field notes (9.1.17)

All you need to do is declare yourself crazy and do what you want to do.” – Amos Kennedy, Jr.

Sometimes, courage is the willingness to speak the truth about what you see and to own what you say.” – Seth Godin

Reading: THE GRASS HARP by Truman Capote, LANDMARKS by Robert Macfarlane, TWO LITTLE SAVAGES by Ernest Thompson Seton and THIS IS HOW WE DO IT by Matt Lamothe

field notes (10.14.16)

attended the IA SCBWI writing conference in Des Moines and was fortified by the time spent with fellow writers and makers

planning a writing marathon with my writing partner this weekend: can’t hardly wait to sink into that big swath of time

drafting a proposal for my next book

finishing up my residency application and hoping for the best

completed a solid draft of my next column

championing the use of an unlined 11×14 sketchpad for corralling ideas and words and scenes – such a great tool for playing on the page and capturing ideas

sorting through all my notes, sending thank you notes and creating a to-do list from last weekend’s conference

reading: CLOTH LULLABY by Amy Novesky

shotgun matisse

Designs 021

This post is supposed to be all about how we read some great Matisse picture book biographies, went to the Matisse exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, were deeply moved by the art, made Matisse-inspired art back at our kitchen table and blah, blah, blah.

But that didn’t happen.

We went to the Matisse exhibit and then somewhere in the first gallery, the inner tube in the wheel of the stroller that I was pushing EXPLODED. Have you ever heard an inner tube explode in an echoe-y gallery with 20ish-foot tall ceilings? It sounds a lot like a shotgun would sound, though I haven’t tested this. And to all the security guards working that day, it sounded like that as well.

So, once the inner tube exploded we were mobbed by security and in the blur of my tears (crying in public – yippee!) and transferring of copious gear and my giant baby into a small, wonky loaner stroller and weaving through the crowd with a stroller that mostly just splayed and didn’t do much strolling while making a quick trip to the museum shop where we discovered that ALL the Matisse postcards were sold out we left the museum as quickly as possible.

We didn’t see much Matisse. ahem.

Which is why it’s so great that, you know, BOOKS!

Because, odds are you didn’t make it to the Matisse exhibit either.

But hey, read “Colorful Dreamer” by Marjorie Blain Parker and “Henri’s Scissors” by Jeanette Winter and read about Matisse in “Discovering Great Artists” by MaryAnn F. Kohl and Kim Solga (and do the art activity), ask your husband to overinflate your stroller tires until they explode and you can call it good.

mrs. harkness and the panda

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda

written by Alicia Potter, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

I picked up this book because Melissa Sweet illustrated it. That woman has a way with watercolors and scraps of paper and color that makes me lean in a little closer.

This is the kind of book it is: while writing this post I spilled my entire mug of coffee on it. The book was destroyed. Yes, the words were still legible. But, goodness, the art was wrecked. And I realized, holding my coffee-sodden copy, that one of the reasons that I love picture books is they are such beautiful objects. I immediately ordered a new copy. It will be here Tuesday.

But, as I was saying…My favorite kind of picture book biography leaves me feeling like everything is possible – even, no, especially for fumbling me. These favorite books make me realize that the one heart that I have and the two hands that I have are enough.

The world, the media, the swirling blahblahblah of our consumer culture would have us believe that we must have an advanced degree, a wealthy family, a massive online following, organized shelves, effortless beauty and unremitting encouragement to do something valuable.

The truth is we are enough.

I just need to put my one heart and my two hands to work where I am standing.

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda is a book that affirms our “enoughness.” It is the story of Ruth Harkness, an unadventurous, unathletic, tea gown designer, who in 1934 inherits an expedition from her husband: the hunt for a panda in China. She succeeds. But that hardly seems to matter. What matters is the journey, the struggle, the possibility that she could have fallen on her face but tried, tried, tried anyway. What matters is her story. Go read it to your kids, just leave your coffee at the table.