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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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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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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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.
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!Add a Comment
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! Add a Comment
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.
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!
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. Add a Comment
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.
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.
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.
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. Add a Comment
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.Add a Comment
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.
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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Here is the link the the review- which I am grateful for. :).Thank you Waking Brain Cells!
I spent some time this summer at home (California) before heading back to our new place of residence- Mauritius, which is part of Africa. Before leaving friends kept saying " be careful!"- referring to the ebola outbreaks in Africa. It is over 1,600 miles from here to mainland Africa and here is a relative scale map of Africa. Here on Mauritius, you are not allowed into the country if have been to one of the effected countries within the last 60 days- even Mauritian citizens are kept out- everyone is, until you have cleared the 60 days. The U.S., Europe- no place I know has such stringent rules.
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