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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. Onward

So, back in Mauritius, Fred and I rented a home that was once a lighthouse. My office is at the top and I can see the ocean on all sides. It's connected to nature- to the tides, the smell of the ocean- everything we loved about the Hermosa House. 

It's funky and I can't wait to join him there. 

Right now I'm here overseeing the construction of the new digs and finishing up my Rachel Carson picture book biography which I think comes out in Fall of 2017- or it may be Spring of 2018. There was an announcement about it from my publisher in Publishers Weekly a little bit ago that had the date. I am set up in my parents' kitchen with my monitors and digital tablet and Fred is in Mauritius with doing what he does so well- using his optimism for a better tomorrow in Africa. Making a difference. 

His mornings are spent paddle boarding on clear turquoise water with sea turtles and color fishes. And I am here walking on white sand beached collecting treasure from the ocean and paddle boarding through mangroves (well, we did that together actually) ...

Sarasota is the perfect compliment to Mauritius- it's full or arts, culture, great food and an endless variety of enrichment activities like great jazz music. 

So now we go forward with Sarasota as our American homeless and Mauritius. What a life! I would have never predicted- but, then again, nothing in my life have I predicted- nothing- except being an artist. 

I am feeling very fortunate indeed. We live in two white sand beach areas with the most amazing birds and clouds and wherever we are together, it's just like when we first stepped into the Hermosa house and made it our own. 

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2. April...A Lot Has Happened Since.

In the last three years, there has been very little time for reflection- we have always been on the move. Even before the three years, just before we made the decision for us to start a new company on the podunk island I had never heard of before- Mauritius, we had been in constant flux- constantly adjusting. 

When we bought the Hermosa House we were in a very different place in our lives. We thought that we would retire there- even though at the time we bought it we were both in our early 40's . I was 41 and actually, Fred was still in his late 30's.  When we walked into the house for the first time it was after having gone house hunting up in Washington State. We had both caught some awful respiratory thing and had gotten back to SLO and climbed into my old 92 Nissan Sentra with the dent in the door and saw an open house sign on the way back to our apartment. The realator no doubt looked to the car and us and thought that there was no way these two could afford this house here by the sea. We walked in and instantly loved it and then we put in an offer. 

 We had so much fun remodeling it. People said it would ruin our relationship - that remodeling was one of the most stressful things a couple could do. Years later I heard the story of just such a case down the street where a twenty-some year marriage went kaput over a remodel. We made that faux-cape cod bungalow into something pretty amazing and we loved it. We traced out names into the concrete on the garden wall after we built it. 

After we moved to MRU, I would fly back four times a year for my work, to see friends and to connect with something familiar. Mauritius had not been so fun for me. A male dominated Hindu culture with nerve shattering driving conditions, an over-spraying of pesticides (ah yes, did I mention my next book is about Rachel Carson?) and a disconnect from nature facilitated by the compounds that ex-pats live surrounded by walls- both to keep things out and in. My trips were about a month or longer in duration and would time  with Tristam's school needs and once a year, with the SCBWI conference in LA to meet with the tribe. This last year it became clear that we were not going to return to Hermosa for another 10 years or so. I hadn't realized it, but being there was starting to depress me. On the one hand, I loved it- the sound of the waves at night from our bedroom , the smell of the ocean air , the comfort of being in a place that is yours and familiar to you. But it was becoming a ghost of an idea that had been laid out as a couple and here I was alone. 

So...we sold it. Our wonderful realtor put up the sign and I remember the pang in my heart and our amazing neighbors and dear friends helped us to keep the place up while it was on the market- and it sold quickly. And we are building a place in Sarasota, Florida- on the other side of the county, but still on the west coast of that state just down the street from my parents. 

I packed up the Hermosa house and then movers (Meathead Movers- would not recommend FYI) came and put our stuff into a box. It waits somewhere in California for word to have it shipped out to Florida. 

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3. First Post of the Year- and it's April...That's How Things Have Been Going.

So much has happened in the last months including a trip home to California, a trip out to Florida and Washington D.C. as well as coming back here to Mauritius. Here are some pictures of home: 

Downtown SLO

Taking Care of the "ladies" in our worm bin

Tending to the garden. 

Taking in the sublime central coast sunsets.

This time both Fred and I flew into the U.S. together. We haven't been home together for a couple of years now and it was wonderful and it was the holidays. The town as decked out in enchanting little white lights and we broke out our boxes of holiday decorations and used ALL of them . Had an absolutely great time. 

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4. Geeking Out at the WHO Shop in London

Anyone home?

Christmas Dalek!

Yes, I think I hear someone in there! 

Weeping Angel! Don't blink. 

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5. Catching Up With STAR STUFF: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos

Fred and I just got back from a quick trip to London where I got to meet a woman I consider a true genius, Viviane Schwarz. We have been "virtual studio colleagues"- a term she coined for ummm.....at least 10 years. Anyhow- we got to hang out for whole day. We went to the Tate modern and went from hot drink to hot drink- which is what she said Londoners do. It was freezing, so I totally get the tea thing now. 

Anyhow- I did a check of STAR STuFF when we got back to Mauritius and found the following stuff: STAR STUFF as a top 20 books of 2015,   the Orbis Pictus Honor for STAR STUFF, What to Read to Your Kids, Common Sense Media and ALA Notable Books and many wonderful bloggers out there . THANK YOU!!

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6. Pictures from Home

Sunset down the street.

California RAIN!

A writer's typewriter at the SLO Center for the Arts. ART! 

An sweet girl at the  Dias del do Muertos in the Mission Plaza in SLO. Love what she did with her crutches.  I wish that I had gotten a few more pictures of her. I only took this one. 

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7. The Planetary Society's 35th Anniversary and Bill Nye the Science Guy!

With Bill Nye the Science Guy at the opening event of the Planetary Society's 35th Anniversary. 

Carl Sagan's table at the Planetary Society. 

Me signing the white board at the Planetary Society's headquarters.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson accepting the COSMOS Award. It was presented by Nichelle Nichols (aka Lieutenant Uhura from the orginal Star Trek- total goddess btw).

Susan Ganz Schmit, Shane Prigmore, Cecil Castellucci and me. 

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8. Over a Month Without an Entry!

I think that this is a record- I haven't blogged in over a month.  It's not that i haven't been thinking about it- it's that I have been a bit busy. Mostly I have been on the road. 

I flew from Mauritius to California. Then in California I made a ver trips: attending the Planetary Society's 35th Anniversary in Pasadena, heading up to the Bay Area to meet with my amazing agent, Abigail Samoun, and then over to Pebble Beach to visit my dear friend Dina. In between all of that I got to attend my critique group's meeting and learned that one of our members is being published for the first time. Her name in Cindy Rankin and she comes up with some of the most original and engaging material in the group. Her book about the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake had a character in it that has been living with most of us who have been fortunate enough to get to know her for the last few years. We have been begging Cindy to send her book out into the world. She has. And someone in the publishing world fell in love with her as we did. 

I also got to see my dear friend, Sharon Lovejoy on three different occasions. I first made contact with Sharon when I was still in college. She wrote a book called Sunflower Houses that I was absolutely in love with . I wrote to her all of those years ago and then in 2000 or 2001, I was invited to join a critique group  and there was Sharon! We have been great friends ever since- kindred spirits. 

When I was in town I don't let many people know that I was there. The days were filled with work and meetings and I have a hard time no to people I care about. Fred and I will both be back in California for the holidays and hope to catch up with our dear ones then. In the meantime- elephants.

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9. Getting Ready to Fly Across the Globe

I've done it a bunch of times now: fly across the globe. It takes  29 hours to go from the airport here in Mauritius until arrival in Los Angeles. It's a long haul. I'm getting a bit better at it. I watch lots of movies and try to sleep as much as possible. One thing that I have learned is that that is too dang long of a flight to get into a car afterwards and drive another 3 or so hours home and feel safe about my driving. So now, I get a hotel room in L.A. before the final leg (which does not include the 29 hours). 

I used to feel that it was a crazy travel time, but I've read since about the times when making that journey took months by ship. Very unpleasant and precarious months. So, ship of the air- not bad- and it's Emirates- which is just about as nice as an airline gets. 

Los Angeles International has become my favorite airport to arrive at in California because of this: 

It's got a sense of humor and place. Plus, the traffic has gotten SO bad coming back from San Francisco or San Jose that I am not bothered by the traffic in L.A. anymore. 

But when I get home- the miles melt away. The smell of the Pacific (which smells different than the Indian Ocean), the pelicans and our home. I wish that Fred was coming with, of that trip I'll have to wait for awhile. In the meantime I have dear friends to see and some kids to tell about Carl Sagan. I LOVE that there is now a sort of "my first Carl Sagan book" out there. 

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10. Three Day Wedding and Uncle Fred

A good friend of ours here bestowed a really sweet honor onto Fred. She asked him to be her "uncle" at her wedding. The uncle presents trays of offerings to the groom's family (the groom also has an "uncle" who does the same for the bride's family). The wedding took place over 3 days. Here are some highlights. 

Jess heading to the wedding. She had to change saris 5 times during the ceremony. This is sari number one. Gorgeous, right?

The trays being prepared with sweets, fruits, perfume and a sari. 

Me and "Uncle" Fred before the ceremony. That sari took two friends about 40 minutes to put on me. It's one big long piece of cloth, wrapped, pleated, tucked and draped- and held in place by a lot of safety pins. 

After a 3 hour ceremony, the couple walking 7 times around the  center alter - and then , they were married!

One of the after parties. The final dance was a sega dance (the traditional music/dance style of Mauritius).

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11. Back in the MU heading back to CA for an Important Gig

I have been back in Mauritius for over a month now and am settled in again. Summer is coming on this side of the planet. It's getting warmer, there is more birdsong and I am awoken by sunlight coming in the window because the angle is now just right. 

I haven't written for awhile- I haven't really felt like it until now. Not sure really why. Maybe because I have so much writing to do for books and spend so much time in my studio at the computer...anyhow, today I feel like it. So, "hello".

This morning I saw a needle fish darting across the surface of the water. Such and odd looking creature. close to the shore, brown jelly fish sat and tried to push themselves back into the Indian Ocean. A man picked one up- I gasped, wouldn't he be stung?? Not that kind of jelly fish. These had ridden the north winds onto to shore and they were harmless. They are moon jellyfish. 

It's just 10 days to go and I am off to the U.S. again- this time to speak at the 35th Anniversary of the Planetary Society- of which Carl Sagan was a founding member. I couldn't pass that up, could I? (No.) It will be the first book event that I attend for STAR STUFF: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos. I was here when the book came out and then for most of the year. 

It's going to be a whirlwind trip. I arrive home in California on the 13th, speak and sign books in Pasadena on the 24th and fly out South Africa for 10 days on the 25th, then back to Mauritius. 

I'm glad I'm doing all of this traveling now while I can. It is exhausting and I can see losing my appetite for going to far flung places in a few years. Then I think I will content myself with my garden, my work and family.

In the meantime, here are some photos of Mauritius.

A village weaver. 

More bananas than we know what to do with from a tree in the backyard. The bummer is that they go ripe almost all at once!

Double rainbows!

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12. Noodle puts STAR STUFF: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos into and Infographic!

The folks at Noodle.com, who specialize in all things educational put STAR STUFF: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos into an infographic! How cool is that? What an honor to be in the company of those books.  

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13. The Most Outstanding Fact of Life and A Fascinatingly Disturbing Thought...

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14. The Time You Have (In JellyBeans)


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15. WOWIE!! Breakthrough Initiatives Launch Press Conference. Royal Society, London,...

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16. There and Back Again.

This blog has been so very quiet.

Here's what's been going on. I went home. 

A soft welcoming blanket of fog. People who knew how to drive safely   in lanes, and not stop for NO reason- (because in the U.S. you would get a ticket arrested for being a danger on the road to others and you have a freaking CLUE). Driving was stressless and fun- especially in Fred's car- Sasha. I relished it. 

There were California brown Pelicans  gently drifting overhead in clean smokeless air - they look like creatures that belong to another time. Glorious. 

And sunsets of the awe inspiring kind. 

I hung out with our neighbors who have been keeping watch over the casa. And I was grateful for having such kind, generous and caring people in our lives. All of them inspiring- we are the youngens on the street and the folks around us are farther on down the road, but   totally awesome. 

I took a quick trip to see loved ones in Minnesota. I was happy to see that my parents are looking great and getting better and better- you would never believe their age if you saw them. I admire that they are heading off on new adventures and this next year are venturing over here to visit and we are heading out on safari with them in Botswana.  I also popped down to Rochester to visit my sister and her family. She and her hubby have 3 teenagers now- all doing fabulous. Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon quote tag line , " Minnesota where the women are strong, the men are good looking and all the children are above average. "

Can you tell I loved being home? But I missed this guy 

he's good reason to cross a globe...but I had some more adventures in between...

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17. Ripple | Playing For Change | Song Around The World

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

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18. Photos

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19. 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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20. 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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21. We Are Dead Stars


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22. 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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23. 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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24. 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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25. 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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