At long last, the weather and school schedule were both good on the same day. I led groups of fifth graders at McLeod Elementary School on a field shoot. We were in search of living things in the schoolyard. Each student carried a digital camera. Each group chose a different section of the schoolyard to shoot in. I am sharing some of their photographs here. As we went about our work, the students and I generated lots of questions. “What is it? Why is it that color? Will I find these where I live? Will it bite?”
My work on this project is funded by the Ask for More Arts collaborative of Parents for Public Schools of Jackson. McLeod is an Ask for More Arts school and participates in the JumpstArt program, which brings artists of all kinds into elementary classrooms across the city for arts instruction integrated with traditional academic subjects.
I promised I would post a photograph of this amaryllis blooming so here it is. In a post back in December, I showed what it looked like when it had just been planted. I love the bold color and bodacious blossom. Wow!
Richard and I added compost to our raised beds two weeks ago, and yesterday, we planted seeds. We planted lettuce, spinach, kale, swiss chard, beets, and leeks. Richard got a rain barrel for Christmas so some of our watering will be collected rainwater. We have plans to add a few raised beds this year. The zucchini and yellow squash need their own boxes.
Allow me a proud Mama moment. The Murrah High School Quiz Bowl team took second place today in a tournament organized at Madison Central. Here are the team members posing with their coach, Andrew Yoder, a Murrah math teacher, holding the trophy. My son, G, is on the left. I was awed at these kids’ knowledge and poise under pressure. I sat and quilted and bit my tongue when they missed the occasional one that I knew. In a lightning round about banned books, they didn’t know the Judy Blume title banned for its discussion of breasts, bras, and crises of faith. Anybody remember that one? (See, I did tie it in with children’s books.)
I saw the fine cut of the book trailer for Growing Patterns today. I really like it and I think you will, too. Just some tweaking to do and we’ll be ready to go live. I can’t wait.
I sent a copy of Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature to my Great Aunt Ann. She complimented the book, reminded me that she has always liked figures, too, and then drew my attention to p. 11, where she noticed a blank space where she didn’t expect one. She wanted to know if that was intentional or “a goof”? I explained that it was intentional, but I understood why it stood out for her. Her brain was expecting the established pattern to continue and it didn’t. I loved hearing from her and hearing how she engaged with the book. She’ll be 88 this year and is still leading senior citizens’ tours because “it gives the widows something to look forward to.” I hope I am still critiquing books and traveling when I get to be her age. Go Aunt Ann!
I spent the day with about 70 Mississippi artists, convened for professional development by the Mississippi Arts Commission.
We had ceramicists, playwrights, storytellers, painters, dancers, musicians, and more. In the morning, we heard from Dianne de Las Casas, a storyteller from Louisiana. de Las Casas explained ways artists can use technology to manage marketing and other business-related tasks. She is an active user of social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Ning. She maintains a calendar online, sends press releases via prweb.com, and manages billing online.
After lunch, we had an interactive lesson taught by Sonya Robinson, a musician and arts integration teacher, from New Orleans. Robinson led us through a multi-stage dance/movement lesson. It served many purposes: ice-breaker, team-building exercise, introduction to some of the skills involved in dance, and an example of how to create space in teaching for discovery and inquiry (and not just linear instruction).
I learned some things today that I will use in my teaching, presenting, and marketing. As one of the other artists said today, it also served as a great time of fellowship for those of us who spend a lot of work time isolated in studios or offices. I appreciate the organizing efforts of Diane Williams, Kim Whitt, Shirley Smith, Larry Morrisey, and Susan Dobbs, all of the Mississippi Arts Commission.
Big news today for Hester Bass! Her book, The Secret World of Walter Anderson, won the NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children. This is wonderful news for Hester, for the book, and for the legacy of Walter Anderson. Many, many more people will learn about his extraordinary life and art. Way to go, Hester!
In November, I talked with Hester about the book and featured a video of her reading the opening lines. Click here to see that post. Hester also presented at my sons’ school, Power APAC, which I wrote about here. During Hester’s visit to Jackson, a crew from Mississippi Public Broadcasting filmed an interview for their online feature Don’t Lecture Me!
Our marketing package for Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature includes a book trailer. This is a new venture for us — book trailers not being as much of a “thing” when Wolfsnail came out. Since we got grants from the Mississippi Arts Commission and the Greater Jackson Arts Council to support marketing efforts, we were able to hire Mosaic Media, a pr and video production company owned by Ron and Kathryn Rodenmeyer. After looking around at other book trailers and reading some reviews of trailers, I decided I wanted a trailer that would address two ideas: first, that despite the somewhat intimidating sounding name Fibonacci, the number sequence at the center of my picture book is pretty simple; and second, that examples of Fibonacci numbers are all around us in daily life. I set the desired length at 1 min. & 30 sec.
With these key parameters set, Kathryn told me the next step was for me to write a script. She told me I would need to write more informally than I was used to. The words would have to flow like conversation. I put something together. Ron and Kathryn liked the concept, though they suggested I needed an intro. We came up with an intro and then Kathryn developed a list of video and still shots, music, and voice/over and on-camera audio. Then, we started talking about talent. I asked my friend Julie to play herself (mom and librarian); I asked Ron and Kathryn’s kids Ben and Kate to play Julie’s kids; and I engaged Tanner the dog as himself.
We decided to shoot the indoor scenes at my house and the outdoor shots at my parents’ house. I bought flowers for the inside and the outside (we had the worst cold snap in the state’s history last week, which zapped all the pansy blossoms).
I can’t tell you how great it was to be working with people who knew the video medium. There are so many things to think about with video that us still photographers don’t have to think about. Most of these have to do with time and audio.
Besides bringing Ben and Kate to “star” in the book trailer, Ron and Kathryn also brought along their oldest, Eve, to engage the younger ones after their work time. When the Rodenmeyer kids were off camera, they played ping-pong with my boys and then we played bananagrams. Ron, who was working the entire time (directing, shooting, recording), had to shush us when we forgot we were on a set.
We had a few last-minute script changes. I woke up with the idea that Julie should record some of the lines that had been slated for me. She was a good sport. I wasn’t in on her recording session, but I know it went well.
Ron was good at coaching. He had me read a few lines to check the audio levels. Then, as soon as he said, “We’re good to go. Ready when you are,” I belted out the lines like I had to project to the bleachers. Woa! You never know what you’ll do in front of a microphone. I’m trying not to think much about appearing in my own book trailer. It goes with the territory and getting nervous just makes it harder. We left Ron and Kathryn with all the raw footage, some still images from our family archives, and some bags of pasta. I will be giddy with anticipation until I get to see the rough cut. This is fun!
(Richard documented the whole thing by taking the photographs in this post. He also helped with set-up, provided a back-up tripod, and offered critical opinions.)
Here are the F&Gs for Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature. F&G stands for folded and gathered. It is one of the steps in the process of book binding. In some cases, publishers ask printers to send F&Gs because they can be ready before the final books and publishers can use them for marketing. I asked Boyds Mills Press to send me some. In this case, the actual books arrived before the F&Gs, but I am still very glad to have them.