Jessica and I spent the afternoon in the sewing room yesterday, whipping up little covers for our igadgets. I made mine from leftover quilting strips. Jess used some silk scraps she got for Christmas. I lined mine with flannel from my youngest son’s baby blanket — you can see the frogs. Jess chose some red velour (which was leftover from remaking my oldest son’s stuffed kitty) to line hers. I don’t have a good picture of Jessica’s. I’ll have to see if my mother can provide one. She walked in as we were finishing up. It was nice to have an afternoon together sewing. The boys wandered in and out with their music and dueled with cardboard rolls that once held wrapping paper.
When I went back upstairs to the sewing room, I noticed that Jessica left some of her scraps behind — maybe enough for me to do something with. You must have noticed that I don’t throw much away if I still have scraps from Douglas’ baby blanket.
I love the motifs on Jessica’s shirt. That’s one of my new crafting goals — to work with printing on fabrics. I’ll keep you posted on that.
I posted bits and pieces of this quilt while it was in progress, here and here. Now, I am happy to be able to post the finished quilt. My parents and I gave it to my sister, Jessica, for Christmas. Mom and Dad had it machine quilted at Bernina Sewing, Etc. “Not White” is the first in a series I have planned. Each will use the same color scheme but have a different pattern. I posted the second picture so you could get an idea of the size of the quilt — basically it fits nicely on the top of a queen-sized (no hang-over) and is meant to be a throw quilt on her living room couch.
I knew this book before I started reading it. My mother lent me her copy and I had her recommendation. It also appeared on several Best Books of 2009 lists. I shunned it for a while. Mom’s recommendation came with a warning. It wasn’t easy to read. (“I don’t know how anyone who read this book could send one more soldier into Iraq,” she said. This was just after President Obama decided to send 30,000 more into Afghanistan.)
I figured a book that took a close up look at the war in Iraq wouldn’t be an easy read. I did wonder what would set it apart, however, from any book about any war. War up close is awful. Any war. Even World War II, which was the “good war,” fought by the men of the “greatest generation.” The latest book I read about World War II was Thread of Grace, a novel, by Mary Doria Russell. Resistance fighters in the hills of Italy ambushed German soldiers, townspeople were rounded up and murdered after sheltering and feeding resistance fighters and bureaucrats who forged papers for and fed fleeing Jews died at the hands of American liberators who mistook them for who they appeared to be.
I don’t have any close up experience with war. The closest I get to knowing real soldiers is high school classmates (including the much younger sister of my best friend from high school), a cousin who is an officer in the Air Force, and friends from graduate school (also officers, at least one of whom helped write the new counter-insurgency manual).
Mostly, all I know about Iraq is what I hear on the news. Each of the 12 chapters in The Good Soldiers begins with a quote from George W. Bush. The narrative that follows is often an excruciating minute-by-minute unfolding of events that exposes the Washington rhetoric for the wishful and wrong-headed thinking that it is.
In order to do what they do, soldiers must be true believers. The lieutenant colonel who leads the batallion Finkel writes about clings to his mantra “It’s all good,” long after he knows that he’s in a fight that he finds all-but-impossible to comprehend. It is not what he trained for, and even though he doggedly pursues the new counterinsurgency strategies (endless and exhausting meetings with local police commanders and the like, re-taking the local gas station from the insurgents, and trying like hell to re-start a sewer project that had ground to a halt because of corruption and lack of security), he finally has to acknowledge that sometimes being a true believer can be awfully close to “jackassery”.
This war, as Finkel writes it, puts a lot of men and women (soldiers, contractors, Iraqi interpreters, Iraqi police, Iraqi civilians) in such awful situations. Many die. Many suffer physical and emotional injuries. Many soldiers have days when they can believe this suffering has a purpose. That purpose, however, is elusive. “Creating security for the Iraqi people.” What security?
Finkel does a masterful job of putting the reader where the soldiers are — whether that’s in a humvee, a dark (alcohol-free) bar, an army rehab hospital, a meeting with General Petraus, or the barracks. He drew from firsthand observation, military surveillance videos, military reports, transcripts of speeches and congressional hearings. The organization he brings via narrative makes this book extraordinarily readable, but Finkel still manages to convey the terrifying chaos of war. Even in the midst of the cruelty and horror, Finkel also lets us see the strength, courage, steeliness, naivete, grace, humor, and integrity of the human beings who are fighting and living with the consequences of this war.
Today my editor wrote to suggest I draft a press release. He and I are collaborating on the marketing plan for Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature. Such is the nature of publishing with a small publishing company. (Actually, I think it is the nature of publishing, period.) We all have to pitch in and help with everything that needs to be done. A few weeks ago, I sent in a list of names to add to Boyds Mills‘ master list of reviewers, librarians, teachers, science magazines, etc., who will get an advance copy of Growing Patterns. Among them were librarians and bloggers I have met or followed during my nearly two years as a published author. I looked at each blog carefully to determine the individual blogger’s policy for submitting books for review. In some cases, reviewers want to read about a book and request a copy if interested. So, I started the press release.
The last time I wrote a press release for a book, the target audience was local media outlets at the time of Wolfsnail‘s launch at a local bookstore. I had to convince general interest publications to run a story or blurb about a local woman becoming a published author. My charge this time was different. In the first place, I was writing for specialists. Folks in the Kidlitosphere are discerning readers of children’s books. They stay abreast of what’s being published and they know what they’d like to have in their libraries, classrooms, and homes.
As I stared at the blank screen, I was temporarily stymied. How could I describe this 811-word book in a few sentences? Sometimes, when you’ve lived with something so intimately for so long, you believe you can’t find one more original thing to say. Then I remembered that I am the only person (with the possible exception of my husband and my editor) who has been living and breathing this book. To others, it will be new. This freed me to write about why I think this book will be a good addition to any (and every) library in homes and schools and cities and towns. I want kids (of all ages) to open this book, to count flower petals, to add numbers, to discover a pattern, to trace spiral shapes, and to search out examples of Fibonacci numbers in their own neighborhoods.
In a way, I was writing a review of my own book. It felt strange. I am curious about how other writers handle the marketing responsibilities that come their way.
I made this collage after taking a bunch of pictures of my trees with yellow leaves. However, I think I like the photographs as stand-alones better. What do you think?
Finding this book a few days ago was a great stroke of luck. It was on a library sale table and it sounded like a perfect book in which to lose myself. It was. The main character, David Winkler, has vivid dreams that sometimes come true. This becomes problematic when he dreams that his infant daughter, Grace, drowns in a flood. When the water begins to rise, David first tries to convince his wife, Sandy, to move Grace to safety. When Sandy insists on staying, he decides he must leave — hoping to disrupt the dream’s predictive power by refusing to play a his role. He flees, ending up on an island in the Caribbean.
Part of what propels the novel forward is David’s immediate and all-consuming desire to know how Grace (and Sandy) fared after he left town. He calls. He writes. Eventually, he earns his way back home and tries to find out what happened. David is an interesting character and he finds good people to help him along in his quest. I think this would be a terrific book for a book club.
Exam week always brings requests from the boys for big books. They want plenty of material for the time between when they finish their tests and when the very last person in the very last room in the school finishes his test. D (6th grade) is in the middle of the Artemis Fowl series. I have read a chapter here or there, but he’s become quite speedy with his reading so I can’t make much sense of the plot. I gave Jon Spiro, an American in book three, a southern accent. It made a nice contrast with Artemis’ arrogant Irish accent.
G (9th grade) re-read Accelerando by Charles Stross. (He bought a paperback copy even though he owns an e-copy for his Kindle because he doesn’t take his Kindle to school.) His wonderful English teacher has been feeding him books: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle (David Wroblewski, 2008), Swords in the North (Paul Anderson, 1939), and Things Fall Apart (Chinua Acebe, 1958). Today he borrowed back from his brother The Way of Shadows (Brent Weeks, 2008).
Monday, N (7th grade) read Cracker (Cynthia Kadohata, 2007), but today he mistakenly left a 3-inch tome about World of Warcraft on the kitchen counter. His classmate lent him a copy of Eragon (he tells me he was desparate — though it used to be one of his favorites). Richard has a stack of spy books beside his bed, but he’s been pulling extra duty on the computer to try to keep up with the video needs of the blog.
Our two copies of Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature arrived today. The books are beautiful! The colors are bright, the pages are shiny, and the shape is a golden rectangle. After getting some positive feedback on using video on the blog, I decided that this would be a good day to use it again. You can watch the brief video below and then read on for more information.
From my early days of writing for children, I have always read what I was working on to kids. At first, it was my own. Then, I moved on to sharing with kids at my kids’ school. In addition to reading my stories and poems, I read all kinds of books to small groups and entire classrooms. I could tell from the kids’ reactions what was working and what was not. I learned, too, that kids are not willing to sit still for version after version of the same story. I learned to get my stories into pretty good shape before I shared and to read once and move on.
One of the spreads in Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator is in the book because of questions I got from kids when I went to schools with my Highlights article about wolfsnails. Kids always asked if wolfsnails eat worms. I created a scene in which a wolfsnail encounters a worm (and does not eat it) so that I could answer the question in the text.
With Growing Patterns I pushed my luck with a few of the young readers, asking them to read it aloud to me. I know they felt a little nervous, but I kept my mouth shut and tried not to be too obvious about the notes I was taking. I was watching for places where they stumbled over my awkward constructions or where they needed more clarification. Two second graders wrote out a page of questions for me. Many of the questions were about how I took the photographs or got interested in the pattern. But they also pointed out their favorite photographs and patterns. I am very excited about going back to their school this week and showing these now third graders the final product.
Thank you, everybody!
It had been a while since I posted a collage and I had forgotten how to do it in Adobe Lightroom. So I watched this tutorial again. The photograph of the leaf on the bottom left was my attempt to take a photograph of a leaf that had been eaten by something — maybe snails. At top left, a cicada. Top right, amaryllis. Bottom right, mayhaw.
Now that we’re well into the digital photography revolution, I am curious about how you folks use your digital images. I have gotten out of the habit of printing very much. I post a lot to the blog. I create photographs for magazines and books. I post to facebook. I create homemade greeting cards. Once a year, Richard and I get calendars printed — our annual scrapbook. How do you use your digital images?
Today in Mississippi it is cold and rainy. In other words, a very nice day to be inside writing. And dealing with the paperwork that writing generates: receipts, invoices, and rough drafts. I selected a photograph with hot colors to contrast with the cold day. As the mother of two boys who take art every day, I am always learning new art concepts and terms. The concept of “hot colors” came up twice recently. N was making a birthday piece for his father and he pointed out that he would use hot colors in certain places and cool colors in others and that the hot colors would make those design elements “pop” to the foreground. A few days later, D, studying for his science midterm, was learning about photosynthesis and accessory pigments. As I quizzed him, he made the connection that the accessory pigments, yellow, orange, and red, were hot colors. I love the connections my sons make between their traditional academic subjects and art.
As they studied for their art final, I learned a new word: frottaging. Websters online defines it as “the technique of creating a design by rubbing (as with a pencil) over an object placed underneath the paper; also : a composition so made.” At first, I was convinced the teachers had made the term up. It sounded to me like some kind of cheese (fromage plus cottage). These teachers were clearly capable of making up some of the multiple choice options. How about this one: “An imaginary line between the eye of the artist and the drawing subject is ____.” One option was: a death ray.
A wise person (also known as my Dad) left a comment yesterday. He suggested I change the subject from the countdown, sensing it was becoming an ordeal. He was right. I decided to take a picture of my Christmas cactus. It is making me happy with its exuberant blossoms. My cousin, Tim, brought this with him four years ago when he came to bring our uncle some furniture and household items to replace those he lost in his New Orleans home after Hurricane Katrina. It was a welcome bright sight then and now. The plant spent the summer outside and nearly doubled in size.
Mom and I planted our amaryllis bulbs this week. The others haven’t shown us any green yet. I’ll be posting updates through the cold days ahead. We’ve got some apple blossoms, amigos, and some sort of peacock, I think.
I have some new work to do. I got revision comments back on a magazine piece slated for August 2010. Among other suggested fixes, I need to bring the reading level down. That’s always tricky. I’ll take a stab at it and then ask for help from my critique buddy.
I am also psyching myself up to submit a piece to a literary magazine for the adult market. Yikes!