When one is creative, one must create. There are certain ducks that need to be in a row before the creation can begin. If you carefully follow my list of artistic preparation below, and you might be an award winning procrastinator artist. (Someday, I might too.)

Make sure your children are asleep. (They are bound to wake up as soon as you complete the list so don’t have high expectations.)
Let the dog out.
Let the dog in.
Feed the dog
Get dressed in your comfy creative clothes: Overalls (Mine are paint spattered with so many holes that one leg is almost severed.)
My overalls are paint spattered and have many more holes.
Comfy socks. (These are the ones I got for Chanukah.)

Something to hold your hair back (if you have hair). I like the Rosie the Riveter bandana look.

And you’ll need an apron.

Check your email.
Check your friend’s blogs.
Uh. Oh. What did I tell you? Now the kids are up and wanting breakfast. Maybe I’ll create something tomorrow.
"Book Review Wednesday" returns on January 6th! Happy Holidays.

Holiday Boll Family Style

Chanukah Menorahs

On the eighth night of Chanukah we had some friends over for a potluck. Because it was both the last night of the holiday and Shabbat, there was much ceremony, singing, and lighting of candles. It was so nice to share the night with good friends and so nice to be reminded of just why we reloaded all those boxes and came traipsing back to Maine. I am Jewish and Hubby is not so as soon as the menorahs were put away for next year…

Christmas tree picking

We headed to the tree farm to pick out our Christmas tree. Now with many interfaith families there are some compromises. Our compromise is I say yes to the tree but Hubby has to say no to the Christmas lights outside. He hems and haws and teases me about how he’d really love a huge blow up Santa in our yard but actually, I think it lets him off the hook. Nothing to put up. Nothing to take down. Anyway… we had to try out a new tree farm because our usual one was closed for a "growing year." We marched up and down the aisles and nothing caught my eye. Really, I didn’t like the way they were trimmed. Too skinny and rounded in at the bottom. (Here’s a piece of Anna trivia: One summer I trimmed Christmas trees at a farm in New York state as a summer job. I was the only female on the crew. Let me tell you, that is not an easy job.) So we ended up getting the tree in the picture at an already cut place in Freeport.
Now it looks like this.

Notice the piano and ottoman barricade. It took about 10 minutes to realize that I don’t have enough skill as a dog trainer to get our mouthy puppy, Lucy to "leave it." Hubby reminded me, Anna, we just brought a tree into our house and hung a bunch of toys on it. What do you expect?
Hope you all have a great week. Happy Holidays.

Book Review Wednesday: Silly Tilly

Shop Indie Bookstores

Spinelli, Eileen, and David Slonim. Silly Tilly. Tarrytown, N.Y.: Marshall Cavendish Children, 2009.

On my trip to New York for the Jewish Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference day at the 92nd Street Y, I met with the Marshall Cavendish art director. She was lovely, enjoyed my illustrations (hooray), and brought some wonderful Marshall Cavendish books to give away. Luckily, I ended up with Silly Tilly.

Eileen Spinelli is a hero and mentor in my journey to publication. When I met her and asked how she was able to find her own writing time while raising her children and supporting her husband’s writing career she explained, "It’s all about writing in the cracks." This has become my mantra and I often look for the cracks in my day when I can fit in a poem or a sketch or even a group of words that come to me. (Sorry, this was suppose to be about Eileen and not me.)

Nevertheless, Eileen has written a silly rhyme, a "daffy-down-and-dilly" rhyme about a goose named Tilly. (A silly goose, get it?) Silly Tilly brings fun and laughter to her farmyard with the silly things she likes to do. Silly Tilly takes baths in apple juice, wears a pancake on her head, tickles frogs and combs her feathers with a rake. When her farm mates get sick of her tomfoolery, they forbid her from any more silly stuff. Until, of course, they realize that the farm is "dullsvile" without her.

I bet right about now you are thinking of a silly toddler who would just crack up about Tilly’s silly antics. Trust me, if that toddler saw David Slonim’s acrylic paintings of Tilly soaking her feet in mayonnaise or sledding downhill on cookie trays they’d have giggles that just wouldn’t quit. Slonim layers his colors creating wonderful cool color shadows and warm highlights. He keeps his work gestural by outlining in pen and pencil.

If you have a silly goose 3-6 year old on your holiday list, check out Silly Tilly.

Five on Friday

1. I know it’s been a while since I just blogged for the pleasure of blogging. I miss it. I really do. Life has been quite hectic recently. I’m sure a few of you are going through the experience of having a spouse who works far away so that they can have a job. This is our situation. We have gotten use to the good-byes, the hello’s are getting a little easier too. Hubby has been a total trooper doing the "bag drag." He really has two jobs. One with a private defense contractor company and the other in the Navy Reserves. I was very proud to attend his Change of Command ceremony last weekend. It’s rare that we get to see our spouses in action (at work). It was lovely to see him in uniform, carrying himself with such grace and exuding leadership. His speeches were eloquent, funny, and well delivered. What a treat! Here we are with his Chief Petty Officer.

The week leading up to this was crazy. The brakes in the trucks failed while I was driving (we are all fine) and I had to do the mechanic thing. The next day, I locked my sweet puppy and my keys in the car. Huge thank you to the lady who used her AAA to save me and the Dad of I’s classmate who drove my son to basketball practice. The next day, to travel to the Change of Command, my Hubby rented us a car from Enterprise. I showed up at 12:10 not knowing that they closed at noon. Needless to say, there were tears. But all was well.

2. I’ve completed a full draft of my novel. I missed the JONOWRIMO check in, but happy to have reached this milestone. Of course, now I turn around and start to revise: put in, take out, look for emotional distance, inconsistencies, character arc, adult word choice. Someday. Someday.

3. I turn in Packet Five today. This is my last packet for the first semester of my Vermont College experience. It’s been– I don’t really know– arduous? time consuming? enlightening? I can certainly say that I am able to look at my work with a more critical eye than before this semester. I write and read all the time. I read more critically than I did before. My critical writing has improved markedly. In my creative work, there is no time for excuses. (Although here I am at 6:30 am blogging, without my last critical essay complete and the packet due today.) I’m really looking forward to being at the residency again. Seeing my cohort group and getting the workshop pages from others to critique. I’ll be doing the Picture Book certificate and I’m really looking forward to working with Sarah Ellis and Kathi Appelt. (Time to look for a back support cushion.)

4. My puppy is growing quickly and needs LOTS of love and attention. When Hubby came home Monday (after a week away), I grabbed my computer and books and said, "You are in charge here at home. I’m going to the library." Yesterday he asked me, did I notice that it’s really hard to get anything done with the puppy wanting to play all the time? Um….yes.

5. I’m afraid that I failed to post Book Review Wednesday this week. I’m sorry. It’s just been too crazy here. I have three authors out there waiting for their reviews and I promise I’ll do them over the next few weeks. The new year is coming quickly, if you have a 2010 release and would like to send me a review copy, leave a comment with your email (spell it out so the spambots don’t get you.)

Book Review Wednesday: My Uncle Emily

Shop Indie Bookstores

The spirit of poetry past comes shining through in My Uncle Emily, a 2009 release from Jane Yolen. We can always depend on Ms. Yolen to deliver a wonderfully crafted story. This one is stellar in its use of lyrical prose to capture the tone of Emily Dickinson’s poetry and time period.

Emily Dickinson’s nephew, Gilbert, is the child friendly entry point to Ms. Dickinson’s poetry. Gilbert wonders about the symbols in his "Uncle Emily’s" poetry. Gilbert must share her poetry with his class, but he is afraid the other students won’t like or understand it either. When he finally learns to decode her ideas he lights up, "like a lamp."

My Uncle Emily, has clear themes of honesty and peaceful resolution of conflict but none of them are preachy or heavy handed. The actions and reactions of the characters are true to the story and true to life. In fact, Ms. Yolen ends the book with a piece entitled, "What’s True About This Story."

Patti Lee Gauch of Philomel is the editor for this beautifully designed book. It is not often that the editor is cited in the front matter. However, Ms. Gauch is well known for her editorial achievements and her own use of lyrical prose in Thunder At Gettysburg one of the first "novels in verse."

Nancy Carpenter, a two time recipient of the Christoper Award, illustrates the book with pen and ink and digital media. The effect is of colorful engravings which perfectly fit the Amherst, Massachusettes setting circa 1881. I was especially enthalled by Ms. Carpenter’s use of negative space which frames the illustrations and focuses the reader’s attention to particular details. Her lovely muted palette, the patterning and texture, and her gestural line capture the costume, light and formality of the period.

Ms. Yolen’s book delightfully treats modern children to the spirit of poets past.