posted by Neil Gaiman
So that, as they say, was a thing.
The Neil and Amanda guest-edited New Statesman came out a couple of days ago. It's what we wanted it to be – an issue about saying the unsayable, filled with writers saying stuff. We are in it too. Everything is perfect...
Except the cover isn't the Art Spiegelman cover it was meant to be, the one that went up online at the New Statesman site and then vanished again. It's an Allan Amato photo of Neil and Amanda instead. A beautiful photo, with text over it. But it's not the cover we told people we were putting out, the cover that people have been asking us about.
This is what it looks like with the flap covering the left of it:
We owe you an explanation for why this is, especially as it gets into strangely self-reflexive territory: an issue about saying the unsayable that loses its cover for reasons of, among other things, freedom of speech, human error, and whether or not you can say the unsayable. Or show the unshowable.
Of all the things we were excited to attack with this "Saying the Unsayable" issue, the cover was at the top of the list, because it posed such a great braintwister: how do you draw what can't be said? Neil and I spent a few weeks chatting through all the various options - one of the nice things about being a musician and graphic novelist who have both been collaborating with artists for years is that we had a list of art-geniuses a mile long. Art Spiegelman won, in the end, because he was perfect for the theme. I remember seeing, in a newstand the week after Sept. 11, 2001, the cover of the New Yorker - thinking, at first, that it was a solid black image. And then, as the issue caught the light and revealed two magically disappearing towers, painted in ghostly gloss with a single antenna thrusting through The New Yoker masthead, I knew I was looking at the work of artistic emotional genius.
Art's been a fighter for visual free speech for ages: his seminal graphic novel "Maus", a profound commentary on family and nazism, has recently been banned from sale in Russia because it featured a swastika on the cover (though one could argue it was hardly "nazi memorablia - not to mention Art has already won the argument in Germany that Maus was culturally significant enough material to allow it onto shelves). Art's also let us crash at his apartment. So we were gleeful when Art agreed to do the cover, even though he had his grumpy doubts about the British press (we'll get to that in a second), and I traipsed over to Soho to have a long chat with him about what we might do for an image.
For three hours, over two walks and three locations (one cafe, Art's studio, and we stopped by to visit the artist JR: you'll note that that gave accidental birth to the use of JR and Art's Ellis Island graffitti/drawing collaboration in the issue), we discussed the potential for the cover, and I told Art about the fantastic writers we had on board, writing about the unsayable. I wound up getting a three hour crash-course in banned comic history, including the life and times of Fredric Wertham, Comics-burning, and the Comics Code.
In his studio, Art showed me some of his recent covers and comics following the Charlie Hebdo massacre. We batted some ideas around. An image of Me and Neil? Only if it was a really strong idea, I said. I didn't want this being about our egos - and we had balked at the idea of just using a nice photo of us on the cover. There's certainly nothing Unsayable about that.
Art showed me a comic he'd drawn about what you can and cannot say as a cartoonist, which I found smart and hilarious, and hardly controversial: Notes from a First Amendment Fundamentalist. It pictured Art, shown as the mouse-headed narrator, explaining what images were for, and why editors were scared of them, preferring to show smiley faces with “Have a Nice Day” on them instead. The comic had run in The Nation in the US, in many European countries and on the cover of a german paper, the Frankfurter Allgemeine. It hadn't been run in the UK, Art said, so we could have it as an exclusive. Brilliant, I said. Art told me the New Statesman had already passed on running it, back when Charlie Hedbo happened, not - they'd told him - on the grounds that it was controversial, but on the grounds that they'd felt they had enough Charlie Hebdo coverage. Art had been in China when the massacre happened and didn't get cracking on this drawing until a few weeks after the main news explosion. The London Review of Books had passed on it because “they disagreed with what Art said in it”.
It was something he felt really strongly about, and he was disappointed that it hadn't been seen in the UK. Would we run the comic as part of the issue? Neil and I both loved it -- it was a comic about saying the unsayable. We let the New Statesman know, Art sent over the image of the comic, and we got to work on what we thought was the hard part, the cover itself.
(Click on it to read it at full size.)
The phone buzzed and Art and Amanda were together in New York. We talked ideas for covers.
Art is a cartoonist: he writes beautifully and well, but his medium is pictoral, or that combination of words and pictures that become more than either alone.
“I don't think you need me,” he said. “They could do it with just a photo of you guys on the cover.”
“We need you,” we told him.
We wanted an image as powerful as some of his iconic New Yorker covers. Art retired from New Yorker covers, mostly because he didn't like having to negotiate or deal with magazine people, but he was willing to do it for us.
“The problem is,” he warned us, “that you can write about the unsayable, and nobody will mind. But if you draw the undrawable, you're in trouble.”
We tell him we are game for trouble.
Ideas are discussed: Me and Amanda as Paper Dolls surrounded by the costumes we could wear, all of them evoking things different groups would find offensive. Amanda and me about to be burned at the stake, with other burnable things. The see-no-evil monkeys.
We settled on me and Amanda drowning in our own word balloons, and got Art photoreference of us.
He called the next week. The word bubbles cover wasn't working. But he had an idea: a man drowning in shit, unable to talk about what he was drowning in.
The man would be calling out baby names for shit, loudly...
Art sent us a rough of the image.
It was great, except, it wasn't right. I showed it to Amanda.
It was a powerful image. And some days it feels like we are drowning in shit.
I talked to Art after the Pen Gala, and explained my problem.
“It doesn't say Saying the Unsayable to me,” I told him. “It says, We Are Drowning in Shit. It's the cover to the Drowning in Shit issue.”
Art had already had another idea. He showed it to me. I took a photo of it and sent it to Amanda. She said “YES!” and we had our cover.
A week later, Art sent us this:
And it was perfect. Amanda was concerned people would look at it and see only a disempowered woman, not an angry woman. The New Statesmen people liked it (some of them loved it) but they were also concerned it might be misinterpreted.
We wrote a piece that was meant to go into the New Statesman talking about it:
We actually can discuss the unsayable. We are doing it here, in this issue. In that sense, “unsayable” is almost an oxymoron.
We can talk about something without actually showing it. We can discuss “drawing Mohammed”, we can write entire books if we wish about the traditions involved in representing Mohammed, the problems inherent in it, the issues of power, offense and violence involved, and nobody will try to kill us for writing it.
Once you draw the picture, it’s a different story: when you “draw the undrawable”. The moment that you draw a picture that shows something transgressive, even if you are simply commenting on it, you have drawn it. (In 2010 Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris attempted to satirise and comment on the issues involved in representing the prophet in a humourous way, by drawing a cotton reel, a cup, a domino, a purse, a cherry and a pasta box, each claiming to be an image of Mohammed. She was placed on an Al-Quaida deathlist, and has been in hiding for four years.)
Images that shock or repulse us have power, in a way that words will not.
Amanda walked with artist Art Spiegelman through downtown New York for an afternoon, getting schooled in the long history of banned drawings, comics and the wake of the Charlie Hebdo assassinations. She and Art got Neil on the phone and for an hour discussed "see no evil” monkeys, people and stereotypes being burned at the stake, and how to represent offensive images without actually offending people. We wound up with the idea of Neil and Amanda trapped and drowning in their own speech bubbles. But Art wasn't happy with it.
The first cover design he actually showed us was a glorious depiction of a man drowning in a sea of shit, unable to say the word. It almost worked, but not quite. (We worried that people would think, not unreasonably, that this was the “we are all drowning in a sea of shit” issue.)
When he sent over the sketch of an angry woman bound, “see no evil” blindfolded, but still trying to swear through the happy-face on her ball gag, we knew we had our cover.
And we stopped worrying about the cover.
Putting together the contents of the issue was a blast, and a tsumani of emails flooded between me, neil, the new statesman folks, and the various writers we were hoping would write for the issues. Some people got their pieces in within days of being asked, some people wrote thousand-word pieces only to spill tea on their computers at the last minute, missing the deadline. Some interview questions went unanswered, some people called in sick.
Some incoming material led to new inspirations, which was where we really felt the beautiful synchonicity of concocting a magazine in realtime, on a deadline. JR's haunting Ellis Island graffiti images seemed to hunger for context about today's heated immigration issues; we pondered who could write about that, and the new statesman suggested we bring in Khaled Hosseini (whose work I'd read, but it would have never occured to me). We ran into Laurie Penny in a cambridge coffee shop and she offered to work with a writer of a piece we liked but felt wasn't there yet. We emailed with our friend Stoya to see what her take was on the unsayable issues in her workplace, porn. I happened to be talking with two different friends on the phone when it occured to me that they should write about what were were chatting about: both of those moments found their way into the "Vox Populi" sections. It was a lot of fun. The New Statesman folks were incredible - they caught the balls as fast as we were batting them and worked tirelessly on laying out the perfect issues. Everybody was really excited.
Two nights before the launch of the issue - the night before the final pieces of the magazine were to go to the printer so the magazine could hit the stands on time - we got a distressed email from Art. He was going to have to pull his cover, because he'd gotten an email from the magazine saying they they wouldn't run his comic.
Because of timing, or because of the content? Timing, probably. My brain did a few frantic calculations. Had we sent it over? Had we missed it in the master list? Oh shit. Maybe. I admitted to Art that we hadn't been the most organized editors - but we'd call the magazine right away. The worst thing that would happen was that it would miss the print deadline, but it would make it into the online version, which was, hopefully, going to see even more traffic than the printed issue, anyway. Art sighed and said he'd be happy enough with that, but he needed a promise from The New Statesman. It was 7 pm, We phoned the New Statesman. It was too late for the comic to get into print, they said. Could we run it online? They froze. Apparently, there had been a New Statesman-wide meeting and consensus that the magazine wouldn't print any images of the prophet mohammed. But Art's comic didn't depict the prophet, it depicted Art tearing off his mouse mask and revealing a smily-faced, turban-wearing.... Neil and I sighed. We hung up the phone. We looked at each other, glumly. This sucked.
"Okay. What if...." I said, "you write about the evolution of the cover for the online version of the magazine, and in there, just put a thumbnail of the comic which linkes to the full-size version of the comic which is already up online? You could interview Art about censorship. That way the comic gets the attention it needs, the new statesman doesn't have to actually run it, Art will get his way, and we won't have to lose our beautiful cover. Because honestly, the heavy irony of the fact that we're sitting around here discussing losing the cover of our 'Saying the Unsayable' issue because we can't run a smiley face with a turban on it..."
"We can try."
We called The New Statesman. They said they could live with that.
We called Art. He said he'd go for that.
We breathed a massive sigh of relief. Neil called Art and did an interview with him about pictures and art and censorship and why artists need to be able to do art to communicate, for the blog. Neil couldn't work out why the Skype calls kept failing. (I was in bed on the internet, downloading things.)
But after three calls, he came to bed. We were saved.
The next morning, at 10 am, I had voicemails and texts to call the New Statesman. I gulped. We called. The peace treaty had broken down overnight. Art's agent had put The New Statesman's promise to run the thumbnail, with the link, in a blog written by Neil, into a contract and sent it over. They wouldn't sign it, as they explained, if they failed to do as Art requested, he could have the whole issue pulped. They said they'd rather pull the cover. It was 11 am, and Neil and I were on a train to go and visit his family in the countryside, with phone service coming and going. We spent the train ride on the phone convinced that we could re-assemble the agreement we'd managed to put together the night before. The absolute deadline for printing the cover was 12pm.
We couldn't do it.
By 11:45pm, it became clear that Art's cover was going to be pulled. We started disucssing, reluctantly, what could possibly replace it. The New Statesman mocked up a simple cover using the press photo by Allan Amato that was taken four years ago, with the words "Saying the Unsayable" printed across our faces. We sat in a cafe in the English Countryside that happened to have wireless and downloaded it.
"This is fucked. This is an issue about censorship, and it looks like the cover of GQ." I said.
"We could just go all black...." said Neil. (Of course).
We sent some half-hearted remarks to The New Statesman to improve the size and placement of the text, but we didn't have any further time to discuss it. The cover went to press.
It was a complete cock-up. Art's ironic prediction of a photograph of me and Amanda on the cover proved correct.
Art's real frustration is that the British press can write about freedom of speech while at the same time having blanket policies which mean that an image like this one becomes unshowable. (In context: the Art Spiegelman self-image Maus character has removed his mouse face to reveal a smiley face with a turban, telling you to have a nice day. You can interpret this in a number of ways. The New Statesman took it as showing an image of the Prophet, something that they had agreed amongst themselves they would never do. I take it as Art's logical conclusion to a comic on Pictures and the power of pictures, even the simplest, in a post Charlie-Hebdo massacre environment.)
I suspect that if the New Statesman had had longer to talk amongst themselves and to think about the Art's comic it would have made it in, but I could be wrong.
The night before the New Statesman went to press, when the agreement was that I would blog about it on the New Statesman site, I interviewed Art for the blog. He said a number of cogent things about image and cartoons, about why the UK press wouldn't show images, like his comic, which had been on the front covers of newspapers in Germany and prominently published elsewhere in Europe. On why, in a secular society, it is vital not to bait, but to debate – and that people who use pictures to communicate needed to be able to use their pictures, as those of us who use words use their words. That there cannot be a Kalashnikov veto on what is published.
(The blog didn't run, and as Art says, he gave the interview being still kindly disposed to the New Statesman, and he doesn't feel that way any longer, so I'm not going to quote from it.)
Art feels angry: angry for the wasted work, and because he wants people in the UK to see his comic.
The New Statesman editors felt aggrieved, trapped between the rock of having to show an image that might, conceivably, have been interpreted as showing Mohammed in order not to lose their cover, and the hard place of their discomfort with the Wylie Agency.
Amanda and I are sad and disappointed. I'm mostly disappointed because I thought that the proposed solution (of blogging about it on the NS site, with a thumbnail of the comic that you could click on to take you to a larger image, so the comic could be seen, and in the blog Art and I could talk about the issues involved) was something that worked. I'm still sad that the New Statesman backed away from it, when it was put in writing.
It's obvious, going back in the email chains, to see the breakdowns in communication between Art and the New Statesman and vice versa, while Amanda and I were riding the magazine guest-editor whirlwind (writers dropping out and coming back in, pieces coming to us or going directly to the NS, people we waited on for articles or think pieces or interviews until the last moment, while still trying to keep our lives and our real, paying work going). It was our cock-up as much as anyone's: we knew he wanted the comic in and had sent it over, and didn't actually think of it again until the end.
Neil and Amanda:
So that's what happened, and why Art's cover isn't there on the cover of the New Statesman.
Running a magazine is insanely hard work, and having to deal with the crisis at the last minute was no fun for the New Statesman team, who have been supportive of us all the way, and who wound up, at the end, face to face with, and having to deal with, what is and isn't unsayable. (And from their perspective, as they expressed it to us, it was also a freedom of speech issue: they didn't want to run the comic, and couldn't be pushed into it.)
This is how we get into this mess in the first place. "We would, but...." "We should, but...." "We believe in freedom of the press, but...." It's death by a thousand buts. We wanted to say the unsayable, and draw the undrawable. We ended up feeling like we'd tried, and, due to human error on our parts and on the magazine's, failed.
We're really, really proud of this issue, and we're honored that the New Statesman gave us a chance to gather all these artists and writers together. We have the former Archbishop of Canterbury writing about why religion needs blasphemy and Stoya on porn, and Michael Sheen and Hayley Campbell and Kazuo Ishiguro and Roz Kaveney and Nick Cave and...
We just wish we were as proud of the cover as we were of the content.
Have a nice day.
Neil and Amanda
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as of 5/31/2015 3:44:00 PM
By: Karen Maxwell,
Blog: Write From Karen
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I usually make fun of people who post pictures of food …
(And may I just point out – this picture was taken with my phone. Damn!)
Tell me this doesn’t look scrumptious.
And it was. Even though Kevin ordered it, I forked several veggies for myself.
The sauce drizzled on top looks like chocolate – it’s not chocolate, it’s some sort of soy sauce-ish thing. And though it was delicious, it was too much. I think if we ever go to this place again, (it was Bambinos – Italian food place), then we’ll likely order it on the side.
Kevin and I don’t eat out very much. We have “go git” nights and that’s usually about once/twice a week. Which actually sounds like a lot when I put it like that.
We eat out more now that the boys are on their own. In fact, if the boys didn’t practically come over every night to eat dinner with us, we’d probably eat out a lot more because who wants to cook for only two people?
It was a nice dinner. Bambinos was a quaint, quiet, intimate place and the prices weren’t too bad. We enjoyed ourselves. We might go back – in another 25 years.
And that was the extent of our 25th wedding anniversary. Since our gift to each other was a Hawaiian cruise and we felt like we had already celebrated our anniversary, we didn’t feel like doing much.
What? I haven’t written about our Hawaiian cruise yet?
Patience .. I’ll get there, eventually.
Filed under: Life
By: Karen Maxwell,
Blog: Write From Karen
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May 26, 1990. That was the day my life changed for the better.
Kevin and I have been married for 25 years. And I could write a novel of the events that lead up to this day, but I think instead, I’m going to copy what my sister-in-law did on Facebook and just bullet-point our lives:
We worked together at a bank – that’s how we met.
Our first “date” was the company Christmas party. And we met there, in separate cars. Because I was a strong female and didn’t want him to think I was easy. *smirk*
We lived together for two years before we got married. *gasp*
I had to give him an ultimatum – either we get married, or we go our separate ways. (Remember that strong female part? I was terrified he would walk out – but I guess it was better than wasting years together).
I had to shop around for a church. We didn’t belong to a church and a friend I worked with recommended a pretty little church in Nixa. Done.
Our wedding day: Kevin thought I stood him up since I was late getting to the church. That same friend that recommended the church also did my hair. A fancy little braid number and it took longer than we thought it would. Kevin said he lost a few years waiting for me.
We paid for our wedding ourselves. Well. Technically, we used one of my school loans to pay for our wedding.
My mom’s wedding gift to me was making my wedding dress.
I still have the dress packed away in a garment bag. I couldn’t fit into it now to save my life.
We toasted each other with paper cups because I totally forgot to buy glasses for the occasion.
Our wedding photographer was horrified because Kevin forgot to wear dark socks with his tux. The photographer had to place my wedding bouquet over his feet to hide them.
Whoever was in charge of music played the wedding march (the song you exit to) when my dad escorted me down the aisle. I wasn’t even aware of that faux pas until Kevin and I watched the wedding video afterward.
I had to wear ballet slippers instead of gorgeous heels because I didn’t want to be taller than Kevin for our pictures. (At least I was comfortable).
I couldn’t wait for the ceremony to be over. And who was the idiot that picked three songs to sing, during the ceremony, so that it lasted WAY longer than it had to? (That would be me).
We honeymooned in Cozumel, Mexico.
It was the first time I had ever been out of Missouri, let alone the country, and I cried like a baby.
I smashed my pinky in a lounge chair on the beach. I later lost that fingernail.
We rented a moped to get around the island and I don’t think we wore helmets. (We were young and stupid).
We ate lunch at a shack on the other side of the island and wrote our names in this pole. We later went back to Cozumel years later and the shack was gone.
I remember Kevin and I being horrified because the little prop plane that took us from Cancun to Cozumel was literally held together by duct tape.
I absolutely did not pack the right type of clothing for Cozumel. All of my shirts were too heavy and all I had with me were jean shorts. I’ve since learned tank tops and breezy skirts are your friend if you ever go to a tropical island.
On the plane ride home from our honeymoon, the landing gear wouldn’t come out and one of the flight attendants had to open the floor and crank the gear down. That did not help my anxiety over flying one bit.
I did not fly again until our 10th anniversary cruise to the Caribbean.
and lastly …
I can’t imagine my life without my best friend, lover, confidante and husband.
Thank you for putting up with me all of these years, sweetie. I love you to the moon and back.
Filed under: Life
One of the many things I like about Facebook? You get to learn things about your family that you otherwise probably wouldn’t have known.
The man laying on the ground in the picture above is my grandfather – my dad’s dad. He fought in World War II.
I’m just going to post what my Aunt posted on Facebook …
Dan said his dad never talked about the war much (who could blame him) but he would tell us this story often.
One day there was an order to head out, so some of his buddies got into the jeep. Right before Leroy got in, his commanding officer said “Hutton you stay”. That jeep was hit and Leroy lost good friends. He would say to us, “If I would have gotten in, you all would have never been here, that saved my life”. Glad he didn’t get in!”
Isn’t it amazing to think that one moment in time, that one split second decision my grandfather’s commanding officer made, led us to this moment: Four children, ten grandchildren, nineteen (?) great grandchildren later.
It sort of boggles the mind when you stop to think about it.
My grandfather is in his early nineties now. We lost my grandmother, my dad’s mom, about … three years ago (?). She developed dementia toward the end of her life and it was a terribly sad way to say goodbye. It was very hard on my parents, I know. And now my grandfather is being moved to a nursing home today because we have reached the point where he can’t take care of himself and it’s physically too hard on my family to help. (He’s wheelchair bound and he requires physical assistance to get into bed, go to the bathroom, etc).
This is INCREDIBLY hard on my grandfather. He’s FIERCELY independent, has been his whole life, so now that he is being forced into this situation, well, it’s been difficult, to say the least.
My parents came over yesterday and they filled in the details. It was heartbreaking to listen to the anguish in their voices and watch tears gather in their eyes.
My grandfather begs them to take him home. He doesn’t want to go to the home. Who can blame him?? But though my family tried to take care of him in his home for one week, the situation is simply more than any of them can handle. They’re trying to make deals with my grandfather, work hard, participate in physical therapy, work on his strength so that he can at least walk on his own again and then they can take him home and work on a schedule to have someone with him at all times. But my grandfather is being stubborn. I’m sure the whole situation is embarrassing and humiliating for him. I see this in patients every day at work. It’s SO HARD to succumb to physical restrictions and have to rely on other people to help you when you’ve been so used to being on your own, taking care of yourself, your whole life.
This situation makes me think of my own parents a lot. They’re getting up there in age, too. Though they are still both relatively young and stay physically active (they go to a gym to walk and socialize every day), I can see early signs of dependency. It brings a lump to my throat to think me and my siblings may be in a similar boat one of these years. And though you can promise you’ll never, ever, put your loved ones in a home, you can’t TRULY promise that. I think this situation with my grandfather has taught me that. All you can do is the best you can do for the situation you find yourself in.
I also wonder how our boys will react when Kevin and I reach that age. Getting older has never really bothered me before, but honestly, seeing my grandfather’s situation has opened up doors I never really knew existed before.
I learned that being in a home, a DECENT home, is terribly expensive. This will likely put a huge dent in my grandfather’s money. I have no idea how much he has, it’s really none of my business how much money he has, but knowing my family, he likely has a nest egg somewhere he can rely on to help him through this stage. I feel terribly sorry for people that DON’T have that money to fall back on.
Kevin and I have talked about making sure we have a will. But I’m not sure we have ever really discussed our plan if one of us ends up in a nursing home. I have made Kevin promise me he will never put me in a home, and vice versa, but my grandfather’s situation has taught me, it’s never quite that black and white.
I worry that dementia runs in our family. I mentioned my grandmother had it and there are signs my grandfather might have it, too. I’ve always worried about my own memory – I have trouble remembering things NOW. What will I be like when I reach my twilight years?
I think that’s one big reason I refuse to retire. Which, I realize is unrealistic, my body will deteriorate … I realize this. But I hereby pledge to work on keeping my mind active. I’m not saying my grandparents did not do that, dementia is not something you can likely prevent, but I will do everything in my power to keep it at arm’s length.
In the meantime, life trudges on. All we can do is try and keep pace with it.
Filed under: Life
I was on ebay tonight - I buy almost all my clothes there - and out of curiosity typed my name in the search box. Lots of books and audio tapes and a few ARCs (kind of makes me wince, but whatever). And then this:
Why? Who would want a photo of me with my first book? Why can't I still look that young? What happened to that shirt? I loved that shirt. And it's being sold by Historic Images. Does 2000 really count as history?
By: Kristopher McClanahan,
Blog: Rodents Of Unusual Size
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Now Playing - Chelsea Dagger by The Fratellis
.... Once again, there's been a gap and much has happened!
We are still living in Idaho, working on the shop and trying to get back to writing as well - I'm going to a lot of comic cons - about 1-2 a month and we are starting to get the house in order.
We lost Pooka to cancer just before Christmas, the rest of the
By: Karen Maxwell,
Blog: Write From Karen
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Weepy glees – have a box of tissues ready.
I cried like a baby from start to finish after watching this video. I think this scenario affects us so much because we have an innate fear of getting older. And an even bigger fear of not being loved because of how we LOOK/ACT when we get older.
I lost it when the guy commented about how beautiful she was to him, wrinkles and all. And you can tell he really means it, he’s just not saying it to be nice. That’s love. Pure and simple. *sigh*
And I love how they kept a sweet sense of humor about everything. That’s exactly how Kevin and I are – we often giggle like teenagers like that.
My age has never really bothered me before now. But I’ll be honest – I’m going to be 50 this year. The big 5-0 – half a century old. I don’t feel it and people tell me I don’t look it but when I stop to think about it, it sort of shocks me. How did this happen? Inside, I don’t feel a day over 30. Knowing I’m going to be 50 this year just feels … surreal. Unnatural. It can’t be real. There must be some sort of mistake.
I’m fortunate. I work with people half my age so they keep me young. I stay physically and mentally active. And I don’t plan on stopping any time soon. I have no plans to retire – why? I ENJOY working. I always have. I get a high out of being productive. And there’s NO WAY Kevin would ever let me stop – I can barely keep up with him now.
Do you think if I stay busy enough I’ll stay ahead of the aging process?
Well I’m going to try, damn it.
Filed under: Life
I recently had school visits in Central Oregon. Two memorable things about that visit: the librarian got deathly sick the morning of the visit, and despite our best efforts, I picked up what she had and took it with me to Wisconsin a few days later.
But the second, much better thing, was that while I was there I met up again with old 7th grade history teacher, Mr. Perkins. I loved him as a teacher, and meeting him again, some 40+ years later, I remembered why. He still asks thoughtful, intereting questions and he listens attentively to your answers. It was nice to hang out with someone who was more my parents' peer. Fewer and fewer of my friends have living parents.
I got home, hoped I had escaped getting sick, and then the day before I flew to Wisconsin, I started coughing. I remembered the librarian doing the same thing, but hoped it was allergies.
After taking three flights to Appleton, Wisconsin - and for the longest flight, my seatmate was 6 foot 3, which meant he physically did not fit in the seat - I landed and quickly realized I was in trouble.
I ended up walking to a nearby Target and getting every OTC cold remedy known to man. The next day, my ride bought me chicken soup By that time, I was trying to refrain from even making small talk, because my voice was going. In between speaking engagements - 9 school visits and/or writing worshops and one book festival visit - I did everything I could to keep myself going. Lozenges, throat spray, Throat Coat tea, honey and water, sitting by the hot tub at the hotel, using saline nasal rinse, and drinking at least one bottle of water an hour (Appleton has sweet tasting water, so it mostly came from the tap).
The Throat Coat tea helped the most, but it was no match for how bad I was feeling. By my second to the last visit, I started thinking I might pass out. For my last talk, the kind librarian sent kids on a scavenger hunt to see if any teachers used stools with backs. They came back with two. Somehow I made it. I just didn't want to disappoint the kids.
I actually think I did a pretty good job.
I made a whirlwind trip down to Texas the other weekend to visit family. It was the perfect antidote to the most brutal winter I can remember.
Needless to say, my camera is filled to capacity with pictures of flora, fauna, nieces and nephew. And all I want to draw are succulents and cacti (ergo, the pattern at the top of this post).
Thanks for the creative shot in the arm, Lone Star State. I owe you one.
Current likes and/or loves:
* Fabric printing.
*Above freezing temperatures. High five, Mother Nature.
...the flowers are not far behind. A quick sketch of the day lily's tiny sprouts around my mailbox amongst the weeds I'll chase all summer.
My resolution for 2015 is a single word: risk. I'll be turning 56 this year. The opportunities I will have to take physical risks are narrowing. I also want to take social risks, and emotional risks, and risks with my writing - all kinds of risks.
So far, I've had a frank conversation with someone I respect but who also used an exaggerated campy "gay" voice to make some points. I think it was eye-opening for both of us.
And in three weeks, I'm signed up to do that Urban Escape and Evasion class, which includes a day spent trying to elude pursuers after you are "kidnapped."
This past weekend, I competed in a Brazilian Jiujitsu (grappling tournament). In this tournament, we were split up by gender, but in my grappling classes I grapple with men, usually only with men since none of the other women in my school regularly take BJJ class. One of my regular partners is 228 pounds, which let me tell you is a lot of weight when someone centers it and pins you.
For a long, long time, I said there was no way I would grapple past what I needed to do for whatever color of sash I was working on in kung fu. It felt too ob-gyn-y. Too rape-y. You couldn't tell me that one of the best positions was on your back with your legs wrapped around some guy's waist. It seemed too vulnerable and weird.
Guys will often grow up wrestling with their friends. None of the girls I know ever did that.
But then my kung fu school started offering BJJ classes four times a week and I started going to them. I am still don't have a very good offense. And at my gender and my age and my weight compared to many of my partners, I mostly play defense. But I have a damn good defense.
On Monday my Kitty reminded me small can be very deadly
I'm a flawed human being. No, no, no, don't laugh! I know that's not news. It's just....it's always interesting when I see myself through someone else's eyes.
Sometimes it's scary because they see this glowing, fabulous person on a day when I'd swear I look like Gollum.
Other days, I'm Sauron to them and have to remind myself that
This picture has nothing to do with anything, just thought it was cute.
We visited two apartments today.
The first one, we met the gal at the complex and she showed us an apartment on the 2nd floor. The first thing I noticed was – it was dirty. At least, it FELT dirty. And it was right next to a major highway, so there was the highway noise. And then there were REALLY squeaky floors. And the floors felt … bumpy. And I immediately felt sorry for the neighbors down below the unit. And it just felt … wrong. The boys weren’t too terribly impressed, but they haven’t really had anything to compare it to so …
When we left, we discussed the pros and cons. I felt like there were too many cons and I wasn’t impressed.
The second apartment, I had high hopes for. It’s the closest one to our house and the most reasonably priced. It’s near grocery stores and in the middle of a nice neighborhood. I crossed my fingers.
We didn’t have an appointment at this complex, we just showed up. (But to be fair, I had called them them day before and they said it was okay to do that). The guy was super nice and very helpful. He also showed us a unit on the middle floor and I immediately LOVED it. It felt right right off the bat.
The living area was a nice size. The kitchen is small, but again, it’s just the two of them. There’s also a pantry and a coat closet just off the tiny dining area. It has two bedrooms and two bathrooms. And the closet in the master bedroom is the BIGGEST closet I have ever seen. In fact, it’s so large, they could easily have a third person move in and use the closet as their “bedroom.” There is definitely room for a twin-sized bed in the closet. They’ve been toying with the idea of having one of their cousins move in with them… but we’ll see how that goes. It came as sort of a shock to Blake, when we talked to the manager more at length, that if their cousin moves in, he just can’t “move in,” he too will have to go through the application/approval process which means he will HAVE to have a job before that can happen. I’m relieved that was brought up and discussed because I really think Blake had plans on basically supporting the cousin and that would have been a bad idea all around.
They have several units available. And again, I think it might be a better idea if the boys either get a ground floor or a top floor – stay away from the 2nd floor. Having neighbors is bad enough, having a neighbor both on top of you and below you is double the trouble.
This complex has a pool, a BBQ area, and a laundry facility. And Blake is seriously considering paying an extra $15 per month to reserve a carport.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. We left with some applications and went to our third apartment prospect.
But the manager was out and wouldn’t be back for 45 minutes. So we went ahead and came back home.
The conversation we had with the boys was probably one of the best conversations we’ve had in, wow, a LONG time. We weighed the pros and cons of the 2nd complex and talked about a realistic move-in time. After a while, I said, “what, exactly, are we waiting for? Let’s go ahead and start the application process.”
And that’s what we did. The boys filled out the applications and wrote checks out for the application fee. Kevin wanted to see if they could be approved on their own first before we agree to become co-signers. Either way, we are going to work hard to try and make this happen. The manager said they usually have an answer back within 24-hours. I told the boys to keep their phones close.
We never even returned to the third complex.
I’m so excited for them! This is such a big step in their lives!! We talked about priorities – what would they need to buy right away and what could wait. I even found a pretty sweet kitchen table and chairs on clearance at one of the furniture places. I think I’m going to try and talk everyone into going to a few furniture places tonight after dinner, just to give them an idea of how much things cost.
If today produces nothing else, it was a FANTASTIC learning experience for the boys. We can talk to them until we’re blue in the face, but to actually hear someone else explain the process and do some comparison shopping was a much needed dose of reality for them. I was worried about them being able to afford it, but after delving more into their finances, and being shocked by how much they both have in savings (We’re doing something right!!), I’m more confident they will make this work. And they’ll still have keys to our house, they can come over and do their laundry and of course, they’re welcome to come over for dinners to save them money on food, at least, initially.
I’m hoping we have an answer by the end of this week. I hope they get approved on their own, but if they need a co-signer then let’s get the ball rolling on that process. Our goal is to get them moved in mid-March, IF all goes according to plan.
It would be nice to have them all settled before the end of April.
Why the end of April, you ask? You’ll see … :-D
Filed under: Life
I used to make elaborate New Year's Resolutions with 20, 30, even 40 things I was going to change, do, fix. I would be thinner and a better friend, run faster and pray more.
Often, the only thing that changed on that list was the year at the top.
This year, my resolution was a single word: risk. I'm increasingly aware of my own mortality. Time is flying by and I don't want to say "If only I had."
I got a chance to act on my resolution only a few days into the new year. A man I don't know well but respect often uses a series of funny accents as he makes his points: New York. Russian. Etc.
And one is a big campy gay voice.
That day, I looked around the room, trying to see if it made anyone else as uncomfortable as me. But I felt like I was alone. Still, I waited until everyone else had gone and told him how I felt.
The conversation took some interesting turns I hadn't expected. I think it was eye-opening for both of us.
And afterward I was glad I had taken that risk.
In a few months I'm going to be taking a class called Urban Escape and Evasion (I snagged the photo from their web site). You spend two days learning how to survive in a dangerous chanotic urban environment (say after a terrorist attack or being kidnapped in a foreign country), then on the third day you are “kidnapped: hooded, cuffed and taken somewhere dark and uncomfortable to start your day. You will be expected to escape, find your own transportation legally using your social engineering skills, and make your way to the first cache location, where directions for a series of tasks using all your new skills await.Meanwhile, expert trackers will be hunting you down, and if they catch you, you will have to start again from a more distant location."
I know this is going to stressful. As a writer, I'll be an outlier, surrounded by preppers and ex-military. My guess is I'll be older and one of very few women.
But for the risk, I'll have the reward of having so much amazing writing material. So it will be worth it.
Are you taking any risks this year?
I love, love, LOVE this video. I’ve always had a problem with sanctimonious mothers who think THEIR way is the BEST way to raise a child.
I couldn’t disagree more.
I bottle fed my children and I’m not ashamed to admit that. I used to be ashamed to admit it because whenever I would mention it on this blog, or anywhere else, quite frankly, I would get the disapproving stink eye or a snarky comment. And then I would inevitably feel inadequate and guilty.
Not anymore, dude. I’m not even going to justify my decision – I did what I thought was best for my children and my sanity.
It always annoys me whenever people feel the need to justify their decisions. I’m sure you did what you thought best. End of discussion.
And that’s where I stand on motherhood issues.
Whether you bottle fed, breast fed, stayed at home, worked out of the home, used cloth diapers or disposable diapers – in the end, it’s really none of my business. As long as you’re doing what’s best for the child and your family, it really doesn’t matter. The ultimate goal is to raise our children to be responsible, educated, compassionate human beings; how you reach that goal is up to you. There is no “one size fits all” answer, no matter what you hear politicians, the media, or even other mothers try to convince us otherwise.
You do what’s best for you and your family and don’t you dare feel guilty about your decisions or feel like you have to justify your decisions.
Ultimately – it’s none of our business how you live your life.
Filed under: Life
This is the 8th New Year's post I've written since starting my blog to chronicle my publishing journey. Coincidently five years ago I also skipped posting in the month of January and wrote my traditional New Year post on February 2nd, 2010. Know why I was late that year? I'd spent the previous twelve months being a mom to TWO kids, a situation previously undeveloped in my first two years on the blog. Somehow January just slipped through my fingers.
Also coincidently I'm late this year for practically the same reason. While the two children in question are of the paper, watercolor, and imagination variety they demand almost as much time, although they don't argue in the back of the car as much. And when I say two children, that's almost a misnomer for The Little Kid's Table which encompasses a whopping 13 characters. I like to think of The Little Kid's Table as being the Type A overachiever child - so many things to say, so many things to do, so many things to be right about. Kooky Crumbs, whose detailed sketches were just approved last week, is the quieter, artsier child. Right now it stands in the shadow of The Little Kid's Table on the drawing board, but as that one's deadline draws near Kooky Crumbs will get its time to shine.
Here are a few random pics that I snapped during the first year of raising The Little Kid's Table:
|Character sketches and initial thumbnail layouts|
|close up of my initial thumbnail layout. Some of these stayed the same, some changed|
|My stack of discarded sketches|
|One of my favorite spreads|
|The line up. I kept several illos taped over my drawing table for character reference.|
|This one and the one above were some of the first illos I did. |
I was trying to get the kids characters developed.
Finally let's have a look at my resolutions for 2015. I really struggled with these for the first year ever. Usually my resolutions revolve around professional goals but 2014 saw many years of professional resolutions bear fruit. After several weeks of letting resolution ideas soak in my brain I realized I kept coming back to work/life balance. I need to remember that just because I'm not dragging a pencil or paintbrush across the paper doesn't mean I'm not developing as an artist. So here's what I resolve for 2015:
1) stop thinking of chatting with friends on social media as "wasting time." Many of those same friends are illustrators or writers just like me, blessed with an abundance of ideas and projects, cursed with a lack of time and working in solitude constantly. Chatting helps.
2) In that same vein, stop thinking of sitting in my idea chair with a cup of coffee and a good book as wasting time. Reading good books is what gives me good ideas. Ditto on reading good books to my kids.
3) Make time to have coffee with friends that I haven't in a while, even if I'm on a deadline. A couple of times recently I've seen the theme of having an interesting life outside of the studio as being essential to being a great artist. All work and no play dulls the pencil. Seems like the universe is trying to tell me that I can't always rest on the excuse of "I'm on a deadline, I don't have time."
4) this one is the real kicker - don't feel guilty about keeping these resolutions.
If I go back to this resolution to listen to more music
maybe I've been trying to do the art/life balance for a while. Here's to a year of letting the fulcrum tilt back horizontal.
Since our last transmission:
* Blizzards and book sketches have had me in mole mode as of late. Ergo, there's been many cups of this tea
* I'm completely obsessed with Natural Companions
, by Ken Druse. I've been using it for reference material -- it's a goldmine of botanical images.
* Anyone else watching the absolutely delightful Grantchester
* And I'm planning a craft night, tentatively for March, at my studio. Local (i.e, Seacoast New Hampshire/Southern Maine) and interested? Drop me a line at email@example.com
and I'll keep you in the loop!
Isn't this amazing! A writer in Cummings, Georgia (Meghan Harker, http://exquisitelyodd.com/) found it in her till at work. She posted it on Twitter and a friend alerted me. I traded her $5 bills - only mine was in a copy of Girl, Stolen.
Can you help me find Clem & her friend SLY? I would guess Clem and SLY are in middle school. I originally thought Clem was short for Clementine, but a librarian in Georgia says Clem is a pretty common boy's name there.
After I put it up on Twitter and Facebook, I heard from KOIN-TV. Reporter Jenny Hannson and her photographer Ole interviewed me Monday for a story that will run on Friday (and be online) about the $5 bill found in Georgia with instructions that it be used to buy a copy of Girl, Stolen. There's a chance the story may air in Georgia as well.
I would love to find Clem and SLY and give them and their school library some books! And if you could help, I'd give you books, too!
* I've caught the weaving bug (seemingly, like half the internet). This tutorial
is a terrific jumping off point.
* The film Haute Cuisine
is delightful. But be forewarned, it'll make you ravenously hungry.
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I have the day off today and tomorrow.
Let’s take a moment and savor that sentence a moment ……………………………………
Okay fine. You don’t care. But I am loving it!
I haven’t had a day off since our Vegas trip in October.
Okay, okay … we’ve savored enough.
I got my gray covered this morning.
I ABHOR the hair dresser. Not because of where I go – they are actually super nice and their prices are fantastic – no, I hate going to the hair dressers because that means I have to be messed with and I HATE BEING MESSED WITH.
Body massages and pedicures are definitely out for me.
Know what else I’ve been up to today? Other than a nappie poo … or two … (Hey! It’s a day off, remember?? I can be lazy if I want to be …), calling apartment complexes.
I did a lot of research over the weekend. (I love doing research on the ‘net – so many things pop-up that you don’t think about). And I narrowed our search to four strong possible places for the boys to live.
Yes. The boys SHOULD be doing this themselves. No. If I waited for them to take the initiative they would never move out. I wish I was kidding. *sigh*
Since this is the year we kick them out (I’m DETERMINED to make this happen), then I’m taking the bull by the horns and getting this ball rolling. Plus. They are getting on my nerves SO BAD. They are both so immature and lazy and I’m sick of their little boy mentalities – ENOUGH.
All of these places are close to where we live. And the prices are reasonable. In fact, my first pick just happens to be the cheapest pick. And the closest. When I called to see if anything was available, I learned a con right away – the parking is a first-come-first-serve situation. Which means … what exactly, I’m not sure. But if they want to park under one of the carports, they have to pay an additional $15 per month – which is one reason it’s probably cheap, now that I think about it.
I called all four places today. We are looking at two tomorrow. Possibly three. Since I could never get anyone to answer the phone at one of the complexes, we’ll just take a chance and drop by tomorrow and see if anyone is available to show us around. And the fourth place? Didn’t have any units available until April. Which, may work out fine anyway as I’m not sure the boys would be ready to move out in a week anyway.
We’ll talk about that tonight at dinner.
We have an appointment to meet someone at my second choice at 10:00. When I told Brandon what we were doing, (he isn’t working today) he was NOT excited. When I asked him why, he sighed and said “it’s more responsibility.” Well freakin’ duh! It’s called LIFE son; it’s time to start living it.
See what I’m dealing with here? They’re spoiled rotten. And yes, I realize it’s our fault. Bleh.
Anyway, I’m trying not to get my hopes up about these showings tomorrow. I can’t explain it but I either KNOW it’s going to be right or it WON’T. That’s how it always is with me. I KNEW Kevin was the one for me. I KNEW this house was perfect for us. I KNOW whether I’m going to get along with someone or not right away. I KNOW if I like something or not right away. It’s just a … feeling. That’s the best way I can describe it. Granted, these apartments are not for me. And I will do my best to keep my mouth shut and let the boys do the talking … but ugh. I just can’t wait on them anymore. I’m ready for them to begin their lives whether they are ready or not.
And I’m being selfish – I want two extra rooms in our house. One will be an extra bedroom for either me or Kevin (I mentioned we don’t sleep together, right??) and the other will be an office and/or a workout room.
It’s going to be SO NICE to have that space. But I don’t want to get too excited yet – we still have to make this happen. Blake actually did a budget the other day based on just the money he makes and he can do this – it will be tight, but he can do it. Brandon … can do it but he may have to get another part-time job or get more hours at work. But I’m hoping that moving out will motivate the boys to DO something more with their lives. Right now, they just go to work and play video games. I mean, they will likely do that when they move out, but at least it will be on their terms.
This MIGHT motivate my nephew, my 24-year old nephew still living at home with his dad, I might add, to get a job and maybe move in with them. They have all talked about moving in with each other for years. That way, they could split expenses three ways and it will hopefully kick-start my nephew’s life into gear. WIN-WIN.
Time to grow up, boys!
Filed under: Life