it was a formative in his way of thinking about science - the prose has a lovely poetic cadence to it. 

Studied the Voyagers one and two and it eventually became clear that these would carry the narrative in a perfect open ended way- just like they carry the golden records. They became a representation not only for humanity and the Earth, but of Carl Sagan's big picture thinking and his ability to inspire. And even better, they actually left our solar system and entered inter-stellar space in time to include that event in STAR STUFF: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos. 

As I was working on the book and looking around the internet and talking with people, I began to realize how Dr. Sagan's legacy continues. His ability to inspire I think was his greater gift- that inspiration shows up in having inspired generations to become explorers not only in science, but in a huge variety of fields and from all walks of life. So many random strangers I talk with smile broadly with the mention of his his name- they are remembering the feeling that they got from reading his books or watching him on tv- something that opened up their imaginations. 


 (Isn't this so awesome? I got it for my editor.) 

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23. Watching Clouds Pass By

Such a long absence (again). I have been loving island life for the first time since getting here since we moved away from the sugar cane fields. 

Many mornings I go to the beach, since we live so close now, and I hop onto a stand up paddle board and head out into the inlets around this little island in the middle of the Indian ocean. Last week there was a particularly calm day and as I was navigating the bay out here, a stingray jumped out of the water just in front of me. It was nothing short of thrilling being out in these gorgeous turquoise waters under the billowy tropical clouds. 

My afternoons I work. I have a book I am writing and two that I am illustrating and I head up into my studio and close the door for a few hours and focus. 

We have found a way to do hot yoga here now too (if you remember I was missing that quite a lot before). There is a building that was used as an office during the construction of the houses in our developement and Fred and I cleaned it up and brought in some heaters and a fan. We call it Hot Dodo Studio. 

Right now we are having a ball over here- working hard, but for the first time, playing and relaxing. It's a good balance- I'm sure it won't last, but it is delicious right now and I am enjoying every minute of it. 

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24. My Interview with Kirkus about STAR STUFF

I had the privelege of being interviewed by the wonderful Jules Danielson from Kirkus and Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast (I am a huge fan of hers btw). Here is the interview

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25. Back and Forth and Back Again

No posts for awhile- I have been traveling. 

In early December I headed back home for two weeks to check in on things and to do some work related things. It was lovely to be back in California. There were winter storms and big waves and I had a fire in the fireplace almost every night. This time I decided that I wasn't going to drive myself nuts trying to clean and organize everything. I will save that for this summer when I am back for longer. 

 From a far, we have been reading and hearing about the drought back home. It was so nice to walk along a rushing SLO stream downtown and to wear rain boots and walk through puddles and smell rain in the air. It was joyous. 

 There was plenty of seasonal color on the trees- golden fig leaves and fuzzy sycamore. 

 There were several storms in the short time that I was home. During the largest one, I was over at good friends Diana and Rob's next door. Rob had gone down to the pier and bought several delicious Dungeness crabs and they both kindly invited me over to share the feast. Both of them have been such wonderful supporters of STAR STUFF. On another evening I went over to their house to watch their nephew on the Discovery channel- he is a NASA engineer and worked on the Mars Rover Curiosity. It was so great to see people doing exploratory science on Mars and that the same thrill of discovery that Carl Sagan described in his work with robots on Mars goes on and that he inspired so many of the scientists working on these missions today.  

The last time I was home, I didn't make it down to the beach even once. I was doing a top to bottom cleaning and organizing of the house as well as taking care of some other things- this time I walked to the beach often. The smell of the ocean says home- it's one of the main reasons we changed houses here in Mauritius to a home that is closer to the sea. 

And then there was the garden- I had my hands in the soil and weeded and planted and enjoyed every minute of it. I don't have an after picture, but this is the before.

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