Sunday, February 24, 2008

Authors and Artists, Part II

I promised another blog post on my weekend conference, and even though it is late, I wanted to post some pictures to share. I was privileged to attend 3 sessions by popular authors Marc Tyler Nobleman, Sharon Draper and illustrator Ane Carla Rovetta. I went to two of Marc's sessions and he shared with us tips for writing/creating comics and book-talked some of his non-fiction children's books. Kind of a funny combination, non-fiction and comics, and he has only illustrated only one of his own books, "Vocabulary Cartoon of the Day," which I'd like to purchase! It has humorous anecdotes of not-so-common words, and a caption to go with it. (Of course, I came home with a list as long as my arm of books I want to buy!) Marc was a really nice guy, and I was able to speak with him several times throughout the conference, and he even autographed a copy of one of his books that was donated to the conference by his publishing company. Here's how that conversation went before the first session, before we had really talked much at all (he was preparing his stuff on stage, and I got a front row seat because I was tired of wearing my glasses and I still wanted to see + I was like 15 minutes early): Me looking at the cover of a book I'd pulled out of my bag, and noticing the author on the cover~ "Oh. This is yours. Would you like to sign your book for me?" Marc~ "Um, I don't know. Would you like me to sign it for you?" How dumb and rude of me was that? It just kind of popped out, and I certainly didn't mean for it to come out that way! So I rephrased my question with a please in it, and then we started talking about all of his books, and how to get published (he told me to just e-mail the publishing companies and tell them I have a non-fiction book on ... I'd like them to read, and they will a lot of times ask to see a manuscript. Pretty cool, huh?

I also got to meet Sharon Draper who has won the Coretta Scott King Award five times for her young adult novels. She is a very enthusiastic speaker, full of confidence and pride in teaching and writing. Her presentation made me want to read all of her books, and order her Ziggy series for the South Valleys Library. They are about a Jamaican boy and his friends as they get into all kinds of trouble and mysterious adventures- and each chapter leaves you hanging so you just have to go immediately to the next one! Those were they types of books that kept me up late reading with a flashlight under the covers (yes, I did actually do that as a kid!). Goosebumps books are like that too, which is why kids like them so much. Here she is, showering her crowd with inspiration:

Ane Carla Rovetta was an AMAZING storyteller, and is quite the naturalist- she told several American Indian tales, but also drew beautiful chalk illustrations while she spoke! I've seen many storytellers, but none of them created anything visible to go with their tapestry of words. I would like to mention here that she is an illustrator for the National Audubon Society, where she illustrates different species of birds in books they publish, and we buy in our libraries! The session I was able to attend with her (after her keynote speech) was on drawing frogs and toads, and telling the differences between the members of the amphibian family. I have always loved color and art, but I never took any art classes in school because I took all the music classes I could fit into my schedule. My grandmother paints, and has sold many many paintings over the years, but I did not inherit her steady hand or her ease of drawing things as they really look. Whenever I create something, it tends to be more abstract, and very colorful. In Ane's class, she gave us step by step instructions on how to draw a frog, and then a toad in colored chalk- draw a rainbow here, a 7 there, and connect it with a C in between and smudge with your finger or the side of your hand, as if she were teaching an elementary class learning their shapes. Then it's EASY to make something look real, when you're given step by step instructions! Here is the frog I drew (I got the mixing colors thing down):
Notice how it is tilted up, like it is preparing to jump? Frogs are much more mobile than toads, and can leap quite far, while their relative can only jump and splat short distances- their legs are more for pushing and crawling than for leaping. My toad isn't quite tilted so far up, and see the circles behind his eye? That's a poison pouch since they aren't so mobile as their close friend the frog:
I want to frame and hang these in the boys' bedroom, but I'm not sure where I can get a frame (for cheap) the size of a large piece of construction paper...

I have more to post, but I think this is going to be all for tonight. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Authors and Artists

This weekend I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Nevada Read Week Conference at the North Valleys High School again this year. And again, it was superbly done! I was able to attend sessions given by several popular authors, oral/musical storytellers (fitting since I am taking an oral storytelling class this semester), two science labs, and even an art class! The star of the conference, and the reason I went, was Judy Schachner (pronounced Shatner, like William). She is the great picture book author/illustrator of the Skippyjon Jones books.
I didn't get a great picture of her (it was dark during her keynote speech so I decided not to post that picture of her, but you can visit her website-link above- with a slightly younger photo of her), but I would like to say that she was an exceptionally hilarious speaker. Mostly, that is attributed to her ADD, which she informed us, was diagnosed by a 3rd grader. She thinks on several different levels, all at the same time, and is constantly flittering and fluctuating between several ideas in any given moment. Even though she is a highly nervous person, she leads a very interesting and fulfilling life with her husband, two (now grown) daughters, and many cats. Since I am such a great lover of the feline species, I especially enjoyed the slides Judy shared with us of all of her various cats (most of them Siamese like Skippyjon). The story behind her first Skippyjon Jones books is that her new Siamese kitten (who had ridiculously large ears for his tiny head which made him look like a Chihuahua- and he really did too!) was bounding all over her basement chasing this gigantic bumblebee and making such a ruckus that Judy went screeching from the room only to come find him much later having eaten the bee, and COMPLETELY covered with welts all over his little body. Judy told us that since he had such a little head and loved to sit under the the furnace all the time, his tiny brain dried up and fell out of his ear one day. His favorite occupation was to eat various things around the house, including furniture, bedclothes, and his most favorite- garbage bags. His veterinarian thought he had a tumor once when she brought him in because his little belly was as hard and round as a rock. But it turned out, it was just filled with the various things he found around the house, including (but not limited to) a plastic beaded necklace and water noodles. Then she sadly informed us that at the age of 9, Skippyjon suddenly died of cancer last November. She is convinced it was because of his love of garbage bags.

I was able to attend her workshop on publishing picture books, and she shared with us her seed boxes- hat boxes filled with antiques and little treasures she's collected over the years, and her rough story journals. They were filled with magazine cutouts, stickers, sketches and drawings of all sorts of inspirations to her. They were each a separate work of art, beautifully crowded with pictures of cats and interesting people and family. Immediately after that session ended, I asked her to sign my copy of Skippyjon Jones (I sat in the front row for that purpose, and because I can't see without my glasses). I snuck this shot of her signing- I'm sure that was extremely annoying, but she'll probably never see me again. Sorry Judy! Big moment for me! I also received an autographed copy of one of her newer books, Skippyjon Jones in the Doghouse.

And the finished product:

Well, that's all for tonight- I do have lots more photos and stories to tell. But I should be doing homework right now...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Snow Leopard Tattoo Updates

Yes, I know it's been like 2 months now, but I needed someone to take healed tattoo pictures for me in some good lighting. Here is a close up (albeit, a little peely and hairy!):

The left eye (facing) somehow faded more so than the other one. If you look at the first (slightly bloody) picture, the eyes were a nice vibrant color green. I'm thinking I'm going to need to get a touch up done. And finally, one to put the actual size into perspective with the rest of me.
See? Not TOO huge. :)

Weekend in Berkeley

For President's Day weekend, Kevin's parents graciously offered to take the boys so Kevin and I could drive to Berkeley to visit my brother Scott and his girlfriend Sara. I spent the vast majority of my Saturday and Sunday doing homework anyway, but I did get in a bit of fun as well. Scott, Sara and Kevin decided to go for a nice long bike ride (27 miles) so I could have some quiet time, but I did get a few fun pictures before they left. Scott's hair is getting super long (he calls it his Jesus look) and he decided he wanted to try to get it into a pony tail:

Here are the results:
This is a picture of the inside of their cosy one-bedroom apartment, perfect for 2. I'm trying to remember how many extra doors there. I think there are 11 or 12 for basically 4 rooms (kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and living room). Correct me if I'm off, Scott. Fun memories. :)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Stories of the Week

For an assignment for my Storytelling class, I had to keep a story journal of stories people tell everyday. Mostly I recorded stories I found myself telling. Here are a few of them:

(2/02/08)- The first day I started keeping track of stories in my daily life in this journal I found myself telling a story: It was in the car on the way to my sons’ school. One of my twins asked me to tell them a nice story, and how about one about a bunny and a mouse? I guess those were the nicest animals in his mind. So I thought, great, I can do this! I’ve been learning lots of great storytelling tips in my class, and here’s my chance to put them to good use. The story that popped into my head was an old tale (by Hans Christian Andersen? I should research that.) of a mouse and a rabbit that get caught in a snowstorm. The mouse can’t find any place to stay, but at the end of the story he finds a rabbit who lets him shelter in his fur. The rabbit dies from the cold, but the mouse lives because of his kindness and his willingness to share everything he has. Maybe not the kind of story my son had in mind, but it had a good moral. I gave each of the characters as much personality and depth as I could for a 15-minute drive (Fifel was the mouse), and I added some extra animals who didn’t or couldn’t share their home. They were both completely silent during the telling, and didn’t want to get out of the car when we got to school.

(2/04/08)- Today I had another story to tell about the beginning of Lent (yes, I am Catholic). It was Monday before the first day of Lent, which was Ash Wednesday. I had never taken my boys (Sean and Ashton- Ashe for short) to get their ashes because they were too young to understand what they meant. But they are 5 and a half now, and I figured they are old enough to be introduced to it, and they can build on its meaning next year when I take them again. I asked them on that Monday if they would like to go to church with me really early in the morning before school for Ash Wednesday to get ashes on our foreheads. Sean’s immediate reaction was, “Ashton Wednesday? What about Sean Wednesday?” I was doing my best to stop laughing and explain to him what Ash Wednesday was when his second question came, “Will the ashes burn me?” That stopped my laughter. Smart kid.

(2/08/08)- This morning Sean had a dream to tell me about when he woke up. This is how he told it, word for word: “There was a monster and some kids. The monster had a screw and the kids were in the door. Then I ran out the door and jumped out from that high place, but it didn’t hurt. And Ashton, I saw you going potty and I was yelling and sliding.” And of course Ashton had a dream to share also, but I’m not exactly sure if he made this up as he went along in spirit of sharing dreams, or if it was an actual dream. In any case, it’s still a story he told me (also word for word): “There was a cat with sharp teeth and she had pink teeth, and she bit me right here and I tried to kick her to get her off. And then I went to Gram and Papa’s house.”

(2/12/08)- I had a birthday this past week (29, for the first time, ha ha!), and my mom made me something special: a heart-shaped loaf of chocolate bread with white and dark chocolate chips in it, and topped with a hot seedy raspberry glaze. But instead of loading it down with candles, she only put one on top. Of course Sean and Ashton were super excited, and wanted to help me blow it out. So we each made a wish and blew out the candle together. It was a smoky candle, so Sean was waving his hands to help it dissipate, and then he started blowing on the candle. Well, to his utter surprise and astonishment, it relit! I will never forget the emotions that passed over his face- so many in just a few seconds: first the shock, and then, “What the?” and then his questioning gaze turned to me for an explanation. I couldn’t give him one because I was laughing so hard I could barely breath. And I didn’t get a good breath anytime soon because my dad’s exclaimed, “Sean, you have Dragon Breath!” This set me off again because it’s true! Sometimes in the morning it’s all I can do to send him to go brush his teeth before that first hello kiss. Of course after that, it became a game to blow out the candle, and then blow on the candle. He thought it was the greatest thing since the Cars movie came out.

Kevin had to work really late that night and missed this event. This was my story of the day, for him. He was laughing almost as hard as I was as I tried to imitate the looks on Sean’s face. His response was, “What a cute kid.”

(2/13/08)- I called to Ashton’s teacher before school to ask if it was okay that I baked special cookies for their Valentine’s Day party the next day. They were honey-almond ginger cookies, but they have a no nut policy at their school, so I was worried they wouldn’t let me bring them in. But no one in either of their classes is allergic to nuts, so we were okay! But then Ashton’s teacher said, “I have to tell you a story about Ashton on Monday!” I, of course, immediately perked up- I wanted to hear a story about my son at school! All she had to do was say the word “story” and I was at my fullest attention. She told me that one of her other students ran up to her and said that Ashton was crying! So she went over to the cubby area where she found Ashton with his head stuck all the way in the bottom of his backpack crying his eyes out because he couldn’t find his beans. You see, it was the 100th day of school (and his first 100th day since he is in kindergarten), and just that morning I had him count out 10 piles of 10 kidney beans all by himself to bring to school for their math project. I gave him lots of praise because he was able to count out those 10 piles of 10 and understood how that made 100, and with no help! He was super excited about sharing his beans in class. So his teacher calmly took his hand and walked him over to the other attached kindergarten door so they could look in Sean’s backpack, where they found the bag of beans.

And now you are caught up on my week too!

Birthday Blog!

Yes, I had a Birthday this week (Tuesday the 12th- Abraham Lincoln's too! Next year will be his 200th birthday, BTW), and am now 29. For the FIRST time. :) My co-workers were super sweet and threw me a little party at the library, and since I gave up sweets for Lent, we decided it would be great fun to make smoothies instead. They were so good! Afterwards, we all decided that we should have a smoothie day once a month. Here's a picture:

And another one of the beautiful spread they made for me:

Yes, that is a cake that my supervisor made (wasn't that sweet?). It was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone but me. The flowers are still on my kitchen table, and beautiful!

Other note worthy news: Ashton lost his second tooth on Valentine's Day. After school. It's gone. He was really upset that he didn't have a tooth to put under his pillow for the tooth fairy. I told him we could make a fake tooth instead, but we haven't gotten to that, and Kevin's parent's picked up the boys for the three day weekend (driving to Berkeley tonight to visit my brother later tonight) so it'll be a little while until we get to that. If he and I remember. Sean still has a loose tooth, but he doesn't want to bug it, so it hasn't fallen out yet. But it's been like 2 weeks now! I always rocked my loose teeth back and forth with a vengeance until they came out. Anyway, back to Valentine's Day. I baked special cookies for their class parties: Ginger-honey almond cookies, recipe courtesy of Turi. Thanks dude, they were awesome! (Broke down and had one little one despite my Lenten promise. But I knew that was coming and planned on eating one anyway!) Here is a picture of them all in a bag, ready for the party!

Other news, I've finally been able to start running again! Very carefully, so I don't mess up my back. The only thing that's been holding me back are the side cramps I've been getting within the first mile or two. Anyone have any suggestions on how to prevent them? I'd be grateful if you'd share!